EVERGREENS IN COMMUNICATION. IN SPITE OF SOCIAL MEDIA.

Quite some time ago I wrote an article on Twitter, blogging and social media in general and pointed out my e-book “How to Blog with Ease” about these topics.

Social media platforms tend to constantly change their rules. I gave up on following the changes since my interests are digitalisation, marketing, style and design. Social media platforms are merely the tools to share my ideas and the resulting articles.

What I wrote about Hootsuite and Tweepi is no longer correct. Nowadays I find Hootsuite difficult to use and Tweepi shut down its doors some month ago to go live again. The same name with a very different service.

For the same reason the e-book is no longer online since the information about social media is no longer one hundred percent accurate. Still, most of the tools I speak about are still – at least in my mind – worthwhile and I also stick with the power of images.

At this moment I am building an online reference work with the tools I tested and recommend. Of course you will hear as soon as it is completed.

The Evergreens

Despite all these changes there are some “evergreens” to stick with.

Content is King

It has been emphasized many times and I still think it is true: content is king. Despite SEO and social media, if our content is dull or incorrect we will not reach the readers we are targeting. Personally, I write to share my ideas rather than pleasing the social media platforms.; although I use them of course . If I get comments to my articles I am very happy. But I never will write anything just to earn ten thousand likes or about something I do not believe in.

Newsletters

Publishers and bloggers cannot really control their readers. If our audience is fed up with us we might lose readers if we managed to entertain or teach them they might stay with us. Far be it from me to say that we should not at least try to make them stay by analysing why they read our writings and trying to deliver more of it; if we can.

Newsletters and blogs allow us to do so. Social media does not. Social media platforms use their own algorithm to decide what they will communicate to our followers and contacts. This system is constant subject to change. This even created a professions: SEO experts. I am not one of them. But if it is really important for your business you should hire one.

Find the right tone

You know that different subjects – hence a different audience – require different writing styles.

Some days ago I stumbled over an article about Professor Scott E. Fahlman and a computer scientist. He happens to be the inventor of emoticons. Already in 1982 – when pictures were yet to appear – he suggested to a bulletin board using emoticons in order to distinguish jokes from things that were not meant to be funny.

Originally probably invented for nerds, we not only use emoticons but extended them significantly.

Apparently, this is his original text:

19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman
I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:
:-)
Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use
:-(

Did we go nerdier or did the frequent use “de-nerd” emoticons?

WHAT IF COMMUNICATION DOES NOT HELP?

Last week I reported the latest news of the German train company (“Deutsche Bahn”) and their letter that asked me for some patience.

The latest News

This week I received another letter with the information that they needed my train tickets.

Big problem!

I booked the ticket via the Swiss railways on their mobile app. I remember that they also sent me an e-mail but why keeping it (I am definitely not a collector) if everything is on my mobile and I already returned from my trip?

So I called the German customer support explaining my situation. I understand that they cannot help me unless I can give them their order number.

The next issue.

Online tickets are being deleted 31 days after the trip happened. The only thing I could offer was the receipt that contains certain reference numbers. I proposed to send it by e-mail.

Wrong again!

The customer support of the German train company only accepts letters. I MEAN PHYSICAL MAIL THAT GOES INTO A PHYSICAL LETTERBOX!

But I am glad they already know how to operate a telephone and accepted me to give them the respective numbers verbally. The gentlemen promised to give that number to the respective department which will bestow another letter upon me.

What is communication at all?

According to some system theories (e.g. Niklas Luhmann) communication and understanding are two different things.

Communication happens as soon as people talk about it. No matter if you understand the meaning of my words in this post. As soon as you tell someone that I wrote this article it is considered communication. In other words: Misunderstanding is as good a communication as complete agreement.

Form this aspect I had a great communication with the support centre. If it was also useful and I’ll get my fare or parts of it refunded is yet to be discovered.

And the story continues…

NEWS FROM THE TRAINS.

Remember my post about my odyssey from Frankfurt to Zurich? In that article I complained that we were not informed what was going on.

