Posts tagged loyalty

Your Product Will Catch Me, Your Service Will Keep Me

I’m a marketer by trade. It doesn’t matter if it’s traditional marketing, or digital/online marketing – at the end of the day, the tools may differ but the trade stays the same.

Yet in a previous life, I also headed up the main call centre for the U.K.’s largest communications company, and that was based around the service side of things.

And you know what?

Service beats marketing hands down any day if you want a successful company.

You can have the greatest product; the most amazing sales pitch; the must-buy item of all time. And yes, they’ll bring in the dollars.

But that’s where they stop.

Sure, you can regurgitate a sales or marketing message into a different campaign, and call it something different. But at the end of the day, it’s still a limited experience.

Service, on the other hand? That’s the gold in the jester’s hat.

A Tale of Two Service Superstars

The other thing about great service is it not only builds loyalty to a company, but encourages organic marketing via the advocate(s) that service has created.

You listen to a customer, and show you care about their support of your product, and they’ll be the first to share your details to friends, colleagues, family, etc., when it comes to them looking for the types of product or service your company creates.

Point in case – MeanThemes and Postmatic.

Nothing Mean About MeanThemes’ Service

Anyone that’s been around this blog for a while will know I tend to change its design more than Madonna changes “dance partners”….

It’s become a running joke, and I’ll admit to tinkering with the look and feel much more than any blogger should. But, for me, it’s all part of the ongoing evolution to present the best experience possible, for both reader and myself.

The theme you’re looking at now (at least, if you’re on-site – if you’re reading through email and haven’t seen it, pop on over, I won’t bite!) is Myth, from MeanThemes.

Mean Themes

I’m a huge fan of the Medium approach to content presentation – large featured image, clean typography, no distraction content area. So, for me, Myth was perfect.

Setting the theme up was pretty easy, but then I ran into some roadblocks with some settings (mainly, plug-in conflicts and some drop quote styling).

Any time I wrote to Chris, one of the co-founders of MeanThemes, through their ticketing system, he was on the ball and responded within 24 hours, often much less.

Not only that, but I’m currently looking at the Lasso plug-in for front-end editing to tell stories more effectively on here, and that has some weird CSS tricks it needs you to implement.

Chris spent a week looking at the plug-in, how it integrates with themes, what CSS improvements it needs, etc, and is submitting all that info to the Lasso creators.

Now, remember, this isn’t part of the MeanThemes toolset. Nor is it really any of Chris’s concern.

The fact he took all this on board, though, and advised me to wait until his suggestions reach the Lasso team, validates my decision to go with MeanThemes and make them my de-facto go-to if/when I decide to change up my theme again.

Postmatic and the Art of the Customer Journey

I’m a huge fan of Postmatic, as anyone who’s read my blog posts over the last 6 months can attest to.

For me, they make blog commenting fun and more social again, and they make it so easy that anyone can take part and enjoy.

They’re also great at implementing updates that make sense, both from a blogger and from a reader/subscriber perspective.

Postmatic

Yet, more than that, they have one of the most awesome user support teams in place.

For example, I mentioned earlier I’d had a conflict between Myth and a couple of plug-ins. Postmatic was one of them, where the little check box to subscribe to posts wasn’t showing.

While Chris from MeanThemes helped me resolve that issue (with some CSS, then a full theme update to fix the way the theme hides labels on the comment form), Jason from Postmatic set up a test server to go through the Myth theme and see how Postmatic could help.

I also had some issues with how Postmatic’s comment plug-in Epoch (currently in beta) displayed comments when activated.

Instead of blaming a theme, or citing incompatibility, the Postmatic team worked to add new features to Epoch that meant the native styling of a blog’s theme could be adapted by the Epoch plug-in.

And to put the icing on the cake, when I borked my theme because I dropped in some rogue code, Dylan – the Postmatic lead dev – jumped in to fix it for me. On the friggin’ weekend!

To say I was impressed would be putting it mildly…

The Relationship Behind the Sale

I speak a lot about the relationship behind the sale.

I see it as a key part to any business. As I mention at the start of this post, yes, marketing and sales and advertising and all the other cool and sexy stuff is great. They’ll get you the keys to the front door.

But the real business success stories come from service.

Service is the solution to any problems or aftershocks created by sales, or marketing, or advertising. Service is the host that’s waiting to look after you once you use the keys that sales and marketing have given you.

