Sunday, July 31, 2005

More Marketing in the Path of Controversy

Joe Jaffe really did it this time. He challenged the mighty and almost sacred :30 TV commercial at Jaffe Juice.

The traditional 30-second TV spot has outlived its usefulness, according to Joe Jaffe, author of the recently released book "Life After the 30-Second Spot." But that doesn't mean creative directors should clear their desks. Instead, they have to do their part to "retrain consumers to embrace advertising again."
Eliminate the Waste
"The 30-second spot as a tool is linear and inefficient and has lost its relevancy," said Mr. Jaffe, who is on a multi-year tour discussing alternative advertising and marketing strategies with creative crowds. "Consumers are not as dumb as they used to be. For years we have been duping consumers to believe our lies, and they don't believe them anymore."
Thanks, Joe, for stepping into the path of controversy.

Marketing Theory:
Broken Windows

A fascinating theory explored at BusinessPundit -- how broken windows can kill a business.

It's sort of "death by a thousand strokes."

The path to reversal ... fix the windows, one at a time. Get the basics right. Make the results transparent. Hold everyone accountable. Reward performance that matters.

But whatever you do, don't let a broken window go unfixed.

Marketing Strength through Unity

The biggest barrier to successful marketing is not lack of budget. The real destructive force is a lack of unity behind company vision and strategy. This invisible enemy creates internal conflict, teams going in different directions, campaigns that generate leads, the leads going neglected by reps who don't feel the leads were relevant to the reality in their territories.

Two posts I wrote on Cincom's Simplicity Blog address the issues. The first inspired by a special report "Transformation at P&G" by McKinsey on the transformation at Procter & Gamble. The second, "Unity is the First Step Toward Simplification," an article inspired by a sermon by Pastor Tom Lipsey at my church last week. Together, hopefully they will get us all thinking about the need for internal alignment.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Marketing with Controversy

Stepping into the path of controversy has always been one of my favorite strategies.

It is always good for people to take notice of your brand, and awfully hard to do it in the crowded marketplace.

Sam Adams beer brand has done just that as reported by the Boston Globe.

It all started this month when Boston Beer Co. president Jim Koch, the maker of Samuel Adams, released his Beer Drinker's ''Bill of Rights." One major tenet: ''Beer shall be offered in bottles, not cans, so that no brew is jeopardized with the taste of metal."

That, says the Globe, set off a marketing buzz war with brewers who package their beer in cans.

Blog Action at Cincom Systems

Never a company to be left behind when it comes to marketing innovation, Cincom Systems where I work has launched a new company blog initiative. We want to put a human face on the company and show off the many individual talents that work to produce "software to simplify complex business processes."

You can access any of our blogs from our corporate website.

The Simplicity Blog is the flagship blog. The focus is how all business managers can create competitive advantage by simplifying processes. In addition to regular feature comments from Cincom CEO Tom Nies, there are currently 23 Cincom managers who will post thoughts on achieving business excellence. Additionally, we will feature a number of outside consultants, academics, and authors who will also share their insights. Dave Stein, author of How Winners Sell; Skip Press, noted screenwriter; and John Barry, whose definitive book on global offshoring -- are on tap to contribute thought-leadership to the blog.

In coming weeks we will also be offering our 36,000 subscribers to the highly acclaimed enewsletter, Expert Access, in blog format along with the opt-in newsletter format.

Cincom is also encouraging employees to begin blogging. Currently 7 have launched personal blogs -- using the Silt server and BottomFeeder aggregator applications developed by Cincom, using Cincom Smalltalk as the development environment. These blog applications illustrate the sheer power of Smalltalk because the programs were built rapidly and are easy to improve and maintain.

Courage for Marketing Transformation

I can still remember being in the office of a senior manager at P&G’s headquarters … I walked into his office where he was standing with his back to the door, starring out the window. “What’s up, John,” I asked. His reply was a bit shocking. “I’m just picturing myself standing here pitching $100 bills out the window at one a second and imagining how long it would take to equal the losses we are having on Brand X.” He knew he had to kill a product … one for which he was responsible.

That encounter is part of my posting on the Cincom Simplicity Blog, where I review a report by Christian Science Monitor on the business transformation that's been happening at P&G during the last five years since A. G. Lafley was named CEO.

Customer Service Right in My Backyard

I was just sitting here on my back patio reading a post by Bob Cargill about a direct mail campaign he received from Scotts Lawn a few years ago. The theme of the mailer was “Now the grass can be greener on your side.” I agree with Bob, that's a nice turn of a cliche ... and one that he remembered for several years until recently he hired Scotts to care for his lawn.

