Personalization in a B2B World

“Hire character. Train skill.” -Peter Schutz 


In a real-world setting, a good salesperson would size-up a new prospect walking in the door and within seconds begin to tailor the conversation to that person’s needs. In the digital world of eCommerce and automated marketing, the union of data and content management technologies is allowing companies to replicate that salesperson’s ability to tailor the conversation to the prospect at hand, delivering different content to each digital customer based on data insights. 

At Tahzoo, we call this personalization. We are mirroring the human-to-human sales interaction in an online sphere to turn what was once a one-way and one-size-fits-all approach to digital content and digital marketing into a true, two-way conversation between brands and their customers. We are giving our clients—many of whom are in the FORTUNE 500—the agility to adapt their marketing messages on the fly to reach deeper more meaningful relationships with their customers. 
 
In the digital customer experience (CX) world, personalization is defined as the ability to provide content (words, images, video, and audio) to a specific customer based on real-time data about that customer, including their age, location, search history, and other “data insights” that can drive a richer and more personally targeted customer experience. 

The impact of personalization will be particularly significant in the relationship-based business-to-business (B2B) space. The technologies for delivering highly nuanced personalized content and the data needed to pinpoint customer preferences are well established and proven to deliver business results through greater contextual relevancy, conversion rates, and long-term customer loyalty.  
 
The technical infrastructure necessary to support the goals of personalization across all digital channels are available and will be imperative to market leadership and commercial viability in the industry for the foreseeable future.  
 
While personalization technology has advanced, the growing gap between truly relevant customer experiences—what Tahzoo refers to as “Responsive Experiences,” which adapt content to the user, based on data gathered about the user—and the standard one-size-fits-all content model, common in business-to-business sales is revealing a fundamental weakness in the ability of some firms to sell their products in the digital realm. 

Tahzoo likes to frame the disparity by asking a single, provocative question: what would happen if a human sales representative were as bad at selling office equipment, laptops, or even copy paper as the majority of today’s B2B websites? The answer is simple: they would be fired. 
 
For far too long, marketers have gotten away with being terrible salespeople online because they are insulated by the law of large numbers—if they churn through enough people, eventually some portion of them (usually a minute portion) will convert to customers. Volume is the name of the game, but volume is also tremendously expensive, inefficient, and ineffective for company and customer alike.  
 
While our ability to know the customer through data insights is better and more powerful than ever, and the technology is now sophisticated enough to make the dream of true personalization a reality, there is more to the arithmetic of marketing than mere data and technology. 

Tahzoo believes that much of the fault for the sorry state of online selling falls at the feet of companies’ poor understanding of how their customers become educated about their products and services. What more is selling than education, after all? And who better to learn about education than educators?  
 
For inspiration in transforming the digital customer experience into something truly revolutionary, we turned to a trusted principle of education theory known as Learning Models, a theory first developed by the academic Robert Gagné in the 1980s. 
 
In this white paper, Tahzoo marries Gagne’s “Learning Models” principles and digital personalization to unite these disparate pieces into a comprehensive digital customer experience model that describes:  

  1. How customers think about their own business problems and potential solutions.  
  2. The step-by-step process—the learning model—for educating a prospect through digital channels.  
  3. How to gather insightful and accurate data about those customers. 
  4. The technology to deliver relevant customer experience to sell better in the online setting. 

To remain relevant to today’s digitally driven B2B customers, the industry must move toward greater personalization. If today’s industry leaders don’t take up the charge, another service will surely find a better way to meet the needs of these customers. The B2B space is ripe for disruption. 

Is there a new and disruptive competitor awaiting the B2B space? That remains to be seen. But, if there is, such a competitor will surely emerge from the shadows of data-driven, technology-enabled, customer-centric personalization. 
 

To effectively communicate relevant and personalized content—not merely to present it—to drive consumer decision-making means that the floodgate to personalized content must be opened, but firms must first invite consumers to explore all their options through a process of self-education. In this paradigm, the mere presentation of information must progress from mere fact-finding to a real and lasting conversation between customers and companies.  
 
When this happens—when Learning Models and digital personalization are truly aligned—then and only then will B2B customers be both engaged and educated. And that’s when great things can happen. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Updates from SDL

“Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as he best can, the same cause.” 

-Abraham Lincoln 

I just spent the last three days meeting with SDL leadership and customers at their annual Connect conference in California. It was an excellent event and we generated several new opportunities to pursue as a result of our meetings. We have one opportunity that is moving so quickly that the clients have already sent over an NDA and they are asking for SOW to be delivered straight away. We saw a renewed vigor and interest within the SDL community.  
 
