Category Archives: marketing

Customer Service – a United Airlines nightmare

The following video tells the story of a Canadian, Dave Carroll, who watched in horror as baggage handlers smashed his guitar on the tarmac while he sat on a United Airlines flight.  Dave decided to write a song and post it on YouTube.   The response?  Dave’s video went viral with over 10 million hits on YouTube.

The story doesn’t end there……  after Dave’s complaint aired, United offered a paltry settlement, which prompted Dave to write a second song about his customer service treatment.    A third song was also written, detailing the crazy customer service nightmare that Dave experienced.  Follow the story on YouTube or Dave’s own website,

Makes us all think,

“Am I giving my customers a great experience?”  

or, as Dave says,

“One customer is not statistically insignificant!”

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Attention to Detail: 4 Tips to increase your Income

Details are the finishing touch that bring back your customers for future business.  A colleague of mine manages nearly forty commission sales people.  The “best of the best” make huge income and are revered in the top 100 of a large, multinational company. What is their secret?

Make the customer feel special – like they are the absolute best client of all

1) Remember details about the customer’s personal and business situation

– How is your husband John doing these days?   I noticed his company had a new product out last week, and I bought some to try it out.

– Would your kids enjoy this online link to a contest we are promoting at our company?  I remember that they love skateboarding, and this link might interest them!

– How did the soccer finals go last weekend?  Is your son’s team in the playoffs?

– Send a condolence card if a customer’s relative is ill or passes away

2) Send small thank you’s after closing a deal, or to update the customer during the deal

– Mail a thank you card, with a personal note and small gift enclosed (eg $10 Starbucks card)

– Send flowers to host(ess) of events or when customer’s business reaches a milestone

– Email your customer with an update (and possibly an invitation for coffee) if the sales / close process is dragging on for reasons beyond your control

3) Appreciate your customer’s business by inviting them to events (business or promotional)

– Create annual or semi-annual appreciation events that combine learning and socializing for your customers

– For top customers, invite them to join you personally at events in their area of interest (sports, arts, community)

4) Make introductions – pass on your own valuable contacts to a customer if there is a win/win proposition

  • Ask your customer if they would appreciate introductions to your contacts
  • Ask your personal contact if they would appreciate introductions to your customers
  • Where contacts and customers would both benefit from shared communication, make an email or personal coffee/lunch introduction

These tips provide strategies to always think “customer first”.

Live and breathe a mindset of “How can I continually make my relationship with my customer stronger?”   This will grow your network of contacts and ultimately create long term business income, even in downturns.

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Blogging for Dinosaurs – What I learned in my first month

Okay, I’m the older generation.  I went through high school when computers took up space on entire floors of a building.  Today, accumulating my entire 30 years of business knowledge could be simulated in mere months of technological progress.

At the beginning of this year, I was bored and looking for something new to learn.  Knowing that business marketing is being turned on its’ ear by social media influences, and considering that I want to build a business network to support an eventual consulting gig in my retirement, I thought, why not combine these two concepts and try to learn social media myself?

My New Year’s resolution was easy!  Just start a blog (I do have reasonable advice and stories to offer after 30 years in business), experiment with various elements of social media (Blogging, Facebook, Twitter) for a year or two and see how much of a network or business following I can build.  Not rocket science; however I was surprised at some of my early learnings.  Here’s my process:

Step 1)    Find a blog theme 

What is the focus of my personal blog going to be?  Marketing 101 asks “What is my passion and what purpose will my blog serve?”  My blog topics and themes should link to the same role, themes and expertise I will use in an eventual consulting practice.

After soul-searching, I realized that my theme is great leadership.  I find all things leadership-related fascinating, and I could write volumes about the good, the bad and the ugly of Leadership that I have learned over the years.

Step 2)   Establish a domain name, set up related email

“Leadership” is my theme, now I have to register a domain name that is meaningful – it should work for my blog today and also for my consulting business down the road.

I log onto several domain registration sites but “leaders” and “leadership” words are already taken.  Maybe my theme is too broad.

Start over.

Think deeper.

What is my passion, more specifically?

More soul-searching and I come up with online mentorship and coaching, which link better to my retirement consulting plans and the mentoring I have already been doing quietly in recent years.

The best new names I can find are “bizbytes” and “bizcoachonline”.  I reserve for a website, with for email, and for my blogwriting, using the intuitive Blogger application available on Google.