Then what to my wandering (or wondering?) eyes should appear around the corner of my house but the Scotts guy. He was getting ready to do my yard and wanted to know if there was anything that I wanted him to pay attention to. So we walked out front and I showed him a few strange weeds that were popping up and he agreed to put a special spray on them.

As an aside, I missed the Scotts mailer that Bob aluded to, but two years ago my neighbor's lawn was so distinctly greener than mine that I asked him what he used. He said he used a spreader to put down Scotts. Being a bit lazier, I hired the Scotts yard service so I can sit on the patio and blog while they make my lawn greener.

But it was the initiative that my Scotts guy took to walk around to the back and ask me about my needs that will keep Scotts coming back in the future. And yes, the yard is now just as green as my neighbor's yard.

It Turns Out that Marketing Is
Rocket Science and Art

All my career I've had to listen to people in other departments disparage marketing.

"Hey, dude, it ain't rocket science. Anybody with common sense can do that stuff."
Well, that might have been true back in the days of mass market advertising, but those days are gone forever. Now everything we do is driven off databases, with electronic content distribution, and CRM systems to manage the interactions, record the results and analyze the data. Then using the data, construct ever better strategies and campaigns. That's the rocket science part of our jobs these days.

But it does not eliminate the common sense, the creativity and the skill of seeing, hearing and responding. That's why despite all the CRM stuff going on in the back office, we must continue honing our intuitive marketing skills. These are what in the end will separate the good from the great and the great from the greatest.

Guess, I just needed that little pep talk to keep myself motivated today. Hope it stirred something in you, as well.

Contextual Marketing.
What and Why and How.

When you champion a cause at work, you get a lot of challenging questions, especially if your vision impacts how your enterprise does business. So I get a lot of challenges about contextual marketing. How is it different? It sounds too complicated. Can you really do that?

Contextual communications leverage off human behaviors, attitudes and desires more than straight-forward demographics. They dig deeper into the relationship than mass marketing can ever hope to achieve. The important mind-shift you need to undergo is that how you communicate is at least as important (and from my perspective more important) as all the back office processes when it comes to revenue generation objectives. Back office is important, but unless it improves communications it can only save you money … it cannot make you money.

The concept is simple. If you give customers messages and offers that are relevant to their hot buttons, you improve the odds of them listening to you, liking you and making the decision you want them to make. The trick is in the “how.”

When you have your target market database tuned to various persona types, you can send mailings and emails that are segmented by type. You can provide content options on your website. You can prepare your contact center agents for the right encounters by providing on-screen scripts.

Every communication will have the right tone of voice so that, for example, you can talk to high-deposit customers who are risk takers differently than high-deposit customers who have a conservative profile. You can talk to customers based on their own decision path and timetable. You can bring different solutions to each, with a greater likelihood that they will feel you understand their needs and can best solve their problems. Talk at the experience instead of about your products. Isn’t that they way you would prefer your vendors to talk to you?

1. Structure your communications models in a way that treats customer relevance as a high priority.
2. Alter your company’s transactional messages so that they are contextual and build the relationship not simply talk at the customer.
3. Design each communication as part of a dialogue soliciting information.
4. Understand that every message contains implicit as well as explicit information and make sure that it supports the objectives of the communication strategy.
5. Ask the customer to do something. This 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.

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.

Of course, the effectiveness of any of this depends on complete, accurate data. Failing that, your communication is open to being received with indifference, annoyance, or as an “invisible” object, “obviously not intended for me …”

Develop Marketing Messages
Around Behavior Clusters

Your customers are moving targets.

But one way to put them in 'still frame' is to look at their behaviors and define a message framework that goes up squarely against each cluster of behavior-types. As long as you are conversing against the customer's behavior model, your content will achieve pin-point relevance.

Here's the process I follow when developing a message framework:

Step 1 --

Action is to align on target audience needs and marketing objectives; the outcome is team consensus on measurable objectives. If you get Step 1 wrong, your goose is cooked. But achieving internal consensus is often like shadow boxing. Key managers for one reason or another have their own hidden agendas and agree in public but undermine the objectives as the process moves forward. The project leader must skillfully get all the cards on the table and motivate all stakeholders into consensus on measurable objectives for which they all take accountability.

Step 2 --

Analyze and score existing messages in current documents. This audit runs through existing brochures, presentations call center scripts, elevator speeches, etc., that are now put in front of customers. Underline each "core message" and chart them. Typically this will reveal that there is a wide variety of messages being sent to customers. It helps to see this in chart form, with numeric rankings to underscore the fact that there is no real message strategy. Everyone is doing their own thing and the brand equity is swirling down the drain.

