Pssst… Your Brand might be at risk…

If you’ll recall from an earlier posting, a brand is the emotional response an individual experiences when a product or service name is viewed or mentioned. A brand is closely tied to the experience your customer has when dealing in person, in writing, on the web, or by phone, with your business. A very important thing…

I recently read a very good (albeit scary) post by Leonard Klie on (CRM Magazine) about a rise in complaint calls at contact centers. Negative calls have increased by 40 percent in the past two years. Everyone who works for your company has an impact on your customers. That impact will affect how customers view your brand. With such an increase in negative calls, this is not good news.

The report, part of an annual study of more than 200 US contact centers categorized results by business type. It was interesting to note that the financial services industry did not fare as poorly as the group as a whole. I was pleased about that since Alder & Associates has helped several banks grow through brand advertising. My jubilation was rather short-lived when I read that negative calls for the financial field increased by 28 percent during the period in question…

Eighty percent of the complaints were not about how the staff handled calls but rather about a failure of process somewhere else in the organization. With the downturn in the economy and “guilty by association” aspect of the banking industry, it becomes clear that the public could very well view the financial industry askance. However and partly due to the economic downturn, companies have laid off workers who handled customers - and call centers have also reduced staff who man the phones, all resulting in some work not getting done, some errors being made, and fewer call center staff to man the phones and correct the issues. It’s not hard to imagine why complaints have risen so dramatically.

What is hard to imagine is the devastating impact this all has on a company’s brand. A great brand takes years to develop and grow. Companies have spent millions of dollars on advertising and brand research to ensure their brand is top-of-mind with the consumer. One can imagine that in a scenario where a few errors made in one department become magnified by another short-staffed department and further compounded by long telephone queues and inept or inexperienced operators. It is clear that the brand will suffer and consumers will walk.  A marketer’s nightmare…

A word of advice? Very often, an attempt to save a few pennies here or there or to reduce proper training to save a buck can undo millions of dollars of brand advertising and brand equity. Companies will want to take a longer-range view of the business, the brand, profits and the brand! (Because, it is all about the brand!)

(c) Alder & Associates - Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations


Being Liked Is Important… on Facebook

I recently read about a webinar cohosted by Aquent and the American Marketing Association that included Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media and his partner Carrie Kerpen. The webinar was about ways companies can get greater mileage out of Facebook pages and the importance of being “likeable” on Facebook. 

Some suggestions:

1. Talking less about a company’s brand and engaging viewers in listening and engaging (polls, input, questions to fans...)

2. Offering viewers immediate discounts for anyone who “likes” a page.

3. Delivering great content for viewers “each and every day”.

4. Developing a news feed.

5. Adding company photos on the page.

6. Making the conversation about the customer, not the organization.

I’d like to go on record by saying that all of these suggestions make a lot of sense! The ideas proposed are cogent and solidly based on marketing principles.

But let’s talk reality: Attentive and intensive Facebook involvement makes great sense for a large company that can devote resources to social media. Smaller companies have greater manpower constraints but are blessed with less red tape. (Translation: Things are easier to get approved and take less time to get on Facebook.)

In that spirit, here is my answer to the above 6 points! 

1. To all of you who have clicked the “Like” button on the Alder & Associates Facebook page, thank you!  We appreciate it!  Now, here’s how you can help.  Drop everything you’re doing and ask all of your friends and relatives to do the same and have them “like” us too! 

2. Everyone who “Likes” us gets a 5 percent discount off our first major brand or advertising project for you*.

3. Tune in tomorrow to see the great content I have in store for you!

4. News feed? I’m working on it…

5. The company photos are coming (as soon as all the pics are airbrushed!)

6. Let’s talk!  Tell me which marketing topics interest you the most for future blogs and I promise to cover the subject as best I can!

Don’t forget to tell your friends and relatives about Alder & Associates.  Now get to work! 


* That means - first-time clients!

(c) Alder & Associates - Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations. 2011


Is a Happy Employee a Marketing Win?