Service is the solution to any problems or aftershocks created by sales, or marketing, or advertising. Click To Tweet

Simply put, by all means, have the best sales, marketing and advertising team around. But make sure you have a superstar service team or mindset, because that’s where your customers old and new will really be.

Just like I’ll be there for Chris and the MeanThemes team, and Jason and the Postmatic team, because they’ve made me an advocate for their brand, personal and business.

Even if I personally stop using them, I’ll still be happy to recommend their businesses.

And that’s all you can ask for your company when building service success stories. Agree?

Note: If you want a top-notch WordPress or Ghost theme with awesome support, please do check out MeanThemes. And if you want to make blog comments and engagement fun and social again, sign up for Postmatic

On Fostering the Long Tail Effect of True Brand Loyalty

One of the things I’ve always been a huge proponent of is fostering true brand loyalty for the long tail – strategic and continuous and  growth – versus getting quick buzz hits then using the rinse and repeat formula.

This stems from various reasons but the core overall one is simple – create a loyal army of consumers-turned-customers-turned-advocates, by providing solutions that meet their needs, and much of your marketing will be done organically.

This creates three benefits:

  • You have a true two-way relationship with your customer;
  • You have word-of-mouth from trusted resources that no amount of money could buy;
  • Your brand has an immediate advantage for new innovations, feedback and growth through shared ideas.

Loyalty also has another added benefit – more often than not, the cost of new customer acquisition versus existing customers satisfaction is much higher. Not always, but mostly.

If you can reduce the spend on acquisition, you can re-allocate that to reducing churn of existing customers, enhancing the loyalty and appreciation factor immensely.

Two brands that understand the implementation of long tail loyalty are BlogOnCloud9 and Livefyre.

Brand Loyalty: BlogOnCloud9

BlogOnCloud9 WordPress

When I switched over to WordPress hosting experts BlogOnCloud9 back in 2010, I wrote a post then on how happy I was with the move and service. Almost three years later, nothing’s changed – except the service and approach of Dana and Karen, the founders of and partners in the service, is even better.

Last weekend, on a Saturday evening, I was tinkering with my blog to add some CSS code in order to change the email sign-up box I have at the end of every post.

Because I’m not a CSS guy, I messed up the copy/paste and completely borked my blog. Since I’d changed some code in the functions.php file, it messed up the rest of the site and all I had was a scary blank white screen of death.

I resigned myself to the fact I did something stupid on a Saturday night, and pinged Dana and Karen an email saying what had happened, and if they could help resolve. This was done not expecting anything until Monday at the earliest.

Not one hour later, Dana emailed to say he had found the bad code, fixed it, and that the site was now fully operational again. This was at 8.00pm on a Saturday night!

I was floored. BlogOnCloud9 isn’t a massive hosting company employee-wise, but that service and response at the weekend outdid competitors far “larger” than Dana and Karen’s baby.

Brand Loyalty: Livefyre

Livefyre comments system

Ah, Livefyre. Regular readers and subscribers here will know I’m a huge fan of the Livefyre comments system. There’s just something about the platform that behaves like a true comment system should.Social integration; real-time chat functionality; community fostering, and more. It’s just an awesome platform.

Recently, I moved away from Livefyre and reactivated Disqus following a crowdsource survey of my subscribers, who preferred Disqus over Livefyre (although Livefyre had a huge amount of fans in the responses too).

But I began to have issues with Disqus. Mobile load time could be slow; Reactions (how your post has been shared on Twitter) were unreliable; and valid comments were getting caught in the spam filter.

I knew Livefyre were working on a major update to their platform, Livefyre 3. The beta version is on this blog, with the public release due imminently. And I knew that I still loved the platform, even though I’d made the move away from them recently.

So I emailed Livefyre support, and the awesome Dhara Mhistry was immediately on the case. No reprimanding (even in jest) for being “disloyal”, simply happy to help get Livefyre back on the blog.

Not only did Dhara and the Livefyre technical team ensure none of my Disqus comments were lost, she also answered all my questions regarding styling the comments to be more in line with the colour scheme here.

And, just like BlogOnCloud9, Livefyre was there testing the comments on the weekend to make sure the change back over had been a smooth one.

The really impressive thing? I’m not even a paying customer – Livefyre Comments is free, although it does offer premium features for businesses and media properties.

