In the spirit of love and affection as many celebrate Valentine’s Day, the day of awesome relationships, frisky friendships, risky affairs and just plain gushy lust, I thought it would be appropriate to mention the everyday occurrence of unavailable brands. You know the kind, the not so healthy, lots of issues, not worth the time and certainly not worth the loyalty—when company brands get so chilly, so unconnected and just straight up are not available to their paying customers who truly want to love them.
The sad fact is there are many brands who behave like this and then wonder why their customers cheat and defect to a younger or more loving competitor.
Here are the red flags to know when it may be time to start dating- I mean shopping around:
- You’ve got a problem and there is no phone number on their website.
- Or it takes way too long and way too much work to find it.
- Or a “contact us” form with no reply or at best a form reply that says: “we are very busy, we’ll try to get to you some day”.
- Or you call them and after 20 minutes in the phone tree jungle, you speak with a customer service rep by the name of Carol, who you can’t understand, and you know darn well no Carols’ live in that country.
It’s unfortunate there are not horse-mounted brand police that would issue costly citations when companies play like this. But then again, unhappy customers now have a voice with social media, word of mouth and on high traffic blogs, just ask Dell, Bank of America and Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Tonight at tennis I asked my buds who they thought were some of the worst offenders, the not available brands, here’s what I heard. Tazo Tea, the Starbuck’s company, Sam’s club, the Walmart Company, Skype and the Microsoft Company. I’m sure you’ve got your list too. It is a shame that these big brands would be so clueless to the basic concept that open communication is essential to keep a relationship red hot.
Smart brands who value relationships with their customers make it easy for them to talk and they listen.
How easy is it for your brand to be loved?
To learn about more brand bumps and how the got back on the saddle, view: Brand Turnaround.
As promised every Saturday I’m going to recognize someone who deserves a little extra attention for his or her good deed, creative solution, witty comment or meaningful act of customer love.
This week my hat goes off to call center person at Federal Express.
I’ve been a customer there for years and they do a great job of getting my packages delivered. But recently, I’ve been getting a little cranky because I have to call them every month to straighten out my balance. This happens because I often over pay my account when I’m on the road and I don’t have my invoice in front of me, but I know I owe them something. I have a very good memory for numbers, I just have a habit of rounding them off, so I over pay by a few bucks. Consequently, they are always sending me a check back. This somehow messes up balance due. And then they send me an assertive note saying I’m behind, when in my mind, I’m ahead.
Many companies would tell me that I have to follow their system or I’ll keep getting checks back and demand notes for 2 bucks.
Not this nice Fed Ex gal, she was empathic, not bureaucratic, and apologized for the hassle. She also told me how much they appreciated my business and called in a supervisor to see how they could correct the situation.
In a few minutes they adjusted a setting on my account and told me I can now make my random, rounded off payments and won’t have to call Fed Ex every month to straighten out my account.
They got it right.
Their phone system is easy to use to get a live person, (just hit #0) and does not require taking a muscle relaxer to stay calm like many phone trees do. The Fed Ex staffer was very pleasant. She listened. She showed gratitude and came up with a fast solution. And it was obvious; well trained too. My kind of company, thanks!
How are your company’s problem solving skills on the phone? This is a critical touch point in any brand experience.
You bet my pearly veneers it can.
I’ve never been a big fan of going to the dentist. Maybe it’s because my parents were such sticklers and sent us so often as kids. And as an adult I’m very grateful for that, my teeth are in good shape.
Or maybe it’s because I still remember exactly what it felt like the day the orthodontist yanked my braces off. I thought all my teeth were coming off too.
Or maybe it’s because my last dentist always acted like a Nazi commando and if I didn’t follow everyone of her every recommendations, she would send me a threatening letter stating that my failing to spend $3,000 on something she believed was needed could cause brain damage and other deathly ailments. Beyond the scare tactics, she and her staff hard pushed products and services like used car salesman. And when I don’t floss, they don’t pour the guilt trip on me, like “Karen, you know this is a team thing, I’m doing my part, you’ve got to do yours.” I don’t remember signing up for the dental team. Bad experience. Bad memories. Bad brand. I don’t go there any more.
