Thursday, May 31, 2007
Your New "In The Office" Email Assistant
But few of us use it when we're in the office. Maybe we should.
We all get way too much email, far more than we can typically handle in a reasonable workday. Some of us use inbox rules to sort through different types of emails, filter through the junk, file newsletters for later reading, etc.
But that still leaves a ton of email send directly to you, where you were either the primary recipient or among a group of recipients.
What if you could instruct Outlook to set response expectations with those sending you email, instantly, and even instruct Outlook to communicate things back to folks on your behalf?
What if Outlook could immediately let your senders know that you typically check email a couple times a day, and that they should call your cell phone if something is particularly urgent and needs an immediate response? Would that help you be less reactive to email each day, and more focused on what really needs to get done? Would it help you filter the "needs your attention right now" messages from the "it can wait until later" messages?
What if Outlook could give your senders something to read, something to learn, while they're waiting for a response from you? What if that was a rotating set of headlines about your business, articles you've recently written or particularly enjoyed, or other content that would help senders learn more about you and your business?
Outlook can do all of that, if you let it.
Testing responsiveness in a service industry
This morning I visited each of their Web sites, and sent an email to 23 of these top agents, congratulating them on their success and recognition in the magazine. I was also curious how quickly I would get responses.
In any service business, quick response times should be table stakes, but not all service providers are equally good at it. Some real estate industry studies indicate that as many as 50% of online and email inquiries to real estate agents go unresponded to.
I assumed that some of the nation's top real estate agents would prove otherwise. Three hours after sending those 23 emails, these successful young agents were doing well.
- One very smart agent used an auto-responder to provide an instant response to my email
- Two agents responded within five minutes
- Three others responded within two hours
- One more responded within three hours
That's a 30 percent response rate within three hours. For a group of busy, successful real estate agents who frequently are in the field (and not at their desks), that's a great start.
MoM Links for May 31, 2007
Give 'em something to talk about: Great article in Fast Company about creating remarkable products and experiences that get your customers talking...
It takes a long time to become an overnight success: But with careful preparation, focus and patience, you can get there.
James Surowiecki on Product Simplicity: Good article in The New Yorker about feature creep, it's hidden cost to businesses, and the value of keeping things simple.
What makes a great marketer?: Jim Kukral asks the question, and readers respond. See what they say, and add your own perspective.
Creating (and sustaining) lasting impressions: Nice job by Ron at Buzzoodle dissecting how to manage the impressions you leave.
What's in it for me?
Spike from Brains on Fire recently highlighted a campaign by Oakley, the sunglasses maker, in which Oakley asked its loyal customers to give up the names and contact information for their friends, so that Oakley could send them sales brochures. In exchange, Oakley would send everyone a decal. A decal.
Peerflix recently launched an initiative to compel its users to refer the DVD-exchange service to friends. They even offer an easy way to download your entire database of contacts from your email clients, LinkedIn, and more. The reward? Your friend gets a free DVD for signing up. What do you get for opening up your address book? Nada.
Never mind the fact that these companies (and many more) are asking us to betray the privacy of our friends, and give another company permission to market to them on their behalf. That in and of itself is a step not to be taken lightly.
The bigger point is that fewer and fewer companies, in even the most tactical "refer-a-friend" offers, are failing to create clear and compelling value propositions for the referring customer.
Sure, most companies have their rabid evangelists - those who will spread the brand gospel at a moment's notice, oftentimes on their own without being compelled to do so, and purely because they want to. They love your product so much they can't wait to tell others about it.
But for most of us, the key to unlocking the true potential of pass-along marketing is compelling our average customers to tell their friends about us. With those customers, we can't count on their passion for our products. We need to appeal to their vanity, their ego, and even their greed.
Because nearly every one of those customers, when they see our "tell your friends about us" campaigns, are asking a single question - "What's in it for me?"
If we don't adequately address and answer that question up front, our "tell-a-friend" campaigns are dead out of the gate.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
How big companies think about brand
The story itself is a great read, but even more fascinating is a flip through the positioning report itself. Although this report was prepared by an agency fighting to retain the business they've held for more than 30 years (Wal-Mart eventually chose to take their agency-of-record business elsewhere), it's worth a quick read to see not only how a company the size of Wal-Mart thinks about its current and future brand, but also the methodology it uses.
