You’re reading this after the three-day extravaganza in the Planica Valley has already ended, but I actually wrote it while the excitement before the ski flying weekend finale was reaching its climax. This is practically like a national holiday for Slovenians and includes all the activities that go with it. Luckily, there were no major incidents. So now it’s safe for me to reveal who the winner was: Stefan Kraft with his 250-meter-flight. 😉

As the big event was drawing closer, the popular game of predicting the (record) jump distances and the winner also started. At work, at home, at the cafe, with friends, family or coworkers, everyone bet on their own favorite or, more likely, the longest flight distance. Most of them did it for fun, the more enthusiastic ones did it for money, and a handful did it for the attractive prizes provided by the main sponsor.

Kraft won a medal at Planica, but Triglav Group won hundreds of new leads. So, who’s the true winner here? Click To Tweet

During this ski-jumping event, the insurance and finance company Triglav Group sponsored the Triglav Rekord 2017 contest, which was supported by a smart-phone app, in which participants could win prizes by predicting the distances of individual flights. That’s nothing special, one might say, a routine marketing practice and nothing more, but the fact that a company develops an app, does the coding, goes through all the certification procedures, and holds a contest for only three days of promotion—now that’s something else entirely. The biggest Slovenian insurance company can definitely afford to do it because, judging from the number of apps, it has sufficient resources, but nonetheless it has to gain some business benefit from it. In this case, the direct benefit was the leads that it can continue to target in the future (you had to sign up with your e-mail) and the users themselves will help promote it among their friends because the contest is so much more fun if you can compete against one another. Overall, the cost of winning new leads this way is definitely lower than through a conventional advertising campaign. Not to mention the enhancement to the brand’s profile.

Gamification as a customer engagement optimization tool

The expression “gamification” refers to a practice that has been used in marketing for quite some time now and roughly denotes the application of game or play elements to non-game contexts. It can take numerous forms, from vouchers and loyalty cards to collecting points, but the digital world provides even more possibilities. The techniques used allow awarding, assessing, and highlighting user achievements and making evaluations within a community.

Practically every consumer has already come across one form of gamification or another without even being aware of it. It experienced its biggest boom with the development of smart-phone apps with integrated programs for enhancing customer loyalty.

Grandma collects Mercator bonus points but her granddaughter collects Facebook likes. Click To Tweet

In a highly competitive business environment even a small difference can bring you a competitive advantage. If you use the right approach, gamification can also have long-term business benefits. It is an indispensable customer engagement tool that can be applied to all areas.

We use a gaming experience to lead customers into a real marketing campaign or even conversion. Along their purchase path, we can prompt them to download content, create their own profiles, share their personal data with us, or even purchase a product or service.

Loyalty card 2.0

Gamification is so popular because it combines a number of different trends in the consumer digital environment. You need to take these into account when you look for new ways of interacting with your customers:

  • The rapid increase in content and digital experience creates the need for constant adaptation and innovation in order to maintain user interest and increase sales;
  • Today’s online users are used to getting responses to their actions. Most of them don’t browse the internet just because of the rewards, but their existence forces them into repeating certain buying patterns in the future;
  • Online games are based on sociology and behavioral research, which makes them highly effective;
  • Loyalty programs used to reward purchases, whereas today they entail significantly more interaction with brands, either in the social media or corporate websites. Keeping track of and rewarding non-purchase related activities can lead to a long-term increase in customer engagement. This technique allows you to obtain more user-generated content, product reviews, and so on, which helps companies get to know their customers better;
  • The customers’ online activities can be monitored, analyzed, and processed, after which they can be used to direct users based on their previous choices;
  • Those that have already tried gamification observe significant changes in user behavior, such as an increase in the number of conversions, good reviews, and user-generated content. It is common to see as much as 20% growth, but some even report as much as 500%.

Adapt to your customers and their “playful” habits

Gamification extends into the customers’ user experience and so it has to be aligned across all of the brand’s tools, whether in social media, customer reviews, online catalogs, blogs, mobile apps, or other promotional activities. Don’t make the mistake, for example, of thinking that by giving out online user badges without a context you’re going to make anyone happy. This type of reward program will be short-term and may even make a few happy, but it won’t have any significant effect on user activities and you’re not going to achieve your long-term goals this way.

Buyers like to play. So play along with them, adapt to their rules, and you’ll both win. Click To Tweet

Understanding buyer personas and how they perceive games is key. The challenge is to find the tool that allows you to convey your message to the right person at the right time through the right channels (the internet, social media or cell phones) most effectively.

By setting the objectives of the game you lay the basis: group engagement, collecting leads, creating website traffic, qualifying the user database, announcing new products, or reactivating inactive customers. Then you need to accurately define your target audience. The more accurately you define it, the higher your share of opt-ins will be. By determining the target audience, you build the basic logic behind the “game”: rewards, expansion, and promotion. Only then do we select the type of the game (e.g., a quiz, a prize draw, e-training, a mobile app, and so on) and implement it into our campaign.

Games are at the forefront of modern marketing

Through gamification, companies enhance their marketing messages and optimize their resources and content. Then they win a loyal audience. By using an effective marketing strategy, they can then monitor their customers’ engagement with their brands. Gamification offers exposure to a specific brand in exchange for fun. The goal is to achieve maximum customer loyalty. The insurance company described above is definitely good at achieving this, and we can help you become good at it, too.

