Quick Client Gifts (Yes You Can!)

When we thank our clients, we want the expression to be genuine and to strike just the right note. However, it takes a sneaky amount of time to organize the perfect gift, and when we’re short on time — as we often are — it’s easy to table the task for the next day…and the next…and the…. 

Now it’s nearly Thanksgiving, and it almost feels too late for client gifts.

Or is it? 

Waiting does have its benefits. For one, your options are whittled down, which can be a welcome relief. Ten types of mugs requires less effort than wading through 100. Your time crunch may also cause you to consider creative options you may not have otherwise. Always wanted to hand deliver your client gifts? This might be the year. And finally, if you haven’t already, this is the perfect excuse to evaluate and trim your recipient list. That client you haven’t worked with in ten years, but have optimistically sent annual gifts? Your time crunch makes it easier to pause them this year. 

All of that description does nothing to solve the real question: what can I send my clients on a short timeframe? To get you started, we asked the ever-thankful MJM team what they’d suggest when needing a last minute gift. Here are their best ideas, for local or nationwide clients.

Local

  • Wreaths or floral arrangements. These can likely be delivered or, if you’re really in the holiday spirit, set aside an afternoon for you and your team to run around town spreading cheer and handing out office-brightening arrangements. 
  • Coffee and treats. Let your clients know a week in advance that you’re sending breakfast. Then, on the appointed day, arrange for delivery of a spread of things such as bagels, parfaits, doughnuts, coffee, and orange juice. Be sure to include a gluten-free option.
  • Event tickets. Purchase tickets to a well-loved local event that will put everyone in the holiday spirit. 

Nationwide

  • Digital gifts. Gift an audiobook, music, or even a three-month subscription to a streaming platform. Personalize this with a note that tells about a book that was meaningful to you or a documentary you’d recommend they watch. 
  • Writing utensils. What professional isn’t always hunting for just the right pen? Send 2-3 pen options and let your recipients vote for their favorite. Follow-up with a whole package of the winning pen for those who voted. 
  • Set-up an online store. Many screen print retailers and sweet treat companies will set up an online store for you featuring products you select. Once your “store” is ready, all you have to do is send your clients a greeting with a link to visit, pick an item, and have their chosen gift shipped to them directly.

Keep in mind that your gift should be just that: a gift. This shouldn’t be an attempt to sell, and it isn’t necessary to put your logo all over your gift. However, it’s still appropriate to brand your gift so that your clients easily connect it to your business. Tissue paper in brand colors, logo stickers, or handwritten notes on office stationery can all add light touches of branding, especially when time is short. 

If all else fails, extend the season by sending a gift that celebrates the new year instead, or consider using this time to plan a Valentine’s Day gift so that way you’re ready when February rolls around.

Take a Stand by Giving Back

It’s becoming more and more common for companies to practice “brand activism,” instigating social change for causes that align with their values. Patagonia’s long-standing fight to preserve natural resources and habitats comes to mind. The company and a growing list of others is proof that customers don’t just care about the products and services you offer; they care about what you stand for as well. 

Customers, employees, and employers want to be a part of something that’s making a difference in the world. But context is king. For a variety of reasons, not every organization is positioned to be an “activist.” 

But we can all give back to our community in a meaningful way. When an organization dedicates its resources to a cause, it’s living out its values. Your business’ support — whether financially, through volunteer hours, or in-kind giving — can make a real difference in the world. Another added bonus? Giving back has a positive ripple effect on your team, your business’ image, and on you personally. 

Service is the bedrock of  leadership.

Robert Greenleaf, the man who coined the term “servant leadership,” had a few key outcome-based questions to identify servant-first leadership: “Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”

Regardless of our position in the workplace, we are all leaders in some form or fashion. And there’s no better place to sharpen our leadership skills than by giving back to the community. It helps reorient us outside of ourselves and creates a workplace culture that is more than the sum of the bottom line. In the end, studies show that an organization with that kind of culture is much more likely to be successful.

Intentional giving changes dynamics. 

Giving back can put leaders into service tasks and allow followers to take on leadership roles. Whether it’s a volunteer opportunity or organizing the company’s charitable efforts, giving back can temporarily change office hierarchies in a positive, respect-building way. 

