Thursday, December 29, 2005

 

The two obvious secrets of every service business

1. Take responsibility
2. Pay attention to detail

Seth's right. Every business is a service business. Experience is the product.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

 

Free Gas = Improved Brand Perception (and Sales) for Mitsubishi

As a means of counteracting the "employee pricing" promotions offered by other car manufacturers, Mitsubishi in September announced that it would give new car buyers a year of free gas (given away as a prepaid debit card).

The incremental cost of the promotion was minimal (giving a debit card vs. cash back at the point of sale), but the impact on sales has been great (sales up 7.2% over the same period last year), and the company also reports that positive brand perception has increased.

This was all about positioning. How do you create value for your customers by taking advantage of an inherent need? In this case, it was a concern over the rising cost of gas. Mitsubishi is telling its customers that it, too, knows that gas prices are a concern, and they're helping to address that in their promotions.

Smart move, and it's clearly paying off.

Friday, December 23, 2005

 

Identifying and leveraging "useful fear"

A very thought-provoking post on Seth Godin's blog this week about the use of fear in an organization.

Another way to think about this is very focused motivation. Beyond making your customers successful, what things will help your entire organization focus on a single goal? Is it a competitor? A revenue run-rate? An upcoming, impending or current threat to the business, or an industry, or a customer group?

Useful fear can be related to any number of things, and as both Seth and BuzzMachine point out, can be an effective motivational and focusing tool for your organization as well.

Friday, December 16, 2005

 

Interactive ads on your Cheerios box?

It might not be too far away. It sounds a little like a scene from The Minority Report, but Seimens is apparently readying a paper-thin electronic display technology cheap enough that CPG companies are thinking about using it on their packaging.

Imagine the box of cereal on your breakfast table with interactive ads on it? Imagine reading this blog on your next box of detergent?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

 

Using PR as a Direct Response Tool

Savvy marketers already know that public relations can be one of the most effective, leveraged marketing and brand-building tools available. For very little relative budget, public relations can get the word out to vast & targeted audiences, in a highly credible context.

But most marketers don't think about PR as a direct response tool. With focus and discipline, public relations can be leveraged and measured as a tool that directly drives traffic, business and sales.

I wrote more about this today for iMedia, based in part on a recent study by Delahaye that looked at how executives across the country value various PR measurement tools. According to the survey, direct sales as a result of PR was seen as exceedingly meaningful, but not particularly reasonable as an expectation of PR.

I don't buy it, and believe we absolutely should have an expectation that PR can directly lead to sales and/or customer activity in a meaningful and measurable way.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

 

Are you using your data to get free PR?

AOL is.

 

Lessons in Approachability

I don't have much time to grok about this, but WOMMA.org published a very good read on how to make your company and/or your brand approachable.

If you read through the author's top five tips, many of them come down to differentiation. What are you doing to be different from your competitors? What are you doing to stand out from the crowd? What are you doing to own that one thing that everyone will know and love you for?

 

Google running TV ads?

Yes, it's just a few 15-second spots on PBS, hardly the launch of a new major branding campaign on prime-time television, but it still represents a significant new direction for a company that has traditionally leaned significantly on PR as its primary marketing channel.

Check out the new Google TV ads here.

 

The coolest holiday light show ever

Wow, this is really cool. No commentary needed, just a little holiday fun. Make sure your speakers are turned on.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

 

Turning wait time into an opportunity

Seth Godin wrote recently about a good idea for making customers on hold feel special, and "rewarding" them for any wait time they have to endure before talking to a live body.

Smart idea, and it should be a reminder to us of just how many underleveraged customer touchpoints exist throughout our organization.

Think, for example, about your on-hold music. It it just pretty music? Or could it be used to communicate something to your customers? What about replacing that music with customer testimonials, samples of your radio commercials, or even a soft voice talking to customers about your latest promotion?

"Thank you for calling, and we appreciate your patience. Have you heard about our new (insert feature here)? Inquire about that feature today and save 50%."

