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Seriously, what are brands thinking today?  And I’m not even talking about the ones that throw a pool party for their customers that involves knockout-gassing them.  Specifically, I want to talk about two brands that recently launched campaigns to engage with their customers at the point of sale, and why both efforts immediately feel flat.

First, there’s McDonalds’ ‘McLovin’ campaign.  This short-lived (thankfully) campaign ran the first 2 weeks in February, and the idea was simple: Customers would be randomly selected to pay for their meal with ‘McLovin’.  So when you go to pay for that Big Mac, you’re told it’s free, all you have to do is hug the 5 total strangers that are standing in line behind you.  Or maybe you have to join the staff in a dance-off, or maybe you have to call your mom and tell her you love her, while the staff listens in and cheers you on.  But the upshot of publicly embarrassing yourself is that you get a greasy $3 sandwich for free.  Which of course makes it all worthwhile.

Starbucks’ #RaceTogether campaign is a bit different.  Starbucks employees put #RaceTogether stickers on cups, and were encouraged to prompt customers to talk about the racial issues in this country when they place orders.  You can imagine the reaction, it’s 8am, you are half groggy and want to grab a coffee to wake you up before heading to a the office and a barista asks you what you think about race in this country.  This might be a healthy conversation to have, but asking half-asleep customers in a crowded Starbucks is not the ideal place to initiate that conversation.  Starbucks immediately caught backlash over this effort, ended it after about a week, then claimed it was the plan all along to end it after a week.

What’s really odd about both these efforts is that they aren’t just making the customers uncomfortable in many instances, but think about how the poor employees feel?  Can you imagine being an introvert working the front line at McDonalds and being told you have to get a middle-aged man to pay for his meal with ‘McLovin’ by following him around the restaurant taking 3 selfies with random customers?  Or being an introvert working at Starbucks that’s required to spend the day encouraging total strangers (customers) to talk to you about race relations in this country?  In both cases the employees are likely to feel as completely awkward as the customers do, which only makes the situation much worse for everyone.

But curiously, it seems that Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ politically-active CEO, is intent on pushing forward with the idea of having his employees start a conversation about hot-button political issues with Starbucks’ customers.  Imagine trying to buy a coffee at Starbucks, then when you go to pay, the barista informs you that your price depends on your stance on legalizing marijuana.  Or gun control.  Or marriage equality.  Or another hot-button political issue that is honestly none of Starbucks’ damned business what your views are.

Brands are looking for ways to engage customers and build loyalty.  I get it. And a little out-of-the-box thinking can be great sometimes.  But if you truly want to build an amazing brand, all you really have to do is nail the fundamentals.

For example: I went shopping at Publix yesterday.  The cart was new and the wheels rolled like a champ (Hi, Wal-Mart!).  Every employee I encountered in the aisles was friendly and helpful.  Sales were everywhere, the prices were the lowest in the area for several items I buy regularly.  Then when I went to pay for my items, a manager rushed up and unloaded my buggy for me.  The woman that checked me out was friendly, remarked that she’d seen me here before, and thanked me for coming back.  Then when she finished she told me to come back soon.  Then the girl that loaded up my buggy begged profusely to let her follow me to my car and unload the buggy for me.

The fundamentals.  Treating your customers as friends and people that you want to continue to do business with.  I feel appreciated every time I go to Publix, which is exactly why I keep going there.  The crazy thing is, McDonalds launched the McLovin’ campaign to try to boost sagging sales.  If they want to boost sales, all they have to do is tell the cashiers that the next time they are all standing around up front chatting, to instead walk out to the restaurant area and ask the customers if they need anything.  Ask them if you can refill a coke for them, or take their tray to the trash.  It will take them a few seconds, and shock the hell out of the customers.  Just treat your customers with respect and gratitude, and leave the silly gimmicks and public-shaming of customers initiatives in the trash can where they belong.

Pic via Flickr user Tony Fischer

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Hey y’all! Welcome to the 19th episode of The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show! In this episode I talk about the value of your unhappy customers (don’t you love that quote?).  Unhappy customers are such an amazing source of vital business feedback that is often overlooked.  We’ll talk about harnessing that value in this episode of #fandamnshow.

Show Notes:

1:30 – Why you should listen to your unhappy customers

3:00 – Two types of unhappy customers, and the differences between them

3:15 – Why your fans are sometimes not the best source of feedback when it comes to your business’ problems

4:45 – Fans sometimes re-interpret problems as actually being positives or non-issues

9:20 – Unhappy customers will go the extra mile to bring issues to your attention.

 

Here’s where you can download and listen to the episode directly.  And if you can, please subscribe to The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show on iTunes, and I would *love* it if you could review the podcast on iTunes as well.  Also, #FanDamnShow is now available on Stitcher as well! Thanks for listening!

Pic via Flickr user Celestine Chua

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The other night during #Blogchat, Josh left these tweets about his business:

JoshTweets3So Josh is in a situation where he is shifting from providing dog training services, to focusing on manufacturing products for dog owners and likely dog trainers.  He wants to know how to create content that promotes the products he’s manufacturing, but one that isn’t too ‘salesy’ and that still covers topics related to dog training.

This is a problem that a lot of companies face:  How do we create content that does two very crucial things simultaneously:

1 – Promotes our products

2 – Engages readers

Too many companies make sure they nail the promotion aspect of their content, and effectively create a blog that houses an endless stream of commercials disguised as blog posts.  The irony of this approach is that by nailing the first point, the company ensures that its content will NOT engage readers.  Any content that comes across to the reader as being promotion, is immediately tuned out.