If everyone was paid a salary with health benefits and didn’t have to do anything for it, would they still want to work? Do your friends describe their jobs in a disparaging way? What motivates employees and provide a sense of accomplishment? Have I asked enough questions? 

Unfortunately, many companies have failed to engage their employees and are still failing today.  It was pretty bad before the economic downturn and now, post-downturn and massive layoffs, those still employed are overworked, feeling intimidated, and not feeling better about their jobs (other than having one). What happened to a motivated workforce?

A few years back when I managed teams of professionals, I searched for ways to engage, offer enjoyment and a sense of connection with the company, and mesh their hearts with the company’s mission. It was important that the team feel a sense of personal and professional growth and an excitement when they came to work each day.  I hope that I succeeded on some level and that’s why I was very pleased to recently read a related blog on the Huffington Post by Judah Schiller, co-founder and CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi S.

It was refreshing. He gets it! Techniques I employed were mentioned in the piece entitled “5 Must-Dos to Engage Your Employees in 2011”.  Essential ideas to avoid a lack of employee engagement - the malaise found in many companies today were reviewed:

Schiller suggests a need for refreshed thinking and engaging employees to define corporate challenges and develop solutions to those challenges.  The blogger recommends employing associates at all levels of the company, soliciting their input and engaging them in regular surveys to determine what makes them happy, how they like to work, and to get to the root of what can get them excited! 

I have always believed that if your team is having fun, if they feel alive and alert, they will bring a fresh attitude to their engagements with other employees and most importantly the customer.  Schiller suggests using social good as a means to forming a common cause and rallying point for employees.  He also proposes viral and grassroots learning.  Having been the beneficiary of grassroots learning in its finest form, I can attest to how it has helped me do my job better and be more open to helping others do theirs too.  Schiller speaks about creating a company of micro-philanthropists – allowing employees to getting involved in causes meaningful to them (rather than the top-down approach often used.)

The next time you enter a business establishment, look around.  Can you tell if the employees are engaged and happy to be there?  Try to determine what message their interaction with you is sending.  You may realize that while a company sends many marketing messages, their employees are marketing ambassadors too.  Corporate America:  Get creative in keeping your employees happy, learning, engaged, and the results may just be the best marketing ever!

(c) Alder & Associates, 2011


Secrets to a long and happy customer life

This past December, I celebrated my 22nd year in Richmond. It dawned on me that, -a- I still consider myself a New Yorker and, -b- I had used the same realtor, bank, dentist, doctor and bar for those 22 years. To me, that's a long time. I wondered what kept me going back year after year.

I researched articles on "life-long customers" on the Internet and the first one was by Jeff Wuorio on the Microsoft website. It seemed to fit the bill and provided very concise ways companies can work to keep customers for life. The first rule provided was that a company should deliver what they say they're going to deliver. Simple enough! Have you ever been let down by a company's product or service? We've all read advertising copy that promises the sun, moon, and stars. We've had experiences in stores or with products that have had us wishing for at least one of the three!

The article continued by exhorting companies to "expect the best" from their customers, that is, not to adopt a mindset that customers must somehow earn the right to do business with the company. In a word, respect the customer! Think of a time when you entered a restaurant and you felt respect. Nice feeling, wasn't it? In reverse, think about a time when you felt you weren't respected. Are you still doing business with that company?  I'd venture to say: no!

The author advises companies to "go beyond the usual", or to conduct business by providing a level of service beyond what a customer might expect. I had one of these experiences years ago when I missed a connection in the Bahamas. The airline's counter agent not only secured a seat on another flight -- on another carrier, but took the time to walk me to that gate! This service level was so unexpected that I immediately forgot that the delay was in fact caused by that airline and my anger and impatience evaporated!