Businesses with physical locations also typically have underleveraged opportunities. Think about all of the businesses in which you have to wait for something - doctor's office, chiropractor, oil changes, even take-out restaurants. When waiting the 20 minutes for your oil and lube change, could customers be reading something more than just two-month-old magazines? How about educational information about auto maintenance, maybe even a video playing about tips for keeping cars in top shape? All of this content could be independently valuable to consumers, but also build credibility for the oil change facility and drive repeat business.

Monday, December 12, 2005

 

More great merchandising (and grouping)

I wrote earlier about how some companies are getting smarter at how they merchandise their products in contextual settings and groups to increase "basket size" and order volume.

Found another good example of this at AnnTaylor.com today (if my wife is reading this, she's getting too many hints about Christmas gifts). They not only group outfit styles together, such as "work casual" and "weekend casual", but they also make it really easy to buy the whole package with just one click, including shoes and accessories.

Every business can do a better job of this, no matter what products or services they offer. If you truly understand your customer, effective merchandising, packaging and grouping should be relatively easy - and lucrative.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

 

Hiring Brand Advocates

More great interview question ideas, this time from Ron McDaniel at Buzzoodle Buzz Marketing.

Ron makes a great point about hiring not only smart people for the job in question, but focusing on people who will be advocates - advocates for your company, advocates for your brand, and advocates for the vision they (and you) have for making your customers more successful.

Friday, December 09, 2005

 

Recruiting evangelists

A good corporate evangelist doesn't just sell a dream. He or she also is responsible for recruiting and creating additional company and product evangelists, who in turn believe in and sell the dream. If done right, this leads to significant grass-roots word of mouth - from customers, infleucers, bloggers and more.

A recent article in US News & World Report did a great job positioning the value of evangelism for any organization, and the core role it can play in building authentic, loyal followers.

You can read more pundits talking about evangelism here, here, here and here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

 

Does Yahoo have the answer?

The latest entrant onto the social networking playing field is Yahoo! Answers, a free service that allows community members to ask questions of each other, with consumer-generated answers.

Pretty interesting stuff. Content is purely based on consumer-generated content, but it will be very interesting to match the relevancy of a Google with the relevancy of answers by humans in real-time who presumably know their stuff.

Will this replace search engines? Hardly. But if I happen to ask where I can find the best cupcakes in Seattle, and get another Seattleite to post an answer, that's very credible information.

See what others have already written about Yahoo! Answers here, here, here and here.

 

A great networking idea

Are you trying to get yourself, your business or your product noticed by someone in your network? Or maybe you're trying to add something special to your network?

John Jantsch suggests today in his well-written Duct Tape Marketing blog that you simply send them an unsolicited testimonial. Let them know you like what they're doing, you like something about their product, or simply endorse their value as a professional (appeals to vanity and self-promotion work just as well here).

It's a good reminder that some of the best ideas aren't always the most complicated. Brilliance very often is found in simplicity.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

 

Why we blog

There are a handful of blogs out there that are very, very well done. Church of the Customer, Micro-Persuasion and Boing Boing, for example, have thousands of subscribers for a reason.

But for every John Battelle, there are about a thousand Joe Six-Packs also blogging out there.

The quickest way to get a truly random sampling of what else is out there is to use blogger.com's "next blog" feature, in the upper right-hand corner of most blogger.com-hosted blogs.

It's no surprise that most blogs in the blogosphere are fairly mundane, and probably don't have much readership. So why do these folks blog? Why do they bother?

I believe it boils down to three things:

1) It's an opportunity to be part of something big. Blogging means that you're a bonafide publisher, on the World Wide Web no less. That's quite meaningful to most folks, and just feeling associated and a part of something bigger than themselves has significant pull.

2) It's an outlet. It's an online diary for some people, purely a place to vent, pontificate, wonder and muse. Readership, circulation, subscribers - it's largely irrelevant. The fact that they've been able to put their thoughts into words, and do it somewhere convenient that has some permanence, is sufficient.

3) Somebody might be listening. And don't we all just want someone to hear us once in awhile? The mere idea that others may be able to find and read one's work is enough for many amateur and occasional bloggers. It's at the core of Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends & Influence People" - people want others to focus on them.

