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The airlines frequent flyer points program was hailed as the marketing program of the decade when it was introduced. Their program is held up by many as the ultimate “loyalty” program.  Is that really so?

Airline frequent flyer programs and other similar points or frequency programs don’t really drive zealotry action.  Why?  Consumers understand that they must perform – take certain actions, make certain purchases, jump through proverbial hoops in order to earn rewards.

On the other hand, think about the last time you received something unexpected. The waiter who comes to the table with an appetizer “compliments of the chef?” The fresh flowers upon check-in to your hotel room?  Your car freshly washed and detailed after a service appointment?

Which action engenders more loyalty – collecting points for a purchase or the unexpected touch?   Which one are you more likely to talk about or share with others?

The name of the game in Zealotry Marketing is referral.  It is clear to us that unexpected delights (or rewards) are much greater motivators of true guest retention than most so-called “loyalty” programs.  Consumers understand that earned programs offer value.  If I make multiple purchases, I gain additional value.  But, touches or actions that are unexpected create delight that is the basis of referral and Zealotry action.

Zealotry Marketing requires analytics, strategy, target understanding and creativity.  In short, it is not a simple or linear marketing play.

Many look at one marketing tactic or read one stat and draw conclusions on marketing effectiveness as a result.   In fact, marketing is an integrated and complex process.  Some aspects take seed and deliver results more quickly than others.  The operational connection, the level of service, the strength of competition, the passion/need for the product offered are just some of the variables.

All too often, though, marketing is reduced to a one-dimensional consideration or measure.  That’s simply not the case and many companies undersell their potential for results as a result.

This principle has been reinforced in a recent book – Think Twice, Harnessing the Power of Counterintuition – by Michael Mauboussin.   He takes on popular business author, Malcolm Gladwell.  Gladwell’s book, Blink, promotes decisions should be made on gut reactions on instinct, or in a “blink.”  Mauboussin takes a different approach – that you need to think twice before you act.  Bad decisions are made by not taking advantage of information and analysis and moving too fast.

Mauboussin could well be writing about how to develop a successful zealotry marketing program.

Small businesses find it hard to compete with larger competitors particularly in media.   And marketing dollars are at an even greater premium.  Then, why are more than three-quarters of small businesses not taking advantage of social media – the exploding frontier of consumer engagement AND relatively cost free?

Small-business owners are not making the trek to social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, but are slowly dipping their toes into Internet waters, according to a new Citibank/GfK Roper survey.

The study found 76 percent of small-business owners polled were not using social media or finding it helpful in generating business leads during the last year, and 86 percent said the did not use such sites to get advice or information.

“Our survey suggests that small-business owners are still feeling their way into social media, particularly when it comes to using these tools to grow their businesses,” said Maria Veltre, executive vice president of Citi’s Small Business Segment. “While social media can provide additional channels to network and help grow a business, many small businesses may not have the manpower or the time required take advantage of them.”

Many businesses have already recognized their best manner of review, referral and activating their zealots is through social media platforms.   Because business owners do not have time to engage in these sites does not mean their best customers and prospects are not doing so.   Small businesses need to rethink their attitude to this new media or run the risk of becoming less competitive from a marketing standpoint.

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Let me start by saying that I’m a Zealot for Publix, so posting on Kroger is certainly not something I’ll plan to do often. However, this article on loyalty got my attention.

They say the cost to acquire a new customer is five to ten times more than keeping a current customer. Kroger has done the math and dedicated themselves to creating loyal customers by creating more than people just looking for a discount.

Read the below excerpt from Tim Manner’s “reveries” blog. What do you think? Is Kroger creating loyal customers? Are they building Zealots for their brand?

“We don’t need to draw in others who don’t shop with us because the biggest opportunity is with our loyal customers,” says Kroger chief David Dillon in a Cincinnati Enquirer article by Laura Braverman (10/8/09). David says Kroger realized this almost ten years ago, and has been on a path ever since “to put the customer first, and permanently.” Most famously, Kroger engaged with London-based dunnhumby to build a database of 45 million shoppers, using the data to “create advertising campaigns and provide targeted coupons to its most loyal customers.”

Click here to read the full story

For more on Zealotry Marketing, visit us at GuestRelationsMarketing.com

While there are many differences between not-for-profit and for-profit businesses, there is one thing that remains the same – they both require funding for programs and both face increasing competition for those dollars.

September is designated as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Historically, CURE Childhood Cancer has done little to promote this to their followers or local market.

Despite the terrible economic times of 2009 and no budget for external media, Guest Relations Marketing developed a fund-raising program for CURE to coincide with the national promotion.

The Promotion

The aim of the CURE fundraising program was simple: to honor 30 kids, one for each day in the month of September, with each committed to raising $1,000 to benefit CURE Childhood Cancer. The promotion centered around capitalizing on the momentum of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness and money for CURE to help fund their mission, as well as honoring children who have personally had childhood cancer.

CURE reached out to families and received an overwhelming response to those wanting to participate, share their child’s story and reach out to their communities. In total, we honored 57 children throughout the month of September – some had beat the disease, some were in the midst of treatments, some had lost the battle.  Each family shared their own touching story and child’s photo.

