Drew McLellan’s a 25+ year marketing agency veteran who lives for creating “a ha” moments for his clients, clients’ customers, peers and audiences across the land. Sadly, for his daughter, he attempts to do the same thing at home.
Over the years, Drew has lent his expertise to clients like Nabisco, IAMS pet foods, Kraft Foods, Meredith Publishing, Make-A-Wish, and others.
Drew is also one of the world’s top marketing and branding bloggers.
Recently he has appeared in the New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Week and Fortune’s Small Business. The Wall Street Journal calls him one of 10 bloggers that every entrepreneur should read.
You've heard it before - the top 20% of your customers, your very best customers, account for 80% of your profitability and referrals. We intellectually know that and yet our behavior sure doesn't show it.
We spend all kinds of dollars, time, energy and worry chasing after new customers and after someone starts to buy, the typical business sort of forgets all about them. Much like people's dating patterns - there's a lot of wooing that goes on before the wedding but after the "I do's" get said, the florist goes broke.
Our poor best customers get the same treatment from us and that needs to stop. We need to shift a portion of our marketing focus away from prospects and invest even more in our best customers - the ones who have already proven that they'll sing our praises, buy more and more and bring their friends along for the ride.
Fortunately, my friend Stan Phelps has written a book to help us all do just that. This book, What's Your Golden Goldfish, is the third book in a trilogy of marketing books that are all built around over 2,200 crowdsourced examples of real life marketing smarts.
This particular book shares over 100 examples of what leading brands like Starbucks, Doubletree, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Virgin Atlantic are doing differently to cater to their best customers and earn even more of their business and loyalty.
The book showcases nine different ways to let your best customers (and employees) know how much you value them. By doing those little extras, you will make your company even stronger. You will differentiate yourself even more from your competitors, you'll keep both your best customers and employees longer so they contribute to your success and with every little extra, you will create more word of mouth buzz.
The entire series of books is all built around the idea of lagniappe which is a creole word for "a little something extra." In this edition - Stan helps his readers explore how organizations large and small can do a little something extra for their most loyal customers and employees.
You'll love the storytelling but make sure you have a pen and paper handy because this book is going to spark so many ideas that you'll never remember them all. And as you implement them - your best customers will reward you with even more buzz, money and referrals.
Sounds like it is going to work out well for everyone, doesn't it?
If you're interested in Stan's entire series, here's how you can get them from Amazon. If your an Amazon Unlimited customer, you can read the electronic version for free. If you want the paperbacks, click on the links below:
Note: If you click on one of the Amazon links, I get a few cents.
In that case - you really do make your potential customers feel like they're just a number to you and that you treat everyone the same, with little regard to their specific needs.
But when you build the system with your customer in mind - it can be a wonderful experience for them and for you.
It all depends on if you build it once and put it on auto pilot or if you use it as a tool to serve up exactly what each visitor is looking for.
Automation allows you to create a user experience that puts the user in the driver's seat. They can access the exact information they want, when they want it - and how they want it. The key is to realize that different people are going to have different needs and you need to anticipate that as you build out the options. Even more important - once you start getting visitors, you need to learn from where they go and don't want to go.
It's a given that every potential customer probably isn't going to want exactly the same information. As you watch and learn - you can create new paths and test the results. At the end of the day, thanks to automation, you can create multiple paths, so each person can have a different experience, based on their own needs and interests.
That doesn't sound so bad, does it?
Recently, the folks at Marketo asked me to comment on the question "can big data lead to big love?" Check out the article and my comments.
If you're using marketing automation to make it easy for you and only you, then it probably isn't going to work so well. But if you use it as a tool to serve your customers better - it can indeed lead to big love.
But remember, not that long ago, many businesses were wondering whether or not they even needed a website.
It seemed so far-fetched that any of their customers would ever do anything but show up at their store or pick up the phone to place an order.
How quickly times change. Now, a business isn't considered legitimate until they have a web presence. No matter what it is you sell, odds are your prospects are going to visit your website to decide if you're even in the running.
I'm hard pressed to think of an industry or business category that doesn't rely on their website as the main workhorse in their marketing arsenal.