[email protected]

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been noticing that, every time I get in my car, my cell phone reports my destination, along with the expected time of arrival and the density of traffic on the way. I didn’t really pay much attention to it until I realized that the destination pops up even when I haven’t entered it in my calendar or anywhere else. With the cloud systems it’s linked to, my cell phone can predict where I’m travelling to at a specific time! And because it wants to be nice, it also offers me some addition useful information to make my travel more convenient. I haven’t decided yet if that’s great or scary.

If you can capture and analyze large quantities of data, you can detect specific patterns of behavior.

I started wondering and investigating how my cell phone can know where I’m heading at a given moment, even if I haven’t entered that information anywhere. I soon found out that it makes predictions based on my past travel or behavior patterns. The computer to which my cell phone sends data on my movement predicts the destination that I most often travel to at similar times of the day from the location where the notification pops up. Apparently, my life is so routine and predictable and the patterns I leave behind are so reliable that the computer knows exactly when I’m going somewhere, either because of my routine behavior or the things I put on my calendar.

My phone knows that I play golf Thursdays at 4 pm. So it automatically sends me there. Scary? Click To Tweet

We’re most willing to give up privacy for the sake of convenience

If I had to decide whether that’s great or scary, I’d say that for now it’s still great. By taking a single glance at my cell phone I can see when I’m going to arrive at my destination and how heavy the traffic is on the way there—because the speed is being communicated by the cell phones of all the users that are travelling that same route.

Before, I had to open Google Maps and enter my destination in order to get info on the time of arrival and the traffic jams. For someone who’s always late, info on how late he’s going to be and where the traffic jams are is extremely important because he can use it to apologize to all those who are waiting for him. 😉 It’s great if from now on I don’t have to do a single thing in order to get this info.

Well, while I was thinking about how even just a month ago I was using the Google traffic services and how I no longer have to type on the phone and enter the address while driving, and how good this new solution is for me and other road users who no longer have to type in the addresses, I came to the conclusion that this may only be leading me to the point where I’ll also give gradual consent for my behavior patterns to be used for someone else’s benefit, not just my own.

Is the Amazon Dash Button just a cover-up for something that’s not socially acceptable yet?

If my rides are repeatable to the point that they become predictable, certain predictable patterns can most likely also be derived from my daily purchases—probably even more easily. I imagine the moment is not far away when there’ll be a cart waiting for me at Mercator with an integrated tablet that will recognize me and show me my shopping list, which for the time being my wife still emails me every time I go to the store. Alongside my typical shopping cart, the tablet will also suggest products that I’m statistically most likely to grab and add to those that make up my typical purchase. If nothing else, such a shopping list will seem great to me because the items on it will be listed in the logical order of my route through the store. My wife only writes down what we need on the list, but not where to find it in the store. Another advantage for me!

Increasingly more convenience, increasingly less privacy. So what? I’m lazy. Click To Tweet

In a physical store this will probably remain difficult to accomplish for another few years, but it seems that progressive online merchants are actually already doing something similar, but in a “soft” way. I’m starting to believe more and more that in the long run Amazon doesn’t really need its Dash Button at all. It’s probably more of a cover-up for making people feel that they are deciding or communicating their needs on their own, even though Amazon is probably pretty good at predicting them and could prompt people to confirm an order at its own initiative. If it doesn’t make too many mistakes, we’ll probably grow to like it eventually. Convenient and inexpensive easily beats privacy concerns. Instantly. Always.

Technology is slowly but surely winning the battle for customers.

I could present lots of other examples and similar practices, but they all have one thing in common: technology has started to change the approaches established in the physical world. It’s winning the battle against the physical world incredibly quickly, taking advantage of our big weakness: human laziness and desire for convenience. The companies that are aware of this are introducing innovations to their sales strategies and customer service by investing in technology and new approaches that gradually erase the borders between the physical and digital worlds. Other companies only watch from the sidelines and pretend that nothing’s going on or, even worse, they really don’t see anything at all. We can help you win their customers.

[email protected]

P.S. Do you need some more ideas about how technology can help you raise your sales, marketing, and customer service to a completely new level?

We’ve written an interesting manual about this and I guarantee you won’t get bored reading it. Don’t put it off another day! Whoever learns something new first can exploit its advantages longer.

If there’s something that really annoys me, it’s wasting time. A little while ago I had to sort out my temporary residence permit at the administrative unit. I’ve been living at the same address for more than a year, which means I only had to extend the permit, but I missed the deadline and so I had to submit the entire application all over again – as if I were applying for the permit for the first time.

I arrived at the administrative unit with only the annex to my rental agreement in my pocket. I didn’t bring the entire agreement with me because I thought they already had an electronic copy from last year. The clerk coldly sent me home to get all the documentation, saying that the original rental agreement had already been “archived” and she wasn’t able to access it. She quacked this in such a melancholy tone that I began to worry that their archives were at the North Pole rather than merely a stone’s throw away from her desk. I’m not entirely sure what her real motive was: trying to teach me a lesson that I shouldn’t miss deadlines? Or maybe it was just because of the technological malnutrition of the public sector, which makes them incapable of digitizing things. In any case, having to run home and back, chase down the administrative unit’s office hours,* and work with physical documents that had recently already been saved in electronic form seemed an absolute waste of time to me; especially if you consider this was 2016 we’re talking about.

