Posts Tagged ‘brand advocates’


Set Your Brand Apart: Little Extras Make a Big Difference in Customer Retention

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
The little things add up

The little things add up

Here’s a little dose of reality: no one ever meets the expectations of their customers. You can exceed those needs or your can fall short, and it’s often the little things that add up to make a big difference.

The PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference was held last week, May 4-6, in Key West, Florida. Paula Whittington, VP of agency relations at BurrellesLuce, attended Stan Phelps’s keynote. Phelps, who is the founder of 9 INCH Marketing and the author of the popular Goldfish Trilogy (recently completed with What’s Your Golden Goldfish), discussed all the ways to make the little things add up in your favor to strengthen retention rates.

Phelps pointed out some brands that have good customer retention, like Wells Fargo, which obtains 80 percent of their business from current customers because they frequently upsell more products, making their clients less likely to leave. Another heavyweight in retention and acquisition is Southwest Airlines. During a time when airlines started charging for bags and continuing to charge fees for ticket changes, Southwest advertised free checked bags and no change fees. Finally there’s Zappos, which invests back in its customer experience with free shipping, returns for up to a year, and an easy exchange policy.

Differentiation is about the little things; while 80 percent of companies believe they provide a superior experience, only 8 percent of their customers agree. Here are a few tactics – and real-world examples –  from Phelps for setting your brand apart.

The Throw-In/ Add-on: Throw in something small but restorative to really ramp up customer experience. DoubleTree Hotels offers warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies that make their guests feel welcome.

Sampling: This is the classic ice cream shop tactic, but you can take it to the next level like Izzy’s Ice Cream, which gifts a free scoop of a new flavor to try, and will also tweet or text when a customer’s favorite flavor arrives. Personalization and generosity go a long way in customer acquisition and retention.

First/last impressions: Enhance a client’s experience with first and last impressions. They’re the most lasting and visceral, so don’t overlook them. The Hard Rock Hotel offers Fender guitars and headphones in the rooms, as well as a TV channel featuring guitar lessons.

Pay it forward: Offer to do something nice for people, even if it means doing something for free. Unemployed, but really need your suit cleaned? Plaza Cleaners in Portland, Oregon will clean that suit for free. And Discount Tire will repair a flat tire for nothing. Paying it forward creates goodwill to create loyal future customers.

Add on a service: Like paying it forward, you can also create goodwill by providing more than just a basic service, like Safelite AutoGlass. Not only do they send you a picture of the technician coming to repair your windshield, but they’ll clean and vacuum your car during the ten minutes it takes for the windshield epoxy to harden and cure.

Follow Up: Handwritten thank you notes always go a long way. But it’s easy for follow-ups to slip through the cracks when something goes wrong, and that’s the most vital time to make an overture. Nurse Next Door, a home care service, does this with humble pie: if there’s a mistake, the company owns up to it, and delivers a fresh baked apple pie as an apology. Nurse Next Door estimates that the $1,500 they spend on pies annually saves them about $100,000 in business retention.

At the very least, think of Walt Disney, who in 1957 decided to have a parade in Disneyland every day in December. This cost him the modern-day equivalent of $4 million, and his financial advisors were against the idea, but daily parades survive to this day, the most frequently asked question at Disneyland is “What time does the parade start?”

Tactics that set your brand apart should be a signature product or service of your brand, and really make you different. It might cost you money, but if done right, the benefits will be more of an investment than a cost.

How to Host a Successful Twitter Chat

Monday, May 12th, 2014
#Hashtag, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

#Hashtag on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Twitter chats are great tools for motivating your Twitter-using audience to interact, and if you’re lucky, even get your hashtag trending for a bit. But as we saw with J.P. Morgan, Mark Emmert (president of the NCAA), and most recently, Roger Goodell (commissioner of the NFL), Twitter chats don’t always turn into the intellectually stimulating, informative fora marketing and public relations pros hope they’ll become.

So here are some ways to host a Twitter chat that doesn’t turn into a complete disaster.

Don’t be the subject of controversy

This tip may seem limiting since everything can be controversial, but if your organization or a prominent person therein is embroiled in scandal, controversy, or a communications crisis, it’s probably not a great time to host a Twitter chat. Of course, it’s rare that an organization’s image is squeaky clean, and snarky tweeters can always find something to rag on, but use good judgment. Also, you probably don’t want to hold a Twitter chat if your company was one of the harbingers of the banking collapse; people tend to have long memories on that one. Conveying your message in 140 characters is rarely easy, and complex issues should be addressed on a medium conducive to clear two-way communications.

