Small business, big community

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Marcy Shinder, VP of brand marketing and strategy for American Express Open
Marcy Shinder, VP of brand marketing and strategy for American Express Open
Top small business owners received the first 10,000 Plum Cards and were encouraged to give feedback. Suggestions and comments from the “charter members” were incorporated into the official Plum launch, which included online advertising and welcome kits for new sign-ons. Dialogues with charter members continue today, as Open searches for ways to improve and update the card and the customer experience.

A hands-on touch helps set Open apart

Customer engagement doesn't stop with col­lecting feedback. AmEx employees also attend the multiple networking events sponsored by Open and its partners in order to chat with small business owners about their needs, problems and insights. Shinder says she spends about a quarter of her time with the small business owners that make up Open's customer base.

“For me, nothing replaces being in-market with the customer at their place of business and actually seeing how they are interacting with the brand and the product,” she explains.

To bring this client interaction to the next level, Open is launching an externship program called Out of the Box, in which four to six employees will go to a customer's business to tackle a specific problem, such as branding. An Out of the Box pilot will launch in the next couple of months.

“It's going to be great for the small business owner who wears so many hats, and it's going to be so powerful for our brand,” Shinder predicts. “This will help exponentially to get insight on small businesses for our marketing team. It's the kind of thing you have to do if you want to be a cutting-edge marketing organization.”

In fact, CRM and data operations are entwined with marketing at Open. The two functions of retention and acquisition are integrated to create a singular customer experience, from first contact to follow-up service calls.

“We take a very integrated approach,” Shinder says. “We think of marketing and service as the same thing because we know the customer thinks of it as the same. Whether they are get­ting mail or talking to service reps on the phone, they don't distinguish, and we don't either. We look to make that as seamless as possible for the customer.”

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