The New Customer Service Trend that’s Shaking Up the Marketing Industry (In a Good Way!)

When it comes to customer service trends, most marketers and customer support teams groan and shake their head. Here’s another glimpse into supposedly “what customers want” that’s supposed to make them beat a path to our doors.

Except it rarely works out that way – and customer service suffers as a result of it.

But now, a new trend is catching on that could change all of that. And calling it a trend is really doing a disservice to the notion at all. What it should be called is “the way service should always have been done”.

It’s called customer-first marketing – and it’s changing everything you think you know about how your prospects think, act and react. Let’s take a closer look:

What is Customer-First Marketing?

First, let me ask you a question – as a marketer, how would you describe customer-first marketing if you weren’t sure what it was?

Many will say, “well, we need to build a marketing and sales strategy around convincing users to try our product or service and become customers. Once they’re in the funnel, we advertise to them based on where they are in the buying stage and hope to grow repeat business.”

This is a solid marketing strategy, but it’s not customer-first marketing. When you start with “We need to build…” you’re already discounting the customer and their needs. If anything, they’re more of an after-thought – a mindless object that only comes into play once the funnels are built and the strategies executed.

Let’s take a look at another example. Let’s say a client wants to meet with you to explore your solution further. Your sales people march in like an army under strict orders and pressures to sell. After all, they’ve got quotas to meet!

Customer-first marketing turns both of these examples on their heads. It involves a lot of discussion and back-and-forth with the customer to discover a solution that truly works for both parties. It’s a method where sales are the secondary focus.

Now, don’t panic.

Because although you’re conducting a lot of research and having a lot of discussion and making a lot of choices and getting feedback, all of this may seem like a huge lead weight on the actual marketing process, but in fact with customer-first marketing, it’s the most crucial piece.

What is the Difference Between Customer-Centric Marketing and Customer-First Marketing?

Now, you may hear the phrase “customer-first marketing” and think it’s just another spin on the often-cited “customer-centric marketing” strategy. But here is the main difference:

Customer-centric marketing aims strategies AT the customer. You are looking at the customer as an end-goal. Customer-first marketing revolves AROUND the customer. You are making them an integral part of your marketing, research and development.

In December of 2016, MarketingSherpa released a comprehensive study detailing what measures contributed the most to customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is one of the highest notches to strive for on the customer-first marketing barometer, and these insights demonstrate a very revealing path toward the end goal.

The Big Question: What Do Satisfied Customers Feel versus Unsatisfied Customers?

customerfirst1

According to the study, over half of satisfied customers reported having a “good experience” with the company. But what constitutes a good experience? Namely, it makes the customer feel like they are important to, and have a relationship with the company. Perhaps most insightful was answer number 9 on the list: “It puts my needs above their own business goals”.

Contrast that with the number one reason for unsatisfied customers (with over a third of the responses) and you get “The company does not put my needs and wants above their own business goals.”

If you want to see just how vital this idea is to separating the satisfied from the unsatisfied customers, take a closer look at this question:

customerfirst2

But simply putting one’s customers ahead of one’s business goals does much more than let businesses give themselves a pat on the back. When customers are genuinely satisfied and feel like their needs are being met, they’ll not only continue to purchase from the company, but also highly recommend it to others, as noted in the chart below:

customerfirst3

Making the Shift to Customer-First

So if you get to enjoy all of these benefits when putting a customer-first plan into action, why aren’t more companies doing it? According to Jamie Beckland, VP of Product and Marketing at Janrain, the answer is simple:

“So if it’s generally agreed upon that customer-first marketing is essential to survival, let alone growth, why do companies struggle with it so much? Marketing benchmarks are difficult for many executives to reset. It’s difficult to justify not sending fewer, more targeted emails, and risk programs not delivering against quarterly targets. Unfortunately, the long-term damage caused by this approach is likely to outweigh any short-term gains. Once you forgo tailoring an experience to the customer, you can expect them to cut off communication, or worse, take their money somewhere else.”

So what are some things you can do to help promote more customer-first moments, to gradually but solidly show progress in moving to this new kind of thinking? Here are a few ideas:

Walk Them Through the Process

There’s nothing quite so overwhelming as signing up for a new product or service, only to have a handful of emails (or one really long email) dumped in your lap on how to use it. Instead, take the time to walk them through the process. Offer a free getting started webinar, or let them schedule a date/time to learn the basics of how to use your product or service. Check in with them often to see how they’re progressing and what questions they may have.