I would like the world to become more convenient for me: I appreciate brands that save me time. Click To Tweet

 After experiencing that, I feel that the Slovenian public administration system is several light years away from the next industrial revolution. Considering that I (intentionally) submit my personal information everywhere I go, my expectations towards the world have changed. I feel like I’ve already contributed enough information in the past and if someone on the other side doesn’t know how to use it to improve my user experience, this annoys me even more.

In his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab discusses four main impacts on consumerism:

  • User expectations are changing, whereby self-service solutions have been on the rise recently—for example, the self-service kiosks at McDonald’s, where users can order and pay for their food, which reduces waiting times and speeds up the process;
  • Products and services are improved with data, which improves their productivity—for example, Bellabeat, a Croatian-Slovenian brand of high-tech products for prenatal and neonatal care that pregnant women and new mothers can use on their own at home;
  • Businesses are forming new types of partnerships and cooperation—like the one announced two years ago by SAP and Huawei (primarily with the purpose of improving research on the Internet of Things and providing new solutions);
  • Business models are turning into digital models.

How do you strengthen your customer relationships?

User expectations are changing into experience and brands that think smart strengthen relationships with their customers by offering them the right solution at the right time, with minimal effort on the customer’s part, of course.

Over the past years, certain citizen and government initiatives have been established in Slovenia — most recently and notably at the conference Slovenia 2030: Directions of Technological Progress, Directions of Social Change — to promote the digitalization of public administration, and public administration itself has also taken a few steps forward, for example with the eRecept (ePrescription) system and the e-VEM access points for business registration and taxation. Nonetheless, the Slovenian public administration system still seems to torture ordinary citizens all too often: it does not focus on truly making it easier for them to exercise their rights and fulfill their obligations. Estonia has proven that the government’s embrace can be a comfortable haven for citizens. This country is a global leader in public administration digitalization and serves as a model for other countries (it is even being copied by the Japanese). The e-Estonia project makes it easier for people to fulfill their civic obligations, such as voting, paying taxes, or signing legally binding contracts.

In an ideal situation, after my temporary residence permit expired, I could have been automatically reminded to complete my application and extend my residence permit or apply for a change of residence. OK, so the public administration clearly doesn’t care about me, even though research shows that an online service would have cost it 50 times less than the offline alternatives. But I believe that the brands for which I also spend euros and not just my personal data and time do care. So why does Mercator send me information on special deals I have no interest in if, based on the buying habits recorded on my Mercator Pika loyalty card and my consent for the chain store to use my personal data and data on my past purchases to study customer buying habits, it could instead notify me of discounts on my favorite products? Or even better: when it detected that I haven’t bought toilet paper for a very long time, it could toss it into my online basket and I could order it with a single click and have it delivered to my doorstep from the nearest Mercator shop within the next few hours. For example, Amazon is taking a similar course with its Wi-Fi connected dash buttons installed in people’s homes, with which users can reorder a product with a simple click on the button. By the way, Mercator claims that it’s trying to adapt to my buying experience, but unfortunately I don’t seem to notice that as a consumer.

If the customer doesn’t notice your personalization efforts, you’re doing something wrong. Click To Tweet

So, the digital revolution revolves around data, or more specifically, access to and smart use of data. In turn, user experience is made more meaningful based on constant adaptation and improvement.

In the future I would like the world to become more convenient for me and so I appreciate those brands that make an effort, make my user experience easier, and save time. I believe this will be more favorable and lucrative for them than trying to win new customers.

 

[email protected]

*Before you shake your finger at me, I do know that you can also apply for temporary residence though the e-administration portal, but that delays the permit issue for another day or two.

If you do phone sales and your salary doesn’t depend on your performance, you ought to call up my boyfriend David. He’s your ideal customer. David is friendly, doesn’t interrupt you, and always promises he’ll think about it. Even when you make a follow-up call, he’ll be just as friendly, even though he’ll probably admit he hasn’t thought about it at all yet. And if you call him up a third time, during his Saturday dinner, he’ll “just” gently dismiss you, while grumbling to me about how they dare call him up on a Saturday afternoon. Sorry, but I speak from experience . . .

How do they find him?

Whenever I witness these calls, I keep wondering how on Earth they find David. Whether they’re selling insurance or a vacuum cleaner, or “merely” completing an innocent survey, it seems my boyfriend is often on their call list. I’m not sure what kind of logic they follow, but they never pick me. I have two theories for this.

Perhaps they call up all their lost customers. David has never bought a vacuum cleaner (or insert any other item that is currently being sold by phone), but he may have taken out insurance with a different company in the past. Just like I don’t know all of his ex-girlfriends, I’m also not familiar with all of the insurance companies he’s previously been with.

My second theory is that he must be in the “right” demographic group. He’s a thirty-two-year-old man with a young family and a good income. Is this the target demographic group for selling supplementary health insurance? It could be, but I can’t really be sure.

Save your call center agents’ time by instructing them to call up only the promising contacts. Click To Tweet

But there is something I do know for sure. David has never bought a thing after receiving these calls. If the call center agents were aware of this behavior, they could at least save themselves from making the second and third calls even if the first one can’t be helped. He doesn’t seek out additional information from friends or on the internet after these calls, which is how someone that is preparing to make a purchase typically behaves. We established this while profiling typical customers for one of our clients. This client doesn’t compile his call list based on demographic data or a list of lost customers. It all starts with the assumption that their agents’ time is valuable and therefore shouldn’t be wasted on calling non-promising customers, which, however, brings up another issue.

