What is a Touchpoint?

Anyone that knows me and my family personally, knows we love all things Disney and always look forward to our yearly trip to Disney World. As a marketer, these trips are also research into how to provide the best customer experience possible.  The most impressive thing with their customer experience is just how consistent their messaging and branding is across all their touchpoints.

What is a touchpoint? A touchpoint refers to any interaction between a buyer and a seller before, during and after the purchase. For Disney, some of their most important touchpoints at the parks are their cast members including bus drivers, hotel employees, janitors and park personnel. These are just some of the touchpoints you interact with once you get to the resort and don’t include the cast members that may help you plan your trip. In addition to people there is the website, their films, etc. Disney’s corporate purpose is to provide happiness to anyone that enters the resort and boy do they deliver. Every touchpoint for Disney tries to provide happiness to their audience before, during and after their time at the park.

So how do touchpoints relate to small business? We all have touchpoints, though on a much smaller scale than Disney. If your employees interact with anyone in your target audience they are a touchpoint. Beyond employees, we can also include any marketing materials and outreach that is produced by your company including website, packaging, POP displays, social media to name a few. After the sale, touchpoints can include billing, email communications and customer service.

With each of these touchpoints, you need to determine if you are providing the correct information and experience for your target audience. Does your packaging tell enough of your story to stand out on the shelves of a retailer? Does it answer the needed questions to convert a prospect into a paying customer? Think about your website and whether it provides the right information and call to actions for site visitors. You want your target audience to review your messaging and take the desired action. Does your branding and storytelling go through to the billing stage or does it drop off at that point? The goal is to provide a experience that is consistent with your culture and purpose at every touchpoint.

I know this may sound a little intimidating, but it is important to begin to identify all of your touchpoints as you interact with your target audience. You may be surprised about all the different places these interactions take place. If you are still overwhelmed and not sure where to start, contact me about one of my customer experience workshops. I come into your office and we spend half a day evaluating your target audience, your current marketing efforts and touchpoints to see what is working and what needs changed.

The Anatomy of a Niche

(This post was originally a guest post I did for Wood Street’s blog)

It’s no secret having a niche is important in business these days, but it can be hard to identify the niche that will work best for you. Let’s take a look at a few characteristics that go into making the anatomy of a good niche.

Authentic.

By authentic, I mean you should be both knowledgeable about your niche and you should like it. If you are going to provide a service to a specific industry, you better know a lot about that industry and it should be of great interest to you because you are going to be spend a lot of time talking and working in that industry.  This is why your passion is such driving force in choosing a niche.

Bigger companies can get away with forcing a niche a bit more than a small business because you, as the owner or head of marketing, are often the face of your business. People will know if you are forcing it and tune you out. It really needs to become an extension of yourself.

Easy to communicate.

It should not require a long and involved explanation for your niche, because often you will not have the chance to explain it. Many people’s first interaction with you and your product/service will be seeing it on a shelf or reading a social media profile. You want something that can be quickly and easily explained to your target audience both visually and in descriptions.

With a strong niche it is easier to know where to communicate your message. You are better able to zero in on your target audience allowing you to engage them with the tools they use most. The messaging itself also becomes more focused because you can keep it inline with the goal of your niche.

Has a market.

There has to be a market that your niche can serve or you won’t be in business very long. It is preferable that your market is passionate about you, your product/service and your niche. A loyal fan base is so important to a company when there are so many competing messages vying for their attention. This loyalty leads to repeat customers and referrals.

Your market doesn’t have to be huge, but it does need to support your financial goals. You define what success means to you and if your market can support that definition of success then you have a good niche. In addition to meeting those goals, you have to know if you are able to scale your operations as you grow. If you are afraid you may struggle, you may have to adjust your pricing to achieve your long term goals.

While simplified, this gives you a good overview of how to evaluate your company’s niche. If you are still trying to identify the best niche for your business, take a look at my latest free resource in the Marketing Roadhouse member library – Uncover Your Niche. It will teach you the benefits of having a niche, different types of niches, and how to use the 4Ps of marketing to uncover yours.

Who Are You Selling To?

This was sent to my email list a few months ago. As I have said before, what I send to my email list is not published or shared anywhere else. It is exclusive to my subscribers, but I decided to make an exception today for 2 reasons. One, I think this topic is very important and the basis for everything I am doing for clients right now. Second, I want to share with you the type of information you are missing if you have not subscribed to my list. I hope you like the content and subscribe to my weekly email.

