I am a former member of the no summer vacation nation.
Several summers came and went, and as September hit I’d be left with a serious case of toes up on the lounge chair picture envy. Even when I took a vacation, I’d return to work wondering if I should pack it all in and open a juice bar or something. But the truth is, Marketing is one of my great passions (juice is not).
A staggering 61% of employed vacationing Americans plan to work even during their time off, according to a 2013 study cited in Time Magazine’s recent “Who Killed Summer Vacation?” article.
Like many professions, marketers can suffer from serious burn out and working through or skipping a summer vacation doesn’t help.
So how about after you take a vacation, you come back energized and ready to give your brand a recharge?
Consider these three brand questions for your marketing reset:
1) When Was the Last Time You Observed Your Customers?
Earlier this year, I spoke with a Marketing Strategy class at Pepperdine University. I gave each student a small notebook as a leave-behind along with a recommendation inspired by Sir Richard Branson:
Go out into the wild, observe different customers and write down what you see and hear.
Study patterns, pain points, moment makers, complaints, opportunities, feedback, inconsistencies, competing forces or whatever else you see (or don’t see) in your product or service’s physical eco-system. Have a casual conversation or two with a customer. It doesn’t have to be creepy and might end up being useful.
During recent store checks for a client, I discovered a customer trend in the toy aisles of major retailers. The look on people’s faces while shopping often looked something like this:
With so many toy options available you could see why shoppers might look confused. Many times during the day a parent is shopping with young kids but they are buying a birthday gift for a friend or family member. Sometimes it’s an aunt on her lunch break from work and other times it’s a toy collector (they are usually there when the store opens and tend to know the toys better than anyone). I also see grandparents out shopping who may or may not be as familiar with their grandkids’ preferences.
There are opportunities for both retailers and brands to help avoid that confused shopper look (more on this in a future blog post.)
Now switch between your smartphone and the information that’s available in stores. Does the mobile experience help or frustrate the cause?
When you are back in the office, jump online. What is your experience online versus inside the store or on your phone?
Discover what people are posting about your industry, brand, products and services by retailer and by social media channel.
You never know what you will find until you set up the practice of observing different customer segments in both the physical and digital spaces.
Even when you get marketing research reports from your organization or an outside agency, organically discovering new things will help you as a marketer.
Finally, see if you can work alongside someone from your Customer Service Department for the day. Experience first-hand what types of issues customers experience. Marketing might be a part of the solution and being curious about your customers will help you provide more meaning and value to your organization as whole.
2) Have You Ever Completed the Sentence, “Only We….” for your brand/organization?
This is an incredibly important exercise for brands to do or revisit if it’s been a while. The credit here goes to Mark W. Schaefer for suggesting this business practice in his book Social Media Explained. Mark points out answering “Only We…” is a difficult task but “absolutely essential because it unearths your point of differentiation, the nature of your competition, the needs of your customers, and ultimately, your strategy.”
Schaefer explains once “only we” is “answered thoroughly, accurately and confidently, it’s likely that your marketing strategy will reveal itself.”
The completed sentence should provide a clear value to your customers. No one cares if your senior management team has 350 years of collective experience. What value are you bringing your customers today?
3) How Are Your Competitors Making a Customer’s Day?
I’ve found there is a wide range with how marketers absorb, share and act upon acquired competitive information with their teams and organizations.
Being hyper-focused on the competition will probably result in never moving your own brand forward. A majority of a marketer’s time needs to be spent on making their brand experience the absolute best it can be.
On the other hand, unless your brand is in a category by itself, competition exists and customers have more choices than ever before. There are best in class examples taking place every day across many industries, and there are strategic advantages for being aware of what’s happening.
Why not be inspired by how your competitors are making a customer’s day?
I’ve discovered both hits and misses with how brands connect with customers in the competitive marketing reports I’ve done for brands over the past few years, and have learned a TON just by seeing how brands and retailers over deliver and fall short.
The Ritz-Carlton has created a culture where employees are instinctively observing, recording, and meeting the “unexpressed” needs of their guests, which you can read more about from Graham Robertson. Robertson provides fantastic examples of how the Ritz-Carlton uses the phrase “Radar is on and Antenna is Up” to empower staff members to deliver customer wins.
I hope these three questions provide some useful practices for you this summer. Which one resonates with you the most?
PS: I want to buy one reader and his/her team members some ice cream this summer. Drop me an email at DanielleC@YoutailRetail.com before June 14th, 2015 at 11:00pm Eastern Standard Time with your name and contact information. One name will be selected at random. I promise to never spam you or give your info to anyone – ever. Good luck!
Dickey, Jack. “Who Killed Summer Vacation?” Time Magazine. 1 June 2015.
Schaefer, Mark W. Social Media Explained: Untangling the World’s Most Misunderstood Business Trend. © 2014 by Mark W. Schaefer. Print.
Robertson, Graham. “How Ritz-Carlton meets the “unexpressed” needs of consumers.” Beloved-Brands.com
Ice Cream stock photo © fotoVoyager
Hmm, this is puzzling stock photo © kupicoo