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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.

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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?

 

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!

 

Phone Call of a Lifetime July 25, 2011

They won!!!

 

The waiting and secrecy is over. Distinctive Gardens is a Big Break winner!

At midnight on July 19 voting for AmEx OPEN’s Facebook Big Break for small business closed. Then the waiting began.

And when that ended the secrecy started. And the work for the next phase.  Finalists learned their fate within 24 hours of the last vote. They were sworn to secrecy, actually signed to secrecy.

Here’s some notes from the big phone call, as recalled by Bud:

“We at AmEx and FB were very impressed with all you did to get the votes”….  “We know how hard you have worked”…..   “We’re so very happy you won.   We really really like what you are doing”…..     “Bud you’re a star”  (Bud’s response through the tears). “That’s what the kids say, but I’m just Bud.”

The hard work part is no joke. Here’s a taste of what they did to get out the vote:

  1. Developed 4 sets of web and Facebook Page graphics to keep people interested (the graphic above, for the win is #5)
  2. Created press release, posters and invites  for the Big Surprise Bash, and for the Finalist announcement
  3. Walked the town in Dixon and Sterling before voting started, inviting people to the Big Surprise Bash
  4. Made a Prezi trailer for the Big Surprise Bash
  5. Learned to use Twitter
  6. Created an Our Story Prezi to show at the bash
  7. Passed our “Vote for Us” cards at every bar in town and a local music fest
  8. Thanked every person who fanned their web page, usually a 12 hour/day job
  9. Fed blog content on the experience to SocialPie
  10. Bud’s son and a buddy hit the street to pass out “Vote for Us” cards
  11. The kids also share to all their Facebook friends continually
  12. 13 TV and Radio appearances (either before or after landscape jobs)
  13. Walked town (Dixon, Sterling, Subula) in late afternoon passing out vote cards
  14. Posted every compliment, photo, blog and news mention possible to Distinctive Gardens Facebook Page.
  15. Announced TV and radio appearances to Twitter and Facebook, by now nicknamed DiGgers at the suggestion of a fan.
  16. Created an event on Facebook inviting people to vote and invite their friends to vote. It spawned upwards of 15,000 invitations.
  17. The community was incredibly supportive. There were at least 5 personal friends who posted to their Facebook Pages everyday, the local florist used their sign, “Vote Distinctive Gardens on Facebook;” other businesses supported DG in their ad space and with in-store signage.

Overall it was an incredible experience. Just watching it from 800 miles away I was exhausted and impressed.

They are celebrating today for sure. And I couldn’t be more pleased to have played a tiny role in the whole thing.

BTW – Party at their place Friday night, Ravinia style 🙂

 

Did AmEx Big Break Drive Revenue July 20, 2011

 

 

Well, the voting (for 2011 AmeEx OPEN’s Facebook Big Break for Small Biz) is over. What a ride for all the finalists. Winners are announced on July 25, so we have to wait to see who won. Bummer. BUT…impact long term to the businesses that made the Top 10 is happening anyway. All that effort and all the website hits video view should help the businesses, even if they don’t win the contest.

 

What will the exposure created by the Facebook Big Break do for Distinctive Gardens business? Even if they don’t win, the publicity and exposure from being a finalist is nothing to sneeze at. Lisa and I tried to figure out how to measure the impact.

 

Overall we decided that beyond than winning the contest ($20k is a BIG deal) the goal is to drive brand awareness of Distinctive Gardens which could be leveraged to drive revenue growth long term.

 

The real challenge was deciding what we could track that would measure that.

 

We decided to on revenue, and a group of stats that indicate an increase in interest in the garden center that could be precursors to revenue.

Here’s what we decided to track:
  • Foot traffic
  • Retail Sales * – excluding landscaping and maintenance revenues.
  • Facebook Fan count
  • Website traffic
  • Design Inquiry count
  • Newsletter email count
To get a baseline, Lisa measured the indicators for 2 weeks before the release of the Top 10 Finalist videos. Finalists had all agreed to keep their selection secret until the moment the videos were made public on YouTube, midnight July 5. So she used the 2 weeks before that as the “before” baseline.
*Retail sales numbers – Garden center sales revenues is heavily cyclical. July is typically the 2nd slowest month of the year, planting is done, people are vacationing and it’s blisteringly hot in Illinois. So Lisa is measuring total sales from a 4 week period mid-June through mid-July last year vs. this year. That will measure any short term spike in sales. She’ll take another measurement Mid-June through end Sept to track longer term increases during traditionally busier time periods.

 

“How do we isolate and attribute shifts in foot traffic, sales, design inquiries etc.to the BB (Big Break) exposure?”

This is tough. And it’s tough for any form of advertising or promotion. Does Coors Light really know how many more cases of beer they sell specifically because someone saw a Superbowl commercial? No. The ad team takes credit for any increase in sales, sure. But it could be because they also started distributing in a bunch of new stores, or in a county that had been dry.  Or because it was unusually warm in January so people were in  “warm weather, let’s have a beer” mood. Or maybe they got their tax return arrived and they celebrated. There are always plenty of uncontrollable and uncorroborate-able factors.

 

Can you think of any other factors she could measure? Leave us a note in comments.

 

Grabbing Your Community by the Heart July 19, 2011

There's nothing better than community.

 

Today is the final day of voting for American Express Open’s Facebook Big Break for Small Business. The clock stops ticking at midnight eastern time.

 

The tiny community of Dixon, Il and their neighbors are pulling out all the stops to help Bud and Jim at Distinctive Gardens win. You can vote here, if you haven’t already.

 

Here’s the comment stream on the pic. Would your neighbors do this for you? Just fantastic.