I am not the type of person that likes to look back. Nostalgia just isn’t my thing. I never think about how much easier and better things used to be or think much about the past in general. I constantly think about what is going to happen tomorrow, a year or even five years from now. All my imagination is focused on day-dreaming about the future and this is what keeps me motivated. Thinking about improving things and making them more elegant is only human, so I keep thinking about innovations and changes that could lead to a better future for me, my family, my companies, our customers, our customers’ customers and society in general.

Until 2010, I was working in an industry focused on preserving the past, and now it’s the other way around. It may sound strange, but FrodX wants to help companies “preserve” their future. In the past year, Miha and I (and the rest of the team that has grown significantly) realized that FrodX’s mission is helping our partners create changes that the future needs. Anything that our partners order from us is just a means to reaching that goal.

The future is not as kind as most people want it to be. It will require change. Click To Tweet

The future is not as kind as most people want it to be. It will require change. The need for change is on the rise and the required changes are becoming increasingly radical. More and more competitors are entering the game. New technologies and the hyper connectivity of today’s world enable almost anyone to quickly and easily enter the game. Tradition no longer counts for much in most businesses, only innovation and better offers for customers count. Even the ones who built their success on loyalty are forgetting its meaning.

Technology changed people. Global information availability has changed the behavior of end-buyers as well as business buyers. It is getting harder and harder to drive revenue just by having more information than the buyers. Innovation in customer relations is therefore the way forward for most companies. They will have to be much more transparent and emphasize partnership. This will require large investments in IT (whether we want to or not) and it will also trigger a large number of organizational and HR changes.

Innovation in customer relations is the way forward for most companies. Click To Tweet

Discussing the changed buying habits of buyers was only the beginning – tomorrow we will be discussing programs to increase customer engagement. A Customer Engagement Plan will become a key part of every company’s business strategy. Their success in realizing this plan will be the key difference between the success stories and the underperformers. We are witnessing an increasing level of commodization, and the differences between competing products and services are disappearing. Innovating in the area of customer engagement and a different approach throughout the customers’ lifecycle is therefore the most sensible (if not only) option. This is the crucial component that will differentiate you from your competitors.

In the beginning of this new year, I want for you to feel safe on this road to change and to turn your competitors into followers as soon as possible. We would be glad to help you with that.

The stories that we share with you are almost always drawn from FrodX’s business experiences. Most of them are stories of our (potential) customers – slightly disguised and simplified to make them more interesting and shorter. Only a few of them are fictional, even though they might appear genuine as well.

I would like to share my thoughts about the way you should be thinking about your products. I was at a meeting with a potential customer, and they asked for my opinion on their website and online store content. They were mostly interested in making it more interesting and using it more efficiently. It can be slightly awkward to answer such questions when you are trying to do business with them. The content was probably prepared by an agency who charged a lot of money for it, and the person you’re talking to probably made the final call (by the way – there seems to be an unlimited number of communication “experts”). It’s even more awkward if the person asking about your opinion is the author of this content. The worry that the customer may not quite realize what I’m trying to explain is always in the back of my mind. I always face the same problem – no matter what the activity and size of the company are. Sometimes I feel like I have my own “masterpiece” that I must work into every meeting or lecture.

It's not easy to say something is wrong. Customer might not understand what we're trying to explain. Click To Tweet

You can see from the title that this time I was reading content about fertilizers and other gardening accessories. Would I be able to write something more interesting about fertilizer? No. Do I know what people who buy fertilizer want to read? No. Would I be able to create content that excites people, so they visit the store and buy fertilizer? Yes, this I can definitely do. We only need to stop talking about fertilizer, since not many people think about fertilizer as a solution to their problems. The ones who do, don’t need additional content and promotion to buy your product if they know that you sell fertilizer. Marketing should primarily inspire customer needs, and not only respond to existing ones. If you are not doing this, someone else is in charge of your game.

Marketing should primarily inspire customer needs, and not only respond to existing ones. Click To Tweet

Let’s get back to fertilizer. Potential buyers of fertilizer feel that their neighbors’ lawn looks better, and they would like their own lawn to look just as good or maybe even better. This is the problem that they are trying to solve and this is the content that might interest them. Only the question of involving fertilizer in this narrative remains now – along with the lawnmower, lawn aerator, lawn irrigation system, better seeds, moss remover, and most importantly – instructions on lawn care that will make their lawn look better than their neighbors’. Content that builds buying potential for garden products should follow this direction. People are happy to read useful content, and it certainly won’t hurt if it’s fun.

People are happy to read useful content, and it certainly won’t hurt if it’s fun. Click To Tweet

When you are able to communicate the importance of lawns around peoples’ houses, they will want to know how to achieve that goal. If you offer useful tips every week or every two weeks (maybe as a short video, such as “Gardening tips and tricks”) on what to do and how to do it and provide some interaction (so they can show you photographs of their lawn which is important for them) along with some two-way communication, things will certainly start going your way.

I think the real challenge would be selling lawn care as a subscription service, therapy or adventure. The buyer would see you as an integral part of their solution and their road to the desired goal.

