Define: “Sender’s Remorse”

(Asking for a friend)

Of course, we all care how others are doing, but do we adapt our communications to effectively show it, or take action to help?  Content marketing tone-deafness seems rife these days. We see it in ill-timed marketing messages that bulldoze ahead without a pause, failing to consider the New Normal (illness, hardship, coping with change). We see it in new, well-meaning website banners expressing empathy, but whose placement or wording may appear like decal art, not resonant or reflective of any response or change in marketing, sales and service practices.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Need
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need (click to enlarge)

People are bouncing up and down all over the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid (see graphic) like never before: one day, on top of the world; next day, pinned under it. One reader summed it this way: “In November, we were all psyched about the top 2020 tech trends; yesterday I was psyched just to swap a loaf of bread for a bag of carrots”.

The New Business Opportunity: Listen

The new business opportunity is, in a word: Listen. Next: demonstrate by your own actions that you actually listened. Stop selling, start serving. Each individual customer and prospect is processing information differently. The famed buying funnel, which really always was more of a tornado anyway, is now spinning up – or down – a bit more frantically. Your challenge is to check in frequently to be sure you are doing what customers and buyers need which, incidentally, could also be just what you need too. The two are not mutually exclusive, but the timing is everything.

Here, in priority order, are some things we are doing in these New Normal times to help us avoid Sender’s Remorse, including client feedback and the results we are seeing.

Four Tactics to Avoid Sender’s Remorse

Here are some tactics to consider adopting, accompanied with a few stories about how we did it, and the results we saw.

1. Listen to what customers need urgently now.  Listening intently helps you lean away from the instinct to put messages out there, and lean more toward interpreting others’ needs.  This positions you better to offer solutions that your audiences will value under their circumstances.   For example, if you have a “sympathy” banner statement on your website, consider replacing those sincere words with a demonstration of sincere action. Maybe your customer needs to get fuller benefit from a purchase they already made. Help them do that. It’s part of your support arrangement, isn’t it? If not, make it so. Consider prioritizing the most relevant product / service categories. Give something away at first, so people can evaluate whether it fits their most pressing need. A “freemium” model might work here; just be in it for the long haul, and extend free trials beyond the customary 90 days, to accommodate the distraction and drawn-out decision processes that now typify buying decisions.

What we did: I sent a personal email to each key client executive expressing understanding with the current situation and offering to completely scrap, modify, or at least revisit our current projects and agreements, to change it up according to their most urgent needs.  Every single one of them emphatically stated they want to talk about continuing the relationship, happy to discuss any needed change. We were thus able to re-prioritize our work based on those client updates. Instead of sitting around wondering, our direct engagement has helped us confidently move forward productively.

2. Make things more convenient.  Improve access to your support and service. People are feeling abandoned enough; don’t add to the frustration. Be the oasis, be the rock. Listen and respond. Consider adding new or more convenient payment, delivery, service, redemption and return methods. Form new partnerships to support your efforts here.  Staff up your Chat bot hours.

What we did: Please skip to that answer under #3 below.

3. Educate or train for a small fee.  Everyone needs to learn new things to adapt to new realities. Is there some expertise or body of knowledge you possess that could be offered to clients, or the general public? Consider what you can offer that could also help people manage through rapid change.

What we did: Understanding the new Work from Home trend, we began doing free webconferencing user training for clients (Zoom, Webex, GoToMeeting, etc.), who enthusiastically accepted the offer. Two surprising results came our way. Firstly, we got better acquainted with more client-side Users who are newly working from home.  Their first-person feedback and dialogue really helped us to better understand the needs of that broader user group. Secondly, we were referred by some of our customers to other organizations to deliver the same videoconferencing training, and those new contacts are happily paying us to do it.  Result: we have a new service offering, and an easy and natural way to introduce to our other main product and services offerings.

How can you apply this? Maybe your graphic design, legal or product management skills would benefit your customers; offer to train them. Start an “each one teach one” trend. Give it a brand name and maybe a hashtag. Make it a new service.  Make it a new product category. Do what’s needed now.

