Should we be marketing during COVID-19 or giving it a rest?

should we be marketing during COVID-19 or not

Should we be marketing during COVID-19 or giving it a rest?

2 min read

should we be marketing during COVID-19

This week we’ve been reviewing and in some cases, pausing planned content for our professional services clients.

Why? Because some topics, had we proceeded, may have been perceived as poorly timed or insensitive given the current climate. For instance, an article and social media content we were due to publish for a law firm client about death and wills, albeit helpful, can wait for now…

The default response for many businesses will be that they ‘go quiet’ on the marketing front, largely because management will be dealing with other immediate issues like working from home plans and policies or cash-flow forecasting to ensure they can weather and plan for the changes ahead.

Many of you will have seen the meme below:

No alt text provided for this image

It’s funny and it’s true.

The businesses who have had zero communications with us for months or years at a time are coming out of the woodwork to let us all know what they are doing to keep business going. Yes it’s to alert their clients and keep their teams employed. It’s real and it’s important but relevancy is everything. I believe we’ll see mass unsubscribe rates if there’s been no consistency of communication in the lead up to these announcements.

Without being alarmist, now is the time to plan and strategise for your business to be more visible, more than before. Not necessarily urgent, high-frequency content but calm, measured messaging that helps existing clients as well as prospects. Content that educates them, at the right intervals, about what they need to know or do…essentially bite-sized pieces of relevant information – particularly important when the world is experiencing significant change.

These strategies are not strategies to be rushed and executed within a few hours, but planned with careful consideration over a week or two. It’s time to be proactive instead of being reactive. It’s time to be strategically visible. 

by Mel Telecican, Head Strategist, Loyalest

Loyalest is proud to be accredited with ActiveCampaign for enterprise level CRM, sales and marketing automation

Discussion: Personalised Automation. An oxymoron?

personalised automation an oxymoron

Discussion: Personalised Automation. An oxymoron?

4 min read

personalised automation an oxymoron

When I talk about personalised automation in the professional services space, more often than not, someone will ask (while laughing), ‘Isn’t that an oxymoron?’ and yes, the perception in some circles is certainly that. It’s a valid observation in some cases as I’ll explain. But in terms of how I see it, it can be used positively and I like to share a range of examples that people don’t often recognise as personalised automation.

In my professional services space webinars and workshops, I illustrate examples of business websites where they give the audience exactly what the audience need when they visit their site. Not the basics like location or contact info. More detailed information like solving an element of the actual problem they have in the moment they have it.

Clearly that can’t be done in all circumstances. Everyone’s situation is different and as professionals it would be unwise to claim that all of the answers can be provided right there and then. What I’m referring to is developing rapport with people as though they are with you or a team member. Developing a degree of connection that you would in-person. More than what is currently experienced online. Businesses that can do this allow their prospects to take another step closer to choosing them over their competitors.

Consider this for a moment; when people are seeking information about an area of need, they are not always ready to engage your services. Perhaps they will be in a month, six months or even a year or two in some cases. If you are the source of knowledge for them now, you will be the business of choice to engage when it’s time.

Personalised automation as an oxymoron? Here’s where they could be right – Ever been asked to answer some questions on a website only to be taken down a long path of way too many questions? Personally, more often than not, I give up because it feels like they’re asking too much. I don’t know this business, these people and it feels like it’s a guise to create a file on me. I just want some questions answered, not the other way around.

Personalisation as an oxymoron? Why they should be wrong. Personalised automation in professional services should be about asking one or two questions about a client’s immediate state. Providing them some information based on those responses and then offering them options from there. Timing of this information is important too. Pushy sales copy is transparent and old school. Strategic and gentle is the only way. 

I’m not saying slow and sluggish – I’m talking helpful. If they’re ready, great! Get them into an appointment and let’s get the ball rolling. If they’re not, let’s nurture them through the process until they are.

Integral to all of this is the starting point. Those first few questions. How you segment the traffic visiting your website is key. Do you have a starting point on your site or are you only asking prospects to ‘contact us’, fill in a contact form or worse, subscribe to that boring newsletter?

by Mel Telecican, Head Strategist, Loyalest

Loyalest is proud to be accredited with ActiveCampaign for enterprise level CRM, sales and marketing automation

Professional Services and the Sales Conversation

professional services sales conversation

Professional Services and the Sales Conversation​

4 min read

Sales conversations aren’t something most would immediately connect to businesses in professional services, but of course they happen, perhaps a little less overtly than in other industries. Each time you have the first consultation with a prospective client, that is the time you can make an impact or leave them indecisive about choosing your business over another.

