Travel always gives me a dose of reality. Just when I think I know something about life, I end up in some foreign environment, only to find out yet again that I know absolutely nothing. A few weeks ago, I headed off to Morocco, a destination that had been on my to-do list for a number of years.

In addition to realizing that Morocco isn’t just a huge desert, that mint tea is actually an improved version of green tea, and that the film crew of the legendary blockbuster Casablanca actually never set foot in Morocco, I discovered another surprising fact on this trip: the Moroccans are experts in inbound marketing.

I was indisputably convinced of this by Mohammed, who operates the riad (a sort of traditional Arab hotel) in Fez, where I stayed overnight. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Mohammed is a rock star of modern marketing. Warming up the leads, nurturing customers, promoting recommendations … This twenty-five-year-old tourism student knows all of these techniques like the back of his hand and has been using them all on a daily basis for years, even though I’m sure he does it completely subconsciously, without any special strategy or expensive business plan. As if the golden rules of inbound marketing were written in his genes.

Was inbound marketing invented by Arabs? Click To Tweet

How is it possible that his riad is fully booked for months in advance, even though there are at least five other similar hotels on the same street? Why will I, too, click a review score of 10 next to his listing on Booking.com?

1. Mohammed has a premium product and he’s proud of it

I’ve traveled quite a bit and seen many different accommodations, but this “hotel” has made it to the top of my favorites list. But not only because the rooms were cleverly outfitted with local patterns or because breakfast featured the most typical sweet Moroccan breads. The riad made it to the top of my list primarily because it reflected the character of its manager. Just think about it: when was the last time you memorized the name and face of the receptionist of a hotel you stayed at for only two nights?

2. Mohammed speaks three European languages and has recently also mastered the skill of making videos

When Mohammed realized that many of his guests often got lost on the way to his hotel in the narrow, complicated streets of the medina quarter, he recorded an amusing video that serves as a handy guide to the city medina. This helps settle the nerves of many guests who are afraid of getting lost in the maze-like and occasionally dangerous little streets (believe me, their fear is more than justified), while saving himself quite a few phone calls and a lot of searching for missing guests. And how do I know all of this? In addition to Arabic, Mohammed has also learned English, French, and Spanish. Why? “Because I wanted to understand my guests.”

3. Mohammed spends most of his day chatting with guests

Having his morning tea or taking an evening stroll to a local vantage point together with his guests, Mohammed constantly chats with them, listens to them, and offers them useful advice. Which route to take to the nearest city or where to find the best tagine—these are questions that Mohammed is always more than happy to answer and that build up trust among his clients from one day to the next. He’s well aware that nurturing current customers is at least as important as winning new ones, and so he considers any chats of this type as time well invested. When he sends his guests to his cousin at the end of the street to get the best argan oil in town, they will most likely listen to him even though they know full well that this involves a mutual favor. That’s because they’ll no longer see him as an annoying Moroccan who’s trying to sell them something at any cost, but as Mohammed, their friend.

Nurturing current customers is at least as important as winning new ones. Click To Tweet

4. Mohammed is aware of the importance of a good recommendation

If I didn’t come from the same line of business, I most likely wouldn’t have consciously noticed how, when saying goodbye and extending his best wishes to me along the lines of “Stay safe!” and “As-salāmu ʿalaykum,” Mohammed used an exceptionally subtle and non-intrusive way to mention that he’d be very pleased to read a word or two on Booking.com about how satisfied I was with my stay. Considering that I had found his hotel precisely through these recommendations, my decision was more than obvious.

I don’t want to drone on about using common sense again, but …

I imagine Mohammed does his job the way he does because his father, grandfather, and others did the same before him and especially because all of those years of experience have provided him with a good picture of what makes his clients happy and what doesn’t. He’s almost definitely never heard of the expression inbound marketing, which, to be completely honest, seems redundant even to me.

It may as well be referred to as common sense or, even better, kindness and empathy. The fact is that if we want to get close to someone, grow on them, and ultimately sell them a product, we need to establish a friendly and understanding relationship with them. This seems completely self-evident to Mohammed but, if you insist, we can of course (for the sake of credibility) also use a fancy expression like inbound marketing for it. 😉

 

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P. S. Not everyone has the golden rules of good marketing written in their genes, and so we can also use the customer lifecycle marketing planner to determine what we actually expect and want before creating a strategy.