The advancements that SDL is making surrounding the integration of Tridion Sites and Docs, coupled with their AI-powered Machine Translation engine, seems to be resonating in the market. While the SDL message is still more content than marketing-centric, as compared to Adobe or Sitecore, they made an effective argument that enterprise content management and the content management supply change is the single most important factor in delivering world-class Customer Experiences.  
 
Tahzoo echoed that sentiment during my Keynote speech. I highlighted the advancements that are possible by integrating the data services and content platforms. For the DOB next week, I’ll have the full speech available for you to take a look at. SDL is working on the editing and production required to have a published version of the video. All in all, it was a very successful week, with SDL beginning to win big clients again and with our reinvigorated partnership, I see many more Sites/Docs/DXA deals on the horizon!  
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Being a Good Consultant

We are a relationship led company. In every respect, the quality and strength of our relationships determine the short and long-term success of our business. Qualitatively, this is the most important point of judgment regarding the health of employees, partners, clients, and the company. If you can’t build and maintain great relationships, consulting is not a good career option for you.

My strategy for building relationships with my clients has always been frequent, short communication with all the constituents of the business. I’ve opted for quick calls and made myself available for insightful conversation and complaints, positioning myself as a point of escalation for any challenges. In addition to the quality assurance calls, I frequently share an article that I like or a white paper that I’ve authored. It is important to have a mix of thought leadership with QA and sales.

The model is simple… check in frequently, add value, and look for new opportunities. This allowed me to be the CEO, lead strategist, and head sales guy for a long time before we added to our headcount. When I think about being a good consultant at Tahzoo, this model should be built into our everyday activities. It doesn’t matter what your role is at Tahzoo, we all have clients and customers that need to be engaged.

This is the first in a three-part series for the Desk of Brad. This week we are focusing on habits for checking infrequently.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a list of people that I would touch base with daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly. There is judgment required to ensure the cadence and scope of the relationships are sufficient to be successful. When you think about your clients, the folks you work with every day, and the client with their broader set of constituents, how would you schedule connecting with them?

It’s safe to talk to people that like you, and we have all been trained to find a coach, however, the courage and the thought leadership to tackle objectors to drive consensus is essential for our business. Although a major portion of our work is deliverable-based, we are all agents of change helping our client achieve what is possible.

In order to check in frequently, there needs to be something to discuss. There is an old saying “interested is interesting”… Meaning people often think to themselves that you are an interesting person because you’ve expressed interest in them. When engaging your clients and building relationships, just ask a lot of questions. They don’t have to be personal – for many clients, it’s sufficient to understand their goals at work or the complexities that they face. You can also discuss clearly defined success metrics, hard numbers, and schedules for the project, or bring meaningful thought leadership to drive those conversations. I always subscribe to a Google Alert for my accounts, because I want to know the latest breaking news.

I’ve put together a checklist for you to consider as a strategy for the check-in frequently discipline:

• Create a list of daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly contacts in each account.
• Build an email list for sending out thought leadership articles.
• Create a document that outlines the relevant issues, topics for check-in, and areas of interest for thought leadership for accounts.
• Every week (Monday morning) review your contact list and create a schedule for your touchpoints.
• Read and collect information from the subject matter experts within Tahzoo and share it with your clients.
• If you need an article, point of view, or any piece of thought leadership, reach out to Tahzoo leadership and make the request – we’ll get you something to send to the client.

Relationship building isn’t hard, it just takes discipline and a little focus. It’s a habit – hard to get started, but after seven weeks in a row, you’ll have it down. You need to have something meaningful to share or your client with feel pestered, or worse yet, bored. The key here is to begin building relationships by checking in frequently, being genuinely interested in them, and having something thoughtful to share… pretty straightforward. I’d like everyone to take an inventory of the number of active relationships they have within an account and double that number over the next two months.

Promises

“People forget how fast you did a job – but they remember how well you did it.” – Howard W. Newton 

Promises 

 
It was early in my career and late on a Friday night. All of my friends were out on the town and waiting for me. I had a report due that day and was working diligently to get it completed. I knew my Sunday afternoon was open, so I sent an email to my boss: “I will get you the report over the weekend.” I quickly left to go have fun with my friends. 
 
When Sunday afternoon rolled around, I finished the report. At that moment, I should have promptly sent the document. Not to date myself too much, but internet connectivity back then required a dial-up modem – slow and painful. So, I thought to myself, “I’ll just send this when I get into the office Monday morning… What’s the harm, Sunday night or Monday morning, my boss probably won’t even read this until late in the day on Monday”. 
 
