How to find your ideal customers (review of The Ultimate Marketing Engine by John Jantsch)

I learned two things while staying at Killarney Lodge in Algonquin Park.

I’m not at my best when paddling a canoe across a lake into a stiff wind or slight breeze.

And it shows when you know who’s your ideal guest, customer or client.

Killarney Lodge has done their homework. They know their ideal guest doesn’t need to be entertained. So there are no bingo and movie nights. No shuffleboard and volleyball tournaments. No pre-dinner wine and cheese receptions and after-dinner cover bands butchering the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Taylor Swift in the banquet and party hall. In fact, there’s no banquet and party hall. Just like there are no flat screen TVs in any cabin.

Instead, the resort caters to guests who want a nature fix, screen-free solitude, an uninterrupted sleep and the luxury of a spotless waterfront cabin with a million dollar view, a comfortable bed and a private dock with a canoe plus friendly staff, home-cooked meals and the world’s best butter tarts and pies.  

Killarney Lodge does what John Jantsch preaches in his book The Ultimate Marketing Engine.

“It doesn’t matter that you think everyone needs what you have to sell,” says Jantsch, a marketing consultant and founder of Duck Tape Marketing. “Ideal customers have the right set of problems, the right circumstances, the right characteristics, the right motivation, the right beliefs, the right behavior and the right amount of money.

“The key is to recognize the value that you, your products and your services bring; to appreciate what an ideal client looks like; and then to understand and promise to solve that ideal customer’s greatest problem. Creating a marketing engine means helping your customers go from where they are now to where they want to arrive, to experience the transformation they seek, and to get the best result possible.”

Jantsch says there are five keys to growing your business.

Map where your best customers are today and where they want to go. Understand the key milestones on that journey.

Uncover the real problem you solve for your ideal customers. What’s the transformation they’re seeking? “People don’t buy products or services just because they want them. They buy them because they believe they will solve a problem.”

Narrow your focus to the top 20 per cent of your ideal customers. “There are plenty of customers to go around; you don’t need them all.” Your top 20 per cent want to do more business with you, says Jantsch. “A subset of this group wants to spend 10 times more than they currently do. You need to figure out who they are and offer them the opportunity.”

Attract more ideal customers with the narrative they’re already telling themselves. You’ve done your homework so you know this story, the journey they’re on and the milestones along the way.

And then grow with your customers. “This is the key to long-term, sustainable growth because expansion comes organically rather than through the discovery of some new sales tactic or marketing channel.”

Jantsch’s latest book should be required reading for every small business owner. Not everyone’s made it through the pandemic. But many small businesses, restaurants and resorts have survived and even thrived. The pandemic’s exposed a fundamental and often unforgotten business truth, says Jantsch.

“In good times, growth often comes from being in the right place at the right time; in tough times, growth comes from being important in some meaningful way in the lives of your customers.”

Jantsch shows how to be important in a meaningful way for your most important customers, clients or guests. Sometimes that way involves delivering a nature fix, solitude, a canoe, a million dollar view and the world’s best butter tarts and pies.

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Build your brand with a helping hand during the pandemic (review)

empathyThe COVID fog rolled in thick and fast at the grocery store and an act of kindness got me home.

I was at my car with a week’s worth of groceries but no keys. I rifled through every bag and made sure the keys weren’t locked in my car.

I went back inside the grocery store to the check-out line, swung by customer service and retraced my route up and down the aisles.

The store was closing in 40 minutes.

The manager took pity, stopped restocking shelves and joined the search. He offered to watch the cart and recheck the grocery bags while I scoured the store for a third time. The manager found the keys buried in a bunch of grapes. I couldn’t remember when or why I’d put the keys there.

Buyology-Coronavirus_3DI thanked the manager. No worries, he said. Lots of customers are distracted and losing things these days. He was possibly being more kind than truthful.

Either way, empathy is exactly what you should be showing your customers and employees, says Martin Lindstrom in Buyology for a Coronavirus World. We need kindness now more than ever and smart businesses are offering it.

