Elizabeth Keserauskis

Building relationships and making connections

Your Customers Telling Your Story

I am sitting here in Clayton Studios working with Dick Ulett and Brenda Bertts Long to record the radio ads for SIUE. Our first campaign about a year and a half ago told the stories of success at SIUE through the eyes of faculty and students. We had such a quick turnaround time that we chose to use professional voice talent.

This year, we decided to tell the stories of success literally through our students and faculty. We asked for nominations from our staff and faculty of students who had great stories of success to tell. We then auditioned everyone, and selected a great pool of students to be the “voices of SIUE”.

I have to admit, I was extremely nervous about the level of talent we would find in the student body. Boy was I pleasantly surprised! We have amazing talent on campus for radio voices! Now we are in the studio today recording the ads with our students. It is amazing. They are so inspiring and have such great stories to tell with such energy and excitement! Talk about authentic—most places strive to bring this out of their actors. We are getting it right out of the gate!

Having your customers tell your story for you (and yes, students are our customers!!) is so powerful. I am excited to also see how this will play out in the rest of our media—billboards, print ads, blogging, and so much more. I really do hope that this strategy will resonate with prospective students and parents—hearing the stories from our students.

And by the way, Brenda Bertts Long, Dick Ulett and Clayton Studios are absolutely amazing and great to work with! I highly recommend them.

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April 26, 2010 Posted by | connecting, higher education, marketing | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tree Pollen Distribution Has Similar Success to Direct Mail

It dawned on me the other day as I was trying without success to get the pollen off my windshield that the pollen distribution strategy of trees in the spring is remarkably similar to the traditional, unsolicited direct mail strategy. My gross overgeneralization of unsolicited direct mail strategy is that you cast a HUGE net over a very loosely targeted area to people who have not tried to start a dialog with your company or about your product/service with your direct mail pieces, hoping you get a response that will eventually turn into a sale.

Trees release a HUGE amount of pollen, over whatever area they can get using wind as the distribution strategy. That area is not necessarily the right area, as much of the pollen lands on concrete, houses, cars, etc. Then the tree has to pray that the seeds can make it into the ground, that rain falls, and then that successful germination occurs. We still haven’t made it to the “sale” part of the equation, because now the tree has to hope that someone doesn’t pull it out of the ground, or mow their grass before it can grow tall, or that some animal doesn’t find it a tasty treat.

See how this is remarkably similar to unsolicited direct mail?? The advantages that the trees have that has allowed this strategy to remain successful are:

  • They have a lot of time to be patient and wait for success. Their life cycle is long. If they don’t have successful germination and growth in one spring, they can try again for likely several hundred more springs.
  • There are a lot of the same trees out there doing the same thing.
  • They have “ambassadors” in that people are actively planting trees in the spaces they would like them to grow.

So can you and your business afford to spray your direct mail once a year, hope something sticks  and if not, just wait until the next spring? I would venture to guess not. Just one more piece of evidence why unsolicited, unqualified direct mail cannot be your only strategy.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | connecting, higher education, marketing, sales | , , , | 2 Comments

The Jury is Still Out on Twitter

I have seen some successful customer service interactions on Twitter and experienced not some not-so-great customer service interactions on Twitter, specifically involving Dell. I am still not exactly certain how Twitter can be successful from the individual user, or customer, perspective. If you are a corporation looking to get involved in Twitter from the perspective of generating original content, how can you generate content that people actually want to read? Obviously, most people don’t really care about the mundane things, such as me sending a tweet saying that I am driving to work this morning. The people who are preaching about Twitter as an opportunity for your business to get engaged with social media seem, to me, to be more interested in increasing their number of followers or the number of tweets they send versus really trying to engage with the audience. I question, do you actually [have a signal with] your customer or you are just generating a bunch of noise? If you have 100,000 followers, I challenge you to show me that you actually can have an interactive relationship with all 100,000 people. So if you are just generating and broadcasting content for the sake of hearing yourself talk, and that’s your objective, maybe Twitter is for you. If you are actually using it to try to connect with people, I still have yet to see how that is actually a viable option.