As usual, I was in the office early and I sent the report. I didn’t even give it a second thought; just another task completed on my to-do list. A few minutes later, I received a rather terse email from my boss. In capital letters and red font: “Please help me understand why you said you’d send the report over the weekend, and why I am receiving this now?” I was confused and frustrated… I responded, “Why is this such a big deal?”.   
 
His reply created one of the most poignant moments in my career. His email read, “If you’re comfortable breaking your promise to me, and I’m your boss, I can’t imagine how many promises you are breaking to our customers!” Wow – and he was right. You can’t be great at the big things if you’re not diligent about the little things. I learned that managing expectations are as important as the work being performed.  
 
We are in the relationship business; keeping promises and managing expectations is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy relationship. So, do what you say you are going to do and take this lesson to heart. 
 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

“Courage is simply doing whatever is needed in pursuit of the vision.”  – Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization 

Where Everyone Knows Your Name   

 
“Where everyone knows your name… and they’re always glad you came…” Do you make our customers feel this way? Do you know them and are you glad to be working for them? Our business is based on relationships and adding value. When I spoke about how Jason and John make the bar a great experience for me, I began thinking about how each of you makes great experiences for our clients. I’d like to hear from you – over the next week, send me what you do to make working with you and Tahzoo a great experience. I’ll feature the ideas in the Desk of Brad next week. 
 
If you find yourself short on answers, then it’s time for a personal inventory. Why are you here at Tahzoo? Our goal is to make millions of people a little happier every day. Your clients should be part of that equation. If you’re not proactively trying to figure out how to make a difference and leveraging your unique value to make that happen, then you need to get off the dime and get started. 
 
We have so much to be thankful for; we have a great team, great clients, and a chance to make a difference in our work. We are agents of change – change is hard and the comfort of your strong relationship and the company’s excellent work is what allows our clients to change. We are always happiest when we do hard work and begin to see the results. Think about getting in shape, or going on a diet or learning a new language; the work is hard but the results are worth it. Like a good trainer, friend, or teacher, let’s help our clients achieve the outcomes they desire. 
 
Our clients deserve to feel like they just walked into Cheers when they interact with you. Your peers deserve to feel the same way. We hire smart AND happy people; let your bubble of joy surround your clients and colleagues. It’s not too late to get started, it’s not too late to make a change, and it’s not too late to put others above yourself – and if none of that works then fake it until you make it. Put that smile on and let it shine. 
 
Let’s go be great 

Loyalty or Sales Strategy?

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

Is It Loyalty or Just a Sales Strategy   

 
I have a favorite restaurant that I go to frequently; I’ll be honest… it’s the bar at a nice restaurant. I enjoy this place because the bartenders Jason and John make the experience so pleasant. Several months ago, the restaurant started a loyalty program. I know this because somewhere along the way I provided an email address and started receiving special menu offers. I get too many emails anyways, so I mostly ignore them; but on some level, their reward program was in the back of my mind. 
 
So, I am at the bar and Jason says, “We have a special offer tonight for rewards members – a new Wagyu burger and a fancy glass of wine for 25 bucks”. I think “ok cool”, however, debated for a few minutes, mostly because a burger is the last thing my mid-section needs. Just then, Jason points out that the wine is a Caymus Cabernet. For those of you who don’t know wine, all I can say is that this is a glass that you’d have on a special occasion. That tips the scale, so I order the special. I finish my meal and ask for a second glass of wine. Jason says, “Well, the wine is 23 dollars per glass, so you should just order the special again and I’ll put the second burger in a to-go box for you”. 
 
Let’s set aside the fact that the wine is $23 per glass; the original offer isn’t a reward, it’s a convoluted cross-sell upsell strategy. It did nothing to increase my loyalty or enhance my experience. There was no chance I was going to order a second burger or a 23 dollar glass of wine; if anything, I was just frustrated. To top it off, it has to be a total money loser for the company to structure their offer in this way. 
 
I decided to ask Jason more about the loyalty program and the benefits. He prints out a receipt that shows me how many points I have, and that when I get to 3,000 points I will be eligible to redeem my points for dinner for two… nice right? I looked through all my emails from this restaurant and it’s a steady stream of special offers, but nowhere do they include any information on the rewards program, how I earn points, my progress to date, or even a thank you for being a regular customer. In the end, I wouldn’t have known anything about the program if I had not taken the initiative to ask.   
 