Some time ago I was researching online and came across an article detailing some of Mercedes Benz’s customer experience discoveries and improvements.

The most startling of all of the content was this sentence.

‘Another thing Cannon (CEO at the time) learned early on was that 70% of employees had never driven a Mercedes Benz.’

Imagine that. A stalwart of the automotive industry not having the majority of it’s people understand the experience of the cars they sell each day? Admiring these vehicles, cleaning them, perhaps sitting inside as they outline the benefits and customisable features to potential buyers. But, never driving it. It seems almost unfathomable that they wouldn’t have realised the value in going beyond educating staff on the features and benefits of their range to include experiencing it. So, it appears that even the most iconic, established and successful have overlooked the value of product knowledge on a deeper level. The whole customer experience.

Using the example of eating out, as it’s one we have all experienced, I nearly always ask wait staff to tell me about their favourite dishes. At least 50 per cent of the time it’s clear they’ve not tried much of the menu. It becomes a very different experience though when I walk out of a venue knowing the unique way the chef makes a dish or that the coffee beans are from a sustainable source that provides resources for children of the farming community. When I’ve been told about it, it’s all knowledge I walk away with and if I find value in it, I’m likely to tell my family and friends about it too – creating a connection of sorts with the business or brand.

Knowing your clients, what excites them, what motivates them to return to you over your competitors and to tell others about your business is part of this discovery process. However determining what it is that we don’t yet know about what we sell, is key. We can easily change that and in turn, have an opportunity to offer a richer, more positive client experience.

So, I encourage you to take a look within your business and ask:

  • What would an honest assessment of your current team’s product knowledge and service capabilities tell you?
  • Do your staff have only a surface-level understanding of your products and services? Is this because they’ve never experienced it to the full extent? Is there room to discover more?
  • When and how often will you create opportunities for your staff to test and talk about the products and services you offer?
  • Are the messages you share with your clients consistent? Does everyone in your the team ‘speak the same language’?

For Mercedes Benz, this discovery and the subsequent actions resulting from it, improved staff engagement and refined the sales conversation. Imagine the difference in conversation with a salesperson telling you the beauty of driving a Mercedes versus the sharing their story of having experienced a Mercedes.

Product and service knowledge is vital; experience knowledge even more so. How will you help your team experience what it feels like to be in the driver’s seat of your product or service?

by Mel Telecican, Head Strategist, Loyalest

Loyalest is proud to be accredited with ActiveCampaign for enterprise level CRM, sales and marketing automation

What is Customer Journey Mapping?

what is customer journey mapping

What is Customer Journey Mapping?

7 min read

what is customer journey mapping

Customer Journey Mapping is what the title suggests, but is far more dynamic than you may think. If you are reading this and think, I know what this is, I challenge you to test your knowledge about the process in it’s entirety.

In the simplest sense, it is about identifying the true customer experience (CX). It’s about your clients perceive their experience with your business and the documentation of each interaction a client has along the path of doing business with you.

Presently, we’re in what’s known as the ‘Age Of The Customer’ and everything we use is testament to this need to be user-friendly (think tablets, phones, wearable technology). While many businesses market themselves as the people who care for their client and walk in their shoes, the truth is, most of them are all talk. Why? Because most business owners not only think, but truly believe they are completely in-tune with their client’s needs. The great opportunity for businesses lies in their willingness to test whether their assumptions are in fact, accurate.

The possibilities that exist for both subtle and significant change in the client experience can be identified through customer journey mapping as a process. There are multiple approaches in how it can be implemented but essentially, customer journey mapping when completed in full, does five things. It:

  1. Identifies the current customer experience from awareness of need through to referrals
  2. Validates or disproves elements of the existing/current journey
  3. Identifies weak spots across the experience
  4. Creates a plan for an ideal customer journey; and
  5. Puts the plan into action.

A journey map isn’t done across a whole business, it is done one product or service at a time. The pain points of a client who uses one service offered by your business goes through a different process to that of another service, even if they are linked or often put together.

The customer journey mapping process is most effective when created with a team of employees along with the owners. Leaving this to management alone in a business can be problematic. Mapping out the touch points of the customer experience will be most accurately documented when a range of roles weigh in on what they perceive the client experience to be.

How Is It Done?

Importantly, a customer journey map is very detailed. It starts by mapping out, usually on a wall for everyone to see, all of the stages, actions, thoughts and feelings we believe our customer experiences when they do business with us.

