Articles2018-09-02T19:08:55+00:00

Articles

  • Why we provide Marketing Strategies with an associated Action Plan

While it’s a bit of an old cliché, this quote from Benjamin Franklin: ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail’ is one that really holds weight even today and makes absolute sense – especially for modern businesses.

The bottom line is that at the heart of every successful business there is a plan. They are the cornerstones, drivers and blueprints for success that every business – no matter how big or small – needs to achieve the growth it wants.

Now I’m absolutely certain that no one sets out planning to fail, but sometimes too many priorities, not enough time to do them all justice and a lack of focus (intentional or unintentional) can often lead to business results that are not what we expected.

At times like these, some business owners will take drastic action in an attempt to turn their fortunes around. Others will continue as they have been in the blinkered hope that things will improve. Then there are those that seek external advice and obtain A Fresh View for their businesses.

However, while many external consultancies provide excellent advice and produce formidable marketing strategies that are designed to boost a business’s impact and bottom line, they sometimes do not come with an associated action plan to ensure the strategy is a success going forward.

So why do we combine the strategy with a definitive action plan?

First and foremost, it’s our USP, a factor that differentiates us from our competitors.

By providing a clear, detailed action plan that acts as a practical working document for you to actively define and measure activities against a period of time, we enable you to see real, clear progress every step of the way.

This detailed action plan helps drive forward all of your activities by enabling us to assist you with allocating budgets, assigning personnel to tasks (both internal and external) and provide timelines for tasks to be undertaken and completed.

What we do differently at A Fresh View is to make everything real, with very straightforward workable plans that you have ownership of. After all, it’s for you not for us!

Every strategic plan, like a marketing strategy, needs an associated action plan to bring it to life. It’s the roadmap that will not only outline how you will reach your objectives, but also show you anticipated timescales for doing so. An action plan outlines the concrete steps you need to take to achieve your goals, a deadline for each task, a description of who will do what and any necessary follow-up activities.

Our concise strategies are developed from rigorous research made up of many elements from business observations, through to competitor analysis. What makes a huge difference to a business’s success is having a multi-pronged strategy that encompasses both traditional and digital marketing, including social media. This is then blended with our years of experience in growing businesses to design a bespoke strategy and plan – using analyses of every aspect of your operation – to deliver a bright new fresh view for your business, to take it to the next level, to increase your brand awareness and ultimately your bottom line.

Still not convinced about the importance of a well-defined marketing strategy? Check out this recet piece from eConsultancy on Marketing in 2018: Too tactical and not strategic enough? It’s a piece that especially resonates with me because of how it touches on optimising the customer experience too.

  • How getting rid of hotel check-in desks could actually improve the customer experience

How would you feel if you walked into a hotel lobby and there wasn’t a traditional check-in desk in sight? And rather than have to wait in line to get your keys, one of the hotel staff approached you with them instead.

That’s how it now works at ibis, the economy brand of AccorHotels, since the chain rolled out its innovative guest welcome programme across all ibis, ibis styles and ibis budget hotels in the UK.

The initiative sees traditional check-in desks done away with and hotel employees using mobile devices to access the information they need – everything from check-in to housekeeping and breakfast, all in the palm of their hand.

But before you dismiss it as an attempt by ibis to reduce headcount and automate guest interactions, it’s actually designed to do the opposite. With check-ins now handled online and the traditional front lobby desk removed, hotel staff now have more freedom to approach guests and add real value during their stay.

In addition to providing a greater customer experience, ibis says the new concept also allows its lobbies to become vibrant profit-making centres, with food and beverage offerings that appeal to not only guests, but people passing by too.

So rather than the hotel lobby being simply a thoroughfare or just the place you go when you want to check-in/out, it could become a buzzing hive of activity and opportunity.

The customer experience is crucial in today’s Trip Advisor age

Personally, I love the idea of doing away with the traditional check-in desk. Waiting in line to be given my keys (or a keycard) isn’t exactly my idea of fun. And what a wonderfully welcoming experience it would be to be greeted by a member of staff who knew your name and had your keys ready.

Let’s not forget that hotels rely hugely on returning customers and word-of-mouth referrals. In the Trip Advisor age we’re living in today, hotel guests are more empowered than ever when it comes to voicing their experiences. Just one bad online review can be extremely damaging to a brand’s reputation – particularly if it’s not handled in the right way.

