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Reveries tells the story of Ellen Heberer, an American Airlines gate agent. The airline industry is notorious for treating customers as a number, removing people with technology and otherwise commoditizing services. Then there is Ellen.  “You’ll always have status with me,” Ellen recently told a flier who had lost frequent-flier standing, but whom Ellen remembered and rewarded with a better seat in the front of the plane.
Among other customer-centric acts: Ellen knows repeat customers by name; juggles seat assignments to keep families together; provides passes to get customers into the airport club; doesn’t lie about delays; and is straightforward about what can (or cannot) be done.

American Airline’s response to the reporter: “It shouldn’t have to be that it only happens with a great agent,” says Maya Leibman, American’s chief information officer.

American Airline’s response to the reporter: “It shouldn’t have to be that it only happens with a great agent,” says Maya Leibman, American’s chief information officer.

Well, no it shouldn’t. But for too many companies, the bean-counters have measured the short-term cost of staffing people and training versus automation, Internet tools, self-service scanners and the like. Marketing has been silent on the long-term impact of such moves. Who is voice of the customer in your company?

Ellen is building Zealots for American Airlines. Technology can also help, but it is almost never a substitute for great personal service.

American Airlines can learn a thing or two from Waffle House. All employees are required to spend at least one day a month in restaurants. The CEO doesn’t want his management to get too far from the roots of serving customers. The financial (and CIOs) of American Airlines should spend a few days in Ellen’s role. They might learn the value and costs of service.


CURE Childhood Cancer just announced record donations of $3.1 million received in its just-concluded fiscal year. This represents about a 200% gain in annual giving since they became a client of Guest Relations Marketing in 2007.  This has been accomplished primarily through activating their Zealots through online media and events.

More importantly, this has resulted in tremendous advances in research. We are striving for the ultimate success story – finding ultimate cures for childhood cancers. It is coming!

Guest Relations Marketing just completed a comprehensive rebranding of Juvenile Justice Foundation to…

drum roll, please…


Radically changing up a brand’s identity should never be taken lightly. Especially as it pertains to the brand name. In this case, there were several mitigating factors that ultimately led to a radical rebranding, including a new name.

youthSpark is aptly named to give voice and justice to youth. This organization is literally in the streets on a white-hot issue: underage prostitution and trafficking. Human sex trafficking is a global issue and unfortunately Atlanta is one of the leading centers for this illegal activity. youthSpark is committed to exposing this subject, promoting justice for our youth and helping them be restored to a productive future.  Join in on Facebook and Twitter to affirm your support!

Recent report from Admap: an average of 0.5% Facebook fans interact with brands in a given week. Pretty low response, eh? Which is why direct marketing with average response rates of 1 – 2% is still a viable media option.

Every time a new touchpoint is invented, people and especially marketers rush to put it into an existing bucket.

We love what social media offers marketers. There is clearly a place for Facebook and other social media. But to consider it a replacement for other aspects of a marketing mix is a major mistake. Every media has its strengths and shortcomings.

It is natural to want to embrace the new. As consumers, we are curious about what we’ve not seen or touched before. As marketers, we want to try the newest media or promotional invention, if for no other reason than the fear of competitively being left behind.

A recent briefing from highlights the reasons behind an exponential growth of “new” products and services.

But, perhaps, embracing the “new” is not the right answer for your brand. Consider the authors concluding point:

“Last but not least, it does not mean all consumer attention will be focused on the new. There will still be endless value in heritage brands, known to deliver constant, trusted quality and provenance. There will be value in well-told, compelling stories. In comfort. In tradition. In the local. In curation of existing products. In tailoring. Remember, no trend applies to all consumers, all of the time, and the ‘new’ doesn’t always kill the old.”

This is a powerful roadmap for building enduring brands… new or old.

Yesterday we promised to discuss the 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study’s findings on online fundraising. And here at Guest Relations Marketing we always provide on our promises.

As the economy has improved, general giving has increased. As a result, these numbers can be directly correlated to the incline in the number of online donations that most nonprofit organizations are witnessing.

However, it is important to understand the trends in how people are giving and through what mediums. Below you will find a synopsis of some of the important takeaways as we explain what these mean to your organization.

Courtesy of eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

Takeaway # 4

On average, 35% of online revenue was sourced to direct email appeals. The remaining 65% came from other sources, such as unsolicited web giving and peer referrals.