At least once a week, I must ask myself about the problems that my customers are trying to solve. Has something changed? Are you also trying to understand the problems of your buyers in your line of work? Sometimes I feel that we are in business only because companies don’t do this. At least not systematically, regularly and comprehensively. Or we are doing well only because companies need an outside perspective and the high prices of our services still justify the value that we provide.

We wish you happy holidays and a successful new year!

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Sometimes I feel that the curse of our business is that so many people feel competent to judge our work. Unlike people in many other industries, the people who work in marketing, product development and customer experience (CX) are constantly faced with opinions and “good natured” advice by others. An unbelievable number of people that observe our work has an opinion about what is good work and what isn’t. Even more than that – they somehow think they know what should be changed. If we want to accommodate our customers, we always have to find a balance between fulfilling their wishes and sticking to our own professional knowledge which can guarantee results that the same customer will expect in a while.

Authority – no disturbance for the price of total responsibility

My wife, a surgeon, never works according to her patients’ rhythm. She doesn’t have to worry about them detailing the way they want to be operated, so they feel better, even though she meets some of her patients just before the operation. It’s difficult for me to imagine the position that doctors have achieved. Even though anyone can see YouTube videos of operations, compare different surgical techniques, learn about theory and practices that Slovenian surgeons don’t even use, patients still believe in the professionalism and good nature of their surgeons. We believe that they will do their job to the best of their abilities. Without any special promises. Without tying a bonus payment to future performance. We just trust them.

When the cooperation terms change, the responsibility for achieving results must be redefined too. Click To Tweet

Being accommodating at the price of achieving success

Please don’t take me wrong – I’m not bothered by calls to argument our point of view and exchange opinions. I’m not bothered that we share a part of the risk with our customers and that we are partially paid according to the success of the implemented changes. But I’m bothered when we must compromise and move away from the previously accepted Customer Engagement Plan that we prepare for every customer at the beginning of our cooperation, especially if we forget to redefine responsibilities upon doing that. We are left with all the responsibility, even though accommodating our customer involved implementing changes that are not acceptable by our standards.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao7wOJ5qQ-s

Managing responsibility – foundation of long-term partnership

They say experience counts. When someone asks me about the key skill that we need to perform our job, I realize that it involves managing responsibility. The success of the campaign is greatly influenced by changes, such as someone asking for a lighter shade of green, more fashionable font, reducing the tempo of the campaign, reducing the advertising investment, changing the tone of communication, quality of content, taking a break over the holidays… The customer must also be aware of this fact and accept their responsibility. If you warn them about this in time, it turns out that they are prepared to follow the Customer Engagement Plan almost in full, which guarantees results that are not far from expectations.

The responsibility for success (failure) is shared by both parties that accepted the compromise. Click To Tweet

 

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This posts reflects my experience as a business user of Telekom Slovenije mobile phone services exactly 21 days ago and is not a knee-jerk reaction.

It’s dangerous to give ultimate promises to the market. A promise to customers sets a level of expectation and realizing those expectations is crucial for customer satisfaction. If marketing promises more than can be delivered in practice, it only generates unsatisfied customers. The simplicity of communication in today’s hyperconnected world enables these users to quickly and intensively spread their discontent to other users or users of competitive services, which may even turn away potential customers.

The simple fact is that negative messages spread faster than positive ones – not only in Slovenia, but all over the world. Negative messages receive juicy comments at the third social network level – friends of your friends on social networks. Commentators on that level usually don’t personally know the author of the message. Try analyzing messages that reach a certain viral level. What is the percentage of negative ones?

Negative messages spread faster than positive ones. Click To Tweet

What is the key metric for long-term success of a company?

Customer satisfaction is a crucial metric in this regard and every company should rely on it. I’m not saying that every company should measure and monitor customer satisfaction because I want to promote our www.povejsefu.si service (service that enables you to collect your clients’ opinion about the service quality right after the service) – awareness of the importance of customer satisfaction should be a part of every company’s culture. Examples of good practice should be highlighted along with monitoring and training of the employees. Customer satisfaction should always be a topic for company management. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

More than a year ago, I wrote about how our business in Frodx had grown and at whose expense had this happened. Satisfaction of existing customers was a crucial component in this. We try to stay on this route, so most of the measures that Miha and I implement in our company as it grows is focused on keeping customer satisfaction at least on the same level. We feel that this is a key metric for the success of our company. The nature of our business prevents us from measuring the NPS index after every activity, but weekly reports of our success coaches that focus on the benefits and problems of individual customers in specific campaigns or products follow the same core principle. As long as the customers (and ourselves) are aware of the benefits we provide every week, they’ll be happy. If we cannot identify any benefits for them in a given week, we don’t need to ask them whether they are satisfied with our service. Simple, isn’t it?

If you cannot see the benefits that you provide for your customer, you are doing something wrong. Click To Tweet

What could Telekom Slovenije be thinking about?

This long introduction was necessary to contextualize an experience that I recently had on a teambuilding trip with my coworkers – 4 days of sailing in Dalmatia. Without this context, I fear I would be labeled as someone that constantly criticizes companies for his own promotion, especially after my post about cutting my Sava Hotels loyalty card which caused quite a stir.