Micro-moments determine an increasing number of life decisions these days. Even a few years ago we were still talking about in-depth decision-making processes and paths to purchase, whereas today the customer’s path from the moment a purchase need arises to the actual purchase is increasingly more variegated.

Can you recall the days when you had to keep a bunch of telephone numbers in your head? As long as we had to dial every telephone number each time, we had no trouble remembering half of our contact list. Now we know our own number and maybe that of a close relative or two, whereas the rest are stored in our cell phone’s contact list.

The same thing has happened with buying habits, research, and purchase decisions. Extensive catalogs of information we used to store in our heads have been replaced by searches for consumer needs in this (micro) moment. At any given moment we can take a look at a video showing how to pitch a tent during our vacation or at a list of good restaurants nearby, or purchase a product we need online.

We have to change the way we understand purchase decisions

If we want to get in touch with consumers, we have to adapt to the way they look for information. Customers who want to know the opening hours of a nearby restaurant don’t want to and don’t have the patience to read essays on the restaurant’s history.

Will customers get the information from you or your competition? Click To Tweet

Micro-moments can be divided into four key groups covering the majority of impulsive or fleeting contacts companies establish with customers using mobile devices:

  • I-want-to-know moments.
  • I-want-to-do moments.
  • I-want-to-go moments.
  • I-want-to-buy moments.

I want to know

These are moments when we’re looking for the answer to a question. Research shows that 90% of cell phone users make long-term decisions in a batch of many small moments. Purchasing a new car happens in 1,000 small installments: during lunch break, at the bus stop, while waiting in a line at a store. When making major decisions, customers spend more time educating themselves, but this takes place in increasingly scattered and disconnected moments. The content these customers are looking for is educational and provides direct and transparent answers to their questions.

Have you published content that helps these customers find simple answers? Do customers have clear and easy access to this content?

I want to do

When you buy one of those modern pop-up tents, you feel infinitely pleased. Five minutes after you arrive at the campsite, you’re all set and ready to go and you wonder why you didn’t go down to the beach straight away and pitch the tent later when it got dark. When your vacation is over, the reality hits you. While throwing your tent up in the air with a big grin on your face, you forgot to look at how it had been folded up into that matchbox-size bag. What will you do after twenty minutes of unsuccessful folding and turning? You’ll look for a video online that will show you how to pack up your tent.

If you want to communicate in micro-moments like these, you have to identify your customers’ questions. Here the customer support or sales department can help the most because it can tell you what questions keep coming up regularly on the market when customers face a difficult or unclear challenge.

I want to go

These micro-moments are typical of customers who decide to make an unplanned visit to a location. This includes searching for restaurants nearby, hospitals, browsing movie theater schedules on cell phones, and looking for stores, hotels, and the like.

These searches are characterized by the low occurrence of brands. When people are on their way somewhere and decide to go to a restaurant, they don’t have only one restaurant in mind, but are prepared to go to the nearest well-reviewed restaurant. Searching for the nearest pharmacy also doesn’t involve differentiating between different pharmacy chains. These searches have a significant impact on sales itself because when customers look for services nearby, that means they have decided to go to a place and make a purchase. Unlike the previous moments, this moment is the one that brings a customer through the door the fastest.

Do you present the prices and instructions for visiting your point of sale clearly to these searchers? Can they even find you if they search online by location and not your company name?

Can customers find you if they search online by location rather than your company name? Click To Tweet

I want to buy

This involves visits that are completely purchase-oriented. When an electric kettle breaks, the customer is instantly ready to make a purchase. These are low-cost purchases that take place instantaneously.

These types of customers are often willing to purchase a more expensive product. Ultimately, the price is the only bit of information that clearly distinguishes similar products on the shelf from one another. Customers have discovered the difference in price and decided to compare the products and look at the user reviews. Such customers look for reasons to buy a more expensive product if, of course, they can find convincing information about its advantages online.

Have you suitably facilitated the process of buying your products? How much effort have you put into posting information that clearly distinguishes your products from similar ones, and how easy it is to find positive reviews from your users?

