Category Archives: Customer Profile

You Can’t Judge a Buyer By His or Her Cover

Yesterday, I received this letter from Phil Eisaman, Digital Marketing Manager for the Great American Spice Company.  I could completely relate to his experience because I too sold cars for a brief summer right out of college. I asked Phil if I could share his story with you and he agreed.  Thanks for taking a moment to write it, Mr. Eisaman.  It’s no wonder American Spice continues to increase revenues year-over-year!  We can’t judge a buyer by his or her cover– all should be treated with respect. ~Jean

 

car-160343_1280

Hi,
I read your story about the leather jacket and loved it. The salesman was a good salesman because he had to be to survive. Treating everyone who walks in the store as a potential customer is huge. Having said that I have a story to share.

I was working at Fort Wayne Acura selling used cars back in 1997. Being new at it my boss always taught me to never make assumptions about customers– just treat them well. Using this method I quickly out paced all the other salesmen, selling more cars than some of the most seasoned salesmen.

One afternoon my boss gets a call from another lot manager saying there is a walker headed your way (a walker is someone that walks from dealership to dealership). This young man started at the auto mall and made his way all the way down to my lot. My coworkers said, “Go get him I am sure he is a big spender” with sarcasm in their tone.

I greeted the man on the lot with a smile and a handshake. He says “I have been to 10 lots and you are the first to talk to me.”

“How can I help you today, Tony?”

“I am looking for a car,” he said.

“Well how much are you looking to spend?”

“About  $2800.00,” he replied.

Pointing to an early 90’s beat up Grand Am I said, “That one may work.”

“I will take it,” he said as he handed me $3000.00 in cash. I went to my Manager and said,

“This guy out here wants to buy that Grand Am.”

My manager says, “Phil we can not get that financed. It is too old.” Handing him the cash his eyes lit up and he said, “Phil we have $100.00 into that car. You are making a fat commission!”

The next day at the sales meeting I received great praise from management as the others were scolded.  In car sales you are only paid commission and if you don’t sell anything you take a loan against your future commissions. I didn’t want to owe money for not selling. I made 3-5 thousand a month selling used cars because I treated everyone like a potential customer and treated them with respect. I only sold cars for a few months because it is still a shady business in my book.

And remember “With desperation comes innovation.”  -Phil Eisaman

Leave a comment

Filed under Audience, Business Strategy, Capturing Audience, Customer Profile, Local, Reputation Management, Sales, Time Management

#Marketing Tips from an Unsuspecting Italian Leather Shop Owner

The leather aroma emanating from Dante’s Leather Shop Sas in Florence– or Firenze, as the Italians call it, was hard to resist. There were many pop up tents on the cobblestone street with vendors displaying leather jackets, but this store seemed real—something requiring rent and a permit.  I wasn’t looking for a fake coat, but a reputable product as a birthday present for my husband.

Greet the Customer.Italian store

After two minutes eyeballing a multitude of coats, I spotted one I liked and a stocky, older gentleman approached me.  He asked in Italian if he could help me. When I asked in Spanish if he spoke English, he quickly obliged and began his pitch.

But, I wasn’t ready to buy. I just wanted to know if

  1. the leather was real,
  2. would the coat fit my husband,
  3. and how much the coat cost.

Demonstrate the Product.

He showed off this particular long jacket like it was a prop in a Penn and Teller act.

To answer my first question, he pulled out a lighter and held the flame against the outside of the coat. It did not ignite. “If it was a fake it would burn,” he said.

I don’t know if the lighter thing is true or not, but having grown up around saddles, I could smell the leather and trusted my nose. I was intrigued by his magic trick and felt comfortable moving from question one to question three.

Overcome Objections.

How much? (That would give me another indicator as to the validity of his answer to question one.)  He gave me a price and I put the coat back on a hanger. Holy cow. These are expensive.

He paused, stopped me, and walked to his counter, returning with an envelope.

“Let me show you how I’m going to save you 14%,” he said, as he detailed the duty free procedures he’d and I‘d follow, so that I’d receive a refund of Italy’s retail tax.  He pulled out past receipts and explained how it worked for other customers. (So, jump on the bandwagon.)

Since this was my first store and leather shopping experience in 2015, I wasn’t sure if his base price was legit.  I wasn’t ready to buy, but kept listening.

“This is a gentleman’s coat,” he said, brushing the length of the jacket with the back of his hand and straightening the collar. “A beautiful coat!  Notice the two tones. This is a popular style for men today.  What size is your husband?”

I had no idea. “He’s taller than you, but not as stocky in the shoulders,” I said.

Without missing a beat, the man put the coat on and said, “And he probably doesn’t have as big of a belly. I apologize. I enjoy our Italian pasta too much.” The ice was broken and I smiled.

The coat looked tight. Then, I remembered pictures I had on my phone and found them. Before holding my phone to look at the pictures, the salesman politely asked, “May I?” Just a small detail, but he knew enough to ask permission before he continued moving me through the sales funnel.

In the photo, I was standing next to my husband on the beach. The craftsman immediately put the coat back on the hanger and pulled out another size.  “This is the one,” he announced.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

He wasn’t insulted, but assured me after fitting so many men, that he knew his sizes.  He also gave me his card and said that if he was wrong, I could return the coat and he’d send the correct size.  This didn’t 100% comfort me, as I imagined shipping charges between countries and the uncertainty of dealing with issues from afar, but he was trying and answered with patience.

My final concern was the train travel ahead and the coat getting stolen during the journey. I once again put it back on the hanger and the man’s face fell. I’m sure he thought he’d never see me again because time and distance kills many sales. “I am coming back through the area in a couple days,” I said.  “I’ll swing by then.”