Step 3 --

Gain buyer insights with 1-hour interviews using Rule of Ten to tell you when to stop gathering input. I prefer face-to-face interviews because this method tends to bring out the customer's needs, wants and expectations in their own vocabulary. First identify the personality clusters that most impact your business success. Then listen to customers from each personality cluster and notice how they describe their needs, wants and expectations. Look especially for emotional words. This cuts through all the in-bred jargon most of us live with inside the company. The Rule of Ten says that once you see a pattern across 10 individuals, you have arrived at a consensus that will not get better even if you interview 100 more. I'm not a big numbers person. I like to keep it simple and over the years my Rule of Ten has proven reliable. The trick however is to look for patterns by personality behavior type. If you define messages by ten customers who are "best value" buyers then you should be looking on the flip side for "best price" buyers. Compare the messages that appeal to each.

Steps 4 and 5 --

Develop and then test message platforms for each behavior cluster that you believe will impact the measurable objectives. Use plain English with few if any adjectives, no jargon, no superlatives. First write up a clear and simple description of the business you are in, from the customer's point of view. Next, describe how you uniquely bring value with this business ... this is your Value Statement. Lastly, develop the Proof Statement to describe how you can validate to your customers that you can deliver on the promised value. This framework, developed for each personality cluster, becomes the acid test that you use to evaluate all creative executions. Stay focused on the value you deliver instead of the features and benefits. One other group to test against is your internal team, especially those who tend to be opinion leaders -- you need to gain their consensus support or risk the liability that your message strategy will be undermined from the inside out.

Step 6 and 7 --

Turn your creative people lose. Have them execute creative across a variety of media: ads, direct mail, brochures, powerpoint presentations, call center scripts. Make sure the message is one that can be creatively powerful without wandering off into blind alleys. Then test by showing concept boards to your various personality clusters. Make sure that the targeted individuals can see both the creative impact and the underlying message.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

I did not promise this was easy work for it is not. But you will end up with a message framework that will guide success. If you don't achieve the success based on your initial measurable objectives, you at least have very specific process steps that you can back up to and analyze. This leads to a message strategy that stays fresh, relevant and focused on business success.

Marketing to "Personality Clusters"
Sharpens Impact of Each Campaign

Learning at the Hands of an Expert

Back in the early 70’s I worked for a brilliant promotion marketer, Mark Wiederschein. I was a young copywriter who could craft sentences well, but didn’t know how to drive a marketing strategy forward and didn’t yet realize the importance of writing to specific clusters of customer behavior.

Mark spent about a year patiently re-writing everything I submitted. Finally, the light went on. I saw clearly what he was teaching. Almost instantly the quality of my work got better. I wrote to the emotions and behaviors of specific clusters of people rather than to my concept of what the mass of customers wanted.

We created a fictional advisor for one of our clients. She talked to customer clusters like she really knew them because in a way she really did know them. The insights came from a series of one hour interviews with customers who met certain demographics, and we dug deeper below the demo’s into the needs, wants and expectations.

It was my first foray into one-to-one marketing; not at an individual level, but at a personality cluster level. The program had a tremendous impact on our client’s sales.

Taking the Lessons to Heart: Personality Marketing

Regrettably, three-months later Mark had a massive heart attack and passed from us. Six years later, after two stints directing marketing for a scientific chemical company and a home products company, I started my own agency. From the get-go, we installed Mark’s method for creating campaigns that targeted specific subsets of prospects, based on behavioral traits that we discovered in hour-long interviews.

The Rule of Ten

That’s when we put together another basic rule of Personality Marketing … The Rule of Ten. We discovered that as soon as we found a pattern within 10 targeted individuals, we could build a personality profile that would generally stand up well against much larger samples. We could call off the research phase when we could predict how various clusters would respond to our offers, based on behavioral insights.

Internalizing the Customer Behavior Clusters

We would take photos of people that were typical for each cluster and hang poster-sized reproductions on the walls throughout the conference rooms at our agency. These people starring down from the walls to us kept us aware of who we were marketing to. Our clients got similar posters. Our AEs would then send handwritten messages from people in each Personality Cluster to our clients … just to keep fresh in their heads how each cluster would act and how they would make decisions.

Years later, I began reading articles in the trade press describing what other marketers were describing as Persona Marketing. Like iron sharpening iron, personality marketing will improve the effectiveness of your marketing messages.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Power of Empathy

David Wolfe blogs about the power of empathy. You can certainly feel it when you imagine yourself in this ad. Being an expectant grandfather for the first time, maybe I should consider ... nah!

