Friday, April 29, 2005

Direct Marketing is No. 1 for 50 Consecutive Years

Rather than duplicating my post at MarcomBlog, link to it from here. I think you might find some of the facts about direct mail useful in your future planning. Don't count DM out of the media mix -- most marketers are still investing in DM and getting the rewards.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

You Are What You ARE
(and not just what you SAY you are)

This article was just emailed to me by a colleague and I have no way of helping you link back to the original that was written by Steve Hurley. The credit is his, and his message is so important that I felt obliged to post it here.

It falls into the focus of this blog … contextual marketing. How can you possibly be in context with your customers when all you are doing is trying to fake them out?

Thanks, Steve.

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In 1996, Bill Parcells, then coach of the New England Patriots, was asked if his 0-3 football team was in fact better than the record indicated. "You are what you are," Parcells shot back, a simple but surprisingly perceptive response. "We may look like a Super Bowl team on paper, but we're playing like a 0-3 team. And that's just not good enough."

The more we learn about solutions, the more we're convinced that you can't become a solutions company by simple declaration or by looking like one on paper. It is not something you announce; it's something you are. You can't simply tell your client base that you are committed to delivering solutions that have a tangible impact on their business operations, and then run a business-as-usual operation. As the old Nike ad campaign pointed out, you have to "just do it."

Many companies are working hard at placing a solutions veneer on their old, traditional business model. Their marketing collateral and Websites prattle on about solutions, but the sales forces still hawk products and discrete services. They create new offerings but fail to consult with clients during the process. They claim solutions to be a corporate priority but have no mechanisms in place to measure them. And they hound account executives to sell larger, big-ticket items from the solutions cupboard but maintain a commission structure that still favors services or products.

How do you know if you have truly begun to operate as a solutions company, or at least started to turn the corner? Focus on how your employees behave—not on what they say or which solutions titles or positions exist on paper.

Nikki Fisher, an ITSMA senior advisor who works extensively on solutions, has identified some telltale signs that demonstrate you are making progress on your solutions journey:

• A lone-ranger sales rep who has made President's Club every year by being an aggressive "closer" now leads a cross-functional team that collaborates with customers to craft customized solutions.

• A subject matter expert who is an ace on features and benefits emphasizes the ways in which the company's integrated solution will create ROI for a specific client.

• A marketing collateral wizard creates industry-specific sales tools that help account teams understand customer needs and then connect the dots with company offerings.

• A project manager renowned for on-time implementations ensures that delivery teams focus first on quantifiable business results.

• Partnerships previously developed for technological and financial synergies are now based equally on cultural fit and the ability to create unified customer teams.

Companies truly committed to mastering solutions focus much more on changing reality than reorienting rhetoric. Marketing has a central role to play in the solutions transformation, but ultimately your customers and prospects will judge you by what you do and how you do it, not what you say. No matter what your marketing messages, at the end of the day "you are what you are."

—Steve Hurley,

Marketing Arrogance Gets Curiouser and Curiouser

LOUIS HAU of the St. Petersburg Times took Verizon Communications Inc. chairman and chief executive Ivan Seidenberg to task for his remarks that have left tongues wagging in technology circles.

My summation of the comments is that Seidenberg basically called cell phone users overly-demanding idiots. We might be overly-demanding. But not idiots.

His PR staff is trying to calm the waters, but even Freudian Slips are telling.

When the CEO has this attitude about customers, what kind of service might you as a customer expect?

Marketing Motto: Love 'em or Leave 'em

John Winsor had a post on Corante about customer love. A marketing executive for an outdoor products company was surprised to find that he was uncomfortable with customers who could drop $500 for some gear and that he "loved" a young river guide who came to the store to return his gear.

The story taught me first to read more carefully before I send comments back to a blog writer ... (I got his story wrong in my first reading, and my comment missed the mark). But it still led me to the same conclusion regarding the marketing executive's haunting question about corporate love:

This story is at the basis for why so many companies struggle now that the customer is in charge. It turns out that customers all along were just a means to an end. Profit. We didn’t really care and it showed in a thousand little ways. We wrote into our company vision statements that we put customers first. But we acted differently. Now the shift. Those that fail to make it will be revealed and succumb to the marketplace.

