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How Can Marketers Create Stronger Customer Bonds? Focus on Convenience, According to Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken on Convenience Marketing Savvy digital marketers have their ears to the ground and eyes to the sky, striving to be on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest trends, tactics, strategies, and tools. After all, change comes hard and fast in this industry—especially when it comes to evolving buyer demands and expectations. However, innovation doesn’t have to be net-new. To put a slight spin on a classic line, everything old can be new again. And that’s where convenience as a strategic digital marketing tool. Convenience has been a core customer service principle for decades. And more often than not, convenience is a defining characteristic of customer experience and the brand as a whole. Think about what 7-Eleven did for weary travelers or time-crunched professionals. Think about what Amazon first did for avid, deal-seeking readers—and what they’re doing now for folks from all walks of life. They disrupted the industry and created loyal followings by offering a convenient customer experience. And according to customer service and experience guru Shep Hyken, marketers can learn a thing or two from these examples—and what he calls “The Convenience Revolution.” [bctt tweet=”What separates rockstar companies from all the rest? They’re just easier to do business with. – @Hyken #CX #ConvenienceMarketing” username=”toprank”] For marketers, convenience isn’t just a competitive differentiator to be touted in marketing messaging—it’s also a creative lens. According to Shep, there are six convenience principles: Reducing friction, self-service, technology, subscription, delivery, and access—all of which he details in his latest book, The Convenience Revolution: How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience That Disrupts the Competition and Creates Fierce Loyalty. Recently, Shep was gracious enough to sit down with me to explore what some of these principles and an eye on convenience can do for marketers.

Meet Shep Hyken

Customer Experience Expert Shep HykenShep’s been in the customer service and experience industry for nearly 35 years—it’s in his DNA. “I started my first business when I was 12,” Shep recalls. “It was a birthday party magic show.” That’s right. Shep worked his way around the local birthday party circuit performing magic tricks for oohs, awes, laughs, and a bit of cash. But his success was rooted in consistently innovating the service he was delivering. “Writing thank you notes was the minimum,” Shep explains. “But my parents encouraged me to also ask the parents which tricks they liked the most—and drop the tricks that didn’t make the cut. So, you see, at a very young age I’m saying thank you, I’m asking how the service was, I’m gathering feedback, and I’m using that feedback to make changes—all fundamentals of customer service.” “And this is all certainly relevant to marketers,” he adds. “Customer service experience is the new marketing; it’s the new brand.” [bctt tweet=”#CustomerExperience is the new #marketing; it’s the new brand. – @Hyken” username=”toprank”]

Eliminating the Customer Experience Enemy

Your goal is to deliver the right information, at the right time, to the right person, on the right platform. This is the essence of convenience. You want to make it easy on your audience to get the information they need and to make a decision—and you want to enhance the journey and create a better experience for all. How do you do this? By reducing friction. Why? Because where friction exists, frustration exists—and frustrated buyers and customers will seek out the path of least resistance. “Reducing friction is perhaps the No. 1 opportunity for marketers,” Shep states. “It’s simple. If you don’t know your friction points, you can’t improve the customer experience and build customer loyalty.” Where should you start? As Shep suggests: “Map and study your customer journey, and ask yourself: What are my top customer touch points? Where is there friction? And how can I reduce that friction?” [bctt tweet=”Where friction exists, frustration exists—and frustrated buyers and customers will seek out the path of least resistance. #Convenience #DigitalMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Strengthening Existing Customer Relationships & Attracting Prospects

The customer journey is anything but linear. We know prospective buyers and existing customers are increasingly self-directed in their quest for answers. Many turn to the internet-at-large and social media to research solutions, engage with brands, inform their decisions, and troubleshoot issues. Marketers have the opportunity to create on-demand content that not only aids existing customers, but also engages prospects. For Shep, this falls under the convenience category of self-service. [bctt tweet=”#Marketers have the opportunity to create on-demand #content that not only aids existing customers, but also engages prospects.” username=”toprank”] “Salesforce is a great example of this principle in action,” he says. “They offer great explainer and how-to content online, which gives their existing customers answers at their fingertips. If customers have a question or issue, they don’t have to call support.” Here’s an example of one of Salesforce’s How-To videos, one of many featured on their YouTube channel: “What makes this a fantastic marketing piece is that anyone who happens to be considering their products can see this great content, allowing them to learn more about how a product works and the level of support offered,” he says. But what about those who stop the search early and just pick up the phone? Shep says self-service content still plays a pivotal role. “This content is a great supplement for live support,” he says. “Your team member can answer questions live, but also offer more convenient, digital solutions customers or prospects can walk away with.”