But empathy is an important resource for all of us marketers to utilize when communicating for our companies.

When you can actually feel what it's like to be your customer, then, as David points out, you would give second thought before installing an automatic phone answering system that prevents your customers from talking to a real person about their real problems. He points out that only one of the major airlines has refused to install these irritating systems -- only one -- and that one is the most profitable. Yes, of course, you know it is Southwest Airlines.

Still Looking for Liver Transplant to Save a Life

This past Friday, I posted about Shari Kurzrok who is now fighting for her life and in desperate need for a liver transplant.

My colleague Steve Kayser has now picked up and amplified Shari's story to send the request to Cincom's 35,000 subscribers to our eNewsletter called Expert Access. If anyone picking up on this blog sees this notice I encourage you to read the article in Cincom's Expert Access to get the full details and, if you have access to any viral communications media, please keep pushing this story out.

Note, we have confirmed this story. It is real. It is urgent. Literally, only days might be left to pull off a miracle.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Let's All Confuse the Hell out of Our Customers

This issue of getting the horses all pulling the same wagon reaches deep into our companies ... see my previous post "One Horse Can Pull 6 Tons." Now an article in Ad Age confirms it from a different point of view: Creating brand preference.

Ad Age reported on Interbrand's annual survey done in conjunction with Business Week Magazine of The Top 100 Brands that Sony has lost 16% of their brand value in the past year by confusing us (and themselves) on what value they bring to us. No business focus! In the same breath, Samsung increased their brand value 19% with a tight focus on their value offering.

Jeff Swystun, Interbrand's global director, said "Sony's whole lineup just doesn't seem to add up. They're dealing with behind-the-scenes politics between divisions so that they're really not getting the synergy that should flow up to their brand," Mr. Swystun said.

Treating People as More than Customers

Here are the kinds of nice things that happen when you take care of customers.

A new customer (Chris Petrilli) of Cincom Systems posted the following message on his blog:

Over the past year or so, as I’ve gotten my teeth back into Smalltalk and Lisp I’ve had the excellent opportunity to work with some of the technical (and product) people at both Cincom and Franz. My experience has been beyond excellent.

I have had excellent discussions with people about minute detail of implementation, and they’ve provided feedback that has been excellent at moving ideas along. Offers of help with proof-of-concept have been offered, insight into product roadmap, and even honest discussions of where things don’t work, have been the hallmark of both organizations. This is a stark contrast with most companies.

All I can is both companies have some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever had the opportunity to talk to, and their insight is illuminating. It’s nice to see there are a few places where true technical excellent is still critical. Helping your customers be successful will always help you be successful.

One Horse Can Pull 6 Tons.
What Can 2 Horses Pull?

The value of teamwork is inestimable. But we can all feel the effects when it is absent. Business silo managers frequently try to pull the whole wagon by themselves. All they can pull is six tons. Their careers are limited. The company is limited. But they feel great pulling all the weight ... hey, world, look at what I am pulling!

What's the point? And what's the relationship to contextual marketing?

Pretty simple, actually. Aside from a failure to connect to customers when creating and executing marketing and sales campaigns, the disconnect between sales and marketing silos is one of monumental proportions. Each tries to go its own way in one company after another. A google search on the subject will bring back much wisdom on how to overcome the disconnect. And yet the problem persists in one company after another, dragging both marketing and sales downward. The only thing that really saves us is that all our competitors are locked in the same stupid paradigm.

What happens when two horses are pulling the load together? Two horses can pull 36 tons (not just twice the 6 ton load, but six times the normal load)!

If we want to pull 6 times more productivity out of the same team, we just need to get aligned and pull the wagon together.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Which One is More Creative?
You Be the Judge!

Creativity is just as important in the news as it is in advertising, PR or blogging. I was just struck by the cleverness or lack thereof from various reports on Jim Doohan's recent passing ... some headlines made me want to read more about the Star Track actor ... upon which I learned much to my surprise that the original run of Star Trek ran just three years before being pulled by the network due to poor ratings ... only to see the show gain a huge following during syndication.

Amazing what one person and a band of followers can do in just three years! He will live on in reruns and in the hearts of the faithful forever.

Option 1:

Headline at
James Doohan, 'Star Trek's' Scotty, dead

Option 2:
Headline at Washington Post:
'Star Trek' Engineer James Doohan Dies

Option 3:

Headline at Frank Patrick's Focused Performance Business Blog:
Beam On Up Scotty.