4. Redefine loyalty. Get customer input to determine what values have changed, and how. Get ahead of the Next Normal: videoconferencing, e-commerce, sustainability, etc. Increased public interest and concern about these topics could be matched or mitigated by your knowledge, your content, and your approach to sharing it.

Watch out for “Tone-deaf” Humor.  Even professional humorists can get humor wrong. Consider maybe not leading with a joke that could be construed in bad taste which, of course, is highly subjective. To repeat Tactic #1 above: First, check in with people, listen, and gain some perspective. Only then can you determine what, if any, type of humor or irony may be appropriate and appreciated.

Avoiding Sender’s Remorse: the final edit step

If you’ve adopted the four steps above, you’ve probably gotten better acquainted with your clients. Next, start a content theme focused on client stories, with your client as the hero. Resist the temptation to sell, but by all means provide sidebar links to your own newly adapted products, services and support programs: free training, relaxed trial periods, whatever works for them and you, based on your new listening campaign.  Send a test email to your own internal review team, but consider including your client (story hero)on that test message too.  Make them part of your review process, even if only for a cursory “okay” response.  In addition to ensuring a more satisfactory result, you can give clients a more intimate glimpse and appreciation for the rigor of your effort to get things right. Oh, and incidentally, it also shows once again that your are demonstrating that you listened.

Over to You.

How are you adapting to the new normal? Are you now in closer contact with customers? What can you easily do to adapt and deliver on their needs? Love to hear your Comments and stories.

References and Resources

How Marketing Leaders Can Manage Coronavirus and Plan for the Future (McKinsey)

Content as a Service (nDash)

Show You Care How Audiences are Doing (Content Marketing Institute)  

The Bright Side of COVID-19: Seven Opportunities of the Current Pandemic  (Forbes) 

Remote Work: It’s a Thing Now

 

The New Consumer Demand: I Want My MDV *

*MDV (def.) Massive Data Visualization

It’s my data.  Give it to me.  Oh, and help me leverage it, too.

This demand is customary in the business world, but increasingly it comes from the mouths of consumers.

How Did We Get Here?One way: be your own landing page link!

The consumerization of data analysis is not new. You could put your finger on any point in the timeline of humanity, as far back as the invention of the printing press.

A key inflection point in the 1980’s occurred when the widespread adoption of personal computers made us all publishers.  Later we got networked and could share our documents and spreadsheets.  It continued in the 90’s with email, and the advent of the Worldwide Web for searching and sifting, managing virtual folders, bookmarking, saving, copying, sharing etc.  In recent decade,  we built a habit of  tapping data stores for making decisions – in online shopping with its price comparison engines.  For most of us, a Google search is our first resort.

Today our social media tools help us to sort and manage our relationships, connections, conversations, and the statistics about those sorting processes, into visual and mental maps about our lives.   Hmmm….Is your organization generating customer data that’s worth sharing with your customers?

As Clay Shirky remarked in his book “Here Comes Everybody“, the problem is “not information overload, it’s filter failure”. We really can only care about the most meaningful data.  Which data is that? How do we decide? What tools are available?  I mention a few cool ones below.

The Tyranny of Time

That issue is inflated by the tyranny of time.  We each only have so many waking hours in each day.  Joke alert: I booked a couple of hours this Saturday afternoon for some spontaneity, but I may have to time shift it to Sunday. Hmm, I’ll just mark it as Tentative on both days. We’ll see.

We depend on data, and love when it is presented visually.  If you have used your smartphone to scan the merchandise QR code, or compare prices with a Google search while “showrooming” in a store, you get the value of massive data visualization on a small scale.  If you use a free GPS app on your phone to navigate to a new destination, you get it.  If you filter your Twitter feeds using Lists, you get it.

Who’s Doing It?

InMaps sample
Visualize and zoom in on your LinkedIn connections via InMaps

The new mantra is: Gimme my data, in a way that helps me gain insight to make better decisions faster.