Defining Your Own Brand of Convenience

Here’s an important thing to remember, marketers: Convenience is objective. As Shep points out, what’s considered convenient for one business may simply be unacceptable for another—even within the same industry. That’s why it’s important to define your own brand of convenience—and not fall victim to what Shep calls “We Can Do It Too” Syndrome. “Marketers need to stop placing so much emphasis on catching up or edging out their direct competitors,” he says. “Customers don’t compare you to your competitors anymore—they compare you to other positive experiences they’ve had. “If you keep chasing what your competitors are doing, you’re always a step behind,” Shep adds. “That’s a good way to go out of business because you’re just doing what someone else is already doing.” Aim to delight and surprise—not just satisfy—if you want to build relationships and create meaningful connections with your customers and prospects. “Convenience is a separator between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer,” Shep says. “Satisfactory is a rating. Loyalty is an emotion. So, you need to figure out a way to create a lasting emotional bond.” [bctt tweet=”Satisfactory is a rating. Loyalty is an emotion. So, marketers need to figure out a way to create a lasting emotional bond. – @Hyken #CX #DigitalMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Create Convenience. Create Loyalty.

Simply put, your customers and prospects want to do business with companies that make their lives easier. They want fast answers to their questions. They want service they can count on, every time. They want convenience. And they’ll pay with their budgets and loyalty. By adding the convenience lens to your marketing efforts, you can uncover and mitigate friction points, and provide better on-demand content that fosters connections with your customers and prospects throughout their journey. “As a marketer, you need to think it’s beyond just creating awareness, and think about creating an experience that your customers will talk about to create more awareness,” Shep shares. “The best marketing is when other people market for you.” [bctt tweet=”The best #marketing is when other people market for you. – @Hyken” username=”toprank”] A big thank you to Shep Hyken for sharing his expertise and insights. If you want to get ahold of his new book, it’s on pre-sale now. How can you foster deeper connections with your customers, prospects, and audience at-large? Create content that resonates. For inspiration on how to do just that, check out our post featuring lessons in resonance from 10 content marketing experts.

The post How Can Marketers Create Stronger Customer Bonds? Focus on Convenience, According to Shep Hyken appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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10 Crucial Steps for Launching Your B2B Podcast Into the Wild

Hey, friend, have you heard the good news about podcasts? 

Given the most recent stats, it’s highly likely you have. Over half of all Americans over 12 years of age have listened to at least one. Podcasts have well and truly hit the mainstream. In other words, the gold rush is on for brands looking to connect with a highly-engaged, long-attention-span audience.

However, getting a podcast up and running isn’t as simple as publishing a blog. We recently published an entire B2B podcasting webinar to walk you through the entire process, from conception to publication. This post will zero in on the choices you need to make and the steps you need to take to release your podcast into the wild.

B2B Podcasting Launch Checklist: 10 Steps

Sure, you could just upload your audio to your web server, add an RSS feed, and call it good. But if you want people to actually find and listen to your podcast, there are a few extra steps you should take. This checklist will help your podcast find an audience and start building a subscriber base.

via GIPHY

#1: Choose Your Hosting Platform

A podcast syndication platform makes it easy to publish your podcast and get listed in directories. Think of it like WordPress is for your blog — it hosts the files, makes them look pretty, and makes it so people can find them.

Most platforms will also give you embed codes for embedding episodes in blog posts or on a landing page. You’ll also get stats on how many people are downloading episodes, and on what program they’re listening.

We prefer Libsyn as our hosting platform. Podbean, buzzsprout, and Blubrry are also solid options. They all have a free tier of hosting, but you’ll want to pay a few bucks a month for bandwidth and analytics.

#2: Upload Your First Three Episodes

Podcasting is all about establishing a regular cadence (more on that later). But for launch, you’ll want to have at least three episodes ready to go. There are a few reasons for publishing multiple episodes for your debut:

  1. One episode may not be enough to convince people to subscribe. 
  2. Multiple episodes show you’re committed to keeping the content coming.
  3. Most importantly, Apple podcasts requires at least three episodes to qualify for their “New and Noteworthy” section. 

So before you publish, have at least three episodes completed, and be ready to follow up with more at your promised publishing cadence.