I just want to give you a short update on this.

At the end of the journey all passengers received a form by which one can reclaim the fare or at least a part of it. Of course I completed it and send it in the envelope I got to the German railway company.

Last week – about three weeks later – I received a letter from the German railway company informing me that they received my request but due to recent (meteorological) events they had a lot of those forms and kindly ask me to be patient.

The funny thing is that they also asked about my e-mail address and still sent me a physical letter.

However, I do not want to complain too much. Even though, I do not have any of my money back, they are communicating again.

INSIGHTS ON CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. OFFLINE AND ONLINE.

Would you pay an admission fee to enter a shop?

This week I read an interesting article about shopping behaviour and consumer experience.

Business models

The writer of this article states that nowadays consumers can order anything they want online and that there was no need to visit an actual store anymore. People only would come to the store because they consider the shopping experience was worth their time.

How does the shop owner know if the visitors really appreciate his (or her) store and its atmosphere? By charging an admission fee, says the article.

The thing I find really odd is the writer’s comparison with a theatre or a cinema where it is clear to everyone that they sell tickets.

As interesting as this article is as much I think that it missed the boat; in this case the company’s purpose. Cinemas and theatres sell the very service they stand for: entertainment. A store for Hi-Fi or a boutique for shoes sell the respective goods.

Moreover, the article mentions a coffee shop in London “The Ziferblat” where the coffee, Wi-Fi, cakes etc. are for free and the only thing you pay for is the time you are sitting there. A look at their website makes it very clear that they have a different business model. They rent working and meeting space and facilitate networking. This means coffee, cake and Wi-Fi is a courtesy to the clients.

You got it, I am sure.

Consumer Experience

The idea of making shopping more enjoyable is not extremely new. Shoe coffees where you get finest Italian espresso sitting among elegant shoes have been known for several years. Also coffee shops where every piece of furniture you sit on and all decoration items you are looking at are for sale are hardly a news flash. However,  Haute Couture and espresso should maybe be separated a bit. Just in case you spill your coffee…

Offline

Let’s go back to the claim that shoppers want to be rewarded for their time investment. I really appreciate a good espresso but to me a great shopping experience comprises a nice shop where I can find what I am looking for and a competent sales person to consult me. If on top of it all I get an espresso I am in heaven.

Going Digital

While doing your online-shopping you can sit on your sofa eating and drinking to your liking. But at least in my opinion many shops have yet to create an outstanding online experience that I am confident to buy from.

 

PINK UP YOUR LIFE!

Some time ago I bought a book by the title of Pink Up Your Life!: The World of Pink Design. Although I am not a great fan of this colour I fell for the design of the book.

So this article is about the combination of classic design and pink.

1919. A lady made of (pink) Steel.

In 1919 the iconic – and probably revolutionary at the time – stand mixer Kitchen Aid was born. If only I took a little of pride in my housewife skills I am sure I would own one. Well, I rather spend a fortune for a posh and stylish espresso machine.

However, if you think of 1919 what sort of colours would you associate with it? I thought of black, white and maybe grey or beige. As it seems I am totally wrong. It was and is to this day available in light pink. I guess it makes household chores sweeter.

1919. A fast car.

Bentley Motors Limited was founded by W. O. Bentley in 1919 in Cricklewood, North London. The founder himself was a keen race driver and the brand became known by winning the 24 Hours of Lemans several times between 1924 and 1930.

Cars at that time were typically black and the British racing cars were of course British racing green. Classic cars can also be white, silver or beige.

But in 2009 Mansory Design & Holding designed this:

The bad news is that such cars actually exist. The model is called «Mansory Vitesse Rosé». The good part: they are limited edition.

1955: The Ant.

Arne Jacobsen designed “the ant” also known as the “series 7” in 1955. The chair that was originally meant for a cantina became a classic and secured him a “seat” in the first class designer lounge.

As far as I can see it was available in a variety of colours. However, for the 60st anniversary of the design two new models were developed.

