Archive for the ‘integrated marketing communications’ Tag
A manufacturer’s recall notice and a trip, make that several trips, to the dealership has me thinking about the need to transform employees into brand ambassadors. It started the day our car went into the shop. Although we had a scheduled appointment the service advisor told us our car might be in the shop a few days. He told us there were many vehicles ahead of ours because of multiple recall notices. Think about that for a moment. Even if true, is that how a frontline employee should engage with customers?
In the world of marketing there is the Big M of marketing and the “small m.” The formal process of communicating the value of an organization’s product or service is marketing with a capital M. What I call the small m is the myriad of little things that “fill in the gaps” between formal marketing activities. When done well the customer experience is very positive. But when things fall through the cracks, opportunities are missed and customers can be left with a negative impressions.
After several days in the shop we received a call that our car was ready. We returned to the dealership happy to have the car back in time for a short weekend trip. Unfortunately we never got out of the parking lot before realizing the problem still wasn’t fixed. We spoke again with the service advisor who apologized and offered to make things right. He also offered us a loaner car to use until ours was repaired.
While our car was in the shop, the dealership’s sales department reached out to us about buying back our car and upgrading to a higher model. Our car is nearly paid for and it’s in the dealer’s interest to keep the monthly payments coming. So back at the shop, I’m expecting the service advisor to put us in a great ride for the weekend. It didn’t happen. Instead, we were offered a base model – opportunity missed.
Each time customers interact with frontline employees it puts to the test the work done by marketing, PR, and external communications. But it’s not just frontline employees who are often seen as the “face” of an organization. The work done by behind-the-scenes employees has the potential to make a customer feel more or less engaged with the company. The same hold true for “virtual face” of an organization, the online presence that for many organizations is their only connection with customers.
So how can organizations maximize these customer interactions and win in the marketplace? Organizations need everyone engaged in delivering the brand promise, whether it be face-to-face or through a virtual connection. To make this work, managers need to be trained and empowered to do what is right for the customer – and for the company’s brand.
Five Steps to Building Effective Brand Ambassadors
1) Sharpen Marketing Message: Corporate Marketing (Big M) should develop messaging for both managers and frontline employees. This should include not only key marketing messages, but also the freedoms employees have to independently improve the customer experience.
2) Internal Marketing Communication: Corporate Marketing must work closely with Employee Communications to keep key marketing messages and initiatives in front of all employees. Including details of how individual employees, or groups of employees, played a part in major marketing activities is important in helping others model similar behavior.
3) Train and Empower Managers: First line managers need to be trained in how employees can tailor the corporate message to ways appropriate to their team’s customer engagements. The message won’t be different, but how the interaction occurs will depend on how the contact happens. Each department will have different opportunities to improve the customer experience, a responsibility best handled by a manager closest to that engagement.
4) Train and Empower Employees: Managers need to identify ways their employees can improve the customer experience. Then, staff needs to be trained in how best to communicate the brand message and the range of authority individual employees have in helping create a positive experience for the customer.
5) Reward and Motivate: When employees contribute to an improved customer experience it should be celebrated. Employee Communications is a great channel for sharing success stories and motivating others to embrace the role of brand ambassador.
This process is about living out an organization’s core values and modeling the brand promise. A great example is the Disney Company, masters of the customer experience. Visitors to their theme parks are treated as if they are the most important person there. From online engagement, to the parking lot, ticket gate, refreshment stand, to the closing fireworks, employees understand their role is to make or exceed expectations. That’s what makes for a great customer experience.
Embrace the small m of marketing and empower your employees as true brand ambassadors. Capture some of that Disney magic and get the most out of every employee-customer encounter.
PowerPoint is the tool marketers love to hate. At least that’s what I hear at almost every conference, seminar, and workshop. At a conference I attended this fall, the moderator of the two-day event declared it a “PowerPoint free zone.” Within five minutes he called up the event agenda… on a PowerPoint chart… so much for a PpT free zone.
