RENEGADE THINKING from the CEO of Renegade, the social media & marketing agency that helps clients make more out of less by transforming communications into "Marketing as Service."

Making Meaningful Connections w/ Heather Newman of Content Panda

01/19/15

Heather Newman_Content PandaHeather Newman, EVP & CMO of Content Panda, knows how to work a connection. In fact, Heather and her team are so willing to reach out to others that Content Panda’s entire business model is based off of partnering with enterprise businesses. As you will see in the interview below, her enthusiasm to network means she’s an ardent supporter for building a personal brand­—whether you’re looking for a new job or not. Overall, her willingness to run everything from ideas to entire pricing models by her peers isn’t just a major asset for Content Panda; it also helped her win a President’s Circle award at The CMO Club’s CMO Awards.

Drew: How did founding and serving as CEO and CMO of Creative Maven for nearly ten years help prepare you for your current venture as a co-founder and CMO of Content Panda?

It’s been an incredible journey.  My time as a full time employee on the original Microsoft SharePoint marketing team led directly to my work with Creative Maven.  At Creative Maven, I worked with clients back at Microsoft to originate the concept of the “theatre” demo area and other innovations in hundreds of tradeshows/events.  We also produced the first ever SharePoint Conference, which led to amazing connections and partnerships in that ecosystem.  My current work with Content Panda (where I am partnered with one of the original release managers for SharePoint, by the way) is the culmination of the last 15 years of understanding partner and third party needs within the Microsoft culture.  I am thrilled to be bringing much needed solutions to the marketplace with Content Panda.

Drew: Content Panda Professional is launching soon. How are you marketing this premium version of your software to users who currently use the free version? 

We are building a campaign to reach out to current customers via email and direct call downs.  The pro version is all about the ability to customize and viewing usage reporting data.  It appeals to Enterprise businesses who have SharePoint 2013 or Office 365 SharePoint Online deployments and want to go from our freemium version into a richer experience for their employees.

Drew: What role does social media play in your marketing efforts? Are there any networks or platforms that are working better for your brand than others?

Social media plays are massively important in our overall efforts to promote impactful thought leadership articles, podcasts, product reviews and brand recognition.  We use Hootsuite to schedule out tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts.  I love being able to schedule repeatable posts out 2 months out.  I’m looking at Buffer right now as well.

Drew: How are you as CMO staying on top of all the new digital marketing techniques and opportunities?

I drop into my twitter feed and LinkedIn to stay up on what’s in the marketplace once a day.  I love Gizmodo, Tech Crunch, GeekWire, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. I read all of those pretty regularly.  I also find an awesome amount of great ideas and articles by being on the newsletter lists and Twitter feeds of all of our CMOs and their companies.

Drew: Can you describe your primary content marketing initiatives this year and how they benefited your company? 

Since we are a B2B software company we spend our time creating content around building out use cases and video scripts.  We will continue to spend money on creating video demos, product specific downloadable items from our website and thought leadership pieces for our blog going into 2015.

Drew: Do you think it is important to spend time on your personal brand and if so, how do you do this without being in conflict with your organizational goals?

Absolutely, no matter what you are doing, one should always be looking for your next job or project. With all the uncertainty in the job market, spending 30 minutes a day on your own brand is an absolute must. I think the larger the corporation you are with the harder this can be though. Putting yourself out there and being thought of as a bit of a superstar can stir up a ton of politics and jealousy.  I think discussing personal brand with one’s team and leadership is the way to stay out of conflict.  You can easily make “personal brand” into a campaign/initiative that everyone participates in.  This can be simply ensuring that there is consistency on LinkedIn around how you all describe your company.  That alone can start the conversation and lead the way for everyone to participate.

Drew: What advice do you give to junior marketers when they ask about ways to manage their careers?

Join. Read. Network. Be a part. Don’t be afraid.  Through our careers, Most of us will have terrible managers & poor leadership, so you have to really DIY on guiding your own career and how you feel about your worth/work.  I would always say toot your horn, be confident, know that you do know what are talking about (most people fake it most of the time anyway and are afraid someone will figure out they don’t know as much as they do). Join marketing or other social groups to build your tribe, read books by Brene Brown, The Heath Brothers and Al Ries and participate in social media voraciously (watch the SnapChat).  Don’t stay in a job if a manager treats you badly, there are lots of opportunities out there for great people.

