Tag Archives: marketing

A Customer Service and Marketing Lesson from Club Wyndham Resorts

CW_Twitter_Icon_400x400We’ve all been there – on a well-deserved and long-awaited vacation, when you get “the pitch.” Someone from the resort interrupts your day to ask if you’d give them just 90 minutes to come look at a time share. They’re aggressive, but you really don’t want to give up time in the sun having fun with your family, so you politely say no. Most of the time they accept your decline, encourage you to call if you change your mind, remind you of the lovely dinner gift certificate you can get, and move on.

Well, not Club Wyndham. They don’t take no for an answer.

My family arrived in North Myrtle Beach Thursday night after a very long car ride from Boston. We were looking forward to a nice, quiet beach vacation. When we pulled into the parking garage, we were greeted by a lovely gentleman named Bill, who happened to also be from Boston (Watertown, to be exact) and was a former Harvard University police offer. Bill was awesome.

Bill’s colleagues could stand to take some lessons from him. 

We proceeded to the third floor to check in. Annie at the front desk was pleasant enough. Then she sent us to another desk to “get our parking pass.” This process was less about getting our parking pass and more about three women accosting us with more paperwork than a plastic surgeon, and a hard core pitch on spending 90 minutes the first morning of our vacation attending a “presentation” that was “just so you can get to know more about Wyndham, because we don’t advertise, so we’d love for you to tell people about your experience.”

You got it, Wyndham. Here’s our experience.

I very politely declined. They then “upped the ante” with new offers of dinner certificates, “cruise” packages (more dinner certificates on a cruise if you paid to take the cruise) and more. They didn’t seem to get that 90 minutes taken out of my very short vacation with my family was not worth $200 to me. My time with my family and in the sun was way  more important.

But they wouldn’t take no for an answer. When my fiancé came back to get us, I was so overwhelmed with all the paperwork that had just been shoved in my face, that I very politely again said we would need to go talk about it, trying to get him (and my four kids who were sitting there still holding their bags and very tired) to walk away before they wasted 20 more minutes of our time. The woman – we nicknamed her “Manhattan” because that’s where she was from (and she never told us her name) – suggested that I take the bags and go upstairs with the kids, and they would then repeat the pitch and tell my fiancé all about the “deals” that we “really shouldn’t pass up.”

I again stated that we would need to talk about it, we weren’t going to commit right there, and that we both had work conference calls the next morning anyway, so it was unlikely we would attend. I was trying to be nice.

Nice doesn’t work.

They filled out paperwork and signed us up anyway, and told us to “let them know if we decided we wouldn’t attend.” Fine, whatever it took to get out of there and get out to the pool!

When we finally got up to our room a half hour later, we dropped of our bags and my fiancé  needed to go park the car. But… no parking pass. The women had been so busy with their pitches for the 90 minute presentation and the push to all of their suggested vendors to patron, that they forgot to even give us a a parking pass!

So my fiancé  had to go back down and get the pass. And he got pitched again. When he finally flat out explained that our time with family was more valuable than a $200 gift certificate, he was given a rude wave, shooing him away and a “fine, goodbye” from Ms. Manhattan.

Class act, Wyndham, class act.

So we were pretty upset. The entire situation set a very negative tone. But we had said no and so we went about our evening.

This morning we awoke to a note under the door, indicating we should call Amber at the Hospitality Desk. We were excited, thinking maybe they were going to upgrade our room to an oceanside view like we had requested.

Nope.

The call was so that Amber could “reschedule us” because we hadn’t shown up for the 8:30 presentation. Apparently, Ms. Manhattan didn’t take our “No” to heart and left us on the list anyway.

We checked out Friday morning and got our money back. We weren’t about to spend our vacation continually bullied and pressured into a situation we didn’t want. It was beyond uncomfortable and Wyndham didn’t deserve our dollars.