My new dentist Dr. Gregory Jacobs is not a pain at all and neither is the experience. In fact, I enjoy going there. They have current magazines that I enjoy, nothing against Golf Pro. The environment is relaxed. There is no tacky, bold faced policy signage posted everywhere. No glass wall implying I’m am disturbing them. The office looks like an interior design studio, not a stinky medical clinic for lab rats. The restrooms are equally as cool and the staff is always nice.
I feel a whole lot less pain, stress and anxiety when I go to the dentist these days. And always tell my friends about my great dentist. All the touch points are thoughtfully provided (music, scent, decor, staff, lighting, restrooms, parking) and geared to my comfort, not the efficiency of the practice.
I always wonder why 95% of health care providers don’t get this powerful connection to the customer experience and their bottom line. And this concept is not restricted to only health care providers, anything that is not organically enjoyable and tilts toward painful, like: buying tires, repairing your AC unit or purchasing insurance can benefit from a really pleasant and memorable experience.
Is there anything you can do to improve the experience you deliver to your customers? Remember, the brand is what the customer thinks, feels and expects about the sum of all you do.
OK, I do schedule my dental appointments right after lunch and usually have a glass wine with my salad too.
For more on strong brand concepts, view: Want to be a standout brand? Avoid these 5 costly mistakes.
In less than 9 hours, I will be on a new world stage presenting the concept of branding to over 300 Saudi executives and their team members. I’ll be addressing the changing market place, social media, storytelling and creating lasting customer experiences.
The production will be beyond grand. I suspect no expense has been spared, from an elaborate stage, to all white seating, lights and more. The behind the scenes team include translators, videographers, stage production crew and writers. Plus, a professional master of ceremonies will be on stage with me, while I’m speaking, to ensure nothing goes off course or off message. Today, all the speakers did run throughs, were interviewed and fully prepped on what to convey and what not to say.
All speakers were also asked to submit the three most important points from their presentation. Here are mine.
• Critical for success, competitors are doing it, if you don’t do it, you will be invisible.
• The brand result is a picture you earn in the market’s mind. Deliver the right picture with new mindset.
• Tell your story better, louder & with extreme consistently. Start from the inside out.
Am I nervous? That might not be the best descriptive word to fully state my emotions. I wish I had some Pepto-Bismol® right now.
Am I prepared and ready to do my very best? Absolutely!
More tomorrow after my talk. I have to go to bed early, rest and get fully energized. To follow my entire trip also check out the Oddpodz Grow your Business Blog as I chronicle other issues there.
Here are some of the awesome women from Entourage Marketing and Events who are producing the conference.
Tomorrow, Feb. 12th, is my birthday and I’m looking forward to it. After working on my new book for most of the day (deadline getting nearer), I’m going to the theater to see Billy Elliot, the musical, and then dinner with my mom. Should be very nice.
I will also check the mail and find some thoughtful cards from my pals and relatives. And I’ll get a handful of calls, emails, Facebook posts or text messages from my digital buds. All is good.
Then the marketing birthday wishes start to accumulate. I always find this interesting, because every year the number of cards and gifts increases. These range from hand signed cards from companies I’ve never heard of and don’t do business with, to free dinners, gift cards and special deals from companies I do patronize.
It’s always nice when someone or a company remembers your b-day, even if it is a computer.
Jocelyn the co-founder of Oddpodz also has a b-day this weekend, on the 13th of February, hope it’s a great one!
Do you have a way to remember your customers’ special days? It can be a fairly low cost, high value touch point.
Be sure to check out: Don’t ever think about calling me a senior or reminding me that I’m over 40.
This sediment is shared by millions of young baby boomers everywhere. While official boomers (over 76 million of us) were born between 1946-1964, I’m so not ready to hear that term, if fact it really freaks me out.