Giving fosters diversity. 

Our careers occupy most, if not all, of our weekdays. (And sometimes, our weekends too.) Add in family responsibilities, exercise and hobbies, and maintenance errands like grocery shopping, and our weeks can take on a rhythm of sameness. Seeking ways to give back forces us out of that cocoon and into a wider, more diverse pool of activists, community members, and business leaders. Charitable giving presents an opportunity to see another’s perspective, learn valuable insight about our communities, and develop true empathy for those who are unlike us. 

Generosity begets generosity. 

People pay attention to those who give. Their selflessness is attractive and sets an example for others to think about how they, too, might share their values by giving back. The cascade of one person’s giving to charities that heal, feed, educate, shelter, minister to, and enlighten every walk of life is limitless both in terms of who it helped and who it inspired to join the cause.

With the holiday season hitting full speed, there’s no better time to consider ways you and your business can give back. At MJM, we designate a portion of our talented staff to support the marketing efforts of selected nonprofit partners. Our support encourages them to keep serving their communities, and their work reminds us that the best way to lead is to be a servant first.

We hope you’ll consider making meaningful gifts to your community before 2021 comes to a close. You won’t regret it.

Make Your Thanks Count. Here’s How.

Think of the common ways we express gratitude to each other. A verbal “thank you,” a thank you card, maybe a gift basket or gift card. These are all nice gestures — and we should do them — but they can feel  generic.

So how do we avoid that?

With something called “incarnational gratitude.” (Give me a chance to explain before that big term scares you away!) Incarnational gratitude is how you SHOW and LIVE your gratitude in meaningful ways. More than just a gift or signed card, incarnational gratitude fuses gratefulness into the everyday life of your workplace and the ongoing interactions between you and your team members.

So how do you do it? Here are 7 examples you can use to show incarnational gratitude for your work team:

1. When times are tough, get in the trenches with your team.

One of the greatest fears employees have is being abandoned when times are tough. When the difficult client calls for a meeting, when the work is demanding, or when a task seems insurmountable, nothing shows your team that you’re grateful for their effort more than when you roll up your sleeves and dig in with them. When you step up for your team, they will step up their work for you and the company.

2. Make everyday moments special.

Holidays and birthdays are easy times to make people feel special, but you don’t need to wait for those to show your gratitude. With a little planning and creativity, any day or moment is an opportunity.

Mondays, Fridays, anniversaries, half-anniversaries, first day of the month, middle day of the month, start of a shift, end of a shift, milestones within a project, or completely invented moments – when you show gratitude and celebrate your team during unexpected moments, it can feel more special because you are celebrating without an obligation to. This can add a lot of positive energy and value to your team.

3. Celebrate when you catch employees doing thankless work.

Be intentional about looking for those who are handling tasks no one else wants or notices and who are supporting the team behind the scenes in a way that makes others shine and be successful. When you look for these moments and celebrate them, you will motivate your team to live these behaviors as well.

4. Empower your team to make decisions.

Very few people like to be micromanaged, and all people want to feel they are valuable contributors to the good of the company. One of the most powerful ways we show our team we are grateful for their work is by empowering them to make decisions and take responsibility. They can’t make valuable contributions — or feel your gratitude — without it.

5. Listen to your team. Deeply.

Many surveys have shown that one of the greatest frustrations people have with their leadership at work is a lack of listening. To show incarnational gratitude, nothing is simpler (or more meaningful) than scheduling and prioritizing time to listen to your team. Find out how things are going for them. See what’s frustrating them and what ideas they have to solve those frustrations. Really, truly, deeply listen. Even if you learn nothing new, the sheer act of listening is a gift to your team.

6. Help your team see and grow into their future (at your company or beyond.)

Help your team members see, plan, and grow into their best future, wherever it takes them. Great leaders invest in their team and want to see them grow, and we show gratitude for their work by pouring INTO them while we ask for great work OUT OF them.

Could team members leave your company in the future? Yes. Is that hard? Yes. But as leaders and team members, we should want the best for our people knowing that’s also what’s best for our company. Ironically, the less tightly we hold onto team members and the more space we give them to grow, learn, and thrive, the more likely they are to stay with us.

