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Remarkable Customer Service

Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in Ryan's Thoughts | 0 comments

Remarkable Customer Service

Over the past couple of years something I have been working very hard at – in addition to continuing to work on my marketing game – has been to develop and implement a new/improved customer service strategy. In some ways, this should be a very simple task – just tell every employee to treat every customer like they are the most important people in the world. In much the same way, dieting is simple – limit the amount of food you eat and get more exercise. In reality, both tasks are full of land mines and set backs, moments of great success, and moments of utter failure.  You lose 10lbs, and then you lose control at a buffet.

One of the biggest challenges in Customer Service is that you are dealing with people on both sides of the transaction. And people don’t get enough sleep, don’t drink enough coffee in the morning, have fights with their spouses, have pets who get sick, feel that they are pursuing the wrong path in their lives, feel lost, feel hungry, and just generally have bad days. No matter how bad your employee’s day was, you still expect them to treat your customers with respect, to do the jobs they’ve been asked to do (no matter how many times they’ve done them before) and to view what they do as incredibly important, even though sometimes their job just means asking hundreds of people the same question each and every day.

Earlier this summer I went to McDonald’s for breakfast. Now, this isn’t usually a difficult thing to get me to do (Sausage and Egg McMuffin and a large coffee with one sugar, please), but this time I went with a purpose. I was looking for Edgar on the other side of the microphone. Who Edgar was, I didn’t know, but I had heard a morning radio show talking about this guy who spoke with each and every customer like they were the centre of the universe, and I had to hear him for myself. I didn’t get Edgar the first day, or the second day (you can see why dieting is such a problem for me), but on the third day, I was greeted with the most enthusiastic voice I had ever heard.

When I got to the window to pay, I told him that I had heard him on the radio, and he dropped the act for a moment to chuckle and tell me that they were going to have him on the show again in a couple of days. As he accepted the debit terminal back, he turned his alter ego back on and wished me a great day.

I’m pretty sure that it was Seth Godin who defined ‘remarkable’ as ‘something worth remarking on.’ I generally expect service at McDonald’s that rates about a 5 or 6 on a 10 point scale. I double check my coffee order every time, because if I don’t I inevitably get cream AND sugar in my coffee. This happens often enough that I’m not even mad anymore – I just make sure to check before I drive away. When they get my order right (which is most of the time), I don’t say anything. This is how it is supposed to be. And yet, when Edgar hits the microphone, radio DJ’s make a recording of it, play it on the radio, and invite the guy into the station for a cameo. Edgar is remarkable.

This begs the question, “What’s more important? Creating Edgar, or getting the coffee right?” And of course, the answer is getting the coffee right. Because as much as I love my McMuffin, I also regularly bring a Thermos of my own coffee to work, stop at Robin’s Donuts for a cup, or if I’m early enough, swing by Starbucks for a morning latte. Edgar created enough interest to get me to come and experience him once, but if the rest of the crew doesn’t get my order right on a consistent basis, I won’t come back.

By definition, remarkable means something out of the ordinary. If everyone was an Edgar, nobody would stand out. People would quickly become bored, or even annoyed, with the over-the-top voice on the other side of the order window. This follows the Hedonic Treadmill Theory which states that people get used to whatever standard they are currently enjoying and learn to expect it as a new normal.

Truly remarkable customer service isn’t Edgar. Truly remarkable customer service is the person on the front line who delivers a smile with each order, wishes everyone a good day when they leave, and who does what is necessary to make a customer happy. Truly remarkable customer service is consistent quality, something that most businesses fail at regularly. It means having the right staff in the right locations, having enough staff to deal with all of your customers, and making sure that everyone knows what to do. Remarkable customer service doesn’t always mean the customer is always right, it means having customer service policies that make sense, making sure the employee knows WHY the policy exists, and then giving them the power to break the rules when needed.

