Marketing success starts with your customers

By Tara, May 24, 2010 6:39 pm

As a marketer, you are probably already listening to your customers when they provide feedback via surveys, customer support, and focus groups. But it’s critical to also listen to your customers when they are talking about your company in online reviews, ratings, or through social media like Twitter and Facebook.

The beauty of the Internet today is that you can get immediate feedback about your products and services. The key is to listen carefully and react swiftly and appropriately.

Example of Inappropriate “Listening”

The other day, I was checking out for my Mom’s birthday gift. I wanted to get her an outdoor heater or fire pit for her patio. I ended up changing my mind and went with another fabulous gift (if I do say so myself). But imagine my surprise when I received an email from amazon a few days later recommending more outdoor fire pits. Hello, stalker!!

Targeted email from Amazon

Targeted email from Amazon

As a marketeter, I understand that amazon has an enormous amount of data on me every time I visit their site. I applaud their ability to implement some ingenious marketing tactics to increase average order value and drive future sales. However, the email that I received crossed the line and seemed rather creepy to me.

Example of Appropriate “Listening”

There are several great websites that empower customers to share reviews on local restaurants, services, doctors, etc. If you are not yet familiar with them, checkout Angie’s List, Kudzu, and Yelp.

Below is an example of a cleaning company that monitors their reviews on They received a less than favorable review and responded appropriately and immediately. This type of response provided goodwill to their dissatisfied customer and also let potential customers know that they are listening, they care, and they are working hard to make their customers happy. Because of this response, I decided to give them a shot and they have been cleaning my house for over a year now.

Kudzu Review

As marketing experts, it’s important for us to remember that our traditional ways of listening to our customers are still important but it’s critical for us to monitor those online reviews and forums. Protect your brand, build good will, increase awareness, and drive business with some simple online monitoring followed by timely and appropriate messaging.

So tell me! What is your company doing to listen more effectively and respond to your customers?

Consumers prefer socially responsible brands

By Tara, March 31, 2010 5:55 pm
Better World iPhone App

Better World iPhone App

Transparency and corporate responsibility have become far more important to consumers in a tough economy, according to a new survey by firms Landor Associates, Penn Schoen Berland and Burson-Marsteller.

As reported in a recent Brandweek article, the survey measured consumer perceptions of corporate social responsibility practices and ranked companies that are the most responsible. It found that despite the recession, 75% of consumers believe social responsibility is important, and 55% of consumers said they would choose a product that supports a particular cause against similar products that don’t.

So what does that mean for us as consumers? The average American family spends around $18,000 each year on goods and services. Think of it as casting 18,000 votes every year for the kind of world you want to live in. The question is, how do we know what company to “vote” for?

The Better World Shopping Guide is a handy guide to determine which brands to buy and which to avoid. For example, I think we all know that Ben & Jerry’s is an obvious choice in natural ice cream and they (naturally) scored an A+ in the Shopping Guide. Yum! But would you have guessed that Dreyer’s and Haagen Daaz both received an F in the Shopping Guide? I was rather shocked to learn that.

This book scores companies on over 25 different criteria that fall into five different categories including human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement, and social justice. They also have a Better World iPhone app to make shopping with a social conscience that much easier for just $1.99. So the next time you pick up some more laundry detergent, you can quickly and easily make your “vote” count by purchasing the detergent that makes the grade. Sadly, my Woolite scored a D+ so it looks like I need to try something new.

Ultimately, this means that companies need to step up their game when it comes to doing the right thing. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is playing an increasingly important role in purchasing decisions. Companies need to incorporate genuine CSR standards and avoid the “greenwashing” effect.

The team at Seventh Generation wrote a book on the success stories of companies that have embraced CSR goals from within and have outperformed their competitors by 15% on average. THE RESPONSIBILITY REVOLUTION: How the Next Generation of Businesses Will Win tells how revolutionary companies – ranging from industry heavyweights like IBM, Nike, and British merchandising giant Marks & Spencer are winning customers and driving profits.

Tell us! What changes have you made to your spending habits? And what is your company doing to achieve its CSR goals and ensure it gets those socially responsible “votes”?

Ronald McDonald should use the power of the McBrand.

