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How to Build Consumer Trust with Pinterest

How to Build Consumer Trust With Customers by Vincent Ng of MCNGMarketing.com Pinterest can be amazing when it comes to driving traffic. For me it’s my number one social media traffic source, and for others like Mike Alton, it’s helped him add another 1000 visitors to his site a month, which for a social media blog is excellent. As Pinterest continues to grow and starts becoming more part of the mainstream, it’s important not to forget a vital lesson. Are you using Pinterest to solve the main problems your customers are having?

I’ve consulted and worked with clients in the past on their Pinterest strategy, only to go back and tell them how difficult it is to use Pinterest for their business because they often try to run with the network before they learn how to walk. People who are often most successful at using Pinterest, in terms of increased sales, brand power, sponsorship opportunities and trust  do it through one thing – by helping their customers solve a problem they are having.

Sometimes I feel that I can get too attached to a network and BELIEVE that the problem that my clients and customers have is understanding what Pinterest is about, but for my clients the problems they have are about finding the right traffic to generate more leads (e-mail sign ups), generating more sales for their products, and increasing their reach  with a buying audience.  This helps me stay focused in building trust with the right audience.

Running Before Walking On Pinterest

I’m often surprised how much money is pumped into social media marketing because it’s the hot thing to do. I used to do marketing consultations for restaurants and I’m always surprised to hear owner’s friends tell them that they have to be on social media.  Often, if a restaurant isn’t doing so well it’s because they aren’t solving the expected pain problem of their customer.

When people go to a restaurant, they expect good food and good service for the price they pay. It’s that simple. If the food is delicious and priced at what consumers are willing to pay, then people will tell others about the restaurant over the months, but what they experience in the restaurants is important when it comes to building consumer trust. No amount of marketing can cover bad service and bad food.

As a matter of fact, doing social media marketing in that case only makes it worse.

The point of the story is to make sure that you’re covering the fundamental problems your customers have and to provide them with what they expect so that trusting relationship can be buit.

Customers Want to Trust You. Give Them Reasons To.

Okay, I admit, some customers are expecting you to be on social media. But what they’re really looking from you is guidance. They’re hoping to build a relationship with your business, but they need to know that you’re willing to commit to their well being first.

Keeping this in mind, Pinterest and social media aren’t always the answer. For many people, including myself, having a blogging platform is crucial when it comes to building trust.  Though you can also build on other platforms to build trust such as having your own audio podcast like Smart Passive Income’s Pat Flynn, or a video podcast like Jaime Tardy from Eventual Millionaire. 

Some clients want to jump into Pinterest because they’ve heard how much traffic it drives to a website, and in many cases I know professional bloggers and small business owners that state that it drives more traffic for them than Google.

Jenae from Icanteachmychild.com is a good example, where Pinterest is her number one traffic driver, and she receives over 75,000 visits from Pinterest.  But for those that have been most successful at using Pinterest to drive targeted traffic back to their site, it’s because they have valuable articles and blog posts to share. They’ve been providing excellent resources, just like a restaurant would provide excellent food. And when you can consistently provide excellent resources, both on Pinterest and on your own site, you increase that trust.

With a great blogging platform you have the opportunity to help address customer issues and take the initial steps into a customer trusting you enough to buy your product. Not only to buy your product but for becoming an ambassador.

If you create pins and it does is lead back to the homepage – well that’s fine and dandy like sour candy. And most people are not big fans of sour candy.

Do E-commerce sites Need a Blog or Educational Platform?

You may look at the success of sites like Etsy, Amazon, and e-bay and think to yourself that you don’t need a blog to be successful, but keep in mind that these e-commerce platforms built their reputation through blood, sweat and tears for years to get where they are now.  Amazon lost hundreds of millions of dollars when they first started. But they built an empire based on what customers wanted in an e-commerce platform.

There’s no doubt in my mind that if you a blog that it will help build your e-commerce business much faster.

While Pinterest purchasers tend to be the most spontaneous when it comes to social shoppers, meaning that they do the least amount of research online before buying a product, being able to provide a blog to help be a resource and drive additional traffic can create a strong brand affinity.

P

A good example of a company that sells retail products, has a strong command on Pinterest, and has a strong blog is Lululemon. They write articles to help solve every day problems that their customers face. Lululemon had a great post, 10 Tricks to Sleep in the Heat.  

Even Pinterest itself has a blog to help be a resource for businesses, and people who personally enjoy using Pinterest.

Think Outside the Blog

Think of practical ways to be of help to customers, and they will love you for it. Of course don’t forget to make a featured blog image that’s pinnable. I’ve always believed in the power of evergreen content, content that can last for years. Think about all the different problems that seem to come up again and again that you can help address through your blog or educational platform.

Let’s say that you’re in the business of selling Christmas ornaments. I think it would be a great idea to be able to do a webinar on “How to Create the Best Looking Christmas Tree Ever.” A short 20 minute presentation that could be of value and that could be auto played. This type of video or webinar content can then be shared again and again every single year on Pinterest. It’s brilliant.

At the end of what I’m trying to say is this. If you’re hoping to get more traffic to your site with Pinterest, it can do that. There’s no doubt it will. But here’s something you need to keep in mind, if two new and competing retail brands are on Pinterest, and the fundamentals are all equal such as quality of clothing, great customer service, which one are you more likely to do business with over time? The one that provides you the goods, or the one that provides you the goods that also solves your problems every time you visit their website?

Dedicate time to creating great resources that will solve your customers’ problems, and use that to help grow your Pinterest following.

What are your thoughts, do you believe that you should have a blog before having a Pinterest account, or do believe it’s not necessary to help drive sales?

Special Offering: Early Bird Pricing for Pintalysis Academy

I’m happy to announce that I’m currently working on an online on demand Pinterest course that will teach businesses, bloggers and online retailers how to increase their revenue with Pinterest. It will teach you how to drive more traffic to your website, how to use Pinterest for local marketing.

In the course I’ll also go into detail about  how adapt to the ever Pinterest landscape of mobile users on Pinterest.

I’m offering a pre order special.  For a lifetime membership to the Pintalysis Academy will be $49  and then it jumps up to $79 and you will get the latest news and updates regarding Pinterest marketing.  Click here to get updates of when the course launches, and your early bird discount rate. 