Building Loyalty Really Isn’t That Hard

What’s key in both these examples are two things that both BlogOnCloud9 and Livefyre clearly understand:

  • Customers (and/or users) mess up, and being able to clear a way through that mess together fosters trust and loyalty;
  • Losing patronage for a while doesn’t mean the brand has lost an advocate or loyal user – you have to find out for yourself why you loved that brand in the first place when compared to someone else.

A lot of brand struggle to understand loyalty – true loyalty. Offering discount vouchers and early usage of a new product may win you favours – but what you do after that to build on that quick-hit loyalty is what will define your long tail success.

BlogOnCloud9 and Livefyre already know this. Now it’s up to your brand.

Note: BlogOnCloud9 recently launched BlogDroid (affiliate link), for a seamless WordPress experience no matter what level of knowledge you have. 

If You Want Fierce Loyalty, You Need To Be Fiercely Loyal First

Build fierce loyalty

Loyalty. A funny concept. One that can mean so many different things to different people at different times.

Sports teams have loyalty from their fans. Well, the true ones do. Think Manchester City as opposed to Manchester United, where the latter’s “fans” are more interested in prawn sandwiches than a good soccer team.

Indie bands have loyalty from their fans. Until they sign that big record deal, that is, then they become sell-outs.

Humans have loyalty from their dogs. But then you would be pretty loyal as long as you had someone cleaning up your shit.

So, yeah, loyalty – a funny concept. And yet it’s something that’s so important to so many people, they spend their lifetime(s) trying to work out how they can build loyalty around what they do.

After all, build loyalty, you build bigger success, right? More sales; repeat sales; referrals. Get that gold rush and you don’t have to worry about marketing.

Okay, maybe just a bit about marketing (I’m a marketer by trade, so I’d be dumb to say you didn’t need my services, right?).

So, yeah – loyalty is something pretty much everyone wants to achieve in some form or another. And not just loyalty, but fierce loyalty. Because if you grab that piece of gold, the world is truly your oyster. That shit starts revolutions.

And so companies spend thousands (millions?) on trying to create loyalty programs. Bloggers spend thousands of words trying to say the things they think their readers want to hear to become loyal. Social media “gurus” spend all day on Twitter when they should be doing real work, just to try and get that extra loyal follower to buy into their crud.

And it’s all a waste of time. Seriously.

Because you don’t need to spend thousands, if not millions, of dollars trying to build loyalty. You don’t need to be that desperate typist. You don’t need to be that good-for-nothing-except-quotes-for-Mashable social media douche whose only loyalty comes from those laughing at him religiously.

If you want loyalty – fierce loyalty – it’s easy. Be fiercely loyal first.

Show people you care. Show people you mean what you say. Every time. Show people they can trust you. Show people you deserve that trust. Show people you’re not a dick who simply panders to those stroking your ego (or your dick). Show people every one of them is equal.

And it’s not fucking hard to do this.

  • If you’re a blogger, encourage dissention of your views and don’t let fanboys be your voice.
  • If you’re a business, embrace your critics as much as your fans (if not more so).
  • If you’re a manager, let everyone speak and not just Tommy Kiss Ass.

In fact, no matter what you do, in what discipline and in what medium, it’s really not hard at all to build loyalty.

Think like the person you want to become loyal to you and ask what really matters to them.

Get that simple thing right and you’ll have loyalty so fierce you’ll wonder why you were making it so difficult to achieve to begin with.

This post originally appeared on Sarah Robinson’s 28 Days to Build Fierce Loyalty series.

image: Jean-

The Long Tail Issue for Daily Deal Sites

Daily deals

When daily deal sites like Living Social and Groupon came to the market, many observers looked at it as another nail in the coffin for offline retailing.

By bringing huge discounts to consumers via their local business partners, Groupon and others like them would show business a new way to make more money, while bringing more customers to them.

Except it’s not quite worked out that way yet.

Short Term Gain, Long Tail Miss

The problem with daily deals sites – and, to be fair, any of the stack-em-high-sell-em-cheap options that many businesses look at – is that they’re not really set up for long-term loyalty. And that’s a key reason why so many businesses fail in general, and something that many daily deal partners are complaining about.

Sure, they’ll give customers a nice discount and a reason to come to your store or business in the first place. But where’s the incentive to come back if I’m a new customer, once I’ve taken advantage of your sale product?

Unless there’s a relationship sale versus a transactional one, if I don’t normally shop with you then I have no real reason to come back unless it’s for another daily deal. Which sees you lowering your profit margin to make the offer in the first place – not ideal.