Drew: How important is having a strong peer network to your ability to do your job well? (explain benefits) Can you describe an instance in the past year when your peer network helped you?

Having a strong peer network is how the movers and shakers of this world get to be at the top.  I reach out all the time to colleagues to run ideas, pricing models, content by them and they do the same with me.  This is so important whether you are in startup land or the corporate world.  I left a company last April and the first thing I did is reach out to my close colleagues in my industry and to CMOs in the club.  My transition was quick to working with amazing colleagues at IT Unity.com as their CMO and also being able to really dive into driving the launch of my start-up, Content Panda’s first product. Peers should be there for you just like friends to celebrate with you when you rock it and to support you when things go sideways.  That person you need in that one moment should already be a colleague.  Ever job or project I’ve landed in the past 20 years has been through a peer or friend.

The Right Spirit of CSR w Patrón’s CMO Lee Applbaum

12/31/14

Lee Applbaum_PatronStick with me here as I drift back momentarily to one of the more profound books I remember from high school–Murder in the Cathedral. In T.S. Eliot’s classic, the protagonist Thomas Becket contemplates martyrdom and the possibility that just thinking about becoming a saint could disqualify him.  I believe that brands walk a similarly fine line with their Corporate Social Responsibility activities–it’s a great idea to do these things but celebrating them too loudly comes with some risk.  One person who clearly gets this conundrum is Lee Applbaum, CMO of Patrón Spirits.  When asked about CSR, Lee is very careful not to over sanctify Patrón’s activities and instead shares them with a matter of factness that is simply refreshing.  At the close of this two-part interview (check out Part 1 of this interview), you will get a sneak peak into Lee’s plans for 2015, which include a keen desire not to “eff it up!”  My guess? He has a really really good shot at it.

Drew: Let’s talk a little bit about corporate social responsibility. I know that as an industry you self-regulate and dedicate a certain amount of space and time to the “drink responsibly” message. What are you doing in the CSR area that goes beyond a “drink responsibly” message?

Obviously we do largely self-regulate and actually, being new to this industry, I’ve been incredibly impressed by the level of self-policing that goes on. I think for the most part, especially in the ultra-premium segment, you’ve more sophisticated companies, more sophisticated marketers, bigger brands that have a lot to lose. I think we always err on the side of doing the right thing, responsibly.

But I think one of the areas that we do a poor job communicating is in the sustainability space. Making alcohol, it does produce carbon dioxide—it’s a natural by-product from Mother Nature’s fermentation process. Nobody is going to tell you that’s not the case. But one thing that we turned up the dial on this this year that I am really proud of is our water ozonation and compost program.

One of the things that comes as a byproduct of making tequila is oxygen deficient water, basically waste water. If you take that water and you just pour it into a river, it has this nasty tendency to kill everything because nothing can breathe. Rather than doing that, we actually worked with a company that developed a water ozonation system for India that’s traditionally used for very serious water treatment issues. But we use this system in a proprietary manner to re-ozonate our wastewater.

When you make tequila and crush the agave plant to extract the juice, what you get is this fiber. We decided to take our re-ozonated wastewater and add it to immense amounts of this fiber and compost it. We compost it under hectares of these beautifully white, billowy tents that are like two stories high. And then we take this compost, which is some of the finest, most oxygen rich compost in the world. And we give it away to local farmers, not only agave growers, but the men and women who locally farm in the area. All of that is done without PR, under the radar. We just do it because it’s the right thing.

It’s our responsibility to ensure that the land that we work, our most precious asset other than our people, will endure. And that’s really important to us. I don’t want to stand here and tell you that we get a halo and wings, because making tequila does emit carbon dioxide, my toilet still has a lot of water when it flushes and we don’t have solar power all over the place, but we do do our part to make sure that we’re ecologically responsible in the way we make our tequila.

Drew: What you’re talking about is interesting to me because I think a lot of companies do struggle with when to talk about the good things that you do and when not to talk about them, right? As a marketer, when do you toot your own horn and talk about the good things that you do?

