Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Email Helps Strengthen Tie To Consumers

Over time, consumers who receive a retailer's permission-based email become more likely to do business with--and develop a more favorable opinion of--that company, according to new research from direct marketing agency Epsilon.

And while the deck is clearly stacked in favor of company-friendly consumers, the research still proves that email only strengthens bonds between the brand and consumer, according to Kevin Mabley, Epsilon's EVP of strategic services. "These are already hand-raisers--yes, but it's still encouraging to see that email is improving consumer-brand relationships," he said.

A full 56% of recipients of permission-based email from retail companies said they were more likely to make purchases from the sending retailers. Meanwhile, 52% said they had a more favorable opinion of the retail companies that send them email because of the communications they receive.

In addition, 48% of respondents reported feeling more loyal toward the retailers and their products as a result of receiving permission-based emails.

A clear majority--87%--of respondents who receive permission-based email from retail companies said email is a great way to learn about new products, while 63% of those who receive permission-based email from retail companies said they want to receive personalized content based on their Web site activity and past purchases.

What actions did respondents take as a result of receiving permission-based email from a retailer? About 88% reported downloading or printing coupons, while 79% clicked a link in an email to learn more about a particular service, product, or promotion.

Keeping in mind the skewed consumer sample, a staggering 75% of respondents reporting purchasing a product online as a result of permission-based email, while 67% reported purchasing a product offline.

"Those are very high numbers even when you consider the test sample," Mabley noted. "To see consumers following up offline says a lot about the strength of email."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

If you keep doing the same things, you will get the same result

I was meeting with a potential new client last week and was told that for the past 5 months the business has been generating less and less revenue and is down over 50% from last year.

When I asked "What are you doing differently or reevaluating as you look at your goals for the next 3-6 months?" I was greeted with a look and cocked head that was what you would expect from a dog that heard a new noise. "Why would change anything? I am just trying to hold on!" was the response.

I tried to explain that if they kept doing the exact same things, I would be able to guarantee that they would continue to get the same results...or worse. My response was not met with overwhelming support.

If you are not getting the results you want, take a hard look at
  • Your product or service levels. Is the service you are providing at the highest levels? The product you are creating - does it exceed your customers expectations...if not, fix it fast or go buy a "Going Out Of Business" sign.
  • Do you have the right marketing message? You could have the best product out there, but if you don't have the right message - nobody will care. In many cases, I have found that when you refine and/or readjust the message you will begin to see a turn around in your revenues. Find a trusted marketing professional and ask them for help in evaluating your message.
  • Is there enough frequency in your advertising?
  • Is there a demand for what you are doing. If not, adjust.
  • Finally, do you have the right people on your team?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Baby Boomers Represent Key Demographic for Restaurants

Children may be the future of the world, but according to new data from market research firm The NPD Group, baby boomers are the future of the restaurant industry.

While nearly all other age groups have decreased their per-capita visits to restaurants in the last five years, boomers -- roughly defined as adults born between 1946 and 1964 -- have significantly increased their visits, according to Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting that the size of this group will grow at three times the rate of the rest of the population over the next decade, NPD officials say that boomers will continue to be a dining-out force that operators cannot afford to ignore.

"I don't think people are aware that this group is supporting the industry's traffic," said NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs. "They're going to be around for a while, so we need to pay attention to them.

"In the 12 months ended in October, the number of per-capita visits by adults aged 50 to 64 was 208, up from 204 a year earlier and 201 in 2003. Meanwhile, nearly all other age groups made fewer visits to restaurants in the 12 months ended in October, versus a year earlier. Meanwhile, visits from the industry's core users, adults aged 18 to 24, have declined steadily in the past five years, dropping to 233 from 254 in 2003. The only other group to increase per-capita visits over the past five years was adults aged 65 and older. This group increased per-capita visits to 159, up from 151 a year earlier and 148 in 2003.

When baby boomers dine out they visit a variety of restaurant categories, NPD found. While they patronize many of the same categories as the general population, boomers have an above-average usage of midscale places with varied menus, food and drug stores, and midscale family-style restaurants, according to the data.

When it comes to choosing a restaurant, older adults are more influenced by price than their younger counterparts. In the 12 months ended in October, 24 percent of restaurant visits made by adults 65 and older and 21 percent made by adults aged 50 to 64 were price-driven, compared to just 20 percent of visits made by those younger than 50.

While price is a concern, particularly during a recession, baby boomers don't visit a restaurant just because it's cheap.

In the 12 months ended in October, just 21 percent of baby boomers' restaurant visits were because of deals. By comparison, 22 percent of visits made by those younger than 50 were influenced by deals, and 26 percent made by those 65 and older were deal-driven.