Why Most Banks Suck at Using Pinterest

Why Most Banks Suck at Pinterest - www.mcngmarketing.com

How Financial Institutions can Benefit from Using Pinterest

At this moment, there aren’t a lot of financial institutions that are on Pinterest, which is really a shame given that about 80% of users are women, and 50% of those women have children.

What’s very fascinating is that 85% of all purchasing decisions are made or influenced by women. What’s also a whopping statistic is that 91% report that advertisers don’t understand them.

This could be part of the reason why banks are failing at using Pinterest effectively. According to an article by Financial Brand, it suggests that most banks should not even bother with Pinterest at all since it offers very little if any ROI. I think this is a big mistake that the banks are making, while others like JJ Hornblass, who wrote an article on Bank Innovation, suggests that it can be a huge pay off.

I think banks are ignoring Pinterest because they simply don’t understand it enough, and how their female audiences are interacting with such a discovery channel and social network.

So how can banks use Pinterest effectively to help them not only increase their brand awareness, and get a return on ROI?

Create Pins that Focus on Students and Their Financial Concerns

A lot of young female students that are about to head into college or already attending are are using Pinterest, according to Modea, 17.3% users are between the ages of 18-24.

I’m sure many of them would like to know how they can apply for student loans easily, and how to ensure that their loans are interest free. Here’s a graphic that’s on Wells Fargo’s website.

Why are banks so bad at using Pinterest? www.mcngmarketing.com

Wells Fargo, who are notoriously bad with their Pinterest account, because they have no pins, would probably get more traffic and leads to their site if they created a pin that stated, “Learn how to get a student loan…Interest Free.” If you’ve hung around Pinterest, you know these kinds of informational pins can be very helpful to young students.

Another interesting topic that would apply to a younger demographic that banks can provide information on is, “How to Get Your First Credit Card.”

Create Pins that Focus on Brides and their Upcoming Life Stages

I don’t know if this is an exaggeration, but it’s almost impossible to find a bride to be in North America that hasn’t used Pinterest in some way to plan or be inspired for their own wedding. There’s so many brides to be and many of them know planning for their wedding and their honeymoon can be costly.

One of the ways that banks can expand their reach, brand awareness, and loyalty is by offering interesting financial tips on how to prepare for a wedding. Since weddings can get expensive or there may be unexpected costs that arise, banks can use Pinterest to inform brides to be about the the advantages of having a line of credit.

But what’s also expensive is what comes after the wedding.

What about paying or saving money for the honeymoon?

What about life insurance in the case that the spouse has an unexpected accident?

What do new couples need to know about buying a home and how can banks help?

What about buying a new family car?

A great financial institution will realize that at some point that brides to be will be going through all those different phases, and heavily influencing these purchase decisions. So why not provide educational pins that will help customers make better financial decisions?

Notice how this Pinterest account by TD Bank has nothing to do with educating and helping their customers make better financial decisions.

Why do banks suck at using Pinterest?

The Financial Industry Should be Able to Get ROI within a Year

Banks not being able to cash in on activities and getting a ROI is just plain silly. And here’s why. Let’s look at the example of Pet Plan insurance. This is a pet insurance company that was able to increase their requested number of insurance quotes by 12.5% and 35% increase in page views through the use of Pinterest.

Yep, people on Pinterest were interested in making sure that their pets received pet health insurance. Do you know how many followers they have on their Pinterest account? 10,000 at the time of this writing. When the statistic above was reported, I believe they had around 7,000 followers.

Contrary to conventional knowledge, the number of followers doesn’t determine the success of a Pinterest campaign.

Petplan Insurance knew that the best way to connect with customers was to educate them about how to improve the health of their pets and at the same time provide entertaining pins.

What can Pet Plan Insurance teach banks about Pinterest?

This did two things for the company. One, it allowed them to connect with customers not on a transactional basis, but through an emotional connection, and two, when pet owners’ pets were healthy this meant that Pet Plan Insurance was more profitable. This was a win win.

What’s more Important than Pets? Children

Children. Children are so important to parents, and with over 50% of the female Pinterest users being parents, why are the banks shying away about how to properly save for a child’s future education?

The biggest challenge is that banks aren’t creating the educational material that DOES matter to their female consumers. Instead, mothers are turning toward mommy bloggers for information about their children.

Banks should be focusing on providing educational content such as ways that mothers can save money during the first year of their child’s birth. Or educate moms on how to plan on their next family trip by creating a designated savings account just for that purpose.

A great example of an educational content board on Pinterest is Home Depot’s “#DIHWorkshop,” which stands for do it herself.

Why can't banks provide educational pins the way Home Depot does? - www.mcngmarketing.com

Banks are Spending Too Much on Paper Advertising

Banks will spend a lot of time and money on brochures and printing material to educate their customers, but they need to move into the digital space where mothers are hanging out.

If a pet insurance company can do all that to get people to get insurance quotes for all the work that they do, why can’t banks do the same.

Most banks fail because they don’t repurpose their content for a different marketing channel. Instead they cling to their own ways on how things should be done, and that it should be in a print. Banks need to convert into online magazine styles of providing information and provide helpful financial tips that mothers can use in their daily lives.

Banks Need to Create Blogs

While state, national and international laws regarding certain financial regulations may prevent certain things to be written, there are still some universal principles that should be written before someone else does.

There are so many different topics that banks can blog about that would work out great on Pinterest and make the banks an incredibly trusted resource. After all Pinterest is now the second most used tool for social sharing for publishers.

Here are just a few that would do very well on Pinterest.

1) How to financially save for your next family vacation.
2) How to get the most out of your credit card points
3) How to plan for retirement
4) What’s in store for the economy in the next 5 years
5) Do you have your child’s college tuition saved up?
6) How much will 500 a month get you when you retire?

The number of topics can go on and on, and when banks are able to provide education and give customers information that they truly need, only then will they see success on Pinterest. While the banking institutions have their steady ways, it’s only a matter of time before educated and digitally savvy consumers will go with the banks they feel a online and offline relationship with.

What’s your opinion of banks on Pinterest? Do you feel that they are using Pinterest effectively or do you give them a thumbs down?