This is the story. We took off on a Thursday in the middle of the workday. I had great hopes for finishing some urgent work during the five-hour drive to Vodice, but as soon as we entered Croatia, the internet stopped working. I was patient for the first hour and even the second hour, but after that I started doubting my phone, so I reset it a couple of times, checked my settings and checked with my colleagues that use other network providers if they have internet access. After 3 hours without it, I realized that only Telekom users didn’t have internet access in Croatia, so I contacted their call center. This was a start of an adventure that no (business) user would want to experience again.

Since I wasn’t driving the car, I had some free time to wait for an available call center operator. This involved exactly 12 minutes and 13 seconds of listening to their advertisements in which they call themselves Slovenia’s no. 1 operator. At the same time, I could hear incoming emails on my colleague’s phone – he uses the cheapest available cellular plan on the T2 network. I admit it, after being exposed to their advertisements in combination with really bad elevator music for 12 minutes and 13 seconds, I had problems keeping my cool while talking to the young lady on the other side of the line. The script that she was following and was supposed to help her deal with angry customers didn’t do her any favors either. Just the opposite. I was even angrier after constantly hearing “Sorry, I cannot hear you well. Hello, Sir, can you hear me?…”. Not to mention her admission that there was an error in their systems and that service technicians had already been dispatched.

At the end of this conversation, I waited so I could grade my satisfaction with the help they offered. I was hoping someone in charge would end up listening to this conversation, since I gave it the lowest possible grade. FrodX is supposed to have a key account manager in Telekom, and in my opinion, this person was supposed to detect this “incident”, contact and nurture their customer shortly after this happened. If our account manager called us a day later, apologized and maybe offered a couple of days of free roaming in Croatia, I’d be telling everyone how Telekom turned into a customer-oriented company and how pleasantly surprised I was. How much would doing something like that cost? I don’t believe it costs much if anything at all. It would have also been a great opportunity to feel out the customer and see if they could sell us anything else. Not a lot of skill is involved – you only need to know how to leave a good impression.

Identify unsatisfied customers that may share their negative experiences and nurture them. Click To Tweet

Another takeaway for Telekom

Since I always try to offer information that would inspire or at least educate someone in my FrodX blog posts, I am offering an idea for consideration. Only a fraction of the money that Telekom spends on promotion and expanding the reach of marketing messages would suffice to improve the level of services and nurturing of their business customers better. Business customers are prepared to spend more on telecommunication services because our business depends on their quality. Quality mostly (but not exclusively) depends on reliability.

What do I hear as a business user while listening to the advertisements for the no. 1 network in Slovenia?

– If I require support and contact the call center, I won’t wait more than 1 minute to start my conversation with the operator. Calls from business users could be diverted to a separate queue, so they could receive priority treatment.

– Identify unsatisfied customers that may share their negative experiences and nurture them. Also find customers that are very satisfied and ask them to recommend you to their friends. If customers don’t leave a satisfaction score after the call, send text messages to remind them. Our experience shows that 30% to 40% of customers respond to such reminders.

– Account managers should be aware of any conversations that business users have with your support staff (especially the ones with poor grades), and listen to them. They need to calm and nurture the customer so they can identify new business opportunities for Telekom. They could always assume that people in trouble need something. Some need a comforting word, others need an additional service or accessory.

– Advertisements don’t leave a positive impression on me when I’m waiting for help (obviously because I’m having problems with the service) – I’m not thinking about new purchases. Playing a notification about problems in the system would be more helpful. Perhaps it would be enough to calm me down. Anyone who called their call center from Croatia on 15. 10. 2015 could have heard a message informing them of internet access issues which are being solved. Information about the deadline for solving them would also be great. In my case, I would have been spared from waiting for 12 minutes and spared from losing my temper while talking to the support representative. This would also help call center operators do their job better.

– Relevance of information or user context according to their mobile services plan and current location is crucial. The text message that I receive upon entering another country only serves to confuse me, since it mentions cost that does not apply to my mobile services plan. I repeatedly wonder whether my option for unlimited conversation and data transfer in the EU had been cancelled.

Yes, business users demand better user support. This is a simple fact and the reason we are willing to pay extra.

If new technologies don’t leave room to improve telecommunication services, this doesn’t mean that development had stopped. As far as I’m concerned, there is plenty of room to invest in technologies for better user support and transforming subscription service companies into customer-oriented companies. This is an increasingly important differentiation factor for providers – even subscription-based ones.

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Last weekend, I went to a movie theatre to watch a silent movie. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one. It was the German black and white classic – Pandora’s box – the charming Louise Brooks was playing the seductive Lulu. I was sitting in my chair, and enjoying the live piano score. Yet after only a few moments, I started fidgeting in my chair and looking around. Something was missing, and it wasn’t only the sound, but the action, dynamic editing, special effects and all the other ingredients of modern high-budget movies.

