Ashton Henry: Yes. When we did it at ECP, Nancy and I sat down and interviewed internal departments, mainly department heads, and just walked through the, okay, if our customer is at the awareness stage, they’re just learning about us, that’s maybe through our website, through social media. A lot of it was trade shows for us, so maybe people are seeing us for the first time there, and then you move on to the consideration. For us, that was a lot of those demo calls and during the contract stuff, the background admin, getting them set up.
Then they’re signed on, they’re in their experience with us, working with support, utilizing the program. Then moving forward to a kind of recurring, like, advocate customer who’s loyal, who is telling all their friends about you. Then the alternate option, which is a lost customer. Basically what we did was we went through each of those steps and interviewed each of those department heads and not only got down to what each of those customer touch points are, so at what points we were interacting with the potential customer or active customer, but then going in and diving deeper into the systems that we had in place at work to make those touch points happen. So for marketing, in the awareness stage, we may have put out a campaign.
What goes into that? There is the planning stage, the brainstorm, creative reviews. We’re doing creatively with just our team, and then we’re showing it to the stakeholders. Then we’re putting it out, getting it printed up and we’re publishing. All of those systems are in place on a single touch point. It becomes big and overwhelming, but I think that the best thing to do is just start with the map and identify them all. Best case scenario, you interview your customer to say, “Hey, what’s your favorite part about working with us? What’s your least favorite part?” Find out what that least favorite part is, across the board for multiple of your customers, and focus on that first.
If customer service sucks because they’re always waiting like 10 minutes, figure out what you can do to speed up that wait time. Make sure that they’re having a really enjoyable– Calling customer service is because you’re usually having a problem so make sure that they leave happy, I guess. Basically just drilling into each of those and starting with the worst, is probably the best.
Cale Guin Where can you fix something rather than what’s going well, and of course what’s going well you want to exploit and duplicate and what have you. That’s a perfect lead-in to the next question, which is identifying. I think that people mostly would not probably identify all of the touchpoints on go one. I think you guys did such a great job that you even talked to the accounting and billing department, because this is a serious touchpoint.
This is kind of a painful thing, I’m getting my bill every month, but there’s opportunity there. There is a both opportunity and there is some sort of, I don’t know. I guess, all in all, there’s just opportunity there to do that well. You have an opportunity to communicate with your customer in a way and in a moment that maybe is not awesome always. Who loves paying bills, right?
Ashton Henry: Right. [chuckles] Exactly.
Cale Guin Talk a little bit about- for ECP you’re an integral part of the organization so you’re very aware. But for a small business person who’s just running their day-to-day business, how do we make sure that we think about everything from, “I just posted a social media post,” all the way through, “I’ve sent invoicing to someone.” How do we make sure that we hit those touchpoints? Is there a process that you guys went through?
Ashton Henry: I think it’s mostly just research. Google a customer journey map and you’re going to get a ton of results. Then just teasing through from there. There’s kind of your standard stages and then honestly, if you’re interviewing a customer from start to finish, like, how did you hear about us? “I found you on social media.”
Then what did you do? “I went to your website and read more about your services.” Okay. Then what did you do? “I used your online booking software and then I got the reminder, I came in.” Just go through the whole journey with that one person and map it out from there because there’s a lot of different touchpoints that you don’t think about.
Cale Guin Right. Even things that are out there that they’re not right in front of you. Like you put an article out or whatever. What happened after that? I can’t even begin to tell you how- another thing that we need to make sure that people understand about an Ashton Henry is the organizational qualities. That to me was an area that I leaned on you guys almost 100% for, really at the end of the day, let’s call it what it is. You would put all of my tasks into project manager. You would do all those things, because you guys were always just super on top of it. When you get into a project like that, it’s a little like herding cats, it feels like.
Suddenly you have 30 places where you’re touching your customers. Well, I should probably not phrase it like that. There’s probably 30 touchpoints in which you interact with your customer and you need to manage that relationship at all of those different points. For me, that would be just my worst nightmare because it would be like herding cats and I’d probably quit after day one. But at the end of the day, that’s a brilliant thing that you have, is that organizational, that ability, just kind of a linear thinking, everything’s sequential and it makes sense to you.