There’s a customer service and marketing lesson or two in here:

  • Know your audience – when I filled out the form indicating our preferences, household income, etc., it should have been clear that $200 for our time wasn’t something that would really entice us.
  • Listen to your audience – look, we’re all in sales. We get it. But when your audience isn’t responding favorably to your tactics, you don’t do more of the same. You figure out a new strategy.
  • Train your marketing, sales, customer service and all departments that the customer experience relies on all of them to do their job well. It didn’t matter that Bill was nice and welcoming – his colleagues didn’t follow suite, and thus, we left and they lost revenue.

There are more to be had but like I said, I am on vacation and, thanks to Wyndham, have lost nearly a full day in the sun with my kids to rescheduling, rebooking and moving to another hotel (also adding a half hour more to our drive home). It’s time for me to get out in the sun.

One last note – our check out was lovely. The manager was pleasant and understanding and apologetic. Ironically, he, too, was from Massachusetts, one town over from us. So our two most pleasant interactions at the Wyndham Towers on the Grove were with people from our hometown. Way to go, Boston.

Sunglass Hut: One Simple, Smart Marketing Move

sunglasses

Prada sunglasses available at http://www.sunglasshut.com/us/prada

Sometimes small businesses get overwhelmed with the idea of creating marketing campaigns. They often think effective marketing has to be expensive and intricate. But the truth is, sometimes the best marketing comes in the form of simple, smart moves. One example comes from Sunglass Hut.

When you buy a pair of sunglasses at any Sunglass Hut, they’ll ask you if you’d like to purchase one of their cleaning kits. Great. But did you know that if you do, they offer free refills of the cleaning solution for life?

Pretty smart, eh? Here’s why:

  • Doing so means you’ll come back into the store. Getting customers in the door is always key in retail.
  • By getting customers in the door, they’re more likely to make a repeat purchase – they see new merchandise, engage with sales executives, etc.
  • Offering “free for life” increases loyalty and brand stickiness.

The company offers several other smart marketing examples such as free shipping, fittings and returns. For marketers who understand the psychology of “free,” you know these are smart moves. You don’t have to be a large corporation to implement some kind of repeat business campaign. Maybe you can’t afford to provide free shipping or products, but I bet you can afford to give loyalty discounts or other creative reasons for a shopper to return to your store. Perhaps it’s a free pair of earrings with every necklace purchase during the holidays, or a Free Refill on a shopper’s Birthday. Get creative and remember, you’re trying to get them back into your store – online or off – to encourage additional engagement.

Marketing doesn’t have to mean a huge, flashy campaign. The best marketing keeps the customer in mind, and looks at offers and promotions from their perspective.

Marketers, Don’t Be “That Girl”

In a chat about content marketing yesterday, it struck me that there’s one simple thing marketers are overlooking when it comes to the type of content they’re developing. Unlike traditional marketing, content marketing is not all about you. In the past, marketing used to be all about your brand – marketers would develop ads, direct mail, email newsletters, press releases, sales collateral and more – usually focused briefly on a prospect’s pain point, and at length on how the marketer’s company would solve it.

That’s all well and good – but today content marketers have to go a step further.

You have to be a resource.

Think of marketing like a cocktail party – you’re never going to keep someone engaged if you ask them a question (what’s the pain point) and then go on and on and on for the rest of the party about why YOU are the answer to that question (what your product/service is). Even if you do have the answer, you’d come across as shallow and not all that interested in learning more, but rather just in talking about yourself.

Nobody likes the gal who just brags about herself and doesn’t really listen.

Content marketing has got to be resourceful. You have to share information that’s not just about you. You have to think of how to help, not just sell.

What information can you share with your prospects that educates, informs, resolves an issue and otherwise benefits your fans over time? Give, even when you don’t need or expect something (like a sale). People remember how you make them feel – not just what you say. And when you make someone feel important, cared for, and understood by being a resource that helped them, they’re more likely to want to do business with you when the time is right.

 

Image credit: 10ch Flickr Creative Commons

 

Marketing Tips For Startups

I was lucky enough to be included in an article today, “25 Startup Marketing Tips To Get Traction,” at MediaLeaders.

