Presentation Matters!

Jewelry

Recently I was killing time in one of the country’s largest department stores as my wife did some shopping.  As a passionate, yet at times geeky marketer, I enjoy going to the mall to look at how merchandise is marketed and how consumers interact with that merchandise as they consider their purchase.

I’m often baffled by how some stores seem to be quite comfortable with messy racks and shelves.  You know the ones where all the sweaters are thrown all over the place, sizes mixed together, shirts are on the floor, and forget about the socks section.

As I wandered through this major, national, department store I stumbled into the jewelry section.  In fact, I quite literally stumbled as I noticed the sign for a pair of diamond earrings for $3,200.  It wasn’t the price that caught me off guard.  It was the horrible presentation.  The jewelry case looked like a disaster.  I actually snapped the photo above as my brain tried to reconcile the price of $3,200 with a case that looked like it had been through the war and back.

How could a retailer that is one of the most iconic in the country allow one of their stores to present merchandise like this?  Could their executive team even be aware that they are trying to sell jewelry for thousands of dollars in this manner?  I could never imagine a mall jewelers case to looking like this.  You’d never see a presentation like this in Nordstrom or Bloomingdales.  So my question is simple…

If this is the only way you’re able to present merchandise should you do it?  Is it worth jeopardizing your brand’s image? Is it worth the risk of destroying its value?  Further is this the image you expect of your brand? Crusty, cracked, faded, and dirty? Would any of this company’s executives spend that kind of money anywhere else where the merchandise was presented this way?  I’d bet not.

This got me thinking.  I wondered just how expensive jewelry displays actually cost.  Maybe, just maybe they were really expensive. So I went to http://www.nilecorp.com which sells jewelry displays.  I inventoried the displays in the case and priced out replacements.  NEWSFLASH: To replace the faux suede displays in this picture would cost a WHOPPING $50.00! Seriously?  Kind of makes you wonder just how far out this capital expenditure has to be budgeted for. Sense the sarcasm?

The morale of this story (blog) is that a multi-million dollar brand can be tarnished for under $50.00.  And whether your company is a local small business, a national retailer, or a luxury automobile manufacturer your brand is open for business 24/7. So if you’re not paying attention to these kinds of details guess who is?  Your lost customers.

And remember this…while diamonds may last forever, their display cases don’t.  Pay attention to the details.

Consistency: The not-so-secret ingredient to building a strong brand

consistency-is-key

If I were to ask you to name your favorite brand what would you say?  What metric or definitions would you use to acknowledge those companies whose brands rise to the top?

Brand building is big work.  Heavy work.  Time consuming work.  It takes patience, curiosity, interest, a willingness to listen, a willingness to act, a conscious effort to deliver what you promise day in and day out.  Yes, a brand is simply that…a promise.

Chances are your favorite brands may do many things well, but there’s one thing I bet they do better than all the others.  I’ll bet your favorite brands deliver what they promise consistently.  Not 70% of the time, or 80% of the time, but 10 out of 10 times you get exactly the experience you’ve come to expect.  It’s exactly the reason you keep going back.  It’s THE reason it’s your favorite brand .

Consistency is the little, but not so secret, ingredient of successful brandsDunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Wawa deliver great coffee all the time.  Apple delivers quality products for home, work, or on the go, that are easy to use and deliver what’s promised.  The gym I go to is always so clean you could eat off the floors which says a lot for a gym!  I drive 23 miles to take my car to a Cadillac dealership when there is a Caddy dealer 4 miles from my home.  Why?  They always recognize me by name, their waiting area is ultra-comfortable with TV, work stations and high-speed internet, not to mention their  “Nordstrom-like” restrooms.  Speaking of Nordstrom, their service is remarkable each and every time.  Whether you’re buying a brand name shirt, or one that carries John Nordstrom’s name, you can rest assured you’ve purchased something of quality.

We all have examples of our favorite brands.  What’s funny is how many companies I’ve experienced where paying attention to those little things is viewed as more of a luxury than a requirement.  Dunkin didn’t get the reputation for great coffee by accident.  They didn’t say “it doesn’t matter where we get our beans from or what type of equipment we use to brew it”.  They are all about those coffee details.  Nordstrom’s didn’t develop its reputation as service workhorse by giving customers a hard time when an item didn’t fit, work, or hold up as expected.  And for those of you privileged enough to live in a city where Wegmans operates you know how consistent their delivery of remarkable service is.  Wegmans has been known to take back, refund, and provide other goodwill gestures for food purchased that the customer didn’t like.  Consistently consistent.