It used to be that you had an opportunity to make the sale when someone walked into your retail location, your salesperson called on the buyer or you answered your phone. But today, a good portion of the sales process has nothing to do with you actively engaging with the potential buyer. They're doing a great deal of their due diligence tire kicking without you being in the room at all.
It's happening on your website, within social networks and with the help of a Google search.
Which makes what you put out on the web absolutely vital to your business' success. You must build a website your users will love.
All of that being said - most websites stink. They're badly designed, built for the business' ego rather than the customer's utility and they're out of date.
Why? I think most businesses think of their website like an ever expanding junk drawer. They just keep tossing more stuff in there and hope that when someone rummages through it - they can find what they need.
If you'd like your website to be the effective workhorse you need it to be, consider these best practices:
It should be an experience: Keep in mind that many people will decide whether or not to do business with you based on their web visit. So you want them to have a memorable and enjoyable experience. Get them interacting with you - give them a quiz, help them find answers to their specific questions or offer them something they might want to share with others.
Don't talk about yourself: Talk about their world and how you can improve it. Everything should be presented from their perspective, not yours. You might need an outside perspective to help you identify what truly matters to your audience.
Make it easy, no matter the device: Don't assume everyone is using a 15-inch screen. Within the next couple years, the majority of web searches will be conducted on a mobile phone. Check your site on desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones because if there's one thing your users will love is being able to access your content no matter where they are.
Don't let a mediocre website discourage prospects from becoming customers before they even shake your hand. If you haven't already done it - start tomorrow. Build a website your users will love and share and best of all - buy from.
I've been working in advertising agencies for almost 30 years now and I've had the incredible good fortune to work with some amazing clients over the years. Early in my career, before I had the deciding vote on who we'd serve, I also worked with some real jerks.
For most of us in the marketing world, we serve clients (could be an internal department or external, paying clients) and in most cases, we are also someone else's client (vendor, strategic partner, agency if you're client side, etc.) as well.
I thought I'd reflect on my life with clients (and being a client) ...and share the best practices so we can all be a better client on the next go around. Have you ever wondered how to be a good agency client?
Talk to us about budget: It's ridiculous how some clients make their agency jump through hoops to guess at the budget. We can't help you spend your money in the wisest, most effective way possible if we don't know the boundaries. If you don't trust us enough to tell us - fire us.
Say thank you in your own way: One of my all-time favorite clients came over one Christmas week and serenaded us with one of her holiday favorites. What an incredible gift - to share something so personal with such affection and heart. I'll never forget the experience.
Invite us to the party: We can be so much more helpful if you bring us inside. Let us interact with your c-suite, sales team, and customer service reps and be a part of the very early strategy sessions. We bring a very unique and valuable perspective - we're informed outsiders. We can see with more clarity and less bias but we also know enough to ask the hard but insightful questions.
Trust us: Our job is to make you a rock star. To help you achieve and surpass your company's goals. We're on your side. In theory, you selected us to be your partner because you believe we're good at our work. So trust us. Don't let your personal bias or preferences lead you in the wrong direction - when we disagree with you, let us explain, from our experience and expertise, why we disagree and be mindful of your mindset. In the end, it's your money and we'll do as you ask, but don't shortchange our desire to being your best ally.
Pay your bills on time: On the other end of the money - pay your bills on time. Odds are we jumped through hoops to hit your deadlines, and now it's your turn. Don't put your agency in the position of being your bank. Remember, they've incurred costs on your behalf, so don't hang them out to dry. Everyone hits a tough spot and when that happens, talk to us about it. But don't leave us in the dark.
Connect with us: We all want to work with people we like. Don't hide your humanity. Show us your vacation pictures. Tell us your funny weekend story. Reminisce about the old job or the old boss. We don't have to be best buddies (although it's nice when that happens) but it's human nature to work harder for someone you like. So let us get to know you on a personal level.
Celebrate with us: Marketing is usually a a winding road of obstacles and last minute adjustments, done at breakneck speed and involves a bit of risk. When it all comes together, it's magical. Take time to celebrate with the entire team. Give kudos to the people who often don't get the lead the team or enjoy the glory. Rewarding everyone with a special dinner or even a bagel break will fire up the team for the next challenge.
