Github acquisition by Microsoft: Managing in the Knowledge Age

Enter big, bad, old world, clunky Microsoft who acquired Github last year and the Internet exploded with jokes. Both Bill Gates and Steve Balmer were tough industrial age managers and Satya Nadella realized that the world had changed- see “How Microsoft got its groove back.”

Think of any failing  sector like retail, conglomerates  (GE) and you find highly educated  leaders trying to implement Business School knowledge that was developed in the Industrial Age. Here is how the industrial age and its management worked

You find a customer need or have a technology (eg Henry Ford and the car) and build a factory. Now you are locked in to your assembly line and are committed to optimize, optimize as you make more and more rules for the employee. Meanwhile the employee has changed ….

In the last decade, younger folks worldwide have the internet, mobile phone and are constantly on social media. Younger people are more than willing to pursue what they love, despite lesser pay.At worst, food, clothing and shelter in the basement is available through parents . Millennials see lesser value for expensive brands compared to the baby boomers who grew up in the industrial age. Since affording expensive brands is not a priority, high income is not as meaningful for millennials.

So how do you manage in the knowledge age?

The excellent article “These three management styles belong to the past” by Paulo Gallo  provides great pointers and here is our take:

  • Every employee must feel that this is their organization: This is the holy grail of management and very hard to do. Genuinely asking employees for solutions and considering those suggestions very seriously makes employees feel valued. Once you get a suggestion and decide to do something different merely communicating your reasons to the employee can help the sense of ownership. People want to be heard and will come back to contribute on a project even if that’s not what they initially suggested.
  • Command and control is out- shared vision and purpose is in: Since no employee in the knowledge age is an assembly line worker it becomes critical to unlock the “happy” intellectual energy of the individual.  A sense of greater purpose across the organization must exist that is different from the old “vision” thing. The purpose must be reinforced at every turn. And this purpose needs to go beyond profit to something nobler. The mere fact that your business exists and you have ongoing customers indicates that you are making a difference to your customer. Simply asking how you are making the world better? is a get way to get started on  articulating your organization’s purpose.

The underlying logic of change at Microsoft under Satya Nadella is an inspiration for all organizations.

About StratoServe for Growth Strategy.

“Dating Sunday” and Customer Relationship Management

Today January 6 is “Dating Sunday”. The day is being actively promoted by the Dating App industry –they need a Black Friday too!  Some fun facts:

  • About 50% Americans describe themselves as single
  • Romantic love is different from familial love and spiritual love and has the intent of a long term relationship i.e marriage
  • Thus the romantic apps (OkCupid,Match.com,eHarmony) are different from “hook up” apps like Tinder
  • A 70% spike in romantic apps usage is expected on Sunday night
  • Holidays with parental family are over and singles are lonely and this window of finding someone is open only till Valentine’s day according to USA Today.

As mentioned in previous posts the tectonic shift in marketing thinking occurred  in the late 1980’s and 1990’s particularly with the publication of Dwyer, Schurr and Oh (1987) that spelt out the parallel between the long term human marriage and business relationships. It was earlier in Europe that scholars of the European Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group figured out that B2B relationships are long term that B2B marketers who really sold anything already did.

Similarly in B2C marketers had been using customer  relationships data for a hundred years in direct mail. Naturally, things became much more easier with computers, internet and the mobile phone in the last  ten years. Modern CRM systems including the grocery loyalty card try to emulate the mail order wizards of long years ago.

Just like dating apps technology can make initial contact easier but the couple (called B2B  dyads in academe) need to make it work. Some thoughts on B2B vs B2C:

  • In B2B there is an existing something that a customer is already buying from a supplier. There is a great deal of inter-locking with the value chain of the buying firm. Its a challenge to dislodge an existing supplier whose value delivery and relationship is going well- unless your value proposition is significantly better
  • B2C is different particularly for low value items. Brand loyalty is in decline, particularly among millennials, so an Amazon Prime deal looks great and worth trying 

All the best to the singles out there on this #DatingSunday!

About StratoServe for Growth Strategy.