If you’re selling fast and easy, it better be fast and easy all the time.  Not just most of the time. If you’re selling fresh, it needs to be fresh at 6 am or 6 pm.  If you’re selling durable, it better last under the harshest uses or conditions.

Regardless of what you sell, think about how consistent your brand delivers on its promise.  If it’s anything shy of 100%, or Six Sigma, I suggest you reevaluate and understand not just why, but what you’ll do to correct it.  Nobody wants to buy “sometimes”.  In fact most people buy with their emotions, and as human beings our emotions are wired for a “forever” experience.  People don’t like change and if your brand is inconsistent you’re indirectly creating a situation that will bring a change to your customer.  Not a good thing.  Consistently consistent.  That’s the key.

 

 

Can You Tell If Your Culture Is Broken?

broken

Sales are down, customers are complaining and the board is losing patience.  You say you have a brand problem.  People aren’t aware enough, confident enough, or convicted enough to buy what you’re offering.  Why?

Is it because your marketing budget isn’t big enough?  Maybe you’re not running enough ads?  Or perhaps you haven’t paid enough attention to SEO and key words?  It could be some of these things, or maybe all of them.  I’d be willing to bet it might be something entirely different.  It might be your culture.

What you produce is a direct reflection of who you are, how you act, and what you value.  These are the things that make up a company’s culture.  They’re the sticky things, the messy things, the complicated things.  They are the ingredients that many executives (notice I didn’t say leaders), shy away from addressing.

I’ve read literally hundreds of company websites that proudly talk about their culture using words they refer to as their “values”.  They advertise these words like awards, placing them on a shelf like a trophy.  Inside the company however is a different realty.

Years ago I had a boss tell me, “if you have to put your values on a website they have no value”.  She further explained that “saying something is so, doesn’t make it so.”  I agree.  If, as an example, you list integrity as a value then what does it mean for the companies who don’t list integrity?  Does that mean they’re bad, or operate dishonestly?  Do you really need to say you value operating in a truthful manner?

I’ve seen countless companies where there is a disconnect between the stated values and the real culture.  The employees know it.  They see it.  They’re living it.  They’re wondering if anyone else notices the disconnect.  They become numb to the words because that’s all they are …just words.  Instead they watch actions.  They look for proof.  When they can’t find proof to validate the words the culture cracks.  It becomes fractured.  It fails to deliver a delightful experience to the customer because the delivery mechanism – the employees – is fractured.

Leaders hit this challenge head on.  Leaders are not afraid to tackle the hard stuff, the sensitive stuff, the messy stuff.  They stand in front of the company leaning forward, and take complete responsibility for the disconnect.  They own it.  They believe it’s their job to fix it, no one else’s.  They’re a leader.

The leader knows that fixing something, or improving it, begins with honestly.  They know that to make a positive impact they must be able to be honest with their team.  The team is too smart to misled.  They know the deal.  They’re listening for the truth, not fluff.  Only then will the team rally.  Only then will the team consider the remarkable.  Only then is the delivery of a delightful experience possible.  Until then…the broken culture is incapable of mending the brand. But the only way forward is for the leader to walk the talk.

The question is, do you have the courage to see things as they really are and deal with the messy part of business, or will you ignore it, explain it, and excuse it?  The choice is yours.  Be a leader.

 

The 3 Deadly Sins of a Marketer

A Marketers primary job is to understand their customer.  What drives their buying behaviors, their decisions, their choices.  It’s the marketer who is responsible for gaining this knowledge and use it to create the companys go-to-market strategy.  Here are 3 things that can crush a marketers effectiveness in creating a successful strategy.

  1. Not challenging the status quo.  For marketers joining a new team be wary of the famous “won’t work”, “tried that before”, or “our product is different”.   Thomas Edison made over 1,000 attempts before the first successful light bulb.  Edison said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times.  The light bulb was an invention of 1,000 steps.”  Your job as a marketer is to challenge the status quo in order to find the message that best resonates with your buyer.  For those marketers who have been in their current roles for a while change this up to bring a level of freshness back to the office.  Read a book, talk to a collegaue, do something that provides you with an opportunity to propose trying something new.
  2. Lack of curiousity.  Marketers are part sales person, part researcher, part engineer, part visionary, part data analyst.  Given the breadth of your role the most important question you’ll have in your arsenal is “why”.  Ask it often and ask it everywhere.  As tools such as A/B testing become more mainstream asking why can be positioned as a quantitative inquiry and one that is backed by data.  If you’re working in an enviornment where “why” may be a bit too challenging then reposition your intention as a test, a study, a pilot.  No matter what you call it, it stills answers the question “why”.
  3. Failing to learn new things.  Change is fast, faster than ever.  Whether it’s marketing automation, Google’s new Penguin algorithm or dynamic content, your job tomorrow will be different from the job you leave today.  Keeping up with all these changes requires a personal investment of your time and energy.  Reading, webinars, conferences are all ways to keep up to speed on what’s changing and evolving in the world of digital marketing and media.  Twitter is a great source of valuable content if you follow the right people and companies.  Set a specific time every day for your reading.  Building a routine around your personal education is a critical success factor in taking control of your professional development.