Because boomers are physically more active and living longer than previous generations, they tend to look for more healthful food options when they visit restaurants, the data found. In the 12 months ended in October, 10 percent of visits made by those 50 to 64 were for a so-called healthy or light meal, compared to just 8 percent of visits made by those younger than 50. In addition, NPD found that as adults age their desire for more healthful fare increases. During the same 12-month period, 12 percent of visits made by those 65 and older were for a healthy or light meal.

While burgers, French fries, Mexican and breakfast sandwiches top the list of foods most frequently ordered by boomers, they tend to order them less frequently than the general population. For example, in the year ended in October, burgers made up 14 percent of items ordered by boomers, while burgers made up 14.5 percent of items ordered by the general population. More important to boomers than to their younger counterparts are foods such as nonfried vegetables, main dish salads, side dish salads and shellfish.

When quenching their thirst, boomers are much more inclined than the general population to drink coffee, diet carbonated soft drinks, iced tea and alcoholic beverages, NPD found."Clearly, foods and beverages with relatively high dependence on those over 55 years of age will be those enjoying strong growth going forward," Riggs said.

Though these foods and beverages are important to this group now, continuing physical changes will influence the demand for various products and services in the future, Riggs noted. As they age, boomers will seek out more low-fat, low-sodium, low-sugar and higher-fiber foods and beverages. However, Riggs said, that does not mean they will be willing to sacrifice the taste and flavor of food.

Other reasons baby boomers visited particular restaurants included "restaurant exploration" and "food variety and quality," NPD found. In addition, as diners age factors such as "personal loyalty," "treating myself" and "need it now" become far less important than they are to younger patrons.

Restaurant marketers have historically targeted younger consumers, who have tended to be the most frequent restaurant visitors. But as the economy has increased competition for any type of consumer and the heads of those dining in restaurants become grayer each day, many marketers have started to turn their attention to baby boomers.

Boomers are a prime target for Calabasas Hills, Calif.-based The Cheesecake Factory. To bring them in more frequently, the more than 145-unit chain has been rolling out value-added programs and new products. For example, in December, the chain offered customers a free $25 gift card with the purchase of a $25 holiday bear and introduced a new cheesecake flavor.

"[Baby boomers] are a very important and lucrative target for The Cheesecake Factory," said senior vice president and chief marketing officer Mark Mears. "[We're] finding it's a nice draw to get people to come back for incremental visits.

"To continue to attract this crowd, Mears said, The Cheesecake Factory "has a lot of things in the works," including a new special menu featuring eight items priced between $11 and $14.

In August, Los Angeles-based Kabuki Japanese Restaurants, a casual-dining chain that operates 13 locations in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, rolled out its Red Mask Club, a new frequent-diner program. Although designed to reward all of the chain's regular customers by letting them earn points for each visit and then redeem them for cash-value gift certificates, baby boomers are certainly a target market.

"A high number of our guests are in the baby boomer category," said marketing director Young Kim, noting that while all of the chain's restaurants have experienced negative sales versus a year ago, those locations that have the heaviest boomer traffic had less negative -- only single-digit -- declines. "Now we are giving them an incentive to come back.

"After just two months, nearly 15,000 customers were enrolled in the Red Mask Club, and many of those members were baby boomers, Kim said.

"I don't mind giving away $25 or a birthday meal," Kim said of one of the loyalty program's perks. "We are getting really good returns. It makes sense for them and for us.

"While fresh deals and new loyalty programs are working for some, to keep baby boomers coming back to Good News Cafe in Woodbury, Conn., owner Carole Peck is doing what she's done for the past 15 years: offering a lot of healthful vegetarian choices at a good value and remaining heavily involved in the local community.

"I've always had a lot of vegetarian choices...and a lot of baby boomers want to eat healthy," Peck said.

Although most customers come to Good News Cafe for its menu of "modern farm cuisine," which changes seasonally and typically features about 45 items, Peck said working with local farmers and being involved in various charity events also drives business."

A lot of people recognize that and come in and support us for that reason," she said.

No matter what the approach, Riggs said operators who focus on older adults are bound to benefit.

"As weak as the industry is today, it would be even weaker if not for the support obtained from baby boomers and senior citizens," Riggs said. "It pays for operators to pay attention to this group, not only currently but in the future."
(Source: Nation's Restaurant News, 02/02/09)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It Is All About Service

With the current economy, now is the time to ramp up your customer service techniques.Here are 10 tips to keep in mind:

1. Understand how your clients' expectations rise and change over time.What may have been good enough before no longer applies. Ask them and understand how to better serve them to help them with their business and needs.

2. Differentiate yourself from the competition.Provide personalized and responsive service and go "beyond the call of duty." Treat them in a way that they will appreciate and remember.

3. Raise the bar for yourself.You've heard of "dazzling the client" -- now find ways to do it. Be more flexible, faster and more efficient.