The customer journey commonly begins with what’s known as the ‘investigation’ or ‘awareness’ stage. This is when your ‘ideal client’  is seeking what you offer, is aware you offer it and learns more about how your business delivers it. This is often followed by ‘exploring’ other options available to them.

Then comes ‘engaging’ your business to provide the service/s.

Finally the client goes through the various steps required to ‘complete’ the process with you.

All this rounds out with your post-engagement phase, detailing any process you have in place to re-engage with them for additional service or to promote recommendations and referrals.

journey-mappingLaw firm staff collaboratively mapping out the client journey from beginning to end.

Once completed, the customer journey map is a perspective that needs to be confirmed or disproved using qualitative and quantitative data. Collating evidence through client interviews and quantitative data such as webpage-visit results is helpful in determining whether your ideal clients are truly performing the mapped actions. Validating your mapped discoveries is essential for future improvements.

Next, the areas ripe for improvement are then identified and prioritised based on the business’ goals. Strategies for each area are then mapped into a new map, that is often called the ideal or future-state client journey map. Finally, the plan is then implemented and growth is monitored and measured.

Getting It Right

What is common in almost all customer journey mapping workshops is that it is hard to maintain the perspective of the client, purely because employees are used to seeing the task or process from their perspective. Having a third party facilitate the mapping process allows an outside-in perspective – fresh eyes to validate, question and challenge their thinking further.

Working through this process and including a range of people from across a department or business, provides an opportunity to develop understanding and empathy for your clients. When empathy is realised, collectively a team is more likely to be more understanding and mindful of their client’s position and needs.

Outcomes of The Customer Experience Journey Mapping Process

The obvious outcome is for clients to enjoy a seamless experience with your business, despite the nature of the service. Even a lawyer who is unable to win their client a case can still have that client become an advocate for their business. An experience that means they will drive business to you by either returning for additional products/services and/or referring others to you.

Depending on the goals you set out to achieve as a result of this mapping process, the benefits can be not as obvious and more far-ranging. For example; it often provides staff the opportunities to refine processes, reduces double handling of tasks, and increases productivity. It provides a cohesiveness between teams as they are all ‘on the same page’ in their understanding of the process, their client’s needs and the accompanying requirements.

For management or owners, the benefits extend to increased client retention, clarity on areas requiring focus to reduce friction when aiming to convert prospects to clients and an improved flow of new clients.

In addition, advertising spend is no longer attributed to marketing that is ineffective, client acquisition costs are reduced and revenue increased as a result of the repeat and referral business.

Mapping a customer journey to drive growth is a largely untapped strategy; particularly in professional services. Few businesses investigate and map out their client’s experience; and it’s those that do, differentiate themselves in a competitive market. Furthermore it is a strategy that no competitor can simply copy from others (unlike most advertising and marketing campaigns). This is an internal growth strategy that is specific to one business’ clients and is not easily replicable.

What are you doing to enhance your client’s experience?

by Mel Telecican, Head Strategist, Loyalest

Loyalest is proud to be accredited with ActiveCampaign for enterprise level CRM, sales and marketing automation

I Googled ‘Accountant’ And This Is What I Learned

Professional Services and the Sales Conversation

10 min read

I decided to search online for accountants in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. I’m no website or SEO expert, but rather a person who happens to be looking (or more accurately, googling) for a new accountant. I personally chose to only look at the businesses in the top 5 with organic ranking. That is, those that are not paying to appear on the first page of the search results.

Being an advocate for CX (client experience) in professional services, I have a great interest in this on many levels so I thought I’d put my personal need for an accountant in Brisbane to broader use, and share my findings.

The objectives were to identify why they naturally sit so high in rank and most importantly, which firm would resonate with me, and the reasons why.

Websites are usually our first touch point when we are in the ‘awareness’ phase – the moment we identify a need for that specific service, followed by the ‘investigation’ phase. It doesn’t matter whether the business is a referral from a trusted source or not – typically we start the selection process by investigating our options online.

After investigating those businesses recommended to us in addition to those on the first page of the search, many of us will narrow the selection down to three. From there we might make enquiries or commit to booking an appointment.

While I am well aware that I am not the target market for each of the businesses I researched, I do however, have an opinion on what makes for a great homepage. Your business has only seconds to make a connection with the viewer in a way that gets them to spend more time there and to take that important step towards making an initial appointment with you.