By Tara, March 30, 2010 10:52 pm
First McDonald's Restaurant

First McDonald's Restaurant

You’d be hard pressed to find a person in the US who doesn’t immediately recognize the Golden Arches and start salivating for those yummy, salty fries. McDonald’s has done an excellent job of creating the most well-known global brand and maintaining that brand image. But I think they are falling short when it comes to responding to the request for Ronald McDonald’s retirement.

According to Corporate Accountability International, the company that launched campaigns against tobacco and water bottle companies, our dear friend Ronald McDonald is to blame for childhood obesity in the United States. CAI is campaigning for McDonald’s to retire Ronald because he is a bad influence on our children.

To this criticism, a McDonald’s spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune that Ronald McDonald is “the heart and soul of Ronald McDonald House Charities, which lends a helping hand to families in their time of need. Ronald also helps deliver messages to families on many important subjects such as safety, literacy and the importance of physical activity and making balanced food choices.”

Well that’s a good start but I think that McDonald’s is missing out on a few key factors:

1. They could reinforce the fact that they offer healthy options in those coveted Happy Meals, including milk and apple slices and remind parents that they need to help their children make healthy decisions.

2. They should incorporate Ronald in their Passport to Play program, which has provided a unique physical education program to over 40,000 elementary schools in the US.

3. They could take advantage of the power of their brand and launch a simple counter campaign through Twitter (@mcdonalds has over 20,000 followers) or Facebook (McD’s has nearly two million fans).

    I expect that the team at McDonald’s is working on a more aggressive response to the call for Ronald’s retirement. After all, he has been the face of their company since 1966. He still has a few more years in him! What would you do in their (giant red) shoes?

    How to make your social media marketing more effective.

    By Tara, March 29, 2010 4:33 pm
    The effectiveness of social media marketing

    Social Media Marketing Effectiveness

    Marketing Sherpa recently surveyed about 2,000 marketing professionals to see how effectively they were achieving their goals with social media marketing. This chart brings up an interesting topic…just HOW do you go about achieving these goals with 140 characters or less? Following are some social media marketing tips that I’d like to share to help you achieve your goals.

    Increase brand or product awareness: Think of social networks like Twitter and Facebook similar to a cocktail party. No one wants to hang out with someone who talks about me, me, me and more me. Before joining in on the conversation, listen to what people are talking about, add relevant comments, tweet about industry news, and then sprinkle in some valuable information about your products, services, or company.

    Increase brand or product reputation: Setup keyword alerts that notify you when someone tweets or posts something about your company or products. Praise those who have something good to say. Do immediate damage control on those who aren’t happy. Fix their problems and you will have a loyal customer on your hands.

    Improve public relations: The media is now turning to social media to locate the subject matter experts that they need for their articles. Be a thought leader in your industry and the journalists will want to talk with you, which will garner more press coverage for your company. Follow @HelpaReporter to get Tweets from journalists looking for experts.

    Increase website traffic: The trick is to have value-add information on your website to draw visitors there. Instead of posting dry information about your products, give readers quick tips, comparison charts, ROI calculators, etc.

    Improve search engine rankings: Google is now listing relevant social media links in their search results. This is huge. Take advantage of it. The more relevant links from authoritative sites that point to your website, the faster your site will rise to the top of organic listings. What better way to generate buzz than through the plethora of social networks and user-generated content sites?

    Improve customer support quality: Social media is changing the way we must think about customer service. If someone is unhappy with your product or company, they can have an immediate impact that reaches far and wide. Monitor social networking sites and resolve issues before they explode.

    Increase lead generation: This is a tricky one. You can use social media for lead generation if you are adding value. Many people are reluctant to complete online forms because they don’t want to be spammed.

    Reduce customer acquisition costs: Yes, social media is free to use and it’s just an investment of your time. If you manage your time well, it can become a very inexpensive tool to garner new customers.

    Increase sales revenue: If you sell online, try posting exclusive discounts for your Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Ask your customers to leave a review on Kudzu or Yelp and offer them a discount for future purchases.

    Social media networks and user generated content sites can be a powerful force in your marketing plan. By tapping into these resources, you can take your marketing to the next level.