7. Reinvent the gift basket.

There are times when a gift basket is warranted. When possible, use it as an opportunity to customize the gift and celebrate the team member or client who will receive it. It doesn’t have to be fully customized; even the smallest of touches show you care and are well worth your time and effort.

Do your employees know you are thankful for their work, their commitment, and their time at your company? Start incorporating these seven examples into your everyday interactions and they’re sure to!

Why Employee Gifting Is Group Identity

Why do we give gifts at work?

After all, the stress that accompanies picking out just the right gift is in no short supply as the holiday season approaches. Why do we pile it on?

There’s good reason, so I hope you’ll forgive the Grinch for such musings.

The benefits of group gifting have been extolled in many blog posts already—usually boiling down to expressing gratitude, retaining employees, and boosting their morale. Those are great outcomes for any business, sure. But maybe the greatest benefit that giving gifts at work brings is the opportunity to tell a story about who we are as a group of people.

Gift giving is one of the oldest forms of social interaction. It has been documented as a practice throughout human history. When gifting occurs in groups there is often a ceremony or ritual in the presentation of the gifts. Cultural anthropologists believe that this is because in these contexts group identities are at stake. Giving gifts helps us strengthen the bonds between us, reinforcing the narrative we believe about ourselves.

Employee gifting that tells a story

As you plan your corporate gifting this year, consider how the ritual might be an opportunity to build your company culture. Realizing this benefit does require some thought and intention. Yes indeed, it truly is the thought that counts. Here are a few prompts to start the thoughts flowing:

  • Start by thinking about your organization and the things you appreciate about working together. Make a list.
  • Is there a goal or initiative your team has focused on during the year that could serve as a theme for a company gift? A way to say thank you for all their effort in pursuing it?
  • Is there a mission or vision you want your team to embrace that a gift could be meaningfully tied into?
  • Is there an organizational origin story that could inspire a company gift?
  • Are there shared company values that could be illustrated in a gift to your team?
  • Are there recent successes that should be celebrated?
  • Are there difficult obstacles you’ve navigated together? Like perhaps adapting to remote work and supply chain disruptions?

There’s the seed of a story to be told from any of those reflections. Make the story explicit in the presentation of gifts to your team. Give them some clues about how they should feel and what the takeaway is. A story you want your team to believe about themselves paired with the positive reinforcement of a gift can be like fertilizer for the culture you want to nurture.

Marketing is Your Last Step

It was my first day at a new job and I walked in, quite literally, to phones that were ringing off the hook. Curious, I approached the area where a pair of receptionists, who, as pleasant as could be, were fighting a losing game of whack-a-mole with the blinking red lights on their consoles. When I asked why today had such a high call volume, they told me “It’s always like this.”

If job security had a ringtone, I had a lot of it.

However, as awesome as that was, this company wasn’t ready to handle the results of their marketing. Their team had executed a focused strategy to get their name out and it worked.

Focus on Operations First

But little attention had been paid to the infrastructure and operations necessary to handle things like call volume or adequate parking. Even more broadly, no one had considered how mundane things like poorly-designed forms or long phone wait times can undo months — and in this case years — of strategic marketing. 

When your prospective customer finally picks up the phone or fills out the contact form on your website, you must be ready to follow through on your promises. Jimmy John’s couldn’t promise “Freaky Fast Delivery” without putting in place everything possible to guarantee that delivery is, in fact, freaky fast. 

Marketing Comes Last

In other words, what many people don’t realize is that operations is the first step to effective marketing. At MJM, we take that even further. To us, operations is marketing and well-designed operations lead to a stellar patient experience that, in turn, leads to word-of-mouth referrals. Only once those things are in place should full-scale marketing efforts be launched. 

That was a welcome mindset for the receptionists whack-a-moling their way through phone call after phone call. I paused the company’s marketing that very day so we could focus on operations for a time. When we restarted our marketing plan a few months later, the phones were still ringing with one notable exception: we’d gotten better at handling our call volume.

And just about everything else we did. 

Your Five-Minute Communication Workshop 

During college, I always knew the school year was winding down thanks to the gaggle of seniors lined up outside my dorm room door. A dazzling resume was the first step to them landing choice jobs after graduation and rumor had it I could help.

