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From Wikipedia: Engagement marketing, sometimes called “experiential marketing,” “event marketing,” “on-ground marketing,” “live marketing,” “participation marketing,” or “special events” is a marketing strategy that directly engages consumers and encourages them to participate in the evolution of a brand or a brand experience.
Late last year, retailer Macy’s announced that it would be closing 100 stores. Macy’s CFO, Karen M. Hoguet explained, “Most of these stores are underperformers or in weak locations.”
Really? Weak locations? Or is it just a better shopping experience for you to visit Amazon? You can go online, buy anything available at Macy’s for a lower price, and have it delivered within a day with no shipping charges. The item can be returned with no hassle or additional charges. If you get confused or need help, you can instantly chat with a customer service rep online or on the phone. Should you choose the Amazon Smile option, a few cents of your purchase price goes to a charity of your selection. That’s a nice value-add. You can do all this from the comfort of your home.
A friend of mine told me of a recent trip to a brick-and-mortar Macy’s store. He called ahead to have a jacket put aside for him. When he got there, he couldn’t find anyone who knew where the jacket would be. He repeatedly waited while the sales staff answered phone calls. He walked 5,000 steps — he was wearing a Fitbit — and scoured the store for his set-aside jacket. When he finally found it, of course it didn’t fit. He ended up buying the jacket on Amazon.
So how does this relate to your PHC company? People, including you, are buying more and more of everything online. We are well-served to respond to what customers want, and are currently doing, by restructuring how we do business.
So, how do we respond to changing shopping and buying expectations?
1. Be better online
Regularly upgrade your online presence, from your website (make sure it’s modern, responsive and mobile-friendly) to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay Per Click (PPC) to social media. Remember when Yellow Pages seemed like a major, multi-faceted marketing conversation? Those were the good old days. Someone at your company needs to lead the charge with e-marketing. Yes, you can sub out some of it, however you, or someone on your team, needs to coordinate the efforts and measure results. E-marketing is no longer optional; it’s required to survive.
You may want to make some prices available online. There are contractors and marketers putting all their chips in online PHC sales. Note that unless you can do big volume and tolerate low prices, this is a rough game for a service contractor. Crunch your numbers before you change your business model.
You may choose to go in the opposite direction and craft a deep niche, with extraordinary personal-touch service. What’s your unique service proposition? What makes you different, better and worth a premium price? You are well-served to communicate that in short, snappy videos, describing your in-person experience. Record on-the-job clips of your techs at work, sharing what customers can safely do on their own, and when it’s time to call a pro. Add testimonial videos from customers who love your techs, and their positive experiences and outcomes.
Ask for online feedback. Prominently display your reviews and ratings on your site and in your social media. Subscribe to Review Buzz or another service that makes it easy for customers to brag on you. Let your Facebook friends and Twitter followers know that you are good community members by sharing your involvement in local events. Respond to customers’ milestone events and participate in their fundraisers.
It takes courage to engage customers online in an authentic way. You will encounter some disgruntled clients (and employees). Actively nurturing five-star reviews makes the rare poor review survivable. The best experiential marketers will make the most of these opportunities. Everyone wins when you turn around a bad situation and create a positive, integrity-demonstrating moment.
2. Be even better in person
“If dogs don’t like your dog food, the packaging doesn’t matter,” —Stephen Denny
The most powerful e-marketing is born from authentic, extraordinary service experiences. You can’t own the full service niche with shoddy customer care. Here’s a powerful exercise for upgrading every moment of your customer’s experience to exceptional.
Meet with your team. Announce a company-wide assignment. Consider the customer experience from the moment he or she discovers a problem, to the resolution of the problem and the follow-up steps. Note what makes the moment stressful and frustrating, versus powerfully positive.
For instance, say Mrs. Fernwicky discovers a leak in her radiant system. It’s frustrating and frightening if she doesn’t have an emergency number handy, or if she doesn’t know how to shut off the water, or if she even should. It’s a much better experience if your number is boldly displayed in a logical place on the piping, with clear, plain-English emergency instructions. Her experience is heightened when your call taker answers on the second ring, offers a bit of genuine empathy and communicates appropriate next steps.
Go through every moment of your customer’s experience: calling your shop, scheduling service, waiting for the technician, opening the door for your tech, going through your troubleshooting process, discovering what’s wrong and how to fix it, assessing options and prices, and so on.
The magic happens when your team and your customers get involved in the exercise. Your team members, particularly the front line employees, know what’s working and what gets in the way of an outstanding customer experience. Listen to them. Have them talk to their customers about the assignment. They could ask customers, “What do you love about working with us? What could we do to improve? Describe a really great service experience with us, or with another contractor.” Rely on them and trust their input. And, dear owner, get yourself out in the field and on the phone. Ask your customers for help improving their experiences with your company.
Take a week or two to gather input. The results should be written and then discussed in subsequent meetings. Where does your company shine? How can you improve? What procedures need to be written, updated and drilled? Together, you can decide on which aspects of the service experience you can focus on and systematically deliver so well that your customers will be happy — honor bound — to brag on you, via videos and five-star reviews.
Note that the experiential business model works in every aspect of the PHC industry. Contractors, manufacturers and suppliers … are you experiential? The winning PHC game will be played by high-volume, low-cost, high-tech players and premium service providers who make their customers very, very glad that they showed up in person.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou