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What to do to follow through effectively with customers to create zealotry?

1. Collect data and use it.

First rule of effective marketing is to build a database of your prospects and customers. The more information collected the better. Analyse it. Learn from it and shape your subsequent tactics.

2. Personalize it.

No eblasts. This guest willingly provided you with specific details of their preferences and background. Approach them accordingly.

3. Integrate it.

The worst thing as a customer is to come back for another visit/transaction and have to repeat the whole dialog like its your first-time. Make the data you collected available to all employees. “Nice to see you again, Mr. Tyre. How is that software program working out?”

4. Respond in kind.

If you have asked for a response – survey for instance, or if a note or phone call has been made, then respond. Net Promoter suggests your top people should be responding to the negative comments, not merely those that are gushing praises. Addressing negative situations helps prevent negative word-of-mouth and often gains the respect of the person.

5. Don’t give them another card.

Promotional and loyalty companies will no doubt disagree, but do consumers really want another “loyalty/frequency” card to keep up with? It has become me-too marketing and most often has a negative payout. Again, a well-planned and executed database and directed strategy can accomplish more, at less cost and without requiring your customer to jump through hoops in order to be delighted.

6. Announced “loyalty” rewards are expected. Unannounced rewards delight.

An announced/promoted loyalty program is done so to help make the purchase in the first place. An unannounced reward is more of a true “thank you” for your loyalty. Is your objective one of discounting to gain multiple purchases or to thank your guest for attending, purchasing or sharing their experience with others?

Guest Relations Marketing is excited to announce Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury as a new client.

We will be working with Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury to craft a Social Media Program for the brand. As with all our clients, we are already at work becoming Zealots for this wonderful brand.

Take a behind-the-scenes peek at our on-going quest to get knee-deep in the brand. While we started with a secret shop of both dealerships, copious notes & observations, getting to know their employees & staff – the gallery below is all about getting to know the product.

The dealership provided us a Ford Flex to get the experience started. We drove it around for over a week, tested out all the bells and whistles and really had a great time getting to experience the product first-hand.

Some ways, behind basic analytics, including website visits, brand perception, customer engagement and profitability, why social media enhances the overall marketing program, from Econsultancy:

Search marketing:
Social media can be far more powerful in improving SEO than you might initially imagine. For example, a well-placed story / video / image on a site like Digg will generate a lot of traffic and a nice link from Digg itself, but the real win here is that it will generate a lot more interest beyond Digg.  The long tail, in action. 100 links means that your page might well wind up being placed highly on Google, resulting in lots of ongoing traffic. Remember too that you can use sites like Twitter and YouTube to claim valuable search rankings on your brand search terms.

Brand metrics:
Word of mouth and the viral factor (inherent in sites like Twitter, Facebook and Digg) can help shift the key brand metrics, both negatively and positively. These include brand favorability, brand awareness, brand recall, propensity to buy, etc. Traditional advertising is measured in this way, so it makes sense to apply these measures to social media applications. Positive brand associations via social media campaigns can help drive clicks on paid search ads and responses to other forms of advertising.

PR:
The nature of public relations has changed, forever. The distinct worlds of PR, customer service, and marketing are fusing.  Twitter means everybody has a blog these days and somewhere to shout about things to their friends (and beyond). Social media sites are the biggest echo chambers in the world! In any event, if you can measure PR (beyond adding up column inches and applying a random multiple to the equivalent size on the rate card!), then you can measure social media.

Customer engagement:
Given the prevalence of choice, and the ease with which consumers can switch from one brand to another, customer engagement is one of the most important of all metrics in today’s business environment. Engagement can take place offline and online, both on your website and on other sites, particularly social media sites. Customer engagement is key to improving satisfaction and loyalty rates, and revenue. By listening to customers, and letting them know that you are listening, you can improve your business, your products, and your levels of service. The alternative is to ignore customers, which sends out a terrible message. Our research found that an engaged customer will recommend your brand, convert more readily and purchase more often.

Retention:
A positive side effect of increased customer engagement – assuming certain other factors in play work in your favor – is an increase in customer retention. This is going to be a crucial factor in the success of your business in the years to come. Make no bones about it: we are moving into an age of optimization and retention. Watch your retention rates as you start participating in social media. Over time, all things remaining equal, they should rise. Zappos, which is a case study in how-to-do-Twitter (and active on MySpace, Facebook and Youtube), is closing in on $1bn of sales this year, and “75% of its orders are from repeat customers.”

