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Radio Interview “Brand Like Amazon: Even A Lemonade Stand Can Do It”

Ray Seggern, of One Man Brand Radio, interviewed us about our soon to be published book.

You can sign up for previews of the chapters as they are released at BrandLikeAmazon.com

 

 

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Recipes For Practical Customer Experience Design & Optimization #CRO #UX #CX

miseenplaceIf I gave you a recipe some of you would be thrilled and others not so much. You can cook a gourmet meal that will have your taste buds fox trotting. I know that to be true. When it comes to food there are alternative ways to acquire a great meal. However, when cooking up great customer experiences there are no alternatives. If you want customers to to tell the only story that matters, why they love your company, you’ll have to learn how.

Have you ever followed a recipe only to find that you aren’t ready for the third step? I have. The results? Frustration and a poor meal. A few years ago it was takeout or starve, but now, I love to cook. I credit mise en place, that’s French for having having everything in its place as you cook, for my conversion from takeout king to aspiring chef. Mise en place is a small amount of effort expended up front that actually saves me tons of time and guarantees tasty dishes.

The Buyer Legend process is like a recipe for designing great customer experiences. You can use Buyer Legends to define and improve your content marketing, social marketing, search marketing, conversion rate optimization and thereby improve your communications, execution and revenues. You just need to follow the recipe. We’ve published a basic Buyer Legend recipe  but I’ll be adding more detail in this series.

I’ve been training clients and staff in the Eisenbergs’ processes’ for over a decade, Let me show you how to prepare mise en place for the Buyer Legends process.  This is the first in a series of articles that will address each major step of the Buyer Legends process.

Pre-mortem because it is the antidote to Murphy’s Law 

First we’ll explore the most impactful step of the process, the pre-mortem. Some of our largest conversion wins over the last two decades ever were the result of our clients going through the pre-mortem exercise.  Murphy’s law states that everything that can go wrong usually will and a pre-mortem will help you spot previously invisible problems in your current customer experience as well as plan against future problems. But the pre-mortem step is not for the faint hearted as it may show you things about your precious baby that are not as attractive as you wanted to believe.  The only thing that makes a pre-mortem more powerful is by doing a pre-mortem on a persona by persona and then scenario/ campaign by scenario basis. Read the first Buyer Legend Recipe Post here...

Reverse chronology because it explains conversions

Assuming you have a product or service worth buying then you and your customers have the same goal.  You want to sell and they want to buy. That’s why when you are planning a customer experience it is always best to start at the end point and work your way backwards to the beginning.  This step requires you to get very specific about how and why every decision and action needs to be taken in the buying journey.  It’s specificity also makes this step important to measuring and optimizing your customer experience when you finally implement it. Your Buyer Legend isn’t fiction so every detail must be accounted for, not only that but you must create persuasive momentum at every step. Read it here.

Persuasive momentum because there’s no such thing as a sales funnel

Your customer isn’t truly in a funnel. There’s no gravity compelling them through your experience like there is in a real funnel. There is only the customer’s motivation and your understanding of that motivation to create persuasive momentum. Persuasive momentum is the progressive decision making process that aligns the customer’s goals with our own business goals. I’ll show you the three step test that will insure your customers’ experiences are always relevant, valuable and compelling. Read it here.

Personas because their motivations become your action plan

Personas are a common marketing tool, but their value is often misunderstood. Simply put, personas should inform you about exactly what you need to be doing. Personas can be elaborate constructs based on reams of research and data, or they can be constructed quickly with data and information at hand, but as long as they are directionally accurate reflections of a segment of your customer they can be powerful tools that will guide your Buyer Legends processes. I will be discussing how to construct ad-hoc personas as well as help you evaluate and if needed fix your current personas if you have them. Read it here.

Write a Buyer Legend because the only story that matters is your customers’ story

This is the step when you actually pull out your pots, grab a spatula and fire up your burners.  I will tell you all the ingredients to include so you can have them at the ready. This is the step where all your previous work begins to pay off and when you’re done you will have an action plan that can be distributed, implemented, tested, and optimized.  A Buyer Legend is where the rubber meets the road. Read it here.

Measurement because if analysts cannot tell the stories and business people cannot measure the stories then the strategy isn’t truly aligned with customers’ needs.

Your Buyer Legend isn’t fiction, it’s not for fun or for entertainment, or even for creative fulfillment.  This is business, and anything important to a businesses success should be measurable and accountable.  Buyer Legends are both and I will give you a primer on measuring, optimizing, rinsing, and repeating. Read it here.

The Buyer Legend process orchestrates your best efforts and reconciles them to the needs of your customers so you can create profitable customer experiences.  If you want to become even more legendary at using this process I challenge you to follow this recipe series. I look forward to your feedback, questions, and hearing your success stories.

This series is now complete. Please visit all six posts.

As always, we encourage you to try Buyer Legends for yourself, but if you need help, please let us know.

