Tuesday, November 29, 2005

 

What's your company made of?

Creating and maintaining a strong brand is critical for successful companies. But the degree to which your company - your entire company - evangelizes and embodies that brand is also critical.

Think about your own company, your mission, and your brand promise. Is your brand promise consistent across all of your marketing communications? Good start. Is it embodied in your products? Better.

Do your employees live it? Every day? In everything they do? Is your brand embedded in your company's DNA?

No brand manager can do that work at his or her desk. Your brand has to be something the entire company lives and dies by.

 

A great new interview question

We've all been in interviews that we know immediately are going to be a waste of our time. Promising candidate on paper, but in a phone screen or in-person meeting, it just doesn't pan out. How do you still make your time as productive as possible?

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has a pretty good idea, detailed here. In a nutshell:

Ask the interview candidate to tell you something you didn't already know. You can qualify the topic, or leave it open.

On many levels, this is a great question. Give it a shot sometime.

Monday, November 28, 2005

 

Do people know about your blog?

You read a lot, and you come across quite a few things you think are worth sharing with colleagues. Marketing ideas, interesting case studies, etc.

You may, in the past, be used to sending those ideas and articles around as "FYI" emails with links directly to the article and/or text from the article itself.

Moving forward, put a link to the article - with a brief summary and analysis - on your blog, and send the blog link to your colleagues.

They'll get access to the same information, and you'll build awareness about your blog at the same time. If your colleagues find what you wrote interesting, or find the primary article you wrote about interesting, they may send it to their own circle of friends and/or colleagues, and all of a sudden far more people are also reading your blog.

Free and effective...

Friday, November 25, 2005

 

Little things can go a long way

Got a box in the mail last week from Expedia. Inside was a thank you letter for giving them my business, as well as a SearchAlert TSA-approved travel lock.

I'm not used to getting packages from most Internet companies, unless I've specifically ordered something to be delivered. Most Web-based services companies communicate explicitly via email and their Web sites, so it's rare when you get something in the mail - especially a box and gift. I'm not the most frequent Expedia shopper in the world, but the fact that they sent something like this stood out.

Knowing that Expedia measures everything to a T, I'm sure this mailing has already been calculated a success based on the expected increased site usage and loyalty it will generate. Impressive.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

 

Smash Your Brand

When Coca Cola decided to create a unique bottle in 1915, it's charter was to create something that consumers would recognize in the dark. If smashed into pieces, said the now-famous creative brief, each piece of the bottle should still be recognized as Coca Cola. That was a tall order, but 90 years later that bottle is an American icon.

In a piece written more than four years ago but still relevant today, Martin Lindstrom talks about what it means to "Smash Your Web site", to ensure that a consistent brand experience is created throughout. Today, Martin wrote about smashing your vision statement, to make sure it too is relevant.

Think about your entire brand for a moment. Is it smashable? Could you separate the parts of your brand controlled by marketing from that which might be controlled or operated elsewhere in the company, and still recognize your brand?

This all comes back to the urgent need for brand consistency across any organization. Every channel, every touchpoint, every element of your business needs to reflect your brand and your values.

 

When Customers Want to Hear from You

The Harvard Business School Working Knowledge newsletter points out that it's not enough just to speak to your customers - you have to know when to speak to them, with the right message, to increase your ability to get what you want. This is both an opportunity and a threat, depending on the customer context.

Let's say you're able to identify the activity or set of activities that make a customer likely to be interested in joining a loyalty program. There's a specific message you'd send them at that time. Conversely, if a set of activities dictate that a customer may be considering defecting, a different message is in order.

This level of messaging sophistication isn't always easy - and requires a database marketing infrastructure that most companies don't currently have or utilize. But companies such as Harrah's Casino and Expedia know first-hand that the investment pays for itself many times over in increased customer loyalty and lifetime revenue.

 

Therapy with your latte?

How do you make employee training fun? If you're Starbuck's, you make it a game.