All too often we see loyalty programs mixed with promotional programs. There is such a drive to sell something new that the marketing departments forget about the customer and the experience that drives our enjoyment. Promotions are important, increasing check averages too, but what drives companies is repeat business. Done properly, your customers are your advocates because they want to share their experiences with others.    
 
To me, a loyalty program is one that recognizes me as a valued customer in the way that I care about the most. There is a quote I use from time to time, “Interested is interesting”. When you take the time to know your customers and you take care of them, they return the favor. We believe in personalized experiences because we know it’s the best way to put a smile on someone’s face. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, just like the theme song from the TV show Cheers… “Sometimes you wanna go where everyone knows your name …and they’re always glad you came.” 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

Great, not Good Service

“In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy.” – Karl Reiland 

Great Service 

 
I was working with our team in Seattle this week and we were discussing the tenets of good customer service. If I learned anything working at Nordstrom, it’s that good customer service is proactive, not reactive. If someone takes your order politely, they’ve done their job. You had a need and they satisfied that need, great… but that isn’t good customer service. It might be good manners, however, it’s the minimum that we should all expect. If you work at Tahzoo, presumably you’re smart and happy, so let’s assume we’ll have the minimum covered without additional explanation. 
 
Good service and striving for great service is about being proactive. It requires you to take the time to know your clients and anticipate their needs. There are two key habits to proactive service, observation, and initiative. 
 
Observation is the discipline of understanding yourself, your company, and your client. This does not happen automatically, it requires that you pause, reflect, and consider what you’re observing. Not all that dissimilar from the scientific method. The most lauded scientists are the ones that observed something in nature, created a hypothesis to define it, and then test their assumptions. In the context of customer service, you have to understand your client well enough to anticipate their needs. At Nordstrom, we had Personal Books, we’d keep track of our customer’s sizes, likes, dislikes, birthdays, info about their family, and other details. That discipline of observation and writing it down is still with me today. I take notes about my clients and more specifically, my assumptions about them; their attitude, communication style, work habits, how their company runs, their aspirations… and then I periodically reflect on those assumptions to make sure they are accurate and/or are things changing for them. Those moments of reflection keep me in tune with my clients and allow me to anticipate their needs. 
 
Once the need has become prescient, you can respond. 
 
Initiative requires energy. It’s not good enough to have awareness, you also have to do something about it. The habit of initiative is an expression of values or a higher purpose. It’s the discipline of taking action, it’s something you have to practice every day. As I spoke about last week, we are in the business of making millions of people a little bit happier every day. That gets me excited, which gives me energy and as a consequence, providing great customer service gives me great personal satisfaction. Doing my job – taking care of customers – doesn’t feel like work to me. Each of you needs to find the wellspring of passion that gives you the energy to provide great service every day. For me it’s about higher calling, maybe for you, it’s connecting with people or seeing them be successful. Whatever your passion is for delighting customers, you have to find it and cultivate it. My old pastor used to say you can’t minister from an empty well, you have to renew your enthusiasm frequently. 
 
If you couple observation and initiative you get magic – the magic of customer delight. At Disney, they create “Wow” moments. I had one of those moments earlier this week when I received an email from the owner of the dry cleaner that I use. Now as you can imagine, he has thousands of customers, maybe more. In any event, I haven’t been using his service, mostly due to travel and some extenuating circumstances, however, he noticed (observed) that I haven’t been in recently, and then took the time to send me an email (initiative) checking in with me personally to make sure I was in good shape and to make sure there wasn’t an unexpressed customer satisfaction issue. A “Wow” moment for me when I read his email. 
 
What a great example for all of us. It’s not just the big things that make great customer service, it’s also all the little things. If you care, it shows in you and it shows in your work. Our first value: “If you care about your customers and you care about your employees, you’ll have a company worth caring about”. Go show your clients that you care – take the time to observe and cultivate the energy to take action. Not only will you give great customer service, but you’ll also be happier too. 
 
Let’s go be great! 
Brad 

The Present

One of my favorite books to give is called The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson. Think of the title of the book as a riddle.

I had dinner last night with an old friend and we were talking about building relationships with customers. I’ve known some of my customers for years, and many of them have become good friends. There is a great Zig Ziglar quote, “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

When you call a customer and say, “Hello, how are you?”, listen – really listen… If you can understand what may be happening for them, you can be a sympathetic ear or you might be able to help. All too often, greetings are treated as a ritual and not a real offer to connect, or, said differently, to be present. Go be a good friend to others and they will return the favor.

If you’d like a copy of the book as always, please let me know.

