Category Archives: listening

Your new competition

Quick. Take 30 seconds and list your main competitors.

(don’t worry, I’ll wait)

Done?

Good.

Sorry, but your list is wrong.

Unless of course, you listed Zappos, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s, Netflix, The Container Store and Apple.

Your customers are doing business with these companies, who are constantly raising the bar on engagement and customer delight.

Every time your customer’s online order arrives earlier than expected from Zappos…

Every time your customer chuckles at a Southwest flight attendant who weaves humor into the emergency exit script…

Every time your customer feels a human connection with a checker in line at Trader Joe’s…

Every time your customer is glad that there are so many helpful colored shirts at the Apple Store…

It’s happening right now. Your customers are experiencing this kind of interaction (notice I didn’t say transaction) today.

The bar has been raised.

What are you going to do?

Flowtown knows what you’re wearing

OK, they may not know what you’re wearing but there is a good chance they know your customers better than you do.

Flowtown uses emails from your customer database, (you do have an email database for your customers, right?) and can tell you interesting and valuable information about those customers.

I recently met the founders of Flowtown online. They are wicked smart guys with a product that is immediately useful to almost any business.

Below is my interview with Ethan Bloch.

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Ethan Bloch and I’m the Co-founder and CEO of Flowtown.

Why should companies use Flowtown?
Because social media is hard and Flowtown turns social data in dollars.

How much does Flowtown know about someone from their email address?
Name, Age Group, Gender, Occupation, Location, Influence and almost every Social network they’re on.

Really? Wow. Do you know what I’m wearing right now?
I think you’d prefer I didn’t say ;)

So this would allow companies to do more targeted campaigns. For instance, if only 10,000 of their 100,000 members are twitter users, they could do a focused campaign, right?
Totally, way more focused. For example if you’re not on Twitter it would be annoying to get an email saying ‘Hi Clay, we’re building out our presence on Twitter…” you’d be like “I’m not on there, why are you sending me this?” On the flip side we’ve found that if you know someone is on a network and you mention that in your email, the performance of that campaign skyrockets.

Is Flowtown a replacement for traditional email systems like Flowtown, AWeber or MailChimp?
In the case of mainstream email service providers, I don’t think Flowtown is a replacement but rather an enhancement. For example we’ve built an integration with MailChimp where any MailChimp user can come to Flowtown and in 3 clicks dump a ton of demographic and social graphic information back into their MailChimp list and then use MailChimp’s segmentation feature to get more relevant with their subscribers.

You guys are adding interesting new features to Flowtown pretty quickly. Tell us about some of them.
We just launched an influence calculation (powered by Klout), where now when you import a contact list we’ll show you your top 50 influencers, which you can use to do 1-on-1 outreach i.e. we’re showing you the 20% that will drive 80% of the results, in respect to getting noticed and building buzz.

In fact everything we do at Flowtown is ran through this ‘Pareto Lens’ – early on, internally, Dan and I would speak of Flowtown as the 80/20 marketing filter for business.

Tell me about your partner, Dan Martell. How did you guys meet?
He’s a Rockstar – we wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are today without Dan.

We actually met on Twitter back in September 2008. Did an IRL meetup, discovered we’re both passionate about marketing and moving the needle for business and the rest is history…

Tell us what your typical day at Flowtown is like.
I wake up around 6:30 and immediately touch base with David (VP of Engineering), he’s on EST so by the time I get up I’m already playing catchup.

(I jumpstart my day by using a strategy from Leo at Zen Habits: http://zenhabits.net/2007/02/jumpstart-your-day-night-before-evening/)

I’ll do a brief skim of all the new email that’s came in make sure there’s no bombs going off and then then I’ll work on 1-2 of the most important tasks I have scheduled for the day, for the next 3 hours, usually product, sales or biz dev focused, this could include new product mocks, coding, emails, phone calls, brainstorming and white boarding.

After those 3-hours are up I start going into a more ad-hoc mode, where I’m answering email/tweets, talking to customers, closing new customers, working with David on new features, bouncing around the bay for meetings, testing new features, breaking things and syncing up with Dan.

Later in the day/evening is when I go to the 30,000+ foot view of life, this includes research, reading (going through my Instapaper) and planning.

What did you do before you started Flowtown?
Right before I started Flowtown I was producing/hosting a video show called WSYK? (What Should You Know?) which was syndicated by Revision3. And I was a marketer full time at Cake Financial, a start-up that was recently sold to E-Trade.

Where do you hope Flowtown will be in 3 years?
Flowtown will be responsible for raising the bar on customer experience/service, by helping all businesses care for their customers like Zappos cares for theirs.

What’s the plan then?
Not sure if I’ll be ready, but I want to help fill the massive void in education. I hated school growing up and think there’s a lot we can do to improve the experience for children everywhere.

You’re from Baltimore. Please tell me you’ve seen the Wire or we’re ending this interview right now.

“You come at the king you best not miss.”

I love The Wire. My favorite character is Omar and if you don’t know why just watch this.

Thanks, Ethan.

If you want to try Flowtown yourself, enter your email address here.

Those who can, teach

I can see

This is often how I feel.

When I work with clients, I try hard to teach them about marketing, about customer engagement and how to listen and participate in the social web.

Some consultants prefer to do instead of teach. They are worried that if the client learns how to run everything on their own, they wouldn’t need the consultant anymore.

I would welcome that.

If I can teach my way out of a job, that means the clients are engaging with their customers and running a more successful, more social, more human business.

How can that be a bad thing?