One in dark blue. The other one in pale pink. With a twist. The legs are 24 carat gold plated.

Pink For Everyone?

It seems to me that pink polarises more than any other colour. It is seen as playful or shocking. If you see the world through pink glasses you are considered non-realistic and if you wear it as a ribbon you fight against breast cancer. The colour I wear most is black and I have to admit that I cannot keep up with this.

Images

The images are either from the free portal pixabay.com or scanned from the book mentioned above.

WHAT TRAINS CAN TEACH YOU ABOUT COMMUNICATION.

Last weekend I visited friends in Frankfurt, Germany. I travelled by train which takes only about 4 hours.

On Saturday noon I arrived in Frankfurt where I had a great time with sunny weather, good food and great company. Frankfurt may not be the most beautiful city in Germany but certainly one that offers a high quality of life. Along the bank of the river Main there is a street that allows bikers and walkers to enjoy a beautiful view on the river, on the barges which seem to glide on it and at the skyline. Besides all the advantages a city offers.

On Sunday evening around 5 pm I boarded the train home and expected to be at home by around 9 pm. Big mistake.

About an hour and a half later we were arrived – as planned – in Karlsruhe but were informed that a storm had destroyed the contact line in city called Offenburg which was the next stop. Moreover, we were told that we would go to Offenburg in any case and there would be busses to take us further.

The way between Offenburg and Basel where I was supposed to change trains for Zurich was apparently blocked and they were working on the problem. Not fun but these things happen and it is nobody’s fault.

And the Odyssey begins

  • 6.20 pm:
    Arrival in Karlsruhe – First information about the problem and the promise that we would go to Offenburg
  • 7 pm:
    Still in Karlsruhe – Second information to please leave the train as we could not go further. Busses should be available but not to places I ever heard of. Apparently I was not the only one, since the queue in front of the information desk was nearly endless. To make matters worse my mobile connection was exceptionally bad and I could not access the internet. I texted my friend back in Frankfurt to check the possibilities. They looked not too bad and my friend’s moral support was really helpful.
  • 8 pm:
    The loudspeaker at the station in Karlsruhe informed us that there was a train (the types that stop in every second village) that would take us to Offenburg and later pass the black forest (a name well deserved in my opinion) to Constance which is close to the Swiss border.
  • 8:45 pm:
    Still in that train, progressing slowly. No further information from the Deutsche Bahn (the German train company) but many messages back and forth between my friend an me.
  • 9 pm:
    Information by DB that they could organize a train from Offenburg to Basel as my journey had fore seen it. Cool. Boarded that train some minutes later.
  • 10 pm:
    Still in that train at the very same place. According to the information they were waiting for clearance to start. The announcements are still as if everything was normal; the arrival and departure on trains are being displayed as if nothing happens. Well, nothing happened; the announced trains of course never showed up.
  • 10 pm to midnight:
    Still in that train. No official information by the DB. The chaos is enormous. Rumour had it that there were busses, that the Red Cross opened “hotels” in train cars. Others said that the DB was giving away vouchers for taxis. I could as well sleep in my seat and the taxi drivers were as sold out as the take-away. And a trip to Zurich would have taken them too long anyway. Still in touch with my friend who informs me about the Twitter stream and other online media. Moreover, the gentleman who sat opposite me had a great and very sarcastic sense of humour and I had a good laugh.
  • 12.15 am:
    Eureka! The train moves again. We are going at normal speed towards Basel. Only one stop in Freiburg, Germany.
  • 01.30 am:
    Basel; well, still on the German side but not too bad. My “entertainer” (I don’t even know his name) has arrived since he lives near Basel. I need to get home.Another official announcement: Travellers to Switzerland and some German places get taxi vouchers. Correct. They are organising groups of people with the same destination so they can share a taxi. I was lucky to share mine with a father of two children, living not far from me.
  • 02.45 am
    Home, Sweet Home.

It is all about communication

A storm is nobody’s fault. Neither is the damage resulting of it. Everybody understands that some problems cannot be solved in a heartbeat.