The Furniture Brand Fiasco – resolve to Google your brand reviews in 2019

BrandReviews 2019StratoServe

2019 has rolled in and  understanding the digital assault on Brands is timely.

We wanted to replace a sofa over the holidays and things became very confusing – very quickly. Furniture is an interesting category in the US with multiple brands trying to sell nationally, regionally and locally with wide variations in price. There is a lot of movement to online  buying for all categories of furnishing and furniture. See statistics of the US furniture market at Statista.

The problem is:

Almost all furniture brands have poor reviews and customer feedback

Most brands advertise on Google so Google ads are in full display. But brand owners don’t seem to Google their own brands. How could many brands with 1.5 star reviews still be in the market? Our guess is that managements don’t seem to checking. If they checked, they’d find solutions to this brand fiasco.

Marketing as currently taught involves (1) Identifying a customer need (2) Providing a high value solution ( 3) The high value is made up of the 4P’s of marketing viz. a great Product, a great Price, great Place (Distribution) and then great Promotion (including online ads, social media etc.).

Missing in all this is the ease with which customers can do research online today. And this “research” is often faulty because its easy for a dissatisfied customer and too easy for a competitor to make up bad experiences. For example, if a brand has hundreds of bad reviews on websites (just Google a few furniture brands and see for yourself)- it doesn’t make sense that there are no unresolved BBB customer complaints and these brands seem to have impressive foot traffic.

Beyond furniture, many many local and regional business in different industries (eg. home services) will find that their reviews are mixed. So if you are a plumbing company you might find great reviews on Angies List/Home Advisor and bad reviews on your company Facebook page that you have been neglecting recently.

Here are 5 tips to make the most of 2019 with respect to your brand reviews:

  1. Recognize that the days of traditional marketing and one way communication are over. As a brand owner you cannot hope to “command and control” what you want your customers and the world to know.
  2. Assume that your customers will Google your product/brand
  3. So put yourself in your customers’ shoes and Google your “(brandname) reviews”. To get a sense of different search results try while you are logged in to your Google account and also when you are using a browser where you are not logged in. See the Google Ads but focus on the organic search results. Do this from your mobile phone as well as desktop.
  4. If you have other locations for customers then ask someone in that location to check as above, or try one of the options for local search listed at Search Engine Journal.
  5. Repeat for other relevant websites to your industry eg. Angies List and Home Advisor for home services, Yelp for restaurants etc. Do check comments and ratings on your brands social media accounts including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn etc. There are services like www.ReviewPush.com that consolidate reviews in one place and are worth checking out.

Once you know what is going on, reach out to the relevant websites to correct any misinformation out there. Be polite but insistent- it works!

Wishing our readers a happy healthy 2019!

About StratoServe for Growth Strategy.

Unlocking Innovation: What does our Customer Success Tomorrow look like?

Customer Success-StratoServe
“Marketing” means different things to different people and no one really checks out the American Marketing Association definition. It’s hard to convince everyone in an organization – that their role includes “marketing” and focussing on constant innovation. Hence the term “Customer Success.”

The Customer Success term is particularly popular in  the SAAS (Software as a Service ) industry. SAAS  companies  need customer renewals  and are trying to align everyone including programmers, sales ,finance  to working towards customer success.

With Customer Success, the customer defines success and this keeps changing with time. There are three forces working here:

  1. Technology: Technology changes fast and if you do not keep all eyes on your customer success: You miss the boat. For example, cell phones now have excellent cameras that you can make videos with. Consequently, the digital average camera  market has disappeared. Similarly with cell towers giving out good wireless signals you suddenly don’t see GPS devices being sold in US retail. Car makers are shy of selling $2000 GPS as original equipment. Customers at car showrooms actually laugh (loudly!) at suggestions of a pre-installed car GPS.
  2. Customer is constantly learning: No matter what your product or service- your customer keeps learning- fast. Their knowledge and skills improve- fast with your product, their own goals and competitor offerings.  Just think of a GPS user – who now relies on her/his cell phone. This customer went through a time when they probably had both devices in the car because wireless was less reliable. Now customers have learnt about different mapping apps that give driving directions including Google Maps and Waze.
  3. Customer learning is very easy: If you have lesser calls coming to your tech-help call center don’t assume that your product has become easier. It’s just that your customers are finding easy answers on the web- that work! No customer wants to interact with a business in person or phone because it takes time and possible frustration (the old press 1, press 2 routine for call centers). Besides, the employee is Googling the answer anyway. Instead, customers find solutions online that work. For most common and sometimes uncommon problems answers are on the first page of Google with even videos on YouTube. Learning sources includes all global solutions and competitors.

