One Tip for More Effective Email Marketing

The Rule of One.

We have found that our best open and response rates are when the email is focused on a single topic and limited to one paragraph. One topic. One paragraph. One action. No piggybacking. Half of your recipients are seeing that email for the first time on a smartphone. Small screen. Short attention span. Grab their attention with a relevant, compelling subject line, then deliver your personable, bite-sized message with one clear Call To Action.



Brian Mayer is the Director of Marketing and Customer Experience at Anna Mayer Photography. Based in Milwaukee, WI and San Jose, CA, Anna Mayer is a nationally recognized child and family photographer known for her signature fun, fresh, relationship-driven style and her amazing wall galleries.

Is JCPenny your favorite store?

Just a few thoughts, randomly shared.

A couple weeks ago I was in the Twin Cities for a wedding and needed to get a couple of last-minute clothing items for three of my kids.  After unsuccessful trips to a handful of stores I found myself at the JC Penny at Rosedale Mall. Although I hadn’t been in one in years, I had heard about some of the changes that were being made.  Not only did we receive fantastic service in the children’s department,  I found a vest for myself. This is noteworthy because not only was I not shopping for a vest, but I have never owned a vest. Surprisingly, it suited me well.  At least that’s what my wife said 🙂 Although the vest wasn’t on sale, I didn’t feel like the retail price was inflated. I was happy to pay the price on the tag.  The store still seemed a little dated, but I could tell they were headed in the right direction.  I know major change takes time.

Fast forward 2 weeks.

I was recounting this experience and decided to do a bit of research.

I was just watching Ron Johnson’s presentation to JCP investors a year ago announcing his bold new plan for reinventing Penny’s. I didn’t intend to watch the whole thing, but he was so compelling, I really just couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t even begin to review the 90 minute presentation, but a handful of ideas jumped out at me.  His main contention was that, among other things, JCP (and department stores as a whole) has been abusing their customers with their dishonest pricing strategy and a preponderance of  promotions and that customers see right through it all.  A major change was needed.  Sure, he had charts of data proving his points (a necessary detail for investors), but at the heart of his message was the customer experience . Here are a few quotes…

“the customer knows the right price”

“to think you can fool a customer is just crazy”

“every time we [discount], we’re not discounting our product; we’re discounting our brand”

“if you don’t trust your customer, that’s a major gap before you even get her in the door”

I don’t know if I entirely agree with his pricing/promotion premise for the industry, but his statements about trusting customers is spot on. Other retailers such as Kohl’s have been very successful with the promotional model without sacrificing the customer relationship. I think JCP just did it poorly.  While every retailer might not need to go to the extremes Johnson lays out for Penny’s, I think for them, it’s probably the right move; they’ve eroded a lot of trust.

It worked on me.

He also mentioned one other goal. Simple, but lofty – “we want to be your favorite store.”

I love the use of the word favorite.

It’s emotional. It’s exclusive.  It’s relational. It’s familiar. It’s experiential.

It’s personal.

This is very much a long term strategy (4 years as planned), as all customer experience driven initiatives are. Unfortunately, wall street judges companies by short term performance.  So a year later, with their stock price half of what it was a year ago and revenues expected to be down about 28%, Johnson is going to be taking some heat.  He’s either going to shift the strategy to placate shareholders, or he’ll double down and remind investors that the yellow brick road of transformation leads through a valley before reaching the next peak.

I hope he does the latter.

On this one-year anniversary, what has been your experience at JCPenny?

Is it now your favorite store?


Your company needs a Customer Experience Director

Just as your company needs leadership in each of its core functional areas, the current competitive business environment demands that your company have a leader responsible for and dedicated to ensuring a consistent, optimal customer experience. You need a Customer Experience Director (CXD).

So what exactly does a CXD do?

The CXD is a leadership role that acts as an ambassador for a customer-centric CEO insuring that all customer touch points maintain alignment with a strategically optimized, intentional customer experience. Although each of the following areas would typically maintain existing reporting structures, the CXD would work with them to implement, maintain, and continually improve the overall customer experience strategy.