As marketers, we have a responsibility to tap into these common consumer needs. How are you enabling your customers, and your prospects, toexpress themselves? How are you allowing them to join something exciting, and bigger than themselves?

Perhaps most importantly, how are you letting them be heard, and then letting them know that they've been heard?

Whether it's via blogs, branded social networking strategies, or just your everyday business practices, these are powerful forces at work, forces that can be put to work for your business and brand as well.

 

Let your customers do the marketing for you

I'm a big fan of Ofoto.com (now owned by Kodak, and called EasyShare Gallery), but I think they're missing a huge opportunity this holiday season.

Ofoto is an online digital photo sharing site, where you can save photos into online "albums" and then share those photos with friends, allow others to purchase their own prints online, etc. It's a great service, and I've been using it for years to share photos of hoilday gatherings, family vacations, even a periodic update on my home remodel project.

They're doing a fine job merchandising holiday-themed items on their site, including gift items that can have photos imprinted on them, greeting cards and the usual.

But what if they gave away user-friendly URLs to every customer, and encouraged their customers to create and share online holiday photo galleries with friends and family? Whether online or via widely distributed "snail mail" holiday greeting cards, current Ofoto customers could include a message that said something like "see photos from our family in 2005 at http://matt.ofoto.com."

Now imagine an Ofoto URL on literally millions of holiday greeting cards nationwide. The traffic to Ofoto based on this would be incredible, and I bet it would immediately become their #1 traffic and membership driver at least through the holiday season.

And the beautiful thing? It wouldn't have to cost Ofoto a thing. If they'd started marketing this to their current customers via email and on the site as early as late September, it would have been huge.

That may be an opportunity gone (at least for this year), but is there a similar opportunity in your business? Is there a new feature or seasonal/contextual spin on an old favorite that would encourage your customers to do your marketing for you?

A few minutes of creative brainstorming could make you a marketing hero.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

 

Who controls your brand?

Jennifer Rice did a great job yesterday riffing on what a good brand is, and whether traditional agencies are equipped to really help companies think through to the right brand strategy.

I've seen and worked with traditional agencies on both sides of the argument - those whose end game is purely the ad campaign and media buy, where the brand strategy is a loss leader, and those who truly care about the brand - and know how to build one.

At the end of the day, however, it's simply not fair to entrust your brand entirely to an agency. If you're the client, YOU own the brand. You, and your executives as Jennifer also points out, need to 100% buy into the brand strategy and how that strategy will influence every facet of your business.

 

Are you making things happen?

Great post today by Seth Godin on his blog about the role of producers.

Look around your own organization, and you'll see a difference between the people who get stuff done, and those who don't.

I think it's important to study both people - both to understand and internalize best practices from those who consistently make things happen, and to understand how you can best leverage the other half.

So are you a producer? Do you make things happen? Are you restless every day before you want more - both professionally and personally?

A healthy dose of restlessness to make more things happen will inevitably help you do exactly that.

 

Integrated marketing = better results

How well coordinated are your marketing campaigns across all possible channels? Do you treat online and offline marketing as separate animals, or is it all integrated?

Take a quick read through a successful case study of integrated marketing for Orville Redenbacher popcorn by Kevin Doohan and the folks at ConAgra Foods. They did a fantastic job of not only leveraging multiple channels and partner media, but also getting customers actively engaged with the brand in a very context-relevant setting.

I had the pleasure of hearing Kevin present this successful case study at the iMedia Brand Summit in September, and it's clear these guys are thinking out of the box to produce fantastic results for their brand.

Monday, December 05, 2005

 

Thanking your customers

What are you doing to thank your customers this holiday season?

Perhaps more importantly, what's your strategy for thanking them all year round?

Customer love doesn't have to be contextual. In fact, a randomly-received "thanks for your business" can be more impactful than one that follows a particular action.

For example, of course you're thankful when a customer buys a new plasma TV. Of course Bellagio is thankful that I just hosted a four-day conference at their facility.

But are you thankful for your customers when they least expect it?

Show that you care, at the least-expected times, and you'll be surprised at the impact it can have on brand perception and loyalty.