He nodded and I left.  Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I’d be back.  I breathed easier after leaving. I was free of the pressure to buy, but over the next couple days, I looked online at leather coats and found most to be more expensive. I also browsed other leather shops in the area and found that Dante’s price was indeed reasonable.  The coat would be a good buy and a classy gift for my husband.  So, I went back and bought it.

Apply Interpersonal Salesmanship to Digital Marketing

We can learn from this Italian businessman.  He did not intend to teach anything, but we can connect these parallel digital applications.

Invest in a legitimate website.

Don’t skimp on a pop up tent that’s a few pages with thin offerings of products and content. Invest in a mobile-friendly site and plan your navigational flow to include each category offering you sell.  By now, you’ve heard that Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm goes live April 21, 2015. Pay the money to sell from a proper site and hire writers to produce relevant and convincing content. Shoppers want to shop where carts are secure, pages quickly render, and flawless images and words are helpful.

Offer your assistance before the customer leaves.

Give customers a few moments to look through your store, but do greet them.  Many online businesses provide chat services to help shoppers find products or ask questions.  These can annoy, so configure your settings appropriately to avoid chasing away potential customers with pushiness.

Anticipate shopper questions.

Shoppers ask the same questions and have the same concerns that other shoppers express. Overtime, you learn what customers will ask. Answering these repetitive questions can get tiring.  However, customers want to feel important. Thoroughly and patiently answer each question. Whether in person or through the Internet, you’ll improve sales with a one-on-one approach.

The Italian shop keeper answered questions in the order I asked them.  He didn’t jump ahead to other predictable topics. He answered what I wanted to know when I wanted to know it. Another customer might have asked the same questions, but in a different order.  He didn’t assume I was someone else.  He personalized his answers to my agenda.

Your website should thoroughly answer the questions that are asked every day in your store. Create videos or FAQ pages to explain common or complex information. Give customer traffic the flexibility to choose what they want to know when they want to know it. Offer product reviews on your site for the insight and comfort other customers provide.

Speak your customer’s language.

Later in my trip, I walked into a café where the cashier was not going to try to speak English or even meet me in the middle with Spanish. Ridiculous, right?

Not really.

It’s easy to forget that your website might be giving the same cold shoulder to potential leads from abroad. If you want more tourists to buy, communicate in the language and with the expressions they understand. The leather shop owner quickly adapted his initial greeting from Italian to English, overcoming my first sales hurdle—language inadequacy. You might consider offering an online chat service in multiple languages for customers who visit your site.  Thank goodness for Google Translate, but even so, can you make your site friendlier to foreign shoppers? Is your site’s reading level accurate for various ages and fluencies of your customers?

Know and love your product like a craftsman.

The Italian store owner knew his product and business. Your website should also demonstrate your breadth of expertise. Provide details and demonstrate passion for what you’re selling. Think of concrete word pictures, phrases, and examples to help customers visualize using your products. Offer images with close ups and 360 degree views. What might the product look like on a small, medium, or large person?

Know your competition and how well your products are priced, as compared to competitor’s products.  Some companies have in-house experts write their content and then hire content companies to edit for SEO-friendliness, grammar, and usage.

Be polite.

Your brand’s tone does make a difference.  Respect your customer’s intelligence and interest with the words you choose.

Offer a no hassle return policy.

If you offer a great product, then your return policy ought to be friendly to offset customer indecisiveness or concerns about your legitimacy. A no hassle return policy communicates that your business is for real.

Let your customer leave.

If you’ve accurately priced your product and you know that your product is of quality, then don’t sweat when a customer leaves.  Sometimes people need space to see that you offered a good deal.

But honestly, the Italian shop owner knew my leaving wasn’t ideal. You will lose a percentage of sales when potential customers leave, so address their concerns while in your store without being pushy. Some retailers provide competitor comparison charts on sub-category or product pages to demonstrate competitive price or product details. The Italian shop owner offered to directly ship the coat overseas so I wouldn’t have to carry it with me—an alternative that I determined was too expensive, but at least he was accomodating.

After the sale, invite customers to return.

It was a simple phrase the man said after the coat was in the bag and I was leaving the store…

“Thank you for shopping with us.  I hope next time you visit Florence, you will treat yourself to something, as well.”

Oh gosh. That was good.

He’s right. What about me?

Unknowingly, I wrestled with my pragmatic inner-voice. It scolded, “You got the trip. Your husband gets the birthday coat.” But, another inner-voice snapped back, “The salesman is right. You deserve this. You could be getting a good deal, too!”

What a smart phrase to zing customers with at the end.

Be an expert salesman online.

Whether you’re a shop keeper with one store and no online presence or a major retailer with thousands of SKUs and hundreds of global stores, finely tuned inter-personal skills applied to each and every transaction add up over time.  Bring those traditional business practices to today’s platforms and you’ll increase sales like a pro.

 

~Jean

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Algorithms, Audience, Branding, Capturing Audience, Customer Profile, E-Tail Category Content, Marketing, Merchandising, Personas, Product Descriptions, Reviews, Sales, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Words Which Sell

Do You Trust the Internet?

We enjoy so many benefits from the advancements in search and mobile technology, but with the good, comes the corrupt.  If you haven’t checked in on the digital industry lately, fasten your seat belt.  Here’s a glimpse into a world that is collecting your data and your children’s data and making intelligent connections to predict your feelings, stances, tendencies, and more. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

Why Privacy Is a Big Deal251_5117

Based on a survey of 2012 consumers, Accenture, a digital marketing company, reports that “The vast majority (80 percent) of consumers aged 20-40 in the United States and the United Kingdom believe total privacy in the digital world is a thing of the past, and nearly half (49 percent) said they would not object to having their buying behavior tracked if it would result in relevant offers from brands and suppliers.”  You might not see it or understand it, but collection of your family’s Internet history, face profiles, store behaviors, and even school test results are regularly recorded through Internet, video, and audio monitoring.  You don’t know who sees this information, how they react when they see it, and what conclusions they draw.