Some of my favorite tips from the piece include:

Put up your marketing site and blog at least 6 months prior to launch. – @PlanPod

To get the product in front of your customers you have to work on distribution. – @HarriRautio

Startups should know who their target customers are and which publications they read.- @LydHow

I especially like that last one, because it’s a big part of what we provide at SeeDepth. Not only do we help you to easily measure and score your PR, but our Services team also helps companies – especially startups – understand why a certain publication might be more important than another, and to build a media target list that makes sense. Too many companies waste time and money just hoping to “get coverage” instead of securing coverage in the right places – those that their buying audience actually read.

Click through to read the other tips – here’s mine below (feel free to click and share!). What would you add?

Feature others on your blog so they will spread the news and link back to your site. – @missusP

JetBlue’s SVP of Commercial on Marketing, Mission Statements & Humanity

It’s too soon to make light of the Bruins loss, that much is clear. I’m on the phone with Marty St. George, SVP of Commercial for JetBlue. Marty is a diehard Bruins fan, having grown up near where I now live, on the South Shore of Boston, Mass., and he’s not happy about their elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs. But regardless, Marty was gracious enough to give me some time to sit down to chat about the airline business, marketing and how a company’s mission ties to its brand. Here’s our chat.

MSG headshot

CP: Tell me about JetBlue’s mission

MSG: Our mission used to be “Bringing humanity back to travel,” but recently, it’s morphed into simply, “Inspire Humanity.” And that’s what we strive to do every day.  Our mission and values are an integral part of what we do at JetBlue – there are so many pieces of the process that we don’t control in the airline industry, but our customers don’t differentiate between what’s us, TSA, air traffic control, etc. – so our goal is to get crew members in this mindset – to own any issues, fix them even if they’re not our fault, and be emphatic and humane. Ultimately, to solve the problem to the best of our ability.

We’re so committed to this mission, that anyone who is hired – including our business partners (our terminology for vendors) – goes through two days of culture training solely focused on ensuring that everyone is clear on expectations for a successful crewmember. We don’t cover duties, but just focus on the mission of the company – how you fit in, how you’ll be evaluated – all in a very inspirational manner. Our CEO is personally in attendance at 90% of these trainings, as are many of our senior leaders, myself included (I teach a module about brand.  A lot of people know the word but they don’t understand what it means.) We’re in a service business so how you react in any situation affects the brand. Even with internal communications, you can’t be rude – it’s simply not good service.

CP: How does this mission tie into one of your most recent ad campaigns – “Air on the Side of Humanity”?

MSG: The “Air on the Side of Humanity” pigeons are really a metaphor that made sense to travelers. For many airlines, you may be an “elite customer” on paper but you don’t get any tangible benefits for that loyalty – no upgrades, etc. – so there is a big part of the traveling market that is underserved. Your fare gets you a cramped seat, but everything else you pay for: seat assignment, ability to bring a bag, to eat food, etc. Yes, you can find cheap flights – and for some, that’s the goal – but there’s a whole other segment that thinks it’s terrible – that the “cheap” airfare isn’t worth it, especially after you’ve paid for all the other “amenities.” The goal of this campaign was to get travelers to recognize this and to create a metaphor that made sense to them, and enlighten them that there’s another way. We had to break through the fact that customers have been made so numb to the airline industry’s downfalls – and view all airlines the same way – that they aren’t open to differences unless they’ve flown us.

And, like all of our campaigns, it had to be something that other airlines would never do. Our ads are distinct – they don’t get mistaken for others.

CP: What are three reasons you believe JetBlue has been able to build a highly respected brand in such a competitive industry?

MSG: There’s only one reason: we recognize it’s a service business. We’re in a service business. It’s not the product (airplane), it’s the service (airline). The industry has become commoditized and we’re building a better mousetrap and securing more business because of that. And of course, we use our mission and values as the North Star around service. That’s key.

CP: You’ve been known to talk about using a lot of data in your marketing strategies. What’s your #1 tip for merging the data side of marketing with the creative side? 