 

 

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Heroes Don’t Play It Safe: A Customer-Centric Case Study

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Stewart Whitney, Brand President of Timberland

What is the difference between foolhardy and courageous? It’s like the difference between arrogance and confidence; it’s all in the results. Stewart Whitney, Brand President of Timberland, is both courageous and confident. After all, who dares to cut products, eliminate a discount pricing strategy and raise prices across an entire product line when growth is the goal?

Timberland announces a change

Timberland’s management shakeup didn’t seem extraordinary or even unusual. When Patrik Frisk, the new Coalition President of Outdoor Americas for VF (NYSE: VFC), said “To empower the significant growth ahead for the Timberland® brand, we need to connect with our end consumer from head to toe,” it sounded an awful lot like the same old same old.  Appointing Stewart Whitney Brand President was part of the plan to grow revenues by $1.4 billion during the next five years. Timberland’s management expected total revenues to reach $3.1 billion by the end of 2019, representing growth of 13% per year.

The Timberland® brand, a wholly owned subsidiary of VF Corporation, is best known for it’s rugged and fashionable high top yellow leather boots. It was a successful and long established footwear and apparel company whose sales were spectacularly flat.  When Whitney took the helm he might have tried to lift sales by deploying as many non-boat rocking tactics as possible.  Instead, Whitney decided to blow up the brand, to cut products, eliminate a discount pricing strategy and raise prices across an entire product line.

Things are going to change around here

No department was untouched. Timberland’s product designers were ejected from their comfort zone and asked to create new ambitious product lines and styles. Marketing was tasked with revamping the company’s entire global marketing and messaging.  The wholesale division had to sell jittery retailers on a leaner product line with dramatically less SKUs.  Retail and ecommerce eliminated their discount pricing strategy essentially raising prices across the entire product line. Whitney was tilting full speed ahead, at the risk of becoming either a business legend or becoming an exemplary failure.

In our work we often see how difficult the smallest change can be to execute, but Whitney was making deep foundational changes to a brand that didn’t seem broken to most observers inside and outside the company.

Whitney, no doubt, had to contend with the guardians of the company’s status quo. Surely they came out in full force challenging every move, trumpeting the company’s past successes and provoking insomnia and hand wringing amongst their colleagues.  He communicated with the board of directors, the executive team, employees, partners, distributors and retailers about his vision. You may imagine some calling him a maverick, while others called him nuts.

Courage and confidence are fueled by data

It wasn’t just Whitney’s courage that fueled the brand makeover, it was data.  While you could point to any of the changes he was driving as radical, the most significant change Whitney made was to steer Timberland away from being a product-driven company and towards becoming a data-driven company.

Whitney bet the company on it’s customer data and with Timberland posting a 15% increase in year over year sales in 2014, the bet seems to be paying off.  In the Washington Post Sarah Halzack writes about the origin of this success:

“…the cornerstone of the comeback has been a two-year customer study in which it collected data from 18,000 people across eight countries. In analyzing the trove of responses, Timberland was able to diagnose its problems and to zero in on its ideal customer — an urban dweller with a casual interest in the outdoors.”

What is just as remarkable as Whitney’s courage to lead foundational change in an already good organization was his commitment to understanding customer data rather than simply collecting and referencing it.  Far too often execs and marketers cherry pick the data that reinforces their own self-inflicted perspective. Other companies collect data, yet as we wrote about in Tesco’s case , a myopic reading of the data leads to disastrous corporate decisions. Whitney and his team read the customer’s story in the data.  And armed with that narrative he is transforming Timberland from a good brand to more exciting and relevant one.

Armed with a customer-centric narrative

The narrative started with their ideal customer. They named her the “outdoor lifestyler’:

“They’re definitely connected to the outdoors, but in a more casual, everyday way,” Davey said. “They care about the outdoors, but they also care about style. It was really important to them to look right for the occasion.”

The outdoor lifestyler, in other words, is a city dweller who goes for a casual afternoon hike or someone who leaves her house in the morning not knowing if she’s going to spend her afternoon at the park or at the movies. It’s someone who wants versatile clothes that blend in rather than stand out.”

Speaking to outdoor lifestylers would be a sizable departure from their current brand image. In the U.S. Timberland had developed hip-hop cred with rappers by naming the yellow boot “Timbs”.  While in other countries Timberland’s reputation was focused mostly on durability. Abandoning these messages probably looked like a tremendous risk. I’m sure the marketers pointed that out. It was that messaging that kept the lights on yet maintained their current, albeit flat, sales.

Raising prices to save the brand?

Timberland killed their discount pricing model:

Ryan Shadrin, vice president of retail and digital commerce for North America, said it was a scary decision to make but one that has ultimately helped profit margins. At first, Shadrin said, “It’s almost like dead tide. There’s just a point of this eerie quiet where you’re like, ‘Where did everybody go?’ It’s because they’re sort of waiting,” he said, to pounce on a promotion.

Eventually though, shoppers came off the wall when they realized the old promotional cadence was not coming back.

All the changes at Timberland, Shadrin said, “lifted the brand to where we can command those higher prices. The consumer is willing to pay it.”