It’s true that many good people use data to keep society safe, bring better search results, find medical cures, or improve shopping experiences. It’s equally true that evil can corrupt good intent.

We can look back in history and find many examples of governments, leaders, and companies that became powerful and rich and were willing to step over and hurt many people to achieve their goals. In fact, we can see these behaviors today.

On the other hand, sharing data is a way to move our society forward a little faster.  After all, any tool or device has potential for good or evil. What comes of your data depends on the persons using it.  But, do you know those people? Not so much.

How is your information collected?  Here are a few of the most common places and what you can do to minimize how much is shared.

Through Search Engines

Search engines like Google, Bing, and even Facebook and Twitter track what you visit on the Internet, how long you stay on each website, and how often you go back to certain websites.  This information helps search engines determine how to sell what you’re interested in seeing or anticipate what you’ll want next.

Many leaders in digital technology believe that access to your actions, patterns, and thoughts is necessary to better deliver accurate search results. People, communities, and even the computers themselves can learn from data to better society.

Website owners know how many people visit their websites, what links they click, the time of day they visit, the city they visit from, their default language, and what keywords people typed into search engines to get there. While the website owners don’t see exact names and addresses from Bing, Google, or Duck Duck Go, search companies do know who you are by your computer’s IP address or cookies.  An IP address, or Internet Protocol address, is your computer’s personal address and is a series of unique numbers separated by periods. Cookies are pieces of data left behind in your computer that track what you do online.

Search engines also charge your favorite stores fees to advertise to you.  Google knows a lot about what you like and dislike, the type of person you are (based on what you do or don’t search), your age, and how you might react to certain ads based on all of the data it has collected through the years from your Google searches, You Tube views, cloud storage, map and location data, use of Google Chrome, and sent or received email content.  Yes, that’s right.  Email content. If you own a Gmail account, Google scans the content of your emails and shows ads related to what you wrote or opened, so that you’ll click on those ads and buy products or services.

Data for the Government

Police and investigators used information from mobile phones, license plate recognition technology, cell phone towers, and surveillance cameras to track down the Boston bombers in 2013.  Government authorities monitor citizen Internet activity- even the activity of those who aren’t known criminals.

Frontline produced The United States of Secrets, in which it explains how the government changed its privacy policy after September 11, 2001 to get around Google’s filters, in order to learn a lot about each and every citizen. The government argues that it has a right to see everyone’s data in order to keep the United States a safer place to live.  Edward Snowden, a former intelligence analyst for the government, didn’t think it was right that the government monitored citizens without their knowledge, so he gave secret documents to a couple newspapers.  Some consider Snowden a hero, while others think he’s a traitor.

Through Retailers

When you submit personal or financial information to a company, the company will connect a lot of the data about what you do to your account. They might even give or sell that information to other companies.

When you scan a “loyalty card” or download coupons online, you might receive savings, but grocery stores are really interested in what you buy, how often you buy, and how to sell more items to you. Retailers often have security systems in stores that recognize faces to make sure you don’t steal.  These same security systems can also analyze how customers shop through the store and compile traffic patterns into heat maps. Stores and malls are now using beacons and geo-fencing. Both forms of technology know when your phone is nearby down to the inch. Retailers want to know this information in order to offer you incentives to buy products on the spot.

At a leading, 2014 Internet retailing conference, a sales person for a data collection company shared some insights about her company’s work with a top children’s book publisher.  You might even have an account set up online with this company.  The sales person said that this publisher “wanted to create a master profile across all of their different business units.  They have e-books. They have printables and they send flyers home to schools.”  The publisher uses software with a special algorithm that can tell when parents are shopping for all of their children verses when each child is shopping for himself or herself- even when multiple children are sharing one account with their parents.  The software gathers information about specific behaviors and shows books based on what it knows about who is probably using the account.

The algorithm knows who you are based on your mouse movements and quickness. For example, an adult’s eyes usually first look at the top left of a new web page, while children first tend to look at the bottom right. Where you hover your mouse and where you first enter the publisher’s website are also monitored. Kids tend to use wish lists and ask for every book in a series more than adults do.  Kids click on icons like hearts more than they click on words like, “I like this.”  The publisher has worked with this data collection company for five years to learn customers’ behaviors on its site and create special algorithms that increase sales from this data.

The sales person said, “We track everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re an adult or a child. The thing is exposure. How do you expose our data and what, from a privacy standpoint, is okay to expose about a child and what is okay to expose about an adult?”

So what is okay?

“For this particular publisher, they will not do marketing for people under the age of 13.” So if children visit different websites after visiting the publisher, remarketing isn’t used.  Remarketing, is tracking your behavior as you visit other websites and then serving up ads about, say, about certain books you like from the publisher’s website. If you’re over 13, this top publisher will try to get you to buy books, even when you’re not thinking about buying books, by serving you ads when you’re browsing other websites.  Keep in mind that this is one publisher’s guidelines.  Another company might track and retarget with ads at much younger ages and be okay about it.  Any company that stores all of this information about you and your patterns, might use it or release it to others- anyone they choose- when you or your kids are older.

This technology exists across all the websites you visit.