The other point to consider about Ibis’ initiative is how it opens the door to even more personalised customer experiences going forward. For a start, the hotel will have instant access to the guests’ preferences. They can use this to ensure everything is perfect right off the bat next time.

It might be something as simple as providing that extra towel automatically or making sure the room is stocked with a certain type of tea. It’s these small touches that take the customer experience to the next level and boost the hotel’s value proposition exponentially.

What do you think? Could check-in desks become a thing of the past? Or will the traditional approach to guest arrivals remain a valid concept well into the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

  • 7 ways you can encourage Chinese tourists to spend money with your business

Chinese tourists are increasingly choosing Britain as a favourite holiday destination, lured by a cheap pound following the Brexit referendum and willing to spend their growing disposable incomes.

In fact, in 2017, during the Chinese Golden Week holiday from October 1 to October 8, Chinese tourists spent a whopping £29m in shopping centres and on high streets across the UK, according to data from payments processor Worldpay.

And while much of the spending occurred in boutiques and high end stores in and around London’s West End, hospitality businesses, such as pubs, restaurants and bars, enjoyed a 23% boost in spending by Chinese tourists.

James Frost, Worldpay’s UK chief marketing officer, said that Britain’s reputation as a world-class shopping destination is one of the main reasons why Chinese tourists are flocking here each year.

So how can you encourage these Chinese nationals to spend money with your business?

1. Align your products & services so they genuinely appeal to Chinese nationals

In 2016, over half of Chinese visitors to the UK were aged between 16 and 34, according to VisitBritain data. In other words, Chinese visitors tend to be younger than many others, which is something you need to appreciate if you want to encourage them to spend money with your business.

Align your products and services so they genuinely appeal to Chinese nationals and make them want to spend their money on them. Chinese tourists are more than quick selfies, they want experiences, activities and they want to take part.

2. Get active on Chinese social media

The Chinese love the Internet, especially social media, which is why getting active on the platforms they are using can be a very worthwhile investment.

Did you know that Chinese technology giant Tencent is worth more than Facebook? The company’s most popular platform, WeChat, boasts a stunning 980 million monthly active users, making it one of the best places for you to connect and engage with Chinese consumers.

Get a profile created, establish a presence and begin engaging Chinese nationals on their own turf and, importantly, in their own language.

3. Allow mobile payments

Chinese nationals love their tech, especially mobile payment facilities. You can score a quick win by enabling them to use such facilities when spending money with your business. China UnionPay, WeChat Pay and AliPay are three of the most popular payment mediums and account for an enormous percentage of the overall market.

By enabling Chinese nationals to use the payment mechanisms they are already using at home, your business will stand itself in a much more favourable light than your competitors that don’t.

4. Implement Chinese language facilities

Chinese visitors really appreciate support in the form of Chinese language facilities, such as signs, Mandarin or Cantonese-speaking staff, announcements in Chinese, etc.

This makes Mandarin and/or Cantonese-based marketing materials a must, but be very aware of doing a straight Google Translate, it can be too literal, leaving your business open to marketing the wrong message tone. Use a Chinese-speaking specialist who can really personalise your messages.

I recently saw a Chinese New Year marketing message on a shop front (no I couldn’t read it), but that same day the advert was flying around both UK and Chinese Social Media as it was just culturally incorrect. The shame is that the business spent the time and effort in good faith, they never intended to cause anyone embarrassment. If they had sought the assistance of a specialist it could all have been avoided, which leads onto our next point.

5. Understand and respect the culture

As is the case when you are looking to engage with any international customers, understanding and respecting their culture is massively important.

Don’t risk making a cultural faux pas when dealing with Chinese customers as it could permanently damage your relationship. Do your homework and research even the basics of the Chinese culture to ensure you don’t upset anyone unintentionally.

Chinese culture is diverse and unique, yet harmoniously blended.

6. Ignore the clichés

While a large proportion of Chinese visitors often stick to what they know and eat meals that are predominantly Chinese in nature, there are also a large number who want to try new things. So, if you are entertaining some potential Chinese customers, don’t be afraid to showcase some good old-fashioned British fare.

Obviously, don’t force people into doing things, but don’t worry about bucking the trend a little once in a while either.

7. Consider joining VisitBritain’s GREAT China Welcome Charter

The official tourism website of Great Britain, VisitBritain, has a GREAT China Welcome programme which aims “to make Britain the destination of choice for the rapidly-growing Chinese market”.

A free charter businesses can apply to join, providing they meet the informal assessment criteria.