“Right now there are a lot of people in need,” says Martin. “Old people struggle to shop without having to leave their home and expose themselves to the virus. Waiters, bartenders, and airline crews have lost their jobs, with no new jobs in sight. Kids’ schools have closed, though mom and dad are still expected at the office. Nurses are working day and night. The list goes on and on, adding up to hundreds of millions of people affected by the crisis. All are in need.”

While offering extra help to your existing customers will cost you money, it’ll be less than what you’ll spend trying to find new customers at a time when most of us are dialing back our overspending.

“In times of need, you can really make a difference — and your customers will notice. In difficult times, you can cement a lifelong relationship. You can build your brand.”

During the financial crisis of 2008, car buyers were offered the Hyundai Assurance. The company promised drivers they could return their new vehicles if they lost their jobs within a year. Sales went up by double digits while only five cars were returned.

Your acts of kindness don’t need to be budget-busting grand gestures. Hilton’s DoubleTree Hotels recently published the recipe for the cookies they give to guests as they check-in. The hotel chain gave out more than 30 million cookies each year at its 500-plus properties during our pre-pandemic days.

cookies“We know this is an anxious time for everyone,” said a DoubleTree senior executive. “A warm chocolate chip cookie can’t solve everything but it can bring a moment of comfort and happiness. We hope families enjoy the fun of baking together during their time at home and we look forward to welcoming our guests with a warm DoubleTree cookie when travel resumes.”

My kids were definitely comforted and happy and ate the entire batch of DoubleTree cookies in two days. 

Compare Hyundai and DoubleTree to companies that are ignoring or taking advantage of customers. Martin calls out an airline that hung up on him and another that’s charging $50 upfront for every call you make, regardless of why you’re calling.

“What strikes me is that most airlines, car rental companies, hotels, supermarkets, insurance companies – you name it – behave like they never plan to interact with customers again. It’s as if this is the end of the world. They may know something I don’t, but I hold another opinion.”

Martin also says now’s the time to rethink and reinvent your business.  The prospect of another shutdown, an economy that’s slow to restart and customers who’ve broken their addiction to overspending should give you the sense of added urgency required to bust out of your comfort zone.

“This crisis is written on every wall, door and panel. I don’t think a single soul will deny it so use it to your advantage. Give everyone in your organization, from the receptionist to top management, a simple but profound task: rethink your business model. Ask the profound questions. If we need to change everything from the ground up, what industry are we really in.”

Legacies will be defined during the pandemic. We’ll remember how you made us feel long after COVID-19’s defeated. So be kind, do good, rethink and reinvent.

“What’s happening right now is a lot more than a story for our grandchildren and the next generation to come. This is the moment when you define your legacy as a leader. You won’t be remembered for wins or losses, but for how you were there for your employees and customers.”

Martin is doing good by making his pocketbook available for free as a digital download.

This review ran in the June 27th edition of The Hamilton Spectator. Jay Robb serves as communications manager with McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

How to get us to earn our attention, trust and business (review of Think Say Do)

Would you close your store on Black Friday and turn away customers online?

Outdoor retailer REI Co-op launched #OptOutside in 2015 so customers and employers could head outdoors during one of the busiest retail days of the year. Along with closing all 157 stores and giving its 13,000 employees a paid holiday, the company doesn’t process online payments.

This year, the company’s adding a call to action that invites everyone to join one of 11 organized environmental clean-up projects on Black Friday.

More than 15 million people, and more than 700 organizations, have so far joined REI’s anti-shopping movement.

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REI launched #OptOutside with an ad campaign starring their former chief executive officer sitting at a desk on a mountaintop. “We believe a life lived outside is a life worth living. We’d rather be in the mountains than in the aisles,” said Jerry Stritzke.

