Companies to Customers: "Don't Bother Us By Calling!"

Frustrated Customer dreamstime_s_116041961.jpg

Have you noticed how difficult it is to find a customer service phone number these days? They give you email, Chat, and links. But your questions are complex and difficult to resolve. Your questions require a phone call to cut through the information maze.

Let’s get down to everyday reality for a few seconds. The problem gets worse when you decide to buy.

It’s as if the business world were conspiring together to keep you from spending your money.

You search the manufacturer’s website for the contact information. But you search in vain for that sales phone number. In many instances, you will never find the contact address or phone number because it isn’t there. If it exists on the website, it is often hidden under layers of clicks.

I think that many companies today make it quite clear they DO NOT WANT TO TALK TO YOU.

Companies apply the same losing approach to existing customers. This kills present and future sales to save money.

The company actually increases it's sales costs when their product finally does sell. Such behavior reduces sales. Frustrated customers call the service or warranty departments rather than sales.

That’s a no-go because you do not have the product serial number allowing you access to a live person.

If you're a customer, the problem continues. The service group wants you to pay a service fee for product support first before they will talk with you.

This bad behavior weakens brands and causes the loss of many customers.

Why are companies so inept at customer service? Don’t they get it? Will they stay in business or prosper for long in a society that demands service above all? In your view, do companies understand that the prospect and customer are the bosses?  

Posted on July 3, 2018 and filed under Branding, New Business.

The Direct Marketer's Core Strategy: The Marketing Allowable

Customer Acquisition Allowable

Use marketing allowables to develop your marketing budget rather than a percentage of sales.

This focuses your budget on your most profitable customers and less on what's left over. Drive your plans using a single evaluation process to create successful marketing programs.

For example, if your customer marketing acquisition is $200 for each new customer. And your business plan calls for 10,000 new customers to make plan. Your total budget for acquisition becomes a matter of simple arithmetic.

$200 per customer X 10,000 new customers = $2,000,000

Your promotion, staffing, fulfillment, product deliveries, returns, phone support and and other related marketing costs for customer acquisition fall within this $2,000,000 budget.

You will also want to develop a customer retention allowable to add to your budget.

Keep it as simple as possible by quantifying your financial goals. Then determine the customer mix you need to achieve those goals.

This simple concept makes a lot of sense to CMOs, CFOs and CEOs. The devil lies in the development and agreement on the allowable details.

The customer lifetime value drives the creation of a reliable allowable. Most companies save the needed information to calculate customer lifetime value.

1. Average sale for all customers

2. Average profit margin per average sale

3. Average number of annual sales

4. Number of years and months the average customer remains active

5. The above information yields the average lifetime value of a new customer

Once you have the lifetime value, then the CFO or someone on his team calculates the allowables. His team will include present cost versus future value to come with the final allowables.

So far, my discussion revolves around the vital role of the allowable in preparing the marketing budget. The allowable plays a critical role in evaluating channel mix, offers, and creative executions. It can ven help divide the budget by marketing strategy such as social media support for traditional campaigns.

Through testing, how does TV or direct mail alone perform without the support of outbound telemarketing? How is social media contributing to acquisition or retention? Are we spending beyond our allowables? What mix performs best based on the allowables.

We must work to find ways to quantify all marketing spends. The first step is to create a reliable evaluation KPI. I know the allowable remains the Key Performance Indicator for all marketing activity.

How to Beat Direct Mail Controls

Creating a direct mail test package

Creating a direct mail test package

If you are like most direct mail creative people, you've lost more than you've won.

Some super controls have resisted many attempts to beat them. The discouraging part is that those direct mail winners often look unlikely to win.

They follow the rules, but seem to lack the creative spark that separate them from the pack. So how do you beat them?

I think the secret lies within the offer itself. This is what makes the target audience respond to mail for high response rates. Repositioning the offer may make a big difference. For example, "two for one," "50% off" and "half price" represent the same offer. This repositioning alone may make the difference between success and failure.

