Monday, December 22, 2008

Top 12 Needs That Should Be On Your Christmas List

1. A full functioning website your brother in law didn't design.

2. An advertising budget that doesn't consist of the yellow pages only.

3. An advertising budget that consists of more than a couple of weeks at Christmas.

4. How about an advertising budget period!

5. An advertising message that is compelling and engaging not one that is all, we-we and me-me!

6. A real live person answering your phones.

7. Staff in customer service that don't look like a pin cushion.

8. Music playing that doesn't sound like nails on a chalkboard.

9. As tempting as it may be, don't let an advertising salesperson convince you that you should be or do your own ads.

10. Ask your kid if he believes what your ads say.

11. Don't cheapen out on things that will help grow your business (training) and cheapen out on toys you think you need for your business ($900 automobile lease).

12. Lead by example. It's your business. Don't let the patients run the asylum. That's how you get the, "it's not my job" mentality.

And to all a good night.

Tony Mariani

Friday, December 19, 2008

We Are Not Participating

Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club said in 1991 that he was not going to participate in the then recession.

The United States is getting deep into it and we in Canada will not shake it. They U.S. sneezes and we catch a cold. Business has been so good for a number of years but come the new year many will declare bankruptcy on both sides of the border. How can that happen? Elementary my dear Watson. When business is good most live for the day and don't think of putting away a little for the rainy day.

Some businesses will have no choice to pull their horns in. Credit is going to get tighter and the consumer is going to delay purchases of non essential goods. Thanks to the media and their daily grim news, you would think we might as well board things up for awhile.

So as we wait this recession out, take a minute and 40 seconds and have a listen to this Charles Osgood file from CBS Radio on, How the grinch stole the economy.

Tony Mariani

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Company That Gets It

We live in age that is so reachable. Cell phone, email, text yet why is it nearly impossible to speak to someone live. Companies spend a fortune on advertising to acquire customers only to have their customer service departments do their best to lose them. Businesses that rely on customer service should address how well they do in this department. Are you listening to the calls that are recorded for educational purposes?

Same routine. Press 1 for english, 2 for french and 3 so we can put you on hold, play Michael Bolton songs for you (not that there is anything wrong with Michael Bolton) and decide when its your turn.

I am on hold with my cell phone provider listening to Time Love and Tenderness. I was calling because my bill which usually runs about $55 a month was at $134. After more of the greatest hits of Michael, I finally reached a rep. The rep tells me that because Telus and MTS Mobility weren't playing nice in the sandbox this was causing Telus subscribers to be charged for airtime that was supposed to be free.

The rep then told me there was nothing he could do about the extra charges. I tried to explain that it wasn't my problem about the catfight that I was holding up my end of the contract and I expected them to do the same. I asked to escalate the call further up the food chain and you guessed it more Michael Bolton now singing Christmas music.

Now one would think waiting on hold while being connected to the boss, that the rep would have given the boss an idea of my problem. I guess that would be to easy so having to explain my situation again and wait for the boss to read my file, the boss put me on hold.

"Frosty the snowman". Yes I am a little frosted and about to eat my telephone but it is the Christmas season so I keep it together. A simple bill adjustment took 35 minutes to resolve.

There are all sorts of stats about an unhappy client telling 6 or 7 people about their experience and so as I sit to write about it on my blog, my Shaw internet goes down. Please no more Michael Bolton songs as I call Shaw.

"Press 1 for residential, 2 for business" ....but wait its not Michael Bolton! "If you would like for us to call you back, please leave your 10 digit phone number. You will not lose your place in line and we will call you back when a customer service rep becomes available."

Now that is music to my ears.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Medium And The Message

A day doesn’t go by that someone says, “I tried radio and it doesn’t work for my business”.

My reply is always the same. Lets run a radio, TV or newspaper ad and have the message simply say, "the first 10 customers that come down to your place of business will receive $1000 cash with no strings attached period."

Its not what you use (radio, tv or paper) its what you say. Standing on the mountain and espousing about how good isn't the key to success. Telling me in your ads that you have instructed your staff to do what it takes to make a deal today is about as inviting as a tooth ache.