These three forces together are upending marketing that assumed that the customer was passive and just waiting for the right “marketing message” that explained why she should buy our product. Instead the customer is empowered to make choices with all the information (so easily)  available.

With an empowered customer who is “showrooming” -its fatal for marketers to think that if only you got your message to your target customer- you could win. Not so. Because the customer is always learning and demanding at least what is available online. Thus working towards customer success may be the alternative to get the entire organization on the marketing page.

What is customer success? To us, customer success is about where your customer wants to go tomorrow.Your product may take the customer to where she wants to be today but the product may become irrelevant due to the rapid influence of the three forces above.

Our idea of customer success builds on the great idea of Michael Schrage Who do you want your customer to become?. Schrage suggests that Henry Ford did not just create a car but created customers who started driving. Now think of all the movies you have seen where driving was an integral part of romance, action and crime!

There was no automatic feedback loop for Henry Ford to improve the car and make it better . Ford motors had to rely on traditional market research in the early days  and today probably has a whole lot of data coming in from dealers and customers. Like the aircraft industry the auto industry is also adopting Internet of Things (IoT) and your maintenance reminders will get smarter.

Google on the other hand depends on searcher feedback to make the search engine better and better. If people think that an answer is good that answer is pushed up in SEO and Google becomes better next time that query pops up.In the process, when more customers view a page or video it signals that it is answering the query the customer had typed. The customer really does not have to share a page on Facebook for the page to become better ranked. Views of a page against a search query is good enough to rank the page higher. This is the reason that we watch YouTube videos that have higher page views and traditional media talks about how many views a video or TED talk has.It ‘s hard to build a product like Google that automatically becomes better every time someone uses it. If you think about it, legendary brands like  Coca Cola do not have an automatic machine based system of becoming better. However digital businesses like Amazon and Netflix rapidly use big data to improve their recommendation engines.Sometimes you do feel that the suggestions are right and not simply up-sell tactics.

Here is how to think about Customer Success when you want to unlock innovation in your organization:

Customer Success for Today: The idea of customer success forces the entire organization to look at whether the customer is successful today and ask ourselves what we can do to make customer success happen in our individual organizational roles. For example, if you asked Accounts Payable about their role in Marketing, you might get a confused look. However, if you asked “How could you help our customer success?” your friend in Accounts Payable would remember that they take 7-10 days for refunds and reducing that time would go towards more customer success.

Customer Success for Tomorrow: Is much harder to guess unless you are thinking in the “customers shoes”. Most search advertisers try to buy competitor brand names  keywords instead of trying to understand the customer learning forces that are at work. What a competitor’s customer is searching for beyond the competitors brand name is far more insightful about where the customer wants to go. No matter what you sell, your customer is getting better in terms of knowledge and skills and naturally customer expectations are rising every day.

Asking every member of your organization (including the Janitor) the constant question What does our Customer Success Tomorrow look like?  may be the key to unlocking constant innovation. About StratoServe.

You can’t lie to Google but try to look great on Social Media: Search vs. Display Ads

Social Media has galvanized us to share our best face with the world. Go to any event (e.g. weddings) and you will find everyone taking pictures on their cell phones. This despite the professional photographers trying to do their best and stay relevant in the age of the smart phone.

You have a public persona and you want to always try and look good on social media. You are not lying but just trying to look your best. In contrast, you are asking Google all kind of frank questions (queries) and unless you honestly ask what you really are looking for – Google can't get you relevant results. So you can't  lie to Google!

