Relationships Drive Business

Strengthening Customer Engagement to Propel Your Business

Rigerous Robust Communication – part 2 July 26, 2013

Filed under: Ideas,Resources,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 8:38 am
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The last post was an intro to the communication plan we have with my client. In addition to the weekly update I send out (see Rigorous Robust Communication - Part 1), each of my team send a weekly summary for the programs they own.

 

The client program owners aren’t on the Weekly Update distribution I send out. So the Weekly Program Summary is their consistent communication tool. These summaries drill down in more detail so program owners have a snapshot of the week for their business all in one spot.  Similar to the Weekly Update, it’s written so the client can distribute it upward in their organization. And we’ve found many of them use it to launch their week and prioritize open topics they want moved forward.

 

Weekly Program Summary Format

Currently we manage 7 programs. Each is assigned an owner within our client services team. All of client services work on each throughout the week. The owner is responsible for getting the summary out every Friday.

Distribution list: program owner, contract manager, ops team, me, my boss, the rest of the client services team, call center team.

Topics:

  • major events of the week for that program
  • key weekly volumes – orders and revenue
  • items we are waiting on from the customer, and what is held up until that thing arrives
  • items we owe the customer, with target delivery date
  • open quality issues that need attention from the client’s QA rep
  • project updates, and % complete

 

Initially my team balked at the extra work. They insisted the client already knew everything that would go into the summary. And they are right, the client knows about all of it, there are no surprises. However, what they know is scattered across 200 or so emails throughout the week. The weekly summary puts it all at their finger tips. It’s like we are doing the organizing for them.

 

My team is on board now, they send them out on Friday like clockwork. The positive feedback from the client helped with buy-in. Now they get it. And the clients rely on it. One program manager was leaving on vacation. On our weekly call she told us, “Don’t copy me on any emails while I’m gone. Just send me the Friday summary, that will get me up to speed.” That’s high praise for a simple tool.

 

Robust Rigourous Communication July 15, 2013

Filed under: Ideas,Resources,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 7:36 am
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You’ve heard the phrase, “over communicate,” right? Time and time again, I’ve found it true. Mostly because you can never be sure someone is listening, just because you said something.

As a result, I’ve developed a pattern of communication with my clients. It’s beyond the day-to-day stuff. These messages happen at the end of each week and travel in/out/up and out, and is internal as well as external.  The broad and deep approach helps keep clients and internal team members feeling certain that things are on track and helps them feel they are on top of things.

The first layer of communication is a weekly update I send out. Two versions go out. Both are similar, yet each sends it’s own message.  There are rarely surprises in the weekly summary. If there are, its good news. Bad news always gets delivered early and on it’s own, usually via phone. Bad news gets summarized in the weekly update, with progress to resolution.

Both internal and external versions use the same layout, and the layout is consistent each week. That way people recognize it when the see it, know where to find particular details if they are looking for something. And it’s simpler for me get it done. The date is included in the subject line so it’s simple to find one months from now.  The approach is designed so it can be shared upwardly internally or by the client.

The following 4 elements are included every time.

  • Logo
  • Opening message
  • Program Summaries
  • Housekeeping items – vacations, visitors, travel dates

Here’s what each version looks like. I write both of them.

Business Summary – Internal

Purpose: Summarize key developments from a strategic perspective.  It’s high level of what I’ve been working on all week. If there’s an issue that needs to have a light shine on it internally, it goes in here in a respectful way. Its branded with the client’s logo so there’s visual recognition of which revenue stream it is.

Distribution list: ops leadership, my boss, client services team, call center team, project mgr, IT leads

Topics covered:

  • Opening paragraph – reference to activity that the week focused on. It could be invoicing or budgeting or a quarterly business review or a visitor we hosted.
  • Kudos for teams that have really delivered this week
  • Unexpected revenues or costs
  • New opportunities
  • Internal challenges that are stuck – similar to bad news, stuck issues are first escalated via separate messaging. They are reiterated in the weekly update.
  • High level summary by program – it includes a couple sentences per program so readers get a sense of opportunities and threats. Sometimes it’s simply “the program is running smoothly.”
  • Project updates and deadlines
  • Housekeeping for next week – vacations or key meetings to put on the radar.

Business Summary – External

Purpose: Summarize key developments from a strategic view and how they impact from the client’s perspective. Written in a way the client’s contract managers can distribute upward in their organization. This is branded with the Archway logo so they instantly recognize which part of their business it relates to. The internal version is the basis, then I edit from the client’s point of view. Some items get deleted, if it’s internal baggage.

Distribution list: client contract managers, their bosses, my boss

Topics covered are essentially the same as the internal summary, but reworded from the client’s perspective.