Quite some time had to pass, before I was able to tell myself that I chose this movie myself, so I was able to recollect my thoughts and concentrate on the on-screen action – the acting, small, almost unnoticeable expressions, flirtatious smiles, interesting directing choices, the story and the script. Everything that makes a movie good – its content.

After more than two hours, I left the movie theatre with a warm feeling inside. I was sure I chose the right movie – I’m going to be thinking about it for at least a couple of days. Since I’m always looking for new topics for the FrodX blog, it didn’t take very long for me to be sitting at my computer, thinking about the lessons that people in modern marketing can learn from silent movies.

It obviously cannot tell us a whole lot if we stick to the old-school definition of marketing that treats marketing and advertising almost as synonyms. This, according to Seth Godin, makes marketing just a tool to create more advertising noise holding on to an at least partially honest and naive hope that this will help us sell more. (Honest because no one doubts that you wish to offer your product or service to as many buyers as possible. Naive because most of your competitors think this way as well and you can be sure there will always be someone that has a bigger advertising budget than you. What will you do then?)

Marketing shouldn’t be a chance for more advertising noise in a world that's too noisy already. Click To Tweet

We cannot learn much from them if we still believe that marketing communication is a one way street, screaming that our offer is the cheapest, the most current, the most exclusive, the most attractive, the sexiest, the fastest, the hottest and simply the best. Modern buyers are turned away by these approaches – they imply that they are ignorant fools if they don’t decide to buy your product or service. You probably don’t want to imply that, do you?

Yet we can learn a lot if we believe in a two-way communication in marketing. We need to ease up on the sweet talk and focus on information that solves the true problems of our customers even before they decide to buy. Buyers are just as intelligent as we are and they have a better understanding of their problems (no matter how hard we try to convince them that we completely understand them), so they will quickly see which content really helps them and which content is just nothing but fancy worded fluff. They will be happier if we let them just study the materials that we prepared for them. Your marketing team will have to work much harder, but the results will be worth it. Just like in silent movies that require audiences to focus, since the dialogs (intertitles) in silent movies are limited to content that cannot be shown through acting and directing.

Marketing communication is a two-way street and helps potential customers solve their true problems. Click To Tweet

Godin wrote years ago that content marketing (or permission marketing as he originally called it) is the only remaining viable marketing type. When I am writing about such marketing, I am focusing on the creative approach to content that benefits potential customers who want to receive such content. This is why I’m comparing movies to marketing instead of cricket for example. This is why your company should consider what to offer as useful content along with your products and services. You probably care about your customers and in a world where marketing approaches are in trouble, your customers will appreciate that you treat them as equals and only bother them when you have something interesting to share. Content that will encourage them to come back to you again and again.

And trust me, I’m going to see another silent movie soon enough.

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This post offers some practical advice on a topic that we’ve covered multiple times. It’s one of the most important aspects of customer relations, yet we find bad practices over and over again. Content marketing is all the rage right now and everyone wants to do it, and this is reflected in its quality. Like any other thing, we must first think things through before we jump. Cover our basics. Form a strategy. Think it through and then start working.

Of course, giving advice is one thing while actually doing something is something completely different. We are painfully aware of that in FrodX. So today, I am writing about the three most common mistakes that we notice on websites that (often) sell products or (less often) services. Good content is especially important for them, since it’s more or less all they have – at least in the beginning. Recommendations of satisfied customers will follow later, but differentiating content is the only solution in the beginning. It lowers the cost of acquiring customers and convinces existing customers into repurchasing. Content marketing is a really good approach, but only if we do it right. Otherwise it can do more harm than good. Who would want to buy anything from a seller whose content isn’t relevant nor useful and some of it even completely misses the mark?

If you try to please everyone, no one will like you in the end. Click To Tweet

What are the 3 most common mistakes?

1. If you’re addressing everyone, you’re not addressing anyone.

This is not only true for marketing. It’s the same in public relations if my years of working in that field have taught my anything. If you try to please everyone, no one will like you. Yet many people in marketing think that everyone in the world needs their product or service, which is a big mistake.

Narrow down your audience. Describe your typical buyer in great detail. Focus on one at first, you can add more later. When I started working in FrodX, this seemed like a useless task. Only later did I figure out that I cannot write, think or offer our services without having the image of a typical buyer in my mind.

How can you tell whether you have a well-rounded image of your typical buyer? If you do, you can answer the following questions:

  1. What is his name?
  2. How many typical buyers do you have? (more than 2 is too much)
  3. How old is he?
  4. Where does he work?
  5. What are his hobbies?
  6. What does he do in his free time?
  7. What is his family life like?
  8. Where does he buy clothes?
  9. Which blogs/magazines/newspapers does he read?
  10. iPhone/Samsung/Windows phone?
  11. Which problem does your product or service solve?
  12. What are his fears or doubts that you have to answer before he can make a purchase?

If you cannot provide a detailed answer to these questions, you still haven’t finished creating your image of a typical buyer. I have long thought that the last two questions are the only ones that really matter, but if you really want to study your buyer and understand his problems, you must have answers for the first ten as well. Don’t rush – start with one typical buyer and add new ones later. This way you can concentrate on one buyer and create relevant content that will be appropriate for your entire audience.