I think you pick the moments. I’ll give you a practical example. We ran an ad on Earth Day and the headline was, “This Earth Day, drink responsibly.” It was not only about the fact that every day we want to encourage you consume it responsibly, but to remind consumers that our bottles are made with recycled glass. This refers to all of our core tequila bottles, which is a vast majority of our sales volume.

I think if we had just made wide-open statements about what great global citizens we are, it could have been problematic. Instead, we were very focused on the couple of things that we do really, really well and that we are immensely proud of. It’s funny because we’re this big brand with a lot of cache and swagger, but when it comes to some of the charitable things that we do, we just are always very quiet and very humble. There is an immense amount of humility. And I think people appreciate that about us, even if it’s not conscious.

Drew: What’s on your wish list for accomplishments in 2015?

I think we still have a task in front of us, which is continuing to drive home the handcrafted artisanal nature of all of our products. It’s funny, we have these consumers who say, “Oh, it’s so cool that you’re making this handcrafted tequila.” And we respond, “Hold on a second, all of our tequila is handcrafted. Roca is one that is just hyper handcrafted.” But we’ve got to continue to drive that message.

The innovation group in our company reports into me and I challenge them to not just come up with product for product’s sake, but to reimagine artisanal tequila and what it could. We’ve got some really special limited edition stuff that will hopefully help consumers reimagine the category.

At the end of the day, we enjoy this tremendous market share. We just got our most recent brand audit back and the numbers would be almost unbelievable if they weren’t longitudinal. Brand awareness, brand consideration, brand loyalty — they’re numbers that I’ve never seen at Coke or anywhere. And so to be quite candid with you, it’s as much about not screwing it up as anything else, because there is like 98 percent to get wrong and about 2 percent to do better. So my task is to just make sure that we do what we’re doing better. For us, it’s like “just don’t eff it up Applbaum”.

Drew: That’s hilarious. The truth is that there is a lot of hungry competitors out there that would gladly steal share. And as the leader in the category, you either compete with yourself or someone else will do it for you, right?

Oh absolutely. Our tendency as CMOs is to walk in say, “What can we change? How do I put my mark on the brand?” But I think this is really a situation where there is so much right. We continue to gain share, lead the marketplace. The brand health is at its highest it has ever been. It’s really about the emotional intelligence to say, let’s amplify what’s working, let’s refine what’s not working really well and maybe we shed the very few things that are even remotely close to broken. It’s much more about having the emotional intelligence to resist changing for the sake of change, because so much is right.

If my legacy here is just making what I inherited a little bit better, man, I am happy. That is fine by me. I don’t need to do a 180-degree pivot on this brand. That would be wrong. There are other opportunities in this company. There are other categories. And by the way, there is a whole marketing organization to shape. So those things are really where I’m spending most of my time, on your people development, organization development and design, rather than deciding how to make the next pretty tequila ad.

Q+A on Repositioning with Jennifer Warren of RadioShack

11/19/14

Jennifer Warren

Creativity has always been tough to define, and even tougher to measure. But when it comes to marketing especially for a brand like Radio Shack, creativity can be the difference between another year of retrenchment and a major turnaround. So, how do you know which creative idea is the one you need? And once you have it, how do you execute?

Searching for answers, I caught up with Jennifer Warren, VP of Worldwide Marketing at RadioShack and recent winner of The CMO Award for Creativity. Our conversation ranged on a variety of topics, but her main takeaway is something that sounds a lot easier to talk about than actually get right: make sure you have a creative idea that resonates with your audience, and tell them your story in a way that inspires sharing.

Drew: Creativity can emerge in a lot different ways from how you approach problems to creative marketing campaigns.  How are you being “creative” in your current role and how has that helped you?
As a retailer in the middle of a turn-around, creativity comes into play a lot especially when it comes to day-to-day problem-solving and making the marketing budget work harder. There is always a solution for a problem, you just have to keep pushing to find the answer. And when it comes to advertising, we are majorly outspent by our competitors so one of the filters we put the advertising through, is whether it is creative enough to get people talking about it and making it easy to share.  