The lion's share of agency owners and employees chose the profession because they love to use their creativity to help clients.
Letting them know you appreciate their efforts and actually helping them help you means you both get more of what will make you happy and successful.
There's always a lot of buzz about SEO (search engine optimization), SEM (search engine marketing) and of course, Google rankings.
Rightly so - each of those plays a role in how effectively your website can serve you from a marketing and sales perspective. Your website should be sales funnel shaped.
But I think most companies approach the web a little like the fable about the five blind men who were asked to describe the elephant that stood before them. The man who was near the elephant's leg reached out, touched the elephant and announced that an elephant was like a huge tree trunk. The man who was by the tail, after feeling it, described an elephant like a bullwhip and so on.
While none of them were wrong - none of them were right either. That's exactly where many companies are when they think about how to leverage their website. They're not wrong but they haven't got it quite right either.
Lets step back and take a more holistic view of the website's purpose for being. You might have a website because it:
But if we step back even a little further and take a look from the 30,000 foot level, we can see through all those functionalities, your website is the entry point to your sales funnel. For most organizations today - your website is the initial point of entry that could lead to a sale today or five years from today.
That doesn't happen by accident. Getting them to your site isn't the end of the game; it's just the beginning. Now your goal is to move them into and through your sales funnel. You have to build your site and everything that happens on it with that intention.
Whenever I think of a sales funnel, I picture one of those plastic funnels people use when they do an oil change. The top of it is really wide and the bottom is a very skinny hole. The funnel coincides with the know • like • trust equation.
The top of the funnel is for catching all those people who have no idea you exist or that you sell anything they might need or want. This is where you are hoping they'll get to know you.
The middle of the funnel is filled with all the ways you either keep them on your site or get them to come back. With repeated exposure, you're hoping they'll come to like you.
The smallest section of the funnel is where you're hoping they come to trust you through repeated interactions, you continuing to be helpful and demonstrating a consistency in how you talk, behave and perform.
Once they've willingly squeezed themselves through that tiny little section of the funnel, they'll be ready to buy. But not before.
Let's look at the first stage of the funnel (know) and what you can do to catch the interest of your web visitors and encourage them to get to know you a little.
At the top of the funnel we have people who've never heard of you and may have no idea they need or want what you sell. They might discover you by clicking on a link in a blog post or after reading about you in the newspaper. They might have a problem and be Googling to find a solution and your site is listed in their search results. They may see a Facebook ad or type in your URL off your business card that they picked up at a trade show. But at this point, you're a stranger. They don't know, like or trust you. And we know we have to earn their trust before we can earn their money.
At that moment, your website has to be helpful or relevant enough in some way that they spend a little time on it so they begin to get a sense of you and how you might matter to them.
This is a do or die moment. If the visitor pokes around the site and then leaves, they might never return and you'll never know who they were or if you could have served them. That's how it works on most websites. If I asked you to show me a list of people who were on your website in the last six months, could you do it?
One of the appealing aspects of using the web to pre-shop is the anonymity of it. To get someone to introduce themselves to you - you have to either give them a compelling reason to keep coming back or better yet, you have to create the opportunity for an information exchange. You have to offer them something that is valuable enough that they'll give you their email address in return. While it sounds simple - think of how many websites you visit and how few capture your contact information.
What does that look like? You want to offer something that's a low barrier to entry. It doesn't feel too intrusive. It could be any of these:
Once you've done made that initial connection and you have a way to stay in touch - you can continue to be helpful which will keep the conversation going. At that point, one of two things is going to happen. As they get to know you/your company - they're either going to decide they like you or they don't. Both are great outcomes.
If they like you, they'll stay in the conversation and get to know you even better. If they don't like you, they'll go away. Now you don't have to waste any energy on someone who was going to be a bad fit.
To move someone from the start of the process into this section requires a mix of bravery and generosity on your part.