2. Don’t rely on paid ads to acquire new leads.

Especially not instead on relying on creating good (relevant and useful) content. Throwing your money into paid ads is not a magic wand for ensuring an unlimited stream of new leads. Not only because of the increasing cost. Your competitors will drive up the price of clicks and keywords, which will in turn increase the cost of your advertising campaigns.

Paid ads aren’t a magic wand for ensuring an unlimited stream of new leads. Click To Tweet

Good content will improve your rating in search engines and enable potential customers to find you through organic search. Successful, above average brands are extremely serious about content preparation and invest in the following things instead of investing in paid advertising:

  • Every sales website needs a blog, and this blog should be a priority. You need to publish (at least) two posts a week on this blog. I know this is hard (it’s hard to even publish one good post every week), but there is no other way. Consistent posting is half the effort.
  • Your product pages must be an example of a great user experience. Your goal should be providing an intuitive presentation of the product/service as well useful and quickly accessible information.
  • Let your content be your salesman that disperses doubt and fear from the minds of your potential customers in a friendly way. You should provide content that answers the questions of potential buyers, case studies, links to customer testimonials about your product/service… All of this will help convince potential customers that they can trust you.
  • Posts on social networks are a special chapter. I can only advise you not to be too aggressive in your sales approach. Try to also share things that are not directly related to your product. This doesn’t mean that your posts should only contain images of cats and babies, but try to find a balance between being useful and being fun. Overdoing one thing or another is never good.
  • Email remains the best marketing channel. Of course, you cannot use it without smart segmentation and content that focuses on a specific target group. What would your typical buyer want to receive? What would they want to know? If your message impresses him, he will remember you the next time he needs to buy something. And another thing. Nowadays, most emails are opened and read on mobile devices.

All of that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be using paid advertising. Measure, monitor, analyze and figure out what pays off and what doesn’t, then adapt your paid ads to those findings.

3. If you don’t nurture your leads, they’ll go elsewhere.

Lead nurturing is an important concept in B2B, but there is no reason it shouldn’t be used by B2C companies. Lead nurturing is especially useful to any B2C company that sells products or services which require thinking before buying.

If you don’t nurture your leads, they’ll go elsewhere. Click To Tweet

3 simple ways of nurturing

Nurturing before completing a sale

Collecting leads and nurturing them up to the point they make a purchase is not only a job for B2B companies. It doesn’t matter whether you are selling cosmetics, books or shoes – it’s entirely possible that the visitors of your website aren’t ready for a purchase when they first visit it. A good example of creating such content is the Slovenian online footwear store obutanoga.si which also offers useful advice about shoes and invites you to subscribe to their email newsletter. It will be especially interesting when they add guides and downloadable e-books that will provide them with even more information about their leads. They can offer different content to nurture these leads until they make a purchase, especially since they have so much information about them.

Handling abandoned shopping carts

Users sometimes fill their shopping cart, and leave the website without finishing their purchase. This is when a short string of nurturing messages is triggered that try to convince them that they should complete their purchase. This is especially effective if you have data about the buyer that abandoned the shopping cart and you are able to send him targeted messages.

Personalized nurturing of existing buyers

Online shopping can be very impersonal, even though you know a lot about your buyers. Use all this data to build a relationship with them and don’t forget to segment them according to the products they bought and create up-sells and cross-sells. You can send them messages with birthday discounts or discounts at the anniversary of their first purchase. Marketing automation enables you to implement all of these things and leaves your buyers impressed with your attitude and attention (if you don’t overdo it).

You can launch an online store today without much effort. Building a base of loyal customers and a foundation for acquiring new ones is a more difficult task, so you should focus on this. This is no longer reachable only to large companies with lots of resources – anyone can do it if they have good ideas, know who to address, and know how their product helps their target audience.

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While a part of the Slovenian business public is certain that they’ve reached the pinnacle of content marketing by printing and sending their magazine to their customers twice a year, digital economy is approaching a great new turnaround. In 2011 Google’s ZMOT research negated the long standing theory about the importance of the first contact of the consumer with the product before reaching the shelf, and now, less than four years later, the ZMOT doctrine is being negated by hyper-connected customers in a way.

One and a half billion people are connected on Facebook and hundreds of millions on other social networks while everyone on earth carries (statistically) more than one mobile device. This created a different culture of digital existence and communication. The connectivity that is brought on by technology created a hyper-reachable audience for everyone. And every audience has their own audience down the line. This connectivity is so intense that scientists were able to calculate that getting from a certain point on Facebook to a random other point requires only 4 levels of connections between audiences. The speed of communication between audiences has reached such levels that social networks are a news source for reporters today. News is no longer something that the media serves to their audience – it is the other way around.

Social networks as a primary source of information

All of this changes buyers – yours as well! Today’s buyers are different from what they were years ago and expect different services from companies that they are in touch with. They are aware of their power. Every one of us is a part of the media in a way. Experience is shared in real time and people often rely on their social networks for finding information that they could have found themselves. Google used to be the first point of contact with a brand (ZMOT), but today, more often than not, people turn directly to social networks to find solutions that are recommended by their social circle.