Format also plays an important role

Test envelope formats containing a personalized letter and response form with a simple flyer. Stay away from heavy dependence on postcards or self-mailers. They rarely work as well on a cost per sale or cost per lead basis.

Reviewing the poor performers reveal copy and layouts to avoid. You should also look at competitor mailers that repeat. Direct marketers will not remail loosers.

Don't think great design, humor or witty copy like a brander

Concentrate on the recipient's problem and how your product will solve it. Sale with conviction, testimonials and third party endorsements. Use as much copy as you need to answer anticipated objections. Most of all, build urgency whenever possible.

Remember that direct response mail must sell. Do not entertain or impress the audience with flawless prose or award winning design. Focus on the need of an individual recipient and create an irresistible need to respond now.

Avoid stop action copy in the letter that stop the reader in the middle of your message. Mention links, phone numbers and references to other pieces in your mailing at the end of your letter. 

Successful direct mail revolves around a central theme or the main selling proposition. Don't try to do too many things in your selling message. Reduce the number of decisions your are asking the reader to make.

Strive for breakthroughs rather than incremental improvement

Breakthroughs happen only by testing significantly different creative executions. Test everything at once without worrying too about what element might make a huge difference in response.

A 25% plus reduction in the cost per sale or cost per lead qualifies as a breakthrough.

In your testing, don't spend too much time trying to figure out exactly “what” made the big difference. Take your gloves off and concentrate on testing different offers and main selling propositions.  

Posted on June 6, 2017 and filed under Direct Mail, Direct Response Creative.

The Critical Importance Of Lead Validation In Internet Marketing

If you bought a lottery ticket but didn't scratch it, would you start spending your jackpot? Of course, you wouldn't -- you need to know whether or not you actually won something first.

For a lot of direct marketers -- Internet marketers especially -- they're spending their winnings before they know if they won because they're not validating or grading the leads they're getting.

Lead generation websites and other direct marketing techniques can bring lots of inquiries, but many of those inquiries are not actual sales leads. They're things like customer service requests, incomplete form submissions or even wrong numbers. However, too many direct marketers lump all inquiries under the same category and think they're generating far more useful leads than they really are. Ultimately, they're putting their resources into the wrong places.

The greater the lead quality, the more likely the sales or closure rate. 

The following presentation illustrates just how crucial lead validation can be for Internet marketing campaigns -- or any other type of direct marketing effort. Without the complete picture of who your true sales leads are and where they're coming from, you won't be able to make the most of your campaign or optimize it to drive greater improvements. Follow this advice and you won't fall into the trap of spending your winnings before you know whether or not you've actually won.

The following slides from Aaron Wittersheim, Chief Operating Officer at Internet marketing agency Straight North, focuses on Internet marketing and improving sales results with an effective Internet response validation system. He also reveals some interesting statistics that will prove useful to all marketers.

 I think that the above slide review misses a critical strategy in the lead validation process. To be a true sales lead that survives the validation process, those leads should prove a predisposition to buying the product or service.

Cost per sale and not the cost per lead should drive your lead generation strategy.

Sales lead validation must go beyond the described validation process. It's not enough to know that the lead represents true interest in your offering. The cost per qualified lead is defined as a lead that will likely convert to a sale. 

For example, if a  validated lead cost $10 each in a given channel or mix of channels, then a sales conversion rate of 10% equals a cost of $100 per sale.  Simply put, if one in 10 leads turns up a sale, then the cost per sale is $100.

Don't drive your program based on the $10 cost per lead. Expand or reduce your lead generation budget based on the cost per sale to $100 – assuming that CPS achieves your ROI requirements.

One client was generating over 700 B2B leads to month while converting less than one contract per month. This was unacceptable. All it did was frustrate the sales team.

Let me know your thoughts on the lead validation process and how you would modify it.

Posted on March 27, 2017 and filed under Lead Generation, Online Marketing.