Saturday, November 04, 2006

This Blog Has Moved to a New Location

It is time for me to take my blogging in a somewhat different direction: The Perfect Customer Experience.

This is where I believe the concept of contextual marketing has evolved in the current economy.

It is still all about relevance to customer needs. But with a new emphasis on the experience that we as marketers are creating for our customers.

I hope you will move over with me to my new blog ... all the content on this blog is now on the new blog. So head on over to The Perfect Customer Experience.

The URL is: http://contextrules.typepad.com/transformer/

Thanks for your readership. Enjoy life.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Thanks for All Your Emails!

Gosh, apparently many of you noticed I was not blogging lately and sent me emails asking what was up.

Well, actually, I am just really, really busy right now.

Spring rains have me cutting my lawn twice a week, the gardens are full of weeds so tall I had to give some of them names. Work is really busy at the moment and I have to pay the bills. But most of all I have my first grandson now in his eighth week ... what a wonderful distraction.

I will try to be back to blogging around the first week of June.

Now that so many of you have identified yourselves in your emails to me, I will get much pushier about encouraging comments to my postings so we can all learn from one another.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

It Must be True ... it's in the IBM Report

I was truly shocked the other day to learn that there were more computer chips produced last year than grains of rice harvested. That sits up there on the Believe it Or Not list. But cap it off with the fact that the chips cost less on average than the rice.

That gives you an idea of how technology is impacting everything we do. What we're really marketing these days (unless you are selling grains of rice) apparently are computer chips. And just when we are approaching the limits for how thin a slice of silicon can be slivered, along comes nanotechnology. It appears that Moore's Law is still safe. And it appears that all of us better get better and better at marketing computer chips -- big ones and nano ones.

Where Will Your Next Big
Marketing Idea Come From?

Breakthrough thinking is a challenge. We get mired down in "the way we do things around here" and some of our toughest problems persist, starved of new ideas.

I ran into a post by Bryan Coffman with a great example of an idea generation technique similar to one we used at my agency for years, adapted from Doug Hall's Eureka Methodology. It is useful at times to look outside your organization for a stimulus that enables you to see a solution that was totally invisible to you. Using stimulus materials was a basic concept of our ideation sessions. Put two random objects on a table and use them to stir the brain cells.

The Hairpin Curve

For example, if the problem is finding ways to improve sales, the problem solver might select a concept at random like a hairpin and put that together with the problem and see what emerges as those two concepts are held together in thought.
  1. Hairpins keep hair in place. Maybe we need to put salespeople in place at key accounts.
  2. Hairpins have those little waves on one side. Why? Maybe they help hold the hair and keep the hairpin from sliding out. Maybe our sales people need three or four key holds that they can use to keep accounts.
  3. There's another type of hairpin that operates like a clothespin--squeeze one end to open the jaws and then let go so the jaws can clamp down on the hair.
On and on the ideas can flow.

The process has, according to Coffman, two side benefits:

First, the people engaging in the process use the stimulus material to force themselves to think differently about their challenge. The stimulus helps open up new domains in the solution space.

Second, along the way, we frequently experience lots of ideas that lead to nowhere. But if wecan become comfortable with that feeling, eventually we will let go of a lot of the fear and tension that inhibits creativity. That eventually sets up the environment for a creative idea to surface.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Small Ideas Bigger than Big Ideas

If you are wondering where the emerging markets lie, look no further than the one focused on small ideas -- nanotechnology.

'Nanotechnology' is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale.

It is a haven for clever marketing innovators. Business giants are looking at concepts that are built with atomic precision -- Procter & Gamble, Boeing, Merck, Kraft, Ford, the list is long and getting longer.

To gauge nanotech’s impact on global businesses and their readiness for change, Lux Research analyzed 1,331 of the world’s largest companies. These corporations put $3.2 billion into nanotech R&D in 2005 and earned $32 billion in revenues from nanotech-related products. So this is not science fiction. It is happening already and the leaders are making money.

Among Lux Research’s findings: Nanotechnology will impact different industries in radically different ways. In high-impact industries like pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, and aerospace, companies like Merck and Boeing will develop wholly new product lines, find cost reduction/performance improvements on the order of 20% or more, and need to develop new processes for innovations like drug-device hybrids and roll-to-roll printable electronic devices. Even in medium-impact sectors like automotive and food, companies like Ford and Kraft are seeing large incremental improvements that will be felt at the bottom line as nanotechnology makes hybrid vehicles run longer and functional foods deliver more nutrition.