Ron Tite, author of Think Do Say and founder and CEO of marketing agency Church + State, thinks REI is genius for closing while competitors slash prices, roll out special promotions and spend big bucks on advertising in an all-out war to gin up pre-holiday spending.

think do say“REI shut down on its busiest day of the year and actually grew revenue in the process,” says Tite. “They got consumers to look. They established trust in the brand. The result was incredible momentum and growth, all because everyone from the CEO to the cashier were aligned on what they thought, what they did and what they said.”

Alignment gets you noticed in an increasingly chaotic world where we no longer know where to look or who to trust. The marketplace is flooded with products and services clamoring for our attention and wallets. At the same time, we’re witnessing a massive breach of trust in consumer marketing.

“Great brands, great companies and great leaders are based on what they think, what they do and what they say. When all three of those pillars work together, people look up. Getting them to do that has never been more difficult.”

The first pillar is the most important. What do you think? Believe in something greater, says Tite. “Go beyond the rational. Explore the emotional. Start with purpose.” REI believes that a life outdoors is a life well lived. Closing on Boxing Day aligns with what the company believes. To borrow a line from Bill Bernbach, “a principle is not a principle until it costs you money.”

Once you’ve defined your brand belief, figure out what to do to act on that belief and then how to say it.

“If you believe in something greater and you behave in a way that reinforces that belief, it’s worth talking about. And if you’re going to talk about it you should say it in a way that gets as many people onside as possible. Just state what you believe, say what you do to live it and say it in an authentic and memorable way.”

Misalignment in what you think, say and do can lead to trust-killing integrity gaps. “Do your best to avoid them, but own them when they occur because what you do immediately following an integrity gap will say more about your character than what you did before.”

Deciding what to think, do and say is hard work but the payoff is worth it, says Tite. You’ll earn our attention, trust and your business.

Need more proof? REI’s announcement that it was closing on Black Friday generated 6.7 billion media impressions and 1.2 billion social impressions. Co-op membership has grown 31 per cent since 2014 and the company’s achieved a 20 per cent five-year compound growth rate.

This review ran in the Nov. 23 edition of the Hamilton Spectator. I serve as communications manager with McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, live in Hamilton and have reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999. Reviews are archived here.

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The one question marketers must answer first (Review of Seth Godin’s This is Marketing)

godinThis review first ran in the Jan. 19 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See

By Seth Godin

Portfolio / Penguin

$32

The question isn’t how much money you can make and how fast you can make it.

It’s not how big you can build your brand and how many real and fake followers you can find or buy online.

It’s not how to game the system by using the latest search engine optimization hacks.

Instead of all that, it’s only this -“who can you help?”.  Market nothing until you have a definitive answer.

Whether you’re looking for customers, clients, subscribers, students, audiences, donors, funders or voters, Seth Godin says this must be your first and foundational question.

Godin is the author of 18 bestsellers, a member of the Marketing Hall of Fame, tech company founder and former Yahoo VP.

“Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem.  Sharing your path to better is called marketing and you can do it. We all can.”

Godin uses a lock and key analogy. You could make a key and then run around hoping to find a lock. Or you could start by finding the problem – a lock that needs opening – and make the key.

“It’s easier to make products and services for the customers you seek to serve than it is to find customers for your products and services.”

You don’t use people to solve your problems. You’re in business to solve their problems.  Successful marketers “have the empathy to know that those they seek to serve don’t want what the marketer wants, don’t believe what they believe and don’t care about what they care about. They probably never will.”

Godin says there are five steps to marketing a product, service or idea:

  1. Invent something work making, with a story worth telling and a contribution worth talking about.
  2. Design and build it so a few people will benefit greatly and care deeply. Identify your smallest viable market. You can’t change everyone but you can change someone. “What’s the minimum number of people you would need to influence to make it worth the effort?”.
  3. Tell a story that lines up with your customers’ hopes, dreams and desires. Say what people need to hear. This is how you earn attention, trust and action.
  4. Start spreading the word, ideally by the people you’re serving. “What you say isn’t nearly as important as what others say about you.” Have a product or service that’s worth talking about and searching for beyond a generic search.
  5. Show up regularly, consistently and generously year after year after year. Deliver on your promise.