The crucial point is how you deal with it. From what I observed it seems to me that the crisis management was totally missing. When I looked through the window of my train waiting for clearance I observed scenes we normally see in the news about derailed trains, earthquakes and this sort of things.

I lived in Western Africa for a while and concerning the organisation of the “event” I could not detect a difference between Germany and Africa.

Some philosophers say that languages as sophisticated as ours makes us human. Use it!

The whole mess was a result of almost complete absence of information and even some misinformation. For most of the time we were not sure where and  when we go. Well, at least I know now how Odysseus must have felt during his journey. While mine took half a night his took an entire decade.

@Hillu, if you read this: Thanks again. Your support made this almost enjoyable.

INSIGHTS ON TUPPERWARE PARTIES RELOADED.

The Inventor

Earl Silas Tupper was born on a farm in New Hampshire in 1907. At the beginning of his career he worked as a farmer and a gardener. At the age of 30 he joint DuPont where he learned a lot about plastics. Only a year later he set up shop. In the 1940ies flexible plastics was a very new product.

Already in the 1930ies Tupper experimented with different kinds of plastics and found a method to fabricate an unbreakable, flexible and hygienic material whereas hitherto plastic was brittle and therefore difficult to form.

By studying covers of tin cans Tupper also found a solution for the plastic lids.

The Product

The combination of the light and flexible plastic boxes that could take different colours and shapes plus the airtight plastic lids that were easy to open made Tupperware such a success and a household name if it comes to food storage.

The Marketing Strategy

The best product will not sell if nobody knows about it. We are in the 1940ies, a long time before the internet came to life. Tupper tried to sell his invention through retailers but it did not sell well.

Tupper began to market his product on private parties that are still known (at least around here) as Tupper parties. A recommendation from one experienced housewife to another one made the success. This is called referral marketing.

Multilevel Marketing Today

I don’t know about Tupper’s compensation scheme but today, referral marketing is a multilevel marketing and each seller in the system is an independent reseller.

Think of it as a pyramid, the higher up a person is the more he or she earns. The top person (dark red in the picture below) can sell products directly and also search other resellers (lighter red, level 2) that sell products and sell other resellers and so on. The point is that only the top level players really earn money because number 1 participates at the sales of all layers below, number 2 as from layer 3 and so on. You see that if you are at level 12 you might work a lot with little reward.

I was offered such an opportunity not so long time ago. Although my level was not too bad I refused for the following reasons:

  1. I would not call this independent but rather see it as a modern form of slavery
  2. Everybody can participate in this system and in the age of digitalization I did not want my name to be mentioned with people about whose business acumen I don’t know anything
  3. Although personal contact is irreplaceable to humans and multilevel marketing might have been ok in Tupper’s time I believe that a sales strategy should look differently today. One of it is creating an emotional online experience

Have you ever participated in a referral marketing system? What is your experience?

HOW TO CREATE AN EMOTIONAL ONLINE EXPERIENCE THAT SELLS.

Being the hedonist that I am, I regularly read the news on the fashion and luxury market. One of the very hot topics is digitalization and companies’ struggle with it. During the last days the interest in digitalization got another boost since Amazon announced their ambition in fashion, launching a new service “try before you buy” and revealed that they already signed up with Nike for a strategic partnership. To me this does not sound as if Amazon intended to go for low-end products.

From my own experience I can tell that Amazon’s customer service is excellent and the shop performance is hard to beat. Yes, I know that Amazon grew up with the internet, so to speak.

From Offline to Online. A Challenge.

This cannot be said about most other retailers, let alone the fashion brands I can think of. The typical high-end brand has a long history, high quality products, a carefully built brand, committed staff that gives excellent advice and mostly a clear idea of its target audience. What you just read it the description of the off-line world and the reason I like shopping.