There is a lot of good information on-line about PowerPoint design principles. Here’s a tip about how to structure a good PowerPoint chart deck. Use the onion approach, build content layer-upon-layer. This approach can be especially helpful when as a presenter you may not be in control of your time on the agenda.
Chart 1 Title Slide: Often thought of as a placeholder, this could be the most important chart in your deck. Use it to own the topic. If this is the only chart people see from your presentation, it should convey your organizations expertise and leadership. It should include your name and contact information as the thought leader on the topic. If presentations are made available following an event, the only chart from your presentation some people might see is the title slide. Make it good, capture attention, and take ownership of the topic.
Chart 2 Presentation Summary: Skip the agenda and bio slide, make this chart the elevator pitch. Everything the audience needs to know about your capabilities should be summarized on the second chart. That doesn’t mean using 3 point font and cramming in dozens of lines of text. All the rules of effective design still apply. (Large font, limited words per line, etc.) Use images and bold text. Drive home a single take away message about: 1) Features or Background; 2) Benefits or Opportunities; and a 3) Call-to-Action. I’ve been in meetings where the audience (usually a group of executives politicking for advantage) has interrupted the presenter who never got past the second chart. Structure your talk so that if your time on the agenda is hijacked by others in the room, you can still deliver the central message.
Charts 3-5 Key Points: Expand on the three points from the second chart. If time is running short, these three charts provide a bit more detail and can quickly highlight your most important take way messages. If time is not an issue, they can serve as an overview for details to be discussed later in the presentation.
Charts 6-20 Main Talk: If as a presenter you’ve reached this point in your talk, time on the agenda is yours. Use the remaining 15 charts in your presentation to finish your talk. In most cases, 20 charts should be enough to cover your topic. Remember, the charts are not your presentation, you are the presentation. Charts serve to illustrate and reinforce your message.
Charts 21+ Supplemental: If your talk is very technical in nature you may want to have a collection of charts that provide a very detailed, deep dive on the topic. These can be helpful if the presentation ends with a closing Q&A. They can also be useful information if the chart deck is provided in PDF following the conclusion of your talk.
PowerPoint is only a tool. In my workshop I have hammers, saws, wrenches, and a lot of tools I have no idea how to use. I don’t hate my collection of hammers. When I need to drive a nail a hammer works quite well. When used correctly, it’s the right tool for the job. It’s not much different with PowerPoint.
The paradigm shift empowering leading-edge advantage towards world class leadership is building momentum for… cut the bull, plain English please.
We’ve all read endless streams of corporate-speak: jargon-filled, filtered, and antiseptic ‑ rendering real communication all but impossible. For communicators it’s a slippery slope. While every industry has a unique language, accepted acronyms, and technical vocabulary, the trap for communicators is when we yield to company-speak and avoid the battle for clear, concise, communication.
In the wonderful book, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, authors, Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky offer a compelling alternative. For those of us working in the communication trenches, the book is a valuable reminder of the slow brainwashing that over time can influence the way we choose to communicate.
And yes, it’s a choice. If your ambition is to serve as a mid-level bureaucrat using Mad-Libs fill-in-the-blank jargon for your next assignment, you will be well on your way to an all but invisible place on the org. chart. While remaining hidden behind fact-free, mind-numbing bulls*it seems a safe place to remain unseen, in a difficult business environment it’s also a sure way to an unceremonial pink slip. In a tough business climate, organizations need communicators who help strengthen the business, create compelling dialogues, and develop innovative ways to influence people.
The book exposes several common traps that can transform the unwary communicator into a boring business stiff:
1. Businesses focus on themselves over their audience
Too often those creating business communications aim to impress, not to inform. Rather than using plain, simple language everyone understands, business communicators fall back on the use of jargon or insider phrases. The authors describe it as becoming “a kind of intellectual powerhouse, generating concepts that are too lofty to be expressed in something as mundane as English.” We too often fear that straightforward language might make us look dumb.