Communication through social networks is increasing all the time. The trends of spread out information sources and opinions of other people that were noticed in the millennial generation is spreading to wider demographics.

We turn to social networks to find solutions in our social circle instead of asking sales people. Click To Tweet

The purchasing power of generation Z

I am completely serious when I say that everything is changed in today’s digital economy, since it is mostly shaped by millennials. Just think about this: they’ve turned a brand into more than just a logo, it now includes a broader understanding of the brand as a consequence of the experiences it creates. Experience does not only include experience with the product, but experiences with connected events: from sales to support and general communication. Millennials spread communication faster than companies can control it. Much faster. Especially companies that believe in the “weight” of paper communication. And millennials are followed by generation Z – born after the year 2000.

Today’s 10 and 15-year olds don’t know any other reality than independent Slovenia, free market and instantly reachable internet. Stationary phones are relics for them, while equality regardless of gender, sexual orientation or race is something completely normal. At the end of the day, they know only this world where the American president is black. Newspapers do not exist for them, they are hard to reach on Facebook or Twitter. Try Snapchat. Haven’t heard of it or don’t know how to use it for marketing? You might have a problem. The Zs don’t communicate with words, they understand graphics and emojis. Information must be short and to the point. They recognize platitudes and despise them. They don’t consider television and radio relevant or just don’t pay attention to them. If millennials are using three screens, the Zs are using 5. Should you be afraid that this generation will soon take over the market? Only if you don’t intend to change.

Should you be afraid of generation Z taking over the market? Only if you don’t intend to change. Click To Tweet

Of course, it is hard to believe in the need for change. People don’t like changes and the same is true for companies. It’s easier to lie to ourselves and believe that this doesn’t affect us. This couldn’t be farther from the truth – just go for a coffee anywhere and you’ll see that having coffee is still a social event, but everyone keeps looking at their screens. And if millennials are aware that this wasn’t always standard behavior, this is completely normal for generation Z, so it should become normal in marketing as well.

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I’ve been haunted by a salesman for the last 5 weeks. He keeps calling me on the phone, sending text messages and emails. He didn’t come knocking on my doors yet, but he’s been persistent about it. This seems to be his goal since he believes that he only needs an hour of my attention to show me something that will certainly change my life. On the other hand, I’m not at all interested in spending an hour of my time until I know exactly which problem this will help me solve. I won’t reveal the name of this company that focuses on persistence and rigorously follows outbound marketing principles, since I don’t want to answer emails from offended managers. The young salesman and his boss will certainly recognize themselves in this text if they read it.

I’ll wait another half an hour. If she isn’t here in an hour, I’ll leave in two.

This reminds me of a high school kid that was infatuated with a girl he met at his cousin’s birthday party. He got her phone number and email address from his cousin after the party and was set to work the lead. Since she didn’t respond to his email, he called her after two days, but the conversation was over quickly, because she was “at the cash register in a supermarket”, and she told him she’d call him later. Since she didn’t return the call, he called her again the next day. She didn’t answer even though the phone was ringing for a long time. He decided to send a text message to let her know that he called her and that he wanted to talk to her again. She didn’t answer for two days, so he was pondering whether he should send an email or text message or maybe even try calling her again.

We all know that the young man won’t be any closer to his goal with an additional call. We’re fully aware that he should do something that draws her interest before calling her. If he doesn’t move on that front, there’s no use in trying to reach her in other ways. This is how I understand sales.

If you think that your sales process and CRM system are great because your sellers don’t lose their grip on any of their leads, think about the problems of this young man. Your offer will only interest those who are aware of their need and like your approach.

Buyers used to be afraid of sales people. Now it’s the other way around.

I keep saying that the role of sales people has drastically changed because of the internet and the digitalization that comes from the mobile revolution. Salespeople used to be the ones with all the information about the products, and the buyers mostly knew only what they heard from them. The salesperson was a key information source for the buyer and some business deals could be made because the buyer wasn’t educated enough.

Committed buyers will find their own information. They no longer need salespeople for that. Click To Tweet

It’s just the opposite today. Manipulating uninformed buyers is getting harder and harder. Businesses that prey on uninformed customers are failing if they didn’t fail already. Committed buyers will find their own information. They will check all the information that is available online, analyze it, and compare different sources or use experiences of their friends on different social networks. Language is the only hurdle for potential buyers, since information is globally available and only a click away. It often happens that buyers are more familiar with the product (and competing products) than the salespeople they meet at the end of their customer journey. We read about our condition before visiting our doctor, read about people before we decide to go on a date… We’re used to the fact that almost everything we need to know is available online.

A deal requires a certain amount of fondness on both sides.

The digital transformation that is required by the new economy changed the relationship between sales and marketing. Educating the buyer, following the customer journey and adapting the online communication to individuals is the job of the marketing department nowadays. Marketing automation enables you to monitor every visitor that shows interest in your online content. Their digital trail shows you what they’re interested in and how interested they are. This enables you to predict the stage of their customer journey and see what they need (based on statistics of previous buyers) to face their fears and decide to contact you and buy from you.