Against the above backdrop, here is how display and search advertising work:

McDonald Billboard
Display Advertising
: Display advertising works like old media viz. TV, Newspapers and billboards. You expect hungry folks to be looking for food near the above highway exit so the McDonald's  billboard should help.Similarly when you put out a display ad on a particular show on TV, media planners have viewer data and try and match viewers to your target market. In a similar way display advertising on any Internet platforms like Google, Facebook,Instagram, Twitter etc. try to put out your ad to an audience that you can select by geography,demographics interests etc. Google's display ads work based on content (e.g. blogs,YouTube channel) owner sign ups (the AdSense program) who get a small commission on display clicks that happen on their website. Social media platform use data analysis of the behavior of the user base to identify characteristics of the audience that are relevant to marketers. Platforms do "talk" to each other and you see those creepy ads following you across the Internet after you looked at a product on Amazon. This last bit of stalking is based on a "cookie" dropped on your browser (with your permission given at some point) and is called "Remarketing". Marketers hope is that constant reminding will urge consumers to buy in very much the same way as TV ads for Coca Cola should hopefully remind you when you are at the grocery store.

To summarize, display advertising on the Internet, mirrors old advertising that does work to inform,remind and persuade. This approach is also called "outbound marketing" or push marketing.  Today online display advertising can be started with pennies and without the whole lot of investment that is needed for TV, major newspapers or websites. The digital world allows for much more granular data and targeting and the better you know your market – lesser is your advertising expense. And this after discounting the "best face" that we tend to put on social media!

Search Advertising: Search advertising, on the other hand, triggers ads based on what you type on the search (e.g. Google) bar. Here, nobody searches for stuff without reason. This reason is an initial interest (however random) in your product category. In the physical world And you would be amazed at the search terms that people use, whatever your product. This amazement takes several forms for example a  local pizza  delivery following the AIDA model :

Do they really not know?Or do they ask random questions on Google?: The marketer scratches her head wondering if people really don't know. Against broad match search the pizza marketer is incredulous at a search query "what is pizza" coming from the US. Perhaps the person landed from the moon, the marketer wonders… somewhat annoyed because she just paid for that click! This stage for the consumer  is understandable and is a stage where you as the marketer are building awareness, of your category.

Is that interest? Someone might type " pizza places nearby" and this suggests that the person knows about pizzas and is just checking out what is available nearby. The order might not be immediate , but they might remember when they really want to order. Here display advertising exposure can help because the customer is already in the path to purchase.

Is that desire? If the search term is "thin crust pizza nearby" you can assume that the person is familiar with thin crust pizza and has moved along the purchase path. If you don't offer thin crust pizza – your ad was a waste for now, but tells you that you might want to add thin crust pizza to your product line.

Finally action..  A search term like " piza delivery now"(and don't worry about the mis-spelt pizza !) might indicate that the searcher is now ready to order.

To summarize, in search advertising the searcher is (a) serious (b) truthful and asks things they really want to know about for Google does not judge you! The searcher is on a path to purchase provided that they are reminded through display advertising. The process of the customer searching for a need and finding your product is also called  "inbound" marketing

Marketers need to appreciate that target customers are at different stages of purchase and need to be given the right message at each stage. Here search and display work together. Research suggests ( see Kireyev,Pauwels, and Gupta, 2016) that when search and display work together $1 invested in display gives $1.24 return but returns $1.75  on search. In the context of a commercial bank they find that there is under investment in search advertising by 36%.

For there is nothing as powerful as the customer calling you!

Market Segmentation and Targeting: Why Trump did not go to California in 2016

Market segmentation and targeting is probably the hardest concept in marketing. Strangely once understood even the savviest marketers seem to flip-flop in their marketing execution.

For those dear readers who followed the 2016 US Presidential election the map below (Source : Philip Bump, Washington Post,Donald Trump spent more time in the states that handed him the presidency) visually explains the point.