Customer Service and Marketing go hand-in-hand. Your goal in marketing is to earn a chance to prove how great your customer service is. Fail at the marketing, and the customer service goes unseen. Fail at customer service, and your marketing efforts were all for naught. But if you can blend the two together – to create marketing that drives people to your door and a customer service program that makes them come back – that’s when you win. Finding an Edgar can help you get there, but don’t spend all of your time searching for him. Get the rest of the combination right, and Edgar just might come looking for you.


Using Fiverr

Posted by on Nov 1, 2016 in Ryan's Thoughts | 0 comments

Using Fiverr

Recently I’ve been experimenting with using Fiverr. I needed a couple of logo designs – just for updating a few websites that I operate with graphics that are better than the ones I created in MSPaint several years ago.

I’ve resisted the urge to visit Fiverr for quite a while, because I’m a “Creative”. That means that I expect to be paid fairly for the work that I do and in accordance with my experience levels and the quality of my work. How then, could I ever justify paying someone $5 for their time to create a logo for me?

Despite my hesitation, the temptation was strong. I was also curious. Who offers their services there? Would I get a good design? Would I feel guilty about using the service? I bit the bullet and got a logo done for a website that I’ve owned since 2003 – and mostly abandoned about 10 years ago. The site (which I should write about sometime because I learned some harsh lessons about web development with it) had gone through several logos, all of which I did myself. Which is to say – they were all pretty bad.


The Experiment

I created a Fiverr account, logged in, and set about searching for designers. There are hundreds, if not thousands to choose from for most of the popular searches. I found a designer who seemed to have a portfolio that resembled what I wanted, and their ratings seemed good. In fact, their ratings were incredibly good. They also had a large backlog of projects in their queue. I selected the gig. The result? In about a week, I received three designs that were kind of okay but not exactly what I was looking for. One was close, so I asked for some revisions, then had to ask again, and finally, once again. In the end I received a logo that was okay for the purposes I wanted it for. By the time I had paid for all the source files the total ended up being about $100 Canadian.

That’s a far cry from the $5 that the website name implies, but still a very low price for a logo.

My interest had been piqued. I have another website that I have been slowly building content on for the past year or so, and I was just using one of the free WordPress themes and a text logo. I grabbed another Fiverr Gig for a logo for the site and then chose a new theme from (a service I love, by the way). The result? A logo that I am absolutely in love with. This logo was less money than the first: about $75 Canadian.

I needed to try one more. My son has a YouTube channel. I wanted to get him a profile logo, so I launched yet another Fiverr gig. This time, I was looking for cheap. I received 4 designs in 48 hours. My son liked one of them. The total cost was $21 Canadian.


My Thoughts

The bottom line is… I like the service.

I was able to get usable files for much less than I would have been able to get them locally. At this point, I think it’s worth noting that all of these providers were from overseas. That wasn’t on purpose, but it does seem to be pretty common on Fiverr. In North America, the cost of living is much higher, and unless you can do a large volume of work, you wouldn’t make much of a living off of Fiverr. But living overseas in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia these providers can do work for much less than they could in Canada or the United States and still feed themselves.

The other notable thing with the service is that the quality of the work ranged from ‘just okay’ to good. Even the logo that I loved – there are many details on it that could be improved by a great designer. I get the feeling that many of these providers are rather new to the business or haven’t had a lot of critical feedback in their careers. One advantage of being in a creative business for a long time is that people will eventually pick apart your work. While this can hurt, it also makes your work better over time. In addition, I really got the impression that there was a lot of clipart being used in these logos. Not just the ones I bought, but in general. Many of these designers have built their businesses around quick turnaround. Some of them, especially designers who offer animation, even say that what you see in the portfolio is EXACTLY what you will get, only with your business name. If that works for you, awesome. If not… find another provider.


My Takeaways

I’ve always been told that people treat you the way that you teach them to treat you. If you’re willing to do a design for $5, you can’t be surprised when people pay you $5 for that design. On the other hand, it’s ridiculous to expect to be paid thousands of dollars for a design when you have no portfolio and no experience.