Go in with the right expectations

Twitter chats will not sell more product, and they probably won’t create new customers; Twittter chats are tools for relationship and brand management. So don’t go in expecting to convert the coveted digital natives in one overarching hashtag. Instead, use your Twitter chat as a sort of real-time customer service help line and helpful resource. As such, tone down brand messaging and try to provide real answers to appropriate questions. Being a good resource of information and creating a communication vehicle to connect with potential customers is an asset in your marketing arsenal.

It’s OK to be funny

Chances are you and your staff can anticipate some of the snarkier questions you might get. So for the questions that aren’t outright rude or outrageous, have some witty but polite answers ready. Giving your brand a sense of humor can do wonders for fostering goodwill with your brand advocates. Taco Bell has proven to be a good example of wit and many millennials covet the Taco Bell RT. That said …

Don’t give in to the badvocates and trolls

It’s also OK to ignore the badvocates and trolls and focus on the positive, productive questions you’re getting. If your organization is high profile, it’s possible that some of the rude, ridiculous, and clever tweets will find their way onto online news sites.  That’s the nature of the Twitter chat beast, so …

Have your response plan ready

You’re probably going to get at least a few snarky tweets, and that’s okay – it’s the cost of doing Twitter chat business. Hopefully, your chat will go smoothly, but have a response plan in place just in case things take an undesirable turn.

Remember the payoffs

At this point, thinking about a Twitter chat may seem like more trouble than it’s worth, but remember, there are benefits to hosting a Twitter chat. Not only will it help you connect with your brand advocates (a vital aspect of brand management) on a group and individual level, but you can use it to share knowledge about your brand, product and common interests. It’s also a great time to promote upcoming events, giveaways, sponsorships, and shine a spotlight on creative people in your organization. Some of our favorite PR Twitter chats include, in no specific order, #prstudchat, #measurepr, #blogchat, #commschat, and #PRprochat.

This Week’s Shot of Fresh: Ninjargon Masters, Epic Oscars Selfies, Customer Fealty, and Get Hired

Friday, March 7th, 2014
flickr user Mycael under CC BY License

flickr user Mycael under CC BY License

Shot of Fresh is our roundup of this week’s Fresh Ideas content.

Branding and Engagement Lessons From the Oscars

You may not have heard, but there was this selfie that broke Twitter … some famous people were in it? That and more insights into some things the Oscars did right – and not so right – on the branding and engagement front.

Create Goodwill to Gain Brand Advocates

“Discount Tire deprives of things to complain about. Fortunately, there are still politicians.” – My  dad. Aim to provide solid service and a great experience and watch your customer loyalty skyrocket.

PR Career Tips: Get Screened IN, Not OUT

You’re either in or you’re out, so best be in. Tressa Robbins shares tips from recruiters and PR pros from the PRSA St. Louis Career Development Day.

Jargonology Episode 8: Ninjargon

Tune in to the Jargonology season finale and determine whether you’re a ninjargon, or whether you just cause severe cases of ringage.

Create Goodwill to Gain Brand Advocates

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Create Goodwill to Gain Brand Advocates Ellis Friedman BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasWith the propagation of innovative content and target marketing, e-newsletters, and social media outreach, it’s easy to overlook the brands that nurture and build their brand base through good old-fashioned upfront, in-person investment.

It’s a pretty simple scenario: give a small service for free and create goodwill to nurture a returning, loyal customer.

It’s a sinking feeling to walk out to your car and realize you have a flat tire, and I experienced that special feeling on last weekend. I changed my tire the following and expected the worst when I took it in to Discount Tire. I anticipated more sinking feelings to surface when it came time to pay the bill; instead, I walked out only an hour later with a patched tire and no bill.

Discount Tire didn’t charge me for the time and labor it took to repair and reattach the tire; they just smiled and asked that when I need new tires, I come to them, which I certainly will.

I didn’t walk out of there happy just because I didn’t have to pay a bill – I felt satisfied because Discount Tire seemed to be a brand that’s not just aiming for transactions, but aiming to foster goodwill and make all the special car feelings a little less frustrating. Instead of seeking transactions for small services they could charge for, they take the long view that happy customers make repeat customers.

I mentioned this to my dad, an admitted curmudgeon and the one who told me to go to Discount Tire, and he told me: “Discount Tire deprives me of things to complain about. Fortunately, there are still politicians.”

In an age where people take to Twitter to complain about brands, it’s a huge achievement to provide a complaint-free experience, and immensely notable to provide a positive one. I didn’t tweet Discount Tire (until publishing this blog) because as a marketer, I feel that experiencing positive programs warrants something more substantive than 140 characters.