Keep in mind that most prospects are pretty skittish. Whether it's in a retail store or online, they're used to being chased around by over eager salespeople that pester the poor potential buyer until they flee. That's one of the reasons many people do a significant amount of their shopping online. The anonymity allows them to browse without pressure.
That's why you want to load up your website with lots of content that has no barrier to consumption like blog posts, testimonials and FAQs. Those elements will generate traffic to your site. The strategies we talked about last week - where there is an exchange of information (their email address for some downloadable tool or content) begins to thin the herd. The tire kickers will avoid the opt-in level, preferring to stick with your free content. And that's fine. Until they move to the next level, they're not ready to buy. Once they trade you their email address for some content, they've indicated that they are open to hearing from you.
I find it hard to believe I have to actually say this but I've seen time and time again that I do. There is absolutely no reason to collect email addresses if you aren't going to actually send them something.
And that something cannot be a sales pitch. I've seen so many businesses stumble here. They didn't give you their email address so you could hard sell them or immediately try to get an appointment or schedule a sales call. They gave it to you so you would keep sending them information that's valuable to them.
That is your litmus test. Each and every time, before you hit send, ask yourself "is this going to be valuable to my audience?" Time for a re-write if your honest answer is no.
Assuming you keep producing helpful content and you actually send it out consistently - the prospects will let you stay in their in box. Week (or month or quarter) after week, you're there. You're teaching, helping and they are getting a little smarter and a little more comfortable with you each time they hear from you.
You should also use those regular emails (or however you decide to connect with them) to drive them back to new content/offerings on the website. Maybe you produced a demo video series or you're hosting an educational event that you'd like them to register for.
While we are focusing on your website, it certainly shouldn't be the only tool in your toolbox. Your sales funnel should be armed with both digital and traditional tactics. They work together hand in glove, each strengthening the other.
The days of your website just being an online brochure are long gone. Be sure your web presence is the sales workhorse it should be by building a sales funnel around the know • like • trust = sales equation.
The last section of the sales funnel - trust
Having the right timing matters. You don't get to this part of the funnel after the first couple interactions. If I see one consistent mistake, it's that people shift into these sorts of strategy way too early. It's like meeting someone in a bar and proposing the same night. Odds are you aren't going to get too many yeses.
I totally get it from a business' point of view and have often felt that frustration myself. You've shared your expertise. You've answered their questions. Surely they should be ready to buy by now. They obviously like what you do enough to keep coming back. So why aren't they buying?
In my thirty years of being in business, I've rarely met a buyer who is as anxious to make the sale as the seller. Sure, there are those customers who come to us in crisis, and we scramble to put out their fire but they're not the norm. So what do we do? We hang in there, and we keep being helpful and we work to stay top of mind until they're ready to move forward.
The other factor to remember is that while we are the ones who build the sales funnel, it's the prospect that moves through it and they control the pace and direction. So while one prospect may linger in the getting to know you (remember our know • like • trust = sales model) or growing to like you section for years, another may whip through both of those and be willing to trust you enough for a trial purchase in a matter of a couple visits.
For your website to truly be an effective sales funnel, you need to offer different levels of engagement, so the prospects can move themselves through at their own speed. As we talked about in the last couple columns, that means free content (text and video if possible) and content that you'll give them for an email trade. But what kinds of things should you have available for those who are ready to consider a purchase?
Believe it or not - one that many companies miss is having contact information on the site. Don't make me look for your phone number or email address. If you have the capacity, live chat is great. But make sure I can contact you and give me more than one method. If you have a brick and mortar presence, be sure you list your street addresses as well, with a link to one of the mapping sites.
You can also offer the ability to schedule a call, demo or take an assessment that will require you contact them (usually by email) with the results.
Remember that most buyers want to be pretty sure they're going to buy before they speak to a salesperson or company representative. When they do reach out, they may have some final questions but they're very close to making a buying decision. Which means you need to be ready to respond quickly once they do trigger that next level of readiness. Test your site and all your internal systems to verify that nothing is going to get in the way of you finally connecting with this potential buyer.
Today's consumers want to be able to shop us on the web. How well that works for you is completely in your control. Is your site ready?
P.S. I found the great graphic on a SocialFresh blog post.