Market the Benefits, Not the Features of Your Product

Find out how marketing benefits, not features is one of the most important aspects of marketing.  One of the early lessons that you learn from sales, marketing, and advertising is that there should be a focus on the benefits of a product instead of the features.

Benefits Compared to Features

Features are characteristics that a product possesses, while a benefit is a positive result that occurs because of the features. Let’s take the example of the book I’m currently writing: Pintalysis, the Ultimate Marketing Blueprint for Pinterest. I can say that the book has the following:

It has over 200 pages of information.
It will show you what type of pictures to put onto your Pinterest board.
The book will also show you how to rank higher in Pinterest’s search engine.

These are all features of the book, but the benefits of purchasing a book are much different.

The information that the book provides will generate more targeted leads for a business site, as well as help e-commerce owners earn more money from a new customer base.

A good example of highlighting benefits compared to features is a car commercial done for Volkswagen Jetta. The commercial doesn’t talk about the horsepower it possesses, it doesn’t talk about the variety of safety features that are offered (though these may be factors in a purchase decision), instead they focused on the main benefit of driving a VW Jetta. Driving one can save your life during the most vital moment – during a car crash.

As a side note, it was reported that sales of the VW Jetta jumped up by 17% after the commercial aired.

On any given day you might hear people talk about a patented technology or material that makes their car safer, or they talk about the safety rating that they received from a 3rd party consumer organization, but the Jetta commercial doesn’t talk about the technology, or the materials, or even use a crash test dummy, they show safety first hand in graphic and real detail. They focus on the main benefit, the potential to save your life, and walk away unhurt.

A mistake that can happen quite often is to list out features in marketing material, this is especially common for the product industry. But it’s really the benefits of the product that will sell.

A Benefit Solves A Customer’s Pain Point

Another way of looking at a benefit, is that a benefit is a solution to a pain problem that a customer has. If the benefit can solve a tremendous pain problem that the customer is experiencing, than this is a major benefit to the consumer.

It’s also important to ask why a feature is important. A feature of Pinterest is its visual content. When a picture on Pinterest is clicked on it can redirect back to the page that the image is hosted on. So what’s the big deal about that particular feature? Why is that important? Well, when planned out correctly, it can drive potential buyers to an e-commerce site, and that means that it can help a business earn more money from a whole new customer base. That’s the benefit of Pinterest.

Sometimes it can be hard for consumers to piece together a feature associated with a specific benefit for a product. This is a common problem that people who work in their industry too long. They associate a feature to a benefit right away without a second thought. But new users of a product don’t see this, and a marketer needs to be able to lead them through the process of connecting a feature to an actual benefit.

Infomercials are extremely good at this process. If you notice carefully infomercials discuss quite a bit about features, especially ones that focus on cosmetics. An infomercial may tell you that they have a secret substance that they found in a plant that’s from a tropical area of the world. This is a feature. They then go on and say that the product will help you get rid of wrinkles. This is what I would call a light benefit, but the customer starts to connect the dots of how the feature is helpful. And then an infomercial shows two pictures of how much younger a woman may look after using that product that contains special mineral and vitamins. The benefit is then solidified. The cosmetic product will help you look younger, longer. It will make you feel happier, more confident and self assured in your daily life.

For most infomercials they will link the emotional benefits of using their product. And the power of highlighting emotional benefits is powerful.

Benefits Can Be Emotions

While a benefit can focus on solving an actual problem, the benefit of a particular product may be to elevate a person’s mood or to lesson a negative feeling. If someone feels that they are being overwhelmed by stress, then a new bubble bath product can be used to help a person relax after a long and stressful day of dealing with dozens of customer complaints.

Or owning a new big screen offers the benefits of hours of entertainment, excitement and happiness. It takes away the pain of being bored at home with nothing to do.

If a customer can feel a strong emotional benefit with your product then this will definitely help drive sales of your product. Always think of what the emotional benefits a customer may have when he decides to use your product.

You may be able to hype up a product through creative marketing, but at the end of the day if the product doesn’t truly provide a real benefit to your customers, there isn’t going to be a sustainable business model.

When It’s Useful to Highlight Features

I don’t want to give the impression that features aren’t important, as a matter of fact one of the key ways that features can be helpful in marketing is when it a feature clearly allows it to differentiate it from other competitors, and how that feature allows it to be better than its competitors.

Informercials that focus on cosmetics know that they need to compete with a lot of different cosmetics out there. But if they talk about how they extract a specific vitamin from a type of fruit and the process is secretive and only known by the company, then the feature they’ve highlighted has given them a differentiation factor compared to their competition. And this can help them stand out, but at the end of the day, features and benefits need to work together like a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

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If it Doesn’t Sell, it’s Not Marketing

One my favourite quotes about marketing comes from legendary creative advertiser David Ogilvy.
This is his quote:
DavidOgilvy.Ifit doesnt sellits not creative quote. #Advertising

Creative and Strategy Need to Work Together

A common aspect of marketing and advertising you’ll see is having the creative people come up with these interesting ideas, and then having the strategic people (the people responsible for driving the sales and business development) work together to see if it’s a smart way of doing business. It’s very easy to come up with these wonderful ideas that are fun and interactive. Especially in the age of social media, where more and more businesses are about creating fun and happy experiences and capturing them on video. There are many great examples of combining creative with strategy.

VA VA VOOM by Renault UK Attracts Millions of Viewers

Here’s a good example by Renault U.K. that combines creativity and strategy. They invited people to test drive their cars. Usually when people test drive a car, they just drive around the block while the sales person discusses some of the features and benefits of the car.

But Renault did something different, they wanted to create an experience for the person that’s potentially buying the car. Not just any experience, but the experience of what can be possible. A fantasy like state that made me smile and laugh a little when I watched the commercial. The beauty of it all? It was the fact that they made one for both men and women. Take a look.

Often it’s great to come up with creative ideas, but like Ogilvy says, you have to think about how it’s going to make the sale. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that it has to make the sale right away, though that’s always a great goal to aim and is possible (this is what sampling in supermarkets does, may not be the most creative, but I’ve seen it sell products right on the spot).