When customers look you up on their smartphones, they have pretty clear questions in mind

At the same time, they expect simple and quick answers to these questions. If they don’t get them from you, they’ll go back online and get their answers from your competition. Outrun your competition and be the first to offer a fast and useful answer to the customer. The list above should serve as guidance and help, but don’t forget that every company has its specifics. Think about your customers’ needs and micro-moments, and perhaps you’ll come up with yet another category.

 

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My life is full of lessons I more or less always pay for dearly. The last one was: Don’t eat Christmas cookies in April. You can imagine that it was priceless. The one before that happened at work. It hit me like a cold shower and came with an extra “duh” on top. What am I talking about? That today’s readers read differently.

I know, I know, “duh,” right? But okay, seriously, when you’re writing something for digital publication, do you picture your reader sitting in a quiet, nicely lit room, sipping tea, and chewing on your thoughts word by word with full attention and interest? Or are you actually aware that readers most likely read your copy on just one of their currently active tabs, while chatting with a coworker on another screen and constantly checking for new e-mail down in the right corner of their screen?

Yes, technological innovations have radically changed our reading habits and ultimately the ways we think. But nonetheless I’ve noticed that these changes have still not managed to “move” most content creators of either marketing communications or other content to reconsider how this content is shaped, which has a fatal impact on all of our communication goals. Just like that tree that falls in the forest or not, it also doesn’t even matter in the end whether we have communicated our messages at all if the receiver doesn’t understand them.

You’ve only performed your role as a communicator well when the readers understand your message exactly the way you wanted them to.

FrodX’s blog already contains many posts on how important it is for people to hear the right message at the right moment and in the right context. However, we haven’t yet discussed the forms of these messages which, in order to be effective, have to adapt to an environment that in this day and age is largely defined by technology. It’s like how product packaging is important. The product could be of the highest quality and placed on the most prominent shelf in the store, but if its packaging doesn’t attract attention and evoke some sort of affinity in the customers passing by, the purchase will most likely not take place.

As you know, Marshall McLuhan already talked about how the messages we communicate are subordinate to the media or technology that govern the present day. The same subordination can also be ascribed to our reading habits. Does that mean our smartphones are responsible for the average online reader’s attention span being shorter than the memory of a goldfish? Probably. Does that mean that younger generations will in fact have shallow minds that will find it hard to become fully immersed in one thing, but will know at least a little something about everything? Definitely. But I still find the following much more important: how will you adapt your communication to the new challenges of environments that not only change constantly, but also develop unpredictably?

If readers don’t understand your message, you might as well not have sent it at all. Click To Tweet

Short catchy copy, the use of visual elements and hyperlinks, and abstracts that summarize the main message in simple sentences—in general, all of these are useful tips for digital content creators that want to keep up with the times, but they are definitely not enough to guarantee success always and everywhere. The path to success is (yes, you’ve guessed it) much longer and more complex than that. And you have to get to know your readers extremely well on the way.

Tell me how you read and I’ll tell you who you are.

What applies to the content and context also applies to the form. I think that any communication without knowing your reader well is just “dumping” on them (or just giving them marketing messages that go straight in the trash). It’s sort of like shooting in the dark, hoping to score.

As an anthropologist, I’ve got the professional flaw of constantly watching people. So a couple of days ago, I was watching my boss reading (or better: massacring) received e-mails on his cell phone in the car. There is only one traffic light on our way to the client’s office and because it turned red right when we got to the intersection, we had to stop there for a few seconds. While waiting for the green light, Igor deleted about thirty e-mails from his inbox, ones he decided he wasn’t interested in. He made this decision in a matter of seconds and most likely solely based on their subject.

I wonder if the writer of any of those thirty newsletters that ended up in the trash thought about guys like Igor while writing his copy. Did he think about the fact that his message had to survive the first selection at the traffic light, and then the next one Igor makes while drinking his afternoon coffee, and ultimately make it to his precious “Read in the Evening” folder? Some writers manage to achieve this and others don’t. The difference between them is definitely that the former know that fighting for attention is increasingly more challenging and that Igor’s criteria are getting increasingly stricter because he’s becoming less tolerant of marketing content by the day. This is how his reading habits have changed. As simple as that.