Option 4:
Headline at Bennelli Brothers Blog:
James Doohan Beamed Up By A Higher Power

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tom Peters' 16 Ways to Beat Wal-Mart

Ten days ago I posted on how Christian booksellers were lamenting that Wal-Mart was taking share from them at an alarmingly fast pace.

Then came the NYT article on how Costco was taking lunch from Wal-Mart.

Now there's an insightful and inciteful piece by Tom Peters where he lists 16 ways to beat Wal-Mart.

Of his 16 ways, I like his first: Be niche-aimed. Wal-Mart is trying to be all things to all people. Focus wins. Well almost always ... the Christian booksellers are focused, but are still losing share to "all things to all people."

So that's where Tom's No. 4 Idea comes in: Compete on value/experience/intimacy, not price. Well, to that, I would say surely the Christian booksellers understand the value of customer intimacy, and yet they are losing share.

Tom says to sell based on emotional bond. Dead on. And yet they are losing share.

Then I catch a phrase stated by the Christian booksellers: our Christian customers owe us loyalty. Now, that won't cut it. As customers, Costco has proven we want to do the right things.

The booksellers need to get a handle on the messages that will most resonate with their customers. We do want to do the right thing, but it must be relevant to our personal needs, wants and expectations.

The important thing about Tom's list of 16 ways to beat Wal-Mart is that they are all important. No cherry picking. Get the business right and do the right things.

How would you take the principles of contextual marketing to reclaim your marketshare from Wal-Mart if you were the owner/operator of a Christian bookstore?

Appealing to the Good that's Inside Each of Us

The New York Times ran a story in its Business Section on Costco out-gooding Wal-Mart. Apparently the article caught a lot of email and blog attention? Is it because we all secretly want to do the right thing ourselves.

If this is a basic of human nature, how can we as marketers appeal to this angel inside us? This is one of those behavioral quirks that underly contextual marketing. Seeing inside the person is a lot different than seeing them as a segment of 18-49, homeowner parents.

Measuring the Right Things and
Doing the Right Things with the Metrics

First a short story: Forty-five years ago, an elderly couple was flying together on a jet from Cincinnati to LA. As they walked to board the plane, the husband noticed his wife was getting nervous. “What’s the problem,” he inquired. Very simply, she responded, “No propellers.” She did not want to get on a plane that had no propellers. Letting go of the past is like that, and it makes us fearful.

But imagine today trying to fly with propeller-driven planes. With the passenger loads needed to get everyone where they need to be, a propeller-driven plane would have to be so huge it couldn’t get off the ground.

As marketers, we must always be going forward, even when the new technology makes us fearful.

We need to help our CEOs see that we are ahead of the field, that we are visionaries that see what others don’t see and that we have a strategy to help our companies change from propellers to jets to space shuttles, and beyond. Measuring marketing performance is one thing, sort of old hat like the Boeing 707 is now ... but using metrics to understand the customer -- now that's the space shuttle we all need to be on.

As marketing shifts to a data-driven world, we need to get smart about what we measure and what we do with the metrics. MarketingNPV interviewed eight Chief Marketing Officers and their insights should help us all to do a better job of contextual marketing:

Scott Deaver, EVP/Marketing for Avis Car Rental, has it right when it comes to marketing metrics. Yes, we need to provide our CEOs and CFOs with credible evidence that what we are doing is returning on the investment. But Scott's interview should caution us that we will always be flying in propeller planes if we become slaves to ROI. He focuses his measurement efforts on creating advanced methodologies for serving customers.

1. What is the character of the marketplace?
2. How do customers transact?
3. How do they think about their transactions?
4. What value do we bring to market?
5. How do we make money?
6. How can we make more money than any of our competitors?

Scott says:

What we really do in marketing is write a narrative around these questions, a story about customers in a marketplace and goods to be sold and how they're going to be purchased. Before measurements become important, plausibility of the story and of the proposed marketing approach are critical. In the Avis world, measurement is about customer loyalty and frequency of rentals. Loyalty is what matters to marketing. Frequency brings in the money. It's what matters to finance.”

“Once we know what's going to be measured and have the buy-in of finance, we decide on the marketing tactics. They should come last. It's much easier to build tactics out of metrics than vice versa. Loyalty, for instance, is built entirely out of branded experience. Brand advertising doesn't attach a price point, but it drives rental frequency. There are very few promotions with Avis, and the few are never price-based.

Scott Fuson, CMO at Dow Corning, was another of the CMOs interviewed by MarketingNPV:

“In Six Sigma, we found a more structured way to let the voice of the customer drive the marketing, as well as other internal processes like supply chain. We translated those VOC needs into critical customer requirements. These become the measures, the tangible things that we have to deliver on. We continuously take those CCRs back out to the marketplace and validate them, then we rigorously measure our performance against those.”