MSG:  Let me start by saying one thing: the CMO/CIO relationship is the most crucial one today and nobody is going to crack the data code without a strong relationship with their CIO.

Assuming you have worked with your CIO to build the right infrastructure, I always come back to one question – what is the problem that we are we trying to solve? The challenge on the data front is that you can go down a rabbit hole by chasing cool, interesting data– but you have to differentiate between insightful ways to solve a problem and a realistic search for the solution of a problem. We’re a small airline, but with 32 million customers a year and 10 million frequent fliers, we have plenty of data – so it’s crucial for us to focus on data that addresses the problems we have and not just the cool, fun sexy data.

CP: Thoughts on social media?

MSG: Brands don’t get to decide what “doing it wrong” means – the customers get to decide it.

A funny side note, in 2007 we were one of the first corporations on Twitter and a guy wrote this fantastic blog post saying “JetBlue is following me on Twitter” – and how ridiculous and wrong he felt it was. At that time, we had to defend ourselves and say, “We’re just trying to help.” Compare that to where we are today – if a brand like ours doesn’t answer someone on social in five minutes, it’s a travesty.

We have a reputation of being one of the top brands in social, and I think that only happened because we had that groundwork of a strong relationship with our customers. When social came around and we had a channel that enabled that one-to-one communication between customers and brands, we were lucky enough to have already built the kind of brand that people WANTED to connect with!

CP: What do you find to be your biggest daily challenge as a marketer?

MSG: Trying to keep a good balance between strategic and tactical. People get really excited about the big brand statements, sexy advertising, etc. but at the same time, I need to measure my ability to fill 100,000 seats a day. Both strategy and tactics are important, but depending on the revenue at any given time, strategy could be off the table and we’re just focusing on tactics, or vice versa. As a CMO, you’re a coach, and it’s your job to ensure that the team has a good balance between strategic vision and practical, tactical execution.

CP: So what’s the biggest goal of your marketing?

MSG: To drive revenue and bookings, period.

CP: What kind of smart phone do you use? What are your “must have” apps?

MSG: iPhone, but I still use an old Microsoft Zune for music. My favorite apps: 1) Twitter (I’m addicted); 2) Google maps (not only does it have good traffic data, it has great transit functionality, which is key in New York) 3) I love Yahoo’s Weather app (in this business weather is important). Oh, and I was glued to the Bruins app until last Wednesday but we’re not talking about that.

CP: What are your “must read” outlets each day?

MSG: I have a long commute (1:45 each way), so I read a lot and I have a routine on the train: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Boston Globe. I also like Yahoo’s news aggregator – the industry module is good for airline news, and I enjoy AdAge and Digiday. I also get a great deal of information from links on Twitter and Facebook.

CP: How often do you travel and where are your favorite locations?

MSG: On average, one trip a week – sometimes less, sometimes more.  I love London, Hong Kong and Dublin. I’m always biased towards Boston, it’s home, and I love Austin, it’s a great city. I most recently discovered Charleston because we just started flying there.

CP: What’s one piece of advice that you would give to a college graduate entering the marketing industry today?

MSG: I’ve got two kids in high school and they roll their eyes when I talk in clichés, but please indulge me: “Find a job you love, and you never work a day in your life.” It’s so true. You can get the most exciting, sexy, lucrative job but if you don’t wake up every morning excited about it, you won’t be good at it.

After eight years at JetBlue, Marty is still excited to get up every day and go to work.

 

 

 

Everything is Everything – And Other Thoughts on Marketing

This month I’ve had the privilege of speaking with two college classes about marketing, PR, business ownership and entrepreneurship. The first two subjects were the plan, but the last two were natural extensions of the students’ questions.

Last week I spoke to undergraduates at Curry College, who were considering a career in PR or marketing and of joining the college’s PRSA chapter. I shared insights on both the positives and negatives of the 20 year career I’ve experienced, although in such a rapidly-changing world, I’m sure it will be very different for them, even as they graduate in the next few years.

