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A Good Problem to Have January 31, 2014

Posted by Jack Macholl in Brand building, Brand personality, Branding, Image, Marketing, Marketing Planning, Sales, Site visibility, Uncategorized.
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I once heard a business owner say that having too much business is a good problem to have. Lately, I have encountered several situations where it is very difficult to secure a quote for services (particularly in the building/renovation trades). Not returning phone messages and leaving requests for quotes unattended in an e-mail box presents a poor image for the company, creating an instant sense of doubt in the consumer’s mind.

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Leads to Customers

Today there are many  tactical articles written about ways to increase web site traffic, generate sales leads and make the phones ring. Perhaps a more urgent need would be helping business owners find proven response methods to convert estimate requests in-hand and also acquiring the human talent to meet existing market demand.

What lead conversion and staffing models work in your field?

The Power of Thank You January 27, 2014

Posted by Jack Macholl in Bank marketing, Brand personality, Branding, Communications, Customer Service, Image, Marketing, non-profit, Philanthropy, Referral marketing, Sales.
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Whether you are acknowledging a present, business referral or expressing gratitude to a donor at a non-profit, sending something to express your gratitude should be standard procedure.  In our hurried SMS text and e-mail world, the power of a handwritten thank-you note is astounding.

Part of my weekly routine includes sending written thank-you cards to people who have helped with a business (or personal) matter. Today getting “snail mail” is often as infrequent as a fax. Granted there is a cost and some inertia to overcome, but what is the price of an impersonal thank-you?bigstock-Thank-you-vector-stamp-24628313

Book Review- Small Town Rules January 21, 2014

Posted by Jack Macholl in Book Review, Branding, Chamber of Commerce, Customer Service, Image, Marketing, Marketing Planning, non-profit.
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I recently completed Small Town Rules by Barry Moltz and Becky McCray a very interesting read that likens the connected world to a small town environment where every customer can talk with one another.

Today many businesses (including the  large companies) are quickly learning that people are seeking genuine interaction and a local connection. One of the most interesting takeaways was the desire of consumers to learn the “story behind their purchases.” Instead of mission/vision statements and value propositions, many humans want some history on the business and how it adds tangible value to the community. For many that connection may prompt a consumer to bypass a cheaper option and purchase the local product because they feel  personally involved with the product or service.

Since the Great Recession began in 2008, there has been a resurgence of the Shop Local movement which is covered in-depth. The authors cover many important points about businesses needing to do more than place “Shop Local” placards in their store windows and call it a success. Taking the Shop Local concept to an urban level is also reviewed with examples from the unique neighborhoods of Chicago, a major metropolitan market with numerous chambers of commerce.IMG_0190IMG_0197

Having worked in bank marketing for decades, I found the Bank Local section particularly interesting. Many community based banks did not participate in high-risk lending practices and actually made it through the worst of the financial crash with minimal impact. During the 1990’s and 2000’s,  many larger U.S. banking organizations eliminated local community banking charters, creating large-scale branch banking networks seeking the efficiency play. Some years later the wisdom of that strategy is questionable, as more wary consumers want a “small town type” relationship with the people managing something as personal as their money.

The lessons of minimalist business management, planning for “zero years” (storing surpluses) and exactly how small town businesses have survived for generations is wisdom many business owners large or small will surely find useful.

A devoted website www.smalltownrules.com is also available to remain connected for updates from the authors.

Customer Interaction- At Least Pretend December 31, 2013

Posted by Jack Macholl in Brand personality, Communications, Customer Service, Image, Marketing, Sales, Uncategorized.
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My final post of 2013 won’t be a “7 things you need to know” article, I wanted to leave you with some food for thought for the New Year.

Yesterday I decided to drive my car through a wash near my home as our midwestern road salt levels are already off the charts. The lady in the booth was on her iPhone and did not interact verbally her conversation trumped the customer interaction. Not only is this rude, it’s just plain horrible customer service. Certainly, many service jobs are not glamorous, but to simply point, take money and turn away is not portraying a quality image.

Today we’ve grown to accept self-service or perhaps marginal online chat and phone representatives as commonplace . From my vantage point certain businesses must still use face to face service as their central tool. It’s important to monitor the activity and attitude of those you have in customer-facing positions, make sure they’re at least acting the part.

A happy and safe New Year to you all.

Jack

Telling the “Local Story” September 13, 2012

Posted by Jack Macholl in Brand personality, Branding, Communications, Customer Service, Image, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Planning, non-profit, Uncategorized.
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Over my years in marketing management, I’ve seen many companies miss opportunity by over analyzing business and marketing strategies.  I field questions like “should we have a QR code?”, ”  do we need to be on this Four Square thing?”- and the list goes on.

Sometimes taking a few steps back and reviewing the business purpose (core strategy) and how you will convey your “story” is much more productive than charging to the latest software or “app” (tactics).

Businesses who are winning in this world of consumer insecurity are those making a connection with customers. Explaining why they should do business with you versus the firm down the street or across the globe (value proposition). If your phones are answered locally and not by a call center 3,000 miles away, by all means tell us. Being locally owned and operated by employees that have kids on the same little league team as your child can be a strong differentiating point particularly in a world where many people feel “burned” (e.g. the financial crisis) and want a relationship with the people they’re doing business with.

Beyond telling a great “marketing story”, actually delivering on the promise (customer experience) is the true tale of the tape, as  hopefully delighted, repeat customers often lead to the sought after 20%  that account for your profitability (80/20 rule).

Not to say that apps or online commerce is bad, it’s not. The punchline- small steps, strategy first, then ensuring top-notch processes/operations are in place, then tell your story.

I’d like to hear your local success stories and what works.

“Old -Fashioned” Interactive Marketing July 5, 2011

Posted by Jack Macholl in Brand building, Brand personality, Branding, Communications, Event marketing, Image, Interactive Marketing, Marketing, Marketing Planning, Sales.
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Old-fashioned Interaction

While attending Summerfest, the wonderful music festival staged on Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan shoreline, I happened upon a Dyson tent where they were demonstrating their new Air Multiplier bladeless fans. The displays were arranged so there was constant eye-catching movement, action including a beach ball being propelled from fan to fan without harm.

What struck me was the “old-fashioned” product demonstration and genuine interaction between the Dyson event staff and the fest attendees. When we talk about Interactive Marketing in today’s terminology, we’re of course referring to the exchange of information (usually online-but not always) about a customer’s preferences, comments or past purchases and sharing relevant  product information and hopefully achieving a brand connection.

Without a doubt online, database driven marketing communications tools are brilliant solutions for connecting people and establishing meaningful relationships; but when you are demonstrating a breakthrough product a little hands -on product interaction never hurts.

How are you interacting with clients or prospects? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Interactivity- Responsible Brand Engagement March 31, 2011

Posted by Jack Macholl in Brand building, Brand personality, Branding, Corporate Social Responsibility, Environment, Image.
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As a rather large fan of chewing gum with many crowns to show for years of chewing “full strength” gum, I switched over to Orbit a sugar-free brand in their product line.

I noted they have recently launched a new website  cleanorbitgum.com that connects an environmental cause in a play on words with their current “clean mouth” creative platform.

The clean connection includes a code printed on the inner flap of each pack. If you visit the site, register and enter the code, Orbit makes a .50 cent donation to the Keep America Beautiful fund and enters you in a $5,000 sweepstakes to clean up “a little corner of your world.”

 As more companies begin to work toward social responsibility, many are choosing environmental causes to associate this emerging form of goodwill with their brand. Of course they are also creating a nice database of customers which certainly does not hurt either.

 Now you too can help clean up the world and have minty fresh breath at the same time.

What are some other examples you are seeing with similar tie-ins? I’d love to hear your thoughts for future posts.

Brand leadership

Patience test- Customer Service 21st Century Style? February 21, 2011

Posted by Jack Macholl in Brand personality, Customer Service, Image.
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Ordering a pizza from one of the chain establishments that says they are improving turned out to be an exercise in patience for me. First the disclaimer… most of you that know me claim I’m an affable guy, fairly easy to please and fun-loving. OK, now on to the story…

First step-the order, got a pleasant young lady on the phone who took the order and then had to put me on hold to see if they deliver to my house, about two miles away. Then came a phone call to my cell phone from the store asking for a main intersection near my home. After explicit directions over the phone, two more phone calls from the befuddled driver who literally drove right past my house while I waved from the front porch!

One would think with Mapquest, Google Maps. GPS and even a good old Rand McNally map for goodness sake would have been desirable alternatives to phoning the customer three times within the course of an hour.

Nevertheless, the story ends happily, with a reasonably warm pizza arriving in a slightly soggy cardboard box (no cheese stuck to the lid).

I would like to suggest an addendum to all franchise manuals regarding resourcefulness;  seeking answers to questions within the operation before an employee reaches out to the customer I’m just saying.

“All over the Customer” January 25, 2011

Posted by Jack Macholl in Brand building, Brand personality, Branding, Customer Service, Image.
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Each week I read many articles about the brand and the promise that it stands for. My instincts tell me that some marketers believe that “branding” is all about the advertisements or worse yet the logo.  A customer’s brand experience has many facets. From the day the initial decision to “buy” is made by the customer your company needs to begin adding value and cementing the relationship.

As we all know in life relationships take work, trust is earned by a series of transactions and delivery on the brand promise.  So why do so many companies have you enter (or speak) in your data, only to ask you to repeat it; then transfer you to numerous departments during a customer service issue, only to repeat the data again?  When you feel like an account number the brand experience has failed.

Make it easy for me to do business with you at every touch-point, make my customer experience consistent and positive. Are you “all over” the brand experience at every touch-point in your business?

The bottom-line message is “know thy customer.”

Satisfying the customer at all touch-points

Art in the Window December 10, 2010

Posted by Jack Macholl in Brand building, Brand personality, Branding, Image, Marketing, Signs, Uncategorized.
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Hand painted Santa

Living in an older part of Chicago we still have many “all purpose” restaurants,  24/7 operations serving up everything from matzo ball soup to gyros. The other day while having lunch I noted the old-world , hand painted Santa faces, holly/mistletoe, silver bells and other holiday icons.  Seeing the work of a human hand (free hand painting) in this era of Photoshop and digital imagery was refreshing. Another customer actually remarked about the window decorations, asking who does them. The manager shrugged and said “this guy who comes around every year and paints them.” 

I for one have always admired people who have artistic ability-even simple window painting has become a lost art; overshadowed by vinyl “clings” and other digitally produced outputs. This type of “added touch” really helps to humanize or provide a certain home town, local business feel that has disappeared in recent years. So here’s to “the guy who paints windows” – whoever you are – this small contribution to the local brand with your art is still important.