Business and Consumer Apathy

It would appear that more folks from both sides of the fence are beginning to think like that, too. According to a new survey from Cooper Murphy in the U.K., a whopping 82% of businesses surveyed that have run campaigns on Groupon were unsatisfied with the amount of repeat business it brought.

Groupon repeat business complaints

Add these figures to a study by Rice University in May of this year, that reported just over 20% of daily deals customers become repeat customers, and you can see why the daily deals market is one that seems to divide opinion on its benefits.

It’s not just the business owners that are suffering. Because one of the major premises of daily deals is to attract the low-spend customer, restaurant and bar staff have found that customers using a daily deal offer will usually tip less than those paying full price. Ironically, the less you have to pay, the less the tip should be too, it would seem.

So what’s the answer?

Loyalty and Long Term Gain

Everyone likes a bargain. I do; you probably do; I know my wife does. It’s human nature – if we can pay less, we will (although paying more for extra quality isn’t a bad thing).

The problem with constant bargains is that customers get into the mindset that they’ll only wait for these bargains, and ignore you the rest of the time. Get ignored by customers and… well, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know the outcome of that scenario.

So while the short-term benefit is clear, businesses need to be building long-term benefits for the customers, to encourage return visits and loyalty.

  • Episodic discounts. Say a daily deal saves you 60% on the transaction. Instead of the one-off approach, offer three transactions saving 20% each time. On subsequent visits or purchases, have an amazing add-on deal that encourages further spend on top of the discount.
  • Split the location. If you’re an offline business, with multiple locations, why not split the offer between different locations on different days? A sports shop could offer different goods on different days of the week at different stores; a restaurant a different appetizer based on location; a movie theatre group, a different 2-for-1 admission to a different movie across town.
  • Promote loyalty. If you don’t already have one, build a loyalty card around your daily deals customers. The first time they come in, have them fill out a short form with their information, and then give a loyalty card with unique offers based around the daily deal. Use it X amount of times and they receive a free product or service (within a certain budget).

The beauty with the loyalty approach is that you can now tailor email and mobile campaigns to your customers (opt-in, obviously) that offers more call-to-action specials just for them.

Run that alongside any specials you offer existing customers, and you’re encouraging growth and repeat custom across the board. Which seems to be all that businesses and consumers of daily deal sites want, anyway.

Worth a shot, no?

image: jakelevine

Community, Loyalty and the Power of Give

DSC_0641Last night on Twitter, I was part of the #sbt10 chat, part of the Start Blogging Today project (disclosure – I’m a partner in the project). As usual, there were a ton of great topics discussed on how to make your blog work better for you.

One of the conversations that arose was how to reward loyalty – i.e., how to make sure that your blog community knows you appreciate them.

Michael Schechter asked how you’d go about that, and I suggested exclusive content as one option (similar to what I did with my free Facebook marketing ebook).

Of course, that approach on a blog would mean that to really benefit from exclusive content, your readers/community would have to be subscribed to a newsletter or email subscription. Which would then negate the rest of your readers that don’t subscribe this way, but still show loyalty by coming back time and again.

So what ways could you reward on your blog, for both subscribers and everyday visitors/readers?

Loving Your Blog Community

Face it, without a community a blog is nothing more than a broadcast platform. Your community nurtures the growth of your blog; it helps share with others; it defends if needed; and it keeps you growing as a blogger by sharing great insights in the comments.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal blog or more business-oriented – community is the real king (sorry, content lovers). For business blogs, community is the relationship to the sale – look after it and look after your business.

So what are some of the ways to reward a loyal blog community?

Exclusive Content

As I mentioned earlier in the post, this would normally be via a newsletter or email subscription, so may negate some of your readers (although it’s a great way to build an even more loyal community on subscription too). Some of the things you could offer could be:

  • A free ebook;
  • White papers;
  • Solid business advice not normally seen on your blog;
  • Discounted offers on affiliate programs.

There’s a lot you can make exclusive to really say “thanks for being part of my community”. You’ll have a better idea of what would appeal to yours – all you need to do is put that into action.

The Freemium Model

Because exclusive content needs an exclusive outlet to really make it work, you run the risk of excluding the readers that visit every day, comment and are as just as important a part of your community as subscribers.

7/365
So how do you make sure that you’re not ignoring them and focusing on your exclusive content?