Your marketing and advertising efforts should at the very least encourage your potential buying customers to take action to find out more information on Google, or to increase their purchase intent. If you can create advertising that makes them join your Facebook page, sign up for a newsletter, or make them visit a store because of a sale, then your creative is now designed with strategy in mind.

Many Pinterert business accounts suffer from this mentality, they post pictures, known as pins, about recipes and fashion that are beautiful and very intriguing, but the company is a real estate company. What do all those creative and beautiful pins have to do with the real estate industry?

Even in social media, there is a lot of talk about engagement and people are asking for a ROI. But learning to engage people the right way, being able to provide them with valuable information that hits them with a bang is what will keep them loyal to you. Being able to treat each customer that has a concern to the best of your ability will ensure that those customers will remain loyal. You don’t want to create social media marketing just to get new customers, you have to create one that allows your loyal customers to remain loyal to you, though both types of customers are important.

This is why it’s important to always ask you and your marketing and advertising team what the end goal in mind is for their potential buyers or clients? Every advertisement and marketing that’s done at the end of the day should focus on how it will increase sales, this will always be essential. Don’t focus on the cool factor, focus on both the creative and the strategic.

What is Good Customer Service? A Simple Story…

Zappos Office

Sadly, I leave some personal duties to the very last minute. One of them was renewing my car insurance. Car insurance in British Columbia is pretty much monopolized by ICBC (Insuracne Corporation of British Columbia), which is a crown corporation.

As I was thinking about automatically going back to an ICBC agent to renew my car insurance, but I remembered that there was another company that does optional car insurance. I was looking to save money, and figured if I was able to save 10% and it required me only 2 hours of work, then I would have earned another $50-75$ an hour for making a simple call. I called up Canadian Direct Insurance on the phone and this is where their great customer service kicked in.

The following real life example of what Kathy did will answer the question, “What is good customer service?”

Good Customer Service Comes from Within

Kathy was the customer representative that greeted me on the phone (after going though an automated system). She was cheerful, sounded confident, and listened to me and what I had to say about my car insurance situation and answered any questions I had.

During our conversation, I never felt like she was trying to rush me off the phone at any time. It was obvious she was happy at her job, loved chatting with people, and that friendliness was a big part of her personality.

I can always tell when someone greets me because it’s part of their job, but I felt that Kathy was being friendly because that was who she is, not because her bills depended on it.

I believe that in order for a company to have great customer service, you can’t train people to be in those positions. You have to be able to pick and choose the right people to begin with. This is why I think sometimes it’s important to be able to screen employees for their strengths and for organizations to look for people that display the right values before being hired.

There’s no doubt that my good friend, Greg Basham from ee voices, who does HR screening in the Asia Pacific would agree with 100%.

StrengthsFinder2.0
The best selling book, Strengths Finder 2.0 mentions that you can spend your time trying to improve people’s weaknesses or you can find a person that’s naturally talented at what they do and make it even stronger by adding the knowledge and skills to make them a master at their talent. Good customer service must come from a willingness to help others.

What is good customer service? A willingness to be helpful because a customer service agent wants to be helpful.

Talk about The Benefits to the Customer

For most people the immediate benefit of dealing with another car insurance company is to save money and there’s no doubt that that’s exactly what I was looking for. But when I gave her all the details of my car, she punched through all the details and told me that Canadian Direct would most likely not save money for on my insurance.

Kathy could have just punched the numbers and told me that I didn’t qualify and just hang up, but the truth is that wouldn’t have been considered good customer service. Instead, she told me in what specific types situations it that she would be able to save me money.

Within the conversation she graciously told me that if I could save money in the following situations:

1) If I insured a second vehicle that I would get 10% off.
2) If I had an hybrid vehicle that there would be additional discounts on insurance.
3) If it was a newer car, she was very certain she would be able to save me money.

Out of all my years insuring my car, I’ve never had a car insurance agent tell me how to save money. Most of it was just trying to sell me more insurance because it was only $5 more a month. It was nice to hear someone else that was going to try to do the opposite and save me money.

What is good customer service?

Good customer service is letting your customers or clients know how they can benefit from your product or service. Sometimes you lose the sale due to the fact that you couldn’t meet that customer’s number one priority.

That’s just part of business, but you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you’ve done the best you can for a customer that was interested in your service or product.

Always Make a Good Last Impression

When all is said and done, in customer service, it’s not your first impression that matters the most, it’s your last impression. Think about it, when you have a bad experience at a hotel it’s how the hotel responds to take that extra step to fix those issues that are what matter most, and that last impression is the one you’re most likely going to talk about.

I believe it was Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappo’s, that stated that the phone is probably the best place to deliver customer service. You have someone’s attention one on one, he’s generally not distracted if it’s a customer issue that’s quite serious, and it’s great place to create a more personal customer relationship.

Kathy was helpful and she took the time to build up the customer service relationship. She offered me her e-mail and phone number, when I was ready to make the switch to another vehicle. She also took my own information in case I called back to ensure that there was a customer record history.

And do you know where I wrote down the contact information for her, right on my insurance forms. This way when I’m ready to renew, I’m reminded to give her a shout.

What is good customer service?

It’s ensuring that you’re creating a great last impression that’s even stronger than your first impression.

You can do all the marketing and advertising in the world you want about how great your company is, but if you’re frontline staff can’t back a company’s public perception, then you might as well not do marketing at all. Take your customer service seriously, and think about using gamification to take customer service and sales to a new level. Your business is riding on it.

How I used Gamification to Engage Employees and Increase Sales by 30%

Nintendo Monopoly I first heard of the concept of gamification from Yu Kai Chou, the former C.E.O of RewardMe and one of the most amazing speakers and analysts in the world of gamification today.

Before I knew what gamification was, I was using it to engage my employees at Starbucks to increase increase sales by over 30% from one year over the next during the recession.

In this blog post I explain what gamification is, and the type of gaming mechanics that were used to help engage employees and increase loyalty among consumers to the cafe, and increase this food and beverage establishment’s profits.

What is Gamification?

I’m going to steal the definition of gamification from Bunchball. Gamification is integrating gaming mechanics into your website, service, product, community, content or campaign to drive participation.

I’ll be explaining 8 gaming mechanics I used to motivate my employees.

