Are you feeling a little stressed?

The word Everything on a To-Do list on a dry erase board to remiFeeling a little stressed? As we head into Thanksgiving week, for many of us it signals the beginning of the last frenzied six weeks of the year.

Stress is a natural part of life — but as a culture, we’ve upped the ante and are entering an era of super stress. The consequences of that super stress are showing up in every aspect of daily life and come with incredible costs as we wrestle with the consequences.

Here’s the reality — it’s not going to be getting better any time soon. The causes of this heightened level of stress are here to stay and believe it or not, in some cases — it’s just going to get worse. The country’s economy, a tough job market, and the rising cost of living are the top three stressors cited in a recent survey.

These challenges are not going to be resolved in the foreseeable future, which means their influence will continue.

Another reason we’re a little stressed is because we choose constant connectivity. Our always-on world just keeps getting faster. We’ve explored how the workday is no longer 9-5 but really it’s become 24/7. And it’s not just work.

Our constant hunger for being in the know means there’s always one more video to watch, one more post to read, one more Facebook update to post and one more news story to pass on. We never unplug which also means we have no down time to unwind.

Even the things we love — like having lots of choices, living in urbanized areas, and our Western lifestyle all contribute to why we feel stressed out all the time.

The marketing insight that comes from all of that is — if we are feeling the stress, so do our customers. What should we do with that?

Point out the stress-reducing aspects: If what you sell can make life easier for your customers, be sure they see that attribute. Help them see how your product or service helps them unplug, unwind or unload some of that stress.

Make working with you easier/less stressful: This goes way beyond just having convenient hours or an easy return policy. This is about really walking through your buying process and eliminating as many of the challenges and difficulties as you can. Be sure you let your prospects know that you have made it simple to do business with you.

Simplify the choices: All too often, marketers believe they should offer as many choices as possible. The reality – too many choices equates to stress. Maybe it’s time to look at your offerings. Do you have too many choices? Are the distinctions between the choices clear? Is there something you could do to reduce the number of choices without compromising your prospect’s ability to choose?

Mix in some fun and surprises: People need to find ways to have some fun in this stressful world. But everyone has less leisure time (remember – 24/7 connectivity), which means the fun needs to come to them, right in the middle of the stress. What could you do that would be completely unexpected and add an element of joy or delight to your prospect’s or customer’s day?

The benefits of helping your customers’ de-stress goes far beyond their mental health. It will make interacting with them easier – which your employees will love and if you truly can reduce stress levels – the loyalty that will breed will drop right to your company’s bottom line.

And there’s no better stress reducer than that!

Big data delivers customized experiences or it’s just noise

Big Data If there is one phrase we couldn’t seem to get enough of this year — that phrase is big data.

Every day our digital activity (on the web, on our smart phones, social networks etc) creates over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. In fact, 90% of all the data in the world today has been created in the last two years.

As our phones evolve into our mobile wallets and our hub for digital tickets and coupons – they will add dramatically to the collection of data on consumer spending and behaviors.

Suffice it to say – we are leaving quite a trail. A trail that will help businesses get to know us better, anticipate our needs and provide real time service. As business owners we need to recognize this trend for what it is – both an opportunity and a threat.  It’s also what could put you out of business if you ignore it.

While you may be personally creeped out by the robustness of your data trail, the truth is – most consumers expect you to use their data to service their needs. And now.

With information literally at their fingertips 24/7 and instant access to a host of social media platforms where they can (and do) tell the world if you’ve pleased or disappointed them, today’s consumers are at the epicenter of their world— and their expectations are unbelievably high.

These consumers, especially Millennials, take for granted the idea that companies are using the data they create to tailor offerings. Here are some of the ways we need to be thinking about meeting that consumer expectation. And don’t think that if you’re a B2B company, you are exempt. Your buyers have the same expectations.

Big data needs to mean personalizing offers: Some big box retailers are using data from loyalty card holders to offer different coupons to different shoppers based on insights gleaned via analytics—in essence, personalizing pricing.

On the B2B side, your customers expect that you are intimately familiar with their buying patterns and expect you to serve up offerings that match their buying patterns.

Big data needs to mean catering to consumers in real time: Looking back over last year’s data is so 2001. Your customers expect you to be reacting to what happened yesterday and this morning. They want you to anticipate their needs based on what is happening right now. Does weather, a specific current event or financial conditions in the country influence how your products and services are used? You’d better be tweaking offers, product improvements and availability based on those real time factors.

Big data needs to mean that my customer service should be all about me: Businesses in many industries can fine-tune their customer service to individual consumers based on consolidated data from various sources. This should be heeded, especially in the B2B space – where the assumption is that you have fewer customers and those you have, you know better. In their mind – it is a given that you are tracking and responding according to their past behaviors.

It’s a fine line, of course. We’re talking a trend, which means it isn’t mainstream yet. Some people will be uncomfortable that you know so much. But that will dissipate. And among the Millennials, the attitude is almost non-existent. They expect it. So expect this concern to be somewhat generational and over the long haul, fleeting.

Transparency will be critical. You will need to explain what digital data you are collecting and why, and then assure consumers you can be trusted with the information.

Today this is still cutting edge stuff, especially for most offline businesses. But tomorrow – it will be the norm. Don’t get caught behind.

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