The online world looks sobering. The performance is too slow by far, the filtering is inconsistent. Most online shops are hardly more than a catalogue on the internet. Information on the product, delivery time, refund policy etc. are hard to find. In many cases you see them only when you are already at the shopping cart typing in your credit card number. By the way, this shocks a lot of clients and they abort the payment process.

Creating An Emotional Online Experience that Sells

Some weeks ago  I announced that I will provide some details on my CV. Well, I changed my mind since I think that it might be more useful to focus on how I can support your journey to digitalisation . But first I want to give you some information on what digitalisation could mean for your business.

Where to Start Digitalization?

A recent paper by McKinsey & Co speaks about 7 steps a CEO has to take in order to drive a successful digital transition: .

I will only discuss the two steps that seem the most important to me since I believe that the remaining ones are logical consequences of the first two which are

  1. Making Decisions
  2. Planning

Make Bold Decisions

Set Ambitions for Your Business

Where do you want your business to go? I imagine that most retailers will run physical shops despite going digital and selling their products in an online-shop. So what products should be available online? What growth to you project? Maybe every product has to be treated differently? The questions are probably similar to the ones you answered for your off-line business which you know by heart.

Look at Your Clients

Your clients are the most important people in your organisation. So you should look at them long before you look at your processes. After all you run your organisation for your customers. They have been loyal to you because of your excellent products, your brilliant service, your reputation in your industry, your tradition etc. You see where we are going to: It is your brand. Your Brand is not just the hard facts. It is an emotion. It is what I said above about the off-line world.

It is important to have a well-performing e-commerce platform, there is no doubt about this. But of even higher importance is your clients recognising your brand that gives them the feeling of comfort and quality. So you need additional features to accomplish this.

Which ones? That is certainly not a question anybody could answer without a serious analysis of your customer’s journey. The method to visualize this is called customer journey map. The following video provides some valuable information on how to do it. The most important message is: a customer journey is something “personal”. It must be shaped for your brand and your clients.

Look at Your Processes

Digitalization will change the way you work dramatically. Not everybody in your company will like this so you have to sell the solution to stakeholders and to train people.

Let’s assume for a moment that the world was only black and white.

Black would be you buy a technical solution out of the box and organise yourself around this. I know a company who did so but depending on your business’ complexity this could be too black.

White in this case is the opposite and the system would be built around your processes and behaviours. I have never seen a company that did that since it is too expensive, too time consuming and digitalisation is also a good reason to get rid of old and obsolete habits and processes that maybe do not serve your business or your clients.

Planning

Just one word about planning. Most probably you cannot digitalise everything in one go. The risk is too high since your organisation must adapt to the changes and the cost could be stretching your budget.

So you have to set priorities on what to do first and set realistic timelines. Realistic or not: projects like this always bear surprises. It is realistic to prepare for an adventure worthwhile. After all you are about to win over the clients of the next generation.

P.S. If you still need my grandmother’s first name or my birthday please drop me a line .

5 QUESTIONS TO AN ONLINE EXPERT. WORLDSERVICE.

Last week I promised you interviews. This is the first of them. Let’s be specific. It is the translation of the first interview.

FALLS SIE DEN ARTIKEL AUF DEUTSCH LESEN WOLLEN KLICKEN SIE BITTE HIER..

1. You have been developing web-applications and websites since 1996 and are constantly watching the trends. What has proved the most important change on the web within the last 5 years?

The most important trend by far is the so called responsive design? In Switzerland more than 85% of the users surf the web on their mobile devices; foremost smartphones. For that reason a correct display of a website has become even more important since it determines the first impression. As you know there is no second chance for a first impression.

2. What is responsive design really and when is it a good one?

The adaptation to the respective screen size must be seamless. No matter if the user is surfing the web by smartphone, tablet or PC the site must always look aesthetic and legible. Even images must adapt according to the total screen size.

A simple and clear navigation has always been important. Yet it has become even more important due to the limited space on a smartphone screen. It still must be easy to handle.

The content of the pages – especially texts – should be short and clear. Epic information will not be read on a smart phone.

