Content Mitigation: How Sharing Service Details Could Keep You Out of A Crisis

So, you’re using content marketing — articles, blogs, e-newsletters, case studies, videos, and social media platforms — to build brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation and customer retention. Work all of these as far as you can take them.

Then take it one step farther.

Producing helpful, educational and valuable content isn’t just for attracting customers. It can be an invaluable ally if something between your company and a customer goes awry, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Because somewhere, somehow, someone will find something with which to take issue.

Supplying varied and detailed information on your company’s product or service in the form of an ongoing blog series or an expansive FAQ that answers an exhaustive series of questions could help mitigate potential problems and even help tamp down a full-blown crisis if enough instructive information is available and accessible.

Leaving these elements out of your content mix could cost you time, money and potentially your firm’s reputation.

Realistically, not everyone is going to read everything related to your product or service, but having it available within a couple of clicks on a keyboard could be enough to make a news organization beg off a story if information countering an issue is within easy reach.

What should you share in content mitigation program?  Everything possible, such as:

    • Guarantees/Warranties – Be explicit and don’t bury the fine print.
    • Cost/Price – If you have a service that doesn’t have set price because each situation is different, explain what the variables are and supply a range of price, from the lowest to the highest.
    • Problems/issues – No service can be all things for all people. Detail the limitations of your product or service.
    • Comparisons with Competitors – Explaining differentiation between all comers in your niche lets prospects self select and lays bare stark differences.
    • Regulatory Compliance – If you work in an industry where adhering to federal regulations differentiates you from more lax competitors, ensure you explain why you do and how you do it.
    • Scope of Work/Payment – Particularly for potentially high-priced services where scope could change based on circumstances, keep the customer apprised of the charges so there won’t be a surprise at the end that could turn into a public issue… and a potential lawsuit.
    • Accolades/Awards/Testimonials – Your customers, third party endorsements and awards for quality weave a powerful story.  Tell it.
    • Approach/Philosophy – Most businesses have a story of why they began the business and/or guiding principles of how they work. Creating narratives like this make you appear more human and accessible.
    • Limitations/Usage Policies – Your business isn’t super human.  Explain what your business and service is and is not capable of doing.
    • Training/Education – Do your employees undergo intensive education about how to execute their jobs for optimum outcome and value?  Spell it out.
    • Personnel qualifications – The job your company does is only as good as the employees that do it.  For highly technical and regulated industries, offer up details of the training and experience of your employees
    • Consumer/Client Ratings – If you receive consistently high ratings from internal surveys and external ranking services, promote those high scores to help validate your value.
    • Accreditation/Endorsement– Positive reviews from third parties, such as associations and non-profit groups can help bolster credibility.

 

All of these suggestions may or may not be applicable to your business, but err on the side of caution in supplying as much about your service as possible. Because anything that could be misunderstood and misinterpreted will be.

Want to Serve More Clients? Serve Up More Content

“Marketing is the lifelong process of educating your customers about why they should buy from you.”

This quip by marketing star Jay Abraham was penned almost two decades ago, and couldn’t be more true today.

It’s one of my favorites because it makes simple, yet very revealing, points:

1.  Marketing is a lifelong process

2.  Educating your market attracts sales

3.  Customers are just as important as prospects

It’s a concept not many marketers followed 20 years ago (thus, Jay’s urging), and one that B2B companies are beginning to get a grip on today, with the advent of digital marketing and especially, social media.

Educating your customer is important not only as a method of or framework for communicating — but also because competition is everywhere.

Consider the current plight of the Big-Box stores. Years ago, you had mom-and-pop appliance stores, and Sears was about the only department store around.  The smaller stores relied heavily on service and knowledge to secure and maintain loyal customers.

Then came the Big-Box stores, with their vast selection, low prices, and suburban ubiquity.  Customers migrated there in droves, and the smaller shops — lamenting that price trumps the personal touch — ended up closing their doors.

Now, it’s the Big-Box stores lamenting.  They’re fighting “showrooming” (buyers researching their options at the stores, but making their purchases from one of the many resources on the Internet).  And are they ever feeling the pinch.

