Customer retention was really, really low
Customers (Small Business Owners) were sold on a complete marketing package. Main Street Hub’s sales team was rapidly selling this grandiose notion of a product that solved all of their marketing needs. To these people, it was unbelievable; they signed up immediately. Unfortunately, they quickly realized that MSH couldn’t keep their word. Customers were complaining about their content being; ‘too generic’, ‘too homogenous’, ‘too meme-y’, and ‘not representing our brand’. They would also say that the reviews we wrote on their behalf sounded inauthentic, lazy, and repetitive. Because of this, the retention of our customers would drop significantly at about the 3-month mark. We were like a leaky bucket, signing a ton of new customers only to lose them a few months later.
Internal teams were not happy
The content team was under a lot of distress. They were feeling a lot of pressure to create beautiful, on-brand content for their large book (hundreds) of small businesses. They were responsible for creating thousands of pieces of unique, on-brand content, weekly. They had to quickly respond to angry yelp, google, and trip advisor reviews on behalf of these small business owners as well. The tools they used were antiquated and slow. The team’s morale was low. They were consistently underwater. They hated their jobs. Worst of all, none of this was their fault. They weren’t equipped with the tools or processes they needed to handle the workload. Simply put, they were not setup for success.
So we asked ourselves, how can we:
A few principles that guided our approach:
Impact (Customer Retention), Speed (Internal Efficiency & Execution), and Sequence (Learning)
Guided storytelling was the name we coined for our radical overhaul in content strategy, requiring changes to content tools, operations, organizational structure, and also, customer communication.
Below are some projects I worked on that helped in delivering the overall mission of Guided Storytelling:
The Customer Everything Hub
Main Street Hub was using an antiquated set of tools to serve their customers. Customers were upset because the operations team wasn’t able to perform the basic job functions such as creating posts,
responding to reviews, and making unique imagery. All of their content was generic, homogenous, and meme-like. Some customers were even complaining that they saw the same post on one of their competitors social platforms or that it was "ripped
off from Pinterest"– and in some cases, it was.
There was no centralized location for the tools that internal employees were using. There was a disconnect within communication and between roles. It showed.
Visualizing the Future
In reimagining this tool, we took a holistic approach to the challenge we faced. Our goal was to enable a small number of content creators to post a huge volume of posts. But, not only that, we needed to make sure these posts were in the voice of each individual customer when our content team was, in some cases, thousands of miles away from the business. And even further, we needed to enable this team to craft genuine visual content that was on-brand with the businesses marketing materials.
The first thing we needed to do was consolidate all of the existing tools into one location. Here are some early sketches:
Iterating & Validating
It's awesome working on internal tools, especially when your users sit in the same office as you. I was able to design and iterate extremely fast, quickly landing on a lean solution. Here are some failed early concepts:
Bringing all of the tools under one roof (with the exception of the response tools) enabled several internal teams to work more efficiently and seamlessly on their daily objectives. This was now the life blood of the internal tools team; information that previously fell through the cracks (ie. customer preferences on terminology, colors, or photography) was no longer lost. This allowed us to build credibility and trust with our customers. Ultimately, this lead to them giving us a longer window to prove our services were valuable, in turn, boosting retention at the 3-month marker.
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Email Marketing & Automation
Key Uses Cases
Our tools were extremely dated and had been sunset for quite some time. Customers demanded at email solutions for sending out promotional emails, event emails, newsletters, and other miscellaneous emails. It was long overdue that our team build out a solution for the content team. As part of the solution we'd need to consider the following use cases:
We'd need to stay lean and adapt to the teams workflows. This meant that we would use some 3rd party tools such as Canva (for image creation), Zendesk (for customer requests), etc.
Below are examples of the various types of functionality that would exist within the editor. This would allow us to be more rigid in the templates we allowed, while still giving some flexibility to the content team.
Quick Templates with Minimal Editing
Because of our lean workflows, we decided to stick to templates with the ability to quickly create, edit, and modify modules. We had canned templates for the most common emails.
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Marketing Timeline & Post Strategy
In revisiting on of our key problems, "How can we drive consumer engagement and customer satisfaction through strategic marketing plans?" We knew we were missing some key functionality around collaboration with the customer. The design of this tool needed to allow the internal 'Customer Success' team to quickly see the posts that the content team was generating. We designed a marketing timeline strategy and trained our Customer Success team to work with the small businesses on promoting upcoming local events and activities. This was strategic in making the customer feel "bought in" - once they felt bought in and knew that we had a strategy for their content that spanned 6-months into the future, they were more likely to stay. They'd be happier. Retention would get better.
Designing & Communicating Bundles
Prior to this new set of functionality, the content team was creating one-off posts each week for facebook, instagram, and twitter. By introducing this new concept of a marketing timeline, we had to also communicate and train the content team on the new approach. They would now be creating 2 posts per week for 3-4 weeks in advance. A total of 6-8 posts per customer, instead of just one.
Content Creation Efficiency
Prior to this new set of functionality, the content team was creating one-off posts each week for facebook, instagram, and twitter. By introducing this new concept of a marketing timeline, we had to also communicate and train the content team on the new approach. They would now be creating 2 posts per week for 3-4 weeks in advance. A total of 6-8 posts per customer, instead of just one. While this was a radical change, it allowed our content team to be incredibly more efficient. This required a large change to the back-end as well. We would now take the customer's identity (logo, brand, colors, voice, and tone) and pre-populate the content in the "Composer" tool (where the content is crafted). This would allow them to move through posts rapidly, customer-by-customer as if they were on a conveyor belt.
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Audience Analysis & Competitive Insights
Proving ROI (Return on Investment)
Internally, there was a large push for the customer-facing dashboard to include a set of features that allowed customers to view more information on their engagement analytics and competition. With our whole team aligned on increasing customer retention, we believed that customers who say these metrics would be more inclined to stick with us. The idea was that we would take an educational approach to the metrics and explain why we were running promotions, events, and specials when we did; then we could follow up with metrics and show the levels of engagement compared to before they used our services.
The Customer's Dashboard
The customer dashboard is where they review the content that was created for them and the responses to their yelp, trip advisor, and foursquare reviews. This is now where they would be able to dive deep in the their online data; page views, interactions, check-ins, likes, fans, demographics, etc.
We would also provide our customers with a feature that allowed visibility into their competitors. Most business owners keep tabs on the competition; so this feature was adored. Searching their competitors, filtering by rating, distance, and business type allowed them to quickly compare themselves to other similar businesses. Again, this was another feature we added to engage the customer and bring up retention.
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Review Response Platform
Boomerang: The review response tool
You'll notice this is the only tool that doesn't live within Passport, mentioned above. That's because this was the first tool we worked on after the product team was assembled. This was the most pressing issue that needed to be dealt with as fast as possible.
This was affecting both customers (retention and satisfaction with our product), as well as, internal employee happiness (and general ability to perform their daily responsibilities). I would be frustrated as well if I wasn't setup for success.
A lean solution to review responses
After spending a lot of time observing and discussing the current tools with the content team (the users), it was clear that they needed a fast, lean solution to quickly respond to the high volumes of reviews they were receiving for each customer on Yelp, Twitter, TripAdviser, FourSquare, and Google Plus.
The solution isn't all that flashy. They needed to do 3 things really well:
After designing this tool and implementing the lean solution, the internal team was much more happy and efficient. This ended up saving the company a good deal of money in time savings and content production, and reduced the overall churn on that team significantly.
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