Step 3)    Set up a Website 

My website domain purchase comes with an easy template of four webpages that provide a home page, biography page, information page and contact page with subscription forms.  These pages are set up within a few hours, after playing around with available theme templates provided by the website provider.

The website remains in this raw, simple format today.  When I’m closer to retirement and starting the consulting “ask” in my business, I will expand the website to a more professional look (that will be another future blog story!).  Meantime, I use the email feature daily and provide occasional consulting services generated from queries and emails to the website.

Step 4)    Set up a Blog template

The blog setup was easier than I expected.  I used Blogger, a Google product. The cost? Free.   Blogger is very intuitive to create templates and widgets  using WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) visuals typing on a page just like a Word document. The html code remains hidden in the background (not necessary to have this knowledge unless one is a fancy programmer with highly customized blog pages).   I spent about two days playing around with available Blogger themes and widgets on the visual tab, essentially building my preferred blog format through trial and error of adding, changing and deleting themes and widgets.

Note:  Within a couple of months, I learned that there are several other reputable blog server sites that have better long-term flexibility, search engine tools and functionality for bloggers.  Professional bloggers also migrate their blog pathname to their registered domain name – which meant eventually I would need to move away from Blogger to a different blog server (more about that in another blog story!).

Step 5)   Set up and maintain a Twitter account

My blog template/server is now set up and I am starting to write articles on leadership.  How do I attract readers and potential customers?  It’s time for Twitter, to draw readers to my blog.

I set up my own name @merylecorbett and start searching topics related to leadership on the twitter site.  The people with tweets that I like (ie. quotes or links to interesting other blogs) I click on “follow”, so I can read their tweet history in my own twitter stream.

My longer term goal is to get followers that will follow me, so I build up a presence on the internet.  I do this by tweeting short comments whenever I can, with links to my blog articles.  Within a few weeks, I have a dozen blogs written, I am tweeting evenings and weekends, I have searched key words on twitter related to leadership, I have followed about 200 select people, and I start to gain a group of followers myself.    Some of those followers are people who “followed me back” (after I searched out and followed them) while others came to follow me after reading my tweets and blog articles.

Step 6)    Focus on blog content – add value!

At the end of one month, I am writing one or two blogs per week, and tweeting evenings and weekends.   I notice there is volatility in the number of hits to my website.  The secret to success, from what I am reading and learning, is to keep a quality blog with great value-added content, to add blog content regularly and consistently.

I read on the internet about how to write effective blogs.  I start to add “guest blogs” (giving credit to other writers) when I find a particularly interesting article.  I find humorous videos on youtube and add some as blogs where they have a business theme.

Step 7)  The next challenge:  take my social media presence to the next level

When I’m out of town for a weekend and miss tweeting for a couple of days in a row, my volume of blog traffic drops, and my twitter followers also decrease.  What are the strategies I need to further build my social media presence?

Stay tuned for the next blog.

If you enjoyed this story, click “like” or tweet to your own followers.  Feel free also to add your comments below.

Bankers who make finance fun – wow your customers!

Do you go bowling at your bank?  
This is the story of Umpqua Holdings, based on a story by Bill Taylor in The Harvard Business Review.
Ray Davis, president and CEO, joined the Umpqua bank in 1994 and has transformed this small Oregon-based bank (6 branches and $150 million in assets) to a community-branded institution sporting 183 branches throughout the Pacific Northwest and $11 billion in assets.
How?  By thinking creatively and using disruptive innovation.

 Umpqua developed a very creative strategy to make its branches distinctive and unique from every other bank.  They designed an “experience” that would wow their customers by imagining, or more precisely, “reimagining” the customer experience at every level.

Davis puts it this way: “If you took a person, blindfolded them, sent them to a bank, and took the blindfold off, 99% percent of them would say, ‘I’m in some bank somewhere.’ We want our customers to say, ‘I’m in an Umpqua bank.’ We don’t want the experience of banking here to feel like banking anywhere else.”

Umpqua’s business model:   designed the branches to appeal to all five human senses:

What should a bank look like?      – Sleek, well-appointed, like a Starbucks or high end art gallery

What should a bank sound like?  – Music invites customers to interact.  Umpqua signs indie bands to its Discover Local Music project and invites customers to listen to songs on in-branch kiosks or download them from the Web. It even sells compilation CDs of the best songs.