The other thing that I have noticed is that many of those who are preaching about twitter or generating the most content or the most followers also happen to be male. Now, this may sound exceptionally reverse-chauvinist or reverse-sexist, but I wonder if what is at play here is that women in their 30’s and 40’s have kids and careers and families and are trying to balance them all. The things that get cut from your time are those things that don’t have the biggest bang for their buck.  I am wondering if Twitter is one of those that has yet to show a big bang for the buck and is, therefore, being dropped from the radar of some individual women. Now again, I don’t have any substantial proof to make these statements but it is just a feeling I have, especially when I am talk to several women also in the field of marketing and advertising that feel the same way about how can you incorporate Twitter as an effective communication strategy.

In the subsequent post, I will talk a little bit about the rich customer service opportunities that abound, monitoring the conversation about your brand using Twitter, and finding ways to have conversations with individuals that I have seen to be successful. But –just Tweeting for the sake of hearing yourself talk is not an effective communication strategy unless your whole goal is simply to make yourself look good and make noise.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | connecting, marketing, relationships, social media | , , , | 2 Comments

Who’s Driving the Email Bus?

I was recently quite surprised to find out that several people who are responsible for sending out email campaigns to their list of customers have not learned much about when you can expect the best open and click through rates.

Now, I find it interesting that the folks who have the best of intentions, want to build relationships with their customer base, and are ultimately responsible for the email marketing campaign haven’t been taught how to maximize their return on their investment. I think it’s fantastic that we’re actually sending emails versus relying on printed letters or direct mail, but there are a few ways that we can improve on the open and click through rate, which are very important measurements of return on investment for an email marketing campaign.

Some of them seem to be just logical, if you sit and think about the behavior of your customer when they’re at their computer or reading their emails. For example, if you are trying to attract the attention of someone while they’re at work; you have their work email address. Perhaps it’s apparent, or you’re in the business of B2B sales. They’re usually sitting at their desk at work reading their emails. If you think about it, an email that arrives either during the night or first thing in the morning is going to get lost among the many emails that have accumulated over the overnight and need to be waded through first thing in the morning. If you send it over the lunch hour, they’re not going to be at their desk, and then when they get back, there’s going to be a list of emails to get through, so your email may not get the attention that you want it to get. That same idea applies to emails delivered after 5:00 PM or normal business hours. Your email is going to get lost in a pile of emails the customer has to wade through in the morning.

So, what does that leave us? 10:00 AM – after they’ve gotten through the morning pile of emails, and before they go to lunch. Or at 2:00 PM, which gives them enough time to sort through the list of emails that have accumulated over lunch and pay special attention to yours. So, 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM tend to be the best times to attract business people, or people in their place of business.

Now, you also have to think of which day of the week. For example, Monday, a lot of emails have accumulated over the weekend and it takes people a little bit of time to get going and get reengaged into the work week. Mondays are probably not good days. Fridays, people are either taking off for a long weekend or working quickly to wrap things up so they can actually enjoy the weekend. Fridays are probably not the best days. If people have off-site meetings, typically they’re going to happen on a Thursday. Now, that would leave us with Tuesday and Wednesday, 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM for our optional time to catch people at work.

Let’s think a little bit about trying to catch people at their home email address. Today, many people do check their home email throughout the day at work, but we can’t bank on that. So, let’s think about user behavior. You get off work, you pick up your kids, you get home, and you fix dinner. You may get to sit down at the computer by say 6:30, 7:00, 7:30 at night. So, if you send your email to arrive before that, it’s going to be in the pile of emails that they need to wade through, and you may not get as much attention. So, if you send it to arrive or schedule it to arrive right about the time that they’re going to be on their computer and looking at their emails, probably 6:30-7:00 PM, you have a better chance of them giving their full attention to your email.