Book Drips – I Love You More Than My Dog by Jeanne Bliss

dog-book-sm

What make companies like Zappos, The Container Store, Harley Davidson, Netflix, Rackspace, Umpqua Bank, LUSH, Threadless, USAA, Trader Joe’s, Apple, CD Baby, Southwest Airlines and many more so beloved by their passionate fans?

Jeanne Bliss’s new book explains exactly how.

In her new book, “I Love You More Than My Dog“, Jeanne reveals the five key decisions that beloved companies make to drive customer loyalty. The book isn’t even out until Thursday (you can download the first chapter and pre-order here) but in a moment, I will tell you how to get a copy FREE.

Jeanne devotes a chapter to each of the five decisions that companies make to become beloved by customers. She ends each chapter with an excellent summary of the necessary decision and challenges companies to analyze themselves on that axis, hitting on the questions below.

    1. Decide to BELIEVE.

    Do you believe:
    – In the good judgment of the people you hire?
    – That trust is reciprocated by customers?
    – In the truth of your customers’ words?
    – That trusted and prepared employees grow the business?
    – In more trust than rules? In more training than policies?
    – How would your customers describe your trust in them?
    – Would your employees say you honor them?

    2. Decide with CLARITY.

    Do you have clarity about:
    – The memories you want to deliver?
    – The type of people who belong in your company?
    – How to steer decision making?
    – The experience you are all working toward?
    – Are your decisions directed toward executing tasks or achieving a purpose?

    3. Decide to BE REAL.

    Do you:
    – Touch a cord with customers?
    – Encourage personality and creativity of employees?
    – Communicate personally, without the corporate veneer?
    – Make decisions by envisioning customers in their lives?
    – How would customers describe who you are as people?
    – How do employees describe your company personality?

    4. Decide to BE THERE.

    Are you there for your customers?
    – Do your customers’ lives inform and inspire the behavior, the actions, and the operation of your business?
    – Is your operating plan based on your priorities or customer priorities?
    – Can customers easily tell the story of the experience you deliver?

    5. Decide to SAY SORRY.

    When you apologize:
    – Are you genuine?
    – Do you restore confidence in being associated with you?
    – Do you honor those impacted and resolve their problem?
    – Do you deliver your apology swiftly and with humility?

I love examples, so I love that Jeanne fills each chapter with very specific, concise examples in one-page vignettes of how each company chose to decide using a consistent format that explains each company’s

    1. Decision Intent
    2. Motivation and
    3. Impact.

If you have customers, you need to read this book.

If you are a customer, Jeanne is your advocate.

Read more about Jeanne and watch videos of her on her website, CustomerBliss.com.

Jeanne was kind enough to give me three copies of her new book to give away. To get a chance at one, you must take the following two actions:

[full disclosure: I borrowed / stole this “comment + tweet” idea from my friend Michael Hyatt. If you don’t already read his blog, I highly recommend it.]

1. Leave a comment below. Tell me why you want this book. Be creative.

2. Tweet a link to this post. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook.

On Thursday, October 15th, I will select three winners, whom I will email directly. If you don’t hear from me, you can assume you didn’t make the cut.

Question: Why do you want a copy of this book?

Listen and learn

Listening to customers isn’t a new concept but (most) companies have come a long way from those comment cards in small wooden boxes.

Dell computers has Ideastorm, a website where anyone can go on and post an idea, suggestion or even (gasp) a complaint.

dell-ideastorm1

Starbucks has a similar site at MyStarbucksIdea.com.

mystarbucksidea

One customer posted his idea requesting the ability to “buy a friend a coffee” remotely. The idea has 35,450 total points and 272 comments (and counting). There is even an official response from Starbucks letting users know that this idea is now “under rest view” by management.

starbucks_buyyouadrink

Sites like Ideastorm and MyStarbucks are brilliant. They push the envelope by not just listening to customers but allowing them to participate in the entire idea generation and implementation process.

Dell and Starbucks now know:

1) What their customers like
2) What their customers don’t like
3) What their customers want that they don’t have

How are you listening to your customers? How are you capturing what might be your company’s best new idea?

Sites of this scale aren’t necessary for all companies but if you have thousands of customers in multiple locations and the only way you “listen” to them is a support email address or a Twitter account, it’s time to upgrade the wooden box.

Die hard or die fast.

Do you know your die hard customers?
Do you know your die hard customers?

Seth Godin recently wrote an excellent post about finding the ten people who trust you/respect you/need you/listen to you.

With all due respect to Bruce Willis, I’m going to call these people your “Die Hards” . . . people that will go out of their way to evangelize your product or service.

Do you have ten? Do you have more? If you can’t name ten, you should either change course or “die fast”.

Do you know who they are?
I don’t mean their email addresses. Do you know where they live? How old they are? Most importantly, do you know why they chose you over your competitors? Do you know exactly why they tell their friends, everyday, that you’re the greatest thing since coffee sleeves?

Are you communicating with them?
I don’t mean ‘are they on your distribution list’ or ‘do they subscribe to your blog’, I mean do you have real two-way communication? Are you getting personal feedback from them? Do you know what colors they wished existed? What features they would love to see? What they think of your pricing?

When is the last time you’ve sent them something of value, for free?
Send them a few free units or a preview of a new model. Invite them for an all-expenses paid tour of your facilities. After all, by evangelizing you, they’re providing you with an invaluable service everyday. An unexpected gift will stoke their fire even more. Don’t even bother measuring the ROI. It’s off the charts.

I’m not suggesting polling every user and trying to keep them all happy. That’s not only foolish, it’s impossible. But you should be listening to and communicating with your die hards.

Keep your friends close, your enemies closer and your die hards closest.