Lots of great learnings here for companies big and small.
I expect the blogosphere will ruminate much more on this report, with people like John Moore at BrandAutopsy leading the way.
Brilliance from Ignorance
Then, 15 minutes into your presentation, your boss offers a perspective you hadn't thought of. It's smart. No, it's brilliant. Why didn't you think of that?
Does this mean your boss is smarter than you? Because she just came up with a better idea in 15 minutes, after you'd been thinking about it for weeks?
No, your boss isn't smarter. Just ignorant. Really.
Your boss, at least in this instance, is benefiting from a fresh perspective. And you're benefiting from her collective perspective and worldview, thinking about your challenge in a brand-new way.
Just because others don't have the depth of perspective you have on a particular subject, doesn't mean they won't provide the best idea of the bunch.
Brilliance is often born of ignorance.
The day's first 20 minutes
How you start your workday is really no different. Stuart R. Levine, author of Cut to the Chase, a great new book about creating more efficiency in your work life, suggests that every professional start their day with 20 minutes of preparation for the day ahead.
You can do this the night before if you wish, or at home over a cup of coffee before the kids wake up. But even if you wait until you're settled in your office for the day, Stuart suggests the following steps before you check your email and voicemail:
Define your top priority for the day - the one you would sacrifice all others to achieve - to help focus your energy.
Update your "to do" list. Allot time for everything you need to accomplish, including time to prepare for meetings and other conversations.
Review your calendar. Determine the purpose of every meeting and appointment. if you don't have one yet, think of one. If you can't determine one, cancel.
Consider whom you'll see in meetings or other events throughout the day. Jot down any issues you need to address with them.
Glance at your schedule for the remainder of the week and month to make sure you're still focused on the right things.
Now you can check your email and voicemail, and start the day.
Check out the full book here.
What's locked inside?
"If only we knew what we know at HP."
Many organizations make significant investments to train their employees, but little in knowledge sharing.
No matter how big or small your organization is, there's likely plenty of best practices and insider knowledge falling through the cracks - information that others in your organization could benefit from.
What are you doing to make sure your employees are sharing information with each other? What technology or other tools do you need to facilitate this? What organizational changes could you make (short and long-term) to better facilitate sure knowledge sharing?
MoM Links for May 30, 2007
10 benefits of rising early: This fights against my DNA, but the benefits are worth the effort.
Don't buy "forever" stamps: Postage rates are increasing slower than inflation, as Slate smartly points out.
DIY PR: Smart advice from a smart dude. Smart agencies will adjust accordingly (if they want to survive).
Microsoft Surface: Multi-user collaboration on a table-top interface. Check it out. This is worth watching.
Recharge AA batteries on your computer: That's right. Plug these babies into any available USB outlet, and get another five hours of battery life.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Less Connected, More Efficient
Think this can't possibly be true? Start with baby steps:
- Go an entire one-hour meeting without looking at your Blackberry
- Wake up at your usual time, and don't check email until you're physically sitting in your office chair (at work)
- Leave work tonight, and don't check email until tomorrow
During each of these three times, you'll probably still think about work. But those thoughts will be a bit more focused, unencumbered by whatever distracting email you've just read.
Networking Night for Seattle-Area Marketers
Senior marketing professionals from across the greater Seattle area will be there - representing companies such as Microsoft, Nintendo, Amazon.com, HouseValues and dozens more.
Don't miss this opportunity to meet other local marketers, make new connections, and build relationships!
Cost to attend is just $20 dollars, which covers our space in the lounge and a great spread of prepared appetizers.
Click here to RSVP. See you there!
Take your email offline
But for most of us, our primary responsibilities each day are largely pre-defined at the start of the day. Responding to email mid-day becomes more of a distraction to those priorities than anything else.
One strategy I've started using with greater success is simply using the "offline" function in Outlook. Look to the bottom right-hand corner of your Outlook application, where it likely says "Online" if you're currently connected to your network. Right-click on that word, and choose "Work Offline".