Drew: Some agency sages believe “it isn’t creative unless it sells.”  Do you share that belief and if so, is there still a role for branding building activities in your marketing mix that may not have an immediate or directly measurable impact on sales?
Without building your brand and standing for something beyond just price, it’s impossible to compete with some of the online only retailers. I do agree that a marketers’ job is to drive sales, but the way in which you do it is different depending on the challenge at hand and meeting both short and long-term goals.  For example, our biggest marketing challenge is that our brand has struggled in the past therefore we were not making it onto customers consideration set.  We do our share of product/price promotional activity, to drive immediate sales, but we’ve also done things (i.e, the Superbowl campaign) to try to dramatically change the way people think about our brand and get back on their consideration set.

Drew: Radio Shack has faced some strong headwinds in the last couple of years, with changes in how people buy consumer products (a lot of it has shifted online) and changing demographics. What role has marketing played in helping the brand to overcome some of these challenges?
First, you have to understand your current customers and what they need from you in order to keep them. In our case, we have a customer base that still values face-to-face interaction and someone to talk to about technology and bounce ideas off of before they buy it.  To compete, we need to dial up our strength and marketplace advantage— our in-store expertise and store experience.  At the same time, you can’t be a relevant consumer electronics retailer today without a strong online presence, because even those that want to buy in-store turn online to do research before making a decision.  With this in mind, we recently launched a new dynamic (mobile friendly) website that balances promotional selling with solution-driven and idea centric content. It’s a much better experience than before, and we see it as a foundation to continue to build our online presence.

Drew: From an overall marketing perspective, what recent program or initiative are you particularly proud of?
The development, re-platform, and launch of our new web experience- which launched on Wednesday, was a major initiative that was accomplished with a cross-functional team and in 8 months time.

Drew: What challenges have you faced in your efforts to get the entire company engaged with the brand and how have you overcome them?
I joined RadioShack because re-positioning the brand was one of the key pillars that our CEO identified within the turn-around strategy, and our entire management team believes in the importance in achieving that goal.  Nobody views it as a “marketing thing”, but rather something that we all own together and are responsible for bringing to life within our individual areas.

Drew: Mobile seems like an ideal opportunity for local engagement – what kinds of things have you tried on mobile and what if any has been working for you?
We use promotional tactics, such as Retail Me Not, to geo-target customers on their mobile devices which have worked well for us. We were also one of the only retailers to immediately begin accepting Apple Pay, and we hope to get learnings and use them to our advantage once more capabilities roll out. We’ve only scratched the surface in our mobile opportunity.

Drew: Storytelling is a big buzzword right now.  Is your brand a good storyteller and if so, can you provide an example of how you are telling that story?
Our brand promise “Anything is possible, when we do it together” is a great platform for storytelling.  We generate a lot of content that show how customers can use technology to solve problems or bring ideas to life (turn lights on and off with their cell phone and a wemo switch) or bring ideas to life (3d Print your latest prototype, and put it through our product incubator process to bring it to market). We want to partner and build a truly collaborate relationship with our customers.  Our goal is to help them realize their goals, help answer their questions and solve their problems.

Why CMOs Should FLAIC Out on Their Personal Brands

10/21/14

personal_branding-1Whether you call it Cobbler’s Children Syndrome or just basic neglect, talk to a cross-section of CMOs and you’ll discover a startling anomaly—though they dedicate their careers to building brands, very few have made time to take care of their own personal brands. This oversight leaves many a senior executive poorly positioned – especially when they become suddenly unemployed around fifty years of age, two fearsome and often concurrent inevitabilities. (If this article looks familiar, then you read it first on Forbes.com).

The good news is that many current heads of marketing are awakening to this issue.  At The CMO Club’s recent summit in Los Angeles, nearly half of the 150+ attendees joined a workshop on personal branding.  An informal survey of those folks revealed the degree of neglect—less than 20% rated their personal brand at 7 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10 and over 60% rated themselves below a 5!  This was not a case of modesty (remember we’re talking about CMOs here!) but more like deer transfixed by headlights, they want to move on but somehow they can’t.