You have a choice with your business, organization, non-profit or personal brand. You can be marketing-driven or market-driven.

Marketing-driven is a dead end, says Godin. “When you’re marketing-driven you’re focused on the latest Facebook data hacks, the design of your new logo and your Canadian pricing model.

“When you’re market-driven, you think a lot about the hopes and dreams of your customers and their friends. You listen to their frustrations and invest in changing the culture. Being market-driven lasts.”

Jay Robb serves as communications manager with McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

The 4 keys to giving your customers something to talk about

triggerThis review first ran in the Oct. 27 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth

By Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin

$36

Portfolio / Penguin

It’s the bonus chunk of kielbasa that comes with the mixed meat sandwich from Starpolskie’s Deli in East Hamilton.

It’s the Tim Horton’s gift card you’re given and told to use while your kid spends the next 90 minutes getting his braces put on at Taylor-Edwards Orthodontics.

It’s also the warm chocolate chip cookies at DoubleTree by Hilton, the Graduate Hotel room keys that look like college student ID cards, the free and unlimited soft drinks at Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, the Cheesecake Factory menu that run to almost 6,000 words and the silver telephones at Umpqua Bank branches that connect directly to the president.

These are all examples of what Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin call talk triggers that drive word of mouth. None of us talk about a good customer experience. But we’ll rave online and off about something that’s different, unique and unexpected. Research shows that word of mouth drives five times more sales than advertising so smart organizations are deliberating engineering these conversations.

“Word of mouth is perhaps the most effective and cost-effective way to grow any company,” says Baer and Lemin. “We’re in an era where trust matters more than truth, and the truth is that your customers simply don’t trust you as much as they trust each other.

“The best organizations are purposefully crafting differentiators that get customers to tell authentic, visceral, trusted stories about the business and its products or services – stories that create new customers through referrals and recommendations.

“A unique selling proposition is a feature, articulated with a bullet point, that is discussed in a conference room,” says Baer and Lemin. “A talk trigger is a benefit, articulated with a story, that is discussed at a cocktail party. Done well, talk triggers clone your customers.”

So here’s how you do it well. Your talk trigger must be remarkable, relevant, repeatable and reasonable.

Take DoubleTree’s chocolate chip cookie. No other hotel chain gives away 75,000 cookies each day to every guest whenever they check in. The cookies are baked onsite and served warm. The free cookie reinforces DoubleTree’s brand promise of a warm welcome and triggers conversations. When surveyed about the hotel’s best attributes, guests rank the cookie just below friendly staff and comfortable beds and more than a third of guests tell others about the cookie.

DoubleTree’s talk trigger would be nothing more than a marketing and PR stunt if the cookies were only given away on the first Saturday of the month or during the holidays or just to Hilton Honors members or first-time guests or if a suitcase-sized cookie covered in gold leaf was given one-time only to a randomly chosen customer.

A talk trigger falls into one of five categories based on empathy, usefulness, generosity, speed or attitude. Choose the category that works best for your organization and come up with something unique. Same is lame, say Baer and Lemin.

There are then six steps for successfully launching your talk trigger. You start by gathering internal insights from marketing, sales and service and having this cross-departmental team sift through data about your customers, your business and the competition.

Get close to your customers to better understand what they really want.

Come up with four to six potential talk triggers and then assess for both complexity to deliver and customer impact. Focus on a trigger that has medium impact and complexity.

Now test and measure your talk trigger with a subset of customers. Is it spurring conversations, emails, online comments and reviews?

If your talk trigger gets people talking, roll it out across your entire organization to all your customers.

Finally, amplify your talk trigger through paid advertising so everyone knows both the what and they why. DoubleTree tells guests the cookie is part of their commitment to a warm welcome. Guests can also order the cookie dough and have it shipped to their homes.