This stops the real-time send & receive of emails, and enables you to manually control when emails come and go via the "Send/Receive" button at the top of your Outlook.
Now, instead of being distracted from your primary task each time an email comes in, you can control when those distractions occur. Better yet, you spend far less time each day responding to email, since you're essentially bundling email reading time into fewer times during the day, and minimizing the distraction and transition periods that take up too much inefficient time in our daily lives.
This may take some getting used to, especially if you've become addicted to the endorphin rush of getting, reading and responding to new emails. But I think you'll also find that getting better control of how and when you interact with email will make you far more efficient at the daily work that really matters.
MoM Links for May 29, 2007
Work More, Weigh More: A Finnish study shows a direct connection between overtime and overeating. Learn how to alleviate that conflict.
Watch an Ad, Get a Free Drink: Now that's my kind of vending machine!
My new favorite t-shirt store: Check out Threadless - t-shirts by the people, for the people, at really great prices. You'll be hooked!
Office Olympics, WhataBurger Style: Could a competition like this do something to help your company improve employee morale, and build cult status?
Release your inner McGyver: More great tips on how to do hard stuff with household items.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Does PR work?
The differences between perceptions and reality in the PR world are the root cause of significant resentment and consternation over PR as a legitimate, business-building channel.
Through Guy Kawasaki's blog, Margie Zable Fisher offers a great list of reasons why PR often doesn't work. Take a read through this list, and you'll see that most reasons have to do with communication beakdowns between client and agency.
A good PR agency's most important job is to make sure their clients understand PR - how it works, how it should be measured, and how to understand whether or not it's been successful.
I've said many times before that PR can be a significant, directly-money-making proposition for every business if they think about it right. But few do.
MoM Links for May 25, 2007
Exercise while you work: LifeHacker shows you six ways to do it (including as you read this post!)
The one-page proposal: If your idea can't fit on one page, it needs to be simplified.
And you thought your desk was cluttered: Gotta love that Al Gore uses three HUGE screens in his office, but the man clearly needs a filing cabinet.
Good copy states the obvious: Another great tip from Copyblogger. Don't get cute, be direct!
McGyver would be proud: Use bread to remove crayon from the walls. Parents, take notice!
Build your own treehouse: Why not? You have three whole days to get it done. Have a great long weekend!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
MoM Links for May 24, 2007
Improve Marketing & Sales Collaboration: Here are 35 great suggestions from Brian Carroll at the B2B Lead Generation blog.
Brand Your Blog: Great advice from LifeHack.org, that applies to both your blog and other marketing.
YouTube for Stand-up: Check out Rooftop Comedy. It includes plenty of comics you probably know, and far more that you don't know (yet), but who are equally funny.
They Don't Know What You Know: Even though it can take more time, it's important to connect the dots and get all of your co-conspirators over the mountaintop with you.
Employee Experience: This great article outlines some fantastic ideas to keep your employees engaged, motivated and informed.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Tapping your sphere of influence
I attempted to explore some of these issues for iMedia this week. Take a look, and let me know what you think.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Is The Ultimate Question real?
More and more companies believe the answer to these questions is an emphatic "yes", thanks to Fred Reichheld and his book, The Ultimate Question. Fred's premise is simple - a clearly-phrased question measuring your customers' intent to recommend your product to friends and colleagues can be used to not only accurately measure customer satisfaction, but also clearly identify business practices and strategies that should be created, modified or eliminated.
Until now, the evidence that Fred's Ultimate Question works has piled up with little opposition. This summer, a research team at Ipsos Loyalty is set to release a new study that provides the opposite viewpoint - that a single question, and Fred's question specifically, is too often inaccurate in its measurements, predictions and implications.
Both Fred's book and the Ipsos research are underwritten by research firms with business models and clients on the line.
But one could argue that accurate customer satisfaction methodology and business impact doesn't have as much to do with the questions you ask, vs. what you do once you have the answers.
Put another way, it could be that shorter customer surveys are helping more and more companies put the right focus on customer answers, helping them get far more organizationally focused on things they believe will impact and delight their customers.