Let’s talk a little bit about the idea that a business owner may feel like, “We do pretty well. We have high customer satisfaction ratings. We got this. We’re fine.” But really at the end of the day, a lot of things are probably disjointed. I know, even in my business, I’m sure even in your business, there’s places where we could tidy things up a bit and they could match, but this customer experience thing really became a thing a while back. They’re saying today that only 9% of customers or 9% of businesses across the board, offline, online, have a seamless customer experience. 9%.
Ashton Henry: I believe it. It’s freaking hard.
Cale Guin It is. It is hard. I remember back in the day, TV networks, suddenly everything matched. I don’t know if it was a website thing, but when you would watch TV and the programming would look a certain way, and the promos for shows would look a certain way, and then you went on your website. I remember it was a very distinct moment when it’s like, wow, their websites even look like that.
Their websites had timing where in the morning they were talking about daytime shows and in the daytime, they were talking about evening shows. It was fantastic. At the end of the day, how does one know that they need improve, other than the fact that everybody needs to always be improving their customer experience. How does one know that they need to improve and then how can they measure whether they have or not?
Ashton Henry: I’m going to go back to talking with your customers. You may have really good ratings but you’re getting those from the customers that love you. What about the one person who never came back? Reaching out to them and saying like, “Hey, you came in last year, we did this service. What happened?” Just finding out like, what is it? It may be something simple like, “My brother, sister, started doing this on the side and so I wanted to support their business.” Had nothing to do with you. It could be like, “Well, when I left, the person at the front desk was rude and I didn’t want to feel that again.” You find out in those ways. What was the question again?
Cale Guin I’ll just tell you that you hit on a really important point. How does one know that they need to improve and then how can they measure that improvement? You hit on an important point because where I brought up billing before, you just brought up the idea that the receptionist or the person at the front desk, even when someone answers the phone, this is all part of the deal. Customer experience, I think that I formulated this in my head yesterday when I was putting some questions together for you. This is the core of your brand. This is the execution of your brand. Everything about the way it is to do business with you is part of customer experience. That is in fact, your brand.
You have to be exuding that at all times. What I was asking was how do you measure that? I love that. Do you have any ways of reaching out to customers? Do you guys do any of that? Are you currently doing anything like that for your customers, helping them gauge where they’re at and helping them improve?
Ashton Henry: I haven’t started doing it. I’m just really diving into it for myself. I think that one of the best ways to start measuring it is almost on the opposite end of your referral business. Start tracking how they heard about you and just getting more insight on that. I think most people would agree that they’d like to have a referral based business.
You get the better quality customer that way, because your ideal client is the one talking about you to the other person, who is most likely a similar ideal client, and then it can spread like wildfire in that way. I think just starting to track how people are hearing about you, or if they never come back, running a report trying to gauge that and starting there, to get more insight in that way, I guess.
Cale Guin I think that it’s an important point that you made that people need to be at least tending to this idea that, let’s just say 60% of your customers are repeat customers and they’re continuing to do business with you, but that leaves 40% that aren’t. I think that you’re right. I think that’s a good place to start is why not? You can reach out to those people. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I hear people complain a lot about Amazon, their interactions. There’s too much email, too much engagement. I always feel like everything that Amazon does when I make a purchase, seems like they should probably do that, right? Like I order a thing they say, thank you for ordering the thing. They give me an estimate of when my shipment is going to be in, when it ships, they let me know and after it’s been delivered, they let me know.
I got to be honest with you. All of that seems like, “Well, thanks. I appreciate that.” It’s all valid and I don’t feel like, “Dude, would you just stop?” I don’t feel like that at all. I feel like that’s a natural part of the process of buying from them and I am sure that Amazon is just, every day they’re probably trying to figure out even better ways to help you do business with them. But at some level there’s an intentional part of that, that one needs to consider.
I think that the point you just made, and I’m probably remaking it unnecessarily, is that it does come down to what aren’t you doing well? You might be able to notice that almost easier than the things you are doing well, because one could get caught up in like, “Everybody loves me. Look at everybody loves me.”