As I was getting ready for my panel discussion at Downtown Frederick Partnership, I was reviewing the list of questions. I noticed a few of them have to do with how to choose a target audience. If you have a niche this is fairly easy to determine because you have built your marketing around a specific target audience or two. For many companies, especially established companies, this can be harder for them to define. This is why I think that you have to begin by evaluating who your current customers are to get a better picture of your target audience.

Even if we do have a defined target audience, we need to understand who we are already selling to. What does your customer base look like? Are there any consistencies in demographics or psychographics that stand out to you? If you interact with your clients on a one-to-one basis, it is easier to evaluate similarities and identify any trends. Years ago, when I looked at our customer base I realized we worked with a lot of technology businesses. We asked some of our technology clients why they liked us and we were able to use that information in bringing on more technology-based clients.

We can also get insights onto our target audience by looking at who follows and interacts with our social media accounts. You can look at your analytics to get a snapshot of the demographics of your followers. If you have people that you interact with on a regular basis, check out their social media profiles to get a sense of who they are and what they like. This can become the basis for a customer persona.

The point is if you haven’t already defined who you want your target audience to be, you should start with your current customer base to see where you are now. That doesn’t mean you can’t expand your audiences, but it gives you a start. You also may find that you are selling to a group of people you never would have thought about as a target audience. Use that information to expand your reach. I will say when you do this evaluation, use your best customers, not the bad ones.

Do you know who you are selling to?

Put Social Back into Social Media

There was a time when Twitter was my absolute favorite social media tool. There was always a conversation to join, a question to answer, or an answer to my question. It had a real sense of community and I miss it. Now when I look at Twitter, I see automated posts from other social tools such as Facebook and Instagram. I also see a lot of programmed posts from tools like Buffer. It has become a newsfeed much more than a community. Where is the social part of social media?

Companies are one of the biggest culprits of pushing content with no interaction and I believe that if you increase your interaction with your tribe, you can break through the noise on all these social networks. I see so many brands on Instagram that have a ton of followers, but follow no one. They are just posting and not interested in interaction. I often discover new companies to follow, because they find me based on who I follow and interact with. I am more inclined to follow them back if it is a topic that interests me.

Yes, content marketing is very important, but engagement with your tribe that is tied to your content is where the conversations take place allowing you to nurture your community. Ask questions relating to your content and how you can help them. There are things you can do beyond engaging with your tribe about your content. Share content from other tribe members, provide advice or answer questions even when it has nothing to do with your area of expertise. Be useful.

Follow back your followers. You don’t have to follow them all, use the same requirements you use when you choose to follow someone on your personal accounts. If you are on Instagram, go through your feed, and like or comment on some pictures. Don’t be afraid to start conversations with those you follow. You don’t have to be business all the time, show your personality.

The content is what is going to attract new members to your tribe, the conversation is what is going to nurture and keep them engaged. Get out there and be more social.

Are We Asking the Right Questions?

One of the most asked questions I get as a social media professional is how to get more followers. I mean we all want more people to hear our messages, right? But, what if we are asking the for the wrong thing? Do we really want more followers? Or do we want more engaged followers that have a high likelihood of becoming paying customers? I know that’s what I want. I would rather have a small group that is engaged and active with me than some obscene number of followers that never even notice my message.

In 2008, Seth Godin wrote a book called Tribes where he talks about groups of people (tribes) that have a shared interest.  Based on this concept, I say we worry less about follower numbers and more on building and nurturing our tribes. By nurturing our tribes we can create brand ambassadors and customers which sounds a whole lot better than a like or comment. Let’s face it, a like doesn’t pay our bills.

So if we begin to look at our followers as a tribe, do we change how we think of them? I think we do. I think we care a little more about them and begin to provide them with products and information that makes their lives better in one way or another. We want to provide value to our tribe, not just try to pull value from it. I think this is the reason I hate the term “email blast” so much. Your email subscribers are your closest tribe members, so why would you ever blast anything at them? They have invited you into their busy inbox and you need to honor that with useful information and resources.