You can spend a few million dollars on CRM software and never be a company that cares about your customers. The few million just exposes you more quickly as a fraud. When we get to the point that we truly love our customers, we will become more relevant to their needs. And they will love us in return.

This marketing executive would do better finding a job with a company that serves river guides so he could "love" them and provide them products and services that are relevant to their needs. Or as another commentator to Winsor's blog posting, maybe the marketing executive should refocus on river guides as an audience he could love -- develop products for them and be proud of who he is and what he does.

Corporate love ... the act of truly caring about your customer ... is at the basis of contextual marketing.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

P&G Collaborates to Create
Contextually Relevant Products

One of my favorite newsletters is Trendwatching. The current issue catches a great example of the world’s best marketing organization getting very contextual with the outside world. The marketer is Procter & Gamble. About five years ago they launched a program called Connect + Develop. The goal is to enable P&G to be known as the company that collaborates with the world outside its walls better than any other company – especially when it comes to developing new products that are more and more relevant to the consumer.

P&G’s CEO A. G. Laffley: “I want us to be the absolute best at spotting, developing and leveraging relationships with best-in-class partners in every part of our business. In fact, I want P&G to be a magnet for the best-in-class. The company you most want to work with because you know a partnership with P&G will be more rewarding than any other option available to you.”

The results so far? Everything from Swiffer Wet Jet, Olay Daily Facials, Crest Whitestrips & Night Effects to Mr. Clean Autodry, Kandoo baby wipes and Lipfinity. (Source: Tech Central Station, Industry Week.). These are all products that would have been unlikely to surface in the “old” Procter. But they, better than most, have learned how to be contextually relevant to their customers.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Business Week Posts a Warning to Non-Blogging Companies

Susan Gardner posted a link to an overview about blogging at Business Week Online. The "old" news here is that yet one more credible business publication has issued confirmation of blogging's role as a corporate resource. The "new" news is that such a credible source about business communications has actually issued a warning to get on the bandwagon or as they say, "catch you later."

Business Week warns "Blogs Will Change Your Business ... Look past the yakkers, hobbyists, and political mobs. Your customers and rivals are figuring blogs out. Our advice: Catch up...or catch you later."

If you're not aware of Susan, she's the author of "Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Direct Mail is Far from Dead

Tara Smith challenged the readers of Marcom Blog: "Given the obnoxious amount of spam out there and low e-mail click-through rates…is it possible direct mail will make a comeback?"

Perhaps I am running counter-culture. I never noticed direct mail disappearing. While it is now surrounded by email and other electronic media, DM remains an essential part of the marketing mix; as essential as advertising, public relations, email, the corporate website.

What should be dead is not the medium, but the poor use of the medium. DM like many other communications media is sorely abused. When that happens, the message hits the trashcan within 2 seconds and we have then wasted our marketing budget.

The important thing as marketing counselors is to help our companies know when to use what mix of communications media to achieve the goals within the budgets. Direct mail plus telemarketing has always been a powerful one-two punch.

Regrettably, much of it is poorly conceived and poorly targeted with totally irrelevant messages and offers that would inspire no one to take action. The challenge we all have is to master the combination of techniques we have at hand, do them exceptionally well, make them contextually relevant and, when possible, entertaining or informative (or both).

I think as counselors we should be very, very careful before we knock any communications medium — even if we don’t like to get them in our mailbox or on our TV or radio. Just make the message contextually relevant to a precisely selected target audience and the medium will perform.

It is one of the reasons I have challenged Jackie Huba at Church of the Customer not long ago on the issue of pre-movie advertising at theaters. Jackie, and many others, felt the theater is one place we go for entertainment. We paid for our seat and deserve not to be pitched while sitting there. My perspective is that it is no different than driving down a highway, turning on a radio or TV show, renting a movie, or opening the mailbox. All are legitimate media.

Now, at the same time, I will profess, and profess loudly, that opt-in media are far more effective. The targeted customer has agreed to accept our messages. If we become non-relevant or if we lose our focus on serving the customer, then the opt-in invitation will be removed. So it keeps us much more centered on the customer's perspective.