 

Your brand & your employees

Another good post, and good reminder, that your employees can make a significant impact on how your brand is perceived by customers.

Take 15 minutes and do a quick inventory of all the places where your customers interact with your company. Yes, your marketing team may control many channels of communications - the Web site, marketing collateral, PR, advertising, packaging, etc.

But what about how your receptionist answers the phone? What about the nomenclature your customer service reps use when handling customer questions and complaints? Wait times? Response rates?

Smart companies realize that every customer touch point, every customer experience, every customer perception impacts the brand.

 

Do you know who your best customers are?

Further evidence (if you needed it) that customer segmentation is vital to your business:

According to Nielsen/Netratings, just 18% of online buyers account for a full 46% of all online spending. The bottom 55% of online buyers accounted for just 21% of online purchases.

Surprisingly few companies leverage the right segmentation of their customer and prospect databases to successfully separate the occasional customer from the power shopper.

Do you know who your best customers are? What are you doing to treat them differently? To keep them loyal? To leverage them, if possible, to create more best customers?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

 

The Subservient Donald

A little weekend fun. If you remember the Subservient Chicken from Burger King, this will look familiar.

Check it out Subservient Donald here.

The only way to make this funnier would have been to cast Darrell Hammond as Mr. Trump.

Friday, December 02, 2005

 

Three Tips for More Dynamic Presentations

This week I had the pleasure of attending a Kelsey Group conference focusing on Local Search. It was one of those conferences with many speakers and many panels, and I found it interesting to watch the differences between how various executives handled their speaking opportunities.

As with many conferences like this, multiple executives from different companies offering essentially the same services appear on a panel, yet some executives comes across far better than others.

The difference isn't always in their products, or in their presentation content, but largely in their delivery.

I could go on and on about public speaking best practices, but just based on the past couple days at this conference there are three things I believe can help any speaker stand out from the crowd:

1) Don't read your slides: If you are using Power Point slides as part of your presentation, cut the words on the slides down to a minimum, and make sure your taking points compliment and augment those slides. When speakers read, or even paraphrase in linear order, audiences get bored quickly.

2) Know your content: This may seem obvious, but it's clear when speakers don't know what slide or point is coming next, and rely too much on their Power Point deck to remind them. If you know your content well, you likely aren't even looking at your slides. You're looking at your audience, directly connecting with them, which will make you far more engaging and interesting.
3) Show passion: This one is harder, as some speakers are more inclined to be passionate than others. Passion can be communicated in many ways - use of hands, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc. Regardless of what you're comfortable with, or pre-disposed to, use this to your advantage.

The common theme in all three of these tips is to get your audience engaged. Make them want to listen to you. No matter the subject or content, better audience engagement will signficantly increase how well your audience hears your message, and whether they want to learn more.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

 

Comprehensiveness vs. Relevancy

I've been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between comprehensiveness and relevancy, especially as it relates to the value customers place in various brands and services. For example, take a real estate Web site like HomePages.com. As a home buyer, knowing that your are searching from a database that has every home available for sale in the market is very important. So in the case of home buying, comprehensiveness is perfectly aligned with relevancy and value.

But what about shopping for a TV? Do I need to have access to every television set available? Or just those that meet my criteria? If I'm looking for a 35-inch set, for example, I don't need to be able to search from a database of every 35-inch set manufactured. But depending on where I'm shopping, there's an assumption that a level of comprehensiveness has already happened.

If I'm shopping at Best Buy, and looking through their TV options, I assume that their buyers have already done completed a level of comprehensiveness in their own shopping to bring me the best options based on quality and price. And that's where the relevancy and value comes in.

You could say the same for the value of real estate agents. Because agents have access to the MLS, and therefore every home for sale, an agent can cull that comprehensiveness on your behalf, and deliver to you only the products that meet your criteria. The real estate agent with homes for sale, therefore, is similar to what the Best Buy buyers do for me with television sets.

Think about the products or services you offer to your customers. Is comprehensiveness a premium? Is it directly tied to relevancy and value at the customer level? Or can you deliver more value by delivering a level of comprehensiveness before the customer gets to you?

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