Who to call in order to maximize the likelihood of a successful call

The simple answer would be to choose those that are already showing interest in your product, but haven’t decided to purchase it yet. A great idea, but hardly feasible in practice, right? Well, I could tell you to call up all those that have experienced 30.95 of your online touches (this includes opening your e-mail, visiting your website, downloading your content, and so on) because they need just a little bit more encouragement to buy the product from you. But we simply can’t treat the myriad of products on the market all the same and so there’s no uniform answer to this question. You need to perform a behavioral analysis or customer profiling for each product separately. If you know how many online touches an average customer has experienced, you can make sufficiently good conclusions that it’s best to call those prospects that recorded one or two touches fewer than the average. But this isn’t the only way to tip the scales in your favor. You can also do this through e-mails, text messages, or a remarketing ad that encourages people to explore your product further.

Do you know which customer to call to make your sales call successful? Click To Tweet

Is behavioral analysis the only right answer?

If you call up your prospects based on a demographic or behavioral analysis, or their past purchases, I suggest you first isolate these or compile a more accurate database of your lost customers. Before you call these customers, make sure you restore your credibility. If they haven’t written you off entirely, it’s better you nurture them with useful content. When after carrying out the behavioral analysis you find out that they’ve experienced the ideal number of 30.95 of your touches, you can encourage them to make a purchase.

It’s best to draw data for calling up prospects from behavioral and demographic analyses. Click To Tweet

At that moment it makes more sense to hand over to the call center the list of contacts that have remained after you’ve carried out both a demographic and behavioral analysis. You wouldn’t want to call your neighbor’s teenage daughter, who has experienced 30.95 of your online touches, but will be covered by supplementary health insurance for another few years anyway because that’s already provided by law. And likewise, you won’t be any better off if you call my boyfriend David. There’s no way you can find out that he’s contractually bound to a different insurance company for another two years, but his behavior can tell you that he couldn’t care less about your insurance.

[email protected]

P. S. The above example of an ideal number of online touches (30.95) is just an example. If you come across a problem in your behavioral analysis and defining the specific number for your product, we’ll be happy to help you out.

A few days ago, a high-profile international corporation informed us that it had selected us to work with them. We competed in a tender, which is usually a very poor starting point for us to win new deals, but we sealed this one anyway. I couldn’t wait to share this excellent news with a good friend of mine, who didn’t believe we could win a deal from a company that is also used as a major reference by what he felt was (had been) a provider very similar to us. I invited him out to dinner and of course expected that he would ask me “Why do you think you landed the deal?”

We hadn’t even made it to the aperitif yet when this question was already on the table . . .

It’s best to use an example to explain it

As the parent of three children, I long ago realized that the most effective answers are illustrated with an example. This is the fastest way to reach my goal and I run the least risk of getting yet another “why.” I, myself, also seem to memorize abstract things most easily through examples. One way or the other, explaining through examples has become second nature to me. I realize that in the business world, too, I’ve become an advisor that has an explanatory example ready for every answer. If I can’t find an example, I doubt the accuracy of my own explanation. So that evening I also used an example to explain to my friend why our new client identified us as a unique solution among all the other providers.

It’s easiest to explain and memorize abstract things by using examples. Click To Tweet

 I enlightened him with a single sentence and a 30-second video:

“Look at this ad and tell me what Harley Davidson is selling*.”

When I saw my friend nod approvingly while watching the video, I knew I managed to yet again avoid another “why.”

Aha, I see. What your clients are actually buying is not the newsletter or a content marketing provider. They are essentially not looking for CRM or a marketing automation system. They’re looking for someone that understands how their buyers’ purchasing habits have changed and can help them find a (new) path to them,” suggested my friend immediately.

Exactly. All the rest is just finishing work for the remainder of the project, in which the client wants to limit the risks and simplify implementation (for himself) as much as possible,” I added.

Uniqueness lies in . . .

I nailed it again with this example: Harley Davidson is well aware that their uniqueness is not at all connected with bikes, just like we’re aware that clients don’t choose us as a content marketing agency. In fact, the last twelve clients we’ve won told us they had chosen us because:

  • We knew how to develop a strategic perspective on their activity;
  • We managed to help them see their customers’ new purchasing habits through different eyes;
  • We can provide comprehensive solutions with a flexible business model at the implementation level.

So what makes you unique? Click To Tweet

What about you? Have you already thought about what makes you unique as a provider and why you’re the best, most logical choice for your target group?

 

[email protected]

 

*For years Harley-Davidson’s CEO argued that they sold an experience, and the bike just happens to be a fundamental part of that experience. One of their execs is quoted as saying »What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.« Eventually the board got on board the company concentrated on the goal of delivering this very specific experience and annual revenues grew from $1.5 billion in 1996 to $4.6 billion in 2003 and net income grew from $143 million to $761 million over the same period. Their bikes are technically unsophisticated and don’t represent good value for money compared to other manufacturers, but when you buy a Harley-Davidson it’s not just the bike you’re buying into.

Three weeks ago I was hired by a new client. To give you an idea of what kind of consulting duties I was entrusted with, I have to tell you that my new employer was my three kids and a few of their friends from the campground. It all started on Saturday, when they spent the entire day painting rocks of all sizes and shapes, and then on Sunday the moment of truth arrived: Is my kids’ artwork worth anything and do my kids have any sales skills?