But it’s really 60% of the people that love you, not the other 40, because if the other 40 liked you, right? Yes, maybe tap into that, and there’s nothing wrong with, “Hey, you did a transaction.” You can automate all that stuff. Let’s talk about that a little bit. You can say, after let’s just say 10 days after did business with you or 30 days after somebody did business with you, you can automate a response to say, “How was your experience and would you buy from us again?” Let’s talk about that a little bit.
Ashton Henry: Yes. Just getting back to the fact that this whole journey map is really overwhelming because there’s so many different spots. The more places you can identify and then systemize, I think, is the best bet that you have at not continuously feeling overwhelmed.
To that point, every time you have the service or interaction or someone purchases a product, sending that emailed survey to find out, and not only asking, ‘What did we do well?” Ask what you did wrong. “Where can we improve?” I think for the most part, people are pretty honest, especially people like complaining, so they’re going to tell you.
Cale Guin They do, they like complaining a lot more than they love raving about you. That is for sure. I just had this experience this last week. Lisa and I are trying to buy a new patio table. We have an old one and it’s small for our space now and we want a round one. That’s like our thing. We just like more social, right? Like everybody can sit around and look at each other and so we found this great table that we really liked.
Super like heavy-duty and just awesome. So we go to- Lisa sends me the link and I’m like, “Yes, cool. Let’s get it.” Delivery no sooner than like July 30th. It’s like, well, summer’s gone. Then you’d look around and you could see this table at a few different places like distributors or whatever. The price would be $1,000 cheaper here and $1,000 more expensive here and it was like, “What the hell?” So I reached out to the manufacturer and I said, “Hey, is there another way to get this table?” He said, “I’d like to know about your experience a little bit. Why is this a problem?” I go, “Dude, as soon as I can get the table, summer’s over.” That’s just completely defeating the purpose. Secondly, how do I know that this guy’s not ripping me off and if I’m even getting a quality table from the other guy? I don’t know which one’s right. How are you not controlling your prices? They couldn’t directly ship. They couldn’t do anything. He literally didn’t respond to me after that. I’m like screw you. I’m going to find a different table.
Ashton Henry: He went silent?
Cale Guin Yes. He went from wanting to hear my experience and why I reached out to the company directly and then I think he was just like, “Well, that’s no reason to communicate with the likes of me.” Just some sort of pious bullshit. It was weird.
Ashton Henry: Maybe he’s talking with his manager and he’s going to get you hooked up. There’s still time.
Cale Guin You’re right. It’s only been a few days. I’ve written him off a little too soon. We were getting into this idea, and I love the idea of communicating with people that aren’t doing business with me anymore. Let’s talk about the design aspect of customer experience because it’s something– Most parts of customer experience in my opinion, a small business person can handle on their own. Even like we’ve talked about earlier, answer the phone better, be courteous in your billing, be timely, whatever those things are, customer support. Those things, I think it can be trained in, they can do them on their own. Design is a little bit different.
Now if they already work with a designer, whatever. Talk about the role that design plays in the customer experience.
Ashton Henry: This is so exciting because it just needs to be there. It needs to be in every aspect. I think there’s that statistic that people won’t purchase something until they’ve seen it eight times. If you are communicating, especially in that awareness stage, you’re putting all of this stuff out. Half of this stuff doesn’t have your logo. The other half is not your brand colors. There’s no consistency. That customer may have seen your stuff eight times, but they don’t know half of it was yours. Without the consistency, you’re not building trust and you’re not building that relationship with your customer before they’re even through the door. It’s so important.
Then not only is it in the awareness stage, bringing it through to every single one of those touchpoints, it can feel overwhelming. For me it seems easy, just use the fonts, use the colors, use your logo, show up in that way. Then on top of that, the voice and tone, I know that’s not really design, but just having that come through in every aspect. If you’re on social media and you’re like, “Yay, I’m bubbly and this is how you want to work with me.” Then they get into the service with you and you’re monotone and you have nothing and you don’t have a personality.
Cale Guin Or you’re a-hole. If it doesn’t align, this is the core of everything in my opinion. It’s that alignment. Do you look like, do you feel like? When I see your stuff, is it like that when I do business with you? That’s such an excellent point.