But whether intrusive or invitational, I hope we as marketers can see the value of all media to help our companies sell the goods and services we offer. The right target profile. The right message. The right offer. The right touchpoints with the right media mix.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Contextual Communications Keys on Relevance

Contextual communications reflect the realities and idiosyncrasies of the targeted customer. Contextual communications leverage off of the human quirks of their audience. The relevant perspective is that how you communicate is more critical to revenue generation, customer acquisition and customer loyalty than are your back end processes.

Back office is important but unless it improves communications it can only save you money. It can’t make you money. It’s pretty simple: if choices are presented to customers in the right way you improve the odds on their making the decision you want them to make, The trick is to enter the dialogue from the optimum context and, with a clear understanding of where you are in that context, to control the conversation relative to the context.

Structure your communications models in a way that treats customer relevance as a high priority.

Alter your company’s transactional messages so that they are contextual and build the relationship not simply talk tat the customer.

Understand that every message contains implicit as well as explicit information and make sure that its supports the objectives of the communication.

Asking a customer to do something is much more likely to elicit an interaction than not. Even if their response to the requested action is negative, it at least brings out the barrier and provides an entry point for identifying it and eliminating it in future.

Contextual communications are by definition 1:1 communications. They play to the customer’s ego, imply that he or she is important enough to warrant that extra touch on your part. In a word, they get favorable attention for your message much the same reason that you are likely to pay more attention to someone who calls you by your name than you would someone who essentially says, “Hey you!”

And how can you get the maximum benefit out of your contextualization? By acting in a way that affirms your concern and interest in the customer; by responding with the product or service change, delivery preference or other specific that the customer has indicated that they prefer. It comes from walking the walk not just talking the talk.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Send Me Someone Who Can Write

I was recently asked if I was a marketer or a writer. Fair question. And the answer points to a skillset sorely lacking in the business world.

I am not a wordsmith though I do smith words. I am perhaps a writer with insights into marketing. More precisely, I am a marketer who can write. And there are unfortunately very few of us in corporatedom.

The business world is full of marketers who are good strategists that cannot shape their thoughts into a decent and convincing proposal. Or who have any credentials to mangle the words of the writers that work for them.

As the CEO of a direct marketing agency for 20 years, I was always astounded at how hard it was to find good writers. Design schools crank out graphics people in large numbers. We could always find designers. But writers are left to find their own way. English majors disdain the world of business. Journalism majors never quite understand the world of business. And sadly, most business majors never learn how to write. Recruiting writers was always the hardest task I had when I was in the agency world.

Writers who know marketing, or marketers who can write … I’ll take either one and be happy about it.

Years ago, there was an ad for International Paper. I still remember the headline: "Send me a (man) who can write."

This ad demonstrates two things: First, finding business people who can write has always been a challenge. Second, the fact that this ad was so personally relevant to me that I can remember it 30 years later proves the power of contextual marketing.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Top Ten Marketing Trends for Next Decade

Larry Chase, author of Web Digest for Marketers, has posted his Top Ten Trends for the Next Ten Years. Without stealing all of Larry's insights, here is the summary. You can see them for yourself by subscribing to his newsletter, one of the most useful collections of links to tools for marketers that exists anywhere.

1. Pay Per Call Rings In: Having 1-to-1 contact with a prospect live on the phone is so much more likely to result in a sale.
2. Feed Marketing Flourishes: Where there are ears and especially eyeballs, marketers are never too far behind.
3. Email Marketing Will Survive: Sp@m issues will recede dramatically, because they have to. Too much is at stake.
4. Agent, Personal Agent: Watch for the growth of "agent software" to help you sift through the morass of online information.
5. Reverb Marketing, In Stereo: This will be the new definition of what media planners call "Road Blocking".
6. Blogs Go Multimedia: Blogs are obviously here to stay.
7. TVIP Adds Interactivity: But don't expect TV on the Net to look and act like the TV you see on your television screen.
8. Commercial Content, On Demand: Messages from marketers need to be so appealing that the audience actually requests the message.
9. Publishing Faces Tectonic Shifts:Research is already showing that many people in their 20s are not picking up the newspaper habit the way their parents did.
10. Direct Marketers Will Take Over the Internet: Oops, this has already happened, but not the way I predicted 10 years ago.

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