Why do People Play Games?

There are some fundamental reasons that people play games they include but not limited to:

To earn rewards (whether it’s intrinsic or extrinsic).
For status,bragging rights, and a sense of power.
A feeling of accomplishment or achievement.
A form of self expression.
For the competition.
Altruism (or to belong and help out a community).

I used these reasons why people play games and applied them to my own staff.

How I Used Gamification to Improve Morale and Sales

I was able to use gamification to improve employee morale at Starbucks, which was one of the vital factors that led to a 30% increase in sales within one year after the recession had hit in 2008.

Here is how I did it.

1) In Games They Make you Feel Good ASAP

Have you noticed that in the game of Mario that the first thing you get is a large mushroom after bumping a brick? Or that you get a badge when you check in on Foursquare or Yelp’s mobile app? When we earn rewards (virtual or real), especially initially, dopamine (those chemicals that make us feel good) is released into our brains. Just the anticipation of a reward can release dopamine.

New employees can often be nervous in coming into a new workplace, and that nervousness and insecurity can often be detected by customers and potentially hurt customer service. (It’s about perception after all. If the business looks incompetent, then there’s a chance you’ve lost the customer for life.)

At the end of the employee’s first day I would ask all senior staff to write a nice thank you note and hand it to the new employee to read. The employee would then be expected to post it on the wall of “Thank Yous.” This way employee feels rewarded right away for her first day on the job and dopamine is released to have good associations with the work place.

2)Create Challenges and Obstacles

In the world of video games, there are always going to be obstacles. No matter what game you play there needs to be a challenge that the player can rise up and overcome. This is no different from employee engagement.

I knew that one of the best ways to keep customers loyal to our specific Starbucks was by having all our staff comfortable having conversations with customers. This was very essential to boosting sales. When I took over, many of the staff were often giving plain service, “Hi, what would you like? Thanks so much, enjoy your latte.” How boring was that?

I challenged each and everyone, whether they were new or veterans, to have as many conversations with customers as possible. If they were able to get the other person to talk and provide an answer to a question, then that was considered a conversation.

The employees enjoyed the challenges and started to develop great relationships with customers. The best part was seeing how many of my staff became much more socially confident and assertive in their life. It was one of the most rewarding parts of my life to be able to see people change to be better.

3)Create Harder Challenges as Time Goes On

In the world of video gaming, nobody wants to play the same level again and again when they first start off. They need harder challenges that are just outside their reach to feel a sense of accomplishment or to reach the next level.

However, if you make the challenges too hard, people will abandon the game. You want the challenges to be hard enough to keep them on the edge of playing with a little frustration, but a lot of satisfaction after accomplishing the goals.

After holding challenges, and relationships with customers were being built, I knew that it was now becoming too easy for my staff to start conversations. They even told me.

The next challenge I posed for my employees was to get the names of our customers and to greet them by name. This would solidify a closer relationship with our customers and ensure that they knew we valued their loyalty.

During my four years I would hold this challenge again and again, and it became tougher to get new names. This was because we knew most of our regulars so we had to start focusing on creating instantaneous and welcoming relationships with newer customers.

The challenges became harder, but still within my employees’ reach.

Wreck it Ralph 4)Novelty of Challenges and Unexpected Surprises

Games need elements of surprise. If there’s no elements of surprise or a feeling of novelty then our brains get bored quickly.

I would hold a series of different challenges for my staff that ranged from upselling, getting names of customers, to who sold the most coffee beans. I would often offer mini challenges every other week at random times that would combine goals such as, “sell the last two remaining muffins and get two names.” If they accomplished the goal then I would write them a thank you card for their efforts to reinforce the positive feedback.

If you give the same challenges, or the same rewards all the time, then people stop playing the game in the long term. But when you create novelty and a sense of unexpectedness then it keeps employees on their toes and mentally fresh when dealing with customers.

5)Create a Leaderboard

Remember playing those arcade games and you would see who had the highest score? It was always had someone like AAA or BAC or VIC. Those leaderboards are great motivators to get the hardcore gamers to keep playing the game.

In order to know how well the staff were doing in the challenges, I encouraged all my staff to keep track of the number of conversations and names they received and have them posted on a wall for all staff to see.

The challenges wouldn’t run for approximately one month, and then we would take a break for a month and start another different challenge.

During the one month period that the challenges were running, employees would often check to check each others’ scores. If I found someone was falling behind the leaderboard I would hold that staff accountable to get more names and have more conversations to increase their score.

This provided motivation for staff to do better. This worked effectively well near the end of the challenges as everybody would get as many conversations and names in as possible to win the prizes that were being awarded.

6)Intrinsic and External Rewards

Let’s be honest, nobody plays games like Halo and Call of Duty for real rewards. The rewards that are given are the good feelings we get inside. These intangibles are often power, status and the ability to feel connected to others.

Knowing that your better at something than someone else gives your ego a boost. Intrinsic rewards such as these are the number one reason why social games are such a big hit.

External rewards are great too, but are always secondary. Real world rewards are nice, and a combination of both is great. The effectiveness of real rewards takes prominence only when a game provides players with a very poor status or power.

This is how contests or draws that involve money work. “Enter your e-mail for a chance to win $500 gift certificate.” People will do it, but they’ll do it to win the prize not because of the status. However, chances are if you offered a prize for a speaking role on the hit T.V. show Big Bang Theory, then that provides status, because then you can brag to your friends that a few million people saw you on T.V.

The challenges I created allowed my staff to carry a sense of internal satisfaction and achievement in being a better person. Most of the winners of the challenge didn’t brag, but they did get status and were recognized for their hard work by all their employees at our meetings. Many of them were awarded employees of the month.

The winners did get real rewards for their hard work. I would offer $50 gift certificates for shopping, or for smaller challenges, the winner would get a complimentary lunch paid by the boss. Larger challenges would involve a nice team dinner at one of the swankiest restaurants in Vancouver.

World of Warcraft 7) Offer Immediate Feedback

In games when you do something wrong, you either die or you get punished. If you do something right, then you get to advance game and move on to the next level. You receive immediate feedback. Employee engagement is no different. Offering more frequent and immediate feedback will lead to higher productivity.

