Archive for February, 2008

Starbucks Caffeine Phoenix Rising

February 29, 2008

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Three and one-half hours with no venti half-caf skinny mocha yuppieccinos from Starbucks. I’ve managed restaurants. It’s not that hard to send all workers through a half-day training without cutting off the umbilical cash flow cord.

Nope, this was a way to send a marketing message through an operational channel. We’re serious. We hear your complaints about eroding quality. We will do something big to fix them. If you’ve written us off, come try again. Clean slate. Caffeine phoenix rising from the ashes.

And, incidentally, you’d really miss us if we were gone. Remember when we weren’t here? Don’t take us for granted. Scarcity sells.

The best marketing has nothing to do with ad spend. Call Stephen Colbert and ask him how much he’d charge to film a three-minute commercial in which he pulls a cup out of a trash can and drinks from it. Repeat for every talk show host in the US, add it up, and compare it to the foregone earnings from a Tuesday evening.

Freenomics and Serious Money Marketing

February 29, 2008

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Chris Anderson has some great new ideas about freenomics. Seth talks today about free as an attention-earning strategy.

Sometimes not-free is an attention-earning strategy, too. For recruiters, the appeal of theladders is tied to the fact that they charge candidates a small membership fee. $30 is enough to ensure that every candidate there is serious. The guys at bountyjobs use a small ‘take a flier’ fee to ensure that headhunters who aren’t engaged in a search have enough skin in the game to avoid spamming.

Free gets attention one way. Not-free gets attention another way. Money talks. A smart marketer can use it to say “I’m serious”.

From B2B and B2C to C2B

February 28, 2008

Anytime Marketers talk a question is “do you do B2B or B2C?” Many people (self included) have done both. You can interpret that ‘2’ as a directional indicator, so if I had a whiteboard I’d write B->B and B->C. Communication flows from the first letter to the second.

Widespread adoption of social media as a marketing tool may change that. When you start building communities and using social media you create a two-way communication. So you’ll know social media marketing is maturing when you ask a marketer “B2B or B2C?” and get “C2B” as a response. That’s a true change in purpose.

Until then, we need to distinguish between marketers using new tools to do old things and marketers doing new things. One approach treats a blog like a web page measured on traffic instead of on interaction, uses Twitter to send “look at my link!” spam, tries to game social bookmarking and thinks of Facebook as a place to build free ads for a product’s ‘fans’. (Not to brag, but I’ve got more ‘friends’ than Coca-Cola Light). The other approach is…different.

If you’re doing something different, I want to know about it.

Twitter Marketing and MicroBlog Horticulture

February 26, 2008

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Doshdosh blogged 17 key business uses for Twitter. The real-time, multi-platform nature of the beast makes it great for live blogging events, as everyone learned at last year’s SXSW, but there’s a lot more.

Here’s the 18th use – your plants can tell you when they’re thirsty. There’s a metaphor here. Social media and micromedia can foster direct connections that let you know about even the smallest needs your customers have, letting you cultivate those relationships. Let your business bloom.

Whiteflower Farm, thanks for the image!

Snap, Crackle and Prize

February 25, 2008

This morning my four-year-old daughter got her first cereal-box prize – a Barbie watch. It was a hoot to watch her delight in getting unexpected loot along with essential vitamins and minerals.

I fully expect her to live up to her new role as an influencer on the next shopping trip. That’s OK with me. At the ballpark I always agitated for Cracker Jack for the same reason. It may be a tacky plastic toy, but value is in the eye of the beholder. I only get cranky (like Sunday’s monetization post) when value is extracted but not given.

Give my daughter a toy that makes her happy, I’ll buy your cereal over the next brand and consider it a fair deal. What can you include with your product that’s not a bribe, not an invitation to an upsell or cross-sell, but just a little package of delight? Delight works just as well in B2B as in B2C…iPods and iPhones prove that.

Hey Cascadian Farms, why not include a packet of seeds for the kids to grow or some other non-plastic non-trinket that fits with the healthy vibe?

The Difference Between Monetization and Nickel-and-Diming is Which Side of the Transaction You’re On

February 22, 2008

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Don’t monetize me.

You offered value so I responded to your marketing efforts. I was happy to exchange value with you. But when you tried to monetize me I felt so…cheap.

Customers don’t want a relationship with someone trying to monetize them. They’ll only buy if there’s no better option, and they won’t be loyal. Customers will be loyal to someone who honestly and fairly exchanges value with them.

The Simple Secret to Virile Viral Marketing: SQUIRM

February 22, 2008

It’s interesting to hear marketers refer to a clip uploaded to YouTube as their ‘viral video.’ Hey, you don’t tell the marketplace whether something’s viral. The marketplace tells you.

Computer manufacturers release funny promotional videos*, but with 1500 views the CDC isn’t donning hazmat suits. Meanwhile, the same company’s tech support calls gone awry get 10x the views on YouTube in a short time. Uncomfortable.

A colleague penned a humorous email recently. His idea: what if we replaced corporate lingo for ‘big wins’ and ‘step-function improvement’ with ‘kick-ass’ and ‘blowin’ s**t UP!’ We laughed about it, and he edited a real memo detailing a technical team’s recent progress into this style. I made a mistake in forwarding that, and now it’s going viral through that technical team. That made me uncomfortable. It made me SQUIRM. Which is the simple secret to virile viral marketing.