2. Business people fear concrete language
Avoiding commitment, and thereby liability, has evolved into something of an art form. The problem with this approach is that through “vagary and verbosity,” the credibility of whatever follows is reduced. In short, people recognize B.S. and give up looking for meaning. Remember, for communicators the bottom line is to connect, convince, and help the organization move ahead.
3. Business is boring
How can you not purchase a book with a chapter titled “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll for Business People”? The authors offer a hilarious look at why business-speak is so ridiculous. They remind everyone in business that connecting with an audience, any audience, is about gaining their attention. “Make it relevant. Make it vivid. Make it compelling. Whether you like it or not, you’re in the entertainment business.” This admonition applies to everyone within an organization, none more so than those responsible for crafting communication messages.
The authors offer this key take away, “bullshit eats away at your personal capital, while straight talk pays dividends.” Make the wise investment, fight the bull and make clear, compelling communication the hallmark of your personal success.
Everyone in marketing and sales wants in to the C-Suite executive. Marketing and selling at the executive level has long been a favored business strategy. But as marketing communicators, how well do we assist sales with messaging that truly resonates at the C-level?
Marketing deliverables must support sales initiatives at multiple stages of the customer buying cycle. That’s why we create ads, glossy brochures, webcasts, white papers, and all the tactical deliverables required to move a prospect over to the sold column. But what about messaging for the C-level?
In the book, Selling to the C-Suite, co-authors Stephen Bistritz and Nicholas Read address the issue from the point of view of sales strategy. For those of us in marketing, the book is a valuable guide on how to support sales in their efforts to sell at the highest levels. The heart of the issue is that C-level executives have different priorities from others in their organization. For any proposed spending, C-level executives have multiple options. They can choose to buy your product or service; they could buy from your competitor; maybe they could achieve similar financial results by hiring more sales people or increasing staff training. The C-level perspective is not about the widget or servicing the widget, it about how for a given investment, the organization can derive most benefit – and often in the shortest amount of time.
People who make a career in sales understand this. As marketers, support for C-level engagements must be less about the widget, and more about return on investment. Next time you are asked to develop marketing support for C-level engagement, stay focused on quantifiable business impact. It’s the “elevator speech.” Hold subject matter experts responsible for laser-like focus on the issue of bottom line business impact. Far too often content-gathering conversations start here, but quickly devolve into performance details, technical specifications, and the standard Features & Benefits information that can be found on any organization’s website.
For a moment, think of yourself as having the big corner office – maybe it’s your favorite chair in a corner of the kitchen. If you receive a profit-sharing bonus, a tax refund, or a Nigerian email scam actually sends you money (OK, the last item may be a stretch), as family CEO what do you do with the available funds? You could pay bills, make some home improvements, put money down on a car, or buy a vacation… you get the idea. Business leaders make similar decisions about projects to fund or activities to support.
Make it Effective:
- Focus less on product/service and more on value
- Don’t use jargon, messages should focus on outcome level
- Enable sales to personalize the assets to individual C-level executives
- Content must be relevant, engaging, and, focused on the industry sector
- Create conversation starters: interesting data about industry trends, success stories, etc.
Such a strategy proved effective for business analytics software leader SAS. Last year, a series of thought leader events was held in about a dozen cities across North America. The events featured analytics consultant, author, and educator Tom Davenport, and focused on how companies can use analytics to drive business results. Tactical marketing support included print, an online presence, advertising, and live event support. All of the tactical deliverables focused on business outcome and value. For the SAS sales staff, the events were a great way to engage prospects and customers while building stronger relationships.
Your marketing support activities may only get one chance to assist sales in making an impact at the C-level. Keep the messaging focused on what your organization offers that can help a senior executive deliver results demanded by the board of directors. This will help establish your sales team as trusted advisors to your customers and open new opportunities for your business.