So, is this about asking the right questions, or about taking the right actions? Is this about survey methodology or business discipline and focus?
How To Sell Pants
Thursday, May 17, 2007
When to re-brand
For example, the concept of revising your brand strategy can be enticing at many points of a company's development. Hire a new CMO? She'll want to revisit the brand. Reorganize the executive wing? Perhaps a new brand will turn this company around!
But what are the real reasons, and the right times, to rethink a brand?
Derrick Daye at The Blake Project gives a fantastic list of reasons to reposition your brand at the Brand Strategy Insider blog. For ease of reading I've copied the list below, but any questions about this list should go direct to Derrick.
Brand repositioning is necessary when one or more of the following conditions exist:
1. Your brand has a bad, confusing or nonexistent image.
2. The primary benefit your brand "owns" has evolved from a differentiating benefit to a cost-of-entry benefit.
3. Your organization is significantly altering its strategic direction.
4. Your organization is entering new businesses and the current positioning is no longer appropriate.
5. A new competitor with a superior value proposition enters your industry.
6. Competition has usurped your brand's position or rendered it ineffectual.
7. Your organization has acquired a very powerful proprietary advantage that must be worked into the brand positioning.
8. Corporate culture renewal dictates at least a revision of the brand personality
9. You are broadening your brand to appeal to additional consumers or consumer need segments for whom the current brand positioning won't work. (This should be a "red flag." This action could dilute the brand's meaning, make the brand less appealing to current customers or even alienate current customers.)
MoM Links for May 17, 2007
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Don't be like the advertiser in this video. Save your consumer marriage!
Finding People Just Got Easier: Thanks to Pipl.
What's Your Frame of Reference: Is your brand strategy too narrow? Are you differentiating on the right things? Does your brand have room to grow? This post will help.
Read An Entire Book in 15 Minutes: Over 300 great business books, all summarized into 2-4 pages of the most salient points. All available for just $99/year through ExecuBooks.
Table Stakes: World class customer service? Everyone's doing it (or at least claiming it). How do you differentiate?
Hugg Your News: It's like Digg, but for environmental stories. Like story? Give it a hugg!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
MoM Links for May 15, 2007
What would a helicopter see: How would your business look from 5,000 feet in the air? And what would you do about it?
Now This Is A Video Conference: It's like looking across the table (even when you're across the country). Also reviewed by Forrester here.
Vice President of Reception: Great post and ideas by Seth on how to get the most marketing power out of your front desk. These are ideas you can put to work for your business today!
Customer-Centric Selling: A great vision for why the way you're operating sales & marketing today is likely outdated.
ROI Explained: Pictures make things so much clearer sometimes.
The Five-Second Rule Works!: Sort of. But at least we now have facts to back up the myth. Pick up that food!
It's Easy Being Green: Especially with tools like these, to help you determine your CO2 emissions, then create a plan to reduce them.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Making Things Simple
But simplicity should be at the top of everyone's daily to-do list, not just marketers. If you're building products, don't make them too complicated. Spend just as much time deciding which features not to ship, as you do which features to keep in.
Some companies clearly already do a great job at this. Others infamously don't.
The best products aren't all things to all people. The best marketing doesn't relate to everybody, either.
Pick your audience, choose your focus, and aim for simplicity.
MoM Links for May 14, 2007
Please Don't Promote Me: Interesting study indicating how stressful promotions have become for business leaders, primarily because they get "little or no support as they enter their new jobs."
Blog Fatigue: Even Scoble gets it. Here's a possible solution.
Evening Email Rations: Here's a great idea for limiting your kids' TV time. My wife thinks it's a good idea for evening and weekend work time, too.
Five Common Cliches: And reasons why they're wrong.
Ten Great Sources of How-To Videos: Thanks to Mashable for this great list.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Creating Community (in the real world)
And while new data and research can teach us plenty, the offline world has a few lessons for us as well.
Take for example, the city of Kirkland, Washington. Kirkland is a suburb of Seattle, and has its fair share of rainy, gloomy weather during the late fall, winter and early spring months.