While it’s impossible to make everyone totally satisfied all the time, Discount Tire shows that their business model is centered on the customer experience and leaving a positive impression, and it’s come back to them many-fold. Forbes lists its 2013 revenue as $3.7 billion and it’s number 118 on the Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies.

It’s not every organization that can give away a product or service for free, but there are plenty of great examples: Sephora’s rewards program is a classic loyalty program that stands out because they give out high-quality samples the customer can choose after a certain attainable spending threshold. Trader Joe’s provides free coffee – a real perk when you’re shopping after a long day at work.

Capturing brand loyalty can seem like a formidable task in a time when everyone’s throwing out lower prices, more deals, and more rewards programs. But it’s important not to forget the simple act of treating your customers with goodwill and creating a good impression – because that goodwill will return to you in the form of their business and their brand advocacy.

14 Tips for Building Your Social Media Crisis Communications Plan

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
photo courtesy PRNews

photo courtesy PRNews

How long would it take you to get your CEO on the phone at 4pm on a Friday or during a holiday? That was one of the questions Dallas Lawrence (@dallaslawrence) posed during his session, “Crisis and Reputation Management in the Social Age” at the PRNews Media Relations Next Practices Conference last week in Washington, D.C.

One key takeaway from Lawrence included this quote: “From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg, good PR efforts have not changed. We are just so tied up in the new platforms that are out there, we forget the basic media relations practices.”

No matter how good your communication department is, it matters how you handle situations as they arise. You could do nothing wrong in today’s social environment and still have a crisis develop; you must be ready for that.

One example that Lawrence mentioned was when someone hacked the AP Twitter account to say there had been a bombing at the White House. Within seconds of that Tweet, the stock market declined for almost 30 minutes until people realized it wasn’t true.  When a crisis such as this occurs, Lawrence suggests looking at three roles social and digital media play during a crisis.

First, social media is an instigator. Were there not a social platform that allows us to send out our every thought, or record every stupid thing that happens, the crisis wouldn’t have occurred.

The next role is that of accelerant. A similar crisis may have happened 20 years ago, but it would not have metastasized so quickly without social media. So Lawrence stresses we must be prepared to act immediately instead of waiting and seeing.

The third and most important role social media plays is extinguisher. We can use social media effectively before, during, and after a crisis to mitigate the damage, and in some cases actually eliminate the crisis.

Social media continues to evolve and grow. There are more than 500 million users on Twitter, more than one billion users on Facebook, and four billion videos viewed on YouTube per day. Everyone knows a social media presence is necessary, so everyone is bombarded with content, and just because you posted a video or press release on Twitter or Facebook doesn’t mean that anyone cares or that anyone sees it.  Your message must be spot on.

Lawrence stated that 79 percent of companies believe they are only 12 months from a crisis, and 50 percent of those companies believe it will happen in the digital space. The biggest issue facing companies today is the inability to respond effectively to new media (including social media). And yet, only a third of businesses have a digital crisis plan.

If you need to develop a digital crisis plan from scratch, or if you just want to refine your existing plan, here are 14 lessons from Lawrence on how to handle that social media crisis.

1. Once a crisis breaks out on social media, identify your influencers, as they are most likely to impact the conversation. All people in social and digital are not the same, so make sure you know which people have the ability to shape decisions about your company.

2. Actively monitor your reputation and the activities of your protagonist(s) or advocate(s).

3. Avoid the information vacuum. Information spreads as soon as it’s available, regardless of its veracity. You can’t have a press conference every other hour; you have to release news in real time.

4. Develop a clear, effective and platform-appropriate message. Be where your crisis is happening. Craft an appropriate message for the platform on which you respond. If something is happening on Twitter, respond via Twitter first before sending out a press release.

5. Own your brand in social media before someone else does. People are actively stalking and brand jacking.  You should know not only your corporate entity’s brand, but all of your subsidiary brands.

6. A majority of journalists use Twitter for sources. Journalists are getting their news from Twitter in real-time before verifying the source of the story.

7. Make sure to include people, not logos, on your social media accounts. No one wants to engage with a logo, especially in a crisis. We want to talk and hear from someone.

8. Integration is key. It is critical to integrate your crisis communication plan across all channels.

9. Know what you are talking about. Once you lose the credibility it is really tough to get it back.

10. When you blow it, own up to it quickly.

11. When all else fails, don’t forget humor. When you have really gotten in too deep, the best way to recover is humor.

12. Integrate paid and earned media.

13. Have clear employee rules and training for social media engagement.

14. Don’t forget your secret weapon: your employees. They can be your most powerful allies online if you engage and arm them in time.

Do you have a crisis communications plan and would you be prepared to handle a crisis situation at 4 pm on a Friday? How do you manage the speed at which news spreads on social media?