They set up their shop a few meters from our camper. That was great for Mom and Dad because we could keep an eye on them. It was a bit less great for them, because we were stationed practically at the end of the campground and anyone who sets out toward that point is headed for the beach—without a wallet, of course.

To our great surprise they learned their first lesson intuitively. It very quickly became clear to them that location is vital for good sales results. So they decided to move their shop. They moved it almost to the center of the campground, next to the cafe and the path leading to the grocery store, the vegetable and fruit stand, and the shop selling the obligatory swimming gear. Right to a location where people will definitely already have their wallets along.

Sell your goods where potential customers will definitely have their wallets along. Click To Tweet

And then we had some peace and quiet for a while.

But not for long. Soon the kids came back to the camper, sad and disappointed. You can probably guess what my first question was: “So, did you sell anything?” Even though the answer was “Four rocks,” the way they said it immediately revealed that this didn’t qualify as a great sales success. Especially if we conduct a customer analysis. Their mom bought one rock, their grandma bought two, and their dad bought one (and I even bought it at a discount because I didn’t have enough change on me).

It all seems that in order to achieve good sales results you shouldn’t bet everything on how cute the salesperson is. Granted, that will get you free ice cream, lemonade, and many kind words. But not much of what the kids really wanted: cold, hard cash.

To achieve good sales results you shouldn’t bet everything on how cute the salesperson is. Click To Tweet

I couldn’t stop thinking about their disappointed faces, so I offered them some help. I suggested that we do for their art shop what every single business has to do when it sells its products or services.

We started with a few basic questions:

1. Why would someone even buy your rocks?

It’s interesting that when you pose such a “business” question to kids, they jump right in and start brainstorming answers. The first idea was: “To crack nuts with them.” This may not have been the best suggestion because there weren’t a lot of walnut trees in the campground. But the ideas that followed made significantly more sense, revealing various new customer segments:

  • “To hold down tablecloths, so that the wind doesn’t blow them away.”
  • “To hold down napkins.” (Again for protection against the wind.)
  • “To put them on the ground in front of the camper, so that it doesn’t prick your feet.”
  • “We can run a string through the rocks with a hole and make a necklace.”
  • “As a souvenir, for foreigners.”

When we analyzed the benefits, the next question was completely logical.

2. Who do you think would buy your rocks?

We didn’t carry out a special survey or a detailed analysis or define the typical customer groups, but potential groups kept pouring out of their active young minds:

  • “Mommies.”
  • “People from other countries.”
  • “Daddies who want to keep the area around the camper nice and neat.”

When we identified people who would need the rocks and clarified how these rocks would be useful to them, we had to answer the next question.

What makes your products special and different from the alternatives that solve the same problems? Click To Tweet

3. What makes your rocks special and different from the alternatives that solve the same problem?

Because they can’t paint even two rocks exactly the same way, all of their products are undoubtedly unique. Moreover, they can also be personalized or custom-made (so that they match the napkins, tablecloths, and the like).

The kids were still showing considerable interest in the subject, so I asked them one last question.

4. Why would certain people still hesitate to buy your rocks?

  • A woman who’s leaving the store, holding bags in both hands, would have trouble bringing one or more rocks to her campsite (especially those from the “hold down” category). A simple solution would be to offer a delivery service, especially because they already had all the required equipment at their disposal (a bike with a basket).
  • Considering that they had used water colors to paint the rocks, concern about their products’ durability was quite justified. They could offer a warranty that was valid as long as both the customer and the seller were in the campground at the same time.

 

The kids found this game of ours quite fun, so they agreed we could make a few more decisions and changes to their approach:

  • They should display their products by type: “to hold things down,” “construction material,” “handicrafts with a sentimental value,” and so on. This clearly communicates the products’ purpose and usefulness.
  • They should adapt a few products from the new line to the needs of potential customers. Lionel Messi (which was an excellent motif in my opinion, which is why it sold: to me) should be replaced with a more current and local motif. Considering that we were at the halfway point of the UEFA European Championship and that the campground was located in Croatia, the sign “10 Modrić” would be a better motif for anyone buying a souvenir from Croatia. Or Ronaldo, who can be placed on the table covered with a tablecloth, while watching him play on TV.
  • They should offer free delivery to every customer (available up to the end of their vacation).

 

This wrapped up my first day of consulting services. If I had continued to pester them with questions, such as how they could improve their promotion, who their competition was, what their advantages were, if their prices were appropriate, how they could use their references, and so on, this would have been way too much for a Sunday afternoon.

Even though it was only the beginning of the week, the weekend was fast approaching, and the kids were empowered and motivated. I’m very eager to see if they will in fact introduce all of the changes suggested and if a new, more systematic approach will also help them sell the rocks.

 

[email protected]

 

P. S. If you’d like to know if we managed to increase our sales or you’d like one of these ABC-manuals for yourself, let me know. I’ll be happy to share our sales results with you or help you in any other way.

In business (as well as our everyday lives) we can always find three types of people:

  • Those who aren’t afraid of technological advances and changes, who know how to adapt to them and use them to their advantage;
  • Those who stand firmly behind their view that the technologies that are permeating our lives are harmful (to something, anyway);
  • Those who haven’t decided yet which of the two groups above they would like to join.

But the fact is that technology is increasingly becoming an indispensable part of our lives and business. Those who don’t accept that are bound to fail. Let me use a practical example to explain what I’m trying to say. I’ll tell you a story of what was going on a few years ago in a village close to where I live.