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Media Websites

What do the thumbs up signs mean?  It’s not only a way of connecting with your friends, it’s a way to see who your good friends and family members really are and the areas, hobbies, or activities you like.  This information, along with sharing your image or commenting on a friend’s photo can again be collected to create profiles about you and to create great products you like or shape the nature of search information provided to you.

Earlier this year, Facebook allowed researchers to make it hard for some users to log in by accusing them of being hackers.  The researchers wanted to test how people would react to negative events.  Many people feel that allowing researchers to frustrate Facebook customers went too far and was wrong.  Who were the researchers and why were they given access to these accounts?

Facebook has since clarified its privacy policy and is even working on a way of helping you to police yourself before you post damaging photos.

Privacy Boundaries

There are many different opinions about privacy and data protection.

In Julia Angwin’s article for the WSJ, she says that, “My children, whom I will call Woody and Harriet, are 6 and 9. They use fake names online—always. They use software to block online tracking, and instead of Googling homework assignments, they use a search engine that doesn’t store any data about their queries. They have stickers that cover their computer cameras. Harriet, my older child, uses an encryption program to scramble her calls and texts to my cellphone, using passwords that are 20 characters long. Why go to such extremes at such a young age? Because if I don’t do anything to help my children learn to protect themselves, all their data will be swept up into giant databases, and their identity will be forever shaped by that information… Even worse, if my children leave their data lying around, they will face all the risks of what I call our ‘dragnet nation,’ in which increased computing power and cheap data storage have fueled a new type of surveillance: suspicionless, computerized, impersonal and vast in scope. Criminals could use my kids’ data to impersonate them for financial fraud. Extortionists could seize control of their computers’ Web cameras and blackmail them with nude photos. And most terrifyingly, their innocent online inquiries would be forever stored in databases that could later place them under suspicion or be used to manipulate them financially.”

On the other hand, twelve-year-old Grant, started making You Tube videos about fire safety when he was eight years old.  He is serious about wanting a career in this area.  He candidly reviews fire safety products for his audience and is steadily building a following within the fire safety industry. The Internet has been instrumental in advancing his skills and interest at an early age. It has been a wonderful teacher and avenue for networking!

Different adults will look at this issue differently, so it’s important to talk about it with your own children. Review the below checklist of actions you can take to keep your data safer.

Privacy Checklist

  • Regularly clear your search history and cookies on phones, tablets, and desktop computers.
  • Pause before letting someone interview you, take your picture, or record your voice. Newspaper articles and television interviews are especially hard to remove from the Internet. Do you really want this event on your record?
  • Search your name on the Internet and ask sites to remove PDFs, articles, images, or quotes that make you feel uncomfortable. Some sites will honor your requests.
  • Use fake names and accounts when shopping. Don’t answer surveys.
  • Stop publishing selfies. Don’t share all of the details of your life in a blog or social media post.
  • Go back through all of your social media accounts and delete old posts, pictures, and videos.
  • Ask school leaders how your district is preventing data from being shared with online testing companies and their partners.
  • Search with alternative engines like Duck Duck Go or use Google’s Incognito mode, which reduces the amount of tracking of your data.
  • Avoid giving personal information about yourself to a stranger online- even if they appear to be a kid.
  • Kids, don’t download files, pictures, or songs or click on links without a parent’s approval.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
  • Consider encrypting all of your emails, calls, and texts. There are many apps and software programs out there.
  • Cover the cameras on your phones, iPads, and computers.
  • Watch what you say, what you do, and what you wear in public.  Most places- schools, stores, neighborhoods, and city streets videotape and monitor you.

Just remember, though, unless you’ve stayed off of the Internet over the last couple decades, much of your information is already known.  You also have to ask yourself, is extreme self-consciousness worth your peace?  With over 7.1 billion people on the planet, all of your data mixed with everyone else’s data is frankly, a lot of data for others – or even computers to dedicate time to dissecting.  Of course, if you’re Sony execs today, you’re sweating thinking about every single email that was ever sent and what was said in those emails. Trusting the Internet with your information is a very individual choice worth serious thought and reflection as you move forward into 2015.

~Jean

Leave a comment

Filed under Business Strategy, Customer Profile, Education Strategy, Leadership, Reputation Management, School Websites, Social Media

One Cannot Not Communicate- Is Silence Golden?

Maybe Mom Wasn’t Always Right

The first of Paul Watzlawick’s five axioms is simple- “One Cannot Not Communicate.” Wanterfall says,

Even when you think you are not sending any messages, that absence of messages is quite evident to any observer, and can itself constitute quite a significant message. Not only that, but we usually transmit quite a few non-verbal messages unconsciously, even when we think we are not sending any messages at all.

What do you, as a professional, communicate when you choose not to communicate?

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Perhaps your mother used to say, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” When your new friend with long, braided hair entered your home, she bit her tongue.

Did her silence mean, “I wouldn’t let my son wear his hair that long, but since I have no association beyond his association with you, I’ll make you feel comfortable enough without offering approval?” Her tongue biting left wiggle room- both for your friend’s eventual haircut and her possible opinion change.

While the intent behind silence might be noble, its very form is deceiving – a mask for a mix of thoughts and emotions forming in the sender or else a sign of ignorance. Silence is golden because it buys the sender time and it offers the receiver little information- or so is the hope.

What are the Effects of Non-Responses in Digital Communications? 

One cannot not communicate with social media. Not following a customer or fan on Twitter or G+, for example, could be construed as a slight. You’re too busy, too important, to ignorant to use the tools to follow and interact. Not having your social media in order says a lot about the organization behind your organization. Your brand communicates that it does’t embrace or understand the mediums or struggles to find funds. The receiver never really knows why you’re silent- just that you are and the resulting message is up for interpretation.