It offers better built, longer lasting, cleaner, safer, and smarter products for the home, for communications, for medicine, for transportation, for agriculture, and defense. Nanotech offers not just better products, but a vastly improved means of production. The vision extends to nanofactories that make new nanofactories at the same low cost and at the same rapid speed as they make products -- a biological capability that brings with it exponential productivity.

Companies need to start today to develop new strategies for R&D, product development, manufacturing, intellectual property management, marketing, supplier relationships. Cincom Systems has been at work developing technologies to assist nanotech businesses. When it comes to big ideas, think small.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Marketing in Times Square Gets Very Personal

When billboards begin actively interacting with passersby, you know the marketing world is beginning to understand that it is time to change the way we converse with clients.

Nationwide Insurance is the latest brand to speak to consumers through an interactive billboard located in New York's Times Square. Nike, Mountain Dew and Time Magazine launched similar campaigns in the past.

The Nationwide promotion is part of their "Life Comes At You Fast" campaign.

Heightening the contextual relevance of the interactive billboard, consumers can submit their own stories online for possible inclusion -- the chance to be a "star" in Times Square.
"How did life come fast at you? Send us your story. If it stands out, we'll
post it LIVE in Times Square. Do something that says, 'hey, world ... look at
how fast life came at me.' Like tell your husband you're pregnant."


More than 2,000 consumer moments will be broadcast on the billboard during the Nationwide campaign. A live Webcam runs on the submission site, giving participants a view of other Times Square stars. And if you really like stress, you can let the sound effects emanating from the traffic ripple from your computer speaker.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Marketing by Vision ... or by Research?

Where's your comfort level? Entrepreneurs often innovate on their gut instincts of what the market needs without ever checking what customers in that market are looking for. Research tends to lead toward incremental growth while entrepreneurs seek explosive growth. By one account only 60% of such initiatives succeed and this number has been consistent for, believe it or not, several decades.

Such new business models are not for everyone -- it calls for a high risk tolerance, exceptional creativity and comfort with the "irrational" process of new business innovation. The critical difference between successes and failures turns out to be the team leading the project.

1. The more highly creative group did more projects.

2. The more highly creative group branched the projects more frequently (redirected or significantly "morphed" them).

3. The more highly creative group was responsible for identifying concepts that, when later commercialized by the business, made far greater profits: $197.5 million, vs. $15.2 million.

Carving out successes calls for a value proposition that is distinctively unique -- in a category of its own. Being different is more important than being better. Better leads to incremental growth. Different leads to explosive growth ... if everything else also lines up.

This strategy must be right, but that's not enough.

In fact, it may not even be the most important aspect of success. Speed to market is essential for radical innovators. And execution is the real graveyard for most failures. The company where I work has had its share of great successes. But the failures tend to occur because the team was wrong and because the team failed to understand how to maximize the great idea.

The unique value proposition must be built on real value for the marketplace. But the stream of activities to deliver the value to the market is the chopping block. The first 90 days of a launch are most critical. Know exactly what you must do to deliver value to early adopters in this time frame. Break down the natural barriers between marketing and salespeople, between company and channel partners, between sellers and buyers. The biggest cause for 90-day failure is a failure to communicate and align resources to effectively deliver value through the network.

So. Be different. Be focused on the value proposition. Be first. Be aligned. Move fast.

Making 6 Figures is Just a Game

Linden Labs' Second Life, is an online game that demonstrates clearly how this new market is exploding. Remember my previous post about user-generated content as one of the attributes of Web 2.0 businesses?

Second Life is a privately-owned, subscription-based massively-multiplayer online real-life game (MMORLG) created in 2003 by San Francisco-based Linden Lab. Founded by former RealNetworks CTO Philip Rosedale, Second Life gives its users (referred to as "residents") tools to add to and edit its world and participate in its economy. The majority of the content in the Second Life world is resident-created. Linden Lab actively promotes the concept that residents retain the intellectual property rights to objects they create (although they are required to offer Linden Lab an open license to it

In Second Life, there isn't actually anything in particular to do -- it's an unscripted game. That means new players can get lost in the confusion. Because there's no central plot, users have to create things to do, which has opened the platform up to commerce.

But here's the incredible thing. Second Life is creating a marketplace where players buy stuff to play with. Linden dollars, as the game's currency is called, trade at 300 to one U.S. dollar, and users are encouraged to use them to make things. You can buy property and build a home or a store, but you can also use the technology to customize the things you make, be it a storefront, furniture or clothing, which gives people the opportunity to cash in on their creativity.

