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March 2019

10 posts from April 2019

How to use a loyalty program to create customer-investors in our businesses

Loyalty programs are frequently misunderstood. Used properly, they allow both the customers and the business owner to realize benefits from investing in a long-term relationship.  

  1. Get customer profiles into a data repository. is free and as easy as a spreadsheet PLUS much less vulnerable to user error. Or get a real CRM... 
  2. Find a way to connect customer profiles to behavior... Credit card I.D.? Loyalty card? Phone number? Be sure that one customer doesn't end up with multiple accounts which will make that customer seem less important. 
  3. Allow customers to build up capital in the account. Purchases are a start, but consider social media engagement and referrals, too. 
  4. Create a program that allows your customer-investors to get some ROI. Make it scale... more investment = more return. 
  5. Learn, learn, improve, raising our own return in investment. Contributor:"What's the Point?" Guidelines to Customer Loyalty Programs, 2019-Apr-12 by Ashish Merchant

So why do so many brands use a points-based program?  One simple answer is to raise the value of the engagement with every transaction.  A flat discount (often advocated to extend “instant gratification”) may motivate customers to use multiple cards, not allowing the brand to distinguish between multiple transactions by the same users and multiple users.  However, reward points create an incentive for the customer to use the same card (or mobile phone number) repeatedly. Brands also build in a system to create stronger incentives for frequent users or high-value clients by way of program tiers which create higher levels of benefits.  This raises the stakes as the relationship progresses (the total value of accumulated rewards points is far higher at the end of a year, making the card perceived to be more valuable). 


How to create a retail experience that allows us to compete against Amazon

As Amazon expands into the grocery business, we can learn great lessons from the companies which are competing effectively, especially Walmart and Trader Joe's. Walmart's success is mostly about distribution power, but Trader Joe's uses techniques which any retailer can copy. 

The Trader Joe's approach to retail:

  1. Make it personal
  2. Make it enjoyable
  3. Make it easy to manage transactions
  4. Make us feel like we are supporting the community.

Harvard Business Review: What the Grocery Stores Holding their Own Against Amazon are doing Right, 2019-Apr-12 by Amit Sharma

The nature of customer loyalty is changing as shoppers get more comfortable buying groceries online — prioritizing convenience, choice, and ease over physical proximity to a store. As consumers become more sophisticated, retailers need to inspire lasting loyalty across their customer base. To do it, they should offer flexibility, proactively communicate about order status and other details, and build emotional connections with shoppers.... 

And people are emotionally connected to grocers, as utilitarian as grocery shopping may seem. For example, Trader Joe’s, which ranked highly in the C Space study, inspires loyalty by creating an enjoyable shopping atmosphere. A 2018 Forrester survey of 287 brands rated Trader Joe’s first in positive customer experiences, and the company regularly outranks other grocery chains in sales per square foot. Trader Joe’s fans closely follow new product releases, request stores in their towns, and have even created their own community on Reddit.

Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer grocery delivery, but it has created such a personal and enjoyable shopping experience that customers actually want to visit its stores. Everything at Trader Joe’s is designed to make grocery shopping feel more friendly, personal, and laid-back, including its flexible return policies, free samples, quirky product labels, fast check-out, and helpful employees.... 

Grocers need to offer their customers more than points-based customer loyalty programs, which are no longer a competitive differentiator. Most grocery chains offer similar benefits and do little to foster an emotional connection between a shopper and a brand. A study by Accenture found that 78% of shoppers abandon loyalty programs after signing up.

By investing in the factors that build long-lasting loyalty instead of transactional programs that most people ignore, grocers can attract repeat buyers and brand advocates.


Exploring our options on Pinterest

I've been trying to put together images from creatives in Houston on Pinterest, but it's very difficult because the identification on the images is so poor. I don't mind that people mix up the images from all over, but I'm frustrated in trying to figure where an image originated. 

Nevertheless, I think Pinterest will be very important in showing people how inspiring it is to live here. 

VentureBeat: Mid-funnel: Pinterest’s undisputed superpower, 2019-Apr-18 by Aaron Goldman of 4C Insights

More than 250 million people are now using Pinterest every month to immerse themselves in new ideas and deepen their engagement with their favorite hobbies. Interestingly, a full 97 percent of the most popular searches on Pinterest are unbranded — meaning searchers on Pinterest are truly in exploration mode. They haven’t made up their minds yet. They don’t know exactly what they want. Instead, they come to Pinterest to be inspired, and they are open to all sources of inspiration, whether those be brand sponsored or consumer generated. In this context, brands are welcome additions within the community, and the visual nature of Pinterest’s search engine opens up vast possibilities for advertisers.

Because mid-funnel consumer activity revolves so heavily around content, tracking impact in this realm has been historically difficult. To date, lower-funnel ad platforms have been the beneficiaries of this opacity when it comes to claiming credit for conversions. But with Pinterest, a new standard for return-on-investment has been brought to influential mid-funnel activity.


What makes people choose Houston?

What makes Houston more desirable than other Texas cities like Dallas, Austin or San Antonio? H-Town is progressive and may be attracting almost as many millennials to its city as Austin. It’s also one of the most rapidly growing cities in the country, which isn’t just by happenstance. Perhaps the reason people move to Houston boils down to the fact that it is a well-rounded, desirable place to live. Ask any Houston resident—native or transplant—and they’ll beam with pride and explain just how much living in Houston has influenced their life for the better.

We’ve come up with some of the top reasons to move to Houston based on some of the city’s most advantageous pros. And just so you have a full picture, we’ll also be discussing some of the drawbacks if you decide to move here. Already made your decision to relocate to Houston? Skip ahead for some sound moving advice and resources.