One after another, they’d shuffle in and ask me to improve the drafts they’d printed on linen paper. All of them echoed the same refrain: “I’m horrible at this!”

Truth was, some of them truly were horrible at it, but it took years to dawn on me that communicating well is a vital life skill — one that I should have taught to my collegiate colleagues instead of letting them lounge in my bean bag chair while I worked.

Decades later, I still hear, “I’m horrible at this!” Twice just this morning, in fact. The reality is, being a poor communicator was less of a problem in 2001 than it is today. On top of resumes, we build social media profiles and compose posts, send dozens of emails, text at all hours, and coordinate our professional lives through Slack. Competent communication has morphed from nice-but-not-necessary into an expected part of daily life.

So, in the spirit of graduation season and better communication, here’s what I should have told those college seniors all those years ago:

Start with the Musts

Before you begin fleshing out full sentences or dream up a catchy line, type the details you can’t afford to leave out. A date, a time, the location, a project description, an attachment — this is the required information you’ll look silly for forgetting, so get it down first. Basic and simple will do here.

Get to the Point

Story arcs that build toward a climax and descend into a happy resolution work well in books and on the big screen; however, professionals can simply state their point and follow it with vital details as needed. Giving your readers what they’re skimming for as quickly as possible increases your communication’s effectiveness.

Don’t Over-Explain

Your client doesn’t need to know every type of card stock on the market or the minutiae of your rigorous seven-point testing process; they just need to know about the two most relevant to their project. Don’t make your reader wade through an abundance of details to find the most relevant information. You’ll do it for them when you only include what’s most pertinent.

Reread

We know it’s tempting to skip a reread; however, a second pass is always worth it. While scouring for obvious errors, also be attuned to missing words. In the digital age, we’re master skim readers to the point that our minds automatically fill in blanks.

Challenge Yourself

Hunt for phrases or sentences that clutter up your writing and cut them. “Here are the proofs you requested” is cleaner than “Per our discussion on Thursday afternoon, I’m sending along the proofs you asked me to update for you.” Cutting back can become a fun and addicting game. (Yes, really.) For an even better challenge, add contrast to your writing.

Tread Lightly on Humor

Levity is always welcome. However, without eye contact and body language to play off of, be cautious about using humor in written communications. That said, do let your personality shine through. Just make sure it’s appropriate to your audience.

Communicating well is worth the effort. You’ll rarely post or email a masterpiece, but you can always be clear, concise, and easily understood.

Need help with your communication? Contact the expert team at Matt Jensen Marketing!

5 Tips to Being Master of (Virtual) Ceremonies

Virtual events have been a staple this year. There’s no need to rehash why, but now that we’ve grown comfortable with them, they’re here to stay in some form or another. They can’t replicate the connection of in-person gatherings; however, a virtual event can be an affordable, easy-to-execute bridge between the larger events your organization invests in. Especially when done well. Here are our 5 best tips for making yours a success:

1. Pre-record most, if not all, of your presentation

Since you can’t out-plan a technical glitch, pre-recording is your best bet for limiting how much can go awry. Bonus: there are a lot of ways to present your pre-recorded message so that it seems live. If you must present live, consider using a professional production team to troubleshoot technical issues as they arise.

2. Keep your presentation to 30 minutes or less

We know. That’s not a lot of time. We’ve found that people are often curious enough to tune in, but are quick to tune out. The short timeframe ensures that you stay focused and on message, which is always a good idea anyway.

3. Stick to the schedule

Make sure speakers (pre-recorded or live) are brief and to-the-point. To accomplish this, assign topics and time limits beforehand and consider a dry-run to suss out any potential problems. Limit the amount of giveaways, speakers, and other transitions so that the presentation doesn’t feel rushed and chaotic.

4. Anticipate and extend the experience

Build out your event with a series of social media posts and emails prior to the date and follow-up with a similar series afterward. This gathers anticipation beforehand and keeps the “after glow” going once it ends. It also expands your communication window beyond the 30 minutes of your event. Additional ways to build out your event would be to send a postcard invite or, once the event concludes, create a new Facebook group of attendees to keep the conversation going.