Baer and Lemin show how any business or organization can drive word of mouth by doing something remarkable every time for every customer. They also offer their own talk trigger to readers. If you don’t like their book, just send Baer and Lemin a note and they’ll buy you whatever book you want. While it’s unlikely to get many takers, it’s the thought that counts and gets people talking.

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

The 3 phases for getting customers to know you, like you and trust you (REVIEW)

marketing planThis review first ran in the Sept. 1 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money and Stand Out From the Crowd

By Allan Dib

Successwise

$19.95

You deep fry Hamilton’s best donuts. You bake the city’s best bread, brew the best craft beer or serve the best burgers and fries.

You’re Steeltown’s most talented stylist, photographer, event planner or yoga instructor.

But we won’t know that you’re the best or the most talented until we buy what you’re selling. Until then, we only know how good you are from your marketing.

And the best marketer wins every time, says Allan Dib, a serial entrepreneur and author of The 1-Page Marketing Plan.

A compelling argument can be made that Grandad’s Donuts at the corner of James North and Burlington Street sells Hamilton’s best donuts. Yet it’s Donut Monster on Locke Street that sells Hamilton’s best marketed donuts. Donut Monster has nearly 9,000 followers on Facebook and almost 4,000 followers on Twitter while Grandad’s has 4,000 Facebook followers and 463 followers on Twitter.

It’s the quality of your products or services that keeps us coming back as customers. It’s the effectiveness of your marketing that brings us through your doors for the first time. Marketing is how we get to know you, like you and trust you.

“The graveyards of failed businesses are full of businesses that had excellent products and services,” says Dib. “For the most part they failed because those running them didn’t pay enough attention to marketing. By far the biggest leverage point in any business is marketing. If you get 10 per cent better at marketing, this can have an exponential or multiplying effect on your bottom line. “

Don’t try copying the marketing strategies of your larger, more established competitors. Dib warns that entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t have the money, staff or time for building brand awareness.

Instead, you need to find the fastest path to making money.

Dib maps out that path in a one-page, at-a-glance marketing plan that can be filled out in less than 30 minutes. It’s a plan with three phases and each phase has a different marketing focus.

The first phase is all about getting prospects to know that you exist. You’re identifying a target market, crafting a compelling message and delivering that message through advertising media.

Believing that everyone is your target market is a newbie marketing mistake, says Dib. “Being all things to all people leads to marketing failure. Targeting a tight niche allows you to become a big fish in a small pond. It allows you to dominate a category or geography in a way that is impossible to being general.”

The next phase in your marketing journey is about getting people to like you. We become interested in what you’re selling and we’re thinking about buying from you for the first time. Your focus is on capturing leads, delivering value-building information and then converting leads into customers.

Your third and final phase is all about getting us to trust you so we become loyal, repeat customers and raving fans who’ll refer you to family and friends. You’re focused on delivering a world-class experience, increasing the lifetime value of your customers and orchestrating and stimulating referrals.

Approximately half of all small businesses fail. Many of the survivors limp along, with owners taking an involuntary vow of poverty. Dib’s marketing plan won’t save you from this fate if there’s no compelling reason for you to be in business beyond paying the bills. “If you haven’t first clarified in your mind why your business exists and why people should buy from you rather than your nearest competitor, marketing will be an uphill battle.”

As to how much money you should spend on marketing, Dib makes the case for having an unlimited budget. The key is to know where to invest. If every dollar you spend on marketing keeps bringing in more than a dollar worth of business, think of it as your legal money printing press and crank it up.

“It’s time to decide to become a great marketer and transform yourself from a business owner to a marketer who owns a business,” says Dib. “Once you make this exciting transformation, you and your business will never be the same again.”

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Field notes from a marketing and communications conference (25 takeaways)

field notes

Here are my top 25 content marketing, social media, video, issues management and crisis comms takeaways from the 2nd annual Marketing & Communications for Post-Secondary Conference held May 7 – 9 in Toronto. The conference was produced by Summers Direct and Swansea Communications and presented by Academica Group.