3. You are programming software solution. Where do you specialise?

I have been focusing on online solutions for years. It is another trend that software solutions are going online. The advantages are obvious. Online solutions do not require specific hardware, operating systems or the installation of additional applications because they are accessible on your browser from anywhere you like. An online software offers more than just the administration of your data but also builds the interface to your customers. Let’s take the example of an online-shop. The shopper enters his or her data which will serve to establish an invoice or a delivery note automatically. No data transfer to another system is required.

I specialise in the development of individual solutions which are an exact match to my customer’s requirements. Thanks to many years of experience in various industries I can offer support already in the conception phase.

4. There is quite some competition in this field. What makes yous services unique?

I do not use standard products; not for web shops nor for other solutions or websites. My emphasis lies on an easy handling of the CMS systems. This is possible because they really offer exactly those functions the respective customer needs which is not the case for standard solutions.

WorldService delivers everything from one single source. Our products and solutions are developed in house at attractive prices and within the agreed timeline. This also provides the client with a high investment protection. Since I coded the solutions it is easy to programme additional features and functions if the client needs them.

5. If you could give one advice to companies or private owners who need an online solution; what would it be?

Get an expert on board right already in the conception phase of your solution. The concept determines the success of your online-solution which happens long before the coding begins. Write down a clear definition of your goals and describe your project. I happily support you.

Portrait. WorldService.

Daniel Haug is the founder and owner of WorldService and an expert for online solutions. His expertise goes back to 1996. Among others he created software solutions for the following industries:

  • Scuba diving
  • Catering
  • Automotive
  • Retail

WorldService also offers online-services to companies or individuals. All services are available on demand at very attractive conditions. Please click on the links below if you want to know more you  want to try them for free.

P.S. All websites are in German. No worries, call Daniel, he speaks English, too.

CRM System with Integrated Newsletter function

CRM easy is designed to manage address data but offers many more functions. One of it is a built in newsletter function. If you are blogging it automatically reads your blog’s RSS feed and sends your articles as newsletters at the time you determine to the target group you like.

Innovative Marketing

E-Card Tool is an ideal marketing instrument that fits in any website. You can send customised cards individually or to a target group.

3 REASONS YOUR SURVEY MIGHT NOT RETURN THE RESULTS YOU NEED AND HOW TO CORRECT THIS.

We all get online-surveys from time to time. Depending on the subject they take from two minutes to almost an hour.

If I like a brand, a product or a company I am always willing to support them and to give honest and fair feedback. But sometimes the survey is so annoying that I cannot be bothered completing it. Probably I am not alone with this symptom.

I guess there is a large percentage of people that start the survey but abort it after a very short time. From my point of view there are three key elements that should be taken into account if companies want their surveys to be completed.

What Is the Purpose of this Survey?

Typically, companies give you a more or less believable reason why they need your answer. If it is missing I will delete the e-mail straight away.

Only Ask Relevant Questions

If you are – like me – almost constantly online you cannot avoid feeding Google with a lot of records about your activities and also develop a sense of how much you want to reveal about yourself and your life. So you are careful with your answers.

I expect the questions to be relevant for purpose stated on the invitation e-mail. Recently I received a request form an e-learning platform which wanted to make sure that their suggestions are accurate to their audience’s preference.

Of course they want to know if I knew their competitors, if I studied at a University etc.

But why did they ask about my income? Of course there are many reasons this information might be of interest but not for the indicated purpose. Moreover, I thought that this is none of their business and closed the browser window.

Respect Time

“Take 3 minutes for our survey”. That’s fine and I open it. Just formulate the questions as clearly that 3 minutes will suffice to answer them. I observe quite frequently that you open the survey and find yourself confronted with 20 questions, each with 10 possible answers plus an “other reasons” field. Clearly, it will take more than three minutes with tests the users’ tolerance.

No doubt there are studies that require 45 minutes from you. If you signed up for them because after some weeks the company will share the results with you your time might be a very good investment.

If you have other aspects to be taken into account I am curious to learn about them.