I know I’m not alone. And smart marketers understand that there is a brand new generation of boomers, just like me.
Don’t call me a senior, and don’t even remind me that I’m aging, even if I am like a nice bottle of Merlot.
I prefer something more like a middle-aged person or how about no reference to age at all, that’s even better. That’s not a lie, 51 is the middle of 100. A lot of people live that long.
So why a blog about this?
My birthday is next week. On Feb. 12th I will be 51. Yes I’m crossing the mark of the other side of the game. Ole Abe and I share the day, although he is a real senior at 201.
I don’t feel 51 and I live a young lifestyle, I play tennis 4 times a week, I watch music videos, love Linken Park, Train and Katy Perry, shop at Forever 21 and occasionally drink really cheap wine.
Today, the Wall Street Journal did a story on retooling boomer marketing and it caught my attention. The story covers everything from how small type faces can hurt sales to colors that won’t help you market either. But the big point is, don’t tell any of that to the young boomers.
Seniors like my mom, are cool with that Senior marketing stuff. I suppose when you hit 75, it’s like a merit badge and senior discounts are a bonus. But for people like me, marketers better be very sensitive with how they speak to me, or I’m not buying their products.
As a young boomer, I’m famously demanding, independent and rebellious. I’m health-conscious, I text daily, tweet sometimes hourly, don’t have gray hair (thank you Clairol®) and my eyes were bad when I was 30.
So marketers, please don’t use models that look like my parents to get my attention, don’t assume I won’t try new things and do know that I’m fit, not fat and child proof containers always pissed me off.
And AARP, I have enough magazines, so why not save a tree and your postage and just chill for a few years.
For more on aging, check out: Who said interns have to be young?
This week, Taco Bell experienced a greasy brand bump by some hungry law firm.
A lawsuit was filed claiming that Taco Bell was falsely advertising its beef tacos, and allegedly the 99 cents delicacies only had 30% or so beef in them, which is not enough to be defined as beef by the USDA.
The late night comedians, social media channels and journalists have been having a meaty joke and news fest. Taco Bell fired back on Friday with a news statement and full page ads claiming they are grateful in a “Thank you for suing us” campaign and welcomed the opportunity to talk taco with all of their loyal customers and anyone else who is starving for the truth. Additionally since the lawsuit broke, Taco Bell has furthered it’s position by posting ‘The Real Beef Facts’ and a quirky video touting the Super Delicious Ingredients Force, a Saturday Night Live parody that’s worth checking out.
Taco Bell says its beef is 100 percent USDA inspected, and that its recipe is 88 percent beef, 12 percent “secret recipe.”
So did Taco Bell do the right thing, by playing a bold brand defense card after a very public attack?
I’d bet my next tacos on it. When a company is a well known brand like Taco Bell with lots of good, beefy brand equity, sitting back and not saying any thing is not an option. I like that they responded quickly and took a very confident stance on the issue with provable facts. As for the law firm, maybe they need to think outside the goofy, greed gene.
Also, check out: Miracle Whip and Cate Blancett. What do these two have in common?
My good friend Jim Blasingale, fellow entrepreneur and host of The Small Business Advocate Radio show, invited me back to his show this morning, Monday, at 7:00 AM Eastern time.
If you missed it, click below to listen to the two-part interview discussing:
1) Reinvention of you or your business for the new year
2) How small business branding is changing
Also check out Jim’s site. On the air since 1997 and the Internet since 1998, it’s packed with insight and multi-media content from some of the top business experts from around the country. Jim’s show is the world’s only weekday radio program dedicated to small businesses.
What will you do in this new decade to be more honest and authentic? Rebrand your business? Listen to the 1st half of the discussion.
Click below to hear the 2nd half of the discussion on the impact of business branding in the 21st century.
Being seen, talked about and featured in the media can certainly add to your brand buzz and success. This visibility can attract customers, superstar employees and even catch the eye of a choice joint venture partner. I’m a news and magazine junkie. I clip stuff daily that I find interesting, throw it in my cool ideas pile and then, over the thanksgiving, thought it was time to share with my fellow Oddpodz. So here are some of my favorite finds to help you increase your venture’s visibility.