Social listening in practice

For twenty years, a man (let’s call him Frank) managed a family business, a trade now known as “catering.” Practically no event took place without his catering services. He covered all larger weddings and other kinds of social events. He was a local monopolist because he was practically the only provider for all those years.

Frank had made a good name for himself in his local environment. He was known for high quality and also had excellent business skills for that time. He found the majority of his sales opportunities while having his morning coffee at the local pub. He also got plenty of hints from the local priest, with whom he had a drink every afternoon at that same pub. His business largely depended on the local gossip about upcoming parties.

The times to find good sales opportunities while having a coffee at the local pub are long gone. Click To Tweet

Then the economic crisis came. The volume of orders dropped in catering, too, and his clients were less willing to pay as much or even at all. To maintain his family’s standard of living, Frank had no other option than to expand his business to more remote villages and towns. But lo and behold, there he could no longer use his routine method to win new clients. Seeking sales opportunities through pub gossip and local priests was suddenly impossible without personal contacts. And he needed time to establish these. Lots of time, which he didn’t have.

Because Frank was busy trying to grow his business elsewhere using the same methods as before, he paid less attention to his home village. After a while, his neighborhood competitor, who also wanted to win new clients due to the crisis, began to take the local priest out for drinks as well. This ended up with Frank losing a wedding or two in his home parish. But it was the local firefighters that nearly destroyed him: after twenty years with him they decided to go with the neighborhood competitor, who changed his business model and enabled the fire department to generate a larger profit.

The approach that enabled you to manage your business successfully in the past is no longer working. Click To Tweet

Frank gave up. Illness forced him to pass his family business onto his son. (Let’s call him Peter.) Peter knew his father’s business well because the entire family had to help out with larger projects. All of those years while Frank was actively involved in his business, Peter was a student. In addition to obtaining training in catering and hospitality, as required by the profession, Frank also had him go abroad to study tourism management and marketing. This ended up saving Frank’s business.

Peter understood his father’s approach to doing business. He knew that all of those years his father had used pub gossip about various parties so he could be the first one to go see the party organizers, offer help in organizing the party, and become their caterer. The approach his father had used to successfully manage his business for twenty years no longer worked for him. The problem wasn’t just the harsh times and the tougher competition. That wasn’t what destroyed his father. The problem was that Peter was not particularly fond of hanging out in pubs and, having moved away to a larger town, he also no longer had genuine contact with the local priest.

But Peter was a systematic and contemplative person. He knew he needed to find new clients that his father had never even tried to find because they just weren’t part of his social circle. Peter was well aware that gossip no longer circulated only at local pubs and churches. People had moved their gossip to the internet, social networks, and the media. All the rest is just a matter of how to intercept it first and continue his father’s old approach by offering assistance to party organizers in exchange for closing a catering deal.

Deals still depend on gossip; the difference is that it has moved from local pubs onto the internet. Click To Tweet

Peter went to see a few social network and media analysis specialists. He used the money that his company had previously spent on advertising for exploring new sales opportunities. He expanded his business across the entire country. Thanks to the sales opportunities that his business partner found by analyzing the gossip in the social networks and the media, Peter hired and trained seven other advisors to help clients hold and carry out parties and other events. Business picked up. Peter increased turnover ten times over what his father had achieved in his best year.

Frank’s health improved. Because Peter had modernized their service range, they again had control over all of the deals within range of their local pub.

 

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P.S. This is a story about Social CRM and has no connection whatsoever with my fellow villagers. Peter and Frank are made up. I’m sorry if I disappointed you or if you have identified with the story.

 

All of the women that have ever had the chance to visit a Victoria’s Secret store know the true meaning of customer service par excellence. An attentive shop assistant, a fitting room the size of a small studio apartment, a sofa for men right by the fitting rooms where all the husbands, boyfriends, and friends can wait and use the free WiFi, and fluffy pink wallpaper covering three stories in perfect harmony. All of this is part of the service package that largely makes up the success of this American retailer, which currently holds about 35% of the US lingerie market.

No, women don’t line up at this store’s registers just because its products are so much higher quality or cheaper than those of the competition. They are there because the overall experience of visiting the store, from the friendly staff to the scented bags, which makes their lingerie purchases feel like investments. In themselves.

Customer service that some find outstanding will annoy others. Would you be able to adapt? Click To Tweet

I admit it: I was also impressed the first time I visited the place. By that time in my life I’d bought quite a bit of lingerie, but the assistant who accompanied me into the fitting room, measured my band and cup size, and showed me various models that were a perfect fit to my figure at least enlightened me that day, if not even changed my life.

I brought (too) many pink bags back to my hotel room that day and my wardrobe still features an impressive collection of Victoria’s Secret products. But when I returned home and told my friend about this customer experience (I finally found it truly worth using the word “experience”), she replied coldly: “I don’t get it. Why would a shop assistant measure my band and cup size if I can do it myself?”

My fluffy rose-tinted glasses fell off. Was it possible that the customer service I found nothing short of outstanding, and on which the brand has relied for a number of years, wouldn’t appeal to someone else? “I just don’t like the shop assistants touching me,” my friend said with a shrug, ordering a cappuccino.