Profits:
If you can reduce customer churn, and engage customers more often, the result will surely be that you’ll generate more business from your existing customer base (who in turn will recommend your business to their network of friends, family, and social media contacts). This reduces your reliance on vast customer acquisition budgets to maintain or grow profits. It makes for a far more profitable and more efficient organization. I really hope that more businesses will find a better balance between acquisition and retention, sooner rather than later, from a resourcing standpoint. Too many acquisition strategies appear to be ill-conceived, are not joined up (both in terms of marketing and also operations), and as such are ripe for optimization. Plug the leaky bucket and you won’t need to turn the tap so hard to top it up. And remember that old adage about it being cheaper to keep existing customers than to seek out new ones.

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Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

Companies with a limited marketing staff or one that has fewer than 100 employees simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to internally execute social media effectively.

So, what are the characteristics one should look for?  This may be surprising, but knowledge of the medium is less important than the following:  understanding your brand; what messages will invite conversation; who are the posters/readers; the experience/knowledge to respond on the fly.   Ford Motor Company is an excellent example of how to respond and engage readers.

Sage advice:  Resist the temptation to hand all of the social networking duties to that one young hipster in your office who appears to “get it.” Otherwise you risk losing control of your brand message and turning a meager publicity effort into a public embarrassment.

If you’re going to start a Facebook or Twitter account for your company, give the responsibility to someone with poise, maturity, and tact, and then give them the freedom to do it their own way and figure it out for themselves. Ignore the “rules,” avoid the “gurus,” and let common social courtesy be your guide.

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Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

Think about it – if one of your friends kept interrupting your conversations with advertising talk, he/she wouldn’t be your friend very long.  That is the reality of social media.   It is the media built by consumers.  They, not programmers, editors or advertisers ultimately control the content of the medium.

Some quick facts:
•    Consumers do want to see companies engaged in social media, but in a dialog format, versus pitches of products
•    Permission marketing is even more critical than email – in social media, readers can respond back to everyone
•    Whether your company chooses to participate or not, your company is likely being talked about by someone in one or more mediums
•    It’s a great way to “road test” concepts, ideas or engage your best customers
•    It’s a great way to put a human face to a company

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Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

In my experience, and from grumblings I’ve heard elsewhere, customer service is not the biggest thing Comcast has going for them from a business standpoint.

There are times when marketing is marketing, sales is sales, and operations is operations. But, from a brand standpoint – the customer experience crosses all platforms and thus businesses are forced to integrate, communicate and work together to ensure the experience is both consistent and pleasant.

There are also times when this is challenging for businesses, to instantly align all departments for a consistent brand experience. For this reason, we applaud Comcast at taking action at making the customer service experience just a little bit better and more personal for their customers.

While 800#’s are jammed with customer complaints and questions, Comcast decided to take their service arm online @ComcastCares via Twitter to, as Frank the Director of Digital Care for Comcast says, “meet Customers where they are, listen and assist when we can.”

The customer service Comcast provides through Twitter is personal, immediate, informative and credible. And, as Frank points out, it is delivered in a manner that the customer chooses, through a medium they are already using.

And most importantly, taking a chunk of the operations and service arms of their business in this manner has led to Zealotry actions amidst consumers. Word-of-mouth, people are talking about their Twitter customer service in a positive manner. Referral – people are recommending others contact them via Twitter. And Comcast is turning potentially negative customer experiences into positive ones, turning detractors into supporters, even more, into potential Zealots for the Comcast brand.

Go ahead & follow them @ComcastCares. And follow us too while you’re at it @FindingZealots.

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Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

As published in today’s HSMAI e-newsletter for May 2009 – as written by our own Michael D. Tyre, Managing Partner, of Guest Relations Marketing, also a HSMAI Georgia Chapter Member.


As people, our character is not necessarily tested when times are good and everything seems to roll our way. It’s tested during the tough times, when you continually strive to do the right thing, but for what seems like no real effect. But, that is when you prove to yourself and other people what you’re really all about. Make no mistake, 2009 is one of those times.

Same goes for brands. When business is great and everyone is on the bandwagon, it’s easier to overcome blemishes. Now, with business and the economy down, it’s real easy to delay programs, cut services, put product improvements on hold. But, make no mistake. The character of a brand is being tested.

Then there is Publix. The Wall Street Journal says “”Publix is always at its best when the economy is at its worst. Competitors are now cutting back or contracting, and that’s when Publix sees the most opportunities for expansion.”