Internet marketer, Jay Baer, suggests:

Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. Is your company prepared to handle social media inquiries within the hour? A few are. Most are not, in my experience, which potentially creates a disillusionment gap between customers’ anticipated response time, and your actual ability to provide a response.

Having a workforce to handle your social media interactions could be just what you need to reduce the stress in your customer service department.

One cannot not communicate with blogs. You haven’t written a blog post in weeks. Maybe there isn’t a lot happening in your company or industry – yeah right. You’re too busy, too underfunded, too unorganized. You were in the hospital. Whatever the reason, a lack of action or words communicates a message. Is it the message you want your fans to receive?

Darren Rouse looks at blogging this way:

The more posts you publish over time, the more doorways you present readers with to enter your blog.

1 post a week means you’ve got 52 doorways at the end of the year – daily posts means 365 doorways at the end of the year. This means people are more likely to see your content in RSS readers, in search engines, on social media etc. Over time this adds up.

Contracting out some of your brand’s writing work to writers can keep opening doors verses closing them in silence.

One cannot not communicate with correspondences. Two candidates fly out to your company for second interviews. You extend an offer to one. The chosen candidate receives your full attention. The other doesn’t. The one who didn’t get the job sends an email to you. No reply. This happens once. Twice. Three times. Surely, not communicating is a soft let down, right?  According to Career Builder,

56 percent of employers admitted that they don’t respond to all candidates or acknowledge receipt of their applications; 33 percent said they don’t follow up with candidates they interviewed with to let them know they didn’t get the job.

What does a lack of response communicate? That from the top down, your company’s communication process isn’t clear or even rude when not in need of a person, service, or product. It communicates disorganization and incompetency in the HR department. Don’t think for a moment that the candidate won’t remember the lack of communication when they’re in a better position.  According to the HT Group:

If you’re guilty of this and other bad hiring habits, beware your actions could complicate your recruiting efforts and even damage your company’s overall reputation. Here’s how (according to the same study):

  • Job seekers who don’t hear back after applying for a job are less likely to continue buying products or services from that company.
  • Did a job seeker have a bad experience with you? Half will tell their friends about it.
  • An overwhelming 75 percent of job seekers use traditional networking such as word-of-mouth to gather more information about a company.
  • More than 60 percent will check out your company on social media to find out if what you’re telling them about your culture is true.
  • More than two-thirds of job seekers would accept a lower salary if the company had exceptionally positive reviews online.

One cannot not communicate. What are the unintended messages you send just by choosing inaction or silence with your digital marketing strategies or relationships? From creating blog posts and social media posts to staying up with emails and correspondences silence is not usually golden.  Rethink if you’re clearly, consistently, and honestly, as well as tactfully communicating.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Audience, Blog Writing Tips, Capturing Audience, Content Job Boards, Customer Profile, Leadership, Marketing, Project Management, Reputation Management, Resumes, Social Media

Purchasing Furniture – Why Did She Buy From Your Store?

By My Web Writersphoto (1)

This typical female, Gen X, furniture customer Is ready to buy. Where will she make her purchase?

Today I’m pausing to journal about the major furniture purchases I recently made. I’m doing this for both of us. Though they’re in other industries, we’re always looking for ways to improve online marketing for our clients.

When I shop, I often revert to a personal pattern that pre-dates my use of the Internet.  Do you?  If not, you’re younger than thirty-five.  Though, I’ve changed through the years, I’m probably typical for a female, age 35 – 50.  Knowing that 65% of US shoppers will browse online and buy in stores over the holidays, how can we better serve this lucrative demographic?  What triggers dollars spent at your store?

Of course, I’m just one woman and each woman is an individual, but here’s a snapshot of how I arrived at furniture purchases from four different stores during the week prior to Thanksgiving 2013.

Top of the Furniture Sales Funnel

The buying process started a few weeks earlier.  A builder suggested that we look at Houz, a home ideas app, for backyard ideas.  The app offers ideas for all rooms of your home, too.  We never did build, but the trends I saw in the app stayed top-of-mind when it was time for furniture in the home we recently purchased.

I could have scoured Pinterest, too, but I didn’t.  I just didn’t have a lot of time to hunt and peck for pieces of online furniture and more ideas to confuse the choices.  Time is valuable and I tried not to waste it.

Middle of the Furniture Sales Funnel

Like many Americans, when it came time to shop for furniture, I drove to the nearest showrooms- Kittles, Ashley Furniture, Value City Furniture, Kittles Express, Office Max, Office Depot, and Houseworks.   Kinesthetic shoppers need to see, to feel, and to touch each piece to envision family and guests relaxing, conversing, working, and eating.

Would the quality be worth the price?  Would the exact colors match the floors, walls, countertops, and appliances?  What are today’s trends and which classics are still hip?  I didn’t shop online when I was absorbing information because I learned plenty in the stores.

In one store, a sales woman approached my husband and me and wouldn’t stop chattering. If we paused at a piece to discuss it, she’d wiggle into the middle of our conversations.  We’d politely stand there wondering when she would stop. After doing this for the third time, we quickly walked out because a hungry salesperson’s stalking, at this stage, wasted our time and was annoying.  We weren’t buying on that day.  We were just looking.

The office furniture seemed blah- mostly ugly, big ego desks or very cheap, modern designs with little space to spread or to store.  The sofas were perplexing.  Do we buy another puffy couch for the family room or a grandma-like sofa for the living room? Nothing appealed, at first.

Did we want to have a fun and casual red set or an espresso, leather upscale look? The new kitchen table needed to be round, but how big?  Should it match or contrast our floors? Should we go rustic or classic? Geez — so many choices.