Highlight Their Achievements

Have your customers done something awesome with your product or service? Why not work with them to share it with the world! Or simply highlight something about your customers – recognition makes everyone feel great about him or herself.

Some companies even go so far as to hand-write notes to their customers, thanking them for their feedback and providing them with a little something – a t-shirt, a gift card or some other token of appreciation that says “I value what you have to say – and here is something to thank you for taking the time to tell me about it.”

Be Proactive

Not just about support and resolving their issue, but about keeping them up-to-date with news, changes and other things they’d find relevant. Let them reach out to you through multiple, fully-staffed channels using whatever method is most convenient to them. Customer-first marketing involves a great deal of feedback and discussion. Take the time to get to know your customers and work with them, rather than giving them a number and a ticket and hoping for the best.

As you can see, when it comes to putting the customer first in your marketing, it’s surprisingly not that difficult. The hardest part will be to justify the returns in the long run. But not matter how you choose to do it, making the customer your priority, and living up to that statement in everything your company does, will pay off not just in terms of revenues, but happier employees, more loyal customers, and higher recommendations.

And that’s something every business can agree on!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!


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Link free or die

Why are we so afraid of links? Columnist Julie Joyce goes through several of our biggest fears and discusses how healthy they really are.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.


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How to Craft Timelessly Powerful Stories with Freaks, Cheats, and Familiars

"You don't have to be a born storyteller. Storytelling is a craft, and it can be learned." – Sonia Simone

A few weeks ago, I recorded a podcast episode about Jonah Sachs’s book Winning the Story Wars. He had a particularly useful observation about three story elements that pull in audience attention. He calls them Freaks, Cheats, and Familiars.

Sachs explains how these elements can be deployed, like the Hero’s Journey, to make stories much more memorable and engaging.

As I was reading Story Wars, it struck me that there’s a well-known figure who illustrates all three of these elements in one person: legendary bodybuilder, action star, two-term California Governor, and crafter of potent analogies, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Here’s how it works:

Freaks

Remember when we talked about not being so damned boring?

Sameness is boring. Conformity is boring. You break the brutal cycle of boring by being different.

Sachs’s freaks are story characters who compel our attention because they are different. They might be particularly tall or short, particularly handsome or ugly, or physically distinctive in some other way.

They also might be quite normal-looking people who stand out because they’re in a particular context. Normally we wouldn’t call Justin Trudeau a freak, but he’s almost bizarrely good-looking for a head of state. I’m a quite ordinary-looking person, but my pink hair stands out, particularly in a business context — and it becomes a freak element that people remember.

Schwarzenegger, of course, achieved freak status with his remarkable physique. To this day, he’s one of the most influential figures in bodybuilding history, with five Mr. Universe and seven Mr. Olympia wins.

But there are lots of bodybuilders. I’d argue that it’s Schwarzenegger’s strong Austrian accent that helps make him instantly memorable. That combination — the massive physique with the specific accent — creates a kind of “sketch” of him in our minds, even if we haven’t seen him often.

Freaks make great characters because they have good hooks to make them stick in our minds. A voice, a walk, a scar, a costume. Note that “freak” in this case isn’t pejorative and doesn’t imply that there’s something wrong with the person’s appearance.

One way to determine if you have a freak: if you saw them drawn in a graphic novel, with minimal context, would you recognize them?

Other memorable freaks, from both stories and real life, include:

  • Darth Vader
  • Dennis Rodman
  • The Joker
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Carrot Top
  • David Bowie
  • Gollum

Cheats

Sachs’s second engrossing element is the cheat.

These are characters who cheat the system — who violate some social norm. They embody the trickster archetype and are notable in that they can be either a hero or a villain. (A few, like the Norse god Loki, manage to be both.)

Good cheats challenge corrupt social norms and undermine them. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a cheat in this sense. So are all those detectives in novels who just can’t seem to follow the rules.

Bad cheats are the ones who undermine the social rules we value. Liars, thieves, betrayers of trust.

Cheats bring massive energy to a story. When we find out that someone is breaking the rules, we’re almost compelled to find out more … and to figure out if this is a brave visionary or a dangerous crook.