When confronting this group with the obvious need for developing personal brands, there was little dispute.  In fact, 98% acknowledged having Googled themselves, fully recognizing that if they didn’t take care of their own reputation, Google would do it for them.  At the same time, these marketing leaders felt there were some pretty significant barriers to overcome and ranked them as follows:

  1. Insufficient time—they were simply too busy doing other aspects of their job;
  2. Conflict of interest—many felt time invested building their own brand might be interpreted as self-promotional rather than as a good for their companies;
  3. Building CEO’s brand instead—many felt obligated to focus on increasing the profile of their CEO while sublimating their own;
  4. Not sure how—in light of the above issues, many felt overwhelmed at the prospect of building their own brands and just weren’t sure where to start.

To encourage these CMOs to stop flaking out on their personal brands, I offered up a tongue-in-cheek acronym, FLAIC, which they both appreciated and responded to with a request for greater detail.  And at the risk of oversimplifying what is a career-long exercise, here is FLAIC (Focus, Lead, Adapt, Invest, Cultivate) spelled out, a 5-step process for marketers to build their personal brands:

FOCUS:  Though an obvious foundational component to any marketing campaign, many CMOs have not thought about the need for a strategy statement, a document that helps bring focus to one’s personal branding efforts. These statements help senior marketers define what makes them compelling or unique, an exercise that requires at least an ounce of ambition and a cup of introspection.  Since just about everyone’s career is a work in progress, these statements encourage the writer to challenge and stretch his or her sense of self.

LEAD:  With a personal brand statement in hand, senior marketers can then turn their attention to providing thought leadership around their area(s) of expertise.  This thought leadership can be shared in writing (articles, blogs, comments), videos and of course speaking engagements.  The key here is that the content is well crafted and reflects positively on the both the individual and the company for whom he/she works.  (Note—part of leading means making sure your company sees the value of having thought leaders and savvy CMOs secure this understanding prior to taking a job.)

ADAPT: Like corporate brands, it is easy for marketing individuals to get pigeon holed as experts in only one area (i.e. “he’s a car guy” or “she’s a traditional media pro”) which can become career limiting.  While still being focused on your overall brand strategy (i.e. innovator, metrics-oriented, team builder, etc.), you can use your content to demonstrate your breadth of expertise (e.g. “What Pharma can learn from car marketers” or “What TV can learn from digital”).  Note—for many CMOs adapting also means learning new skills via rigorous course-work.

INVEST: Building a personal brand can’t be done without investing time, money or both.  Roberto Medrano, CMO of SOA, started writing and blogging regularly 5 years ago, a commitment of time made more challenging by the fact that English is not his first language.  This investment, which included finding native editors, paid off for Medrano as he was recently ranked 12th among 250 top CMOs, a fact his company celebrated in this release.  For CMOs who don’t like to write, paying ghostwriters or creating video tutorials are equally viable options.

CULTIVATE:  Initially, I had this as C for Connect, given the critical nature that a network plays in building personal brands. But after Evan Greene, CMO of The Recording Academy, shared the story of how old connections often come out of the woodwork during Grammy season; I suspect Cultivate is more instructive.  The idea here is that building a personal brand also includes cultivating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships.  Support your fellow marketers, even if it’s just the occasional retweet or a pithy comment on an article, and watch the good karma boomerang.

Final note: Though personal branding is hardly a new idea (Tom Peters wrote about The Brand Called You back in 1997,) it does seem to be getting fresh attention from senior marketers as evidence by interest in this basic strategy worksheet.  Now what remains to be seen is whether or not this next generation of marketing leaders will step up to FLAIC or merely flake out.

CMO Personal Branding Worksheet

10/5/14

Personal-Branding-Naming-AlternativesI recently had the pleasure of leading a session on Personal Branding at The CMO Club Summit with Evan Greene, the CMO of Grammys.  The session was really well attended and it was clear by all accounts that this was an area of great interest to senior marketers. The following is a document I prepared for the attendees that is a compilation of guidance team Renegade found from a number of sources (see credits at the bottom).