Ashton Henry: I think it was one of your other interviews that called out your personal brand. I think you were specifically talking about politics, but having your brand just be an embodiment of who you are is going to be a lot easier. Don’t try and make it something else, just embrace you and it’ll be easy. It’ll be seamless and you won’t have to think about it. It just is there, and so that’s huge.
Cale Guin That was an interview Carl [unintelligible 00:19:03] and we were talking about reputation management. The point that I was trying to make at the time and he’s so great. He’s just so eloquent in the way he puts things. What I was trying to say is, especially when it’s your personal brand, I think that’s where you get in trouble, is when you don’t align with what–
Small businesses have a tendency to want to appear bigger. Then when you start doing business with them and you’re, like, there’s like two people and it’s like I don’t know how they’re going to do this. At some level, I don’t think that that’s the proper route. I think when it comes to your personal brand, the same thing, like, “I’m awesome. Look at my resume’s amazing,” and all this kind of stuff.
They start working with you and it’s clear that you’re not in that caliber of what you’ve sold. Those things matter. You and I have talked about this before, and I feel like if we had this conversation really early on in our relationship, it might have something to do with why there’s probably some love-hate relationship that we have. I have said, and I’ll say this any day of the week, because poor design is poor design, but at the end of the day, I can outperform somebody from a marketing perspective with a website that looks like Craigslist compared to something that looks amazing but doesn’t align.
At the end of the day, the design to me, get your shit together, know what you’re talking about first, and then make it look like that. That’s the way I think it should go. But whenever I say that line, “I can outperform you with a website that looks like Craigslist.” People like you who just exude design and creativity are like, “What? How dare you.”
Ashton Henry: I get it. I get it. Obviously, someone like me wants it to look good, but there is something nice about it just working and it doesn’t matter if it looks good at that point. Yes. Take it to the next step and make it look good but also when it looks good and it works well, you don’t notice either. You’re just doing the thing you’re doing and it’s seamless. It’s not one or the other. You’re not saying like, “Wow, this looks really great,” but then the website never loads or the opposite. It’s a balance.
Cale Guin Would you agree that Amazon falls into that realm? Because I don’t think Amazon looks like anything special, but it is exactly what it’s supposed to be. It’s just this utility of buying things.
Ashton Henry: Craigslist is a perfect example. It does the job and everyone else had to use it and you don’t have to think about it. I have to imagine their expenses are pretty cheap.
Cale Guin They don’t have a lot of overhead. We should talk about that a little bit when we talk about expenses, because this is a thing that I really struggle with people and I touched on a little bit earlier. The idea that really good design does not have to cost more than bad design. What I mean by that, we used to work with a lot of car dealers back in the 2009 era, and we would look at these manufacturer websites and they were beautiful. Just these beauty shots, all these wonderful cars, everything was highlighted in just the right way. Of course, they have teams of people.
A local dealer would look at that and think, “There’s no way we’ll ever look like that.” I’m like, looking like that doesn’t cost you any more. It really doesn’t. The idea that they had configurators to build a car and things like that, that’s going to cost you more. But the idea that you can the– You have all the artwork, you have access to all the media stuff that they have. We can absolutely make your website look this good. There’s zero question.
Let’s talk about that a little bit. The difference or the gap between this idea that I can afford it or I can’t afford it when it comes to looking like I’m supposed to look. What would you say to that? Would you say, “No, no, no, that costs a lot more money.” It doesn’t, right?
Ashton Henry: You definitely get sometimes what you paid for. If someone’s entry-level, it’s going to be different than someone with 10 years experience under their belt, but especially in design and working with someone on, for example, your website, just being clear about what you want is half the battle. I think that a lot of times as a designer, if I don’t get enough from a client, I’m going to guess because I didn’t know for sure. It may be totally off or it might be on the mark and I just got lucky.
I think that being super transparent about what you’re looking for will help you get there. I think as long as you find the right person, it doesn’t have to be a million dollars. You don’t have to work with the huge agency to get that look and feel, but I would say you should do your research and ask for referrals, because part of it is not only the outcome but also what it was like to work with that person.
