Customer Loyalty

The Starbucks Online Coupon Fiasco--Venti Size

The Starbucks Online Coupon Fiasco--Venti Size

Just about everybody with a blog commented on Starbuck's recent problems with online coupons. You can read the story here . John from Brand Autopsy asserts they never would have done something that dumb in his day (used to work there) and recommends more limited expiration dates. Seth has some additional principles for avoiding such issues. Countless others also weighed in on how it could have been avoided and what Starbuck's should do now that it has happened. All good stuff, but I hope the baby (online coupons) doesn't get thrown out with the bath water.

In a nutshell, Starbucks created an online coupon with about a thirty day expiration date for a free iced coffee drink. They gave the coupon to a few employees in select areas and expected it to stay limited. It didn't. It took off like wildfire thanks to the internet and they ended up posting signs in their stores saying "regretfully" they would no longer be valid at any Starbuck locations.

In my mind, the real story is not that online coupons don't work, but quite the opposite: online coupons work well--in this case too well. Remember the old days when you had to pay to get coupons printed in a newspaper or to hand out. You had to pay for every one! Not so on the internet. They multiply without costing you a dime. Isn't that just what you want to have happen? It should be. So the lesson is this: make sure that any offer you put on an online coupon is something that you would be happy to see proliferate. Tools to do that? Limit the expiration date, make it a "buy something to get something" offer, give away something with no hard costs. Have other ideas for creating coupons you're happy to see proliferate? Post them here.

Do you remember your customers on their birthday? On their anniversary? Do you give special notice to recently acquired customers? Promoterz does. Learn more

Service or Tool for Small Business?

Service or Tool for Small Business?

One of the adages that Steve Covey popularized in his 7 Habits was "give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime." The statement is obviously true and applicable in many of life's situations, but frankly there are instances when people either don't have the time or the desire to learn how to fish. I'm not talking about the welfare crowd (though that may be a problem). What I'm talking about is small business owners and what it takes to successfully sell to them.

Here is my experience: We developed Promoterz as an inexpensive, do-it-yourself system that any small business could use to collect customer feedback, generate referrals and stay in touch with their customers. In a nutshell, we help them make sure their customers are happy and get them talking to their friends. The system has been tested in multiple industries and it works. Those that use it, receive measurable benefit.

So far, so good. We've got a tool that the majority of small businesses could use to speed their growth. As we've met with business owners in person or attracted them to our website, it has become clear that most of them don't want to be taught how to use the tool. They don't have time. They would much prefer to pay for a service. In order to put fish on their table they have a list of about 100 other things they need to be learning and doing. One customer noted that when she wants an ad in the newspaper she just pays the paper and doesn't have to know how to use the press. Ouch!

As we tweak the pricing model to cover the additional service, some small businesses may balk, but I am now convinced that there are more small businesses looking for a fillet on the platter (complete with a wedge of lemon) than those interested in buying a fishing pole--even if it comes with a fly tying kit.

Food's on! Step right up!

When you pass out a Promoterz bounce back card you automatically build an accurate customer list, increase repeat sales, increase referrals and prevent lost business. Pretty powerful little card. Learn more

Customer Surveys Gone Bad

Customer Surveys Gone Bad

Asking customers for feedback is a great way to get them more engaged and find opportunities to improve any business. Unfortunately, as with anything good, if not used appropriately they can cause more grief than benefit. Here are a few holes not to step in:

1) Don't ask just because you can. There is nothing worse than a long customer service survey--so long that by the time you finish it you can't remember what the original shopping experience was like. Is anyone really using that data? Make it as short as you possibly can and then cut it in half. Your customers will thank you and you'll stay focused on what is really important. Want more detail? Contact a few of those that answered your short survey and ask them if they'd be willing to spend some more time on additional questions.