Why CMOs Need to Care About Their Personal Brand

  • Enhances your value to your current employer.
  • No job is forever.
  • If you don’t control your reputation, someone else will (i.e. Google)

 Personal Brand Statement Overview

  • A short and sweet statement that describes who you are and what you bring to the table. It answers the questions, “what makes you great?” and “what makes you compelling?” but should not be confused with a mission statement (which tend to be more lofty and less job specific).
  • You could be a “reliable, strategic planner” or “a innovative professional connector.” Or, your statement might be something like, “inspiring others to excel.” Are you amazingly well organized? Do people enjoy working with you for your fantastic sense of humor?
  • Your brand statement should be consistent with how others perceive you. Don’t describe yourself as a team builder if your team thinks otherwise.  However, if you have hit some professional brick walls, it may be time for reinvention and it is okay therefore to make your brand statement aspirational.

 Three Components to Consider

  1. Figure out your emotional appeal
    1. How do people benefit from working with me?
    2. How do CEOs benefit from working with me?
    3. How do I make people feel?
    4. What words do others use to describe me?
  2. Determine your description
    1. What field or industry am I in (or do I want to be in)?
    2. What are the words I would use to describe my work?
    3. Who is my target audience?
  3. Describe your role
    1. What service do I have to offer people / companies?
    2. What do I do that makes me stand out from everyone else?

 

Draft Your Personal Brand Statement (here are a few statement starters)

All modesty aside, I am great because_________________________________________________

Yes! I am compelling because______________________________________________________

But seriously, I am special because___________________________________________________

I am different from your average CMO because…________________________________________

Making it Real: Getting Started

If you say you’re an innovative leader you better innovate on the job and lead a productive team.  If you claim to be a results-driven marketer then you should have the case histories with hard data to back it up. Now we can consider all the things you can do to build your personal brand beyond simply doing your job:

  • Basic Appearance: Are you dressing the part?  Does your business card reflect your personal brand statement?  Your resume should express & support your personal statement.
  • Social Basics: Do your social profiles back up your statement?  Are they consistent?  If you claim to be digitally savvy or cutting edge, are you on the latest social channels?
  • Social Channels: How many you choose to be active on is up to you but the key word here is active.  The only way to understand and claim social savvy is to be active.
  • Content Creation: If being a thought-leader is an important part of your brand, then you need to demonstrate that by creating content for your personal blog/website and/or for other legitimate publications. If you don’t like writing, find a ghostwriter or better yet, learn to like it. Or make a video.  Whatever you do, your content should be authentically you and focused on what you want to be known for.
  • Content Upgrade: Does the content you post support your personal statement?  If you claim creativity as part of your personal statement, make sure your content is creative.  (Hint: post better content even if that means posting less!)

Making it Real: Additional Tactics

  • Rekindle Old Ties: Contact and meet with old friends.  Make new ones by going to networking events.  Use these encounters to sharpen the elevator version of your personal statement.  No more “same old, same old” responses.
  • Learn A New Skill: This skill should support your brand statement and give you a new area to write about and discuss with peers.

Good Sources on Personal Branding

The above merely scratches the surface on this topic. I have an article in the works that I will share shortly spelling out FLAIC (Focus, Lead, Adapt, Invest, Cultivate), an acronym I whipped up just for the unique challenges of marketing execs.  As always, let me know if you have thoughts to add.

7.5 Surefire Ways to Drive Brand Hatred

09/30/14
deadlysins

Note: Found this cartoon after I wrote my post.

Recognizing that brands have sabotaged themselves since the days of Noah via a host of slowly eroding sins, the purpose of this article is to put the spotlight on the flash faux pas that instantaneously dissolve loyalty and ignite brand hatred. This hatred, often expressed with the exclamatory #EpicFail on social media, is typically motivated by one of the following sinful ineptitudes. Some of these might seem laughable unless, of course, they happen to you.

1. Sloth: “We care about you–your call will be answered in 600 minutes.”
Ignore me at your own risk.  I am not just one customer any more.  I am me AND my social media-empowered army of friends and associates.  Make us wait longer than we think we deserve at your bar or store or so-called hotline and our wrath will be heard faster than you can say, “may I help you.”  68% of us will leave and never comeback, but that’s just a fraction of your problem.  A mighty minority of us will attack you like ninjas on Yelp or TripAdvisor or some other rating service leaving a lingering trail of forewarning rage.  Yes, be afraid of sloth.