By signing the charter, businesses can benefit by using the official chartermark in their own collateral and receive regular updates about the Chinese market, as well as upcoming opportunities.

  • Why your customer should be at the centre of everything you do

You know deep down that your customers should be at the centre of everything you do. But sometimes, it’s difficult to not get consumed by the day-to-day running of your business and the desire to grow it. As a result, your customers (unfortunately) take a back seat temporarily.

The bottom line, though, is that the most successful companies in the world are truly customer-centric. They reach out, communicate with and listen to the needs and wants of their customers continuously.

In an age where consumers are more connected, more informed and more confident than ever before, customer experience has emerged as the new business battlefield.

Not convinced? How about this for a statistic: By the year 2020 (less than two years away now), customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, according to research by Walker Consultancy.

In fact, the same research indicates a whopping 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.

But what is customer experience?

In a nutshell, customer experience can be defined as your customers’ perception of your brand and the way they feel your company treats them. It encompasses many different aspects – a reality in itself that presents a challenge for many businesses.

For example, while great products/services and competitive prices inevitably improve customer experience, poor after-sales service can undo all your hard work.

Your customers don’t stop being customers once they’ve bought your product or used your service, which is why the importance of after-sales service should never be underestimated. Ideally, you want your customers to become brand advocates and naturally recommend your business to their friends and family.

This has always been the case, but in recent times, with the rise in popularity of social media, it’s never been more important. That’s because a customer who feels let down can express their feelings on their favourite social network. What starts as a bit of a moan can soon spiral into a PR nightmare for a brand, depending on how it’s handled.

How to improve customer experience

Have great products/services

First and foremost, your products/services need to be great. In competitive marketplaces, it’s no good offering something that’s just average. For a start, not many people will buy it and then there are the potential after-sales headaches if the product breaks or the service isn’t up to scratch.

Understand your customer

Your customers can usually be categorised into different types. These groupings help you understand them better – what do they like, what do they dislike, what motivates them, what drives them to make a purchase?

With your customers’ personas defined, you can tailor different aspects of your offering (product, service, marketing, etc.) to appeal on a much more personal level.

Train your staff

A great customer experience relies on everyone – from employees to board members – understanding the importance of a customer-centric philosophy. That’s why a customer-focussed training plan is a must for your business. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in-depth and lengthy, but it does need to fully prepare the individual to deal with your customers.

Cherish customer feedback

Many companies seek customer feedback, but then fail to act upon it. If that’s the case, what’s the point of the exercise?

Remember, your customers’ opinions are far more important than your own when it comes to shaping your products/services.

  • Excuses are not acceptable as part of a great customer experience

All businesses make mistakes sometimes. Whether it’s dropping the ball during a customer interaction, messing up a customer order or not doing enough as part of a post-service follow-up, every business has been there.

The one factor that differentiates good businesses from great ones is how they handle these types of situation. Often, a bad experience can be turned into an opportunity with a bit of work.

Don’t believe me? How about this recent piece on the Harvard Business Review, which outlines how prompt and personal customer service does indeed pay off?

Don’t stick your head in the sand

According to the analysis of some 400,000 customer service-related tweets sent to major US-based companies, customers are willing to reward brands that treat them well.

In fact, ‘simply receiving a response — any response at all — increased the customer’s willingness to pay later, even in cases where customers were aggrieved.’ In other words, even if your customer is angry and using negative language, respond to them! Ignoring them completely is the worst thing you can do.

However, be careful in your responses and avoid excuses at all costs. As the title of this piece states, excuses are never acceptable as part of a great customer experience.

From Cumbria to Cambridge, an excuse is an excuse

I recently had two separate customer service interactions in the space of two weeks that left me feeling rather bewildered and shaking my head.

The first one came whilst I was on a family trip hiking the hills of Cumbria.

I called the rental management company of the location we were staying at, to let them know that on change over (the next day) they should bring some new light bulbs. Five hadn’t worked since we’d been there and so I thought I’d give them a heads-up before their next guests arrived. I also suggested that as the bathroom extraction unit was broken (prior to our arrival) and the cooker was overheating they might like to get their handy-person to call by too.

The person form the rental company whom I spoke to on the phone ended the call with: “Thank you so much for letting us know. Without guests like you, we’d never know what needs to be done at our properties”.

Luckily, they couldn’t see my quizzical face over the telephone. It reflected my thought, doesn’t your cleaning company check the property and let you know what’s broken or do you not make your own supervisory checks after cleaning?