Pages like the one below from Kittles did very little to help me to understand what I’d want in my living room, family room, kitchen, and office.

Kittles with no content

There is no category level content to entice or to educate.  With the exception of the main slide, the pictures don’t suggest use, features, or style. Kittles, if you’re reading this post, consider how strategic copy writing and editing can help both your conversion and SEO.  My own sales pitch aside (hey, I do understand the sales woman); there came a day when we could no longer function without furniture in our rooms.  It was time to buy.

Bottom of the Furniture Sales Funnel

Last Sunday, I decided the best place to find office furniture would probably be at an office supply store.  By then, I’d ruled out a modern, sleek look in the office. The sales person at Office Max offered the Black Friday price a week early and probably called me “Ma’am” fifty times.

Office Max pic

He put up with my indecisiveness over this desk verses that desk and he stopped talking after I cut him off on purchasing the extra protection plan.  The prices were exactly the same in the store as online.  This was a coordinated attack and I bought the furniture at the store with the same free delivery offered online.

Office Max product description

While the in-store experience offered set-up at a charge, notice that at the same purchase point online (the product page), the company’s set-up package is not suggested or offered.  If the customer has to hunt for it somewhere else on the website, forget it.  Adding drop down boxes for “I need set up” on each product page would immediately increase online revenues at Office Max.

The Final Hours of Purchasing Furniture

I spent nearly a day in Kittles yesterday trying to fine-tune what I wanted. Then, came the ping-pong price game.  Prices kept dropping, but we went back and forth so many times and it took so long, that by the afternoon, I left the store.

I opened my iPad and typed in searches for long-tailed keywords with model numbers to check pricing in other stores.  What was the price for a “Broyhill Travis sofa”?  Another business could have stolen my purchase in these moments when my sales person was going back to her manager for yet another price reduction request.

Broyhill Travis couch

After he said, “No, I can’t do it”, I would have bought online, especially if free shipping were offered. Instead, my search took me first to the Broyhill website.  Obviously, they didn’t want to get into the middle of price negotiations because they left out prices in their product descriptions.

Other stores did the same.  Instead of sharing prices, online store-after-store said, “request a quote”.  I didn’t have time to wait for a quote.

Request more info

With Thanksgiving in a few days, I wanted shopping done asap. Because I didn’t know if the purchase was sound, I dropped the sofa and chair from my list all together.

I took a trip back to Ashley Furniture and found a different sofa.  I popped into Value City Furniture and found a kitchen table and chairs that I liked better than the ones offered at Kittles and Ashley.  While there, the Value City online prices dropped, so a lower price was honored at the store.  Bed Bath and Beyond sold nifty bar stools for less and with free shipping. Then, I went back to Kittles and purchased the items I felt were fairly priced.  All of the stores said their prices were Black Friday prices and that if anything changed, they would honor the changes.  At a certain purchase point, most offered free shipping.

I’m waiting for the door bell to ring with my deliveries.  How fun!

What’s a key to increasing online conversions? Lower your online prices.  Develop better content (pictures, videos, and words) to display furniture in ways that highlight colors, finishes, and uses. Provide in-depth information.  Keep the various stages of the furniture sales funnel in mind and develop profiles of your buyers at each stage.

What have you noticed as important to increasing online sales, whether you’re in the furniture business or another industry?  How would the above process differ for a man or a younger or older person? How would the process differ for another woman in the same demographic? Take a moment to share!

~Jean


Other Posts:

Holiday Content Challenge- Let the Family Games Begin!

ZMOT- Where Consumers Are and Businesses Should Be

Adding Content to their Website Increased Our Client’s Keyword Reach

Twenty-five Effective, Call-to-Action Phrases in E-commerce Content

1 Comment

Filed under Apps & Tools, Business Strategy, Customer Profile, Holiday Blog, Local, Mobile, Personas, Product Descriptions

Are You an Entitled Customer?

By My Web Writers

I Want My Lemonade.

Image courtesy of Revenue Journal.

Women come and go at ten in the morning from their social gatherings and sporting matches at this typical, upscale, American country club. On Tuesdays, ladies golf brunch day, the women play 18 holes, stop in the locker room for refreshments, and then later have lunch in the locker room’s dining space.

On most days, lemonade and trail mix are provided. Rumor has it that the men even have a bar, finger sandwiches, popcorn, and soup in their locker room.

On one off Friday, someone didn’t put lemonade in the women’s locker room. What ensued was comical.  Apparently, the ladies golf brigade decided to play that Friday.  As they filtered into the locker room for quick stops between holes, they noticed that there was no lemonade.

One such lady in her sixties was distressed.  She frowned and muttered under her breath something about there being no lemonade. Then, she hurried out the door to her golf cart.

Another threesome came in and proclaimed, “My goodness, where’s the lemonade?” and they frantically started opening cabinets.  One of them remembered it was Friday and there was no one to set up the lemonade.  Should they complain?

In the 1980s, Wendy’s capitalized on customer entitlement with the “Where’s the Beef?” commercial. Times have changed, but the desire for more hasn’t:

Provide What’s Expected Everyday

It’s human nature to expect what has always been.  Altering the quality of what’s delivered is disconcerting to most people.

When businesses sell quality products or services, customers will soon move from appreciating the products or services to expecting the same quality, price, or delivery each and every time.  If the standard declines, customers might leave business relationships feeling frustrated enough to share their discontent with circles of thousands.

In the search industry, some SEO companies have even repositioned themselves to be content marketing or digital marketing firms with de-emphasis on search engine results, in order not to promise something that would be difficult to deliver.  The marketing and salesmanship remain, but their packaging of expected results changed.