Highly recommend this conference for anyone working in marketing or communications with colleges or universities and looking for some inspiration. You too will leave with a book full of notes and ideas.

1.     With content marketing, the sweet spot is the intersection of what your audience wants, what your organization is an expert in and where there’s untapped potential for marrying the two. – Graeme Owens, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

2.     The most engaging and shareable content is helpful, inspiring and entertaining. – Graeme Owens

3.     On social media, visuals are the new headlines. Don’t use stock photos. Shoot your own. Enlist the help of amateur photographers in your organization. – Graeme Owens

4.     68 per cent of Canadians are now on social media. We either use it a lot or not at all. Very few of us are still using social media passively. – Jane Antoniak, King’s University College and Dr. Alex Sevigny, Master of Communication Management Program, McMaster University

5.     Instagram is the fastest growing platform. Seniors are the fastest growing demographic. – Jane Antoniak and Alex Sevigny

6.     Facebook is our 21st century commons. Young people aren’t excited to be there but they’re not leaving in droves. – Jane Antoniak and Alex Sevigny

7.     In managing an issue, borrow from the Arthur W. Page Society playbook. Tell the truth and be patient. Show contrition through your actions. Listen to your stakeholders. Manage for tomorrow. Remain calm, patient and good-humoured. Conduct PR as if the fate of your organization depends on it. – Christine Szustaczek, Sheridan College

8.     Unions are doing a better job than your organization in communicating with your employees. And they’re going to get even better at it as they invest in new technology, including smartphone apps. – Priya Bates, Inner Strength Communications

9.     If what you’re communicating isn’t relevant to the day-to-day realities of your audience, you’re training them to ignore you. – Priya Bates

10. Communicate with the key influencers in your organization. These frontline, on-the-ground, respected and connected influencers are not your formal leaders. – Priya Bates

11. How do you know if employees are engaged? They SAY great things. They STAY with you. And they STRIVE to go above and beyond in their jobs. – Priya Bates

12. If others in your organization can do a better job of telling your story, let me. Harness the power of testimonials from real people. – Michelle Blackwell, UBC Library

13. Content marketing is about creating real value for your audience. Provide a solution. Stop selling and start helping. – Lauren Lord, EDge Interactive

14. Provide your audience with the answers they’re looking for and then supply the information you want to give. – Lauren Lord

15. Online content that will draw an audience to your organization includes how-to tutorials, human interest stories, lists, controversial posts where your organization takes a principled stand, guest articles and videos. – Lauren Lord

16. If content is king, distribution is queen. To get your content out to your audience, know who you’re trying to reach and then use a mix of paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO). Paid social is the best way to generate reliable traffic, to launch a new campaign, boost high-performing content and target specific groups for specific outcomes. – Lauren Lord

17. Instagram Stories is the new television for teens. – Dr. Philip Glennie, Academica Group and Kayla Lewis, Seneca College

18. Consider Takeover Tuesdays and Throwback Thursdays on your social media accounts. Seneca College hands over its Instagram account to students and even incoming students (with supervision from the comms team). The college also posts archival photos from the its 50-year history. – Dr. Philip Glennie and Kayla Lewis

19. Before you can tell your organization’s story, you need to get your audience’s attention. Video is the best way to do that. – Warren Weeks, Weeks Media

20. The most watchable and shareable videos are 30 seconds to 2 ½ minutes, tightly edited and tell a story with an emotional core. – Warren Weeks

21. If your organization has a teleprompter, throw it out or sell it on eBay. Use the money to invest in a light and a mic so your videos don’t have the look and feel of a hostage video. – Warren Weeks

22. In a crisis, it’s not what you want to say. It’s what we need to hear. Anchor your communications in shared, foundational values. Listening is key. – John Larsen, Edelman PR

23. You can’t communicate your way out of a problem. To regain our trust and restore your reputation, you need to take action and fix the problem. Tell us what you’re doing to make things right. This can include telling us you have a longer-term plan with a commitment to report back. – John Larsen