Example – unexpected revenues are reworded as unexpected costs with specifics about why the costs are valid and how to avoid them in the future.

Feedback

Results from the effort have been great. The client knows I’m aware of topics they may have heard about but not had time to talk to me about. Originally this version was only sent to my direct client contacts. They asked me to include their boss’ so they wouldn’t have to do it. That indicates expanding trust, and gives me more visibility higher in the organization.

Operations likes seeing a summary, so they know if they’ve missed something.

Yes, this is a lot of work every Friday, especially when all you want to do is shut down and start weekending.  Is it worth it? Yes, absolutely.

I’d love to know what you do. How do you keep communication flowing with your client?

 

Doing More with Less October 22, 2012

Filed under: Ideas — Carla Bobka @ 8:05 am
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Do you need to increase market and control cost?

That’s the dilemma one of my clients faced – get more of their market covered, do it with existing sales team.

They are doing it, and controlling their marketing budget, too.

The client came to Archway with their challenge and together we designed and implemented a solution. It’s a front end website for professionals that does the job of the sales team for the market base not called on by a sales rep. The site’s been running for 8 months, and they’ve already seen a pop in market share directly attributable to how they’ve harnessed the web in conjunction with their sales team.

They’ve also won an industry award for best new website. My team is thrilled to be part of their success.

Here’s how it works:
• Orders are limited to specific products and quantities, and controlled by the marketing team
• Order frequency per customer is limited to specific time periods, and controlled by the marketing team
• The website verifies customer credentials, only customer not called on by sales reps can register
• Customer Service is available for credentialing issues by Archway call center agents
• Shipments arrive via Archway fulfillment services
• Marketing has visit/page view stats to gauge interest by product
• Sales reps continue to call on their assigned customers

Within 6 months of the professional site’s launch the latest recommendation results for this pool of customers showed crushing results:
• Highest recommendation share for the brand ever; with a widening margin over their competitor
• Their brand was the only brand across category to show a significant increase in recommendations by the customer base
• Of survey respondents nearly half of the survey respondents (48%) were called-on by the brand’s professional sales representative, and almost a quarter (23%) stated being sampled through the new professional website.

Do you face similar challenges? What are you doing to get more product into the hands of your advocates and still control costs?

 

I’m Back, for Real

Filed under: Ideas — Carla Bobka @ 7:56 am
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My last post was nearly a year ago. Yikes.

I’m back for real this time. I miss blogging and I am carving out time to do it. Life has been crazy busy and something had to give, it’s been blogging. Now it’s going to be something else.

Talk to you soon. (I mean it.)

 

Long Time No See November 6, 2011

Filed under: Life in General,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 9:22 pm

Hi,
It’s been a long time. A really long time. My last post was Sept 21, yikes.

 

I’m not going to make excuses. I could and you’d see right through them. Fact is, I’ve been taking the evenings off. The new job has me screaming busy all day, and when I get home all I want to do is talk to the kids and chill. And, dog gone it, it feels really good.

 

And I miss it. I miss the brain dump of thoughts. There’s a whole notebook on Evernote of blog post ideas. I just haven’t turned them into anything coherent yet.

 

So, I’m back. And the best way to ensure I stay back is to make a commitment. So here it is – I’ll blog 1-2 times a week. I’ll keep you updated on what’s happening in my world and in the parts of the marketing world that touch me.

 

Updates – remember the Groupon Goods adventure we talked about in Sept? It’s still pending. The deal hasn’t been signed yet. I’ve got product on both coasts. I’ve got shipping cartons standing ready and return policies to insert. IT has worked their magic so the nightly sales file records the sale properly. But there’s no deal signed between Groupon and the brand. Hurry up and wait has pretty much been the mantra.

 

Ditto on the other two new programs scheduled for Nov. launch. The complexities are fascinating. The myriad of partners still dizzying: front end developers, membership management vendor, fulfillment vendor, banking partner, payment gateway vendor, brand team, call center leadership x 2. And those are just the pieces I have interaction with. I don’t have visibility to the media partners, creative teams, manufacturing or finance.

 

What I’ve learned is nothing is simple. An IT now runs the world. Or at least it seems that way. Each of the partners mentioned above has an IT component. All those systems have to talk to each other. When they don’t, stuff doesn’t show up. The shipment doesn’t land on the front porch. The revenue doesn’t get to the bank. The product doesn’t appear on the website. It’s no wonder there are 9 conference call days every week.

 

AND I love it. I’m pretty sure I’m an adrenaline junkie. I like running at 160 mph. And I’ve got a killer team. They are so smart and capable and take so much initiative. They astound me. I don’t have to micro manage,they self organize.