Because your customers also find you (and your competitors) on the Internet … because they are actively seeking information and ‘comparison shopping’ before they make a purchase …because they rely on referrals from friends and colleagues … because they trust objective information – the degree to which you educate can mean the difference in sales, and, lifetime customers.

Educating your market – if you’re not already doing so – is an opportunity worthy of your marketing investment

So companies must ask: how well are we doing the basics of explaining the value our products or services provide? And, on what topics can we offer educational information?

The old standards for educating your market: Published articles, white papers, speaking engagements, just plain relationships, these still apply.  These were the means for offering knowledge.  What does not apply is the mindset of talking at the customer.

Today, we have the unprecedented opportunity to talk with the customer.  Author Dan Pink describes the fundamental shift in the customer/company relationship as the difference between the “information asymmetry” of the past, when companies had all the information, and the “information symmetry” we now experience, in which the customer has all the information. The customer is (sigh) no longer ignorant.

The digital age has allowed companies to become their own media. To be seen as thought leaders. To have their educational content (not just their websites) found online.  Between your own website, blog, Facebook page, LinkedIn activities, Twitter, industry, online forums, associations, blogs, etc., your educational messages have more places to be seen.

Beyond educating customers about your product or service’s unique advantages, you can offer insights about your field in general.  You can share value from others, industry wide; you can share best practices thinking to help them run their business, address a difficult sales issue, etc. – virtually any topic that you know would be of interest and helpful to them.

Information equals trust. Use it, or be prepared to be out-marketed by competitors that do.

 

 

 

 

 

How Getting Personal Can Synch You With Your Customers

Talk about getting personal.

Here’s a fun story about getting and giving attention on a one-to-one level.

As reported on CBS TV Chicago in early February, local high school student Keenan Cahill found out just how much attention he could get by simply having fun.  He could’ve never expected the outcome.

Affected by a life-threatening disease called MPS-6 that stunts his growth — and dreaming about one day being an actor or singer — the outgoing teenager began videotaping his lip-synching routines to various hit songs, and posting them online.

His antics attracted the attention of Katy Perry, who recognized his fun video via Twitter, and sent out a link to the video.  The results?  The video went viral, and Cahill became an “Internet sensation.”

Even better, he began getting personal visits from 50 Cent, Tyra Banks and others who went so far as to join him in his Elmhurst, Illinois bedroom so they could ‘co-star’ with the lip-syncher.

Imagine a famous singer knocking on your front door!

Can we find lessons here for business?  Indeed.

The music stars recognized:

  • A fan’s interaction with their content (in this case, music)
  • The chance to further expose what this young man was doing to their other fans – since it benefited them from a pure publicity perspective
  • An opportunity to do good by:

- Showing up at his home to share in his excitement and fun takes on their songs
- Showing their humanity and support of a disabled teenager, leading to a thrilling outcome   that surely has changed his life.

This can no doubt be an inspiration for the B2B world.

  • What if … You and your staff found more (and more interesting) ways to connect with how your customers use your products or services, on a one-to-one level?
  • How can you go the extra mile to recognize their success, or help them achieve greater success?
  •  How can you SURPRISE your customers in a similar way (even one, two or three customers a year)?

Every company wants its videos to go viral.  While most business products and services don’t have a Hollywood aura, often we’re all too stuck in the boring business world to find (or put) the humanity into our stories.

This is the beauty of the connected world; the social media world we live in … The opportunity to be human, to speak and interact one-to-one with customers.

So start showing up for your customers.  Get involved.  Get personal.  Share in their excitement.  Recognize.  Act!

Challenge your team to do something out of the ordinary. Give!

Your customers will thank you for it.

Personal interaction is the new era in brand and reputation building.  B2B companies that apply it are succeeding in ways they never expected – proving the old adage: “give, and you shall receive.”

 

Why Good Content is Your “Social Annuity”

Just how valuable is the content you create? That depends. Are you writing derivative, uninspired, directionless crud that simply supplies words on a page? Or do you have a trajectory of thought that is meant to enlighten, persuade, educate and sometimes even delight?  In other words, what is the point of your engagement?