We can also think about day of week and optimal open rate for people in their home. Weekends, they’re probably either busy with family activities, or they may spend more time looking at their email, rather than during the week. The beginning of the week is probably a little more rushed with getting reengaged in the work week. Try to think about the people you want to reach.  Is your target audience focused on kids’ sporting events and things like that? When do the activities occur most often? Probably, Saturday during the day or Wednesday, Thursday, Friday during the week.

Though I can’t give you the magic silver bullet to reach consumers in their home on the best day, I can say, really think about the audience that you’re trying to reach, what their behaviors are, and when they’re most likely to give email the most attention.

The beauty of email marketing is that we can test campaigns. Do some A-B testing of various emails and times of day to determine which is best for your target audience. If you have a substantial list of people that you’re emailing to, or even if you only have ten: split the list in half and test two different times, but only test one variable at a time. So, for example, either vary the time of day or day of week, or vary the look of the email that you send, especially if you’re sending HTML-based emails. You can switch up pictures, and the layout of your email, and do some A-B testing between two different segments of your target audience to find out which one gives you the best return on your investment.

Which one causes people to open it more? Does your subject line grab them and cause them to want to open the email? Also, which stories, or which links do they click on most frequently in your emails to get more information from your website?

So, that’s the best advice I can give. If you don’t know what the optimal time is for your audience, start testing some of the variables and see which works best for you and your audience.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | connecting, higher education, marketing, sales | , , , | Leave a comment

Most productive CEOs

I recently read an article in Inc. magazine that featured several CEOs talking about work habits that have contributed to their success, or helped them be more efficient, in their particular business environment. The first CEO that caught my attention was Caterina Fake of Hunch who talked about keeping her schedule completely free-form, and working on what she wants to work on, whenever she wants to work on it—whatever seems right at the time. That approach would be great if you only had to work on certain things and could delegate everything else to a person below you. But for me, her approach doesn’t provide a good suggestion of how to help prioritize my day, or do a better job of delegating, so that I can sit and focus or work on the things that I want to work on at that particular time. After testing that strategy for a few days, I would up with a lot of work that didn’t get done during the week, waiting for me to do over the weekend. That isn’t helping me achieve work-life balance. Perhaps I am not delegating well enough.

One interesting, great thing she mentioned in the article is that when she conducts her staff meetings, everyone is standing during the entire meeting.  Also, everyone drinks 16 oz. of water before the meeting starts, and the meeting is over when the first person has to go to the restroom. To me, that seems like an incentive to keep your meetings short, to the point, brief, and not waste your time meeting for the sake of meeting, but rather get out there and get something done for your company. Go build a relationship. Go check an item off your to-do list. I brought that suggestion to the next regular staff meeting I have to attend. Everyone seemed to agree–let’s see if it gets implemented.

The other CEO that caught my attention in this article was Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, who claims that he only conducts business and correspondence through email. He does not utilize voicemail or meetings. If you do require his attention in a meeting or by voicemail, it better be something very good and important…likely conducting millions of dollars of business.

Now, there’s something lost for me when you communicate only exclusively through email. First of all, you assume, and insist, that everyone you deal with also operates through email. To me, a sign of a good manager of people is that you adapt your communication style to fit the needs of those working for you. My job is to bring out the best in people and help them achieve their potential. So if, for example, someone’s personality or style is not conducive to business via email exclusively, are you isolating them? Are you potentially surrounding yourself with people who are like you, rather than surrounding yourself with a rich, diverse mix of people who bring different trades, ideas, thoughts, and processes to the table?

I think an emphasis on diversity brings a richer mix of ideas and innovations to the table. But then again, Mark Cuban has made quite a bit of money and is quite successful at what he does. I guess, once you get to that point, you can tell everyone around you how you prefer to do business. But in the meantime, those of us who are still stuck in the middle and trying to work our way up will need to continue to adapt to the communication styles of those who are reporting to us. Also, you can’t tell inflection, personality, or emotion through written, email correspondence.  There’s something to be said for working either via the phone or in person, being able to get to know someone just a little bit better.