Tell me how you read and I’ll tell you who you are. Click To Tweet

The best weapon in the battle for attention is knowing the readers well, whereby it’s vital that you:

  • Know what stage of the buying process they are currently in,
  • Know what they are interested in and why (if at all), and what has proved useful for them,
  • Know how they read content. This means you have to identify the forms of content that the readers will notice, recognize, and be able to read.

With the first two points, the strategic use of marketing automation can provide effective help. The only reliable way you can find out the things described in the third point is to do field work: talk to people in your target group, read, use, and analyze the content targeted at this group, identify and know your competition, have the courage to do something different from what your competition is doing, and ultimately use the resource that may unfortunately be neglected the most: talking to your team members.

Don’t underestimate the fact that even the smallest hints coming from your team can be of great help in revealing the wider framework of your communication, even if this involves a (seemingly irrelevant) hint provided by an IT colleague a decade younger than you, who tells you that today’s Generation Z uses the word “super” only as a filler (Thanks, Rok! :)).

If you open your eyes wide and prick up your ears, you’ll soon realize that you can find this type of information all around you—but in order to hear, you need to be quiet first. Lesson learned.

 

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P.S. If you’re ready to make changes and ready to adapt to present-day challenges, we recommend that you read our manual How to Market in a World where Marketing No Longer Works.

If you’re one of those who prefers chatting to reading, you’re warmly invited to have a cup of coffee with us.

 

 

I often hear that Slovenians make great products, but we simply don’t have the know-how to sell them properly. Regardless of the industry. Of course, I first think that their products may not be that good and that the previous statement is just a convenient excuse. But unfortunately it is true that Slovenians have an engineering approach to development – at least in the IT industry. Too often we are focused only on what we can produce with our engineering skills and join the race to improve the technical characteristics of our product compared to our competitors.

Great developers think about the entire customer experience instead on focusing solely on the product that they are developing

Soft skills are rarely used in product development. Only a handful of companies manage to overcome their obsession with technical specifications when developing products. Slovenian IT companies that define their target group as well as predict the purchase stakeholders and their thinking to devise a customer engagement plan are truly a rare breed. This plan should be a comprehensive overview of the customer experience throughout the lifecycle of our relationship with the customer. Building a financial structure for the new product without a customer engagement plan relies on guesswork and wish lists, since serious planning and creating a solid business plan are impossible without it. You must have heard stories about great products that someone developed, but their salespeople were just incompetent and could not sell them. Customer focused companies should therefore think differently about product development and have a different view of the market. We could say that the story they want to tell with their product is the basis for its development.

Start thinking about how to sell the product as soon as you start developing it. Click To Tweet

You cannot build the emotional potential of the product just by focusing on its technical characteristics

Stories should provide an emotional connection between the customer and the provider or their product. Good storytellers are able to engage people emotionally in their story. Their subtle messages provide layers to the story and raise the product above its technical characteristics that are easily comparable. This is what every company wants. Their customers should see the widest context of the product, their story. Even more – they want their customers to keep telling and sharing their story. This is the only way that these stories can become credible. This entire construct is a product of a successful storyteller.

Only a good story provides an emotional connection to your brand. Click To Tweet

Most Slovenian companies (not only in the IT industry) have a poor awareness of the importance of their story and the story of their products. Even if they try to do something about it, they usually just go through the motions and don’t employ a systematic process with clear goals and success indicators. Posting an employment add for a Chief Storyteller raises quite a few eyebrows in Slovenia even if such work positions are nothing unusual in the global economy. Some googling showed me that Nike employed a Chief Storytelling Officer in the nineties, and that SAP has had that function from 2013.

Communicating goals and selling a means to an end

Marketing people have been more than happy to embrace the content marketing phenomenon, and this has lead us to the point where suddenly no one is interested in content any more. There is just too much content and it is too similar. Every marketer is trying to drown us in content. It is very rarely useful or even amusing. It seems like everyone is recreating the same content over and over again. People who used to think about the number of leaflets at exhibitions or were trying to find the right promotional gifts for customers are not necessarily capable of having a strategic overview of the market, products and the competitive value of their company. They are also not necessarily creative personalities with a knack for telling stories, but they are now creating content, because this is one of the main tasks of marketing today. The flood of low-quality content and the decreasing responsiveness of customers to it will slowly make managers realize that not everyone is suited for creating content just like they slowly realized that not everyone who works in a marketing department is a good designer.

