Trends that could trip you

Second step in loyalty: connect to a shared interest

Tq-120815-tbMost businesses plung into a loyalty program with their most frequent or biggest customers. Although it's not a mistake, there are pitfalls in this approach. We may discover that our biggest customer is only accidentally our customer--a big cause for concern on many levels. 

Before we invest in in a loyalty program, we check our most important customers to find out WHY they are using our services. In the first place, we'll discover whether or not it's sustainable. Then we enter a loyalty program with our eyes open as to the real long-term opportunities. 

Hub Magazine: Sweet Spot (Excerpt from Aaker on Branding), 2014-Sep/Oct, by David Aaker

To connect with a shared-interest area provides avenues to a relationship much richer than those of an offering-based relationship that, for most brands, is driven by a functional benefit and is relatively shallow and vulnerable. Further, people attribute all sorts of good characteristics to brands that they like and with whom they share values and interests. If Pampers is so intimately informed and involved in baby care, its products will be perceived to be both innovative and high quality.

A shared interest also provides a source of energy for the brand. All brands need energy. It is a discouraging truth that brands throughout the world that lack energy have been losing equity for more than a decade at a disturbing rate. It is not easy to inject energy into a brand that is not one of the rare brands blessed with visible innovation or high customer involvement. One answer is to create a shared-interest program that will serve to energize the brand through its innovation, involvement, or purpose-driven content.


Get ahead of the curve in serving your customers

One of the most important reasons to gather information about our customers is to plan the future of our company. Our competitive edge is the ability to use that information to better satisfy and anticipate customer needs. 

Searchblog: Living Systems and the Information First Company, 2014-Oct-11 by John Battelle

Put another way, NewCos are "information first" companies. They map the flows of information in a market, and organize themselves so as to exploit or leverage those information flows, even if the flows are "potential information" - information used in a new way, a manner which may be more efficient, productive, or valuable. Put information first, and let that determine how best to organize energy and matter. Industrial era-companies, on the other hand, value their hard assets first (energy, matter), and only view information as a way to organize or protect those assets.


How to educate our customers for their own success

We can either educate our customers to succeed in their business or to succeed in our business. 

Why would we educate them to succeed in our business?? Well, that's what we do when we try to get them to excel at using our products and services. Instead, our products and services are only a means to the end goal of their success in their business. 

Our best customers may be inept and infrequent users of our products and services but that may be just fine. If there's one small but important thing they can only do with our help, and if that thing means greater success... and if they know it, we will have succeeded. 

Medium.com: Advice for startups trying to educate their customers, 2014-Aug-13, from Des Traynor interview by Andreea Mihalcea

There are two types of education for your customers: teach them how to use your product and how to get results.

If you want to take Workable as example, one piece is “here’s how to post a job”, and, the more important piece is “here’s what a great job post looks like”. Keep in mind that when someone tries to assess if a product is good, it’s not about him being able to create a job post. It’s about him being able to get job applicants. The same applies to Mention or any other tool — they can teach you how to use their interface, or they can teach you what are the right things to search for.

A lot of people focus too heavily on teaching how to use their tool forgetting that teaching how to get results is actually more important. You need webinars, documentation, articles and screencasts to help your users get much better at using your product.


Using email introductions to help people

To become a leader in our industry, we have to become known for providing valuable introductions. Unfortunately, it also means establishing new habits and skills. Michael Simmons has some very helpful tips. 

Inc.com: Stop Doing This One Thing in Email Introductions to Busy People, 2014-Oct-8 by Michael Simmons

[Not] giving your contacts enough context on why an introduction is being made is the most common mistake that smart people make over and over....

Michaels's tips for making the introduction click:

  1. Point to the common problem or passion you see that will make these two people happy to connect.
  2. Explain them to each other, and do not just provide links to be clicked. 
  3. Show them at their best. 
  4. Explain how you know them. 
  5. Triangulate them... where could they meet?
  6. Then provide links where they could follow up. 

Searching for offline places online

If we're building up a physical place, we have to remember that people often come to an offline place from an online place. Does our web site completely and correctly convery the physical experience? How can we generate a desire among our viewers to meet each other at our place?

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Hub Magazine: Bricks & Cliques, 2014-Aug-15 by Christine Hall of Landor Associates

People go online to find new things to do locally and to be a part of what’s going on in their community. They can watch videos and read reviews to determine if they’ve found a brand and brand experience with which they might want to connect. Brands that use technology to drive foot traffic to an in-person experience are more successful in building community and loyalty around their brand.

Julep Beauty is a great example of this. Founded by Jane Park, a former Starbucks executive, Julep Beauty was launched as a small chain of beauty salons intended to double as a laboratory for testing new products. The larger play was to use the stores to build a community and capitalize on the conversations that naturally happen at salons. Park has now extended that conversation into the online sphere, with thousands of women actively playing a role in designing new products.


Why analyzing customer data takes a janitor

When it comes to analyzing customer data, we are often surprised to find it difficult and time consuming. Unless we've been doing it for awhile, we'll be bummed to discover inaccurate data, gaps and conflicts. No matter how small our business, it's never to late to start creating a customer database that speaks to us. Cleaning the data is not that much different from housekeeping services. We can put it off, but the problems will just pile up.

NY Times: For Big-Data Scientists, 'Janitor Work' Is Key Hurdle to Insights", 2014-Aug-17 by Steve Lohr

Data scientists, according to interviews and expert estimates, spend from 50 percent to 80 percent of their time mired in this more mundane labor of collecting and preparing unruly digital data, before it can be explored for useful nuggets.

“Data wrangling is a huge — and surprisingly so — part of the job,” said Monica Rogati, vice president for data science at Jawbone, whose sensor-filled wristband and software track activity, sleep and food consumption, and suggest dietary and health tips based on the numbers. “It’s something that is not appreciated by data civilians. At times, it feels like everything we do.”


Understanding email resistance

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My millenial-age daughter can really let the email pile up. But she's not substantially different than the rest of us who fall behind from time to time. Corporations who 'ban email' are actually attacking a lazy employee habit of using email to avoid teamwork. We've all done it. "I'll just send out an email and then I can say I tried."

Email is NOT a single thing, it's a much-abused platform. Alexis Madrigal makes an important point that it's very much the successor to the letter (or within a corporation, the memo). He also makes the point that email clients (Outlook, GMail, Boxer, Apple Mail, etc.) have been able to improve our ease-of-use because email is an open platform. And the searchable email is dramatically better at perserving information in a useable form.

Of course, email isn't the right medium for every message. When writing an email, you have to think about the end-user and how they would like to receive the message. In its persistence, flexibility, searchability, and shareability, you have to honor the email format. Use it to serve the reader.

The Atlantic: Email is Still the Best Thing on the Internet, 2014-Aug-14 by Alexis C. Madrigal

And what's changing isn't a product that must be rolled out to all users, but an ecosystem that provides niches for all kinds of different emailers. 

Perhaps the way, then, to recover some of the old web, before the dominance of Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, isn't to build new competitors to those companies, but to redouble our use and support of good old email.

Email—yes, email—is one way forward for a less commercial, less centralized web, and the best thing is, this beautiful cockroach of a social network is already living in all of our homes. 

Now, all we have to do is convince the kids that the real rebellion against the pressures of social media isn't to escape to the ephemerality of Snapchat, but to retreat to the private, relaxed confines of their email inboxes.