What this mean for you

A majority of online giving is coming from sources other than email. As a result organizations should NEVER exclude providing additional opportunities for people to donate. Consider unsolicited web giving and peer referrals as other great sources for fundraising.

How can you increase peer referrals? Social sites that promote sharing and make it easy for people to talk about your organization provide excellent word of mouth marketing opportunities. If you aren’t in these mediums (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) than you should consider doing so immediately.

Courtesy of eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

Takeaway # 5 

While one-time gifts remain the largest source of online revenue for participants, online revenue from monthly giving is growing at a much faster rate.

What this means for you

While one-time gifts are generally of higher value than monthly giving, keep in mind that the total dollar value for continuous donations will be higher. Consider establishing brand loyalty amongst your fans and provide opportunities for them to give over and over again throughout the year.

Maybe this is done through a series of events or establishing a monthly loyalty plan. Either way, keeping your organization top of mind will promote continuous giving.

Encouraging and promoting online fundraising isn’t always an easy task. Thankfully social media has enabled organizations multiple channels to spread the word.

Interested in how most nonprofits stack up in the social realm? Check in tomorrow when we summarize the benefits of having a strong social media presence.

Curious at how your nonprofit organization stands up against the rest when it comes to online messaging, fundraising and social media?

Thankfully M+R Strategic Services and the Nonprofit Technology Network have analyzed 44 nonprofit data sets to analyze the average performance in 2011, measuring email messaging, list size, fundraising, advocacy, social media and mobile programs. The results were compiled into the 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study.

However, we realize that many of you are way too busy to sit down and analyze graph after graph or even understand the significance of the findings.

Here at Guest Relations Marketing we have interpreted the data for you. Over the next few days we will roll out important takeaways from the study and explain what is means for nonprofit organizations.

Today, we discuss email messaging!

Courtesy of 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

Takeaway # 1 

When sending emails, advocacy messages had the highest open rates, click-through rates and response rates – as well as the lowest unsubscribe rates. In contrast, fundraising emails have the lowest open rates and highest unsubscribe rates.

What this means for you

On average people don’t enjoy being asked for money, even if they are a Zealot for your organization’s cause. Keep this in mind and consider providing fundraising news within other email messaging.

Want to put a heavy emphasis on the fundraiser? Then be sure to use a crafty subject and headline that will capture the recipient’s attention. Directly stating that your email is requesting they contribute could send their cursors directly to the delete button.

Courtesy of 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

Takeaway #2 

With only a few exceptions, almost every organization in the study saw their email subscriber list grow from 2010 to 2011, though the increase in growth rate appears to be slowing (environmental groups grew their lists at the highest rates).

What this means for you

Remember that every day people’s inboxes are flooded with random emails that most consider spam. It’s easy for an individual to get frustrated at the constant stream and quickly hit the unsubscribe button. More relevant to this topic, it is easy to assume that many people are hesitant to even sign up for email newsletters out of fear of how their inbox will be filled.

Finding a solution to this problem on the surface is two-fold.

First, whatever the cause that your organization is working for, it is important to make it relevant and trendy to the general public. Environmental concerns has been a general growing topic of interest over the last few years and it can be assumed that this would have a direct correlation to the large increase in email subscribers.

Second, you must provide incentive for people to want to receive emails from your organization. Maybe this is subscriber only updates, or behind the scenes looks. Whatever the news, make it clear for people that the only way they will get certain information is by signing up for your email newsletters.

Courtesy of 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

Takeaway # 3

Between 2010 and 2011, the email fundraising response rate held steady at 0.08%, with a negligible growth of 2%.

What this means for you

Online fundraising has steadily increased in popularity for nonprofit organizations. This should not be news to you. However, what is important to take note of is that email fundraising rates are generally low and should not be the only way your organization pushes to raise money.

Interested in what other methods generally show success at fundraising? Then tune into our post tomorrow where we will highlight some of the study’s findings of online fundraising.

Ah, metrics.

Ask any marketer in the world and they will tell you that it is important to measure your marketing efforts. Because if you don’t monitor metrics that report  the significance of what you are (or aren’t) doing, then you will never have any idea if you are doing the right thing.

This should not be news to you. 