Gauge your message with this simple test. Does your ad speak the way you would speak to your friend? We don’t tell our friends that the friendly and knowledgeable staff helped you to pick out the firm bed. We don’t tell them that the business has been around for 30 years or that there is lots of free parking. No the message needs to engage the customer.

If I can get what you have down the street, all the yelling in your ads, bold claims about how good you are with the largest selection will not make me buy from you. If it’s the lowest price, Walmart will win every time.

Your message should reflect why your customers shop at your store. Are you asking them why? Then when you know why, how to tell them is determined by the amount of money you have allocated for your yearly advertising budget. And if you don't have a yearly advertising budget, don't blame the messenger.

Tony Mariani

Friday, November 28, 2008

To Website Or Not

“You should receive a response by email within 24 hours. If you do not receive a response, please try sending your message again and make sure you enter your correct email address”.

Response to an email complaint I sent to my bank. I tried to call them and ran right into the business norm today: layers and layers of number pressing to try and reach the right department and then hope to get a live person.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) has 6 million individual customers. In 2007, the bank had a profit of 3.3 billion dollar. With all that money you think they could get a better IT department (try sending email again!).

How well does your website perform? According to Statistics Canada, more than 8.4 million Canadians aged 16 and over made an online purchase in 2007. 43% of Canadians logged on to do research on products, and 64% reported that they had subsequently made a purchase directly from a store. The most popular items for browsing were consumer electronics, such as cameras and VCRs; housewares, such as large appliances and furniture; and clothing, jewelery and accessories.

Give your website daily care. Have checks and balances in place to immediately respond to any feedback you receive. The competition is fierce to begin with, add a little recession and being good, isn’t good enough.

Tony Mariani

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stay The Course

The bankruptcy numbers for 2009 will be substantial. And the list will include companies that have been around for a long time will be part of that list.

GM, Ford and Chrysler would be on that list if not for a government bailout.

Prepare your self for the next 7 months or so depending on how long this so called recession is going to last.

Here are some strategies to stay true to:

  • Protect the core of your business. Don’t let any opportunity big or small slip in servicing your current customers. It’s cheaper to keep your current customers than to attract new ones.

  • The weak, lazy and lucky hide during tough times. Stay proactive and look for ways to cut expenses that do not hurt service.

  • Marketing noise is down. Competition is advertising less. Stay on course with your advertising. It’s cheaper to grow business in these times.

A McGraw Hill Research report says that businesses that maintained or increased advertising during the 1981-82 recession averaged significantly higher sales growth than those that eliminated or decreased advertising. By 1985 companies that were aggressive recession advertisers grew their revenue 2.5 times faster than those that reduced advertising.

If things are bad now wait until you see how bad things will get if you cut advertising.

Tony Mariani

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thinking Inside The Box

I hate the term "thinking outside the box".

No doubt you will hear it a lot given the economic turmoil. I think its used because the prognosticators don’t have answers and want to re-invent the wheel.

We allow technology and gurus to change the way we do business. Like….

Voice mail. Let’s let our paying customers go through a jungle of press 1, press 2 to speak to a live human being, that is if your lucky to get a live person.

Return policy. Let’s charge our paying customers a fee if they buy something from us and then have to return it. We will call it a re-stocking charge.

How would things look like inside the box?

Answer the phone. Why do you have one?

Need to return something? No problem here is your refund.

I don’t think the way we do business has changed. Its still an exchange of money for goods or services.

We don’t need to think outside the box.

We just have to make sure that the inside of the box represents what people see on the outside of it.

Tony Mariani

Friday, November 14, 2008

Marketing in a Recession

Unless you are a bank or an auto maker, it doesn't look like anyone is going to bail your business out. With a recession at our doorsteps the cry is, "no one is buying"!

So marketing and in particular advertising are the first cuts. Big mistake.

The recession doesn't stop all spending. It just means that most consumers are careful in their spend. Generally 80% of your profits will come from 20% of your customers. Those percentages will likely shift to more profits from less customers. But even if they don't, you can't afford to lose share with the profitable group.

Stay the course or increase marketing efforts with the best customers so you don't lose them. Build goodwill with good customers during lean times. It goes a long way when times improve.

While your competitors sulk and complain about the economy and wait for for business to return to normal, cash in on what your competition is giving you-None!

Tony Mariani