What should a bank smell like?    – In the Pacific Northwest, the answer, of course, is coffee.  Branch employees are happy to brew customers a cup of the bank’s own Umpqua Blend (which it also sells by the pound).

What should a bank taste like?    – Every transaction ends at Umpqua with a piece of gold-wrapped chocolate served on a silver platter.

What should a bank feel like?        – Umpqua has branded their branches to elicit a community flavor.  Some events include hosting neighbourhood activities, book clubs, movie nights, and even a bowling league (using  Wii technology on large high-definition screens).

“People come to the South Portland store in the middle of the day with their bowling shirts on,” Davis marvels. “Some customers are waiting to see their banker, and others are bowling! It’s incredible. It creates an environment where people say, ‘That was fun, let’s go back.'”

Umpqua’s strategy:  ‘ We have a one-of-a-kind value proposition in our industry.”

How many of us can shift our thinking to this level of value proposition, and really “WOW” our customer?

Increasing Revenue – 15 models to choose from (guest post)


Is Your Revenue Model Right for Your Business?
Your revenue model is how you profitably match your product or service with your desired customers. No other business decision has more potential to make or break your business. In fact, your entire business will be structured around your revenue model.
Is Your Revenue Model Right for Your Business?
The revenue model impacts marketing and sales efforts, and it also affects product and service design, which is why it’s one of the first decisions you need to make when you start a new business. I also recommend that you re-visit the model every year or so when you’re updating your strategic plan.
Let’s start with a couple of classic – and successful – revenue models.
Razor and Blade: Razor companies are actually in the business of selling razor blades. They attract customers by selling cool new razors at a good price, and then keep selling them disposable razor blades. Once they have you as a customer, they find it easy to keep you – that’s where their profitability comes from.
You may have run into a variation of this model with your laser or ink jet printer. What are the printer companies actually making their money on? That’s right – the toner and ink.
Cell phone service providers also use this model. You probably already realize that the cell service providers don’t make money on the phone they sell you – far from it! But by locking you into a service contract, they have automatically recurring revenue.
Freemium to Premium: This model is well known in the software industry, especially with cloud-based solutions where the base subscription is free or very inexpensive, and power users pay a hefty subscription fee for a much more robust product. However, the basic idea has been around for a long time in more traditional businesses as well. A variation is the free sample. For example, many grocery stores give out free food samples to shoppers, who then often purchase the product itself. This model is usually combined with another model (for example, the subscription model for a cloud-based application).
Here are a few other typical models:
  • Franchising: prove your concept and sell to others in order to grow; benefit from franchise fees and sometimes product sales.
  • Price Segmentation: often used in business-to-business commerce; larger purchasers get better prices or advantageous terms.
  • Loyalty programs: certain types of customers get better pricing; often used in retail where once a customer gets to a certain lifetime purchasing level, they automatically get a discount on all future purchases.
  • Licensing: someone else markets and sells your product and you get a cut.
  • Direct Sales: consumer or business to business.
  • Multi-Level Marketing: you’re selling a business opportunity as well as a product.
  • Affiliate Marketing: often combined with other models; benefit from the sales efforts of others.
  • Internet Marketing: includes social media, e-mail, and other ways of driving traffic; often combined with another model.
  • Sticks and Bricks: traditional location-based retail, often combined with internet marketing.
  • Direct to Consumer: cutting out the middleman or retailer and selling direct.
  • Subscription-based: works for many different services and some types of products.
  • Product Plus Related Service: a good example is automobile dealerships. A significant part of dealer profit comes from servicing what they sell.
  • Get the Spec”: become a trusted supplier of a product that is a part of another business’s product. Your customer reorders every time they manufacture their product. The sale happens once; the key to keeping the customer from switching to another provider is service and sometimes price.
So how do you choose the right model? The key is to clearly understand who your customer is and what their buying behavior is likely to be. Here are a few questions to ask:
1. What problem does my product or service solve?
2. Who has this problem and is therefore my potential customer?
3. Do they know they have the problem? Or do I need to educate them about it?
4. Where and how can they be reached?
5. Is there a typical industry standard for how they make purchases?Who makes the purchasing decision?
6. What other solutions are available in the marketplace? How are those solutions delivered?

As you work through this, you’ll come up with more questions of your own, and the answers will help you determine the best revenue model, or combination of models, to build your business around. Don’t be afraid to try more than one! Successful businesses often change their model several times before they design the one that’s the most profitable.
guest post by Joanne Berg  March 7, 2011