Cale Guin Maybe I presented that poorly because what I’m saying is like working with you. Let’s just say we’re only working with you. The idea of they want to pay you for this kind of experience. This is the way I want it to be when customers work with me. The design part of it doesn’t necessarily cost more than just putting that great– I know that design is part and parcel to it, but to me, a good company that is helping you with whatever part of the experience that they’re helping you work with, that’s just part of the– and to your point, it does have to be the right provider, but they’re going to provide that anyway. They’re not going to provide you crap.
To me, that’s where I’m going with that. Yes, you can have a website that looks like Craigslist, but if you’re working with an Ashton, you can have a website that looks like Craigslist, and okay, you are going to spend more time on the design than Craigslist, that’s on the extreme, but I’m just saying that at some level you’re going to get a good design anyway, really make it great because you can. Going from mediocre to great, in my opinion, working with somebody like you, I’m talking about their perspective. You build me a website, I’m not so sure. It doesn’t cost me any more to have you make me a great website than to settle for a mediocre website, I guess is where I’m going with that.
Ashton Henry: Yes, absolutely.
Cale Guin Let’s talk about your business a little bit, Small Studio Brand Shop, and that’s at hellosmallstudio.com. Talk about the services you offer a little bit and where those services fall into the godawful, the thing that I hate the most, the sales funnel. By the way, one of the things I don’t like about the funnel, and you and I can clear this up really quick, is I’ve seen funnels with four steps, I’ve seen funnels with nine steps.
The funnel is BS, but at the end of the day, there is some sort of an awareness, there is some sort of engagement, and then there is some sort of interest and then there is a purchase. I typically break it down to those four, but in a more complex buying scenario, there might be some things in between there. Let’s talk about where your services fit into those steps and what you can provide to people.
Ashton Henry: I fall into all those steps, but primarily recently I’ve been focused on social media. Again, that’s going to be the awareness. Then also, I would say back at the end, your advocate and your referral customers. I think that when someone’s just finding someone, they’re going to look at their social media, see what they’re putting out. What I do for my clients is complete content creation, essentially.
I have the ability to do a blog post for you, but also social media content creation, and I am a firm believer in education as a source of content for your potential customers. I think that it just reinforces the value that you bring and just lets them know you know what the hell you’re talking about, builds trust in that way. I do that on the social media side and then the blog.
But I can also do email newsletters which fall into a couple of those steps on the funnel. I have some customers that that’s where it ends. I have other customers who from business cards to brochures, to monthly emails, to signs in their building, everything. It’s really just what you need and what you’re looking for.
I think that it’s turned into, with most of my, I would say, ideal clients, I’m more of a brand manager than anything. Yes, I’m a designer and I do that, but I’m there to make sure that your brand hits every single one of those touch points in however they show up. For most of them, I become a customer and I’ve gone through the journey and I’ve been like, “Wow, that email looks like crap, we need to fix that for you,” or, “This needs to change. How can we do this?” Or bringing it to attention, it doesn’t even have to be me.
A lot of them have staff that can handle some of that, and I’ve done coaching for some of them and just said, “Okay, you’re going to handle this. This is how you do it, and this is how you make sure that it’s on brand.”
Cale Guin That’s an interesting point. I think that sometimes people overthink things. You make a great point about the email, for example. It might just be a text email when everything else they have looks beautiful. I’m guilty. I have maybe about 3,000 subscribers and send out an email, and the one thing that I want to be careful of in my email is that I don’t spend too much time on email, from an aesthetic perspective.
I just want to provide you some information. I want it to be somewhat quick for you and I want it to be somewhat quick for me. I’ve come to this idea, and I don’t know if you’ve ever received my email before, but all of the artwork inside the email are just stick figures and like doodles and things like that. Simply so that it’s easy to get artwork or find artwork or make artwork. I mean, there’s the one thing that I hate about if I had to do your job, is you can create everything from scratch. That’s a little bit different, but for me, I’m probably not going to do that. I’m going to go look for artwork and maybe manipulate some already started artwork.
I hate that part. I hate finding the artwork. I hate looking and spending so much time finding that one right thing. With the newsletter was like, no I’m not doing that. Let’s just do doodles and stick figures and just go from there. Maybe people hate that and they’re like, “Oh my God, this guy sucks.” At the end of the day, it’s not really about the picture in that instance, it’s about the information and the information does have something. I mean, there is some aesthetic there, but that does not match anything else that I do. I do not do stick figures. It doesn’t–
Ashton Henry: That’s what I was going to say, you’ve done the right thing. You’ve solved the problem because you don’t like it. I think that as small business owners, everyone feels like they have to do everything because you’re always wearing multiple hats. If you really hate it, don’t deal with it. You’ve got a million other things to deal with. I think what you did is exactly right. You found something that you know you can be consistent on, but I would say that until you bring on someone, hire me to do this for you, then you need to bring it out. The stick figures need to start showing up on your social media. They need to be on your website and that way you become the stick-figure man. That’s your thing.
Cale Guin Let’s talk about that for a second, because when you say, “Just hire me.” Let’s talk about it. It’s not about pricing so much as it is, one has to just look at that and go, what’s the return on my just doing doodles and stick figures versus having Ashton do that, is that where I want to spend my money? That is always going to be a question for a small business. It’s interesting that you say that because there’s probably more people that see my newsletter, like there’s thousands of people there. I put out a post and maybe 500 people, tops, see that. You do a podcast episode, maybe 100 or 200 people hear that in the week that it’s released. Over time more might hear. To your point, more people see that than anything and that’s the thing that’s completely off-brand.
I think of that. I think of like I’m paying more attention. You got to really help me out here because I’m paying more attention to– I’m putting the people who are already familiar with me over here saying, “You already get me.” I don’t have to–this is going to sound horrible. This is where my business fails, right here. Everybody’s going to be, like, that asshole. I don’t have to spend as much time convincing or bringing you along. You already know. You already have some familiarity with me.
As opposed to like my website. As you know I just spent a ton of time trying to make that better, more descriptive. In that regard, I do spend time with that because you don’t know me and I need to make sure that you’re getting the right impression of me. Talk to me a little bit about where one should focus and if I have to pick and choose, which one would you pay more attention to? Would you pay more attention to the existing customer because you want to keep the existing customer or would you pay, and I know you want to pay attention to everything, but if you had to choose, which would you say?
Ashton Henry: Well, let me ask you this. Are your existing customers loyal? Do they come back?
Cale Guin For the big projects, yes. For things like newsletters and little webinars and things like that, not as much.
Ashton Henry: Okay. Do they refer you business?
Cale Guin Yes. I mean, again, the bigger customers, absolutely. The smaller ones, to be honest with you, and this is part and parcel of what we’re talking about. I probably don’t know as much of am I getting referrals because somebody said, “Oh, go talk to this guy.” I’m not probably tracking that. I am bad at, “How did you hear about me?” I’m not good at that. That’s a great question.
Ashton Henry: I guess then what I would say is, and this is maybe not, I don’t know, maybe people won’t agree with this. Going back to that referral-based business model, I would make sure that your existing customers are getting optimal experience because they’re your advocates and they’re going to bring the right customer to you, versus the people who come to you from nowhere. To your point, you really have to sell them, because they don’t know you and they’re not getting the backstory. No one’s saying, “You’ve got to work with Caleb because X, Y and Z.” They’re talking about qualities about working with you that aren’t on your website. They’re going out and promoting you in a way that your website can’t. I don’t know. You can go either way.
Cale Guin I’ve got to be honest with you, you actually just changed my mind about that. I’m totally serious about this, because as you were saying that, I think of the people that I’m most likely to do business with, or the people I’m most likely to follow, or the people I’m most likely to take advice from. Somebody’s probably told me about that.
Usually, because it’s a referral, that connection is so strong right away. I kind of don’t give a shit about– If you look like Craigslist I’ll be like “Well, they say, so I might as well check it out even though this looks like junk.” That’s an interesting point, is to really crush it with your current business to people who already know you, because they’ll appreciate the experience enough more to say “No, this is the guy you got to work with.”
I do appreciate the fact that I get that from customers but by the same token I am– This sounds horrible, and I don’t want to sound like I’m awesome or anything like that, but I’m not trying to do that. I think maybe it would be even better for me if I did.
Ashton Henry: Yes. I would agree. I think that enriching your existing customer’s experience is never a waste of time.