During the time that challenges were taking place I would provide immediate feedback. I would let employees know when they did a great job of engaging customers. Or when I noticed that they weren’t playing the game with heart any more I would provide feedback and challenge them with a different task, and then get them back on track. If they successfully completed the mini challenges, they would be rewarded, if not, then they wouldn’t be rewarded.

8) Create Teams

I’ve never played World of Warcraft, but I do know that guilds are formed to complete missions. Great games will often involve teams to pit against each other. There’s something thrilling that boils the blood for the us versus them mentality when it comes to games involving groups.

Once every 6 months I would create team challenges. I pitted my afternoon staff versus the morning staff. This would lead to fun competition that would drive customer engagement through the roof. I found that staff would continue to help support other team members in accomplishing the team goals and that it created a much stronger bond among all employees.

This built authentic relationships within our Starbucks store which allowed us to create authentic relationships with our customers. If you can’t have authentic relationships with your own staff, how do you expect them to do it with customers?

Results of using Gamification at my Starbucks Store

I implemented this strategy over a two year period but the first year results were what were most impressive.
Sales increased over 30% comparatively from the previous year. Sales increased across all product categories.

Over 600 names of regulars were gathered over the 2 years.

We were nominated as the best store in Canada for our district.

How do I know this worked?

After I stepped down as manager to pursue my career in marketing, sales plateaued and employee morale was down. Former employees had expressed feeling unsatisfied with the work. Immediate positive feedback was not provided as often and new and creative challenges were not thought of to provide a sense of novelty.

Gamification when done properly will make employees happy and most of all increase productivity and sales, and there are many other ways to make a restaurant profitable.

How Advertising can Hurt Consumer Brands

Avis- We Try Harder Advertisement If you’ve ever gone traveling somewhere in North America and needed to rent a car, chances are you’ve probably heard of Avis.

They’re quite famous for their slogan “We Try Harder.” This slogan was created back in 1962 and was used for 50 years.

The tagline was created by the marketing agency DDB. But before DDB would start any advertising campaign they spent 90 days researching Avis and talking with their employees and making detailed observations.

Avis Had to Get Their Act Together

DDB forced Avis to get their act together and pretty much demanded that their customer service be top notch before the agency would even start their advertising campaigns. In the 1960’s it was unheard of that any marketing agency do this and was considered a pioneering move.

DDB worked on creating a slogan after meeting with some staff and had asked the question, “Why should customers choose Avis?” And the answers they got back were, “we try harder because we have to.”

An Interesting Twist on the Truth

Once all this was said and done, the campaign not only touted about how they tried harder, but positioned Avis as number 2 in the industry. Therefore this gave a logical reason in the minds of consumers why they were trying harder. Simply because they had to. You can see DDB’s beautiful ad on d. drew design’s blog.

The advertising campaign was able to turn Avis around within 1 year. It went from 3.2 million dollars in the hole to 1.2 million in black. Now That’s impressive and the power of Marketing.

Marketing Cannot Perform Miracles

Marketing can’t save a bad product or service. Period. It may help sell products or services in the short term, but when customers get disgruntled about them they will tell their friends and strangers . And the only time Marketing works with bad products or services is when your business is running a monopoly, or has little competition, or the other extreme is when the industry as a whole is known for poor products and customer service.

Marketing Can Perform Miracles for Good Products and Services

Marketing is designed to help good products be perceived as even better in some manner. But marketing must ensure that the perception that is created for the public must meet the expectations of consumers on a one on one level.

For example, if you went to Avis and you stepped into the car and found out that your rental car was missing a quarter of a tank then you would feel that the advertisement was trying to deceive you into using Avis. Chances are that once you feel a company has lied to you, that you’re not going to use them anymore. This gap between the advertisement and the experience is what hurts brands.

In order for marketing to be powerful for business to consumer industries, the staff and all management must be behind what the advertising message is. This way when new customers come in and try out a new service they can expect consistent results that match with the advertisements.

Good Advertising Accelerates Good Products, but…

Good advertising accelerates good products, good advertising also accelerates the downfall of really bad products. This is why it’s important for all marketers to ensure that they are marketing a product that they and the company’s staff can personally can stand behind and would use themselves.

Employees often don’t see what’s being advertised by their companies and therefore have no clue what the marketing and advertising messages are about. If staff don’t have a clear understanding of what the companies advertising goals are or are aware of what the advertising is about, why should customers give a damn?

When Avis launched their new campaign, they ensured that every employee had a copy of the advertisement in their pay slip. This allowed for everybody company wide to understand what was happening and what new customers were seeing with their advertising.

Don’t get fooled into thinking that marketing can sell everything. Marketing can help create hype and buzz around a product or service that hasn’t launched yet, that it can definitely do, but it can’t be for a crappy product or service that’s being marketed. Always ensure that you have a great product or service first and foremost, or else all advertising that’s created will hurt the brand.

Want to know how to create some great marketing campaigns for your business to consumer business, then contact MCNG.

How to Deliver 5 Star Social Media Customer Service

Angry customer Why Social Media Customer Service is the Best Thing to Happen for B2C

When your social media marketing is aimed at consumers, there’s always going to be two sides of the coin that must be managed. The first is the marketing side. How does your social media marketing messages fit in with the overall brand strategy and goals that your company is trying to accomplish? The second is customer service. In my opinion the second one is more vital than the first.

You can create a brand but bad customer service will destroy the brand (unless you happen to be a monopoly). Many companies like Zappos, have created great customer service which has help them build a much stronger brand. The trouble that many social media marketers face isn’t the lack of marketing knowledge, it’s the lack of experience of dealing with real time customer service issues over social media.

Any marketer that has worked in customer service over a phone, or in person will tell you that they have to deal with service issues in real time, or deal with upset customers that have waited on the phone for 45 minutes. However, in the world of social media customer service we’re allowed some breathing room.

When customers or consumers complain to us online, as marketers and customer service agents we have the option to take a deep breath, calm down, and respond in an appropriate manner within a 24 hour period. Most consumers on social media don’t expect an answer in five minutes, unlike on telephone or real life, where problems must be solved at that moment.