Some of the more successful virtual businesses (Second Life has over 170,000 players) earn six figures or more and are now hiring real-world executives to manage explosive growth.

How fun is that?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Celebs Must Love Marketing ... I mean LOVE!

Did you ever wonder what it costs to get a celeb on your marketing payroll?

Adrants and Adweek have listed the Top Ten Deals. Here you can marvel how a single celeb can, in one day, make more money than you will see in your entire life.

1. Catherine Zeta-Jones, T-Mobile: $20 million
2. Angelina Jolie, St. John: $12+ million
3. Nicole Kidman, Chanel No. 5: $12 million
4. Jessica Simpson, Guthy-Renker: $7.5 million
5. Gwyneth Paltrow, EsteLauder: $6+ million
6. Charlize Theron, Dior: $6 million
7. Julia Roberts, Gianfranco: $5 million
8. Brad Pitt, Heineken: $4 million
9. Scarlett Johansson, L'Oreal: $4 million
10. Penelope Cruz, L'Oreal: $4 million

For those who wish to wallow in the industry's obsession with celebrity, AdWeek will have a full report on Monday

Marketing and the Online Customer Experience

Let's assume that people who visit our websites from search are mission-driven. If their mission is not accomplished, and accomplished quickly, visitors will seek an alternative, and these metrics may turn out to be a red herring.

We cannot put up eBarriers to enabling visitors to accomplish their missions. Instead, get them as fast as possible to relevant information. Most sites I visit do not do this for me. I sit there and scratch my head: what were they thinking when they designed this page? Surely not me. Do you get the same experience?

You click on an article in your Google search, or on a Google Ad ... do you get to the information you expected to get, or are you treated to a salespitch, or are you dumped on the Home Page with no idea how to get to the information you were looking for? Let's Keep It Simple. Give them what they want and then motivate them to go where you want them to go ... not the other way around.

Is Marketing Worthy? Is Sales Worthy?

There's a natural rivalry between marketing and sales, but both silos are (or ought to be) doing the same thing. Marketing might be a bit more focused on a consistent brand message and sales might be more focused on engaging specific prospects. But neither can succeed without the other. Too many in one of the silos want to take all the credit for successes and point at the other silo when there are failures. Better, by far, to go the whole journey together.

A few statistics:

The average tenure for a CMO is just 23 months according to the CMO Council.

The collateral produced by marketing almost never gets used in the field ... 50% to 80% according to the American Marketing Association is wasted and the figure is up to 90% wasted according to Frost & Sullivan.

The typical sales rep spends 40% of his or her time customizing or reworking brochures and presentations but most reps are not trained to do this well.

The ideal brand message has four components:
  1. What we do
  2. How we provide value
  3. How we do this uniquely
  4. Evidence to support the claim

This brand message should be delivered with clarity, with consistency across all touchpoints, and with relevance to deliver compelling motivation. And yet, according to the CMO Council, 75% of marketers indicate their companies cannot achieve this requirement.

What must change to improve the effectiveness of marketing messaging that is delivered in the field?

Start with a discovery session to learn what content and messaging that reps will actually use. Make sure everyone on the team knows exactly how your company provides value to customers ... value that customers will actually find valuable. Get this down to the elevator speech that everyone can buy into. Then make it easy to modify this messaging in the field while adhering to brand consistency. Make it easier for sales agents to get at the best matrix of content assets for use in a particular sales situation.

If we do this well, it will dramatically reduce the time that reps need to spend getting ready to engage and expand the time they spend in front of prospects. The content will get better, will get used. The value proposition will convince prospects they need to do business with you.

Or, we can all keep doing this the same as we are doing it today ... and have 50 - 90% of the effort wasted.

Sun Microsystem -- A Marketing Death Star

As you may have read, the CEO of Sun after serving as CEO for 22 years has just passed the baton to a new CEO.

The media hint that Scott McNealy did so because the company is mired in debt and has had no profit since 2002.

The new CEO Jonathon Schwarz had this comment:

Schwartz said Sun will spend the next 90 days assessing various aspects of its business and finding ways to become more efficient, and he hinted that some of the company's less-profitable units or products would be redirected or eliminated. He said his vision for running the company would not be dramatically different from McNealy's, saying that the company plans to continue to invest in research and development and "intercepting demand" for the huge growth of computing.