2) Pay attention to the details. Nothing destroys credibility faster than a stupid question. If you limit yourself to only a few questions all the stupid ones will go away. Here is an example from the September 2006 Readers Digest:

Maybe I was overreacting, but I couldn't help worrying about the quality of care at the local hospital. On a form titled "Some Questions for Our Pregnant Patients," the very first item was: "1. Gender? (check one) M_ F_." Jenniey Tallman, Tyro, Virginia

3) Numbers are good, comments are better. Numbers, if used appropriately, can give you a good feeling for trends and direction over time, but they are no match for free-form comments from your customers. Numbers can be manipulated and misinterpreted but actual comments like the following paint a compelling picture that doesn't require interpretation.

...location has long lines all the time (out the door). They could do something to speed up the process. Sometimes we don't go there because we know it takes so long.

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Customer feedback is a great thing. Just be careful how you ask.

The Happiest customers tell on average 8 other people. Who are your happiest customers? Promoterz knows. Learn more

True Blue Fans Create!

True Blue Fans Create!

I've written some in the past about the benefits of inviting your customers to participate in the creative process. Two benefits: 1) the content produced and 2) the fact that the more they do for your business, the more likely they are to mention it to others. Just came upon another example of that process taking place online.

CougarBlue.com is a discussion board for BYU Cougar fans (yes, I am one). Anyway, a new thread got started that suggested fans bring a white or blue towel to the football games this fall. The thread quickly became an online brainstorming session including assignments and reports on assignments etc. You can check it out here. Several pages of posts you'll need to scan through to see its progression.

Not sure if the vending or marketing folks at BYU are plugged in to or are aware of it, but it is a great example of fans (customers) getting involved and creating something that they love and will pay for. How can you turn your customers into fans, creating something they will love and pay for?

Go Cougars!

You work hard to make sure your customers are happy. Don't waste happy customers. How easy is it for your customers to share with their friends? Learn more

Look What I Did!

Look What I Did!

I remember having a note pinned to my shirt by my kindergarten teacher to make sure it made it home to my parents. (They don't do it anymore, probably because of liability issues--they used straight pins for goodness sakes--can you imagine all the things a five year old can do with a straight pin on the bus ride home?) What I don't remember is my teacher having to pin my artwork to my shirt. She didn't need to. It was always the first thing that got to my mom's hands-- "Look what I did!"

Nothing has changed. My kids do the same thing. We never see the notes from the teachers but we do see their artwork. And it doesn't change with age either: people are more likely to be excited and want to talk about something they helped create. What does that mean for your business? The more you invite your customers to be involved with your business, the more likely it is that they will tell others about your business.

In addition to the higher likelihood of talking about your business, depending on what you invite your customers to do, you can also gain valuable knowledge and insights.

For example, one of the simplest ways to invite your customers to get more involved is to ask for their feedback. Not only does customer involvement go up, but the content of their responses can help you improve your business. If you take the time to thank the customer for their response and mention how you are using it, their sense of "ownership" in your business will increase and with it their desire to tell others "Look what I did!"

Asking for feedback is perhaps the simplest and quickest way to get customers more involved but is certainly not the only way. American Express has encouraged customers to create 15 second commercials around their "My Life My Card" theme. Kodak sponsored a "create your own commercial" site that allowed users to upload their own photos which were then inserted in a Kodak commercial.

Just like every great idea, there are some potential pitfalls. Chevy sponsored a "Make your own Tahoe commercial" contest and ended up some that will certainly not win the contest.

Also, don't expect all of your customers to immediately begin to participate. Data is building that suggests that for every 100 people online, 1 will create content and 10 will then interact with it. The remaining 89 will just view it. Read more.

Neither of these pitfalls should keep you from thinking of ways to invite your customers to get more involved and give them the opportunity to say "Look what I did!"

Here is a final example of a company giving their customers a way to get involved and doing it successfully. This came from a post on Brains on Fire.

The company is Fiskars, the one that make scissors. Did you know there are Fiskateers? Yep, ambassadors for crafting and for Fiskars. They have a blog, a message board and gallery. Check out the community album. Any doubt those folks are saying "Look what I did!" to family and friends?

The average American consumer discusses brands 56 times a week. Are they discussing yours? Learn more
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Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.

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