A Lead Score tells us how interesting the offer is to your lead.

To simplify the overview of buying readiness for individual buyers, we assign points for activities of every visitor. The cumulative total of these points is called the Lead Score which is a relatively good indicator of our attractiveness as a provider. We also use an Engagement Score which eliminates visitors who just happen to be researching for their term papers or unemployed individuals who just want to educate themselves, but explaining the Engagement Score would require more words than most readers of our blog are prepared to read.

A Lead Grade tells us how interesting the lead is to the provider.

A more important realization is that advanced marketing automation systems offer the possibility to evaluate the buyer according to the data that visitors offer online. Let’s say that FrodX is only interested in business buyers with a larger sales team, product or service that requires a long and well-considered purchasing process, and who act like our previous customers when studying our content. Such ranking of our leads is called Lead Grade (lately it’s been called Predictive Lead Score).

Why is lead selection required?

The more aggressive your marketing is, the more bad leads it acquires which increases the cost of acquiring new customers. Unfortunately, the intensity of marketing activities does not increase sales linearly, the growth of sales is logarithmic. This is why extremely active marketing can kill sales if they use old lead qualification methods.

A business deal can only be made if you’re interested in the customer and vice versa. Click To Tweet

Let me explain with an example. A car dealership will not profit if it’s full of people who can’t afford to buy their cars. The salespeople will lose time dealing with them and fail to notice proper leads. This is why companies must learn to recognize which people who show interest are interesting to them. I call it defining their own sweet spot. A business deal can only be made with customers who find me interesting while my offer is interesting and reachable to them.

If you think I haven’t called you because you’re not interesting enough for FrodX, I would like to put your mind at ease. I am the only salesman in our company and I can only handle two quality sales meetings every week. I could barely even handle all the invitations in the last year and a half. But it’s also true that it’s much easier to write a blog post than to bother people over the phone. Whether I want to or not, I think about my high school years and all the girls I called too many times.

 

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Ps. If you need inspiration for drawing customer interest instead of betting on persistence, I recommend you read this manual.

 

3 things bother me on FrodX’s website:

  1. You cannot figure out what FrodX is doing in 2 seconds. 
  2. It generates way too many DIY leads (these do not have potential – they only learn how to do something themselves).
  3. 4 out of 5 challenges we receive are sent by people who don’t really want our services or cannot afford them.

Item 1 is actually my biggest problem. Maybe not so much because the visitor needs to delve deeper to begin our cooperation, but because my wife and kids cannot explain what I’m doing. If anyone asks them, they say I am an entrepreneur.

No one cares about you! Click To Tweet

My idea for fixing the first problem of FrodX’s website was quite simple: use one sentence in the slider on the home page to explain what we’re doing. I suggested to Fedja and Jerneja that we should replace the current one “Adapt your business to the changed buying behavior of your customers!” with one that would be a common denominator of our services and solutions and a result of our work: “We help you adapt your marketing and sales to the changed buying behavior of your customers!”.

This “small” change seemed like a really great idea. Everyone understands it. This solves all 3 problems in a way. But Fedja quickly said that we won’t be doing that.

“You forgot about the rule we repeat all the time – No one cares about you. What about your rules on what to write and what not to write?”

The buyer is only interested in content connected to the problem s/he wants to solve

Damn it, he’s right. People only care about their own problems and solutions for them. You just annoy them by talking about yourself. If a company selling mattresses publishes their vision, goals and values on the website and an address by the executive director, that won’t bring me any closer to ordering. I am not interested in that. This only interests them. Before I buy, I want to find out which mattress I would need considering my weight, size and sleeping habits. What is the difference between a latex mattress and a foam mattress? What is the difference between HR foam and regular foam? How can I customize the mattress according to my needs and what do I have to look out for?

You just annoy customers by talking about yourself. Click To Tweet

Sometimes we get carried away. Even those of us who make their living by consulting companies and helping them shape their marketing approach or digital marketing automation. This is why it’s convenient to write down the rules or laws that we have to follow at our work. We create a checklist that will be our fallback when we’re creating a project for our customer. It helps us so we do not get carried away by new, non-proven ideas.

If you do not know how a buyer thinks, do not burden yourself with the rules of online growth

Yes, people act much differently online than in real life. Norms are also completely different when we cross the digital foothold. We can nevertheless attribute most of the (digital) marketing mistakes to the fact that companies talk to themselves and describe their products instead of solving the customers’ problems.

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If your answer is “because of the price”, you are making a dangerous mistake.

To understand the patterns of decision making, we have to dig into human nature. We have already established that we rely on the “primitive” parts of our brain which controls emotions when making decisions, rather than on our cerebral cortex (which supports our analysis and rational data processing). This is tendency to abandon reason is even more evident in cases when our decisions are important, or when they are accompanied by a sizeable risk. Danger and fear are the primary influences that push us into subconscious decision making.