TrumpPence2016

 

 

Ask anyone familiar with the 2016 US election- the answer will be unanimous!

Q. Why did Trump not campaign in California in 2016?

A. Because the Trump Campaign did not see a way to win the majority vote in California. US Presidential elections are based on electoral votes, and all the electoral votes of the state (e.g. California) are won by the candidate who wins the popular or public vote. (See Electoral College

In the US Presidential election, the point is to win the majority of the public vote at the state level. If you win the majority – you get "all" the electoral votes of the state. The idea of "winner take all".

If you think back to the 2016 US Presidential Election, the Trump campaign focused efforts on states that were possible to win (e.g. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin)  and involved less time in travel. This saving in travel time is huge because air travel from New York to California takes six hours while Pennsylvania might be just an hour. It frees up the campaign to focus on places where there was a "chance to win".

In any market, once you identify customers you might be "likely" to win the rest of marketing can follow easily . These include sharpening your product offering (in elections this could be what the candidate promises) and your advertising including reaching people through traditional and digital marketing.

The most difficult part of segmentation and targeting is the discipline of being able to stop trying in markets where there is little chance of success. Thus the Trump campaign was disciplined enough not to waste too much time or resources in California in 2016.

 "Giving up" a market at the planning stage seems to be a huge challenge. Once the marketer is able to decide which markets to not focus  on, segmentation, targeting and later marketing can be a great success.

Do you donate to charity to get a tax break? – of Donors,Charities and Governments

 

The recent US Tax changes, increasing the standard deduction has caused alarm in the non-profit community. Some experts  believe that donations will decline from $ 309 Billion  in 2016 by upto $20 Billion.  This as  people will stop donating since cannot itemize their taxes from 2018. Thus, during year end 2017  there was a great deal of popular advise to folks to donate to their favorite causes and take a deduction in 2017. It is expected that the 30% US tax payers who itemize will decline to 10-5%  for 2018. An accounting and tax view for 2018 can be been on accountingweb.

Tax Deduction for Charity WorldwideThe world does provide tax incentives for charity donations as this 2015 study by Global Impact and KPMG suggests. The graphic from the KPMG study that was conducted in 43 countries shows that 89% offer some sort of tax benefits for charity donations. Understanding the motivations of the three entities Donors,Charities and Governments is interesting and here are some thoughts:

Donors: Donors have all kinds of motivations and tax saving is only one small part of it. Within the category of people who are motivated to give for tax savings there are large differences nationally. On one hand , in eastern cultures including Japan and Taiwan people are more sensitive to tax benefits. In western cultures like UK and US people are less inclined to be motivated by tax benefits. The poorer folks in these countries sometimes don't know about itemized deductions.  Surprisingly the very rich do not  care about  the limit to what they can deduct. Here is a  quote from Warren Buffet  in David Joulfaian:

“My 2015 return shows adjusted gross income of $11,563,931. My deductions totaled $5,477,694, of which allowable charitable contributions were $3,469,179” and an additional contribution of $2.85 billion were not taken as deductions and never will be.” –Warren Buffet

Charities: Charities exist because Governments are unable to do many human services for the less fortunate. Charity workers tend to be highly motivated for their cause and in most cases are able to make a difference to the people they serve. The origin of tax deductions for charity was to try and motivate high tax paying folks to save some taxes through large donations. This was at a time that high incomes attracted 67% plus taxes.

Governments: Governments need taxes to provide capital intensive services like roads and infrastructure. Worldwide Governments are realizing that the masses are not looking for the tax deduction before deciding to donate.The masses care about jobs and disposable income and would happily donate without looking for a tax break if they had the money. Thus for example, in India the tax deduction has been reduced to 50% of the donated amount when the tax base is just 1% of the population.

All in all, the worst estimates for US donation decline is from $309 Billion to $289Billion under the 2018 tax law.This is the $20 Billion for 20% of tax payers who are expected to go for the standard deduction instead of itemized returns. There were about 150 Million US individual tax returns filed in 2016. For 2018 year let's say 30 million will take the standard deduction and might give $20 billion less to charity. That works out to under $700 per  person.