One problem:  detecting the useful faint signals in all that data is often a daunting task, but usually yields a few “Aha!” moments if you know how to leverage tools, whether you are a consumer, producer or business.  A few people are making progress in this area, like Coloci and LinkedIn Labs’ InMaps (visit http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com ) which gives you a new way to visualize your connections and discover new relationships – an absolute must for any sales prospector.  In the enterprise space, new entrants like Qliktech are invigorating the space long dominated by established players like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Microstrategy.  In the catalog retailer space, we now have Pluris Marketing.  Have you tried them?  Have you found others you’d recommend?  Are you onto the “Quantified Self” movement?  Have you synced your FitBit fitness tracking device today?

What are you doing to give people transparent access to their data?  Whatever you decide to to, it just might make you their hero.

Inbound Marketing, PR and Web Analytics: It’s Cool at School

I was fortunate to meet Yanique Shaw, a Marketing student at Salem State College, at a recent Boston Media Leaders event, and she invited me to meet with her PRSSA chapter at her school, led by Professor of Communications Robert Brown, Ph.D.   Here is what we discussed at our meeting on-campus this week.  I think you’ll find it uplifting.

Content, Community, Commerce… in that order

First, we discussed the linkages between Content and Community, then Community to Commerce.  Anybody drinking the HubSpot koolaid (like me) recognizes and endorses that mantra.  (The folks at HubSpot are, if nothing else, infectious and clear in their branding and engagement model).  Proof: some members of this PRSSA chapter recognize the HubSpot brand.

Each member of the group was able to come up pretty quickly with examples of how content builds community, and how absence of content makes it difficult to build community.

Example: One student who works at a nearby coffee shop remarked that she is able to better serve those customers whom she sees more frequently.  Becoming familiar with customer preferences enables her to make appealing suggestions.  She even came up with a unique beverage recipe for one particular client by combining available store ingredients.  How cool is that?  Now her loyal customer will only let her serve him and his kids.   Can you pick out the content and community – and subsequent commerce – elements here?   How likely would you accept an experimental recipe sample – let alone buy it – if you were in a new coffee shop with a barista you’d never met?  Granted, some like me might take that gamble, but can we agree that this student’s trust relationship with a loyal customer increased that likelihood?

Just as our one-hour campus meeting raced by much too quickly, I too have to abbreviate here.  If time permits later, I’ll update this blog entry with more discussion examples.   Everybody had examples to contribute.  Alex, Luis, Ashley, Karrina, thanks!

Obsessing About Data

Joseph Wanamaker, the department store magnate, is credited with commenting that he always knew half of his advertising dollars were being wasted, but he never knew which half.   Like the buggy whip, that bromide has had its day.  Every mouse click is data, available for analysis.  The PRSSA group confessed lack of MS Excel chops.  My advice: get some.  You may not like the drudgery, but every job has it, and if you re-frame it as sleuthing for clues, you’ll appreciate how your discoveries help your organization improve.

The PRSSA group readily volunteered knowledge about tools like Google Analytics.  We also went on to discuss tools like Grader.com, useful for comparing your business site’s performace to empirical measures as well as competitors’ performance – both extremely useful business guidance, and very helpful when making the business case for improving your online customer experience.   We also looked at ways to use inbound marketing technology like Eloqua to more precisely guide the buyer’s journey through a considered purchase while continuing to cultivate relationships with early stage evaluators of your product or service.

This behind-the-scenes experience management practice all came across as a bit spooky and manipulative to a few folks, but we quickly turned the corner and recognized that obsessing over your data is indispensable in helping you focus your organization’s resources on improving customer service.

In parting, the group invited me to join their online Wiggio collaboration community, so we could keep in touch about relevant matters.  Done!  To my new friends at SSC PRSSA: good luck with your Bellringer Award entry!

Upshot: there is hope for the future, and it thrives at Salem State College.  Thanks a bunch, Dr. Brown et. al., for your hospitality.

How has your college experience prepared you (or not) for the challenges of a Marketing or Public Relations career?   What new realities do you face?  Love to hear your comments.

~Ed

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