5. Choose your date strategically

If it’s a social or fundraising event, experts agree that Saturday evening is the ideal time to host your event, virtual or otherwise. Attendees will be more relaxed, their kids aren’t likely to have competing extracurricular activities, and people’s moods are better than during the work week. Thursday evening is the second best option. There’s general agreement that Friday evening is the worst time to host an event as people would rather unwind on their own after a full week. For educational or instructional events, consider lunch time on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Scripting: The Security Blanket Your Business Needs

“Hello, thank you for calling ABC Office. How may I help you?”

“Hi, I need to check the activity on account #4145.”

“Your name?”

The caller gives his name and as the receptionist pulls the account up on her computer, he explains that it actually belongs to his dad. “It’s okay though. He asked me to check on it,” the caller says confidently.

But the receptionist can’t find the caller listed as an authorized user anywhere. Now what?

The receptionist needs help with her next steps. She needs to know what her employer’s policy is in these cases and ways to represent that position, all while expressing respect to the customer. In other words, she needs a script.

What is scripting?

Scripting, at its most basic, is a pre-written set of lines used to guide interactions with your customers. Answering the phone is a very practical example of how scripts work. However, a true scripting  process ensures that all your team members are equipped with the  confidence and security they need  to deliver the right message at the right time. From greeting the people who walk through your doors to answering questions on social media to taking calls from upset customers, a well thought out script allows your team to respond in a way that best represents your company’s values and builds trust.

Scripting benefits your customers, too. They’ll receive consistent, on-brand communication that guides them toward making an appointment, placing an order, or signing up for your email list.  Ideally, there should be a script for every aspect of your customer’s experience, from the very beginning to the very end.

The best scripts are the ones that work for your business. They can be as detailed or as minimal as needed. Their main goal is to give simple guardrails and ideas your team can work with so that everyone starts from the same place. Scripts provide  your customers and your team members security and consistency,  even when staff, protocol, climate, or technology change.

Want to try scripting, but not sure where to begin? Follow MJM on social where we’ll share our pro tips for getting started. We promise to break it down into small tasks that build toward big payoffs.

Want to take it one step further? Contact us for a consultation. Our experts can assess your scripting needs, help craft your messaging, and even train your staff.

How to (Actually!) Deliver an Outstanding Customer Experience

I used to dread calling the doctor’s office. It wasn’t that it led to stepping on the scale (though that also wasn’t always pleasant) or the occasional shot or two.

It was that it led to music. Invariably, I’d be put on hold while the scheduler took another call, and for a few torturous minutes, I’d be accosted with a screechy, tinny distortion of The Four Seasons.

Vivaldi and I were not impressed.

My doctor’s office needed more than just higher quality on-hold music; they needed to examine their customers’ experience. Sure, they’d covered all the expected bases, but with a little insight and attention to detail, that office could have — in keeping with today’s analogy — gone from passable high school band to South Dakota Symphony Orchestra in no time.

What are your customers really buying?

Business leaders all agree that making customers and clients feel taken care of is paramount and worth the investment. But what they sometimes overlook is that customer care extends far beyond an aesthetically pleasing website and timely delivery of goods and services.

That’s not as far-reaching as it sounds, and even better, can usually be done gradually with a few simple changes. Whether you’re designing the experience at a coffee shop or a healthcare center, here are a few strategies to get your customers raving about their time with you:

  1. Experience your customer’s point of view. Start back at a Google search and move to filling out your website’s contact form. Call your business for directions, park in the customer section of your lot and sit in your waiting room or public area. Walk through the entire experience, being mindful of ways to improve. And don’t just do this once; do it on a regular basis.
  2. Take every sense into account. What do customers smell when they visit your location? Is the space too dark or too light? If there’s seating, is it comfortable? Consider the noise level and background music. Are they pleasing or distracting? Look at accessibility. Are counters too high for someone in a powerchair to see over?
  3. Train your staff. Customer care goes beyond being friendly and helpful and doesn’t always come as naturally as we assume. Be intentional about training your staff to show empathy toward customers, clients, or patients. These changes can often be simple to implement. Instead of calling patient names across the waiting room, staff at Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls make a point of walking to patients before greeting them. It gets the interaction off on a personal note and puts patients at ease. Another business realized that handing its clients off from one professional to another, while efficient for them, was disorienting for their clients. They adjusted their workflow so that clients worked with the same representative from the beginning to the end of their experience.