Schwarzenegger’s reputation as a trickster started with the documentary Pumping Iron, which showed him cleverly tricking his opponents into sabotaging themselves. His 2003 run for Governor of California revolved around breaking the “business as usual” political norms that voters found boring and unsatisfying.

Whether he was a “good” or a “bad” cheat in that context depended on your politics — but he did manage to win the governorship for two terms. (His opponent, Gray Davis, was a politician whose name perfectly described his political charisma.)

Schwarzenegger continues to bend the political “rules,” as a prominent Republican voice urging action on climate change.

Other memorable cheats include:

  • Han Solo
  • Tim Ferriss
  • Richard Nixon
  • Bernie Madoff
  • Iron Man
  • Bugs Bunny
  • Ulysses

Familiars

So … freaks and cheats are inherently interesting and memorable, but they aren’t inherently trustworthy.

Stories that motivate us to action need another element: familiarity.

If Schwarzenegger hadn’t been a celebrity, it’s hard to envision him as a successful candidate. People knew his name, his accent, and his penchant for thumbing his nose at the establishment. The first person to mimic his famous “Terminator” accent did so about five minutes after the premiere of The Terminator. (Note: I made that up, but you know it has to be true.)

Arnold Schwarzenegger was widely known, so his oddness seemed fairly safe. He helped things along by being willing to play with his own image. He was widely called “The Governator,” by his fans and critics alike. A typical politician couldn’t call the California state assembly “girly men,” but Schwarzenegger, riffing off of the Saturday Night Live parody of characters like him, pulled it off … because everyone understood the reference.

Stories that are populated only by freaks and cheats will feel unnerving. Familiars allow regular people — those who aren’t freaks and cheats — to feel at home in the story being told.

And sometimes, someone like Schwarzenegger with strong “freak and cheat” credentials becomes a familiar simply by virtue of being highly visible over a long period of time.

Familiar characters are relatable. They seem like “real people.” While they may have accomplished amazing things (they could even be freakish in their abilities), they also feel like someone we could know personally.

I’d argue that all of these folks have elements of the familiar:

  • Luke Skywalker
  • Oprah
  • Captain America
  • Peyton Manning
  • Frodo Baggins
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • The Bush family

The trifecta

The strongest stories will often include all three of these elements, but they don’t always come wrapped in the same character.

Schwarzenegger’s not the only one, though, by any means. Neo in The Matrix starts off as a mild-mannered Familiar, becomes an ultra-powerful Freak, and then evolves into the ultimate Cheat who sees through and disrupts the Matrix’s corrupt nature.

Tyrion in Game of Thrones is an obvious “Freak,” whose physical differences cause him untold pain. He’s a Cheat when he scoffs at the norms of his society and manages to talk his way out of situations that would kill off anyone else. And he plays the role of Familiar as one of the few characters who seems to show actual human feelings. (Game of Thrones makes extensive use of the three elements. Notice that two other triple-threat characters, Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, stand out among a cast of ultra-vivid characters as particularly memorable.)

Most comedians also pull all three elements together. Louis C.K., like many comedians, has a speaking voice that’s immediately recognizable (Freak). He gets laughs by poking at social norms, sometimes brutally (Cheat). And he does it as an average-looking guy — digging deep into the psyche of “regular people” (Familiar).

Jonah Sachs didn’t make up “freaks, cheats, and familiars.” He just noticed how they worked to make many, many stories more memorable.

If you’re looking for ways to tell stories that resonate more deeply, that move your audience to action, and that are just plain interesting, give these a try. Don’t think you have to be a born storyteller. Storytelling is a craft, and it can be learned.

Ever use one (or all) of these elements in your content? Let us know in the comments!

Image source: reza shayestehpour via Unsplash.

The post How to Craft Timelessly Powerful Stories with Freaks, Cheats, and Familiars appeared first on Copyblogger.


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3 Unusual Tactics For Making Your Testimonials More Persuasive

I bet you’ve seen this sort of advice before…

When using a testimonial, you should always:

  • List the customer’s first and last name
  • Include their photo
  • Avoid unbelievable, over-the-top praise

Those are all fine tips to follow, but they’re really just starting points.

Optimizing your social proof requires just as much strategy and testing as improving a headline, hero image or call-to-action button.