The second excuse I’ve recently been offered for poor customer experience was while I was visiting my sister in Cambridge.

I stayed in a medium rated, well-known hotel chain for two nights with my hubby. I popped down to the reception to ask for a second set of towels, as there was only one set in the room.

While asking for the additional towels, I acknowledged that the mistake was probably ours as we might have only stated one guest in the room when booking on-line.

“Oh no! I doubt it.”, said the very friendly and amiable receptionist. “We do it all the time. We don’t notice if there are two occupants, we wait for someone to ask.”

Really!!!!????

In my line of work, I don’t go out looking for problems when on my own travels. I’m off duty, enjoying quality time with my family, but incidents like these really stand out and stick in my mind.

These excuses make me disappointed not only with the brand I’m staying with, but disappointed for all the other guests too.

The most frustrating thing is that interactions like this need not happen, ever!

Preventing them is easy: review your processes, train your staff, empower them to take responsibility and have pride in their finished work.

Okay, so it’s not possible to mitigate every eventuality, but at least make an effort in the first place. Don’t wait for your guests to come and tell you, many may not be as patient as me. Potentially, they have travelled to get to you; they might be tired and hungry or have any other reason to be frustrated.

It only takes one small thing to affect your customers’ experience, to impact your online review or cause you to have to make a monetary or product amend.

  • Without customers you have no business

We’re living in the ‘age of the customer’ where empowered consumers are now directly shaping business strategy. In a nutshell, customers today expect consistently high-value experiences, regardless of whether they are interacting with a business face-to-face or online.

It’s a stark reality but the bottom line is that if you can’t provide the immediate value consumers are looking for, they’ll go elsewhere.

However, do you know who your ideal customer is? That perfect individual who is going to purchase your product or service and be so satisfied with the overall experience that they’ll come back again in the future.

Identifying your ideal customer is essential for shaping your marketing. That’s because the better you know your ideal customer, the more focussed and effective your marketing efforts will ultimately be.

But what if I told you that you can have more than one ideal customer? Indeed, many businesses have several customer personas that they gear their marketing initiatives towards. In fact, the most successful businesses align themselves to be utterly customer-centric.

“I think they might be a customer…” is a phrase I’ve heard many business owners say. It’s slightly alarming because it suggests they’re not really sure.

When I work with businesses, I teach them to adopt an ‘everyone’s a customer’ approach – potential, repeat or trusted. Together, we don the buyer’s goggles and see how the business looks to both existing and potential clients.

I can help you become customer-centric and ensure customers are at the heart of everything you do, every decision you make and every action throughout your day. Happier customers, happier business, more revenue, happier you!

Over the years, I’ve found that the best way to help businesses is to almost become one with their brand. Investigate every tiny element of their operation – especially the customer touchpoints – and uncover not just the bad points, but the positive ones too.

To obtain the fresh view that most businesses need, I work surreptitiously within an organisation and litmus test all the tiny details. This allows positive changes to be made where needed and not just for the sake of it.

Never forget that without customers you have no business.

Don’t just process customers, knock their socks off!

That’s why I’m astonished on a daily basis when I see some businesses merely processing their customers, instead of providing them with an outstanding experience.

Have you ever wandered into, for example, a coffee shop only to find that the person who is supposed to be serving you seems distracted? Even though they are talking to you their words just hang in the air space between leaving their mouth and arriving at your ear.

You then suddenly remember another coffee shop close by where you are always greeted with a warm smile, a personal greeting and your usual order suggested to you. The friendly banter, immaculate setting and enjoyable experience make you immediately question why you went anywhere else.

Mediocre or poor service, floors that need cleaning, paintwork that needs refreshing and staff hairstyles that are wayward are unacceptable whenever a customer is interacting with your brand.

And let’s not even get started on poor product or service choices that have come about because a business hasn’t researched what the customer really wants. It all goes back to the identifying your ideal customer and solving any number of pain points they have with your offerings.

It’s an unfortunate truth that many companies invest significant sums of money into designing their logos and straplines for what they believe will make a great brand and have a definitive impact. And while it absolutely can, it will never succeed in isolation.

When we talk about outstanding brand impact we are actually talking about every element that makes for an exceptional customer experience, from the first touch to the repeat business and the point where a customer becomes an advocate for your business. It’s about the whole interaction from prospecting to loyalty.

A Fresh View is passionate about caring for customers, providing services and products that they desire, for turning your staff into engaging teams that enthuse customers and for successful sharing and communicating to attract your ideal customers.