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?

 

For Facebook Admins Only – Invite Friends Button Returns July 22, 2011

Filed under: Learnings,Resources — Carla Bobka @ 8:18 am
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Invite Friends to your Page

 

The Invite Friends button has reappeared on Facebook Pages. (only admins can see it)

 

  • What it does -helps you spread the word about your Page to people you know.

 

  • How it works – it sends an invite to the friends you select.

 

  • Who’s it for – especially handy for new Pages, or those who started a personal profile for their business and now want to convert over to a Page.

 

  • What it doesn’t do – your buddies still have to hit the Like button when they get to your Page.
  • What I don’t know – if each Admin on a page can invite their own friends or if it defaults to the friend list of the page creator. (The old button worked this way.)

 

Is it showing on your view? And if you have multiple admins, can they each invite their own friends? Drop me a note in Comments if you experiment.

 

 

 

Domestic or Import? What to know about mobile apps July 13, 2011

Filed under: Resources — Carla Bobka @ 11:30 am
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In today’s post Bob Watson from Digital Eye is arming us with information and the right language to be more dangerous when talking about mobile apps. There’s no techy jardon until the very end, promise.


Remember the Swiss Army Knife?  My grandfather, Jack Hostetler, would produce this bulky, red-handled, talisman from his pants pocket to help him overcome any number of personal and professional challenges throughout the day.  When it wasn’t hard at work prying at a sticky lid or cutting open a box, it was rattling against his keys and pocket change as he shuffled.

 

I still recall marveling at the vast collection of on-board tools he would deftly unfold and bring to bear on the situation at hand — magnifying glass, toothpick, screwdriver (phillips and flat-blade!), hole punch, scissors, file, can and bottle openers, tweezers…

It always struck me as odd that it was called a “knife”, but was used for so much more than just a sharp-bladed cutting tool.  It was the closest thing I’d ever seen to Batman’s utility belt, and that makes an impression on an 8-year-old grandson.

 

In today’s digital world our daily issues trend toward the less tangible side of things, more of us find ourselves fumbling in pockets (or handbags) just like Grandpa Jack did to find our version of his go-to tool, the smartphone.  Notice the similarity — we call them smartphones despite the fact that we use them for so much more than making calls?

 

In large part its because users assemble their own self-curated set of on-board tools. We open our phones and tablets to check the weather, snap a picture, record a to-do list, keep track of expenses, order a pizza or anything else to help us get through a day in 2011.

 

Businesses have taken note of the opportunity to connect with and retain existing customers on such an intimate, personal medium, and the app-rush is on.

 

Here are 2 startling stats released Thursday, July 7, 2011:

1. Apple’s App Store hosts over 425,000 titles logging over 15 billion downloads by over 200 million users of iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices.
2. The second-place rival, Google’s Android Market, announced 4.5 billion downloads as of May with another billion taking place every 60 days.

That’s a lot of apps and a mind blowing amount of customization on our small screens.

 

By this time, you’ve probably had enough experience with your own wireless handheld to come up with an idea of your own for your business.

 

Now for the technical jargon. There are two different ways to construct and present an app to users — Native or Web-based.

A native app is downloaded from an app store, and uses the device’s own computing power and input from on-board accessories and sensors (camera, GPS, accelerometer, address book).

 

Web-based apps are accessed by the device’s browser and are written in open web standard code like a typical website, allowing most, if not all of the processing to be done on the server (in the cloud) instead of the user’s device.

 

There are pros and cons to each.

 

The decision as to whether a native or web-based app is right for you should be based first on your target market and the benefits your solution provides. Consider these questions:

What hardware do your customers use?
How do they interact with their devices?
What do you want to deliver: entertainment, enlightenment, savings, improved service, or simple “wow” factor?

 

Development costs are based mostly on complexity, and there’s really no handy rule-of-thumb yet — pricing varies as widely as the range of apps themselves.

 

The process really requires an in-depth conversation with your app developer. When you do that, armed with answers to the 3 questions above, he/she can determine the optimal way forward to achieve your goals, develop a budget and a targeted ROI.

 

It all starts with an idea.  So what’s yours? Drop an idea or thought in comments and let’s see what kind of ideas show up.

 

 

Mobile Homes June 23, 2011

Filed under: Ideas,Resources — Carla Bobka @ 5:06 pm
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Today’s email is a guest post from Bob Watson, VP Sales at Digital Eye in Wilmington, Delaware. Bob recently joined Digital Eye after spending most of his career in the print business. Digital Eye provides mobile-optimized websites and mobile apps to clients around the world.

 

It finally happened this year.  We dodged it as long as possible, but this spring, my family of two working parents and two active children found that our home life, was no longer spent at home.  When we weren’t chasing paychecks, we juggled cars and kids to get to dance lessons, girl scout meetings and play-dates, running errands between pickups and drop-offs.  Hurried minivan-meals displaced family dinner, and the rare event of a free weekend on the calendar beckoned us to pack up, strap in and get away from it all.  The American Dream was all about finding home, kicking back and putting down roots, but we’re all doing a lot more running than rooting these days.

 

Marketers have noticed that we’re busier than we used to be, too.  We’re avoiding their calls thanks to Do-Not-Call opt-out lists and Caller ID.  SPAM filters eat their emails before they can make it into an inbox already bulging with unread special offers.  Direct mail response rates suggest that none of us are opening any mail that can’t be immediately identified as a bill, birthday card or foreclosure notice.  Even TV ownership went down this year for the first time after 20 years of consecutive gains — obviously, there are fewer of us feeling we can sit through the two-hour Biggest Loser finale to catch the ads for MickeyD’s and Subway.