Online and social media drove the promotion from a marketing standpoint. A page was created on the brand website, and each child featured on the homepage for “their day.” A personal fundraising page was created for each child on FirstGiving (an online donations website), where their personal story & photo was shared with the world. On their day, each child was also featured on the CURE Blog, as well as on Twitter (@CUREchildcancer) and Facebook Page.  The families also had the option to submit a list of email contacts to receive a series of 3 emails leading up to their child’s day to further help keep it top-of-mind.

The Results

The results were overwhelming! By identifying and activating the Zealots for CURE Childhood Cancer, we were able to engage new groups of people in a personal & connected way. The communications and participation was personal and motivating. And, the fact that it was driven purely by social media is truly a testament to the power of referral and creating viral communities.

  • Children honored: 57
  • Funds raised: +$171,000 (nearly 5.5 times more than our goal of $30,000)
  • 2,204 individual donors in the month of September alone (nearly as many as for 2008 in total)
  • September 2009 the most successful month of all-time for individual donations for CURE
  • Brand website Visitors grew by 30%
  • Page Views were 7.25 times higher
  • Facebook Fans increased by 27%
  • Email database grew by 41%
  • Twitter followers increased by 6.5 times

We know that activating “zealots” is the surest practice of marketing.  It is gratifying to see it come to fruition for such a noble cause as CURE Childhood Cancer. See more at curechildhoodcancer.org.

You can visit us online at Guest Relations Marketing.

It finally hit home for me.

We often get into passionate dissertations about programs to delight a client’s zealots, enlist new ones, create more distinctive experiences. Very often we are cut off with the comment, “I just need more sales.” I often feel deflated and walk away wondering is creating zealotry actions really just a mirage and at the end of the day is it really more important to “get more sales?”

Well, Stan Stainaker of Hub Culture, writing in the Harvard Business Review bloglines has reaffirmed my commitment to Zealotry Marketing. Stan talks about the idea of regeneration instead of growth at all costs. He notes that processes, capabiliites and new offerings are another way of growth. And, like cells, some die away, while others grow or prosper.

In fact, isn’t that what zealots want to hear? They don’t care that you are growing at all costs. They care that you are nurturing, expanding and delivering on those points that are vital to why they are zealots in the first place. So, redefine growth. Think “regenerate”. Regenerate your business consistency around your most passionate customers – your zealots. They will get the word out.

Read Stan Stainaker’s article

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?

Here at Guest Relations Marketing we take great pride in crafting our marketing programs around the Zealots for our clients brands. Those who are most passionate supporters – what they love, how they engage, what they share – and develop a directed program that goes beyond traditional marketing into the realms of word-0f-mouth, buzz, online & social, service & operations, direct and CRM.

Below is one such example from a recent client project, so you may see the results for yourself. We’d love to show you a more in-depth look at our Zealotry Social Media Programs.

Case Study
– Online sales on their website more than doubled year over year

– Their database tripled in size year over year

– Intimate community of Facebook Fans, more than doubling the number of Fans since the beginning of 2009, which currently ranks as the top #3 referring site driving traffic to the brand website

– An on-going branded blog which currently ranks as the #4 top referring site driving traffic to the brand website

– E-communications success with Open Rates of 20 – 25% and Click Thru Rates of 16 – 38%, well above industry standards, including continued “Forward to a Friend” referrals

– Overall Zealotry actions established to encourage word-of-mouth, referral, buzz, promotion and sales. For example, a recent online-only  on-going promotion marketed purely on Facebook involved current Fans sharing the brand with their network of friends to take action, which resulted in a self-propelling effort which generates on-going revenue with little to no on-going marketing efforts from the brand.

When looking for and growing the Zealots for your own brand, don’t look to far. Start first by looking at the employees of your company, those that are representing and living the brand each and every day. Zealotry should start here.

From a feature by Cool News it is easy to see the Four Seasons gets this concept.

“Workers, he says, are vital assets who should be treated accordingly. At most hotel companies, he notes, housekeepers, cooks, bell staff, waiters and clerks are often the lowest paid and ‘the least motivated people.’ But at the Four Seasons, those who might otherwise be considered the most expendable ‘had to come first,’ because they were the ones ‘who could make or break a five-star service reputation’.”

Involving and engaging your employees in your brand – from the lowest to the highest ranks – will ensure without a doubt they are spreading the good word to their peers. Constantly educating, from brand history to the latest news and developments, will empower your people to tell your story both to current guests and to potential guests as well.

Are your employees Zealots? How have you engaged your staff?

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

Social media is exploding.  It is gaining participants daily, it is a low cost touchpoint, it allows interactivity and it has a high degree of credibility. Zealots are driving social media.  So, it’s a natural that Guest Relations Marketing create programs that engage this unique new “media.”

After some terrific results in a couple of client trials, Guest Relations Marketing is introducing a stand-alone Zealotry social media program.  In our experience, it simply outperforms any other media buy.   Our model customizes the social media placement and messaging to your specific needs; we handle all content and placements on a daily basis (ask us why this is critical) and it has measurable results.  Most importantly, our program is designed to maximize leveraging your zealots into referrals and extended prospect communities.

As an incentive to be an early adopter (Zealot) of our program, we will waive the set-up fee for the first five companies who sign on.

Please call or email  Mike Tyre to request further information at 404-343-4377.

There is a window of opportunity and it is right now:  93% of consumers believe companies should have a presence in social media;  78% of marketing professionals believe there is a competitive opportunity in social media; yet less than 8% of on-line marketing activities is allocated to social media.

You can jump ahead of your competitors and avoid set-up fees by signing up today!

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

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