Any business with regular touchpoints with customers on the front lines should take a hard look at this and think about how something similar could be incorporated into your own training program. Even companies with call centers (who interact with customers many times daily vs. in the flesh) could benefit from listening to how customers talk, hearing what they're doing, and reacting in a considerate and thoughtful way.

Customers expect you to deliver what they're purchased. When you add a well-placed, contextual comment that shows you really care about the customer, even if it's not at all related to your business relationship, that can go a long way.


Monday, November 21, 2005

 

Must blogs be well written?

A recent article in Direct Magazine questions the professionalism of most blogs. It's premise is that most blogs are poorly-written and self-serving. Bob Bly comments in his own blog on the same article, and tends to agree.

I have great respect for Mr. Bly as a marketer and one of the best direct copywriters in the country, but I think he's wrong here. The whole purpose of the blogosphere is for the average everyman to have an outlet for his or her ideas, feelings, musings or commentary. I believe strongly that there are far more people out there with original ideas worth hearing, than there are good writers. Should some bloggers re-read their work, and perhaps make more liberal use of the spell-check? Yes. Would most bloggers be able to make a living as professional writers or journalists? Probably not. But that's not what this medium is all about.

For every mundane blog about someone's pet ferret, there a seldom-read blog out there with breakthrough ideas, waiting to be heard. Five years ago those ideas might have gone unnoticed, or worse - unspoken. Now they're out there.

 

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving greeting has to be seen to be believed...

 

P&G debuts measurement tool calculating PR's value

Has Procter & Gamble found the promised land of public relations ROI measurement?

Although interesting to hear, what they haven't yet published is exactly how they calculate the return from PR. I don't expect them to anytime soon - P&G is typically tight-lipped about how they run their business, and anything remotely proprietary. But it definitely has me curious.

Depending on the environment, I've seen PR measured based on pure media impressions, and PR measured based on very direct marketing-oriented response metrics. I feel PR should always be measured somewhere in between. A well-planned, well-executed PR strategy should have plenty of very measurable objectives that directly fuel a company's bottom line. But PR has lasting impact on a marketplace that can and should also be measured - and valued by companies investing in public relations activities.

ROI measurement for PR will continue to be a hot topic. See how others have tackled the issue here, here and here.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

 

Keep Up with the Jones, Dude!

Great story in Business Week about the minds behind Jones Soda. These guys do a fantastic job marketing their product to a specific customer segment with a very small ad budget. Among their audience, they're building a cult brand that's very cool, and has lots of buzz.

 

Parking Lot Advertising - Saving You Money?

Is that an advertisement on the stripes of the parking lot?

Don't be surprised if you see these popping up at a strip mall near you. Depending on the advertiser, and the context, something like this could be relatively compelling.

Some may call it ad creep, but I think there's a significant silver lining in something like this if it gets traction. You know those pay parking lots near theater districts, downtown shopping areas, even near sporting events? Imagine all of that parking was free, because an advertiser subsidized the spot? Would you accept a little extra advertising at your feet, and maybe on your windshield when you returned to your car, in exchange for saving a few dollars?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

 

Are You A Workaholic?

Take this quiz from Forbes.com to find out...

Friday, November 18, 2005

 

What's in a Name?

Creating product and company names isn't an easy process. If you've been through it, you know just how much time and energy it can suck out of an organization. If you're looking for a good place to start down the road, Igor has a pretty good Naming Guide worth downloading and reading.

 

Bubble 2.0

Venture capital isn't anywhere near the peak it hit in 2000 (when more than $106 billion was invested in various start-ups nationwide), but through three quarters of 2005 the National Venture Capital Association reports that $17.4 billion has already been invested in new opportunities.

Even John Battelle wrote in the New York Times today that the Internet feels exciting again.

Are we on the verge of another dot-com boom? Does that mean we're about to create another Internet bubble?

Call me optimistic, but I think we've learned our lessons from 1999. The models I see receiving funding today have a real business opportunity, and are run by managers who understand long-term stability and profitability are drivers of their business, not flashy Super Bowl ads and large trade show booths.