Thanks,
Brad

Doing Right by the Client

I keep coming back to this one idea: if we are to be a truly global consulting company supporting the best brands in their customer experience journey, we need to provide a level of service and quality that is unequaled in the industry. The Tahzoo experience should be a fair exchange of value delivered in a frictionless manner.

I recognize that for Tahzoo (and most companies), we will fall short of our ideals from time to time. We will fail to meet expectations or provide a deliverable that just isn’t up to the Tahzoo standard. The Delivery Lead will have the primary accountability to resolve any issues to the client’s satisfaction. Having made that clear, it’s everyone’s responsibility to delight and exceed client expectations.

Service recovery … It’s how you handle problems, issues, or concerns that matter. Most reputations for great customer service are built on how the company recovers or addresses a misstep or failure in execution. Companies like Nordstrom and Zappos are well known for how they empower their staff to fix issues. Even at Microsoft (not often considered a customer-focused organization) had “Make it Right Funds,” which was a reserve budget for remediating software implementation challenges.

Internal and external relationships
To be great at anything, it takes hard work over an extended period of time. One of the Tahzoo core values is that we hire Smart and Happy people. Every consulting company should and can be measured as a collection of internal and external relationships (this is one reason why we survey all of you so often, ask that you rate your week and your experience with your peers). I often say that you could easily make a determination about the long-term financial success of our company based on this measurement. It’s easier to build great relationships with happy people, teams work better when they are happy, and I would much rather spend my time talking with someone who had a smile in their voice than the alternative.

I remember one misstep at one of our Clients. The customer’s expectation and our deliverable did not match up. These things happen from time to time, but what I really appreciated about how our team responded was that they engaged the customer. There was no recrimination or blaming of the client for not understanding, just an earnest effort to seek to understand the concern, express our apologies for not meeting their expectations and a commitment to resolve the issue to the client’s satisfaction. I was proud of how the team handled this today and I reminded them that the goal isn’t to avoid having problems it’s to make sure that when we do, we go above and beyond to make the client happy.

Keep all of this in mind when hiring and collaborating and when you’re taking care of clients. It always pays to go the extra mile to make a difference for a client. You are empowered to do the right thing by our customers. 

Let’s go be great!

Brad

On Commitment

Commitment is a powerful word. I have been reflecting on that word a bit recently. When I started Tahzoo I had a dream that we could build a company that would change the way that companies engage with their customers. I have been and will be committed to that dream until we have accomplished our mission.

I’m reminded of my time at Nordstrom when I first started with the company. It was during the holiday season and we were very busy. An older gentleman I didn’t know joined us behind the counter to help ease the burden and make our customers’ experience better. As it turned out, it was John Nordstrom who helped me gift wrap packages for the afternoon. What an impression that made on me—not only of their commitment to great customer service, but his willingness to go beyond his desk job to actually roll up his sleeves and get behind the counter to help. His action was very powerful. And I was clearly impressionable, as I still recall this moment for the positive impact it has had on me.

The internet, while creating many efficiencies, has also removed much of the human touch. The digital age has depersonalized an important part of the human condition. Meanwhile, commerce—how we spend our money—is a very social part of the human experience … our cities are built around market squares, we create friendships at our regular cafés and we recommend to our friends and family experiences and products that we enjoy. We’ve resurrected a part of the human connection through social media, communicating with one another our likes, dislikes, and preferences, however, this hasn’t solved the problem of feeling disintermediated from the brands we enjoy.

The vast majority of companies provide a one-size-fits-all digital experience that requires you the end-user to find the bit of information you care about … to me the internet feels a lot like shopping in a store without anyone to help you find what you want and then if you’re lucky enough to find something, you have to go through a self-checkout process. We can do better, we can teach our customers how to do better and we can make the world a little bit better.

A great company must do two things well … care about its customers and employees … and be dedicated to changing the way that information is shared and how business is done.

Not too long ago Tahzoo was just a small team, only 10 people, however, we were committed to an idea and to one another … that if we cared about our employees and cared about our customers we’d be a company worth caring about. While at times this may seem trite, it was and is the fuel that propels Tahzoo. You see, businesses can be started for many reasons—to make money, to exploit a market opportunity, to arbitrage labor markets—or they can be built to do something meaningful. In our case, my first act at Tahzoo was creating our values, even before I decided what we would do as a company. I thought if I was going to start a company it should mean something, stand for something, and do something that makes a difference.

With all that said, I want to change our little part of the world. I want to help our clients figure out how to do a better job of taking care of their customers. It’s really just that simple. They should hire Tahzoo because they believe we can help them. And, we should help them. We should understand the trust they have bestowed upon us and act accordingly.