    1. Living in Houston is more affordable than other large metropolitans.
    2. Figuring out where to live in Houston is simple.
    3. It is possible to buy a house in Houston on a modest income.
    4. The populations in Houston is booming thanks to the job market. 
    5. You can bring your car when you relocate to Houston.
    6. Students have access to all of Texas' top universities.
    7. The food in Houston is diverse and world famous. 
    8. And there's not shortage of places to work out. 
    9. There are thousands of things to do in Houston. 
    10. Being outside in Houston is enjoyable most of the year. 
    11. People in Houston stick together in tough times. 
    12. Moving to Houston is a breeze with the right resources.


Why does U.S.News "Best Places to Live" report rank Austin #1 and Houston #30?

It's challenging to try and compare Houston to all other American cities, but comparing Houston to Austin is helpful, especially if Austin is 'the best' according to U.S. News and World Report. Creative professionals in Houston usually have some direct experience of Austin, so personal knowledge can come into play. 

HoustonAustinHere are some things to consider:

  1. Should Houston try and become more like Austin? 
  2. Are the differences in geography always going to hold Houston back? 
  3. Is the general American perception of Austin any more accurate than the perception of Houston? 
  4. Are there subtle differences between the way the general population sees these two cities and how creatives, entrepreneurs and innovators see the cities? 
  5. Has the popularity of Austin among employers (especially technology companies) created a momentum that forces Houston to fight back against a 'rising tide'? 
  6. Is Houston doing as much as it should to leverage its University communities? Does having two well-known but different schools (U of H and Rice) lead to a less focused image? 

Hacking the Data

U.S. News's Net Migration number is based on U.S. Census data, but the Desirability is based on an online survey. Their Quality of Life Index is has many components and sources, and you can read about it here: 

U.S. News & World Report: How We Rank the Best Places to Live & Retire, 2019

Desirability Survey: Using SurveyMonkey, we polled approximately 2,500 people across the country to find out in which of the ranked metro areas they would most like to live. The metro areas were then ranked according to the percentage of the total votes they received.

By the way, Houston was 26th in Best Places to Retire, and Austin was 4th. For retirees, we get closer together. 

Knowing our customers vs. verifying their identity

We can know our customers on many different levels, for many different purposes. For a cafe owner or server, the most important way to 'know a customer' may be to recognize the face of a regular, whether or not a name or address is ever acquired. For a bank, identity and background have to be checked before an account can be opened. 

Facebook and Twitter know many intimate details of our lives, yet they make no effort to verify identity, leading to some really serious problems. I agree with Andrew (see below). We need to figure this out, and I suggest we designate a third party... maybe or

NY Times: To Purge Some of Social Media’s Ugliness, an Unlikely Lesson From Wall St., 2019-Apr-10 by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Although it won’t address all of Big Tech’s problems, a simple rule that bolsters the banking system could do a lot to clean up some of the uglier aspects of social media that Mr. Zuckerberg felt compelled to apologize for. 

The concept is “know your customer” — or KYC, as it’s called on Wall Street — and it’s straightforward: Given concerns about privacy, security and fraud when it comes to money, no bank is allowed to take on a new customer without verifying its existence and vetting its background.... 

When I broached the idea of applying a “know your customer” principle to their business, several senior executives at social media companies recoiled at the prospect, questioning how they would pull off such a huge feat, especially in emerging markets where many people lack credit cards, and even fixed street addresses can be hard to come by.

Then there are the legitimate complaints about Facebook and its ilk already knowing too much about users. Who would want them to know even more? And what would the companies do to protect personal information better than they have in the past? After all, not long ago, Facebook disclosed that tens of millions of user passwords had not been stored securely.

But the stakes may be too high not to consider some kind of heightened verification process.... 

There is a precedent for adapting such a regimen for social media: NextDoor, a social network that helps people communicate in their local communities, won’t let new users sign up unless their addresses can be verified.... 

The company doesn’t disclose user numbers, only that it is in more than 200,000 neighborhoods. Reports suggest it has tens of millions of users, a far cry from the billions using more popular social networks. If introducing such a system at that scale is too daunting, testing it in the United States and Canada first might be one way to start.


The rebranding problem for Texas, Houston, and all the rest

I appreciate Chris Tomlinson's recent article about rebranding Texas, and I don't disagree with his point, but... 

As a marketing professional, I always raise a skeptical eyebrow when someone says something has to be 'rebranded.' 

Changing the message doesn't change perceptions. Changing behavior changes perceptions. If we want Texas to be seen as a dynamic, diverse, and sophisticated place, we have to vote, run companies, and participate in enterprises that demonstrate it. 

Chris and Hajj Flemings acknowledge that. Now we have to find ways to inspire Texans to fulfill all our capabilities. 

Houston Chronicle: Texas needs a rebranding away from racially charged myths, 2019-Apr-10 by Chris Tomlinson

The adoption of the Western identity, after all, was an intentional rebranding of the state. In my book about my family’s five generations in Texas, "Tomlinson Hill," I describe how state leaders wanted to slough off the Southern, white supremacist identity that dominated until the 1940s when state leaders made Big Tex the new icon.... 

Many native Texans may want to deny it, but our state already suffers from a bad reputation. Employers and economic development offices continuously complain about how young professionals and innovative companies won’t come here because they think it is a hot, regressive, cultural wasteland.

Those perceptions, which include only a sliver of truth, hurt local businesses. But think about the number of visitors who say Texas wildly exceeded their expectations for culture and graciousness. Or how surprised they are to find San Antonio is a fundamentally Hispanic city, and Houston is arguably the most diverse in the U.S. with a globalized culture second to none.

Here is the opportunity, because most authentic brands are based on truth, not public-relations exercises. They bubble up from residents, entrepreneurs and companies, said Hajj Flemings, founder of Rebrand Cities, a technology firm focused on boosting economic development.