24. Don’t be afraid to pause. Be careful and deliberate. Figure out what’s known and unknown. Validate information. Mistakes can be made by moving too fast. – John Larsen

25. Have clear roles for spokespeople in a crisis. Your PR person POSITIONS the story and provides context. Your subject matter expert PERSUADES (for example, your Chief Information Officer explains what’s being done in the aftermath of a data breach). Your executive presents the PERSONALITY of your organization (this is what we fundamentally believe and stand for). – John Larsen

Review: This I Know – Marketing Lessons From Under The Influence by Terry O’Reilly

this i knowThis review first ran in the March 27th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

This I Know: Marketing Lessons From Under The Influence

By Terry O’Reilly

Alfred A. Knopf Canada

$34

It’s not my fault but it is my problem.

This Disney World mantra is worth adopting if you’re serious about delivering superior service.

When customers come to you with a complaint, don’t duck or dodge. Don’t transfer their call, forward their email or tell them to talk to someone else. Don’t pass the buck, say your hands are tied and tell them nothing can do done.

Instead, clean up the mess even if you didn’t make it.  Own the problem and stay with your customer until she gets a solution or resolution.

“Obsessive customer service is one of the best ways to trump the competition,” says Terry O’Reilly, author of This I Know, co-founder of Pirate Radio and Television and a CBC radio host of Under the Influence. “Your competitor’s lack of obsessive customer service is your opportunity. Delivering consistent, superlative, standout customer service is one of the best ways to cause your competitors to find you really, completely irritating.”

Yes, customer service costs money. But you’ll make far more money than you spend, says O’Reilly. “Memorable, outstanding, go-the-extra-mile, I-can’t-believe-you-just-did-that-for-me customer service is as rare as a winning lottery ticket. But if played daily, it is a winning lottery ticket for the company. The return on investment is ten-fold.”

That’s because great customer service fuels word of mouth which O’Reilly calls the most powerful advertising of all. Happy customers rave, dissatisfied customers rant and social media amplifies both.

One way to earn those rave reviews is to go the extra inch. “Smart businesses search for ways to deliver the smallest touches to make an experience memorable. The smaller the detail, the more intrigued and impressed I am,” says O’Reilly.

Along with being a game of inches, marketing starts by answering a fundamental question.

What business are we really in?

“Don’t answer that question too quickly. Most people get it wrong. Yet it’s the most important marketing question you can ask yourself. Until you answer it correctly, your marketing will always lack focus,” says O’Reilly. “If you truly know what business you’re in, you will be selling the right thing and solving the right problems.”

What you’re selling and what we’re buying can be two very different things. You sell products and services while we buy solutions. “Customers don’t want your product,” says O’Reilly. “They want the benefit of the product. People buy benefits. Not products. Not features. And they buy these solutions from companies they can relate to.”

Molson isn’t in the beer business, says O’Reilly. They’re in the party business with beer as the social lubricant.

Michelin doesn’t sell tires. They sell safety.

Starbucks is in the coffee theatre business. Nike is in the motivation business. Apple sells personal empowerment while Coke sells happiness.

“You have to quietly observe what customers are really buying from you. They will tell you, but you have to listen carefully. The best marketers are the best listeners.”

Having won hundreds of international advertising awards, O’Reilly is well worth listening to. His book should be required reading for entrepreneurs, small business owners and leaders of non-profit who don’t have monster marketing budgets and ad agencies on retainer.

@jayrobb serves as director of communications for Mohawk College, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Review: Youtility – why smart marketing is about help not hype by Jay Baer

Youtility 2This review first ran in the July 2 edition of The Hamilton Spectator. When I tweeted I was reviewing Youtility and giving a shout-out to @Hiltonsuggests, I got a tweet back from Hilton Worldwide within 5 minutes. Give it a try.

Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype

By Jay Baer

Portfolio/Penguin

$26.50

While staying at the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Dallas, @LTHouston sends out a tweet asking if there are any good restaurants nearby.

@Hiltonsuggests replies and recommends two restaurants within walking distance.

But here’s the thing. The Magnolia Hotel isn’t a Hilton property.

Melanie J with the Twitter handle @RockstarExtreme tweets “anybody know who’s hiring in Orlando for professional positions at this time? Seems like it’s at a standstill.”

@Hiltonsuggests could have ignored the tweet or suggested Melanie J’s @RockstarExtreme handle might be hampering her job search. But instead @Hiltonsuggests gives Melanie J a link to orlandojobs.com

So why is Hilton Worldwide giving real-time recommendations to people who aren’t staying at their hotels or looking for a room at the inn?

The company is playing the long game, rewriting the marketing playbook and winning over customers at a time when trust in business is on the wane.

@Hiltonsuggests is a pilot project running in 25 cities around the world. In each city, hotel managers recruit employees to listen and help on Twitter. About half are from concierges. Most have little if any prior social media experience.

Hilton Worldwide’s social media director says her company’s biggest opportunities come from helping people such as @LTHouston who are staying at a competitor’s property. Hilton is providing a level of service and responsiveness that prospective customers likely aren’t getting from their current hotels.

@LTHouston is now wondering why his hotel didn’t tweet dinner recommendations and wishing he’d stayed at a Hilton. And if Melanie J lands a job after checking out orlandojobs.com, where do you think she’s staying for her first big-city vacation? Today’s tweets could become tomorrow’s bookings.

Hilton Worldwide is practicing what marketing consultant and author Jay Baer calls Youtility. “Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.”

Youtility allows you to sell more by selling less. As Baer points out, if you sell something, you make a customer today. If you help someone, you make a customer for life. “The difference between helping and selling is just two letters. But those two letters now make all the difference.”

Most businesses have a choice. Amaze your customers. Or help your customers be amazing.

The second option is a safer bet and it’s where Youtility comes into play, says Baer. Instead of trying to be amazing, focus on being useful. Inform rather than promote. Forgo the coupons and come-ons and instead add real value that fosters trust and kinship with time-starved customers who are tuning out and turned off by traditional marketing and advertising.

“You can’t survive by shouting the loudest and relying solely on anachronistic interruption marketing. You can’t proclaim you’re featuring the ‘biggest sale ever!” every day. You can’t simply rewrite a portion of your online brochure and hope that Google funnels customers to your website.”

Like Hilton Worldwide, Phoenix Children’s Hospital is one of those organizations that creates marketing that people actually want, seek out and would happily pay for if asked. The hospital’s created a free and award-winning app that helps parents find the right car seats for their kids. The app, available on iTunes, makes already available information easily accessible and understandable for overwhelmed parents who are staring at rows and rows of car seats with their smartphones in hand.

Baer credits Phoenix Children’s Hospital for utilizing Youtility to deepen bonds, break through the squall of marketing noise and forge friend of mind awareness with families and donors.

Youtility doesn’t have to be high-tech. In Banff, Taxi Mike puts out a where-to-eat quarterly dining guide that ranks, rates and sorts the ski town’s restaurants. Along with posting the guide online, Taxi Mike drops off hundreds of photocopied guides at every restaurant, hotel, bar and tourist trap.

As Baer notes, after spending the night polishing the brass rails at bars and pubs recommended by Taxi Mike, who are you hailing after last call for a ride back to your chalet?

Not only does Youtility build trust and loyalty. It grows your salesforce exponentially. “If you’re interesting and useful and helpful, your customers and prospects will do more of your marketing for you, helping your company work less arduously and expensively on interruption marketing in its various guises.”

Drawing on real-world examples, Baer shows how to figure out what your customers want to know and then how to best get that value-added information into their hands. Baer practices what he preaches with a book that’s all help and no hype. It’s a book that will inspire you to ask how your business can genuinely help your current and future customers.