“Culturally, we are a company mostly of engineers who love data. The secret to measuring marketing success for us was in learning to structure and communicate all the great customer feedback we were getting into a language that made sense to everyone, not just the best sales professionals.”

For the rest of MarketingNPV's interviews, see their story.

Nothing Changes Overnight

I was challenged the other day by a CMO who was skeptical of contextual marketing. “It sounds great but it’s mostly smoke and mirrors,” he said.

As we dug into the conversation, it turns out he was looking for a magic bullet that would transform his business overnight. He was curious, but skeptical.

Because of this attitude, he was unable to make the first step away from traditional marketing toward a model with more promise.

He was like the guy who listened to the radio and heard about this new thing called a television. His family wanted a television, but he was convinced it would never work. So he stayed with his radio. Then when TV seemed like it was working, he kept hearing about newer models coming out with bigger screens. So he waited. Then he heard color TV was coming. So he waited. His friends were all enjoying their televisions and he was listening to the radio.

The CMO who saw contextual marketing as a gimmick had two things wrong.

First, he didn’t really have a strong fix on who his prospective customers were. From his point of view, they were all the same – they were department heads at Fortune 1000 companies. Well, yes, I admitted, that demographic does describe an important factor about them. It is the starting point of a journey; not the end. If all you know about me is my job title, you will not win my business. That’s the 2% Marketing Model that is doomed because it does not return enough value back to the company.

Second, almost nothing changes overnight. Speed to market is a powerful competitive weapon, but changing a market rapidly happens only rarely, and most of us cannot count on striking the rare gold mine. Marketing is hard work, and contextual marketing is a slow build-up process that requires vision and commitment. You cannot press a button and poof … out pops a database loaded with the behaviors that drive individual customers from discovery, to trust, to purchase.

You cannot boil the ocean all at once.

The ocean is to big to boil and the market is too big to attack at once. In fact, the key to starting a contextual marketing program is to narrowcast. Chop the broad masses into smaller chunks. Use outbound initiatives that are designed to whittle prospects into manageable clusters. Make them offers that reveal their attitudes and behaviors. And tighten the profiles further. Learn with each initiative. Over time, you will build the database that gives you unparalleled understanding of your prospective and current customers. You can then make offers that will catch their attention because you are tuned into their situation. It’s not rocket science; it is slow, steady work done consistently and with passion. And it will work.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Price of Value

Our perception of value changes depending upon context. A company's stock might have a value of $100 per share on June 1 and six months later it is $130. Did the company's value really increase by 30%?

Coke is worth 25 cents a can at Kroger, but the same Coke is $1.00 in a vending machine and $2.50 at a restaurant. Same Coke; different value.

All value should flow from the customer who buys so that employers, suppliers and shareholders profit. But creating value is not so easy. Only a few CEOs have created consistent value for as long as a decade. Value gets lost amidst conflicting goals, demand for quick solutions and corporate complexity and legacy compensation plans that fail to reward innovation ... these lead to a paralysis that all but a few of the very best companies seem able to overcome. The ones that do succeed keep their eyes on the customer.

A Contextual "Code BLUE" for Retailers

Hospitals have "Code BLUE" when a patient goes into critical condition, and everyone scrambles to the room with a crash cart moving in fast.

Marketers who track transactional data by customer or by household have in their hands the metrics to run their own "Code BLUE" -- the second a customer who has been buying a frequently purchased staple SKU like milk or bread or baby food, it is time to put a special offer in the mail and get them back in the store.

Every family has those favorite meals ... several of ours are Asian and soy sauce is something we cart in by the carload. If the items on our frequently purchased list match up to likely menu items, promote these to keep me coming back.

Grocery stores can take it a step further ... identify the ten most frequently purchased items. These are likely to be the items the family uses in their most preferred meals.

The whole process can be run out of the customer datamart when integrated with a knowledge-based configuration engine that plots out actions to take given specific process events.

Ogilvy PR VP Needs Liver Transpant

What a wonderful thing Adrants has done today. They took up valuable space in their highly read newsletter to help someone in our industry to defy a medical emergency. I pass their plea on to you ... maybe, just maybe you could be the donor to save a life:

Ogilvy PR Worldwide VP Shari Kurzok, 31, who is getting married in two months needs a liver transplant in the next few days or she will die. Last weekend, she was admitted to New York University Medical Center and, within 24 hours, was told she needed the transplant. If you can help with a liver transplant referral, call 877-223-3386 or email Potential donors must be blood Type A or Type O.