01_Medved

Source: http://www.birdsasart-blog.com

This is an evolutionary trait, one that we have developed over millennia, trying to survive. When our ancient ancestors walked out of their cave and saw a bear in a raspberry bush, they received two pieces of information at the same time. As a rule, those who focused on the berries over the bear didn’t get to spread their genes to the next generation. Those who stopped and thought about the bear’s intentions, whether it’s the same bear that ate their neighbor yesterday, or pondered if the bear is alone, also didn’t stand much of a chance. History was written by the cowards who ran back to the cave at the first sight of a bear or even an ominous shadow.

This brings me to the most important pattern: we focus on negative information much more than positive information. We react faster and retreat to established patterns when we feel threatened. Innovation under pressure is rare.

This pattern is not only useful for tabloid media, it also has practical uses in marketing. When you are walking down the street, you probably won’t stop and pick up a coin from the ground. On the other hand, most people will stop and pick up a coin if it falls from their hand. Our reaction to loss tends to overwhelm our desire for benefits, and when you communicate the benefits and advantages of your products, don’t forget that they also solve problems or prevent losses.

Of course, don’t be one of those marketing people – the ones who spend most of their time berating and threatening their audiences. Still, you should be aware that the sense of danger and loss is often a stronger argument than the promise of a better future.

Bugs in the code – repeatable short circuits in decision making

We can’t process all possible data alternatives in making our decisions, so we tend to jump to conclusions. Our most cowardly ancestors had the best chance of survival and we continue to use interpretation of limited information to come to conclusions today. The process is called heuristics, and it defines a process of problem solving and decision making with limited and incomplete data to draw “logical” conclusions. We simply don’t have enough time to collect all the information, so we decide on the basis of known patterns. The best possible result has never been our goal, but reducing the possibility of a disaster was.

A quick example. Have you ever walked into a restaurant on your vacation only to find it completely empty? Did you sit down and order or did you quickly go back out to the street to find another restaurant? Even though you cannot remember the concrete event, there is no doubt about your decision, is there?

Let’s look at the information that was available to you. The outward appearance of the restaurant must have been decent, since you decided to enter. They probably displayed a menu somewhere near the entrance, which means the price was acceptable as well. You may have even decided what to order. You have not heard anything bad about the food and haven’t even seen the waiter yet. There is no rational reason to doubt the product or service.

02_Gostilna

Source: http://ronfjones.com

This shortcut in decision making is called social proof and it is one of the better known examples of heuristics in marketing. If we cannot get a complete picture from the available information, we focus on what others do.

This case is one of the pillars for the existence of brands, sponsorships and similar identification. A brand has a story, a promise, but the people using this brand are much more important than these things. If we see it the brand often, especially in costly advertisements, it means it’s a big brand and probably safe. If it is used by people like us (or people we admire – such as sponsored athletes and celebrities), we will even directly identify with this brand.

Sounds so clear and simple, doesn’t it? Still, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen companies refuse to list their references, thinking that their competitors will go after their accounts. An empty restaurant is not a good competitive strategy.

The dark side of heuristics – passiveness

Resistance to change is the most common reason for irrational decision making.

When people don’t have enough information or the information does not carry a strong enough positive or negative message, nothing will happen. If there is a lack of information, our brain always includes an additional argument of “an unknown danger in the bush”. This makes us all a bit skeptical and there is a word used every day that describes this problem – “catch”. A stranger offers you a free gift? No thanks, there must be a catch. There must be a negative consequence I cannot see which is much worse than the benefits I would get from the gifts.

Free gift? No thanks, there must be a catch. Click To Tweet

Low-cost airline carriers are a good marketing example. Have you ever asked yourselves why they keep nagging you with the allowed luggage size and why they make you pay for every extra item? Have you ever asked yourself why they are so eager to tell you that everything on board, short of water, is charged extra? Even the so-called coffee they serve?

If they didn’t tell us what we would have to give up when we book a flight to London for 40 EUR, no one would dare fly with them. We would just assume that the airplanes are flown by unlicensed pilots or that the airline does not maintain their fleet or that the flight will be cancelled if anything goes wrong. The scenarios that we unconsciously create when we don’t have enough information always focus on worst cases.

These patterns are only the tip of the iceberg

03_Ledena gora

Source: www.psykiatrifonden.dk

In the coming days, we will discuss even more specific examples, but you have made a big step if you remembered the basic principles. The next time the buyers stubbornly decline your product even though it’s perfectly clear it is useful to them, think about the most common unconscious barriers that hold them back:

They do not get the feeling that your product saves or prevents a loss
Even though it offers clear benefits, it does not prevent loss. Your product is the coin on the road and not the deep pocket that protects them from losing the coin they already have.

They don’t get the feeling that the product is a “normal” choice
Tell them that others have tried it and were satisfied with it. The product category is a regular choice of many.

They do not have the feeling that they know and accept the risks
Complex products and solutions can cause a disaster in hundreds of different ways. Remember the old IBM slogan “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”.

In the end, don’t forget that we are fighting feelings. We cannot beat feelings with data, but with stories that customers can identify with.

If you have a feeling that your story hurts the bottom line of the company, since it does not approach the emotional components of a purchase or establish trust required for every customer choice, you’re probably right.

04_Padec

Source: https://www.mobileaction.co/

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