Additional advise provided in the article centers around "watching the customer - not the bottom line". Said differently, if you attend to your customers' needs and wants, you will be rewarded with continued business, those ultra-important referrals, and general goodwill that will help your company succeed. Some of the most successful companies conduct consumer research on an ongoing basis or have a system of "listening posts" to monitor what their customers are thinking and saying. This input is critical to delivering the products customers will want and purchase. And, another tip related to this one is "giving your customers a reason to stay with your company. A simple example of this is offering repeat customers a discount. Here's an example: I was in my favorite bakery/restaurant in New York when my waitress dropped off a small box of cookies at no charge asking me to enjoy them. With just a few dollars of cookies, that restaurant earned about a hundred hours of me telling anyone who would listen what a great place it was and it also cemented what I thought of the place! I will continue to patronize the place - it's just that good, and sadly, yes, I learned that I can be had with the price of some cookies!

Lastly, another way to encourage long-term customers is to ensure long-term employees. Treat employees the way you wish them to treat customers. Employees working in a positive, supportive environment will in turn treat customers accordingly.

Finally, Wuorio encourages businesses to "be picky" about lifelong customers. Businesses are there to make a profit and there may be customers who are just too demanding to be profitable. Businesses must determine the point at which a customer costs too much to service. Someone who spends an hour or two arguing about a bill each month will drive manpower costs up. If your service reps earn $15 per hour that customer could cost an additional $30 in staff time each month. Is he a profitable one?

Everyone knows that it costs much more to garner a new customer than to keep one you've got already. These tips could help companies keep customers longer and more profitably for the company. Why don't all companies follow the tips?  Drop me a line and tell me!

(c) Alder & Associates - Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations


Chat with Bart!

Having attended countless graduate school classes with outside guest speakers, experienced a multitude of industry workshops, and planned and attended many company-wide meetings, I have always been impressed with those speakers who incorporated “real life” business experiences and brought life to their presentations with actual issues and resolutions. Most everything I’ve read seems to indicate that hypothetical examples bore an audience and the more actual examples incorporated into the presentation, the greater the propensity to make it an enjoyable and meaningful one!

An article about public speaking entitled “The Gift of Gab” by Barbara Haislip that appeared in the Wall Street Journal last August was instrumental in starting conversations with the president of my advertising agency about the importance of being visible in the business.  Over the course of several months, it has resulted in Bart Alder, President and Creative Director of Alder & Associates being “available” as a speaker to businesses and organizations across the state and across the country! 

GP: Bart, how do you feel about speaking at trade association or business gatherings?

Bart: I think that I’ve got a lot of experience from a creative’s perspective in developing compelling and        successful advertising campaigns.  I believe there’s a market out there that is still very much interested in learning about the field of advertising.  In many ways, it’s still a new world for many firms.

GP:  New world?

Bart:  There are companies who do not advertise – either product or brand - either because they don’t understand it or don’t believe it can help grow their business.  Then there are industry leaders who have not yet had direct contact with internal or external ad agencies. In the course of my career, I’ve worked for two major banking corporations, a major law firm and the largest community bank in the state of Virginia.  I’ve seen the power advertising has in supporting their growth and have had interesting interactions with corporate ad managers through to senior management.  It’s an interesting story to tell.

GP: But what about the role of social media? Branding? Other marketing tools?

Bart: Each plays a critical role. But, if you’re looking to build a brand or increase brand awareness, print and electronic advertising is a very critical component in your playbook.

GP: How does your presentation differ from other “President and Creative Directors” out there?

Bart: Well as you know, when Alder & Associates develops an ad campaign, we rely on “Theater of the Mind”…  It’s a concept that sets our work apart from others – and it is a compelling story to tell.  It’s simply different than most and we’ve had a lot of success with it. Another important distinction is that our creative approach is driven by strategy in achieving business results, not by what many believe is your typical Creative Director’s goal -- to win award show accolades.  Our work creates results!

GP: How can outside firms or professional associations learn more about it?

Bart: I’d love to speak to them about attending their next company or association meeting.  Have them call me and we’ll chat it up!

© Alder & Associates – Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations