Friday, June 16, 2017

The Company Store Blues

I hear the Marketing Director's words like the energetic beginnings of a Muddy Waters' song. The promising chords belying the despair in the lyrics to come.

These are the Company Store Blues.
The marketing department spear-heads an initiative to streamline the purchasing of marketing materials, promotional items and apparel. Excited by the prospect of controlling brand and logo treatment, they meticulously choose products that will  convey the brand message appropriately. They work with the vendor to make sure that the brand guidelines, painstakingly developed but loosely followed by employees, are understood and well-implemented.

For a time, the program works beautifully. The sales team and the human resources department gush over the ease of use and the cool items. The bean counters are happy with the comprehensive reporting and budget control. The marketing department is happy  that the burden of  product ordering has been removed from their daily activities.

But as with any good blues song, there are  problems and complications. When the sales manager returns to the site after several rewarding visits, he finds the same product mix from months earlier. When the HR Manager logs in to find a new incentive gift, she finds nothing but the items that had been used previously.  No one wants to pester marketing again so they go rogue by purchasing from sources that put little thought into brand or logo guidelines.  Marketing has invested in the online program and is frustrated at the diminishing level of use.

These blues can be avoided if the company store program is handled by an experienced and engaged partner. 
Problem - Excess Inventory

Companies generally over-estimate the need for inventory.  The idea of having products on the shelf, ready to ship at a moment's notice seems like a good one and may be for a few staple items - think golf balls , pens and post-it notes. The inventory dollars on the shelf inevitably reduce the ability to keep the product mix fresh. The point of promotional items is to generate excitement for the brand. These should be well thought out and planned. Having basic items on the shelf bails out the non-planners but less inventory allows for more unique and exciting promotions.
There are many products available that can be produced quickly and with low minimums. The store needs to be utilized as a regular vehicle for showing new offerings. The site should be updated quarterly with new items and special offers. The online platform should have robust reporting capabilities. Much insight can be gained from the frequent and modest users to keep the offering relevant.
Finally - listen. Give the users a way to openly communicate their needs and ideas. After all, these are the end-users and they know what works on the street.

Online Company Stores are a wonderful tool for sales, marketing and brand development if they are actively planned and faithfully maintained.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Write It Down

There is something satisfying about writing with a quality pen on high-quality paper. As it turns out it's not only satisfying to write things down, it really helps to manage the mental clutter that can cause stress. Here are a few ways that note-taking, journaling and lists can help.
It Helps You Think Bigger - Writing down your dreams, goals, and business ideas helps you brainstorm on a more ambitious scale.
You'll Learn More - A study carried out in 2010 found that the areas of the brain associated with learning worked far better when we write the words
You'll Remember More - Writing things down that you need to remember - like checklists - gives you a far better chance of actually remembering them when you have to
You Won't Be As Distracted - Good old fashioned paper (as opposed to a device) will keep you focused - and focus is the key to thinking clearer, and thinking better
It Frees up Mental RAM - When you note down your ideas, thoughts, and emotions, it helps your brain to unload some baggage, giving it room to think about other things
You'll Stay Sharper As You Age - According to the world renowned science journal Neurology, writing things down will keep you on top of your memory game for longer
As technology brings us closer to a paperless existence, you may find good old-fashioned notes on paper a valuable exercise.

Everything has changed except human nature

Customer loyalty programs are valuable to companies on a variety of levels. Consumers not only need to know that a product or service is a value; they also need to feel special. The traditional loyalty programs offer discounts, upgrades and freebies as rewards for repeated interaction. However, a study by Queens University of Technology finds that many of these traditional programs are suffering because consumers are struggling to see the benefits of signing up. The consumer is confronted with a value proposition at sign-up and must weigh the perceived benefits against the possible loss of privacy. This proposition minimizes the gratitude the consumer feels for the retailer or service provider.
Gratitude is the key and missing ingredient. The study by QUT's School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations found that “benefits that stimulate gratitude in customers have the power to strengthen the seller-customer relationship and ensure loyalty”. The shopper needs to feel that the seller cares more for the consumer than their own profits. An attitude of benevolence on the part of the seller goes a long way to building trust and loyalty in the relationship.
So how does a company appeal to this basic tenant of human nature? Here are a few suggestions gleaned from the aforementioned study:
Unexpected Gifts – a free case when you purchase a laptop is an example of an unexpected gift that will generate gratitude. The consumer made the buying decision based on the value of the purchase and is given a “bonus” gift. There was no requirement asked of the buyer other than the initial purchase. This cannot be advertised as a means to motivate sales of the laptop to get the proper response. It must be unexpected to garner the gratitude.
Bending the Rules – nothing make a consumer feel more grateful than an employee with the discretion and willingness to break the rules for them. This shows the consumer that they are indeed first and will certainly bind the relationship for the future. Each business has opportunities to empower front-line employees to “do whatever it takes” to win the customer. Zappos is an example of a company that believes that there are no rules when it comes to customer satisfaction.
Random Events – Anything unexpected to make the customer feel special will have the desired effect. Events exclusively for loyal customers coupled with exclusive discounts or gifts will generate gratitude and keep the loyal customer devoted. It must be exclusive to the loyal group and adding randomness to the scheduling makes it more unexpected.
Conspicuous Recognition – The Diamond Level boarding line is an example of an airline recognizing the importance of its most valuable customers and offering a conspicuous upgrade in service as a reward. There are opportunities in many companies to segment their most valuable customers and offer an added service or designation that not only makes them feel grateful but proud to take part.
The way companies do business and interact with the consumer is changing quickly with the evolution of technology and data management. But human nature remains the same and the consumer still requires exceptional acts to insure long term loyalty.