2. Avarice: “What exactly do you mean your service doesn’t work as expected?”
This one is as easy as 1-2-3. 1: Over promise. 2: Under-deliver. 3: Duck and cover.  I think I’m safe in saying that everyone hates feeling they’ve been ripped off.  This is less about the feeling that you paid too much for something.  Sure that hurts, but that’s usually on us for not doing our homework.  No, this is paying for what you think is a premium service only to find out it’s unreliable or doesn’t perform as advertised.  That tactic will guarantee recognition, however, on the list of the Most Hated Companies in America!

3. Wrath: “You’re pissed off? How do you think I feel?”
Chances are I wouldn’t last five minutes on a customer service desk especially when the 4th boneheaded caller/yeller in a row refuses to realize that his miniscule problem is, in fact, a user caused error.  Be that as it may, shouting back at your disgruntled customers in person, on the phone, or online is a shortcut up “Schlitz” creek without the proverbial paddle.  Just ask the folks at Amy’s Baking Company how their epic tirade on Facebook worked out (hint: not so well).  Even in the face of “wait until you hear this one” user incompetence, customer service interactions need to start with a bit of empathy AND be driven by the sincere goal of turning each and every detractor into a brand promoter.

4. Gluttony: “We’re so happy you’re our customer. Want fries with that?”
We get it.  Just about every business wants to sell more products especially to its existing customers.  And reaching out to your existing customers in person, via email, direct mail or phone can be beneficial to both parties, especially if the interaction coincides with a need cycle.  But there’s a line here where enough is way more than enough. It’s a line that once crossed, replaces receptivity with fervent animosity followed by a vitriolic tweet decrying the 13th contact by Brand X that particular week.

5. Pride: “Honestly, we’re too busy right now to care about your little problem.”
The flip side of overselling is acting disinterested.  This is especially the case in social media when brands have a presence but consciously or unconsciously ignore relevant conversations.  To label this behavior prideful may be a stretch, though it does send a message that the brand simply can’t be bothered to converse with the hoi polloi.  The big risk here is that you could unwittingly ignore a customer with influence; who responds by turning your cold shoulder into a hot topic.

6. Lust: “Nice to see you again Mr. Jones. You there, get back in line.”
Showing preference for one type of customer over another is tricky business. Airline reward programs come with a sense of fairness: Fly more and enjoy clearly defined perks. But treat one customer better or worse because of who they are and you’re begging for animosity. For example, the cable company that breaks protocol to respond faster to an outage at a celebrity’s house is likely to get an earful from the regular (and ignored) guy around the corner. The extreme case here is when Chick-fil-a’s CEO expressed preference for “traditional” families, generating a firestorm of brand hatred.

7. Envy: “Did I mention, we’re just like Apple only…”
Perhaps this has happened to you.  You’re shopping for something and the sales person says, “This is just like the leading brand, only many dollars cheaper.”  So you buy it, head home, and open the box only to discover that instead of saving money you wasted it on an inferior product.  Yeah, that pisses me off big time, especially since it’s so avoidable.  It’s okay to make cheaper products (in fact, thanks for giving us choices) as long as you manage our expectations and don’t pretend to be something you aren’t.

7½. Control: “Press 0 as many times as you want, there are no humans here.”
Want to see unadulterated ire? Piece of cake–just make your customers feel helpless. For example, don’t bother telling the passengers in the terminal that their plane is delayed until an hour after its obvious and too late for them to do anything about it.  Or don’t offer a digital support center that empowers your customers to make adjustments to their accounts at any hour of the day from any device.  Or, my favorite, remove the hit “0” option from your customer service phone tree, setting up the opportunity for fruitless loops of avoidable anger.

Final Note: There is a silver lining within all this talk of hate and sin.  Customers that express brand hatred are a bit like the friend that tells you about the spinach in your teeth.  It’s embarrassing for sure but not as bad as the real enemy here—indifference. Vocally angry customers are creating the opportunity for you to address their issues. You just need to be listening and then try to remedy the situation.  Indifferent consumers are quietly unsalvageable.

 

Older Posts »

Copyright © 2014 - Drew Neisser