Charities need to reach out to their donor base and better explain what they do and the impact they have.  We believe that the US donor will come through with donations right across the rich-poor spectrum. If the economy continues to do well we are likely to see a rise in receipts at Charities that is not itemized at all! [Disclaimer: We do not claim expertise in tax law or accounting. Our dear readers and charities are encouraged to discuss tax related matters with their tax accountants ]

Blockchain will make supply chains stronger but challenge brands

Blockchain-StratoServe
Blockchain technology will start shaking up supply chains and brands. But first, what is blockchain? Here's our take:

Blockchain is a distributed accounting ledger . A mechanism to share how much was paid and received by whom, where each transaction is verified on a peer-to-peer basis. Sort of like verified reviews on Amazon. The person did buy the book.. so you can be sure that the review is not entirely "fake," as in many other web and social media contexts.

Money talks. More so, if you can record it at the level of individual transactions. And that's what blockchain promises to do. Here is how it will impact supply chains and brand power:

  1. Supply Chains are about  the flow of goods,services downstream towards the final customer while there is a reverse flow of information and money upstream. What does the final B2C customer feel about the product and experience? Can you change something in the product (innovate)  to make the customer happier?  It's on the money side of transactions that things become difficult to reconcile. Obviously, if you don't pay as a customer online retailers will not ship and store security will come after you! What about the upstream manufacturers – the business that made the product, the firm that made the packaging or the transport contractor who moved the goods from factory to wholesaler.  It takes years for each of these channel partners to get to know each other,develop trust and commit resources to make everything work. If blockchain does become more widespread then upstream suppliers specific to an industry will be far easier to find. Entry barriers will reduce drastically, as it becomes easier to enter an industry.
  2. Brands are supposed to make things easier for the customer. They give comfort for quality and reliability.  Brands  take years to develop.Some upstream brands try to advertise (like Intel chips for computers) and are thus able to attract a better price in the supply chain. Blockchain at its best will let you know exactly who your competitors bought from and for how much. Such transparency will spur innovation. However, brand premiums will erode in a way similar to the way store brands work at the consumer end. For example, a large segment of pharmacy consumers are happy to buy the CVS brand vs. the Tylenol brand for much lesser. Since the upstream B2B buying process is highly technical with very knowledgeable buyers, we can expect that with transaction level information via blockchain winners may take all . And resting on brand strength including B2B relationships will not be enough.

All in all, Blockchain will need a good rethink for supply chain, marketing and innovation. As always, those who care for the final consumer will thrive even more with blockchain.

We wish our readers a very Happy New Year in 2018!

“Getting found on Google” – how does Google think?

Getting found on Google- How does Google Think?


At a recent event for our local Cheshire Connecticut  Chamber of Commerce we presented a “lunch and learn” session. The purpose was to help the audience (thanks attendees!) understand the “secret” of being “found on Google.” A great starting point was to understand how Google “thinks.”

Instead of trying to second guess the latest algorithm that reportedly contains over 200 factors, it is far easier to intuitively understand the business of Google. And that’s not a secret and reading the Google founders story makes things clear and here are some quotes from the story- with some explanation:

Goal of Google:“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Basically, Google is a “Mega” Library where each book is a page. This page is categorized against questions that searchers ask. The question might be a word, a few words or an entire sentence. Professors today have a hard time putting out online quizzes because entire questions and answers pop up if you Google the question! The fun part is that the super-librarian Google pulls up the answers to just what we are looking for almost immediately. Your web-page server may be down but Google has your back and produces the last page they indexed through their “bots” that crawl the web. You don’t go to Google. They come to you.