The Customer Experience Director unifies …


  • Strategy, collateral, events, website user experience, retail environment/process, analytics, PR

Relationship/brand management

  • CRM system, social media presence, customer analytics, Net Promoter implementation


  • Customer process flow, product/service user experience, product design, production elements that are related to the customer experience, product use and maintenance collateral


  • Inside/Outside Sales staff, retail associates, call center, and other customer facing roles

Post-sale (Service/Support)

  • Call center, service/support techs, website, and other customer facing roles

Business Support Departments (Acct, HR, IT, Legal)

  • Billing and collection methods
  • Customer-centric employee culture development
  • Any customer facing tools or systems
  • Doing legal through a customer focus rather than through a litigious focus whenever possible.


This is by no means exhaustive. If you are a CX professional and would like to add to this, simply add your thoughts or contribute dialog in the comments below.

Recipe for a Customer Experience Manager

Recipe for a Customer Experience Manager

and the text version for google: 🙂

Customer Experience Manager

Prep time: Years  |  Bake time: Continually  |  Yield: Raving Fans & Higher Revenue


2 pt Marketer
2 pts Sales/Support Rep
2 pts Strategist
1 pt Web Designer
1 pt Analyst
1 pt Collaborator
2 pts Artist
1 pt Creative Problem Solver


  1. Combine all ingredients with a passion for the ultimate customer experience and the mindset of an owner.
  2. Sprinkle creativity and business acumen to taste.
  3. Bake continually as needed.
  4. Garnish with a stylish hat.
  5. Serve with pride.

CAUTION: May result in higher than anticipated sales and cost savings

Head for Rent

When times are tough, some people donate plasma. Others, sell kidneys.  Some, in desperation, even sell their souls. For me, plasma donation doesn’t pay enough, somebody stole one of my kidneys (a long story that ends in an ice-filled bathtub), and my soul is already held by the IRS as collateral.  In light of this and the need to feed my children,

I have decided to rent out my head.

Yes. My head is for rent. All of it. Although not very attractive, large or noticeable, it is quite useful. I considered making ad space available on it , but since my head is often covered by my trademark hat*, I’m thinking that’s not the best strategy.  With that off the table, that leaves my eyes, ears, nose, brain, and mouth. Although available separately these parts tend to function best as a whole.  I highly recommend the full head.

My eyes are available to help you take a fresh look at your business from a new perspective (perhaps your customers’). As a manager or business owner, it can be really tough to change your perspective.  You have the “curse of knowledge.” It’s tough to un-know something to help you take a fresh look at your business.  I can do that for you and put it in terms you can understand.

My ears are available to help you listen to the people who make your business what it is–your customers, potential customers, and employees. Whether through interviewing, surveying, or engaging on social media channels, I can help you listen with new ears.

My nose is available to help you sniff out trouble. You may need a process tweak (or overhaul), some new tech tools, or a new way to manage information. You may need to deal with customer or employee issues. I can help you find the stinky parts of your business that are holding you back.

My brain is available to help you solve problems and craft strategy. Creative problem solving is in my blood (included at no extra charge), and I eat and breathe strategy of all kinds (mouth and nose required). I can help you design a customer experience strategy that encompasses everything from marketing, through operations, to customer service.

My mouth is available to help you spread the word.  Whether through website management, sales and marketing, or public speaking, I can help you communicate your brand in a fresh, new way.

All of this, of course, comes at a price.  

To me, my head is priceless.  I don’t know what I’ll do without it. For me to give up use of my own head for my own purposes requires a great deal of sacrifice. Not only have I grown quite attached to it, but I’ve spent many years developing it.  My eyesight is sharp; my ears are keen; my nose, large; my mouth, loud; and my brain, growing.

My head, whether in part or in its entirety (recommended) can be rented on an hourly, monthly, project, or semi-permanent basis.  Please inquire for hourly, monthly, or project rates. If you’d like the use of my head on a full-time basis in your company, make me an offer I can’t refuse.**


* Under no circumstances is the hat for rent or included. It’s mine. Hands off.
** Threatening, Godfather-ish, headless-horse-type offers will not be considered.