Customer service is intended for the customers

In marketing, we talk a lot about how important it is for companies to provide as prompt, sincere, empathic, and relevant customer service as possible. This is ultimately the key to all customers’ hearts and pocketbooks! Using the Customer as a uniform fictitious person, companies then embark on the path of creating a customer service policy that will offer the best customer experience to this Customer. What about when someone doesn’t want to have their bra size measured? Or when it turns out that the Customer is not only one person, but a large group of people with different expectations, desires, and fears?

Research shows that most members of Generation Y (the Millennials) try to avoid communication with the sales staff as much as possible while shopping. Mobile technology, which has become their home environment, enables them to make most of their purchases without any (telephone or personal) contact with the sales staff. So would such customers feel good about it if, for instance, after they submitted a complaint to the online store someone from customer service called them and tried to help them solve their problem by talking to them in a prompt, sincere, and emphatic manner? Probably not. Just like my friend will probably never put on a sexy Victoria’s Secret lingerie set, these Millennials would most likely never visit such a store again.

If you want to help someone, you must get to know them first

Yes, even as well-intentioned an act as helping can evoke dissatisfaction if it’s not planned the right way. I would even go so far as to say that an inflexible customer service policy can be a fatal mistake for companies that in some cases leads not only to customer dissatisfaction, but also customer loss. For example, I stopped going to a natural cosmetics store in Ljubljana’s Old Town years ago. I love their products, but I can’t stand their intrusive sales personnel, who during my first (and last) visit to the store wouldn’t let me browse their products on my own despite my subtle and eventually not-so-subtle hints. Because they were so preoccupied with their well-rehearsed sales and customer assistance “protocol,” they were unable or unwilling to acknowledge my wishes. Even before I was able to make my first purchase in their store, I had bade them farewell forever due to my dissatisfaction. Their approach, which was probably laid out in some internal manual based on the values of friendliness and understanding (and I have absolutely no doubt of this manual’s good intentions), was far from a pleasant experience for me. Maybe because I’m overly sensitive at times or simply because I’m a woman (and you know, women never forget), I’ve never shopped at that store again, not even since they went online.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to use common sense. Click To Tweet

The power of adaptability

The key difference between customer service that creates happy customers and customer service that creates unhappy customers is the power of adaptability. Unfortunately, in both marketing and sales, and ultimately in any type of customer contact, this is largely based on the use of common sense. This would definitely have made the salesperson at the cosmetics store who drove me away stop pestering me, and it would definitely prevent the shop assistant at Victoria’s Secret from telling my friend what her cup size really is. What if we applied this common sense more often at work?

 

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It’s part of human nature that we prefer to tackle something that is familiar, seemingly manageable, and comprehensible, rather than something that may be the actual problem that needs to be solved in a given situation. Even though we’re aware that we’re not solving the actual problem, most people tend to be risk-averse and prefer to put their energy into something they feel more familiar with – despite knowing that it’s very hard to solve the actual problem this way. But that’s how we are.

This past weekend I went to a birthday party, where I ran into an old acquaintance of mine that I hadn’t seen for nearly ten years. He just had to tell me that he’d read two of my manuals on CRM systems and that he’d been appointed head of the project for launching CRM at his company. Breathlessly, he told me that they had to do something about their sales and that this was their company’s “biggest” project this year. The added value of their flagship product was falling and sales of the new product ranges were not really taking off yet. He told me that in just a few years their customers’ buying habits had completely changed. “Interesting,” I thought to myself and listened to what he had to say.

Customers already make 75% of the purchase decision even before they contact you. Click To Tweet

This is roughly how our conversation went:

“Customers do their own research on the internet and make at least three quarters of their purchase decision even before they make a single phone call or contact us in some other way. Or any other retailer. Today customers know everything and can get all the information online. Almost everything. We don’t hide anything from them any more. Anyone who hides information doesn’t even make it onto their list.”

“But the CRM system will only help you manage those processes that involve the interaction between the customer and the salesperson. You will only be able to influence the outcome in the final 25% of the buying decision process. Until contact is established with customers, CRM can’t detect and deal with them. Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in improvements to the part where the customer independently makes 75% of the purchase decision? If you create a system for that and bring in twice as much demand, you’ll probably earn twice as much using the same methods. Are you really convinced that you can do that only by making improvements to the last 25% of the process, when your salesperson is already interacting with the customer?”

“I’ve never thought about it that way. What you’re telling me makes sense, but what kind of system can I create when the customer is doing research on the internet? Only Google could sort that out.”

“Well, how did you end up reading my CRM manual in the first place?”

“Completely by coincidence. I noticed your post on LinkedIn that three of my business partners had liked. About three weeks ago. That was also when I learned what you’ve been doing over the past few years and connected with you on Linkedln. Your post made sense and seemed logical, that’s why I went to your blog to read the rest. In one of the posts there was a link to the manual and one of the seminars you conducted last year. After I downloaded the first manual, I received the next one in my inbox a couple of days later. Since then, I’ve been receiving weekly newsletters from your company with new blog posts. I forward most of them to my colleagues at the company. We’ve been thinking we’d ask you to deliver an in-house training course on marketing, sales, and modern CRM systems for us after the holidays. Like the ones you’ve held at Hotel Mons. Do you also do private seminars?”

“Sure. Unfortunately, they’re not for free, but this way they are much more detailed and tailored to the individual client’s needs. Great stuff, you’ll see. I’ll send you an offer on Monday.”

If you care about the overall customer experience, CRM alone is no longer enough. Click To Tweet

“Do you have my e-mail and phone number? Do you know where to send it?

