I Can See Clearly Now

 

Being transparent with customers helps manage their expectations.

Do you bend over backward to deliver what customers ask for, even if it spreads you thin? Or, do you say ‘no’ to offering above and beyond what you feel are your core products and services? Either scenario begs for a reevaluation of how you manage customer expectations.

The issue isn’t really that customers know what to expect and yet try to get more for less, says Robert Johnson, CEO of TeamSupport, a B2B customer support software provider. The issue is that customers don’t know your rules, policies and practices, or limitations—they don’t know what to ask for. But there are ways to bridge this knowledge gap, says Johnson. Consider whether any or all of these five options can help you improve customer relations.

1 Equip front-line customer service personnel to deliver more solutions. If what the customer wants can’t be delivered, your team will be ready with an alternative solution.

2 Rethink how you communicate your policies and practices to customers.Look at your collateral, your website and your social media pages. If the way you do business and work with clients isn’t clear, revise your content.

3 Be honest about the wrenches that get thrown in the works. When orders or processes are held up by glitches or bugs, communicate with customers about how the timeline will be affected, and provide timely updates.

4 Be optimistic, but realistic. Not all solutions are ideal, but it’s important to deliver realistic expectations. Customers should know any caveats or possible issues related to their requests, so they aren’t blindsided by upsets in the process.

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Measuring Up

How do you know if your social media marketing efforts are working?

Whether social media platforms are an integral part of your marketing mix or the sole platform for marketing efforts, it can be tough to measure ROI. MDG Advertising reports that 44 percent of businesses are unable to measure the impact of social media, and only 20 percent can quantify the success of their efforts. 

Oddly enough, more than a third believe they can see the qualitative impact despite not having solid figures to illustrate it. Some of the reasons for poor ROI measurement, according to the survey, include a lack of analytics resources, poor measurement tools and platforms, and unreliable or poor data.

The social media metrics that are most frequently tracked by marketers are engagement (shares, views, likes)—55 percent; conversions (goal conversion, revenue)—21 percent; amplification (share of voice)—16 percent; and customer service (response times)—two percent.

While the numbers are hazy, the success of marketing campaigns is not—at least not for chief marketing officers who participated in The CMO Survey. More than half of the respondents said social media has helped them increase exposure and traffic, develop fans, generate leads, grow partnerships and increase sales. These businesses are spending 12 percent of their marketing budgets on social media, a figure that’s expected to rise to more than 20 percent in the next five years.

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ASK THE EXPERT: Ben Adams, Co-founder and  managing director-product, Advoc8

The Agency Approach

Ben Adams with Washington, D.C.-based distributor Advoc8  talks about moving from product sales to promotional consultancy.

Successful distributors know that product sales alone don’t guarantee longevity in the industry. To stay ahead of the curve and ensure ongoing success, Ben Adams recommends positioning yourself as a multifaceted solutions expert.

PPB Your company functions as an agency that offers multiple marketing and branding solutions. What’s the reason behind this approach, and how do promotional products fit into it?
Adams We are looking to be solution providers and experts in those solutions. We view promotional products as part of our overall strategy, and we take a creative, consultative approach with our clients. If promotional products don’t make sense for a client’s needs, we won’t make that recommendation.

PPB Can you share an example of a client project that did include a successful promotional product?
Adams Recently, we attended the Aspen Ideas Festival, a “who’s who” of forward thinkers. Comcast, one of the festival underwriters, approached us about giving something away that played into the Aspen [Colorado] vibe. We suggested custom-manufactured portable, collapsible hammocks. They were a great success—we saw them being used everywhere.

PPB What other services can distributors offer to clients in order to be seen as true consultants?
Adams As an example, we assess design fees—it’s a great way to grow margins. Look at adding capabilities that help you sell; consider adding designers, creative services or technology. Position yourself as an expert in solutions. It puts you in a better light and you come across as more authentic and less “salesy.” By taking
a consultative approach, you’ll see more success as a distributor and you’ll also see opportunities to grow in multiple ways.

PPB How can distributors better communicate the value of promotional products to clients?
Adams We communicate the value with ROI—we emphasize handing out something unique to a client’s brand that communicates that brand’s value to the recipient. The product must be something that keeps people coming back, that’s useful and builds loyalty, and that brings repeat business and influencers. If an item doesn’t have a purpose or a connection to a brand, it won’t work. 

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Best Of Both Worlds

Make sure your online and offline branding deliver the same message.

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business with a digital presence, branding becomes twice as important. Consumers process online content and information differently than what they receive in person, often giving more weight to what they’re hearing and seeing when you are right in front of them.  

To get the most out of both branding channels and create a consistent message and image, weigh your current strategy against these points from Adrian Fisher, founder and CEO of real estate property company propertysimple.com.

Use the same language in online and in-person copy. Write or speak with an authentic voice, and tailor the style of delivery to the platform, while keeping the message the same. Your online personality should match what you present in person.

Streamline your design style—with a twist. Audiences consume online and offline content differently, but all the content you design should contain unifying elements. Use the same graphics and images online and offline in your marketing and advertising pieces to create continuity with audiences and prospective clients, but create custom layouts that work for each type of medium. 

Incorporate user-generated content. Letting customers speak to prospects about your products and services is a great way to build business. Build online reviews, user testimonials and customer videos or photos into your branding messages.

Extend online relationships with offline engagement. Active online engagement is a boon to businesses, but if these connections only exist online, your customers aren’t getting to fully experience your brand. Take online conversations with qualified leads even further by setting up phone calls, video conferences or meetings at the local coffee shop.

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Welcome  To The Jungle

Ready to advertise on Amazon?  Build your battle plan with these tips from veteran brands.

As the leading e-retailer, Amazon attracts virtually every type of customer—including the promotional products buyer. If your distributor company is ready to make the leap to selling on Amazon, Jeff Cohen, Amazon advertising expert and CMO of Seller Labs, offers these tips based on the habits of successful Amazon merchants.

1 Create a site-specific strategy. Successful merchants treat Amazon like the unicorn it is, tailoring their approach to advertising in order to attract the unique type of customer that Amazon attracts.

2 Build a library of targeted keywords, consumer reviews and on-point product descriptions. Amazon shoppers can compare thousands of similar products, and the more precise you are in describing features and benefits, the more likely you are to attract customers. 

3 Optimize your listings first. Consumers will gravitate toward listings before they click on ads, so perfect this element; use high-quality images and write feature-rich descriptions.

4 Dig into data. Research the keywords you think most effectively relate to your products. What pops up when you search? Are the products similar to what you offer? Are they attracting the type of customer that you want?

5 Play up the customer experience. Successful brands on Amazon build campaigns on a customer-first policy. Emphasize the experience that consumers can have with your brand and your products, summing them up as key features. 

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Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB.

 

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