  • Episodic content. This can work in two ways. You can either write a series of educational posts on topics your readers would find useful, or you can offer the first chapter of any ebooks that exclusive content subscribers receive. That way, “normal readers” still receive value and can decide whether to expand into the subscription option.
  • Actionable content. Want to be seen as a thought leader or serious blogger in your space? Then offer action points that anyone visiting your blog can take away and make work for them. John Haydon does this all the time for Facebook strategies, while CopyBlogger offers solid tips on writing for search engines. Help others; help you.
  • Highlight your community. Another way to reward your community is to give them some reader love. By coming to your blog every day and commenting or sharing you, your community is helping you grow awareness of you. So do the same for them. Have them guest post on your blog, or post about someone from your community frequently. We all like to feel appreciated; make sure your blog community knows you appreciate them.

Protecting Your Community

Growing your blog community is the first part; but it doesn’t stop there. Just as your community nurtures you and helps you, so you need to do the same in return, but take it to an extra level – by protecting them.

Think about it – if someone’s taking the time out of their life and schedule to read and share their thoughts on your blog, the very least you should be doing is making sure it’s somewhere that they want to hang out, and feel comfortable doing so.

  • Make it clear you won’t tolerate abuse to your community. One of the best things about any blog is the comments section – so many great thoughts and ideas can come from here, and new friendships can be made. So making it a safe haven is paramount – protect your commenters, protect your blog.
  • Have a comment policy. Currently I don’t have one, purely because I’ve been really fortunate in having commenters who pretty much respect each other’s point of view. But it’s an idea I’m thinking of, and it can help you set both guidelines for new visitors, as well as assure your current community you have their best interests at heart. Ari Herzog has an excellent example of how a blog comment policy could look.

These are just some examples of how you can use your blog to reward the people that make it what it is. There are a ton of other things you could do (and we discuss a bunch of them over in the Start Blogging Today forums).

You could use some of them; you could use all of them – the main thing is you’re at least doing something to reward your blog community.

After all, they reward you just by stopping by each time – thanking and looking after them is the least you can do, no?

Creative Commons License photo credit: jammcm
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kelly Schott

Social Media Easter Eggs

GabrielleHow are you offering value to your customers? How is your business doing it differently from your competitors and peers?

Are you taking their service and adding a slight twist to it, or are you thinking of ways to separate you from the many other similar approaches that others are using?

“Customers” doesn’t necessarily need to refer to people paying for your services, either. Customers could be readers of your blog; or connections on Twitter; or watchers of your YouTube videos.

While they may not pay you hard cash for your “service” (blog, tweets, videos, etc), they are investing their time in you; time that could be spent elsewhere.

So how are you rewarding that? Are you? How about Easter Eggs as rewards (as in the virtual hidden message version)?

Some of the ideas I’ve been thinking of I’ll be putting into play very soon. For example, if you’re connected to me via my Facebook Page, you’ll receive something in the next 5-7 days that’s tied into Facebook and won’t be available elsewhere. Sure, someone may share it after it’s public, but until (or if) that happens, you’ll only get that something on Facebook.

Or Twitter. One of the ways that I want to use Twitter more is by time-stamping a tweet, where there’ll be a surprise for the first X amount of people to click through to a link and download area for a limited edition Twitter ebook, or similar.

Or this blog. I’m in the process of a “relaunch”, if you like, with a new design and a newsletter, just to kick things off. If you subscribe to the newsletter, occasionally I’ll pick a subscriber and send something really cool their way that’s tied into the topics we talk about in the newsletter.

The same goes with the SRM Group – we’ll be looking at ways to reward social responsibility, whether that’s on Facebook or any other social outpost.

These are just some simple, basic ways to use Easter Eggs in social media, to say thank you for your support. Hopefully each one will be beneficial, because it’ll be tied into the platform in question.

Now, imagine if you turned that over to your business to your most loyal customers? It could be offline or online – it depends where you have a bigger presence.

Instead of giving 10% off your latest product or a two-for-one offer, why not give something your customer really wants? After all, anyone can give a discount but only those that care give a benefit.

  • Accessories that you’d normally use as an add-on sale – can you take a hit and give them as part of the overall sale?
  • Guidebooks for cars – can your garage/service centre give them away to a customer for their first service?
  • A milestone order from a customer or supplier – can you give them a relevant partner product as well as the ordered one?

Every action you take to thank loyalty has a core reaction of extra loyalty. Get extra loyalty – well, the sky’s the limit then.

Yes?

Creative Commons License photo credit: enough