“…there is tremendous value in the true words of your satisfied customers. When they are willing to talk about their first-hand experience with your company, product or service, and share the value they have seen, their words carry a lot more weight than any collateral materials ever can.”
I met Blogger Casey Hibbard on the web this week. We discussed Compelling Cases, her company, and how relationships connect an audience to a business. Casey explains case studies in such a way that I’m surprised more people don’t use the tool.
Case studies offer customers an opportunity to see your product in action, understand the problem(s) it solves and evaluate whether the solution could work for them. This non-threatening, persuasive approach is particularly effective for those selling a high end product or one with a long sales cycle. A case study can be an effective tool for each of a company’s critical audiences. Consider:
- Stakeholders: major vendors, bankers or friends and family can be overlooked in company communication. A case study brings this audience up to date and offers a different view of “their” company.
- Feedback from employees not connected to the sales process indicates that case studies offer insight and information; the understanding that such knowledge fosters translates to better teams.
- Customers also appreciate the opportunity to understand the application of a product or process in the field. Presentation of case studies can add to the credibility of the seller as well as his/her firm. The case study may reinforce a purchasing decision or sway one.
- The general public can view case studies on the web; once again, such information adds to understanding and continues to market on a 24/7 basis for the company.
- Case studies provide the media with specifics they love: background for a feature story, additional information about a business, and so on. The well written case study can even offer story angles that the media can then present to their audience. Trade magazines sometimes feature case studies because they provide interesting examples of a product in action. In the process, the case study enhances company visibility.
If you haven’t considered a case study, think again. It may be a new tactic to add to your marketing tool chest. In a world where mass marketing is becoming less and less effective, could a case study sell your story to potential customers?
No joke! in this case. My Online Media Room workshop debuts 9:00 – 10:30am Tuesday, April 1 at EXHIB-IT! TradeShow Marketing Experts.
An Online Media Room (OMR) communicates information about you and your company to the media and to key stakeholders. What’s even more significant, taking the steps to implement an OMR levels the playing field. How? Not every firm uses this relatively new tool. If you add an OMR to your web arsenal, you’ll be in a position to lead your competitive field and provide information to a variety of audiences on a 24/7 basis.
An OMR informs about what’s happening currently. In most instances, it’s a section of your website easily accessed from the home page. I’ve developed a list of dozens of reasons to include an OMR in your web content.
During the coming weeks I’ll explore these reasons and give examples of sites that use an OMR well and less so. What do you think about an online media room for your firm?
Laura Milligan, writing for Bootstrapper posted 100 Tiny Tips to Create and Maintain Customers this week. Best of all, the tips are categorized: where to find customers, networking with customers, website tricks, spoiling them, being attentive, executive specials, hassle free, effective efficient communications and so on. Not only does this list have significant resources on it, there are additional links and tip sheets embedded in the copy.
Priority one for any entrepreneur means taking care of customers. If you haven’t contacted a customer today, take time to reach out and connect today. Mary Schmidt blogged “I’d take a bullet for them.” Ok. It’s not as exciting, but I have two simple things that anyone can add to their customer care.
First of all, say thank you. Thank you (particularly if it’s a sincere, handwritten thank you note) is always appropriate. I can think of no situation in which a thank you note did not further endear me to its author.
Secondly, listen. Rather than multi-tasking, give 100% attention to your customer, even if you are on the phone. Your attention makes a difference. Again, listening gives you the opportunity to connect; in the process, you often hear a way in which you can add value with little effort for a customer. For example, you might offer a referral or give them information that solves a small dilemma. The little things like that build strong ties and create ongoing loyalty.
Ask yourself: what do I do for customers? How do you let them know you’re pleased to do business with them?
ProfitMeister offers marketing commentary including examples of communication wins, losses draws from a cadre of small business owners. Given my experience of the past few weeks, I’m suggesting anyone think twice before adopting Comcast broadband.
On an irregular basis, two or three days a week, I find that I can’t get mail to users with Comcast account because my ISP has been blocked. Frustrating? Yes! Problematic? No question. I’m told that this happens because Comcast has detected spam. I certainly didn’t send spam. Why then am I penalized? This is tantamount to restraint of trade.
