Attract customers with personality not information

Valentines day looms again in all its heart shaped madness.

According to a recent survey by the Retail and Marketing Association, 53% of American women would end their relationship if they didn't get something on Valentines Day.  Who are these people?! Would they really be so shallow as to dump their partners for not conforming to this marketing ruse?

Could it be that we're all getting so jaded by marketing overload, that we long for something to break the routine? The unexpected.  The marvellous. The extraordinary.

Perhaps it comes down to the element of surprise, after all, even those who argue that they hate surprises, would be hard pushed not to feel touched when they discover there's no charge for their coffee, or their company has catered lunch rather than leaving them to starve through their midday meeting.

Simple acts of kindness make great stories.  We share them.  They shape our brand perception. They make an emotional connection with us that remains long after the event.  Like the sweets that accompany the restaurant bill, every little unexpected joy makes us like your company more, turning us from happy customers into loyal fans.

It doesn't have to be hearts and flowers this month, but what could you be doing to surprise and delight?

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Marketing tips from unlikely sources - Hairdressers

dog, afro, hairdressers, marketing

This post in one in a series, where I take a break from my usual rantings, to consider the marketing lessons which lurk right under our noses.

Other random observations can be found here - dog breeders, cinemas, children and even Father Christmas - enjoy.


Hairdressers in various forms have been around for centuries, perfecting a customer service model which most online brands could benefit from replicating.  Bear with me and all will be made clear.

1. It's not about you

Steven Covey famously said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  In other words, I don't really care about your business, I want to know what's in it for me.  Hairdressers get this.  You show up, take the chair and the first thing the stylist typically asks is 'what are we doing today?' Instantly you (the customer) are in the driving seat, talking about your wants and needs, not listening to what the salon has to sell.

Once you've told them what prompted your visit they'll begin to make suggestions, which either stretch your comfort zone (how about a restyle) or reassure you that they can solve your problem (your frizz will be returned to glory in no time).  Stylists know what they're capable of, but they want their customers to feel in control of the process. They make it personal.  Do you?

2. Think beyond your main product

Sure you'll get your haircut, but to keep that feel good factor high, what about a drink, free wifi, a glossy magazine and possibly even a head massage. Hairdressers want their customers to be continually reassured that they've made the right choice and these little extras all help with our self talk (yes I am worth it, maybe I should also get a manicure, they care about me and I like this experience, so I should book my next session now.)

Customers may set out to address a specific problem, through that oh so important keyword search, but ultimately we're easily distracted by things we find along the way.  What about a free ebook, sign up to the newsletter, buy your ticket now?  Customers decide what's valuable to them and it's probably not your main service that keeps them coming back for more.

3. Build a relationship

Hairdressers often find themselves as confidants.  Their loyal clientele share the minutia of everyday life, revelling in an honesty which can only come from looking your worst in a mirror filled room. Over time, we take advice on not just hair related matters, but on what to watch and read, the restaurants to book, holidays to take - you get the idea.

It's that all important trust factor, which turns passing trade into repeat customers.  It makes you the 'go to'.  It keeps you top of mind, so you're the first person to be recommended.  Seth Godin wrote a whole book around the concept of permission marketing which is well worth a read.

Do you manage your customers to the point of sale and then skip into the sunset, or do you have a relationship which creates a loyal following?  Social media has made it easier than ever to engage with customers - ignore it at your peril.

4. Inspire your customers

Hairdressers change their hair on a regular basis.  Between visits my stylist goes from short to long, blonde to pink and throws in a perm, just to show what's possible.  While I suspect myself and 99% of her customers get 'the usual' every time they visit, it doesn't mean we don't appreciate the variety.

Sometimes we just want to know that someone is keeping on top of the latest trends so we don't have to.  Could you curate third party posts or produce a regular top 10 list of what's hot for your industry? Also think about how your brand is currently perceived and what you could be doing to show you're at the cutting edge (every pun intended).

5. Have some check out extra's

Running low on shampoo?  Have you tried this fabulous new ...?  Wallet in hand to pay for the main event, it's very easy to add a little extra to the bill.  In our minds we prolong the joy by taking something tangible home and we trust the recommendations of those who've just brought our tired locks back to life.  Hairdressers use our feel good high, to raise their revenues, while we interpret it as extra attention to our needs.

When your customers check out, do you send them a boring old thank you page, or do you return a list of further reading links, downloads, surprise discounts etc.  The last impression is often as important as the first, especially when you want customers to bookmark your site.  Make it memorable.

Hairdressers build experiences, (Osadia take this to new limits).  The most successful ones entertain, inform and inspire in equal measure. Let's stop sharing information and create businesses which touch our customers and keep them coming back for more.

Don't know how?  Ask me.


Customer dis-service

As everyone predicted, yesterday was the biggest online shopping day so far, as we all rushed to splurge on that perfect gift. I joined that rush. I found the perfect gift, paid my money and got my online receipt. Then today I received an email which said

In the interest of online payment protection, please respond to this email to confirm that you as the Paypal account holder placed the order.
Your order will now be held for 48 hours from the date at the top of this email. Failure to verify this order will result in the order being cancelled and a full refund will be processed.

Call me old fashioned but this seems to be the equivalent of being held at the store exit until I show my passport. I'm a new customer. I stumbled onto their site, bought a rather expensive gift and should be on my way to a wave of monumental customer service, designed to build my loyalty and secure repeat business. Instead, my first 'touch' from this company is one which doubts my humanity.

At this time of year when everyone is a little bit more frazzled than usual, we all have a great opportunity to win new business and pamper our existing customers. Imagine if your website was a physical store. How would your assistants behave?
  1. Can you look and buy products without registering?
  2. Is the Search button obvious to find and easy to use?
  3. Do you ask for the same information twice when you could prepopulate?
  4. Does your content read like an instruction manual or sound like you're having a conversation with your visitor?
  5. Do you say thank you for their custom and then keep them engaged with other links to follow?
Bring back the ho ho ho this season or risk finding yourself on Santa's naughty list.


Kill your customer service with social media

Most of my marketing experience has come from B2B (business to business) scenarios, but recently the distinction between B2B and B2C (business to customer) has become really blurred. Afterall, marketing is ultimately human to human and we're all customers.

Those who think of themselves at B2C have been quick to adopt social media, as a natural extension of their customer service. They get the chance to engage and showcase their brand. A great way to position themselves and demonstrate their companies personality. All well and good, until it bites them.

I was the customer on two occasions this week, with very different outcomes. Firstly I ordered some christmas cards from the little known but rather lovely They shipped as I ordered, but parcelforce failed to deliver. As the days went past, I emailed postcarden and their customer service couldn't have been better. They chased parcelforce on my behalf, proactively emailed me to tell me what was happening every step of the way and offered to send someone round to personally deliver my cards if the lost package couldn't be found. They tweeted what was happening too. I was very impressed.

Contast this, with big brand Waterstones. Inspired by Mary Portas to support the High Street, I went in store and bought 3 books. So far, so good. On return home I checked the site and discovered to my horror that had I purchased on line, the same books would have been £40 cheaper! I tweeted to Waterstones. No response. I took my complaint to their Facebook wall. This time I got a reply, which basically said, it was standard practice to charge more in store, as online they had to stay competitive!!!!

I wonder which brand I'll be telling all my friends about for all the right reasons, and which brand I will be boycotting in the future?!

In a world were perception is 99% reality, it doesn't matter how big brands are anymore, or whether they're B2B or B2C, your customers will judge you on how you treat them on or offline.

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