So then how do we walk the tightrope of creating content that has value for the company (promotes your products) while at the same time having value for the reader?

It’s actually very easy to do this.  Let’s go back to Josh’s example.  What most companies would want to do is talk directly about the products that Josh is manufacturing for dog owners and trainers.

The secret, is to instead create content about how (and why) your customers will use the product.  Think about your ideal customer.  Who are they, and what problems are they trying to solve by buying this product?  Think about how your product fits into their lives, and blog about that.  This is what the customer wants to know, she wants to know how your product is going help them solve a particular problem, or help them with a particular task, or help them accomplish something.

You don’t want to blog about your product directly, instead, you want to blog about how your product fits into your customer’s life.  That’s how you create content that engages your customer.

If you’re still skeptical, consider that Facebook did a study in 2012 where it analyzed the content created on the site’s most popular brand pages.  The goal was to discover what type of content created by these brands drove the highest levels of engagement.  Facebook found that the type of content that drove the highest engagement levels was content related to but not ABOUT the brand.  Content that directly promoted the brand underperformed, but content related to the brand was more customer-centric, and as a result it resonated more with customers.  Same thing here: Content related to your brand and how your brand/product relates to your customer is customer-centric, which means it is content that customers will find more engaging.

And here’s the secret: Creating engaging content about how your product relates to your customer is the best promotion for your product! 

A great way to get an idea of how to create content that appeals to your customers (but that also relates to your products) is to answer the questions that your customers are asking.  What questions do they have about your product?  About the proper way to use your product?  These questions give you key insights into who your customers are, and how your product could improve their lives.

So here’s the template:

1 – Take your product

2 – Don’t blog directly about the product. Instead, blog about the ways that your customer would use your product, and the reasons why they would use your product.  The idea is, you want to blog about how the product fits into your customer’s life, versus just the product itself.

Because if you blog directly about the product, your potential customers will view it as a commercial, and tune it out.  But if you blog about your customers instead, and how your product could fit into their lives, then the content becomes far more interesting and relevant to those customers!

And here’s the real secret.  I’ve followed this same template in this blog post.  This post was written to create value for companies that need help crafting a content strategy for their blog and online marketing efforts.  These companies are the type of companies I want to work with and help advise on creating a content strategy.  So in essence, this post becomes a promotion for my content consulting, but it doesn’t come across as a commercial, because the post creates value (hopefully) for companies that need clarity around their content strategies. If your company needs advice on how to craft a content strategy for your blog, please email me and let’s discuss your needs!

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Twitter Doesn’t Have a ‘Noise’ Problem, it Has a ‘No One is Talking There Anymore’ Problem

March 19, 2015
TOTAL SHARES 1K

Gary is wrong on this one.  Twitter’s problem isn’t noise, it’s a lack of organic conversations.  The one thing that attracted many of Twitter’s hardcore users from 2006-2008, is now all but dead in 2015.  The beauty of Twitter in those early days was that it was an incredible discovery tool.  You could meet new people […]

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The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show Episode 18: Your Customer Cultivation Strategy

March 18, 2015
TOTAL SHARES 26

Hey y’all!  Welcome to the 18th episode of The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show!  Last week’s episode talked about cultivating customers, and I wanted to talk a bit more about that this week and give you a few very simple examples of how you can do this on Twitter by showing you how I do the same […]

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Review: Paper.li’s iPhone Content Sharing App, Juice

March 18, 2015
TOTAL SHARES 21

(Disclosure: Over the last year I worked with Paper.li on its marketing and user-engagement strategies, but not on the development of its Juice app. I agreed to review the app here in exchange for letting me have a sneak-peek at it before it went public.) Earlier this week, Paper.li launched its first iPhone app, Juice. […]

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Marketing Your Customer’s Passions: How Pedigree Invests in Happier Dogs

March 17, 2015
TOTAL SHARES 16

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post talking about how smart brands don’t market their products, they market the passions of their customers.  Red Bull isn’t selling energy drinks, it’s marketing and investing in extreme sports and activities.  Or what happens after you drink its product.  Patagonia isn’t marketing its clothing, it’s marketing […]

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Creating Content or Memories; Is Social Media Warping Our Priorities?

March 13, 2015
TOTAL SHARES 90

In 2008 I spoke at a small business conference and during the event for the first time I started tweeting takeaways from the sessions I attended.  The attendees, many of who had no idea what Twitter was, were floored.  They couldn’t believe that there was a conversation happening inside the session they were attending, yet […]

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What Every Blogger Wishes You Knew About Pitching Them

March 12, 2015
TOTAL SHARES 40

You’re working for an agency that wants to get the word out about this cool new product/app/website that your client is releasing.  Here’s what you do: 1 – Google “(industry your product/app/website is in) bloggers” 2 – Get contact info of X number of bloggers based on Google search results and those ‘The 50 Best […]

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The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show Episode 17: Customer Acquisition vs Customer Cultivation

March 11, 2015
TOTAL SHARES 59

This is a graph I drew to give you a visual representation of The Communication Gap between most companies and their customers.  The blue shading on the left represents the desired level of communication from the company’s side.  The company wants to communicate with almost all new and potential customers.  The number of existing customers […]

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The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show Episode 16: Building Better Word of Mouth

March 4, 2015
TOTAL SHARES 51

Hey y’all! Welcome to another episode of The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show.  This is the business podcast devoted to helping your company create and cultivate new fans, as well as helping you better connect with your existing fans.  Today’s episode talks about Word of Mouth, and the different types of WOM.  Did you think that all […]

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