The result is that profit margin is up 13%.

Results determine the difference between foolhardy and courageous

In business there is a big difference between knowing the right thing to do, and doing the right thing. Doing the right thing always takes courage but knowing the right thing to do requires that you understand your customers.  And the more committed you become to understanding your customer and focusing your company on delighting them the less actual courage you will need. That is the point where confidence replaces arrogance.

A legendary company must be customer-centered, practice data-driven customer experience design, and  manage by narrative. That is exactly what the Buyer Legends process  is designed to do.

So basic that it seems radical  

So why don’t more companies actually put their customers first?  We all know why. However, lets applaud the ones who do. We encourage you to read the entire Washington Post story to appreciate just how comprehensive the Timberland makeover was. Nevertheless, this strikes to the heart of why Whitney has been successful:

Timberland “could’ve followed the many brands that floundered in this changing retail environment, but if you look at all of their strategies holistically, they’re all developed with a steadfast focus on the consumer and innovation,” said Shilpa Rosenberry, senior director of consumer strategy and innovation at Daymon, a retail consultancy.

Timberland’s switch to a consumer-data-driven approach reflects a broader change in an industry where the power dynamics between retailer and customer have shifted to favor the shopper. Unprecedented access to pricing information and product reviews on the Web has made for smarter, more-informed buyers, and retailers are more focused than ever on catering to their high expectations. By letting consumers lead the way, Timberland has rebooted its brand.

Become the hero by turning your customer into the hero of your Buyer Legend

Stewart Whitney is a real-life business hero and not just because he virtually put his vital parts on a chopping block. Whitney is a hero because of his radical fairy-godfather-like commitment to delivering what his customers really want. That’s a winning combo, and one that makes for a happy ending to this story.

Do you have the courage and confidence to be this committed to your customers?

We hope you do.

We will be cheering for you.

And if you want assistance we, the Buyer Legends team, are ready to help you design and optimize a customer-centered, data-driven customer experience that is supported by narrative.

 

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Designing The Perfect Funnel

TomFishburnefunnelYou’ve planned the campaign or the test.

You’ve designed the checkout or registration.

You’ve invested time and energy.

Now your customers come along and enter your funnel.

Let’s get real, your customer isn’t truly in a funnel. There’s no gravity compelling them through your experience like there is in a real funnel. There is only the customer’s motivation and your understanding of that motivation to create persuasive momentum.

Your customers’ journeys are their stories, NOT funnels. They could tell you the stories, just try asking them. And those stories don’t always have happy endings.

Your customers’ stories end happily when they are delighted. And for them that may mean buying from you or from a competitor. It’s simply a matter of perspective.

Now you come along and interrogate your analytics to find out what your customers did.

Is this process so very different from what you do?

The most successful companies start with the story from the customer’s perspective. Their business people make that story accountable through analytics. They anticipate what needs to be measured in order for the analysts to understand the actual customers’ experience – did their stories end happily? These stories are then shared with the business people and they learn what needs to be optimized.

Here’s what we know for certain: if analysts cannot tell the stories and business people cannot measure the stories then the strategy isn’t truly aligned with customers’ needs.

It’s time to perfect your concept of a funnel.

Buyer Legends can help you create customer-centered, data-driven customer experience design that is supported by narrative.

 

H/T to Tom Fishburne for inspiring this post with his marketing funnel

 

 

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Five Important Updates About Buyer Legends

 

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This week over on the Salesforce blog Bryan Eisenberg explained how Buyer Legends improved collaboration within an entire marketing organization and brought clarity, focus, and better results to all their efforts.

John Jantsch interviewed Bryan and they discussed how to create a  Buyer Legend, listen to the podcast over at the Duct Tape Marketing blog.

Late last week Amazon introduced a new cloud device called the Echo, and knowing what we know about Amazon Anthony speculated that this device may be part of Amazon’s larger story to make shopping Amazon a more seamless part of our everyday life.

We interviewed Melissa Burdon Cameron from Extra Space Storage in the first of an ongoing series of posts featuring Buyer Legends in real life.  Melissa tells her story about how she was able to quickly integrate the Buyer Legends process into their current conversion optimization efforts.

Bryan’s article at ClickZ outlines the reason why so many rock star marketers are unhappy with the results they are getting from their personas and what they can do about that.

Have an awesome weekend!

P.S.  Jeffrey Eisenberg also lead a webinar at Balihoo called Buyer Legends – Combining Data with Storytelling to Boost the Bottom Line.

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What we can offer you

Four Pillars Ongoing Support

After our workshops, we work with only a few select clients. Your business must be committed to the Four Pillars (as described in Be Like Amazon) on a long-term basis .

Workshops

We kick-off the workshop with a two-day onsite visit. We help you create the Four Pillar foundation for your organization. The entire process takes between 4-8 weeks and the typical investment is $30,000 – $100,000.

Speak at Your Event

We can speak at your event. Our fees are $20,000 in North America, and that includes travel. International fees are $20,000 plus business class travel, from Austin, and lodging. Contact us to discuss your event