I collated what I perceive to be working against some of the fifteen websites, and more importantly, working for them. I recorded my thoughts as I browsed the sites. Let’s start with what to avoid.

The Negatives:

  • Confusing homepages. I assume that these text heavy pages are to assist in raising the ranking of the site in relevant search results (SEO) but with so many sections to read, pages like these feel crowded and I don’t know where to start, let alone end.
  • Push Marketing over Pull Marketing. There are calls to action, mostly directives to ‘contact us’, ‘get in touch’ and ‘call us’. Most of them saying they’re ‘here to help’ however only seven of the fifteen sites offered any additional information in exchange for contact details. All promising to deliver expert advice but with no evidence or ease of access.
  • “Subscribe to our newsletter.” I believe this commonly-incorporated section is the least effective way to get people to subscribe. I’m all for a direct call-to-action but at the very least it’s a good idea to outline an amazing benefit they’ll get as a result of signing up.Try calling it something other than a ‘newsletter’ too; give it a name that says ‘I need this’ rather than encouraging what I call a big, hearty ‘newsletter yawn’.
  • Content from the archives. It’s a good idea to keep past newsletters within a website for SEO purposes, but putting up a barrier by making people sign up to access them is unwise. Anything that is effectively old content (small in volume like a newsletter) should be readily accessible.
  • Contradictory statements or imagery. Inconsistency and overuse of stock photography (licensed images as opposed to your own) can leave visitors confused. One such homepage contained images of a luxury sports car in a formal European setting followed by images of coastal Australian property, yet at the bottom of the page it read ‘Accountants with Soul’. When phrases used don’t connect with anything else on the page, the visitor to the site isn’t likely to feel a connection either.
  • Carbon Copy Competitors. Many of the sites used very similar language. Take away the stock images and the logos and there doesn’t seem to be much difference between them. I understand that for businesses in the same market there will more than likely be overlapping content however cut-through comes when your home page site ‘speaks’ to your prospects. When a business uses the language of their clients, they are in a league of their own.
  • Not having a mobile responsive site. I came across two sites with very valuable content that weren’t responsive to mobile devices. The 2016 Internet Trends Report suggests that searches on mobile devices has surpassed PC and laptop search. Not having a mobile responsive site is a surefire way to miss out on new clients.  

The Positives:

What stands out when narrowing down a selection.

  • Being Generous. Homepages with free knowledge and insights – blogs, videos, checklists, ebooks etc (one Brisbane firm even a offered an online course.). These free tools and tips go a long way in developing trust and credibility whilst meeting the initial needs of your potential clients.
  • Win-Win Requests. Rather than calls-to-action such as “contact us to learn more” and requesting full contact details, “Find out how much you can save” and “Are You Paying Too Much Tax?” evoke a more positive response. Prospects are more likely to enter their information when they feel confident there is value in the exchange.
  • Video. A Sydney firm had what they call their ‘Cultural Principles Film’. Being well positioned on their homepage meant I was drawn to watch it. Initially I thought I would grow tired of it and exit, but found myself very quickly immersed in their story. The employees of the firm talked of their work and home life; and the way they do things at the firm. The dialogue sounded unscripted and natural. It’s elegant delivery meant I perceive it as a high performing, top-end firm but one with it’s feet firmly on the ground.
  • Options. Giving people the opportunity to book an appointment online is becoming increasingly valuable. One Sydney firm provided a simple booking platform and an alternative option – to ‘answer your question’ online. A gentler way to connect without creating a feeling of obligation but encouraging a step in their direction nevertheless.
  • Testimonials. Most businesses have these however they are often buried deep within a website. Meaningful comments that talk to the common pain points of your target market and to the solution or result are better than empty praise. Place the best testimonial on the homepage.
  • Reciprocity. Incorporating your business’ connection to a community group or charity breeds interest and speaks volumes about a business and it’s people. Chances are you already contribute in some way, so including a tab on your page with your involvement will give a ‘taste’ of the culture that exists within the business.
  • Being Human. While some sites stated they offer personal service, one business in Brisbane put the focus on the team with an image of them all. The language used within the first page feels as though it’s from people who know how to communicate with non-accountants. Jargon-free and warm, friendly conversational language that feels like they are ‘the real deal’. I got this feeling because they ‘let me in’ by and talked to their strengths. The ‘same-old, same-old’ language found in most of the other sites is bolstered by the authentic feel of their personality.