Pay special attention to "some of the company's less-profitable units or products would be redirected or eliminated." That's the hardest, but most essential profit management task a CEO has ... resources must be directed to create unique value for customers. Where you cannot create such unique value, get the hook!

Java software was created by Sun Microsystems, and it’s likely that Java will eventually be seen for what it really is -- an inferior application development environment that takes more engineers to do the same task and more time to do the same task than Smalltalk. Java might be McNealy's ultimate legacy but it will be one that sooner or later goes down in flames as new and better object-oriented technologies come along. Until then, IS department managers would be smart to take another look at Smalltalk -- less errors, faster time to profit, less cost for engineering.

Jini is Sun's relatively new software that enables devices to configure themselves into a network, with minimal fuss by the people using the gadgets. Instead, Jini-enabled devices automatically send out signals telling the network that they contain Jini software (a process called automatic polling), and perform various tasks with little additional human intervention. This one has some potential for delivering unique value -- but get off the Java train as fast as you can and get more work done for less investment.

Marketing Metrics: Hide or Seek

Jeanne Jennings at ClickZ wrote this morning about predicting marketing results. Her comments reminded me of how difficult it is to get marketing managers to go out on the limb and post expectations and anticipated metrics before a campaign is launched. To me it was just a built-in part of the process, but in 20 years of working with many different clients at big companies and small, I could count on one hand the number of times a campaign was launched with measurable goals.

Jeanne lists the following reasons:


  1. Some feel if the projections aren't met it reflects poorly on their abilities as a marketer.
  2. Others even fear they'll lose their job if they put an estimate of response on paper, then don't meet it.
  3. Some have trouble with the assumptive aspect of projections; they aren't comfortable "guestimating" figures they don't have.
  4. Many cite lack of time as a reason for not projecting, as in "I don't have time to do projections, I just have to get these e-mails out." The problem is activity doesn't always translate in productivity; a comparable or higher response rate may be achievable with fewer e-mails or fewer hours.
  5. Then there are folks who have a more creative, qualitative focus; they shy away from anything having to do with spreadsheets and numbers.
  6. Another big reason for not doing projections is there's no tracking or reporting of actual results by e-mail campaign, so you won't ever really be able to tie projections back to reality with 100 percent certainty.
Now, I certainly don't want to incriminate anyone, but if any of these six rationalizations are floating around at your shop, make a resolution to stomp them out as fast as possible. Without measurable objectives, you can never get better.

Look for industry benchmarks. Look for case histories. Look at the end results that are needed to achieve desired revenue goals. Jeanne suggests Clickz Stats. You can also find some good stats at Larry Chase's site. Reports you can purchase are available at the Direct Marketing Association site and MarketingSherpa site.

At least make the next campaign a starting point ... make your best assumptions as to the metrics you can achieve. Then run the campaign and report back the findings. These findings become your benchmark.

The next campaign should be aimed at improving these results -- dramatically. I say dramatically because bigger measurable goals will cause you to think through the kinds of changes that will move you from safe harbor into uncharted territory. Learn from this -- you might back off some of the changes or you might institute new changes. Keep measuring and keep learning and keep improving.

A Fast Primer on Marketing Touchpoints

Our portfolio of marketing touchpoint opportunities is expanding rapidly so it's smart to keep a few basics in mind as we tool down the road:

WEBINARS
A webinar does not need to be expensive -- 2 to 3K should be plenty.
Ideally, customers should be the guest speakers -- they can validate the value message as well as make it compelling through their first hand knowledge.
These should be regular and frequent
They should be recorded and made available on your website.
Follow up with each registrant within 72 hours.

GOOGLE AdWords
Regarding Keywords - all ways choose these from a user perspective.
These words are frequently far less expensive than industry "buzz-words" or technogibberish.
Don't just drive people to your homepage. The magic is in the landing page.

NEWSLETTERS
Should be content based and establish an onging relationship with customers/prospects.
The goal should be to help the readers do their job better.
Recommended frequency is once per month.
Build and use the user database and continuously validate the database.
There should be a call to action.

BLOGS
Must be kept fresh.
Tendency is for BLOGs to get stale.

WHITEPAPERS
Over 90% of technology buyers say this is their preferred offer.
However, they are inundated with whitepaper offers.
Use only if they are truely good.

POD CASTS
Great for 3 minute messages.
Great for collecting data on users.

WEBSITE
This must be a marketing platform not a product platform.
Should generate decent leads by tracking downloads.
Websites should feature continuous surveys.

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