When I contact my ISP provider, they assured me they were aware of the problem and had been working non-stop on the issue. Every day they petition Comcast to unblock the address. Meanwhile, hundreds of customers are being inconvenienced. This is as if an entire phone exchange was blocked for harassing phone calls.
It’s apparent from glancing at a number of forums that Comcast, the world’s largest broadband supplier has simply blacklisted providers; when the complaints get loud enough, things typically change. What a ridiculous, non-customer-centric approach. Now that Comcast is also providing phone service will they shut down an entire exchange if harassing phone calls are reported?
Comcast uses techniques like these for forced upgrades. A local advertising agency, Mulhern Advertising, recently had its account blocked by Comcast for an email infraction involving a “large” mailing to 238 names in the course of four emails. Truth was, this was a permission-based list for a non-profit organization, the New Mexico Symphony Guild. According to Comcast in this instance, a business account with a required contract of 12 or 24 months was required to guarantee the unblocking of the address.
Puh-leeze. This is a thinly disguised ploy to raise rates and require people to jump through more hoops. Customer oriented? I think not. It’s fighting dirty in my book. What do you think?
Planning a publicity calendar seems like a lot of trouble to most clients and they ask questions like, “What’s the use of planning one more press release?” or, “Why do I need to promote this month when the paper didn’t print anything last time?” I frequently hear complaints related to public relations because we’ve come to believe in instant gratification in all things.
Free publicity? Send a press release. If you release it, press will print it, right? And, free press means more customers, larger sales, and so on. This is only one of the myths of public relations. But I digress.
Realistically, even if your news is timely it may take a back seat to the happenings of the day. Sometimes a good feature story gets buried and you assume it will never see the light of day. The one constant I can promise: if you do nothing, nothing will happen.
Case in point: Betty’s Bath and Day Spa and the story of their interns. Elissa Breitbard, owner, supports the local Valley High School, two blocks from her business by offering student internships. In May 2007 she pitched a story about high school interns to Yes!, a teen section of the Albuquerque Journal.
Since school was near term completion the editor suggested calling back in the Fall. By then, other stories seemed to carry more importance. Elissa assumed that nothing would happen and was surprised to hear a story would run in February.
Moral: Publicity now may not necessarily mean today. Publicity, like farming, is a matter of planting seeds. That’s why an ongoing campaign works; good stories show up. Some times they are simply later. In the case of Betty’s Bath and Day Spa, the story and a favorable picture ran nearly 10 months after the idea was presented. It didn’t diminish the story’s importance or impact at all.
So, how’s your marketing? What seeds did you plant today?
Last Saturday, for example, I traveled 118 miles to Santa Rosa, New Mexico, the City of Natural Lakes, for the dedication of the ‘Bless Me, Ultima’ Rudolfo Anaya Sculpture Park. It was a perfect excursion: spring weather, good friends for company, short ceremony, great luncheon, good scenery.
Just for fun, I went online to discover more information. The event, sponsored by the Santa Rosa Main Street Group and the City of Santa Rosa was part of the Arts and Murals Program which promotes art in public places.
Bless Me Ultima, selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for its national initiative “The Big Read,” is a book from one of today’s most influential authors in contemporary Chicano literature. There might be thousands of web entries that reference Rudolfo Anaya, but I could find no single website. Similarly, when I checked for Sculptor Reynaldo “Sonny” Rivera I realized that I’d found a shell and there were no specifics beyond the pictures on his home page. In fact, the template language is actually visible in the “about” section of the site. Oops!
Fellow blogger and marketing troubleshooter Mary Schmidt and I discussed web developers today and the state of cookie cutter websites. NOTE: Mary hates anything cookie cutter. So, I’m happy to bring her attention to a definitely different retail marketing effort by HEMA, a Dutch department store.
Obviously the computer programmer who did this has a sense of humor. (NOTE: Give the site a minute to load; you can’t order a thing. Just enjoy.) HEMA operates 56 stores in the Netherlands and nine in Germany; they were purchased by British investment company Lion Capital in June, 2007.
Now, tell me: how does your product page compare?