I also ask, how do these ‘unique’ work styles affect relationships with the customer? If you will only communicate with them via email, or you won’t commit to a schedule or timeline, is that helping further the relationship or to begin a new relationship? Unless you are in a business where your customers have no choice but to do business with you, I would suggest that you be willing to meet your customers where they are comfortable conducting business and communnicating with you. That will likely lead to a multi-layered communication strategy to address the varying needs.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | connecting, leadership, relationships | , , , , | Leave a comment

A pro female athlete provided me business wisdom through a sports lens

I had the pleasure of attending the Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball championship match last Sunday at the St. Charles Family Arena. Before the game, we were invited to a luncheon and where Kristin Folkl-Kaburakis was the key note speaker and the group was a reunion for the NCAA Beyond the Baseline event. Last year, we worked with middle school girls through the NCAA Beyond the Baseline program by providing mentoring and leadership development for inner city middle school girls. It was great to see so many of the girls at this reunion and reminisce about the event.

The Court of LifeKristin, a former WNBA star (read more in the St. Louis Woman Magazine article) focused on how as an athlete, the time you spend on the court is really only a small percentage of the overall experience. She challenged us to ask ourselves what we are doing to make sure that we are participating in each and every aspect and part of that process and the full experience beyond on what is just happening on the court during an actual athletic event. I think this is a great analogy not only for use as these girls are growing up and participating in a variety of things, trying to decide on what they are most interested in, but also for us in the business of marketing and building relationships and creating connections.

Though what each of us defines as a “sale” may vary, but that “sale” is such a small percentage of the full experience for a customer. What are doing to nurture and cultivate and participate in every single step of that process not just the actual “sale” or “signing on the dotted-line.” How are you not exclusively focusing on that tiny little percentage—though granted that could be a substantial amount of money in some instances? The most important element of customer service and satisfaction is the relationship–how are you cultivating that relationship with your customer?

So thank you, Kristin, for providing such words of wisdom. Though in a completely different context, it is something that really has made me think about more than just sporting events or life experiences, rather how this has practical application to business.

March 15, 2010 Posted by | connecting, marketing, relationships, sales | , , , | Leave a comment

A mascot is more than a sports cheerleader

Lets just talk a little bit today about how a mascot for a school or institution of higher education is so much more than just a representative of the athletics program or something that helps rally school spirit and pride. It can be a tool by which you continue your efforts to improve your relationships and manage your reputation within your community. Many people above and beyond season ticket holders are fans. When an institution needs to change its mascot costume—not necessarily the mascot itself but the costume that some poor soul has to don during each of the games—there are several ways in which you could do it. You could

  1. Just decide based on price which has its obvious implications,
  2. Decide based on looks amongst the people in charge of the mascot, or
  3. Take it a step further and use it as a relationship building tool.

SIUE Mascot Corey the CougarI am clearly a fan of #3. Get as much mileage out of this process as possible from a relationship building perspective with your publics. Allow your fans to vote after you’ve narrowed it down to 3 options everybody could be happy with no matter which was selected. Unveil these selections at a home athletic contest depending on what sport you get the most fan base at, or at a major university event and allow fans to vote. You can also post it on line and distribute it through your social networks, encouraging fans to give us their opinion and vote on the options.

It gives your constituents, your customers, or partners the opportunity to tell you what they think, and to engage them in a conversation. Give them a reason to feel invested in the organization. In this case they feel that they have a vested interest in this mascot, then when it comes time to unveil the new costume, you now have a platform to create this big splash and really encourage folks to attend the event where the new mascot is unveiled. Use that opportunity to continue to nurture the relationship with your customers whether it is you athletics fans, your student base, or your faculty and staff.

There are folks who may not necessarily frequent athletic contests but are very interested and passionate about the school—to them the mascot represents the whole organization, not just the athletic teams. So here is just one more way that something so simple as selecting a costume for the mascot, can really be a great way to engage your audience at very little or no cost. Just a small investment of your time.

March 5, 2010 Posted by | connecting, higher education, marketing, relationships | , , | Leave a comment