The golden rule for creating marketing content is that the content you create should be useful or at least amusing. Since it is hard to be funny most of the time and it depends on the customers’ sense of humor, the content should most of all be useful. But is only a rule on the operational level that text writers should consider. The chief Storyteller in the company should have a wider perspective with a further reach. The best stories somehow shine some light on the goals that your customers are tying to achieve and products are only means to accomplishing these goals. Sales people love to talk to the customers about reaching their goals and the hurdles that they have to face on the way there. The job of the Chief Storyteller and marketing operations is assuring that this actually happens.

The customer will always have an easier time understanding the problem than its solution

You can often hear that it is not hard to write stories for sports equipment manufacturers like Nike, but it is practically impossible to write one for a company developing an IT system that supports manufacturing and storage for small and medium sized companies. I personally believe that the second case gives us even more room for creating a story. We just need to stop focusing our writing on selling software.

For a good story you need to gain a good understanding of your customers' problems. Click To Tweet

A good story requires us to step into the shoes of our target customers and gain a good understanding of their problems. Even the problems that they haven’t even thought about yet. If we can warn them about these problems and present the goals that they could reach with us, they will be glad to work hand in hand with us. I’m sure that every manager of a small and medium sized manufacturing company would like to read how they could optimize their manufacturing and logistics, so they could reach the efficiency of market leaders. A good storyteller keeps the customers focused on their goals and talks about the problems on the road to reach them. The customers have a much better understanding of their problems than the solutions for them.

 

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If your marketing department is asking itself how many of your customers mention you or brag about you in their social circle, you have begun thinking about why should your clients brag about you to their friends. The answer to this question is crucial for the growth of any company. In the end, when marketers clog all communication channels, recommendations will be all that is left. Genuine personal recommendations. Some companies are well aware of this today, but they are mostly focused on technical challenges, mechanics, processes to incentivize recommendations, and neglect the emotional component that is the key motivator for honest recommendations.

If it does not motivate you personally, it will hardly motivate your customers

If we disregard the communication noise and pending customer oversaturation, because everyone is doing the same things, we should question ourselves about our long-term investments. And the way forward is not a secret. Honest personal recommendations among friends and spreading good faith in your customers’ social circle is the only viable long-term strategy. But before you invite your customers to recommend you or “like” something, please think about why they should do that. What could make them want to do it? Think about what brings you to the moment when you want to recommend something to your friends.

If you cannot brag about luxury items, you won’t buy them. Click To Tweet

Are you managing envy?

Do you really believe anyone would buy a €10,000 watch if no one would notice its value? If you cannot brag about luxury items, you won’t buy them. Do you think that Akrapovič sells their exhaust systems only because they add 2 HP and make the motorbike 1 kg lighter? This is perhaps their rationalization for buying, but it is not their main motivator. There are lots of similar cases. One of our customers sells water cooling systems for PCs. Water cooling enables a much quieter computer and more efficient CPU cooling which can increase its efficiency, but it still seems that they are mostly selling designer products – like Apple. In all of these cases, customers brag about their products. No one is embarrassed because they bought their product from Akrapovič, Apple or EKWB. What would you say drives their customers to brag about these products?

Do you really believe anyone would buy a €10,000 watch if no one would notice its value? Click To Tweet

This Saturday, Miha and I took our coworkers for a visit to three winemakers in the Vipava valley –Krapež, Miška and Lepa Vida. We could call it teambuilding, but our main purpose was presenting the TreBello project which involves the three winemakers we mentioned and will eventually lead to a reservation system for culinary tourists. We heard some genuine stories from each one, tried some amazing wine and wonderful dishes. On my way home, I started thinking where and why would my coworkers invite their friends. What will they remember in the long term? The wine? The story about leaving the berries in the wine for an additional year to enrich its taste? The 200 year old wine cellar? I don’t think so. If they tell their friends anything, they will tell them about this*.

B2B is slightly different. Instead on focusing on envy, we should be thinking about fear. If you want to know what drives recommendations in the B2B segment, I recommend you to read these two short documents:


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*How many people can fit into one wine barrel (2800 liters)?

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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