The goal of viral marketing is to motivate individuals to pass something on – a video, an email, whatever – against their better judgement. SQUIRM means “Something Quite Uncomfortable Is Really Motivating.” Use it as a test for anything you want to go viral. In the first viral video I ever saw, a cat got caught on a ceiling fan and spun around. The camera panned out and you saw that they were filming this on a Nokia phone. I’m SURE there was discussion about the SPCA, about possible backlash, about “this is just a little too far.” Marketers at Nokia were uncomfortable about sending this out. They squirmed. But they got past it. If they hadn’t, I’d never have seen it.

If you don’t squirm a little, it’s probably cute. Cute’s nice. Cute’s not viral. Viral doesn’t have to be offensive, as the Blendtec videos show. But when they came up with that idea, somebody squirmed. Somebody said “We want to be known for high-quality kitchen equipment, not for an iPhone in a freakin’ blender.” They got past it.

Squirm. Get past it. Go viral. I wanted to change ‘virile’ in the headline to the blander ‘successful’ to make sure all are included and none are offended. I didn’t.

*For the record, Dell guys, the video you had to pull – the one where the Mac guy has the lotion in his man bag – was MUCH funnier. As an old Dell guy, I’d love a copy (hint). Stevie J’s lawyers, lighten up!

Six Sigma Marketing Stagnation

February 21, 2008

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We made a mistake at work today. It was painful. I do not like pain and neither do my team members.

Sales mistakes are binary. The phone number you are dialing is right or wrong. You either make the sale or you do not.

Marketing mistakes are probabilistic. Do an e-mail marketing campaign of any size and you’ll make a mistake, hitting a current customer with an aggressive acquisition offer. Draw 3MM unique visitors to your Web site and a few of them are guaranteed to be looking for something off-the-wall. The bigger your success, the more mistakes you make.

You can manage down the size of that email list. If you manage down Web traffic to nothing but direct load, you won’t have any strays. You won’t feel pain, but you won’t do much business either. Doing nothing is pain-free. Six sigma marketing stagnation.

Guys, thanks for stretching enough to make a mistake. But let’s not do that same one again. Ever. Really.

But don’t confuse “don’t make that mistake ever again” with “don’t make any mistakes.” One route leads to continual improvement, the other leads to stagnation. Gimme a couple sigmas and let’s roll the dice.

Thought for the day: Do consultants from Hell bear the mark of 666 sigma?

Cagematch in Corporate America: Actions vs Activities

February 20, 2008

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If yesterday’s post on the Johnny Rotten-inspired ‘action’ riff on ZenHabits seems unfinished, it probably is. The great thing about this mode of communication is I can be as craftsmanlike or as offhand as I feel like being at the moment.

On further reflection, I see a repeating motif in Corporate America: our customers and market demand actions, managers deliver activities. Here’s the difference: Actions get things done. Activities involve doing stuff. Preferably lots of stuff, with status meetings and Powerpoint dashboards where those activities are coded red, yellow or green with arrows that point up, down or sideways. (Possibly we could have the colors flash on and off at different rates to encode yet one more bit of vital status-indicating detail in one cell of a table).

Nowhere is this more evident than in what’s known as a ‘Gap Plan’. Sometimes it’s called a GAP Plan by folks who must think it’s an acronym. (For what? Get Activities Percolating?) The Gap Plan is a response to an organization on a trajectory to miss a goal. That shortfall is quantified (‘we’re going to miss by $5MM’) and that amount is the Gap. Management collaborates to identify activities that will make up the shortfall – we’ll get $1.5MM from our ‘why wait, buy now’ promotion, $700K from doubling down on an an upgrade plan, etc. If you’re a Zen-master Gap Planner, you’ll have your analysts do waterfall charts like the above (thanks to Excel champ Jon Peltier, whose Website saved me multiple times when I was in data-geek roles).

Does this activity about activities get us anywhere? Clearly you’ve missed the point. It gets us a PowerPoint to share with senior management. They review it and get the point: these guys are busy with LOTS of activities! Everyone now feels that Something Has Been Done.

If those activities are executed and make up the shortfall, great. The problem is this: during the entire exercise the focus is on the Gap Plan, not on actually filling the gap. What would happen if senior management, instead of demanding a PowerPoint, said this:

“Just like I do, you see that we are on track to miss the goal by $5MM. I don’t want to slow you down during a critical time, so please don’t spend a second making a PowerPoint about this. Instead, tell me three things so that I can communicate to my boss/VCs/shareholders/the Street:

  • What actions are we taking right now to reach the goal?
  • Where do you think we’ll actually land?
  • What can I do to help? How can I support the sales force? Who are the critical customers or prospects I should call? Is there some pending product enhancement or fix that would help that I could use executive muscle to get the organization to deliver ahead of time?”

This has already been a long post and I have some actions to get to today. Is your day filled with actions or activities today?

Six-Letter Success

February 19, 2008

The literal-minded among you are saying “but wouldn’t that be succes?”

Nope, referring to a post from zenhabits. Any blog post that starts with Johnny Rotten in full snarl is going to get my attention. Great start to a post, and the follow-through lives up to it.