That's why the summer months, which up here in the Pacific Northwest can be spectacular, are so important to building and sustaining community.
Each year, the City of Kirkland's Parks and Community Services team puts together a wide variety of events, festivals and other community gatherings, but this year they may have outdone themselves.
There are food & wine festivals. Car shows. Outdoor movie nights for families. Two different weekly farmer's markets in different corners of the city. Baseball tournaments. A summer concert series, spanning two nights each week on the downtown waterfront. A triathlon specifically designed for kids.
And the list goes on and on.
These isn't just a gathering of random public events, publicized together. The city staff studies their constituents, has a master plan for the community they want to create, and does a great job with execution.
Maybe I'm a little biased, as I both live and work in Kirkland. But I've lived in several places around the Seattle area, as well as in California, and I know this level of breadth, coordination and planning is quite rare.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Follow The Leader
Have you worked on a product plan that includes features based not necessarily on what your customers have asked for, but based on what your competitors already have?
Have you bought ad space in a magazine because that's where your competitors are advertising as well?
Assuming that our competitors know what they're doing is a dangerous game. Assuming your company has the right ingredients and circumstances to match or exceed their success is an equally slippery slope.
Competitive intelligence is critical, and identifying elements of a competitor's business and marketing strategy for further review and testing is a great idea.
But do your own homework. Know your customers, your industry, and your business better than anyone else. Don't just follow the leader.
MoM Links for May 11, 2007
Make A Name For Yourself: Do yourself a favor, and get this book from the Name Tag Guy.
How Small Business Uses YouTube: Some great, creative examples here of how small businesses nationwide are using YouTube to drive customer interactivity, loyalty and sales.
The Bathroom Diaries: Where to find good public bathrooms, anywhere in the United States. It's niche but necessary.
Breaking Your Blackberry Habit: How would five days without your digital connection to the world change your worldview, and actually increase your productivity?
BlogSigs: Automatically link to your latest blog post in your email signature. Cool.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
But the very concept of Brand Police is flawed, and implies that you're failing as an organization to effectively create and build a sustainable brand.
If you have Brand Police, you're always swimming upstream. and will likely never have the consistency you seek.
First, the very concept of requiring a "law enforcement agency" to drive brand usage implies a subversive effort within the company to circumvent the brand in the first place. Rather than "police" this activity, why not figure out why some groups or individuals aren't bought off on using the brand strategy in the first place. Are they simply renegades, or do they have a valid reason for doing something differently? Would their valid reasoning cause you to rethink or modify the brand strategy?
Second, the concept of having a dedicated "brand police force" implies that the majority of the organization either doesn't know what the brand stands for, or doesn't know how to communicate it effectively through their respective work.
If that's the case, you don't need police. You need education.
It's your job to teach your organization how to fish, not punish them when they use the wrong bait.
This may sound easier said than done, but look at companies, products and services that have the best, most consistent, most admired brands. Talk to their employees, and you'll hear how deeply the brands are accepted, understood and protected.
If you have Brand Police in your organization today, that's OK. Your quest is still valid and extremely important. Just make sure the concept of Brand Police is thought of as a very short-term strategy, with an eye towards the long-term plan of creating an entire organization policing, reinforcing and strengthening its collective asset.
MoM Links for May 10, 2007
The Power of Metaphors: Great post on CopyBlogger about the important and usage of metaphors in great copy.
The Power of Contrasts: CopyBlogger at it again! Even if you aren't a copywriter, this is important stuff worth reading.
Are You in the Red Zone?: A Boston-based consulting company flags employees who work too many hours. Check it out.
Subway Jumps the Shark: Pizza? Really? What would Jerrod think?
Customer Service is the New Marketing: I buy it. Do you?
Marketing as a commodity
If I had a marketing or ad agency, I'd be licking my chops right about now, because PR Store just made my job easier.
When your product, service or industry faces commoditization, it presents your biggest opportunity to create and accelerate differentiation.
Cookie-cutter, "retail" marketing offerings may appeal to some. But the mere presence of options like PR Store will make the best marketing consultants, agencies and partners look even smarter and more appealing to companies big and small.