Learn Each Customer's NWE's

That's Needs, Wants and Expectations.

Each is subtly different. I need something conveys an immediate set of specifications. I want something implies an unmet need, something I desire but have not seen on the marketplace (or at least seen at a price point I'm willing to pay). Expectations are set by the leaders in a marketplace. UPS sets the expectations for next-day shipments. IBM sets the expectation of not getting fired for selecting Big Blue. McDonalds sets the expectation for great french fries at a reasonable price. Together, they comprise the set of things we as marketers must provide to achieve customer satisfaction.

Here are a few ways to collect relevant information that unveils NWE's:

Use web surveys, scripted conversations and interactive content to solicit responses that reveal important factors about customer interests.

Use interactive content tracking on your website and enewsletters to watch what content each customer selects to read. Use this content selection process to build a profile of customer interests so you can make future communications that are increasingly more relevant. For example, offer the choice of a white paper on "getting the best quality" and a white paper on "getting the best price." It is safe to assume that price buyers will select appropriately and clue you in to the direction for future marketing and sales initiatives.

Use a similar process to identify whether the customer has entered an active buying cycle and determine if the customer is in an early or late stage of this cycele to trigger promotional offers that are relevant to the customer's purchase readiness.

Following these three tips will make each outbound initiative more effective because the initiative will be tuned to the customer's unique situation.

Shifting from Frequency to Engagement

Ad Age reports that the leading advertising trade associations have announced a new program to make marketing more measurable and accountable for delivering results, instead of delivering frequency. This adoption of engagement as a metric is a long overdue action and one that takes considerable courage – marketers want to know how their budgets are producing results and for decades advertising has been unchallenged while direct marketing goes on the line with every initiative. Good news on customer engagement will provide greater trust in all media and bad news will force the kinds of change that only bad news can cause. It’s a confirmation that consumers are fully in charge of the media they consume.

Marketers Chase Customer Ready to Buy Now

The graph says it all. Marketers are following contextual opportunities with online media that can deliver prospects who are in the market to buy. The word coined by the interactive media business is behavioral marketing. I call it contextual marketing. Either way, the trend is unmistakable.

The Economist ran an article "Crowned at Last" from which I pilfered the graph to the left. Their story recognizes the clear and present danger that the customer is now in charge, and marketers are learning to live in this brave new world. Click to the article to get a sharper image, but the top line is Internet Online Media, followed by Spanish TV, Cable Network TV and down toward the bottom are Newspapers, Magazines and Network TV.

Consider the plight we had just as short as five years ago when 98% of our direct mail went into the trashcan before it was opened simply because it arrived at a time when the recipient was not in the market to buy what we were selling. Bad timing is ruinous to marketing efficiency and effectiveness.

Consider how different that experience is today, using online media. Now the customer who is considering buying a new car heads for the www and tours the automotive sites and a few car directories. He then decides to click over to a news site and catch up on the day's headlines. And there it is right in front of his eyes ... three well-placed, contextually relevant local dealer ads that are centered squarely on the SUVs the customer was researching just minutes ago. One of the ads offers the prospect the opportunity to customize a brochure that is digitally printed and mailed out the same day. The brochure shows the models, features and pricing -- all based on input from the customer. The next day the dealer calls to arrange a time for a test drive.

According to The Economist: Companies with some of the world's biggest advertising budgets are beginning to look for new ways of attracting consumers' attention. Jim Stengel, global marketing officer for Procter & Gamble (P&G), is one of the advertising industry's harshest critics, awarding it a “C minus” for its ability to embrace new media. And Larry Light, who has been giving McDonald's a makeover as its chief marketing officer, says bluntly: “The days of mass marketing are over.”

In this case, the graph above tells a much bigger story than at first might be seen.

Is AOL Waking Up to its Potential?

David Cohen, a senior manager at McCann International wrote his mid-year projection for interactive marketing on ClickZ Network.

If his projections are right, all of us in marketing will have a powerful new medium to reach a huge and very targetable audience. You be the judge. Is David on the mark with this one?

"One of the biggest things to watch during the second half of the year will be America Online's new strategic positioning. Many of us have said for years that is the most underutilized asset on the Web. It appears AOL finally got that message, loud and clear. After years of defending its stance on creating unique and compelling content (for AOL subscribers only), they appear to be making a big, bold move onto the wide-open Web. Arguing subscribers come to AOL for many reasons besides content (a safe environment with advanced parental controls, spam filters, virus protection, etc.) AOL will open all their content to the Internet sometime this summer.