This is why I see social media as a blessing, it allows great customer service reps that extra minute that’s needed to ensure that the most social customers are also the happiest. This is one of the great benefits of social media. With that established, what are the best ways to deliver 5 star social media customer service for your corporation or business?

1)Treat Each Person as an Individual

What can be hard for marketers that are transitioning into hybrid roles of customer service agents is to read the sheer number of complaints that read the same as the one before. Marketers are generally used to receiving briefs and summaries about their target markets. However this sudden wave of qualitative data can wear down any social media marketer over time. But it’s important to remember that when you are responding to people on social media, that these persons aren’t a number, but an actual person chatting with an individual issue. When you keep this in mind it helps you humanize the issues that customers are having.

And when you act as if you are having a one on one genuine conversation with that customer, that customer will know. Being treated with respect as well as being able to help with the challenges that customers have is a great way to guarantee 5 star service.

2) Take Time to Breathe

When you have really difficult cases in social media, you have the option to pause and reflect on how you want to answer. Just because someone tweets to you right away doesn’t mean you have to respond back ASAP. At times it’s better to sit back for a minute and ask yourself if you are in the best state of mind to answer that particular question. If not, what would put you in the right state of mind?

It’s very easy to get caught up in the emotions, or often times the stupidity of remarks that customers leave and you just want to say to them, “Really…you’re seriously complaining about that? An issue that has no relevance to the current situation.” Yes there are customers with dumb complaints. There’s no denying that.
But whatever you feel, don’t create the urge to say something snarky or rude over social media, the risks associated with answering poorly can be catastrophic. This is how brands fall into oblivion.

3) Admit it When You’re Wrong

This goes for the same thing when things go right. When things are on the correct path, and your customers love you, share that. Thank a customer for their wonderful compliment and let them know how much you appreciate their time and effort in letting you know. For every customer that sends you a good note, at least ten more people are thinking about it as well.

This also means that if you know your company screwed something up, that you admit and move on to fixing the problems. A good example is the Dominos pizza case. Denying the truth isn’t going to help. There are ways to make it sound more gentle and this is a job of a good marketer and social media customer service rep.

If a customer says they had a terrible experience, you generally would tell them, “We’re really sorry to hear about what happened. I can understand why you felt way about the experience, and we want to assure you that we are going to make the situation right and solve this as soon as possible.” It’s okay to soften the language, just don’t hide the truth that there was an actual screw up if it was the business’ fault.

4) Be Consistent with Your Response Time

Have policies in place for your social media customer service team and marketer and be consistent with them. Don’t answer tweets every other day, but answer Facebook every day, and leave to responding Yelp remarks once a week. Having a policy in place of when a response time is acceptable is vital to social media customer service. Just make sure it’s consistent.

5) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Sometimes there are situations that are out of your hand or comments that really are just stupid. This takes judgement and good experience. I once had a Yelp review that said “Not Much to See.” It stayed at the top of Yelp for a little while, but this is the type of online review that doesn’t warrant a response. After all if you were a customer and looked at that review, how does it add value to the reader’s experience.

Customer reviews and opinions are no different from advertising. Boring advertising doesn’t enhance a person’s life in any way. Boring advertising doesn’t provide useful information, it doesn’t provide any entertainment value, it doesn’t make us think, and therefore it’s useless.

Mundane comments are the same. Sometimes people just want to be trolls and give people a hard time. In this case, don’t sweat it, focus on delivering the best customer service with the other 99.9% of your customers.

It’s important that marketers go through customer service training and get practice responding to real time situations. It will better prepare them in the world of social media. It’s also helpful that social media customer service agents understand marketing strategies and brand goals to help them know how their role fits into the bigger picture of the company.

Photo courtesy of Qole Pejorian

How to use Storytelling to Attract Customers

Humanity’s history has been based on storytelling. Long before we created print, and were able to form languages, we were painting drawings on caves that told a story. Whether these stories were about the great tribal hunt of slaying a deer, or it was to explaining how the moon was put into the sky by the raven, great stories have a way of hypnotizing us and even gripping onto our very souls.

There is no denying that stories have tremendous power to inspire us to greatness. Stories can also frighten our hearts, and keep us still with tears flowing from the windows of our souls. Stories can move us emotionally that no other way can. They can also be used to allow us to emotionally connect with new customers.

How do you use the power of storytelling to attract new customers to your business? Here are five guidelines to creating a great story to attract new customers.

1) Make it Personal

When small businesses start off, they don’t have the huge marketing budget like Coke to make people “open happiness” but small businesses do have the power of the personal story. A personal story that’s related to the business can help you and your business emotionally connect with new customers.

You have to know why you run your business. When you understand why you do what you do, you can start to truly craft your personal story.

Howard Schultz, C.E.O of Starbucks, had a simple yet elegant story. He traveled to Italy, and experienced a beverage that had not yet been experienced by the American mainstream. Espresso. Sipping it and looking at the artisan baristas in Italy create this beautiful drink inspired him to bring it back to Starbucks. And from there, his passion for coffee in all aspects is still burning.

2) Make it Emotional

Stories that are emotional will leave a lasting impression on potential new customers the way that facts never will or can. When was the last time you saw an Oscar winning movie that just showed stats?

Creating an emotional marketing story means creating a story that involves passion, determination, courage, and in many cases heartbreak. When you create stories that involve a mix of emotions instead of just plain facts, you are creating that personal connection with your customers.

3)Have People Relate To Your Story

Depending on who your target audience is, you need to craft your personal brand story to your target demographic. If you happen to be selling products that are designed to be sold in large retailers like Walmart, it’s probably not best to talk about how you were born in a rich family and that you had investors with connections help you get the product on shelves. The average consumer won’t relate.

But if your story is like that of the origin of Tom’s Shoes (one for one), then people can relate to the story. Blake Mycoskie the C.E.O of Tom’s shoes started the company because he witnessed children and people that were getting the disease known as “Mossy Foot” a disease that is transmitted from walking on silica rich soil. He wanted to make sure that everybody had shoes to wear. A simple, yet powerful message.

This is why he started Tom’s Shoes. A business that donates a pair of shoes, every time a pair of Tom’s Shoes are bought. For me what makes this story powerful is that I can relate to it on a deeper level. I honestly can’t imagine my life without shoes, it’s almost a given. And to know that someone out there has no shoes almost seem incomprehensible. And yes I’m an owner of a pair of Tom’s Shoes.