How Google does it: ” they built a search engine that used links to determine the importance of individual pages on the World Wide Web.” We guess that this has a lot to do with the way scholarly research works – something Larry Page and Sergey Brin were doing at Stanford. Here is the academic paper : “The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web” that the founders wrote. “Citations” (see dictionary.com for other meanings of citation)  in the scholarly world means what other scholars have cited your work. Scholarly works tend to be very narrow in focus- usually only a few people understand what you are talking about. And then they cite you in their own research. Scholarly citations are used generally to strengthen the citing author’s argument.  It’s a big deal for the author being cited and an easy way for newer scholars to identify the high impact scholars (on anything!)  just by the citations. This brilliant age old academic insight is the guiding force of how Google ranks your page. If other knowledgeable people (estimated by Google) cite your page then your page is ranked higher. Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn signals are also picked up and we guess that Google is always trying to improve this measuring of importance of a particular page against a particular search query.

 What is Google’s “purpose” or mission : “The relentless search for better answers continues to be at the core of everything we do.” So why is Google so focused on making billions on AdWords ads?- the skeptic might ask. Yes, Ads make money for Google but irrelevant ads are difficult to show. If you promise something in your ad and you don’t deliver on the landing page and visitors leave ( bounce) your AdRank goes down and it becomes costlier to advertise. And if there are better competitor ads with  better searcher experiences, you find that paying more money for clicks will not get you a spot on the top. Ultimately Google’s “purpose” is making the searcher happy.

To summarize, Google is in the business of making searchers happy by getting them results on their “search intent”. So your search results from home  can be  different from work or another location. And could be different for friends in the same location.

Understanding how Google thinks will go along way in improving your web presence and impact. 

About StratoServe

Educating the customer is a central task for marketers

Educate the customer-StratoServe
The days of information asymmetry are over. Information is no longer power. And Google and other search engines are just getting started.

The notion of the used car salesman trying to sell a “lemon” is a relic of the pre-internet era. Today, the entire history of a used car is available to consumers through services like Carfax and – people use it. And there are many websites to tell you the value of a car.If you are a business looking for repeat customers, hiding information from customers will not get you loyal customers or  repeat customers. And as you know, your bills are paid by repeat customers.

In the past ,customers had no way of easily checking out the value they were getting from their current supplier. Today a few seconds on Google will get you answers to a variety of competing offers,reviews on everything from lawn care to car loans, doctors , real estate, mortgage  or whatever.Customers do research on certain sites and then buy direct from the brand. A shocking example is for airlines where people search on travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity and then buy from the airline, for the same price or even slightly higher. Why ? Because it’s easier to get services like flight changes from the airline than a travel aggregator.

Educating the customer about the value you provide is a central task for marketers. Here are some thoughts about educating customers:

  1. Don’t assume everyone “knows”: For example, people in the US understand that for complicated home projects a licensed electrician is a must. Thus  an electrician’s website has to merely explain that they are licensed. Surprisingly, there are electricians who don’t see the need of putting this out on their website as they assume that – “its obvious”. There are many exceptions where handymen compete with electricians for lower skill tasks like changing a light fixture at lower cost.
  2. FAQ’s can help: You know what the frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)  are. Why not explain them on your website so that people don’t need to call?  Consider the times you have not called a business because you were only mildly interested. The good thing is that when they do call, they are more prepared to buy.
  3. How to” directions for your product /category can be great: If you are reading this post – you would have looked at “how to” videos on YouTube. For everything related to using software to understanding how to operate a particular function on a gadget. And it’s fine to share a video (that you find on YouTube) that helps your customers to understand better. Consider, that you are constantly liking and sharing stuff on Facebook etc. anyway- why not share with customers who come to your website? And helpful videos make current customers happy which is a great way to get referrals.
  4. Be mobile friendly: If your web content is not mobile friendly you may be losing half your visitors. These might have arrived at your website via search, PPC (Pay-per-click like Google AdWords), your email, from social media. If your content is not mobile friendly people will leave.
  5. Make life easier for customers: We tend to underestimate the difficulty of our processes for our customers. Our favorite example is the experience of calling in to a business. The caller faces an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system that takes 2-3 minutes to reach the voicemail prompt. Most millennial customers are unlikely to continue to try and get the message through.

Starting with these tips can get things going in educating your customer.

About StratoServe Digital Marketing Services.