Kudos to the founders of PR Store for a very clever concept, and from early indications also well-executed. The small business support and service opportunity is massive, and PR Store will likely pick up a healthy share of the market.
But there will never be a substitute for creative, individualized thinking to help create remarkable products and services, then successfully bring them to market in a remarkable, profitable way.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
MoM Links for May 8, 2007
Making Restrooms Remarkable: Nice story by Jeffrey Gitomer about how one little ol' restroom in the Charlotte Airport has gone from ordinary to remarkable.
Fewer Meetings, Please: Seth's great advice for identifying worthless meetings, getting yourself out of them, and taking back control of your day (and schedule)
Blog for a New Job: More proof that blogs may very well be the new resume.
The End of Ad Agencies?: Probably not, but worst case it's something to think about.
What To Shred, And When: Great advice from Unclutterer.
What's Your Brand Quotient?
Through the idea of a Brand Quotient, Sandra walks her readers step-by-step through how great brands are made, sustained and grown profitably.
Some of her suggestions include:
1. What’s your story? Having a memorable story can keep your brand in prospects’ minds. To find your story, list all of the ways you’re different from your competitors. Ask yourself: What am I doing that’s so unique? Who are my clients? Why do people use my services? Use your responses as the basis for all of your marketing materials, from your Web site to your listing presentation materials.
2. Focus your message. Summarize your story in one line — a catchy word or phrase — to provide clarity and gain immediate recognition. But before you debut your new message, hold a focus group to gather input. Be sure to have someone else moderate the focus group so you’ll receive honest feedback. Once you’ve considered outsiders’ opinions and tweaked the message, you’re ready to use your tagline or slogan everywhere.
3. Be consistent. Don’t change your tagline or marketing message because you’re bored with it. Remember, repetition cuts through clutter.
Pick up a copy here to read more. Great stuff.
Monday, May 07, 2007
The media is not the message
Too often, marketers put more focus on how their message will reach an intended audience, and not nearly enough focus on the message itself.
Yet if more of us, more often, put most of our focus on the message - ensuring we have something unique, remarkable and relevant for our customers - the channel would be far less important.
Great ideas find their own way to the surface. Unique messages spread themselves. For the best marketing messages, channel is merely a starting point for the kind of buzz and word-of-mouth pass-along effect to follow.
Read Roy's full message this morning here, or hear him read it to you here.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Five words or less
When we can communicate an idea or opinion with brevity, we imply confidence. We imply consideration.
We communicate by mere brevity that we know we're right.
By combining brevity with clarity in a positioning statement or opinion, we make the overall message far easier to understand, believe and pass along.
The third key to a strong positioning statement (after brevity and clarity) is consistency. Once you establish a clear, concise position, it's critical that everyone in your organization consistently communicates it.
Your positioning will gain strength and momentum only if it's memorable and repeatable, at every level of the organization.
Brevity, clarity, consistency.
How does your positioning stack up?
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Flipping the Funnel
Many field salespeople and event managers at organizations nationwide spent the majority of their time creating events & group meetings, then convincing people to attend.
But what if we no longer scheduled such events and meetings in advance anymore? What if we told our customers and prospects that, if they’d like us to come to town and see them, all they need to do is help us get it organized, and focus on getting others to attend.
What if you asked your best customers to help you do this?
Would it work? Is it worth trying?
Some are already doing it...
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Play to your strengths
Put another way, 14 percent of professionals are focused on things that they’re good at.
Put another way, 86 percent of your colleagues (and perhaps even you) focus on doing things they’re not good at.
Those statistics are scary. They tell me that the majority of our employees are swimming upstream, and likely aren’t happy about it. They tell me that the majority of businesses are focusing their employees on the wrong things.
They also tell me that we likely don’t even know this problem exists.
Clearly we all need to spend part of our day doing things we don’t like, or aren’t good at. But the majority of our time should be spent on things we enjoy, things we’re good at, and places where we are most likely to succeed.
Think how much happier your employees would be if you helped them spend the majority of their time on their strengths.
Think about how much more productive your business could be if you could simply double the number of current employees focused on their strengths.
There’s significant work to do here, for all of us.