Customer service is considered the key to its success. Though short-term profits are down, Publix has eschewed the typical short-term cuts prevalent at most companies.

Publix was recently named to Business Week’s top 25 companies delivering customer satisfaction. According to Business Week: “It takes coordination from the top, bringing together people, management, technology, and processes to put customers’ needs first. Technology is leveling the barriers between alpha companies and also-rans, making great customer service one of the few ways companies can distinguish themselves.”

Even though its short-term profits are down, “Publix is staying at full staffing levels and lowering prices in hopes of keeping its existing customers happy and attracting new ones.”

That last sentence is insightful. Their first objective is keeping existing customers happy. Our, put another way, make sure their current “guests” remain zealots about the brand. That, by the way, is not just a customer service issue. It is the first tenet to building a superior marketing program.

Targeting zealots is the surest and most effective marketing approach. It is 5 to 10x more costly to win new guests than to retain existing ones. Dell found their customer “zealots” are worth 50% more to them, than their average customer. Harvard Business Review has shown that the number one measure of profitability is the degree customers refer the brand.

Our own research has shown that zealots can outperform the typical “heavy spending” hotel guest by 50%. How? Those passionate about their experience(s) will spread the word an average of 4.2 times in the hospitality category. That is free and very credible marketing at work.

Some quick ways to start delighting your guests and convert them to zealots:

* Define your targets in non-Expedia terms.

* Build pricing buckets and value – based on season and experience.

* Have a dialog with your guests instead of eblasting them. Social media is a terrific vehicle in that regard.

* Build programs from the perspective of your guests.

* Integrate. Through all touchpoints. Yes, you’ll have to collaborate with operations and F&B and even accounting. Sorry!

Building your brand through zealots is not only perhaps the most economical means of fundamental marketing, it is the surest path to long-term sales success.

Who are your Zealots?

© Copyright 2009 Michael Tyre served in senior management positions for leading advertising agencies, before founding Guest Relations Marketing in 2006. Tyre was selected as one of “25 Most Engaging Minds in Hospitality” by HSMAI in 2008. Tyre authored the innovative “zealotry marketing” approach through Guest Relations Marketing, culminating more than a decade of research and strategic brand work for such hospitality clients as The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Mauna Lani Resort, Hotels & Resorts of Halekulani, and West Paces Hotel Group. His passion is developing programs that create more zealots for clients. Tyre is a zealot for Apple and the Atlanta Braves among others.

To learn more about Zealotry Marketing and Guest Relations Marketing visit www.guestrelationsmarketing.com. Contact: Michael Tyre, Guest Relations Marketing

Phone: 404-343-4377

Email: mtyre@guestrelationsmarketing.com

Blog: www.zealotrymarketing.com

Twitter: @findingzealots

Hollrr is a relatively new site devoted to referral.  Unlike other organic referrals or recommendations found on the web, Hollrr brashly solicits endorsements through reviews, referrals and other tactics and will pay cash for the efforts.

From Hollrr: “Social Media totally changes what effective advertising should be. Why should you believe a company that tells you their brand is good… when you can listen to the Twittersphere and find out exactly what users think of that brand?”

Social media does not change what effective advertising should be.   Effective advertising has always been about being authentic, credible, distinctive and often, giving consumers a different way to look at a product or service.

BzzAgent has been successful as a grassroots referral promotion for new products.   But, using social media as the primary platform opens up a company for severe backlash if referral is driven by promotional payouts instead of real, felt experiences.

Incidentally, Hollrr is ranked by Alexa as the number 266,263 website.

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Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guest to Zealots

People naturally cheer on the local team.   It’s hard to get excited and support the global headquarters in Duluth, Minnesota, if you are living in Texas.   Which is why many manufacturers are trying to go “local.”   For instance, Frito Lay is now promoting that it sources its potatoes and processes them into chips in Florida.  “This is celebrating the notion of community,” says Dave Sekena, Frito Lay’s VP of Marketing.

Give your zealots something to connect to .., either in their local community or through a personal contact point.   And, if you can’t come to them, then send the tour to them.  Zealots love behind-the-scenes events.   And, the value to a company is these experiences provide fodder for new conversations from Zealots to their community.

Are YOU a Zealot?

Of course you are! We are ALL Zealots for something. Whether you’re a Zealot for a brand, a person, a place or a thing – whatever it is share with us your story with a quick comment below.

Click here to see what the folks at Guest Relations Marketing are Zealots for (click About Us > Our Contributing Team).

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