There’s no escaping what sharp marketers already know: the power of creating good content can’t be over emphasized. If it delivers information of value to your prospects and optimized correctly, it will be accessed and read repeatedly.

Think of it as your “social annuity”.

This recurring access is similar to a financial annuity. In its simplest form, you hand over a lump of your savings to the financial institution of your choice, and it sends you a monthly payment for the rest of your life.

Just as investors use these simple instruments to supply a consistent flow of cash over time, the content you commit to the web does the exact same thing. As your content is crawled and indexed, it’s committed to a server, ready to be tapped by whoever is clicking in the right keywords to find it.

What’s the primary benefit of a “social annuity”? It has staying power. Unlike ephemeral advertising (and no, I’m not smacking advertising; it has its place in integrated marketing), content sticks around and keeps on producing. But unlike the lump sum of the financial kind, the more content you add, the potential for the return grows and compounds. What you create for your website or blog has a long shelf life at a very low cost. More content leads to more traffic and engagement online.

Marcus Sheridan (and if you don’t know Marcus, you really should) recently showed how just eight blog posts he wrote for his pool company are still grabbing page views months and years after being published. Sure, page views is just a measurement… but so is the money those eight posts help deliver. Marcus estimates that they earned his company about $2 million in revenue. Yes, you read that correctly. And they’re still there, bringing in eyeballs and eventually open checkbooks.

Marcus knows what you should know. Understanding who your audience is, where they are and what keywords they’ll respond to, will draw them to good content. To your content.  And to your company, and your product.  You can take that one valuable investment to the bank.

Dear CEO: Content Is Your Social Media Fuel

Earlier this year I was asked by the irrepressible Gini Dietrich to contribute my thoughts to an ebook titled, Dear CEO: Letters to the C-Suite from Experts on Vision, Culture, Community, and Integration.  It’s a collection of letters to an unnamed CEO offering honest, unvarshished advice from 30 other business, marketing and pr pros.  It was a humbling experience to be asked, because there are some REALLY smart people in this book, including social marketing luminaries Danny Brown and Beth Harte.

Here’s my contribution:

Dear CEO,

You already know that social media is the new (and now permanent) marketing glue. It‘s not going away and its reach and use is permeating practically every corner of your marketing efforts.

What‘s in store for social marketing trends? From a handful of blog posts from leading bloggers and social media luminaries, I‘ve aggregated the following items: QR codes; mobile; group buying; niche location; Facebook advertising; reputation management; listening emphasis; customer service and Q&A sites.

All these will have an affect to varying degrees or another, but in my opinion, content development and marketing will be the most important this year. Developing new, compelling and valuable information is what progressive organizations will use to attract and hold the attention of their prospects and buyers.

Content is the fuel of social media. The value is how you mine it, process it, refine it and present it. You‘ll do this two ways. First, look internally to the wealth of information contained in your internal assets (read: your people and their expertise); and second, engage on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs to tap the pools of marketing crude and deposits of customer insight. These rich sources will help you continually engage, educate, and inform your customers and followers in such a way to keep them transacting with you.

Yes, like the saying goes, content is king, but it should not be content for content sake. It should be systematic, adaptable, relational and relevant. Content needs to cover your customers at different stages of the buying cycle in the right formats. It‘s been said many times by many people: divvy up your content into bite-sized marketing morsels that can be used in many different forms. This repurposing is more time and cost effective and will give you greater flexibility to meet the needs of your customers to influence their buying decisions.

Bottom line: Create content with context.

Best regards,

Bob Reed Partner & Co-founder

This little book is brimming with wise insight and advice.  And you can secure a PDF copy for free.

Be the first of ten people to share it, and you’ll get it.  Use the #DearCEO hashtag on Twitter, and share it on Facebook, LinkedIn and wherever else.  Then let me know via any of my profiles.  I’ll be watching. If you miss out on the freebies, head on over to Arment Dietrich’s Spin Sucks and purchase a copy.  It’s worth it.