Because if you just stick to blindly following ‘best practices,’ you could be missing out on a huge opportunity to squeeze more conversions out of your website or landing page. Here’s why:

Social proof affects different audiences in different ways. The complexity of your offer, the demographics of your visitors and a host of other factors all influence how persuasive your testimonials will be.

And that means you may want to try optimizing them in ways that seem counterintuitive at first.

Or even just plain strange.

I’ll get into more detail about this in a moment. But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what typically makes for a convincing and credible testimonial.

Don’t use testimonials unless you’ve seen these tips…

Plenty of articles have already been written offering great advice for using testimonials. And those tips can generally be summed up as:

  • Include a photo and other details
    Providing the customer’s first and last name, location or any other relevant details makes testimonials more realistic. But an even bigger factor is including a (real) photo of the testimonial-giver. There’s plenty of research to back this up.
  • Use testimonials from people your customers can relate to
    According to implicit egotism theory, we generally trust people who are either like us or who we aspire to be like. And that means strong testimonials are often from folks who reflect how your prospects see themselves.
  • Use testimonials from people with authority (if possible)
    The most powerful testimonials come from people your audience sees as an expert or otherwise having authority. In essence, you’re ‘borrowing’ the positive feelings people have toward these individuals (this is called the Halo Effect) when you get their endorsement.
  • Reinforce a specific benefit
    Emphasis on specific. Vague testimonials that say things like “great experience” or “tremendous value” won’t connect with anyone. And it might even hurt your conversion rate. Instead, testimonials should be used strategically as ‘proof’ to support specific claims you’re making on your pages.
  • OR

  • Quash a serious objection
    Research by MECLABS shows that placing testimonials near sources of anxiety (such as the ‘Add to Cart’ button) can ease objections and improve conversions. Bottom line: don’t just randomly sprinkle testimonials throughout your website. First, consider the role they’re playing on the page.

These tips make sense, right?

And if you’ve been in the conversion optimization game for any length of time, I suspect you’re already familiar with most of them.

Now, let’s dive into 3 lesser-known techniques for making your testimonials more credible, engaging and persuasive.

1) Try ‘long-form’ testimonials

Far too many articles give out generic advice like:

“Always keep your testimonials very short.”

Well, no. Not always.

Short, specific quotes from customers may work fine in certain situations. But sometimes a big, juicy testimonial can provide the exact dose of social proof that your page needs. Why?

For the same reasons that long copy can sometimes be more persuasive than short copy. Long-form sales messages often work great when your product is complicated, your audience has loads of objections or the price-tag is high.

As veteran ad man Jay Conrad Levinson puts it:

“Don’t be afraid to use lengthy copy. Of all the things people dislike about marketing, ‘lack of information’ comes in second, after ‘feeling deceived.’”

The trick is to ensure your long-form copy — or long-form testimonial — is interesting and relevant to your audience. Here’s an example:

Long-form testimonials make up the majority of content on Noah Kagan’s sales page for his How To Make A $1,000 A Month Business course. And some of them run well over 500 words!

Now, these testimonials work like sales copy in a number of different ways. But I want to point out one specific technique that makes them so effective: storytelling.

Several testimonials on the page tell raw, human stories about a problem the person was up against and how they discovered a life-changing solution thanks to Kagan’s course.

Take a look at this example:

Dave’s story kicks off with an emotional (and relatable) problem.

aha-moment-testimonial

He then goes on to tell a story about how the course helped him, eventually building to the ‘climax’ detailing how his life changed afterwards:

monthly-1k-course-testimonial

In fact, some of the most effective long-form testimonials start with an emotional problem.

Here’s a prime example from the Sweat Block homepage, which was optimized by the team at Copy Hackers. This testimonial follows the tried-and-true problem-agitate-solve copywriting formula:

meet-brianna-testimonial

Now, a customer probably isn’t going to just hand you over a problem-agitate-solve testimonial by fluke. You may need to give them some guidance first.

So ask specific questions when requesting a testimonial. Things like:

  • What made you seek out our product/service?
  • What was the exact problem you needed to solve? How did it impact your life?
  • How did our product/service solve this problem? How did it improve your [business/social life etc.]?

But even if you don’t take a problem-focused approach, the key to using effective long-form testimonials is to make sure they tell a gripping story.