#3:  Register with Podcast Directories

Podcasts are peculiar in terms of content delivery. Your hosting platform makes the files available, but most people will listen to your podcast on their chosen podcast app. Each app maintains its own directory — think of it as a search engine for podcasts. 

Your podcast needs to be listed in their directory, or people won’t be able to find you. I recommend registering with at least these six:

  1. Apple Podcasts
  2. Google Podcasts
  3. Stitcher
  4. Podbean
  5. Spotify
  6. TuneIn

Each of these sites will ask for the RSS feed of your podcast, which your hosting platform will generate for you.

I created a podcast tracker to keep track of all these directories — sign up for the webinar and you can download it for free.

B2B Podcast Tracker

#4: Promote Internally

Gaining visibility on a podcast directory is tricky business. Apple and Google are where the majority of your listeners will be, and each employs an algorithm to promote podcasts in search results and feature pages.

How do you get an algorithm’s attention? Engagement! Start by promoting your podcast to all of your employees. Encourage them to subscribe on Apple or Google, give a rating, and write a brief (and honest) review. What’s more, draft some social messages and encourage everyone to promote the podcast to their networks, too.

That base level of initial engagement will help your podcast start finding its audience.

#5: Activate Your Influencers

Most podcasts are Q&A-style interviews with influential guests. If your podcast includes influencers in your industry, make sure they know as soon as their episode goes live. Give them the tools to promote the podcast easily:

  • Sample social messages
  • Social media images in the correct sizes
  • Embed codes

If your podcast doesn’t feature influencers, it’s worth re-evaluating your strategy for your next season. Influencer content not only is more valuable to your audience, it’s an indispensable channel for promotion.

#6: Publish Blog Posts

The one downside of audio content: It’s not super crawlable for SEO purposes. Granted, Google has started to auto-transcribe episodes and add them to search results, but the technology is still in the early stages.

To truly get some SEO juice from your podcast, we recommend embedding each podcast in a blog post. This example from the Tech Unknown Podcast by SAP* shows how simple it can be. All you need is an introduction, a few pull quotes, some key takeaways, and a transcript.

#7: Add Paid Promotion

As with any content, you want to use every tactic available to make sure it gets seen by your target audience. That’s especially true with podcasts, since podcast search engines are incredibly competitive.

Targeted, paid social promotion can help establish your subscriber base and get your new podcast some much-needed visibility.

It’s also worth considering cross-promotion on other podcasts. Consider both paid advertising and trading guest spots with a podcast that shares your target audience. 

#8: Solicit Listener Feedback

Ratings and reviews are essential to your podcast’s success. They’ll help provide social proof for new listeners and boost your search visibility in podcast directories. 

The best way to get ratings and reviews? Ask for them. Make it part of each episode’s sign-off. You can even encourage thoughtful reviews by reading the best ones on future episodes. You will engage your listeners and solicit more reviews at the same time.

#9: Keep Up Your Cadence

As with blog content, there’s no single “right” frequency to publish a podcast. Some of my favorite podcasts publish weekly, biweekly, or even monthly. The best cadence for your podcast is “However frequently you can reliably, regularly publish quality content.”

Choose your cadence with an eye to long-term sustainability, and tell your listeners explicitly how frequently you’ll publish. Whether it’s “See you next week,” or “PodcastTitle is a monthly podcast that…” listeners will find it easier to make your podcast a habit if you stick to a schedule.

#10: Repurpose, Repurpose, Repurpose

In my last post on the content marketing benefits of B2B podcasting, I mentioned that podcasts are a content machine, and I’ll say it again. It’s easy to finish an episode, publish it, then forget it and move on to the next thing. But don’t do that! 

Pull snippets of audio content for social media. Turn them into short videos, too: Add a still image or a simple looping GIF for visual interest.

Use your transcriptions as fodder for future blog posts, quotes for influencer marketing, or even a stand-alone asset. 

Any way you can reuse that content can help bring more listeners to your podcast. What’s more, putting the content in a different medium can reach an audience who might not be into podcasts (yet). 

Check, Check, One Two

Launching a podcast is a little trickier than launching a new blog, especially if you’re new to the format. But if you follow this checklist, you can make sure your podcast is available on all the right channels and is ready to start attracting an audience.

Need more podcasting help? Check out our B2B Podcasting Webinar. In addition to learning the Four P’s of podcasting success, you’ll see me make this face:

B2B Podcasting Face

*Disclosure: SAP is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post 10 Crucial Steps for Launching Your B2B Podcast Into the Wild appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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