Confidence THEN Conviction

perception

Confidence is one of the most studied, sought after, and revered human traits. We all aspire to have confidence. The confidence to ask for a raise, or a date, or the confidence to ask for the business. Nearly everything we do in life requires confidence. But do you know what ingredient is needed to super-charge your confidence? It’s conviction.

 Years ago I found myself sitting in a meeting with the brilliant founder of Intuit, Scott Cook. In that meeting we were discussing why one of our product lines wasn’t acheiving the level of sales success we had anticipated. All of our research suggested it was due to a lack of brand awareness within that product category’s space.

At the end of our presentation Scott sat back and looked around the table. We were all quiet, anxiously awaiting his approval of the depth and quality of our work and findings. Instead he sat up, placed his arms on the table in a folded position and said, “I have a question. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of a Yugo.” We looked around the room at one another and quickly hands began to rise. Still looking around the room Scott then said, “Now keep your hand up if you’d buy a Yugo.” One by one hands came down and we now knew we were about to get schooled in the topic of brand awareness.

“Your problem is not with awareness. Your problem is that the market has no conviction in your product”. Scott effectively made the point that strong awareness without conviction equals failure. Our job was to instill conviction in the marketplace. Doing so required us to establish confidence first with our buyer. They needed to first “believe” we were capable of what we said we could do, and only THEN could they demonstrate their conviction to buy from us.

Establishing confidence begins with awareness, followed by increasing the buyers familiarity with your offering. Once familiar, the marketers job is to instill confidence. This can be done through a variety of ways including testimonials, surveys, samples, free trials, or a no-risk guarantee. Regardless of which method you use to instill this confidence it must be real before you can ask for the customers conviction to purchase.

To make this journey successfully you must be willing to truly hear what your customers are saying. You need to assess the marketplace. And perhaps most importantly you need to exude a personal conviction that by doing these things your business will grow with happy, delighted, and profitable customers.

Customer Journey Mapping:  If you ask, be ready to listen and act

I’m attending a Marketing conference this week in Chicago.  Much has been said about the importance of undertanding the customer buying journey.  CMOs, SVPs of Marketing, and in some cases CEOs are talking about how much time and money they are spending to better understand their customers.  Yet nothing is happening.  Why?

Most companies fall into two categories:  those willing to change how they go to market, and those that “say” they’re willing to change buy are simply not capable.  The latter is not because of a lack of intellect or knowledge.  Instead, companies not “capable” of change are typically those that are emboldened to the way they currently do things.  It’s easier.  It’s more comfortable.  It’s familiar.  Changing how you do business, and the interaction you have with your customer is scary.  It’s unknown.  As such only the most brave and courageous make the jump.

For those proposing or leading customer journey work consider the following:

  1. How involved has the current management/executive team been with customers?  Are they speaking directly to customers?  Are they in the field meeting with customers?  Do they attend industry events and speak directly to customers and prospects?  If the answer to any of these questions is “no” it’s likely you’ll struggle implementing the changes required to address your findings.
  2. What major changes have taken place over the past 12 months that affect the customer directly?  Did you launch a net promoter measure?  Is there a customer service center, and if so how is their success measured?  What communication has been sent to your customers over the past year?  Is it all sales related, or educational in nature?  Have you been surveying for customer satisfaction?  What have you learned?
  3. What’s the background of the CEO, COO, and President?  If you work in a small organization those roles may all belong to the same person.  That’s okay but the question still pertains.  Does he or she have any customer experience?
  4. Your sample pool should be diverse yet random.  Meaning, if you sell multiple products through the same sales and service channels you should look for customers with varying tenure with your firm, as well as different volumes of business.
  5. Have a project manager.  You may not have that luxury…it may be you.  How are your excel skills?  How do you manage projects, timelines, deliverables?  What’s your releationship with senior management to whom you’ll have to present your findings and recommendations?

I’ve conducted numerous customer journey mapping over the past decade.  The customer is always changing…evolving.   

 The impact of social media has become a catalyst for this change and will likely expedite it in the future.  If you’re interested in learning more about conducting customer journey mapping send me a reply/comment and I will be happy to provide additional insight and guidance.