 

So as a business owner, how do you reach your always-on-the-go customer? The great enabler of much of this activity is the ubiquitous mobile phone used by over 90 percent of Americans.  By the end of this year, more than 50% of phones will be data-capable, web-browsing, app-savvy smartphones. Allowing consumers to get content and interact with it, on-the-go.

 

Factor in the rapid adoption of tablets (Nook, iPad, etc), and you’ve got the makings for a revolution. In fact, it’s already underway and happening faster than most of us even realize.  In a one-year span from 2009 to 2010, access to websites by handheld devices nearly tripled, and it’s expected to do so again in 2011.  By the year 2014, Morgan Stanley Research predicts that more of us will get online by tapping on our small-screen instead of typing on a keyboard.

 

Companies, organizations and even governments have to start thinking immediately about what this means to them.  Make a point to check analytics for your website today, and look for the telltale rise in the last 12 months of access by handheld devices.  Results vary widely across industries, but you should find a gradual increase in mobile visitors that today represents only a small percentage of overall visits.

 

This minute portion of your overall traffic may seem insignificant, but you might be missing something.  Take the important step of putting yourself in the shoes of your prospects and customers. Pull up your own website on a smartphone. Actually pull it up on a couple different smartphones. Take a look at what they actually see.  The four most common problems are:

  • Type that is too small to read without zooming in
  • Text or graphics that fall outside the viewing area, requiring the user to scroll in all four directions to take it all in
  • Links or navigation buttons that are too small or too close together for fat-fingered touch navigation
  • Inability to display flash-based presentations

 

If you see any of these issues, your site needs what we call “mobile optimization”, which can be a simple reformatting of your existing site content to facilitate access on handhelds.  Check out www.cnn.com on your desktop and your phone for an example of how the same information seamlessly and intuitively flows into different platforms depending on your hardware setup.  By making your site mobile-friendly, you’ll probably satisfy some pent-up demand in your market and see a renewed and rapid rise in smartphone visitors.

 

Take some time also to consider what’s differentiates a visit by an iPhone from a Windows 7 machine.  While mobile users enjoy the convenience of the internet in their pocket, they’re limited by a small screen and touch navigation, so it’s important to think about why they have come to your site and what they might be looking for.  Consider adjusting your site to give them easy, instant access to that information.  A good web developer can help you to provide an alternate set of focused content for easy access by mobile devices.  Empower the user get on, get the info and get back to their driving.

 

This trend has taken place very quickly, so if you’re like most businesses, there’s the immediate task of catching up with your market (and, perhaps, your competitors).  But the payoff is well worth the effort.  Once you’ve laid this foundation in your new mobile strategy, you’ll have a whole new range of high-potential utilities of which marketers could only dream a decade ago.  It’s a dynamic, growing medium empowering you to communicate more directly with your customers on their preferred platform with a high level of personalization and robust metrics that begs for integration with your social media outlets and traditional channels.

 

Tell us what you found when you looked at your site. What phone type (Android, Blackberry, iPhone) had the best or worst version of your site?

 

Facebook Page Likers June 14, 2011

Filed under: Learnings,Resources — Carla Bobka @ 1:41 pm
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Follow these steps to find which other Facebook Pages like your Page.

 

Now it’s simple to find what other Facebook Pages have “Liked” your Page. See the screen shot above. (click on it to enlarge)

 

Where the hell are we? May 18, 2011

Filed under: Resources,Strategy — Carla Bobka @ 12:45 pm
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“No matter how brilliant your strategy, every once in a while you need to stop and look around” Winston Churchill.

That applies to ourselves and our social media efforts.  Measuring progress to goal is the only way to assess the effort. It is a key part of any social media program, particularly if your leadership team is skeptical of social media.

There’s really no other way to tell if you are making progress toward your overall strategy. Translation: are you wasting your time or getting something out of it.

In this post I’ll give you a taste of what I do for clients. Each month I do a post recap analysis. I find it easiest to look at posts and make notes about them, then draw conclusions about what worked and what didn’t. The client gets the data analysis and the recap summary. The examples below are for a Facebook Page.

Each post for the month is taken out of the context of the platform and looked at on it’s own, in an Excel spreadsheet. Within the Excel format I look for specific things:

  • Is it on topic? (every client has a focus topic list)
  • Distribution across topics
  • Distribution of topics over the month
  • Number of sales-y posts – these make me cringe
  • How many posts/day vs. our target max activity level
  • Engagement levels – comments and likes on each post
  • Engagement ratio – total posts : total engagement
  • What posts had outstanding engagement and what may have triggered it
  • Improvements on a particular post

Below is a shot of the worksheet I use.

 

All the factors being examined are captured on the spreadsheet.

The color-coded column of topics gets translated into a chart.  It makes the info easy to digest at a glance.

From all these observations I put together 2 short lists:

  1. What worked
  2. What needs fine tuned.

The client gets the lists and chart in the body of the email recap. The 1st list is critical. It is the stuff you need to do more of.

The 2nd list is usually easy to make. Be careful with though, criticism needs to be presented in the right way. (even if it’s just to yourself.)

Are you taking time to look at your activity? Let me know in comments what you do to measure your progress.