Facebook plays Apple in Predictive Customer Experience

At today’s F8 Developer Conference, Facebook successfully demonstrated one of the key components of remarkable customer experience. Read on.

In full disclosure, I’m not a Facebook fan boy. I more often give them a “whatever” than an “atta boy.”  I’ve had my profile there for about 5 years, I post occasionally, and I comment sporadically. Mostly for me, it’s just there. Having said that ….

Facebook just hit a grand slam.

With the introduction of Timeline and the new Open Graph Apps they have just legitimized Facebook as a way to chronicle your life in a complete, “frictionless” fashion. If that was all they did, they would have hit a homerun.   From my point of view they did two much more significant things:

  • They showed the innovative spirit of a long-lasting company.
  • They gave us a awesome product we didn’t know we wanted. They predicted a need.

The former indicates that they will be around long-term. A much needed reassurance if I’m going to let them help me write my life story. The ability for a massive industry leader with 800 millions users to stay on the cutting edge of it’s own market is the most important key to it’s long term success. They won’t be going the way of Palm, Blackberry, MySpace, or AOL. At least not anytime soon.

The latter is where they played an Apple. They met a need we did’t know we had. Apple has done this over and over. Each new device meets a new need and/or creates a new market. Without the iPad, there IS no tablet market. They’re not listening to their customers. They’d be way behind the curve if they did. They are predicting their customer’s needs, and providing the solution before the need become apparent. Apple, and now Facebook, is doing this on a grand, product-wide scale, but it doesn’t have to be so grand to have remarkable effects. Oftentimes, it’s the little things that can make a big difference.

Having your people, product, processes, and policies customer-focused is the cake of customer experience strategy. Need prediction is at the frosting.  It’s what gets people’s attention,and gets them talking.  Meeting a need your customer didn’t know they had shows them that you are genuinely interested in helping them.  You’ve got to have the substance, or the frosting is meaningless.  The cake will bring you loyalty, but the frosting gets people talking. If you want to stand above your crowded market, predict your customer’s need and create a point within their experience to meet that need.

Don’t just build a better mousetrap, send ’em the cheese.

Now what do you have to add?

Alone in a Crowd

Twitter is ablaze today with reactions to the passing of Trey Pennington. With over 110,000 Twitter followers and 5,000 Facebook friends, he was by all accounts a social media marketing A-lister. I followed him on twitter, but other than that I didn’t know him. My thoughts on the situation really have less to do with the who, than with the why of the situation. The reports that I have seen trace the reason back to depression and the resulting loneliness. This struck a chord with me as I have battled each of these. What I’m about to share is very personal and hard to admit. I didn’t set out to write this; somehow it just happened, but I feel compelled to share it and hopefully start a conversation.

I’ve never felt suicidal, but I know what it’s like to be alone in a crowd.

My personality is such that I am very comfortable in crowds. I love networking. I love meeting new people. I never want to miss a tweetup. I can pretty much talk to anybody about anything. I love a party. I remember names easily. I make a lot of connections, know a lot of people, and I’m great at connecting the people I know with each other. Most people who know me in these environments would probably think that relationships come naturally for me and that I have a lot of friends. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

The fact is, I’ve had trouble building deep, long-term relationships my entire life.  I’ve had and currently have a few casual friends for whom I am truly thankful (more recently thanks to Twitter 🙂 ), but other than my wife, none that I would consider a “best friend.” For most of my life, I just ignored it thinking it didn’t matter.  I’ve made excuses from time to time about being busy, the fact that relationships take time or just that I hadn’t met anyone that I thought was “best friend material,” but the reality is that those were just that–excuses.  To me, building friendships is like a dance where you never know if you’re supposed to be leading or following.  For those of us who succumb to our insecurity, we don’t want to take the lead for fear of rejection.  We don’t want to impose. We don’t want to be seen as needy. We’re not “needy,” we’re just … lonely.

So why do I admit this? Why be so vulnerable? Why risk a reputation? Will some people think less of me for posting this? Probably. Do I post this because I’m looking for sympathy or some sort of reaction or because I’m hoping that my new bff will be reading this article? No. That’s not my style. I’m writing this because I am undoubtedly speaking for many people who are in the same boat, but feel weird admitting it.