This doesn't mean innovation should be stifled. For centuries, inventors and companies have tried crazy ideas, with only a fraction of those panning out. We'll still see plenty of dot-com and technology companies introduce far-out concepts with a flourish, only to wither.

But I believe more of those far-out concepts will be rooted in real customer and market demand, and will either learn how to hold out until the market is ready, or evolve based on a sense of fiscal responsibility.

 

E-Mail Is So Five Minutes Ago

That might be going a bit too far as, let's face it, email isn't going away. But it's good to see companies starting to innovate with other technologies, including blogs, to create more efficient workplaces and workgroups. Business Week does a good job summarizing the more recent use of collaborative tools such as blogs and wikis to allow co-workers to communicate with each other, edit projects in real-time in a central location and in general help workers spend less time in their inbox and more time being productive.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

 

Making voicemails work harder

If you've been in your current job for awhile, chances are you don't even remember what your voicemail recording sounds like. It probably just tells callers that you're not around, and to leave a message.

But with just a couple more seconds of airtime, couldn't your voicemail message say something about your brand, help sell a product, or direct a potential caller somewhere you want them to look anyway?

How about something like:

Hi, this is Matt from HouseValues. I'm currently helping another customer make more money, but please leave me a message so I can help you with your business as well. In the meantime, please visit HomePages.com to learn about one of our exciting new products.

Your caller already knows how to leave a message, so you don't have to waste valuable seconds giving him or her instructions. With the above message, I've communicated a core benefit, let the caller know I want to do the same for him or her, and then directed them to our new Web site while they wait for my return call.

I bet your business has many more underleveraged marketing channels just waiting for optimization.

 

Get more than you give

And I'm not just talking about the free apple juice and cookies.


 

The little things matter (sometimes in a big way)

When you're building a direct marketing campaign, you think about offer, copy, creative, list - things like that, right? Do you ever think about postage?

Most direct marketers don't. It's just what gets the direct mail piece to your target audience. But smart direct marketers know that every little thing can impact the responsiveness and success of your campaign.

Take postage, for instance. Do you use a stamp or indicia? What do your stamps look like? Do they reflect the tone of your overall message, or do they go the extra mile to further connect with your target audience?

A good recent article in Target Marketing magazine explored this topic, definitely worth a quick read. The story is about postage options, but don't let your testing stop there. Every single little thing in any direct marketing campaign can impact results.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

 

Sales vs. Evangelism

Thanks to Guy Kawasaki and Church of the Customer for this...


 

Employee Evangelists

When I first started at HouseValues, Inc. more than three years ago, the company already had approximately 80 employees. We're now almost 600 employees strong, with plans to open a branch office in Central Washington soon.

Whether your company has 80 employees, 600 employees, or 6,000 employees, don't underestimate your workforce as a potentially powerful marketing channel.

Do your employees, all of your employees, understand your company's mission? It's core customers? It's brand promise? Are they passionate about your products, your customers, and the company in general?

If you can effectively create passionate evangelists within your organization, throughout the organization, it can help you with: recruiting, retention, morale, pass-along marketing, and more.

I'll share more on this later, it's a powerful opportunity with lots of leverage.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

 

Profit Center Marketing

What if your marketing budget wasn't an expense? What if it was a profit center?

Check out what Milkbone is doing for the holidays. Smart stuff, dog lovers will dig it. If my wife reads this, I'm going to be out $14 bucks (plus shipping and handling).

Monday, November 14, 2005

 

The Power of Brand Consistency

Best Buy CMO Michael Linton’s top two lessons learned when at P&G earlier in his career:

· A brand must stand for a consistent benefit to a targeted market
· Each ostensibly discrete activity in the corporate organization must lead to added brand value

Good advice. Check out the full interview on Marketing Sherpa. Brand consistency can help all of our marketing activities become more successful, faster. And the more touch points within the business that consistent brand is nourished, the better engrained that brand message will become in the minds of customers – current and future.

Matt

Saturday, November 12, 2005

 

Be Proud of Your Mistakes

Do you take risks in your job? Are you testing new ideas, new strategies, even new tactics - every single day? Companies that innovate and outpace their competition are constantly reinventing how they do business.