1) Four wheels & style to burn.
How you can hit the road with a branded vehicle score publicity, create a tweet trail and always be on the move finding new customers.
2) Logos and license plates.
Many states are now offering custom branded auto plates to further brand your biz.
3) How to break a record and get in Guinness World Record Book.
Every week we see some company or person all over the news because they break a world record. The biggest something, the longest this, the first that, here’s how they do it.
4) Can guilt get you more customers and attention?
Think you need to shell out more product info or some financial reward to lure the non-believers? Think again. Get into their heads with a little old fashion guilt and they will follow.
5) Time sensitive, limited supply or an exclusive offer can be the ticket to a whole lot of buzz. Just ask any McRib junkie.
Every year it returns. That weird culinary pork and sauce thing called a McRib and then before you know it, it’s gone. This catch me while you can strategy has proven to be a big hit for the global burger joint. What can you offer your loyal customers with the same sense of urgency and maybe even a product tracker website for the truly addicted?
Gary Vaynerchuk (VAY NER CHUK), the star of Wine Library TV, is Director of Operations at Wine Library in Springfield, NJ. With his unconventional, often irreverent commentary on wine, Gary has attracted a cult-like following of more than 80,000 viewers a day. In the name of “expanding one’s palate”, Gary convinced Conan O’Brien to lick salted rocks and shared samples of dirt and grass with Ellen Degeneres. He routinely pans popular wines (even ones sold by Wine Library). He interrupts his webcasts with rants about his beloved New York Jets. This is not your typical wine expert.
Wine Library grew from a $4 million dollar business to a $45 million business. If that’s not enough to toast about, Gary also authored Crush it!
I read Crush it! after several people recommended that I do so. It is an easy to follow, high-energy guide for entrepreneurs and would-be business owners that will get readers fired up to turn their passion into a profitable venture. He gives step by step instructions on how to harness the power of social media to build your personal brand and your business. He makes the case that everyone needs a personal brand as the business environment has changed. Among other observations, he notes that the day of the traditional bullet point, word document resume is over, and that even if you are not going to venture out on your own, you need to have a strong online brand if you want to get hired. He does a great job of not candy coating the ease at which this feat will be executed. It is hard work. Crush it! also explains how to turn a passion and/or hobby into a profession. However, he is realistic about what people can expect to earn. The author doesn’t promise everyone that they will become millionaires, but it is possible to earn as much for yourself (mid 5 figures) as you might toiling away for someone else doing something that you’re not passionate about.
1. Become an expert. Create bonds with other professionals in your field and to share your ideas and expertise on the social networks.
2. Be true to your DNA and know that you can’t be all things to all people, but that’s OK. You will still appeal to an audience, your audience…as long as you are authentic. Gary uses himself as an example. He knows that his outspoken, loud style does not appeal to all wine lovers (he has a popular vlog about wine and video wine library). We couldn’t agree more. We wrote about being who you are recently. You should also choose the online forum that is best suited to your personality: blog, vlog, podcast, etc.
3. Even introverts can be charismatic. He believes that when people are passionate about something, their genuine excitement about the subject comes through and they become charismatic.
4. You can monetize ANY passion, Gary uses someone who expounds on worms as fish bait as an example. But, passion alone is not enough. You will have to work hard (he mentions a 3AM bedtime for people starting their online biz after their day job and he says there will be no time for much of anything other than meals, family time and work).
5. This endeavor is going to take a while to take off. He tells his audience not to expect huge results in less than 12 months, but that probably won’t matter since you will love what you are doing so much.
6. Even with all the content out on the web, it is STILL possible to differentiate yourself and become number one in your space. Gary writes, “to everyone who is freaking out because they fear the noise and distraction of all the additional content on the Internet, you can relax. Quality is a tremendous filter. Cream also rises, my friends, no matter how many cups of coffee you pour.”