The Definition of Entitled

There are, of course, benefits to not creating angry customers and many steps businesses can take to satisfy unhappy clients.

In the case of the golfers, the lemonade was always provided and they, thus, felt entitled to the lemonade because it was a perk they expected with club membership.  But, how should one act if an entitled thirst isn’t quenched?

What does it mean to be entitled?  According to the Free Dictionary, the adjective means “qualified for by right according to law” and the Collins English Dictionary defines entitled as, “having the right or permission to do something.”

The connotations we associate with the word vary. To some, entitlement flows from positive self-worth and an uncanny ability that puts one at the top.  Entitlement is a result of hard work, a drive for perfection, and knowing how to “park yourself.”

Interestingly, this Audi commercial distances itself from the negative connotations that are inter-mingled with “entitlement” or “expected.” It rebrands “luxury” to mean progressive and forward-thinking.

To some, “entitlement” is associated with an adult who acts like a child.  Advertisers exploit the negative connotations of self-absorbed entitlement, as seen in this commercial’s pitting of two women’s lifestyles against each other.

Customers Don’t Like Change or Costly Surprises

Should we feel entitled?  Ask that question at your next luncheon and you’ll hear a variety of perspectives.

With regular frequency, a payroll company raised the rates of its services.  One frustrated customer wrote to the company to receive a discount.  He received this letter from the payroll’s customer service representative:

Good morning,

I hope this email finds you well.  I apologize for the delay in responding but as you likely know I was out of the office last week.

I have reviewed your account and do remember our discussion from mid-April.  At that time I applied a X% discount to your account that was to be effective for one calendar year.  I have confirmed the X% discount was applied correctly and is applied to your current invoice(s).  I do however notice that there was an ‘across the board’ pricing increase in early April and that is why your billing after the discount is still above X payroll.  Your current billing is totaling X+ and this includes the discount.  Our normal billing for a monthly payroll processor is X++ .

After careful review of the situation, we are unfortunately unable to offer any additional discounts at this time.  You are currently saving over XYZ a year with the current discount compared to our normal pricing.

If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Should one roll over when a company says, “we’re, sorry, we can’t meet your expectations?”  Many company policies, discounts, and procedures are man-made and arbitrary; thus, don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.  The customer did not believe that the rep just happened to notice an “across the board price increase.”  The discount given was basically offset by the price increase.

Is the customer right to feel entitled to a better price?

Yes and Maybe.

Yes, great customer service bends over backward to please and to save customers.  If the customer doesn’t believe he’s receiving the appropriate value for what he’s paying, he should, of course, feel free to express that fact and leave, if necessary. A superior customer service rep would not let a relationship get to that point.

But also, maybe.

Businesses size up their customers with scrutiny, too.  Is the customer worth the business’s time?  Is he high-maintenence? The above payroll company rep might think that his company is already competitively priced or that the customer’s business is easily replaced. While not very customer-friendly, the rep’s reasoning may be very profitable in the short-run.  Some customers cost more than they’re worth.

But the cost of not reaching out to please the customer can result in much more than the loss of one customer.

Entitled or Just Rude?

Having high expectations is fair, but life owes nothing.  Stomping one’s foot might win quick results, but lose long-term benefits.  Don’t underestimate the value of each positive relationship in life.

A business woman parked in a spot right in front of a small, downtown hot dog stand and then started walking across the street to eat at a competing restaurant.  The hot dog restaurant’s owner came out, waved to the business woman, and instructed her to move her car.  The business woman snapped back, “I can park where I want to park.”  She was right, but just to stick it to the hot dog stand’s owner, the business woman parks in that spot each and every time she goes downtown, even though she never buys a hot dog and there are spots closer to the restaurant she does patron.

Most would say this behavior is rude, but it happens.  Why?

Jamie Lee Curtis once called out Paris Hilton’s parents for not teaching their daughter basic rules of civility in society. She wrote in a Huff post:

What we need to do is look long and hard at our part in all this. Where did our children get the message that the rules don’t apply to them? And where did we, the Mothers, get the message that if we abdicate our responsibilities as Mothers, the Universe will do our job for us? And it does, but without any of the love and tenderness and compassion that we could have given, along with the lessons.

The Psychology of Entitlement

From a human psychology perspective, according to Dr. Alice Boyes, there are nine types of entitlement tendencies:

1. The rules apply to others, but not to you.

2. You feel inconvenienced when others need something from you, but then expect others to do favors for you.

3. The world revolves around your agenda.

4.  You disregard rules meant for others’ comfort.

5. You freeload.

6. You feel it’s okay to upset or to offend people.

7. You receive more from volunteers than you volunteer.

8.  When working in groups, you need to be the leader or the one to get the credit.

9.  Cancelling appointments or reservations without considering the affect on others is not a big deal to you.

Clearly there’s a line to understand and to respect.  That line may be different in one country, region, state, workplace, or family verses another, but there are some common parameters.