Blog posts and articles saturate the web that outline the significance of measuring marketing efforts. However, and might I add ironically, this is the exact area where marketers lack the most. In fact, I garauntee that if you walked into any marketing agency and asked them if all of their metrics dashboards or data sheets were up to date you would get a big fat “NO.”

Why is this so often the case? Well, I could tell you because updating spreadsheet after spreadsheet is often tedious. Or maybe you would prefer the answer that marketers are so fixed on doing that they forget to look back and observe what they’ve done?

I believe that the true answer lies into a little of both.

As a marketer I want to put the client first. I want to share their content, brainstorm for their brand, and dream of the next viral campaign. However, the more time I spend on thinking of the future without observing the past, the higher the risk I run of heading straight down a path to NOWHERE.

My point? Take the time to measure your initiatives and understand how your marketing efforts are performing. I promise that it will only provide insight that will enable you to be a better marketer. And in the end, isn’t that what we all are striving to become?

A recent survey by noted that for more than 80% of respondents, free Wi-Fi in-room is a make-or-break decision for online bookings. Surprised? Shouldn’t be. Free Wi-Fi is now becoming ubiquitous. As it is offered in one location, consumers don’t understand why it is not available – for free – in another spot.

How does this impact hotels? Well, it is one of those somewhat hidden add-on charges.  An additional profit center. And, for major chains, it is a major hit to their bottom line to decide to remove a daily $10 charge from thousands of rooms in hundreds of locations.

But, from a consumer perspective, it has become a given that a certain level of establishment, or hotel, offers complimentary Wi-Fi. Why pay $10 a day at the hotel I’m paying to stay at, when I can walk next door to the diner or Starbucks and get the Internet for free? It is a component of the overall experience.

The Zealotry Marketing lesson? Value is not a fixed position or asset. The marketplace, consumers’ needs, and competition all change. Thus, it makes sense that value points of a business would also change. Logical and simple enough. But, how often is your product, operational delivery, or marketing program significantly examined and adjusted on the basis of aligning with what is perceived as value today?

In this example, the solution is simple. Guests want Wi-Fi for free. Or really, what they are saying is that it is a fundamental need. Not an “add-on.” Hotels need to drop the add-on fee. The cost is a part of the room rate and a part of doing business.

Value is transparent. Now it’s time to figure out how to package and market it.

Ron Johnson, the CEO of JCPenney, understands branding and the value it represents. The following article is worthy on its own, but three key takeaways:

1.  Creativity – looking at the business differently – is the starting point of success.

2.  Experience is the core issue – not product.

3.  Develop a mission that you and your staff will believe in.

From The Hub magazine:

“Improvement merely lets you hit your numbers … Creativity is what transforms,” says JCPenney ceo Ron Johnson in a Fortune profile by Jennifer Reingold (3/19/12). That was the main lesson Ron says he learned while he was at Target, after gambling on introducing Michael Graves designer products in a big way. “The math was simple,” says Ron. “If I didn’t sell one piece but people looked differently at the other 96% of products we’d win. It’s always about mind share, not market share.” Ron is now bringing a similar sensibility — which of course he also brought to Apple stores — to JCPenney.

The essential vision, once again, is to create “a place where the experience (is) as important as the products themselves.” This apparently was more Ron’s vision at Apple stores than it was Steve Jobs’s. “He said it’d be a store for creative professionals,” says Ron. “I said, ‘Well, then I’m not coming. If you want it to be a store for all Americans, sign me up.” Ron also “persuaded Jobs to nix commissions for salespeople, arguing that they should give customers the best advice, not the advice that earns them the most.” Ron says, “You can motivate by a mission or motivate by money… the mission will work.”

It certainly worked at Apple stores, where sales per square foot average $6,000. But will it work at JCPenney, where sales per square foot are currently $146 and the shopping experience is a safe distance from either Apple or Target? Fitch, the ratings agency, has “downgraded the company’s debt to junk level,” based on Ron’s strategy, the core of which is a “return to the company’s original values,” espoused by founder James Cash Penney as a “morally upright place.” Ron Johnson, eternally an optimist, says his plan will work. “What you can’t do is chicken out,” he says. “If you had looked at the data on the Genius Bar after a year and a half, we should have taken it out of the store… There’s no reason to sell an idea short. The only risk would be to not fulfill the dream.”

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