The same goes for social media. Numbers don’t mean anything if they are not an engaged tribe. Work on creating great content, sharing other people’s content, answering questions and helping out. You will see your follower numbers increase along with your engagement and conversions. I’m not saying this is a quick or easy process, but it is more effective in the long run. I have heard the stories of buying social media followers. Your follower list is inflated, but no one is paying attention to anything you say. You may as well have zero followers. Do the numbers look impressive? Maybe to some, but others will dig a little deeper to see what type of engagement you get. Consumers are savvy and will know when you have purchased those followers.

Does this mean you shouldn’t purchase Facebook advertising or other methods to increase followers? No, I boost Facebook posts when I feel I am providing good value to a targeted group that may not be familiar with me yet. I like to think of it as an introduction. Be sure to make the best first impression possible and bring these new people into your tribe.

Let’s stop worrying about followers and think how we can build our tribe and best serve that tribe.

How can I help you? Fill out my contact form and let me know.

There Is No Magic Formula

I was sitting here preparing to talk on a panel to a group of small business owners, and as I reviewed the questions we were given I noticed that a lot of my initial responses were “Depends”. The more I thought about it that seems to be my response to a lot of marketing-related questions I get from people. They ask me if they should use this tool or that tool. Sometimes they ask what they should be posting. Almost always my initial response is Depends. I’m not trying to stall or be difficult, just honest in the fact that there is no magic formula that works for every business out there.

Believe me, if I knew a secret formula that could be successfully applied to every business, I would have probably retired by now. Seriously though, every business is unique and so should their approach to marketing and social media. Yes, there are best practices that everyone should follow, but each business needs to evaluate some things internally before truly deciding what to tackle.

Target Audience

Your target audience has a lot to do with determining what tools you will use and the strategy on how to best use them. You need to understand your target audience’s needs, wants, and where they spend their time online and off. Finding out where they spend their time allows you to understand where you should spend your time connecting with them. Go where the fish are, don’t try to lure them to a different location. Connect where they are comfortable and most likely to be open to your message.

Your Resources

In addition to understanding your audience, you have to understand your resources with regards to time, money and talent. If you have limited time, spend it on the one tool that will provide the biggest impact based on your goals. If you have limited money, you will want to use tools that are less expensive or free. As for talent, if you aren’t comfortable in front of a video camera, don’t choose a tool that requires video. Do what makes the most of your resources and your comfort level with technology.

Your Goals

When looking at the tools you will use, you also need to consider your marketing and business goals. What do you want to get out of your marketing efforts? Brand awareness? Conversions? Provide better customer service? Different tools lend themselves to helping you achieve different goals. Your goals may be very different from your competition, so your tools and strategy will be different too.

So the next time you ask me a question and I respond with “Depends”, please don’t be offended. It is simply my way to begin that conversation that allows you to make the best and correct decision for your business.

Know Your Target Audience

Marketing, especially content marketing, is hard enough, but it can be even more difficult if you don’t fully understand your target audience. Knowing their needs and wants is vital to converting them from prospect to customer. Some companies and agencies have a tendency to share and create content that is most interesting and meaningful to themselves rather than their target audience. It’s a lot easier to do this, but definitely not an effective long-term strategy.

There are definitely a couple exceptions to this rule. You very well may be exactly like your target audience and therefore your strategy is 100% effective. In addition if your peers are your target audience than the strategy of sharing content that is interesting to you and your organization is spot on. If either of these is your situation, feel free to skip this post and come back next week.

By creating and sharing content that is not interesting or even relevant to your target audience, you are wasting resources and risking alienating your target audience. If you are not relating to your target audience with your content, you are wasting time and money because it will not lead to the conversion to customer. We all know the constant creation and curation of content requires a lot of time, energy and money. If you are misusing these three very important resources, you are not going to achieve your overall goals. While wasting resources is bad, alienating your target audience can be worse. This can hurt your reputation and drive this audience right into the arms of your competitors. Readers will see through your efforts and react unfavorably if they feel you don’t “get them”.

How can you avoid this situation? Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes by understanding their concerns, likes, dislikes, wants and needs. The more you understand about them the better. Read other publications, both online and off, that share a target audience with you including those in a different industry. Read things written by those in your target market. Are you matching the vocabulary they use? Consider talking to your existing customers to get better insight into what helped convert them into a customer. How well do you know your target audience?