If you need a friend, know this–you’re not alone.

Your thoughts?

Misadventures with a Drywall Contractor, Part 2: A Rough Start

[Story continued from Misadventures with a Drywall Contractor, Part 1: Getting Started]

Day 1: The Hack Job

Just after 9 the next morning (10/12), Rick showed up with his assistant, Mike.  We discussed the job a bit, he gave me his plan of action and they proceeded to bring in the materials. Two things didn’t sit right with me.  First, anybody who handles drywall knows that it’s prone to breakage and must be stacked neatly to avoid damage.  The drywall stack was anything but neat.  Many panels were offset in the stack by 2-3 inches with a couple around 6″.   Second, to allow a space for the ceiling drywall to sit on top of the wall drywall, he was having his assistant cut the top off of each wall panel . . . by hand—razor and jab saw.  Can you say “hack job”?  I just rolled with it, figuring they knew what they were doing and it would probably be getting covered up later anyway. After all, that’s why I hired someone, right?  When they returned from lunch, they worked together using a combination of cutting blades, a jab saw and a cordless mini-jigsaw.  Did it ever occur to them, that it probably would have just been easier just to unscrew the drywall, take it down, trim it like normal the put it back up? The whole room would have been trimmed in about 30 minutes.  Doubting myself, I let them do their thing.  All they got done in one entire day was cutting the tops off of the drywall in one room. Fortunately, I wasn’t paying them by the hour.

Day 2: The Realization

Next morning the guys show up and starting hanging the Sheetrock.  It was immediately apparent to me that this was not going to be a pretty process—broken pieces, smashed sheet corners, uneven joints.    At this point I was starting to doubt my decision, but in times like this I tend to blame myself.  Anna was noticing the poor workmanship, and starting saying things to me. I very much tend to give people the benefit of the doubt—to a fault I suppose. I made some excuses for them, figuring they had to work around my DIY framing that might not be perfect. At the end two days the only thing complete was the ceiling in one small bedroom and a little more hacking on the walls in the next bedroom.

Not a good start.

…wait it gets better … (cont)

Misadventures with a Drywall Contractor, Part 1: Getting Started

Ok, so I’ve been in the process of building out my basement for a little over a year. Ok more like a year and a half. I’ve done 95% of it myself, but when it came down to doing the mudding and taping, I thought it best to leave that up to someone who knows what they’re doing. Much in construction can be forgiven in the later stages, but the mud/tape job will be visible forever. Furthermore, we had initially decided to forgo drywalling the ceiling, but a last minute change prompted us to add this to the drywall contracting bid. I had in mind to spend about $1000 for the mud/tape, and figured (based on previous estimates of doing the entire drywall job) that the ceiling drywall would about double that. At this point, it was worth it to me to have the project finished and done right.

I went through the drill of calling contractors from Angie’s List to come out and bid on the job. I started with the guys that previously bid on the entire drywall job. I liked one guy in particular, Rick of New Life Home Improvements in Bayside, because not only did he compliment my work (always feels nice), but he seemed competent and completed the estimate on the spot. I liked that. I hate the waiting game. I had one other guy quote as well, but his quote came in at over $4000. Guy #3 never called back, and I wanted to get going. Guy #1, Rick, bid the job at $1800 and gave a timeline of 4-5 days. On Thursday, 10/7 we said, “go.” I gave him the deposit of $600 and we agreed on a start date of 10/20. He was finishing up another job, and I had a bit of construction to do to prepare (furring the ceiling and framing a soffit), so the two week lead time was good.

There was much cheering and excitement.

To my pleasant surprise I received a call the following Monday morning. A supplier had sent the wrong showerpan for his other job, so if I wanted, he could start the following day. I just went with my gut and said, sure, I can get all my construction done in a day (ha ha). The race was on. (Anna would later inform me that this was a bad decision). I busted my butt all day and well into the night building, and clearing rooms to get the space ready.  I didn’t get everything done that I needed to, but I figured I’d just stay one step ahead.

I was excited! It was time to finish this basement ….

… to be continued

Edit: Now on to Part 2