A few more thoughts on this subject from yours truly. Special thanks to the folks at iMedia Connection for giving me the mic.

Friday, November 11, 2005

 

Do you read enough?

I'm just not sure it's possible to read enough.

Sure, it's very easy to get lost in the daily shuffle, get too busy with work and home, and leave behind your standard reading material. I, like many people, occasionally lapse into a very-busy, prioritization mindset where the work in front of me - the piles of work that will go long into the night- are more important than reading.

Short-term, I'm probably right. Long-term, I'm definitely wrong.

And every time I pick up a magazine, flip through a Web site, or catch up on a blog I previously found interesting, I remind myself why reading is so, so important.

As marketers, heck as businesspeople, we need to be constantly learning. Constantly reinventing how we do business. Constantly questioning the way we do business today and tomorrow.

When I force myself to stop what I'm doing for a moment and read something, I almost always get ideas. Ideas for how to improve my job, my company, my life. Sometimes the ideas are for me, sometimes they get shot off to others. But I am robbing myself of personal and professional development if I stop reading, even for a day.

Are you reading?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

 

Are you selling pants, or selling a dream?

Lots of retailers sell clothes. Many of them sell workout clothes. Some of those sell clothing specifically for folks who do yoga. But few retailers package this clothing in a way that maximizes the merchandising potential. I don't really want to buy just the pants. I want to buy the dream.

Let me start with a different analogy. I like to cook, but like many aspiring cooks I'm largely a vicarious cook. I buy way too many cookbooks, and most sit on my shelf unused. Why did I buy them? Because I really want to make the food, but was drawn to purchase largely by the aspiration of cooking the food. I liked the idea of having all the ingredients on my counter, spending a couple hours cooking a really nice meal, wowing my wife. It all sounded good, good enough to make me shell out $20 bucks for a cookbook I rarely use.

I bought the dream. Cookbook publishers are great at selling that dream - with beautiful pictures of the finished product on their covers and within their pages.

Some retailers do a better job at this than others. Let's get back to yoga pants. Let's say my wife is in the market for yoga pants, but as a marketer I want to help her to dream about doing the yoga. Instead of marketing just the pants, why not market an entire collection of yoga products together? Rather than building my Web site to feature pants in one section, shirts in another, etc. - what if I packaged yoga-related products together? Running products together?

It's amazing to me that many bricks-and-mortar retailers get this, but fail to execute the same strategy online. Check out how Lucy does it in their Favorite Looks section.

Are you selling pants, or are you selling a dream?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

 

Do your customers know what they want?

The short answer? Typically not. It's astonishing how many companies today build products based on so little market research and customer feedback. Perhaps even scarier are those who do the wrong kind of research, and make product and business decisions on that.

A focus group, for example, is great, but is it really giving you an unbiased view of what your customers want? Too many focus groups are dominated by one very vocal member who gets the other heads nodding.

Even 1:1 research channels often encourage respondents to "make up" answers when they're not sure, or to try and sound smart with something that, at the end of the day, they don't really need and won't use.

I know it's hard, and it's not always cheap, but the best way to learn about your customers, and to truly understand what they want and need, is to watch them.

Microsoft has a team of anthropologists on staff who literally move in with their customers - and watch their every move. They don't interrupt, don't ask question. Just watch and learn.

Because most consumers aren't able to clearly articulate what they want, or what they need. But smart marketers and product managers can interpret current, unbiased activity by consumers, and translate that into product improvements and new product opportunities.

Are you asking your customers what they want, or watching them do it? How you learn from your customers could make or break whether what you do next will be of any interest to them.

 

The Customer Evangelist Manifesto

Just read it.

It applies to your customers, your employees, influencers within your industry, even your friends and family. Good words to live and work by.

Monday, November 07, 2005

 

The Long Tail

If you work in any products or services company, and haven't yet read Chris Anderson's article about The Long Tail in Wired Magazine last year, do yourself a favor and give it a read here.

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