Making your customers feel valued and cared for is crucial to your business. The kind of marketing a loyal ambassador provides is priceless, but with some mindful changes you can tap into its benefits. (And this time Vivaldi *will* be impressed.)

Want more good stuff from the team at Matt Jensen Marketing? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Designing Experiences in the New Normal

In the era of social distancing and quarantining, it can be easy to believe that designing personal experiences for your customers is an impossible task. Since some of the key principles of experience design rely on using of the five senses to create the largest impact possible at each touch point, it would seem that those efforts would be rendered useless in these times of social distancing and virtual meetings. But we believe that these principles have never been more important.

With COVID-19, people are experiencing physical and even mental isolation. They miss even the most mundane aspects of what used to be normal, from reading a book at the coffee shop, to visiting their parents, and even making spontaneous trips to a big city. We believe that experiences with customers and patients can be redesigned to help create a new, healthy normal for these customers looking so hard for what used to be just another day.

What's Different? What's the Same? What can we do?

To design compelling experiences in “the new normal” one must first consider

  1. What is different
  2. What is the same, and
  3. What can we do to adjust and create personal experiences for our customers in these circumstances.

What Is Different

What Is Different?
Designing virtual experiences is more important than ever

What Can We Do?
Enhance your virtual presence

People are far less likely to make the first point of contact with you in-person these days. This mean that it is time to modernize your phone systems, social media, and web elements to create a more intimate and personalized journey for the customer or patient.


What is Different?
Safety is a primary concern in any interaction

What Can We Do?
Create and message your safe in-person environments

Make it clear how you have taken every consideration possible to make a visitor’s experience a safe one. Post pleasant reminders to maintain safe distances and wear face coverings.


What Is Different?
Financial struggles have been exacerbated for both businesses and families

What Can We Do?
Avoid pushy messaging and ensure you are building relationships with your audience

The hard sell is (and always was) a bad approach. Instead of pushing sales and discounts, it is more important than ever to build a relationship with your customers and patients through social media, advertising, and other channels. If they feel that empathy and understanding is genuine, they will be far more likely to return to you when financial burdens have minimized.


What Is Different?
People are yearning for elements of normalcy and socialization

What Can We Do?
Make the visitor the star

With fewer people visiting in-person locations, you have an opportunity to spend extra time tending to those visitors and making them feel heard and appreciated. The benefit of this is two-fold: visitors will feel even more important AND potentially feel like the entire experience is more tailored to them than would have been possible in the old normal.

What Is the Same

What Is the Same?
The experience is the marketing

What Can We Do?
Reexamine every point of contact with your business or practice as part of your marketing

The experience of calling to plan an appointment should be considered as important as the actual experience of visiting or any ad campaign you have running. Creating memorable interactions throughout the customer or patient’s journey will always be the highest priority, no matter the circumstances.


What Is the Same?
Mass customization is still a key to personalized experiences

What Can We Do?
Skillfully tailoring offerings and journeys to an individual’s needs and wants will build a relationship

Think of the experience as more than just a transaction. During that customer or patient’s experience, look for elements that can be personalized just for them with little effort or cost to you. Do this well, and you’ll be well on your way to sustainably establishing a relationship with that audience member.


What Is the Same?
In-person interactions are still largely impacted by considering the five senses

What Can We Do?
Highlight the senses that we still can use to their fullest extent: Sight and Sound

Although masks and extra sanitation requirements limit our ability to appeal to all 5 senses, we still have plenty of room to use them. Warm cookies and coffee may not work right now, but you can still curate the visual and auditory experience of your interactions to make them unforgettable. Now is the time to consider how to make the visual appeal of your facilities match the tone of your brand and determine if there are any ways to personalize the audio experience of a visit to the smaller groups of customers and patients at your physical locations.


While this pandemic has found its ways to separate us, it’s our task to find new ways that experience design principles can connect you with your customers and patients. Though some of the approaches may be outside of our usual tendencies, we think that this shows how agile these principles can truly be for making real, personal connections with your audience.