A Civil Challenge to Customers

If you’re a customer, who expects to be treated as number one, consider following these guidelines before shopping elsewhere:

  • Clearly Communicate the Issue:  Start talking, whether through email or over the phone.  The business can’t change its practices if it doesn’t understand your issue and how it affected you.
  • Remove Emotion:  This is usually much easier said than done.  Imagine that the person on the other line is going through a health or personal crisis.  Sometimes we’re much more forgiving of people when we see them as people instead of as objects meant to serve.
  • Talk to a Decision-Maker:  Before airing your frustrations to ten friends, find who can help you and talk with that manager.  Customer service reps always want you to think they’re the final authority.  Just keep using the phrase, “Who is your manager? I’d like to talk to that person.”
  • Don’t Wash Laundry Over Social Media: Unless there is no other means to solve the problem, don’t attempt to hurt a brand’s reputation.  Just move on.  If you’re earning a reputation as a professional complainer, your words won’t hold as much weight in the long run.
  • Know What You Want:  Clearly explain the price, procedure, or quality of what you want.  Say, “I expect or want to have X.”  In some cases, you’ll need to put your requirements in writing.
  • Bend or Walk:  Sometimes a business just can’t give you what you want.  Deal with it or be willing to dust off your feet and walk out the door, (but as a fair warning, the competition might be worse than what you had.)
  • Be the Customer You’d Like to Have:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  If you’re snippy to others all day long, that energy will find its way back to you.

It’s not wrong to want the lemonade and to ask for the lemonade, but have a little humility.  And, if the lemonade is provided as a bonus to make you feel important, then, when it’s not available, take a deep breath and pour yourself a glass of water.

~Jean


Other Posts:
Reactions from an Alumna; What if NIU Wins the Orange Bowl
Overcoming the Beautiful Little Fool
What Would History Say About Google Authorship Profiles?
How Do You Find Good Content Writers and How Much Do They Cost?
Writer Tips for Google’s Penguin

1 Comment

Filed under Business Strategy, Customer Profile, Leadership, Project Management, Reputation Management

How Do I Write Content Based on Buyer Personas?

By My Web Writers

She was the portrait of a Language Stars mom.  As a teacher, she understood that the window of language development was wide open between the ages of one to five years old, so she enrolled her children in Language Star’s Spanish immersion classes.  She communicated the company’s mission with enthusiasm to other Moms.  She organized free classes for neighbor children in her home and coordinated an after school program at her children’s elementary school.  She was the ideal brand ambassador and thus, felt very honored when the company’s executives asked her to spend two hours with them.

They wanted to pick her brain to better understand what drove her involvement with the brand.  She gladly did it in exchange for $200 and a few discounted classes for her kids.  Was it worth Language Star’s time and effort to identify personas with the help of this customer and others like her? Absolutely.  The company grew from three sites in the Chicagoland area to over twenty-one in two states in just ten years.

What are Personas?

Good writers clarify their client’s audience, so that they can accordingly adjust language choice, accent, tone, logic, and voice.  Personas are basically audience segments.

Ardath Albee, author of Up Close and Persona, defines personas as, “a composite sketch, representative of a segment of your target market.”  The sketch is much more defined than a broad audience overview.  For example, Language Stars could have stopped short of realizing all income avenues by categorizing their target demographic as “moms.” Their product or service development and marketing would have been relegated to what their employees felt all moms would appreciate.  Those categorizations would be based on subjective verses empirical information.

Successful authors use personas to organize fictional characters and their relationships with others. Businesses use information from real people to create profiles of the customers they represent.

Image courtesy of the Mind Mapping Software blog

As a web writer you’re often at the mercy of the company’s SEO or marketing manager to provide vision for the content you write.  Your knowledge beyond periods and comas becomes evident when you ask for customer personas to help you to write blog posts, social media posts,  and web content. As a marketing manager, it ought to be standard practice within your organization to interview customers, to develop profiles based on observation and data, and to deliver detailed personas to the brand’s writers.

How Much Content Does Each Persona Need?

There is a formula floating around the web.  Jay Baer suggests:

“Essentially, your initial list of questions can be generated using this formula:

Number of Personas X Number of Buying Stages X Number of Questions in Each Stage = Number of Questions You Need to Answer

In our hypothetical example, we’d need 5 X 8 X 3 = 120 questions answered. Even if you have a FAQ today, I can almost guarantee it covers far less than 120 questions.”

Albee didn’t factor in buying stages when she made the following comment:

Let’s say you come up with 12 questions that you know your prospect or your persona has to answer in order for them to agree that the decision to buy is the best choice, to buy from you. So, let’s say you can answer each question two or three different ways. So, now you have the possibility, the possibility of 24 to 36 pieces of content.

You can do the math as to how much personas will cost you, but what of the value?

Success with Personas

Rachel Sprung highlighted seven companies that successfully understand their buyers’ personas.  Like Language Stars, the company that understands its customers and niches is going to have more success interacting with them.  From Jenny Craig to Orbitz companies are creating personas to better understand their customers and to connect through interests.  

Tips for Writing Content Based on Personas

1. Research the persona’s interests, hobbies, activities, and stances.

2.  Play with the voice of the article based on your persona’s gender, ethnicity, age, and experience.

3. Work on the opening lines, supporting arguments, and conclusions of your blog posts to make sure they are in line with the way your persona would view the world. For example, would the persona be persuaded more by data or by personal success stories?

4.  Align vocabulary with your persona’s education level.  Learn how to raise or to lower the reading level of your content through MS Word’s spelling and grammar tool in Tools and then Options menus.

5. Make connections. Who would your persona look up to as a mentor or fellow brand enthusiast? Link to their content and connect with these individuals through social media.

6.  Ask one of these connections to read your article for feedback before publishing.

7.  Think about the pictures and infographics that will most likely move your persona to buy or move into the next stage of the buying cycle.

What are some of the techniques you’ve used to write articles based on appealing to certain personas?

~Jean

Other Posts:

Snow White and the Social Media Personas

Articles on Audience

Overcoming the Beautiful Little Fool

What Would History Say About Google Authorship Profiles?

Writer Tips for Google’s Penguin

2 Comments

Filed under Blog Writing Tips, Business Strategy, Content Marketing, Customer Profile, Marketing, Personas, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media