Make people relate to your story.

4) Throw in Hardships into the Story

Nobody in this life has a perfect life. We have all gone through different hardships in our life that get us to where we are today. Discussing the hardships to get to where your business is today will help people connect with your personal story, it will also allow people to relate to your story.

Share some of the struggles it took before your business was a success. We remember the stories of hardship and determination more than the stories where people were given their opportunities on a silver platter.

5)Solutions and Success

When you tell a good story, you don’t want people leaving on a bad note. Let them feel good about your business as well. Share with them some of the success that you’ve had along your business journey.

Whatever you do, don’t brag. Coke never brags in it’s advertisement that it’s the number one brand in the world.

When you use these elements of storytelling in your marketing material, or when you need to offer a presentation, you will emotionally connect with potential customers and clients. Small businesses can’t afford a large marketing budget, but they can definitely create a wonderful marketing story about themselves to attract their ideal audience of customers.

Photo courtesy of CeeKay

Creating a Community of Loyal Customers for Your Business

Stadium Crowd Here’s some bad news. Consumers today are bombarded with thousands of different products, services, businesses, advertisements and a whole spectrum of jibber jabber that it’s becoming harder and harder to create loyal customers. Marketers and advertisers are constantly finding ways to create loyal relationships with their customers and it’s definitely getting harder to create lifetime loyalty.

Here’s the good news, very few small businesses are able to do it in an excellent and meaningful way. In this blog post I’ll discuss five ideas of how to create a community of loyal customers.

1) Stand for Much More than Just Your Business

I’m a big fan that any business or service should represent more than just what they sell or provide. My dream for MCNG is to create a world where work culture is humane, creativity flows, and that everybody is enjoying the economical benefits to help sustain the local economy that they live in. It’s about being able to have team members come in smiling, to be able to bring in their dogs to work, and to be able to bring their children to come in and play with us (play and physical activity can help relax the mind and sometimes the greatest ideas pop up). I dream of the day that we will become a top 50 employer in North America.

A great example of a company that has done an amazing job of building this community is Lululemon. Here was a company that brought yoga to the mainstream masses. A company that cared about the health of their customers as well as their own employees. It was never about just the clothing, it was about creating a community that loved the clothes, and loved yoga.

2) Develop Customer Relations, Not Customer Service

If you want to create loyal customers to your business, you need to stop looking at your business as providing customer service and start looking at it as a way of creating customer relationships. Good customer service is like having a great one night stand, and the sex was so good you go back for it again, but you never quite look each other in the eye to create that connection.

Customer relations takes the perspective of how your actions are creating marriage type relationships with your customers. When I managed Starbucks, there were always a few things to encourage community at our own store, which made it rock. Our team knew hundreds (I believe it was 300) of our customers by their first name, and hundreds more by their drinks, and as time went on, some of them even received nicknames from us.

I remember one day one of our customers came in during my afternoon shift. A man with silver hair, who always ordered a grande half sweet, no whip, hot chocolate at around 6 am in the morning. He came in to tell me that he would no longer be coming in, because he was laid off from work. He came in for 3 years almost every weekday before that. He wanted my morning leader to know in case she wondered what happened.

I didn’t know what quite to say at the time, I was a little choked. I later told my morning leader about it, and all I could see was her holding back her tears and feeling a sense of loss. When you have customers that love you that much, you know you didn’t focus on customer service, you focused on customer relationships.

3) Develop a Loyalty Program

It’s almost standard nowadays that people expect a loyalty program with your business. A great loyalty program, whether it’s through creating a loyalty card like Scene for Cineplex theatres in Canada, or using RewardMe to reach out to customers via text message that says, “We miss you! :) Hope to see you soon.” (As a disclosure, I’m actually an investor for RewardMe.)

Loyalty programs don’t need to be complicated. It’s still okay to use punch cards and keep them at the counter. There are modern ways to keep loyalty up, such as using Foursquare and awarding mayorships.

The best type of loyalty program to create, is the one with the element of surprise. Our brains love experiencing novelty and good surprises. If you noticed that a customer comes frequently to your business, offer something for free. If you run a restaurant, give loyal customers a free dessert. If you work in the printing business, print up some magnets of the front of their business card for free when they’ve printed business cards with you for the third time.

If you make it a habit of doing nice things spontaneously once in a while, you’re going to build up some great happy feelings in customers, and happy customers are loyal customers.

4)Hold Exclusive or Live Events

Regardless of the type of business you run, you can always find a way to hold exclusive events for your loyal customers or create events that generate a lot of buzz to attract those customers.

I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to cars, I don’t know a lot, and I put a lot of faith in my auto mechanic. I would be very impressed if one day a car dealership or auto shop held an event that provided an educational seminar on the basics of buying a car, and how to maintain it to the public.

Women are becoming huge decision makers in which type of vehicle to buy. And I know women would love to be in a non machismo environment where they can be educated about maintaining cars. Having person to person interaction, and being able to have a person answer customized questions is always such a bigger bonus than searching for the answer on Google and looking through 5 articles before you find the right answer you’re looking for.

When you do hold events the best question you should ask yourself, how does this particular event relate to my marketing strategy and brand?

5) Send out Birthday Cards

One of the most crowded times of the year to get cards is during the winter holidays. Everybody sells them and they’re nice, but it seems like everybody does it all the time. A great way to build a community of loyal customers is to send them out birthday cards instead. This is more unique and is more meaningful.

I must admit, I don’t practice this myself, and I have every intention to start in 2013, it’s part of the plan.

A good friend of mine told me his car salesperson takes it one step further. He takes the time every year to call him and wish him a happy birthday. Every single year for the last 12 years I believe. And my friend always told me that he will call that car salesman first, and give him first chance to find a vehicle that he’s looking for before moving on to someone else.

Calling or writing to people on their birthday allows us to create customer relationships, which then allow us to create a community of loyal customers.

You can’t use cheap tricks to get people to be loyal customers. You need to be sincere in getting to know people and to look out for their best interests. Take care of your customers as if they are your life blood, because they are and always will be the life blood of your business.