 

Pretty much, I’ve landed in a great place. Great clients, great team. Fantastic products.

And I’m blogging again. That feels good. I will see you later this week. Promise

 

Four Ways Oprah Uses Email September 21, 2011

Oprah uses email marketing to engage with her fans even now that she’s not on TV.

 

What other media mogul do you know that gave out their personal email address on national TV? She gave it out during the very last show. The one where it was just her on stage for an hour saying goodbye after 25 years. Go ask your girlfriends, I bet they heard it, to.  I emailed her, that put me on her email list. Since then I’ve gotten a few emails from her. They read like Oprah talking, not like Oprah advertising.

 

O uses my email address judiciously. I have the sense she feels privileged to have it. She’s careful not to abuse the relationship.

There are 4 things Oprah does with email.

  1. Takes interest in my world – she asks how things are going.
  2. Updates on her – She tells me what she’s been up to
  3. Asks about 1 thing – She’ll ask my opinion on 1 topic
  4. No sell – She’s never asked me for money.

 

And BTW – she never uses a belittling Subject Line. There’s no “10 things you don’t know about X.” Her typical Subject line is “Happy 4th of July,” or “The next right decision.”  It’s respectful.

 

The opposite is true of another self-made millionaire who has an entrepreneur’s conference coming up in Dallas. I’m registered to go, but honestly I tuned out her emails 6 months ago. So much so, I can’t even tell you who the keynote speaker. Every email she sends is her trying to reach into my pocketbook to pad her own.  “Upgrade your registration for exclusive access” or “advertise my stuff to your friends.” It got old after email #2. She’s clearly only interested in how much money she can get out of me and my network.

 

Oprah has a lot to sell. Can you imagine trying to start a network? That’s a B-I-G job. In her email in August she said flat out it’s 10x harder than she thought it would be. And yet she’s never begged me to watch or asked me to buy an ad. She’s asked me what I think of a show. I mean, I know she’d like me to watch, sure. But she’s using my email the same way a girlfriend would – by asking my opinion and telling me a bit about her life.

 

I don’t have any friends who ask for money every time we talk.

 

Who else do you know who uses email really well?

 

 

Oprah knows Engagement September 18, 2011

 

No one knows their audience like Oprah does. Nobody

They were a late start on social platforms and some people have picked on them for that. But, when you already recognize your audience members faces, why dive into “social” just because it’s new.

It struck me while watching O’s interview with MC Hammer, that until then she really wasn’t “getting” how to use social media. There was a moment in the interview when Hammer says to her (talking about Twitter) “If I were you, I’d just tweet “Watch this show, it’s on OWN right now.“”

Oprah put her hand on his arm, looked deep in his eyes and said, “We are going to talk more after the show.”

MC Hammer has his own social media company helping other companies do social well. She must have listened well.

The first weekend in April the Oprah Winfrey team started doing live tweets during “Behind the Scenes” episodes (#OprahLiveTweet). The first tweet I saw from her that day was something like “Ok, #OprahLiveTweet starts in 10 minutes. If nobody shows up by 9:15, I’m going home.”

The live tweets were a hit! And it’s been growing ever since. Twitter wasn’t new to Oprah. She’s been on Twitter for more than 2  years, but she didn’t really use Twitter. She was just there – with millions of followers.

But nobody is as good at relationships as Oprah. She and her team totally get it. My God, what other brand do you know that sent their 300 biggest fans on a trip to the other side of the world with a friend. Seriously. They get engagement, in spades. Actually, what other brand could TELL you who their 300 biggest fans are and why?

OK, back to their tweeting. Now her team is tweeting up a storm. And while some of it promotes specific shows and OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network), they get that they have to earn the right to promote to people. Their tweets are natural, conversational and show genuine interest in learning from who ever engages with them.

To write this post I needed help remembering when the live tweets started. I tweeted @SheriSalata, executive producer for The Oprah Winfrey Show to ask. She sent me a note back mentioning one of the other staffers @mayawatson, to help her come up with the date. Simple.

 

Back to the tweets. Here’s six Live Tweet habits Oprah does well:

  1. Keep it casual
  2. Learn from who else is tweeting
  3. Be helpful
  4. Recognize people
  5. Don’t go it alone
  6. Have a goal – a classic Oprah thing “have an intention.” It works.

I’d love to know if O hired MC Hammer to help her team. @SheriSalata, if you read this, drop me a tweet and let me know :-)

 

BTW-you should see how they are using email marketing. Killer good. But that’s another post. See you!

 

 
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