4. Never be content.Find ways to stay ahead of the pack. I find every day there is so much to learn and new ways to implement. Make it your goal to learn and apply something new each day..

5.Manage expectations.Build a firm foundation of trust and deliver what you promise. Then if something comes up, you will find the client more understanding and forgiving. A great line I heard once was to "under-promise and over-deliver."

6. Take personal responsibility.You want your name to be golden to them and make sure you live up to that standard. Make it easy for them to do business with you and let them "sleep at night."

7. Bounce back with effective service recovery.Things happen that are often out of our control. When it does, go into major "repair mode" and do whatever it takes to restore great customer goodwill.

8. Appreciate.When your clients complain, they can be your best allies because they will tell you what you really need to know. Listen with your ears totally tuned up, then fix the problem. And thank them!

9. See the world from the customers' point of view.Take off any blinders and take the time to step into their shoes. Actually become a customer. See what the client sees and the way they might feel and then work to make it better then ever.

10. Service is the currency that keeps our economy moving.Customer service is always in fashion!! Strive to improve each and every day.Go through your client base today, and think of one thing you can do differently. Remember, your clients become your biggest advocates because they praise and brag about you, which builds your brand and leads to a stronger and bigger network.

Source: Marketing/networking consultant Andrea Nierenberg, head of The Nierenberg Group (, 2009)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Consumers To Businesses: Level With Us

While this article is directed toward banks and financial institutions, the message is the same for all businesses - be honest with us. Don't try to paint a rosier picture that reality is, consumers want factual reassurance of your stability and commitment. In short, be honest and sincere with your marketing. Now is not the time for outlandish or insincere marketing programs. Further, make sure your sales staff understand that customers want facts, straight talk and sincerity.

Financial services providers can diminish defections by simply communicating with consumers, according to a study from Boston Consulting Group, which also explored which specific kinds of communications consumers want from their financial services firms.

BCG found that 83% of U.S. consumers contacted by their primary bank about the economic crisis--via emails, phone calls, and snail mail--were satisfied with the banks, compared with only 53% of those who had not been contacted. For investment/brokerage firms, the respective figures were 71% versus 34%, and for insurance companies, 71% versus 45%.

Yet, just 21% of the survey respondents had been contacted by their banks, 26% by their investment/brokerage firms, and 15% by their insurance companies.

American consumers were least satisfied with credit card companies--only 58% of consumers contacted expressed satisfaction, compared with 35% of those who had not received any contact. Credit card companies had only contacted 17% of consumers--a figure surpassing only insurance companies, brokers and agents among all financial institutions.

Despite the lack of contact from financial institutions, only 29% of U.S. respondents told BCG they would like more communication from them--the lowest of the six countries involved in the study.

Kate Manfred, a Chicago-based principal in BCG's Financial Institutions practice, attributed this apparent discrepancy to consumers' reaction to "business-as-usual communication/marketing programs," which she said have been continuing at pre-crisis levels as opposed to financial firms offering targeted, relevant information that addresses the current economic situation.

The study pointed specifically to the advertising from financial firms in the November and December issues of Fortune, Smart Money and Time, where only 8 of 52 print ads addressed the financial downturn.

While saying they get enough communication, consumers still want factual reassurance, according to Manfred. The study found that 53% of respondents specifically want such reassurance of a provider's financial stability. Majorities also said they would like to receive "information on what to consider in these economic times" and FAQs containing current information about the crisis.

Exactly half of the respondents said the economic crisis has caused them to lose trust in their investment/brokerage firms, followed by investment advisors and banks (46% each), insurance brokers (38%), insurance companies (36%) and insurance agents (32%).

What has consumers' response been to the crisis? BCG found that the most common activity was less credit card spending, which 47% said they have already done or are considering. A quarter of respondents said they had looked--or were considering looking--for cheaper offers on insurance for home, car and other non-life policies. Other popular options were investing more in stable savings products rather than the stock market, and changing retirement plans.

High-income consumers are more likely to make financial moves due to the economic crisis, BCG found.

BCG's recommendations to financial services firms include:
• Quickly adapt marketing and sales strategies and develop customer outreach plans.
• Communicate more with updated and relevant information, FAQs and reassurance.
• Equip the sales force to answer questions and provide valuable guidance for the current market.
• Target most-concerned customer segments with the right messages and products ("according to behaviors and attitudes, not just income/assets--who is losing trust? Who is most anxious?")

"If you're not appropriately responsive, then you're at risk of losing market share," stated BCG partner Kilian Berz, who heads the firm's retail banking practice in the Americas. "The banks that are more nimble and able to provide timely messages through more interactive advertising channels are going to be advantaged." As an example, Berz pointed to JP Morgan Chase's "The Way Forward," a series of Web-based opinion papers about topics such as lending and mortgage practices.

The BCG study was conducted in November via an online survey of 1,000 18+ consumers in each of six countries.