Seinfeld on Marketing: Loyalty programs

Let’s face it; your loyalty program may not be fostering loyalty. In fact, if done incorrectly, your punch card or exclusive discounts and offers may be actually hurting you. Take for example this Seinfeld episode where Elaine it trying to earn a free submarine sandwich at Atomic Sub:

(Elaine is digging into her purse)
ELAINE: Oh, I can’t believe it! I’ve lost my “Atomic Sub” card!
JERRY: So?
ELAINE: I’ve eaten 23 bad subs, I just need 1 more! It’s like a long, bad movie, but you want to see the end of it!
JERRY: No, you walk out.
ELAINE: Alright, then, it’s like a boring book, but you gotta finish it.
JERRY: No, you wait for the movie!
ELAINE: (Irritated, and through clinched teeth) I want that free sub.

Loyalty is earned overtime by consistently providing your customers with memorable customer experiences. If your customer experience is faulty (for example, “bad subs”), then the increase in negative word of mouth from your loyalty program can actually propel your business into inexistence faster. Remember this formula:

Bad customer experience + loyalty program = accelerated extinction

Before you start any loyalty program, make sure your customer experience is rock solid.

Happy Friday everyone!

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Off the Topic: Blog search terms

What is the weirdest search engine term that somebody has used to find your blog?

My weirdest search terms on my marketing blog (which aren’t too weird):

  • changing a hubcap Pontiac Vibe
  • bathrooms in Disneyland
  • I heart my wife
  • the fugitive the one armed man

I bet that some of you have some very unusual search terms that people have used to find your blog. So come on and share them!

Passing the marketing baton

passbaton.pngOne of the many benefits of word of mouth is that you have a sales force of evangelists that is ready and willing to extol the greatness that this is your company. The downside is that evangelists may not always say what you would want them to say.

What I mean by this is that your customers may be very positive in all of their word of mouth, but you may feel that they have “missed” some core messages that might have helped the other person to want to try your product (if you have ever felt this way, can you really blame anyone but yourself?) Keep in mind that most of your evangelists are not trained marketers (and to some degree, thank goodness!) Regardless, there comes a time when you simply have to pass the marketing baton to your evangelists and let them control the message. Some companies find this very difficult.

Though I believe that you cannot completely control how the message is received in minds of the consumers, I do believe that you can take some proactive steps to increase the likelihood that your evangelists use the intended core message of your product. These three steps are:

  1. Consistency. The more consistent the customer experience is throughout all of the channels (online, store, toll-free number, catalog, etc), the more likely the message will be a cohesive and understandable message. For example, if I walk into your store and my questions are answered and I am treated very well, then I expect that when I call your customer service department that I will talk to someone who understands my issue and does not treat me like I am a nuisance.
  2. Simplicity. The less that I, the consumer, have to think to make sense of your marketing message, the better. When you walk into a Mac store or listen to a tween girl talk about her Little Miss Matched socks, you “get the message” right away.
  3. Differentiation. if your product is truly revolutionary (much harder these days), it may be difficult for evangelists to explain to others about your product. In this situation, try giving them simple comparisons (see the previous post) to explain your product to their friends. On the other end of the spectrum, it is challenging for evangelists to talk to their friends about your product if your product is only slightly better than existing products.
    1. Happy Tuesday!

Seinfeld on Marketing: Using Comparisons

What do you do if someone is unfamiliar with your product or service and you market something that must be experienced (like a massage or skydiving) or is highly technical for the non-user (like SEO or biometric security products)? How might you explain your product or service to someone who is unfamiliar?

Let’s look to Seinfeld for the answer. Allow me to set the stage. George and Kramer are in search of a new wheelchair for a friend. They enter a store that sells wheelchairs:

Salesman: This is out best model. The Cougar 9000. It’s the Rolls Royce of wheelchairs. This is like… you’re almost glad to be handicapped.

emphasis added

Besides being crass, the wheelchair salesman teaches us a great marketing lesson. George and Kramer had never (up to this point) used a wheelchair (later on George uses a motorized wheelchair to keep a job, but that is a topic for a much later discussion). The salesman used a product that George and Kramer were familiar with (a Rolls Royce) and compared it to his product. Using this comparison, George and Kramer did not actually have to experience the wheelchair to understand its benefits compared to other wheelchairs.

Do you have a product or service that is not easily explained? Try using a comparison.

Side Note: If you market the product that others use to explain their product, then give yourself a gold star on the forehead!

Happy Friday!

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.

Do you have a “Chief Apology Officer”?

Let’s face it. If you’re in business, there’s going to be at least some problems. That’s business. So what do you do when things go wrong?

Southwest Airlines has what has been dubbed as a “Chief Apology Officer”. In reality he is Fred Taylor, Senior Manager of Proactive Customer Service Communications. (Listen to a podcast interview with Fred here). In his job, he “deals with customers on days when travel plans go awry.”

When I first heard of the Chief Apology Officer I was worried. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the concept but I was worried that since this position would be dealing with “the problems” day in and day out that it may turn into a what-button-can-I-push-to-make-this-customer-go-away sort of attitude followed by a mechanical and hollow apology. However, Southwest Airlines seems to get it right. They respond quickly, they correct the situation and they make sure that the entire organization has the needed information and what is expected of them.

What are your thoughts of having a Chief Apology Officer? How might you offer apologies as part of your job without sounding mechanical or insincere?

Bonus: If you feel that having your own Chief Apology Officer would be beneficial (or if that responsibility rests on your shoulders) be sure to checkout the 10 steps for crisis communication.

Happy Wednesday!

What it takes

Why give out coupons hoping for loyalty in return when what it takes is for customers to have sustained, memorable experiences with your brand?

Why play musical chairs with the organizational chart when what it takes is a dedicated, “show-and-tell” type of leadership from the top?

Why motivate employees with cash bonuses when what it takes is to first give them your trust and appreciation?

Why spend hours on your logo and tag line when what it takes is a remarkable experience for someone to remember you in the sea of “good enough”?

Why “save” money outsourcing or cutting your customer service when what it takes is knowledgeable, human relationships to make customers happy?

Why waste your time and other resources assuming that from day one everyone will want your product when what it takes is to begin marketing your product to those who will be your loudest evangelist?

What have you found it takes?

Someday

It’s amazing how effortlessly we throw around the word “someday” (I’m no exception). With little or no thought, we lazily relegate “create a business plan”, “changing the batteries in the smoke alarm”, “update the menu items for my patrons” and “lose 15 pounds” to the black hole of all lists – the “someday” list.

If it’s worth your time thinking about it, it’s worth putting it on some other list than the “someday” list. The goal is to have your “someday” list starved for attention and always at 100% vacancy.

Happy Monday all!