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10 posts from July 2014

Amazon continues making itself indispensable

Tq140416tdI confess that well-deserved pity for Hachette authors has not led me to boycott Amazon. (Hachette can take care of itself.) As a book lover, Amazon has done more to improve my quality of life than any traditional publisher. Kindle, wish lists, free shipping for the patient, excellent search capabilities, a sound recommendation engine, and many other little conveniences have made me a better book buyer. And I hope the authors are grateful for that.

I tried Prime for one year and came to the conclusion that it led me to buy books too impulsively. I prefer to space out my purchases and bundle them into a free shipment every other month. If I need to read something immediately, I can get it on Kindle. However, Prime is definitely the loyalty program that Amazon is banking on.

Bloomberg View: Amazon Sets Fire to Its Money-Losing Business Plan, 2014-Jun-19 by Ben Thompson

Call it the whale strategy. In this view, Amazon sees the Fire Phone as a means of earning a disproportionate amount of profit from the sorts of loyal customers who were featured in the video that opened yesterday's keynote. In this view, instead of the Fire Phone being a means of driving e-commerce, e-commerce is in fact a means of capturing customers and building loyalty; Prime deepens the connections, and the profitability; and at the final stage, the Fire Phone makes more profit in a single purchase than anything that came before, even as it drives an even-deeper connection with the customer.

You and your customer rate the relationship together

Tq140708sdCustomers have many ways to rate your service. Are you giving them the opportunity to bond with you or to victimize you? Recently, I had to meet some friends at a bar I'd never seen. So to set my expectations, I decided to look at the reviews on Yelp. I was surprised to see how many people had blown up minor service errors into major attacks. I'm willing to bet they wouldn't have looked the bartender or bar owner in the eye and said the same thing. They would have been forced to deal with their mutual humanity. Take every opportunity to interact with your customers and see how they feel. Don't wait until they've moved on and look back.

New York Magazine: Uber Anxiety: When Your Car Service is Judging You Back, 2014-Jun-4 by Kevin Roose

In a way, Uber’s bilateral rating system is an overdue equalizer. Businesses have lived and died on their Yelp reviews for years, and the ability to punish bad service has always been completely in the customer's hands. That's still the case in some industries. (A dry cleaner has no way to warn other dry cleaners about a rude or annoying customer, and there’s no centralized database for restaurants to compare notes on bad tippers.) But now, on peer-to-peer services like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, both buyer and seller have an incentive to be on their best behavior. In a bilateral feedback universe where past behavior determines who's willing to serve you, a bad rating can be hugely influential. (Imagine getting the worst seat at every restaurant you step into, because you once yelled at a server.)

When it comes to CRM--"No single event has very much value."

Good CRM is either a habit or a struggle. Customer relationship management is not actually management. In the 1990's "crm software," such as ACT! for the personal computer and enterprise-based systems such as Brock provided a way to proactively manage data for selling. Tq140707edThese software products were tools for businesses that wanted to be systematic, even automated, in their sales activities. Many of the features designed then are now built into our email and accounting software. 

Establishing a process, computer-driven or not, to keep up with your customers and support them in a reliable, proactive manner will make it unnecessary to go rushing into a customer relationship and rescue it in a heavy-handed way. Newsletters are just one of several important tools in a great CRM process. 

Blue Penguin Development: The Penguin and the Hare, 2002-May-10 by Michael Katz

The second similarity between exercise and newsletter publishing is that in both cases, no single event has very much value. Running six miles once won't get you in shape, and publishing one newsletter won't bring you any business. But, string together six miles a day, six days a week, 52 weeks a year for 30 years..., and it starts to add up. Like exercise, relationship building is organic. You can't speed it up and you can't take a short cut. But if you're systematic and give it some time, it's magical.