Friday, June 29, 2007

Unappreciated Promotion...

We got a packet in the mail yesterday from an education program where my son, PJ has taken classes for years.

The packet included an application, a brochure and a coupon good for 10% off tuition.

"Isn't that nice of them to give us 10% off PJ's class?" Beth said over dinner.

"Read it again," I said. "The coupon says 'new students only' in the fine print."

"WHAT?" she exclaimed grabbing the coupon from my hand.

"Can you please pass the sweet and sour sauce?" I asked, hoping to distract her.

"What a rotten thing to send us! He's taken classes with them loyally for 3 years. And this is their thank you?"

"Ouch!" I said fanning my tongue. "Those egg rolls are searing hot."

"Don't you think that's a dumb thing to do? Don't you think that says they don't really appreciate their most loyal students?"

"Can I get some water?" I asked holding out my glass.

Beth glared at me.

"O.K. You're right," I conceded. "It is a stupid marketing move."

"Doesn't this go against everything you tell people?" she asked tempting me with the water pitcher.

"Yes. Offering new students a better deal than existing students is dumb. Sending the offer directly to parents of existing students is dumber. Smart marketers invest a good percentage of their marketing budget in retention marketing programs to reward loyalty and reduce attrition. If the school wanted our help drawing in new students, they should have given us a coupon offering us 10% for referring a friend. And they should have included a personal note or letter to build our relationship."

I paused for effect.

"Now, can I have more water?"

Often we value new customers more than long-term ones. Somehow we think growth is built strictly on new customers. That is rarely the case.

In many cases, existing customers can be more profitable. They tend to be cheaper to service, since they need less educating. And loyal, satisfied customers are easier to cross-sell your other products and services. Every percent that you reduce attrition is a percent fewer new customers you need to make your overall sales goals. Most importantly, loyal customers are the most persuasive salespeople you can have. The enthusiasm for your products or services is genuine and often contagious. Their referrals tend to be pre-sold.

How are you treating your most loyal customers? Are you showering them with appreciation, or showing them the door? Don't take loyalty for granted.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, June 22, 2007

¡Hola! Hispanic Marketing...

If I wasn't born into an Italian family, I wish I was born into a Hispanic family. But that may just be because I love Mexican food.

Maybe that's why my agency does more and more work in Spanish every year. But I think there is another reason for the shift in business.

The U.S. population is shifting in ways you might not be aware of.

Depending on where you live, you may notice a larger Hispanic population. But you may think that the growth is only in certain areas: Los Angeles, Miami, New York, etc. What may surprise you is that Denver is the 15th largest Hispanic city in America. About 20 percent of the population in Denver is Hispanic. It recently pushed Albuquerque, New Mexico off the top 20 list. And other non-traditionally Hispanic markets are shifting as well.

For instance, the state with the fastest-growing Hispanic market as a percentage of population is North Carolina. That's no typo. It's North Carolina. There was a 394% increase in Hispanics living in the state between the 1990 and 2000 census.

America is the 3rd largest Hispanic country in the United States. More Hispanics live in the U.S. than there are Canadians living in Canada.

Currently 78% of Hispanic adults are immigrants. That means that their first language is Spanish. They are a Spanish-only or Spanish-dominate language group.

And projections say the Hispanic population in the United States will increase 77 percent between 2000 and 2020.

So as a direct result of all this research, my recommendation to my clients is not to do any literature in Spanish. It's a big waste of money.

Instead, I encourage them to consider investing in bilingual literature. This way, you don't need to double you marketing budget to adapt to the changing marketplace.

We've built many bilingual websites for our B-to-B customers to help them communicate with their potential customers. We even work with a translator that's an expert in automotive technology to be sure all the technical jargon is correct. He's an excellent translator and in high-demand. In fact, I don't think he's taking any new clients.

Depending on who and where your market is, you may find you need to communicate in Polish or some other language or risk losing out. But let me assure you if you don't keep an eye on the shifting population, your sales will suffer. Because if you aren't talking their language let me assure you, someone else will.

So when you talk to you customers, are you talking their language? And beyond that do you recognize what makes their culture different?

Now if you excuse me, I've got a lunch appointment with Taco Bell.

- Phil Sasso

Friday, June 15, 2007

Buyer's Remorse...

"Did you notice the inside tailgate light is missing?", my uncle pointed out as I showed him my family's new minivan.

"You mean the light's burned out?" I asked.

"No it's missing. Looks like the factory forgot to put it in," he said pointing to a gapping hole in the inside tailgate.

A few days ago we bought a new minivan. Actually, it's new for us, but it's a "certified used car" from a "haggle-free" dealer (There's another marketing tip...)

So, I emailed my salesman about the problem. No response.

I called. He wasn't in. I left a message for him to call me back. No response.

Here's where I began to experience what marketers call Buyer's Remorse.

Wikipedia describes Buyer's Remorse as "an emotional condition whereby a person feels remorse or regret after a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of higher value items such as property, cars, computers, jewelry, etc. The common condition is brought on by an internal sense of doubt that the correct decision has been made. With high-value items such as a property, this is exacerbated by the fear that one may have acted without full and complete information, for example, the property was not fully surveyed..."

I've studied Buyer's Remorse before. In a clinical setting it's easy to feel empathy for the buyer and to dismiss it as cognitive dissonance.

That is, until you are the person experiencing the remorse. Then there's no dismissing the reality of the overwhelming fear that you may made a bad decision.

My mind began to spin: What else could be wrong. What else had I failed to check? How many jokes was this salesman telling about me being a patsy?

Then I remembered, my contract had a 7-day return policy. I called the sales manager and explained my situation and that the salesman was unresponsive.

"Oh, he's been out for the last few days," the manager replied calmingly. "Actually on that model there's only one light. The other side is just a cover."

"Well my cover is missing!" I replied trying not to let my remorse show.

"I can order one and ship it right to your home," he responded. "Would that be acceptable?"

"Uh, sure," I responded relieved I didn't have to put up a fight.

"Is everything else working well?" he asked.

"Yeah it is," I replied.

"And remember if you have any other problems, you have a free powertrain warranty and roadside assistance for the next year," he said, soothing me.

I hung up the phone and wondered if I was overreacting. Maybe I really had got a good deal and these no-haggle salesmen were good guys.

What can you do to be sure your customers post-sales fears are calmed? What program can you put into place to build confidence and possibly get referral customers?

A few days after my call, an overnight package arrived at my door with the replacement cover. Free.

Of course, I knew I'd made the right decision all along.

- Phil Sasso

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Brand Aware...

"Look there's another one the same color," Beth said. "Are more people driving the same van? Or is it just me?"

"There aren't really more of them," I replied. "You're just more aware of them. That's because we just got one."

"I never noticed another van this color before," said Beth. "But the more I see other ones, the more it feels like we chose the right one."

"Yeah," I replied a little snarkily. "After all, color is the most important reason to choose a vehicle."

Our new van reminded me of a psychological phenomenon called "Heighten Awareness." It's a sense of greater awareness to something, usually an object or word, because of multiple emotional exposure to it. The marketing angle on this is used in branding. Multiple exposures to a brand message over time will make you more likely to have a heightened awareness of that brand.

The point is the more often prospects see your brand name, the more likely they are to be predisposed to consider your brand when they make a buying decision, I oversimplify, but think about how you are subtly influenced by brand exposure. Actually, you might not be aware of it since the process is mostly subconscious!

Stay tuned for next week's tip about our new van: buyer's remorse...

- Phil Sasso