This week I spoke to graduate students studying for their MS in Organizational and Professional Communication at Regis College. This group was comprised of both younger and older students, including those considering a second career as business owners, interested in learning how to market and promote their future companies.

What I found interesting about the experiences of speaking to these students was the questions that came from them during the Q&A. This is of course, the reason I enjoy speaking to college classes – there’s no denying the energy and hunger that comes from someone just beginning their career (or hungry enough to be changing it), wide-eyed and excited; sometimes a little nervous. In both cases I was asked to come speak about my career in marketing, although the questions naturally evolved to my experiences as a business owner, a working mother and an entrepreneur. Here are some of the insights I shared – I thought they might also be helpful to you, readers.

  • Take a public speaking class. I wish I had done more of this as a college student. I hated public speaking back then – but the truth is that in marketing, especially today, a great deal of what you do is speaking in front of groups. Whether it’s the Boardroom, a client’s executive team, VCs or the media, persuasive and entertaining speaking skills are a must.
  • You are in sales. Everything we do in marketing is selling something – our ideas, our skills, our stories. You are always selling. Study the psychological fundamentals of what makes a great salesperson.
  • Personal brand matters. A lot of older people want to avoid this topic – they struggle with the idea of a personal brand – but I get constant questions from younger executives on the topic of how I marry my personal and professional self. Your personal brand matters because – since we’re all in sales – it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, people still buy from people. It’s emotional. Even when someone says, “It’s just business” – purchases and decisions are emotionally-based. So building a personal brand that people like, engage with and listen to is crucial for success in today’s social world. (It’s hard to be social and impersonal.)
  • Work/life balance will always be an issue. Another hot topic from crowds I speak to – “How do you do it all?” “Do you ever sleep?” – are questions I’m often asked. The funny thing is that I constantly feel I’m not doing enough, so part of the reason I don’t [seem to] stop is simply personality-driven. But work/life balance is always a challenge – for men and women. The good news is that there is unprecedented opportunity today to create a flexible career – to establish your own company, work virtually or on “off” hours, and find companies who build entire cultures around the issue of work/life balance. Find one from the beginning, and enjoy your life and your career.
  • Everything is Everything. Everything you do matters. Everything you say, write, post, share, do and choose is marketing of some kind in the social media world in which we all now live. Everyone is a marketer (not all good at it), and everything reflects you, your brand, or your company – even if you have that little disclaimer that your thoughts are your own. In other words, you either help attract customers, or push them away. (Supporting the whole people buy from people theory.) Everything is connected – brands can no longer make outlandish claims in advertising or marketing without very public backlash. PR can’t promote exaggerated stories and brands can’t make false promises only to have customer service fail to keep them. Consumers and customers have the inside track now – so everything you do is everything to your company.

Thank you to both Regis College and Curry College for hosting me. It was a pleasure to meet the students, an honor to be able to share my experiences, and a breath of fresh air to hear their enthusiasm for the future of marketing and beyond.

Find Your Quiet

The world is a noisy place. Ringing phones, beeping texts, demanding children, TV-in-your-face gyms, traffic-laden commutes and walks on city streets. And you can’t really go anywhere without some form of marketing in your face – even if, in the “age of content” – you may not realize that it is marketing (if it’s good, that is). From billboards to your phone, dressing rooms to grocery carts, it can be hard to turn it all off. Have you ever stopped to notice the amount of quiet time that you have? It’s probably not a whole lot.

Quiet time is important for our minds to settle on what we really need. Quiet time allows us to sit with ourselves and find the best answers to life’s variable challenges. It can make you a better worker, leader, friend, parent. It’s important to find your quiet, even when it seems impossible. Put down the phone, take the dog for a walk, sit on the beach alone or take a drive (turn off the GPS, the phone, the radio). Try a meditation/yoga class (even if it feels weird), cooking (alone) or jumping on a real bike for a spin.

You might be surprised at what you discover when you find your quiet.