When I started writing, I often used to find work. Sometimes that meant I was writing for $0.05 per word, much less than I wanted. I found two things: I got to do work that was really interesting in fields that I would likely never have had access to without the site (I eventually wrote a ton of bios for Ivy League lawyers who were working overseas, for example).  I also found that I was able to hammer out a ton of work – which improved my skills dramatically. I turned out hundreds of thousands of words of copy that would have taken me several more years to do in a conventional setting. I got much better at editing. It was very common in the bio world, for example, to require 5000, 2500, 1000, 500, and 50 word pieces. I’d write the long version first, and then distill, distill, and distill to get to where I needed to be.

Writing for next to nothing on the internet made me a better writer. Would I ever take a gig that cheap again? Probably not. While I did a lot of repeat work with my clients, none of the $0.05 per word customers ever became $2 per word customers. However, it did allow me to build a portfolio that led to much higher paying work.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re looking to make a website look a little better, or you’re launching something and want to try out a bunch of different designs – Fiverr is the way to go. You can easily get 20 or 30 designs for a few hundred dollars. The cost of this would be similar to a logo project with 99designs, but with Fiverr you get to keep all of the designs and all of the designers get paid – even if it’s not very much.

On the other hand, if you have an existing company and you’re looking to expand or take your business to the next level – spend some time working with a local ad agency, design firm, or freelance graphic designer. Not only is the quality of the work likely to be much higher, but they will invest a lot of time to learn about your business and what you really need before they create something for you. This means that the resulting design work will be inline with your business goals and the work will probably have a much longer life.

The Toilet Paper Fallacy

Posted by on Oct 12, 2016 in Ryan's Thoughts | 0 comments

I stole this picture from their website – here’s the link


Everybody reading this probably (hopefully?) uses toilet paper. Every person that I know uses toilet paper. Those people encompass all ages, races, and genders. And yet, not everybody buys toilet paper.

Marketing is a business with a lot of questions. In fact, I think it’s a business driven by questions. It would be hard to decide what the most important question advertisers should ask themselves is, but one that I might vote for is “Who is going to buy this product or service?”

Some people might phrase that as “Who is my customer?”, which is fine too. The problem is, most business owners say something like “Everybody is a potential customer. Everybody can buy what I have to sell, therefore my advertising should appeal to everyone.” And that’s where most marketing plans go off the rails. Not in the execution, not in the social strategy, and not in the creative department. In the very first question that most people ask. Who is my customer? Everyone. BZZZZZZT!

There’s four people in my house, and all four use toilet paper. But only one actually buys toilet paper, and that one person is my wife. Oh sure, I buy toilet paper sometimes and there are all male households where men purchase the TP – but of course there are just as many all female households. The fact is that women account for between 70 and 80% of all consumer spending. That means, among other things, that women purchase most of the toilet paper.

For the most impact, your TP marketing dollars should focus primarily on women. But even that is not enough. You need to further drill down: Which age groups purchase the most bathroom tissue? Where do they live? What influences their purchasing decisions? Do they collect and use coupons? How do they pay for it?

Then, if you’re really serious, you break your marketing down even further. Most large companies use different creative for different markets. They write different copy for rural areas than they do for New York City. They hire Hispanic agencies to create content just for Hispanic consumers. This is a great idea, since you don’t want to end up with a horrible mistranslation of your campaign.

Of course, there’s also a downside to focusing too heavily on a specific market. Just because a certain demographic is the most likely to purchase from you, doesn’t mean that they are the only demographic to purchase from you. If I assume that 80% of all toilet paper purchases are made by women, that still leaves 20% of those purchases to men. If you ignore those men, you are potentially leaving billions of dollars on the table.

So, how do you decide how to spend your marketing dollars? At the core of that question is your brand. When Dollar Shave Club added One Wipe Charlies to their stable of products, they appealed to their mostly male members with the same type of irreverent video that launched their razor blade business. They focus on selling to men, and they aren’t after the entire TP market – just a small and profitable corner of it. They likely also end up selling to some women, even though that wasn’t their primary target. By focusing on a smaller niche market, they avoid the clutter and confusion of competing with the Charmins and Purexes of the world.

And what about you? Who IS your customer? Who is most likely to buy what you’re selling, and why?