One that will resonate with your target audience in a powerful way.

2) Show your warts (really, it’s OK)

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you should post a testimonial that outright bashes your company.

That’d be weird. And, well, kind of dumb.

But I am suggesting that by leaving some minor ‘warts’ in your testimonials you can convey trust and credibility — if you do it the right way.

One study found that 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both positive and negative scores. And a whopping 30% suspect faked reviews when they don’t see anything negative at all.

As master copywriter Bob Bly puts it, “showing your warts” can be an effective marketing technique provided you:

  • demonstrate why your product’s weakness isn’t important or
  • show how you’ve designed your product to overcome the weakness

This tactic works because arguing against your own self-interest builds credibility.

In this Unbounce article, marketer and entrepreneur Pratik Dholakiya suggests testing a landing page testimonial that tells people who your product isn’t right for. This might involve including a line like:

“This product isn’t for [so and so], it’s for [so and so].”

The beauty of this approach is that it sends the message you want happy, long-term customers; not just quicks sales for short-term gain.

Some brands have used not-so-shiny testimonials in more creative ways to reinforce a key message.

For example, Ship Your Enemies Glitter used to feature a reviews section that told an unfiltered story about their product — one testimonial even mentioned a customer’s pending divorce.

show-your-warts-testimonials

OK, this is an extreme example.

The point is that people are skeptical of both online reviews and testimonials. But by slipping in a few “warts” (in a strategic way), you can give your social proof a shot of credibility.

3) Make your testimonial the ‘hero’

Got a beauty of a testimonial?

One that’s credible, relatable and aligns perfectly with the goal of your page?

Then don’t bury it way below the fold! Instead, play that sucker up big time in the hero section for every visitor to see.

Emphasizing the right testimonial immediately sends the message to prospects that your product solves problems for people who are just like them.

I used this strategy while optimizing a key sales page for LivePlan, which is a SaaS product that helps entrepreneurs write professional business plans.

Research showed us that many prospects had niggling doubts when they hit the page. They often wondered:

“Will this software work for my specific industry?”

It was a big barrier to signing up.

So we created a landing page that targeted just a segment of LivePlan’s traffic: people who wanted to write a business plan specifically for a café.

But instead of us telling the audience “this works for café entrepreneurs like you,” we wanted to prove it to them by making a relatable testimonial the hero of the page.

So we emphasized a quick story about how café owner Brian Sung used LivePlan to write a business plan faster and with less effort. Then we A/B tested the new page.

Here are the two hero sections we tested:

LivePlan-ABTest

The testimonial-focused variant hauled in a 72% boost in paid conversions, which translated into a 53% increase in revenue (when you consider average order value).

There were a few other variables at play here. But ultimately, I believe that this relatable testimonial proved the hypothesis that LivePlan customers needed to feel confident that the product would work for their industry before signing up.

Other companies have also seen ‘wins’ by playing up testimonials like this as well. For example, Highrise saw a 102% lift in conversions when they tested a giant image and quote from one of their customers.

But again, having the right testimonials is key here. You can’t just pick one at random.

If you know headlines focused on “saving time” convert well, playing up a testimonial about how a customer “saved money” isn’t going to cut it.

Consider your goals and strategy for the page. Then select your social proof accordingly.

Conclusion

It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with testimonials, user-reviews or client logos — the bottom line is the same:

Social proof affects different audiences in different ways.

Following best practices is a great starting point. But to squeeze the most persuasive value out of your testimonials, you need to consider things like your audience’s level of awareness and their thought sequence as they hit your page.

Now, maybe the 3 tactics outlined here aren’t a great fit for your prospects. That’s fine.

But it is important that you make an informed, strategic decision about how you use any type of social proof.

Because just tossing testimonials randomly on a page isn’t doing your visitors — or your conversion rates — any good.

About the author: Dustin Walker is a copywriter and partner at Good Funnel — a marketing agency that does in-depth customer research to help online businesses fire up their revenue. Follow Dustin on Twitter @dustinjaywalker.


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Why martech data should drive ad tech

Customer data, the engine that drives your ad campaigns, is often divorced from the ad tech stack. Columnist Chuck Moran discusses how integrating martech and ad tech stacks can enhance programs, optimize delivery and maximize ROI on media spend.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.


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