“Sure. I also know what you’ve read, when you read it, which colleagues you recommended our blog posts to, what they’ve read, and so on. I also know basically what else you should read in order to become our client. You’ve been served specific reading material by a system that has been monitoring your purchase readiness and area of interest. The website, too, has gradually changed for you based on what you’ve already read. The purpose of all of this is to approach you with topics of interest to you, in an increasingly targeted way. Everything is done automatically, without anyone in the company having to deal with you at all. In addition to the CRM system, the marketing IT system we have in place deals with clients with whom we haven’t had one-on-one contact yet. This is referred to as Marketing Automation.”

(He looked at me, horrified, pausing for a few seconds.) “So why haven’t you called me if you already knew all of this?”

“I saw you on the mailing list among those invited to this party. I thought it would be easier to talk to you in a more relaxed environment. But you’ve beaten me to it.”

“Amazing … You’ll really have to show me this. I thought only Google knew what I was browsing on the internet. If our sales people knew this, it would definitely improve their approach to customers. I can’t believe you can actually watch customers look at your display window and see what products they’re comparing … That’s what we need, screw CRM!”

“You also need CRM. You’ll see. That is, if you truly care about the overall customer experience …”

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P. S. For more information I recommend reading these two quick guides. They’re free. 😉


Have you ever heard a salesperson say he closed a deal thanks to his company’s fantastic marketing? Neither have I. Unfortunately, marketing gets a medal only for deals that are closed entirely over digital channels, without any mediation by the sales staff. In all other cases, “everything is done” by the sales personnel. Without them . . . well, when I’m selling, there’s always some kind of drama going on. Even when there actually isn’t any. Just ask Miha.

The warmer days have encouraged me to buy new outdoor furniture. Ads had nothing to do with it.

Yesterday I went and bought some new outdoor furniture. At the store. I refused to do it online. Those who know me in person know why I want to actually sit down in a chair before I buy it. After spending an afternoon browsing the internet, I chose the furniture I liked. Even though I could have ordered it online, I wanted to see it in person. Not just see it, I wanted to sit down in the chair and feel the material. If this set is going to last as long as the old one, it’s important to know what I’ll be sitting on and what individual pieces feel like.

What was the salesperson actually able to influence in my case?

I definitely made one salesperson’s day yesterday. He probably even bragged to someone about how nobody else earned a grand faster than him that day. I spent precisely 20 seconds on trying out the new set. Then I went to find the salesperson and had only one question (or request) for him. I wanted to have the old furniture (or what remains of it) taken away when the new set is delivered. When I inquired about a discount, the shop assistant immediately offered me free chair pads. Because both of my wishes were apparently already included in the offer, he had an “easy” customer whom he persuaded in no time. This is what it looks like when you have competent sales staff. 😉

As long as marketing and sales aren’t combined into a single measurable process, marketing will always be the loser. Even though this process most often passes from the online world (marketing) into the physical world (sales), they have to be connected.

So how did this retailer’s marketing or online store do yesterday? They paid for Google AdWords again and, thanks to this ad, obtained a visitor who ended up in their online store by typing in the keywords “outdoor furniture.” They know precisely what he was looking for and how long he spent in the online store. But eventually he left. The transaction wasn’t carried out. He didn’t even leave any other traces, such as an e-mail or phone number. Something went wrong.

Why does marketing come across as a loser in the eyes of the sales personnel and the management? Click To Tweet

Even though they set up a new online store, advertise it, focus on the material presented, and spend time on describing the products, the sales still take place in a real store. In the physical world. It seems that they need another optimization: they will have to improve the product descriptions, offer additional discounts, spend money on additional advertising, etc. They’ll hire a new agency. Maybe they’ll even stop using the online store because they’ve already tried out three different agencies, but the results are always the same.

Do you ever wonder what determines your purchase? And how we decide to look into one specific retailer and not a different one?

In the case of my outdoor furniture the salesperson felt like a great victor and marketing like the biggest loser which statistically only displays failures, but I know I would never have considered looking for outdoor furniture at this store had Google not brought it to my attention. I’d never even thought about this retailer before. But because it had a sufficiently large range of products on offer and the site was well organized by category, with excellent photos and product descriptions, transparent prices and purchasing conditions, info on inventory at each sales center, and also provided the opportunity to check out the product (in person) before making the purchase, it won.

It also had the AdWords, I must admit. I clicked the ad, not the organic hit, even though it was on the first page. I don’t know why. At that moment, I probably thought I’d find the selection of products I wanted to check out faster this way. I admit that I thought that if I clicked the organic hit, I’d be served some “bullshit” about maintaining, assembling, and selecting the outdoor furniture, whereas I was interested in products with specific characteristics. Yes, the company also provided information on the chairs’ width and bearing capacity. They were the only one. And to me this seemed pretty important when choosing the right furniture.

We do the research on the internet, but still make the final purchase in person. Why? Click To Tweet

A comfortable buying experience is what counts. This single factor sometimes makes us willing to pay more for something.

Another thing seems important to me. Even at the store I was thinking about how someone was considering himself a winner and how someone would be again declared a loser at the next marketing and sales meeting. At one point I even considered going home to purchase the thing online, just to show support to my fellow marketing colleagues. But I changed my mind . . . because I’m lazy. It was much easier to simply take out my credit card and enter the pin number than open a new account in the online store and copy the data from the credit card. I was already there, after all. Sorry, marketing.

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