Comparing the first point of contact of these businesses highlighted for me how easily we can get caught up in the professional image we think we should portray. In fact, I believe what has happened for many of these sites is that they are confusing client needs for industry expectations. Industry language is everywhere and while you may need it for keyword search, try peppering it with the personality of your firm and using language in a way that makes your client feel that their needs are understood.

If you and your team do things differently, bring focus to how you do that. When we read websites ourselves, we know we are reading advertising content. The imagery and copy included must connect with us in some way. Talking with your best clients and using the words they use to describe your business can be a good starting point to optimise this.

Your homepage content may be one of the key obstacles to more prospects not taking that next step to making contact with your firm. Do what it takes to make it easy for people to want to take that next step to make an appointment.

by Mel Telecican, Head Strategist, Loyalest

Loyalest is proud to be accredited with ActiveCampaign for enterprise level CRM, sales and marketing automation

Want More Clients?  Here’s Where To Start

Want More Clients?
Here’s Where To Start

5 min read

You know your services are better than your competitors but does your target market know this too? If you’ve established your team as the trusted, go-to people in your space and you’re flooded with new enquiries then there’s no need to read on. If not, there are some opportunities within your business already that you may not be capitalising on.

Reach Your Target Market

When you advertise in newspapers, on radio or billboards you’re paying for the reach that medium has – a broad spectrum of people who may or may not need your services. If you’ve written journal articles, they can go a long way in establishing you as a thought leader in your field but can be slow means for client acquisition. Advertising is a costly way to reach your potential clients and very expensive in the case when it serves as a reminder to past clients that you’re there when they need you. Tapping into your past or current clientele is where to start. It is cost-effective and targeted.

Use Your Existing Client List

There are plenty of ways to boost your business profile, draw awareness to the services you offer and the superior way in which you deliver them. The easiest, most cost-effective and consistent method is to communicate with the people you already have on your books. They are the people who need less encouragement to engage your services, they’ve experienced the excellence you deliver and most importantly, they are the people who have the potential to become active advocates for your business. Even if you’ve not worked with your clients in some time, you have an opportunity to re-engage them and draw focus to the high value services they, or someone they know, needs.

Grow Your List

If you have a website, you have a fantastic opportunity to grow your client list. With potential clients doing their research online, what are you doing to capture this potential business? If the only lead capture you have is an enquiry form, you’re missing out on a whole lot of leads as it can feel like a commitment to buying when people may only be browsing for your services. Offering instant, free and helpful tips in exchange for contact details is one simple method that can present in several different ways depending on your target market’s needs.

Frequency Counts

For those who already send a newsletter or update to their list, often these are inconsistent in their frequency. Usually they are created when the workload is slowing and there’s a distinct need to drum up business. Consistency of contact is the most underutilised opportunity to be top-of-mind for a potential client.

Keep It Simple

The last thing anyone wants to do is alienate the people who have shared their personal details. Using industry-specific language might sound fine to you however it’s often not the case for your target market.

One way to ensure your content hits the mark is to run it past someone who’s not in your profession and who has a limited understanding of what’s involved in the work. They’ll be able to cast their eyes over your words to identify areas of confusion and you can adjust accordingly. Making the whole process easy for the client means they’re more likely to engage your services.

Emotional Engagement

All of this sounds straightforward but it will be completely ineffective if it’s all ‘sell’. The fastest way to lose interest of a potential or existing client is to email the equivalent of advertisements in the material you send. Getting in the mind and needs of your client and discovering what interests them will increase your email open rate and allow you to build trust, relevance and a more engaging connection. Sending updates that are entertaining may seem unachievable however well thought out, helpful and informative content that connects with your readers’ lives will make your email marketing must-read content.

For the potential client it should establish trust and credibility. For those who’ve already engaged your services, this should serve as a reminder of the great work you do and who you are as people. To emotionally engage them so your business is sitting top-of-mind when your services are needed by them, their friends or family.

Talking about community events your team participates in, the charities you raise funds for, letting people in on who you and your team are when you’re not at work all help develop rapport. You are not just the people who deliver a service, you are real people who are here to help.

Connect and Convert

Distributing consistent, informative content has enormous potential. Keeping top-of-mind doesn’t need to be expensive. Tapping into your existing client database, growing it through existing website traffic and establishing you and your team as the trusted, go-to professionals over your competition is what will establish a consistent stream of repeat and referral business.

by Mel Telecican, Head Strategist, Loyalest

Loyalest is proud to be accredited with ActiveCampaign for enterprise level CRM, sales and marketing automation