This could have significant marketplace implications. With ample promotion, could grow into a reach powerhouse. That will give MSN and Yahoo! a run for their money. Additionally, it will add a host of new inventory to the marketplace. That should help modestly drive costs down across the big three portals, and beyond. Most notably, it increases the supply of the most sought after inventory for mass advertisers: homepage real estate and streaming video. The jury is still out on how's story plays out (AOL has historically had a knack for messing things up). From what I've seen, I'm pretty confident the move will be excellent both for AOL and the overall industry."

Take a look at the other projections that David offers in his mid-year summary.

Simplicity and Relevance Create Trust; Manipulation Destroys Trust

MIT Media Lab Professor John Maeda: “We tend to trust things that are simple. I googled “how to gain trust” and was surprised to find so many relevant links. If it’s so easy to gain trust, then why is trust so rare in our modern world?”

He goes on to describe how we more quickly trust things that are simple, and how trust denigrates as complexity enters the scene.

Professor Maeda continues: “If manipulating people to gain trust is codifiable process, then our reason for trusting people that try to gain our trust is naturally suspect. Are they sincere? Or am I being manipulated?

I paraphrase his conclusion: Trust at first sight might be relatively easy and a first step toward the more elusive “lasting trust” that requires a great deal more of thought in the design process for simplicity.

Well, by now if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know where Professor Maeda’s post took my simple mind. Yep, right back at message context. Simple ideas that are simply relevant to my needs are the ones I trust. You might catch me eventually with a more complex message, but you better show your relevance cards fast or I am gone. And so are the rest of the people to whom you are trying to communicate. In the end, communication is about gaining someone’s trust. It must be sincere cause I will figure you out fairly fast if you are manipulating me.

Crafting simple messages is an artform worth perfecting. Mark Twain once began a letter to a friend: “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.”

Simple. Relevant. Trusting. That’s the end goal, but I did not promise you it would be simple to get there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Differentiation Based on Emotional Context

Tom Peters paraphrased a New York Times article, and along the way gave this strong example of how product design can link intimately to the context of an individual consumer. Understanding the emotional needs of a customer are from my perspective far more important than traditional demographics. Demo's are great for targeting who to talk to but context is the critical aspect for developing content and designing products.

Tom's comments:

With Duet, Whirlpool moved the market from ‘washing machine’ to ‘fabric care system’, from white goods as ‘a sea of undifferentiated boxes’ to ‘the Ferrari of washing machines’. As a Duet consumer put it: ‘They are our little mechanical buddies. They have personality. When they are running efficiently, our lives are running efficiently. They are part of my family.’ With the ‘designer laundry room’ Duet machines complement the Sub-Zero refrigerator and home-theater center.”

Are You Connecting?

More evidence piling up that we are not practicing what our intuition tells us we should be doing.

This time the evidence comes from (in my opinion) one of the best marketing enewsletters:Reveries Magazine's Cool News of the Day. They write:

You know there's a problem when 90 percent of marketers think the ability to implement "total touchpoint" marketing is at least somewhat important, but only 52 percent think their companies are any good at it. Why is there such a huge disconnect between perfection and reality when it comes to "total touchpoint" marketing?

More important, what can be done about it? Tim Dorgan, ceo of The J. Brown Agency offers a look at the results of a Reveries reader survey, and explains how Gerber is making the most of every touchpoint in "Are You Connecting?"

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Putting Customers First

Fast Company magazine has a must-read article on how 13 companies have made the conversion to customer-centric marketing. Read: Putting Customers First.

Approach Marketing as
“Knowledge Transferring”

On the surface, this may seem obvious. Unfortunately, in some companies, this process has lost its dynamic aspects and has become similar to a library function—with information accessible but static, passively stored instead of dynamically incorporated into immediate uses.

Does your company have a regular, institutionalized means for sales and marketing to share what they know about the big picture of the market and how that manifests itself in the field? Do these departments have a way of sharing what they learn about best practices—or is it an informal process that depends primarily on the personalities involved? Does your marketing group perceive their function as only information-dissemination? That’s a one-way approach that further exacerbates the disconnection between marketing and sales.

On the other hand, knowledge sharing and transfer can improve productivity and performance and reduce redundancy. Today, constant change in product and service offerings, competition, and market intelligence means that much of the content developed by marketing (and presumably, used by sales) has a short shelf life. With marketing and sales sharing and transferring information, the messages your company sends to its customers and prospects have a greater likelihood of being “on target,” i.e., responding to customers’ perceptions of their needs now. The objective of sales and marketing is to transfer knowledge to customers, not just information. The process is one of education, not only promotion.

The New Rush Will Be Viral for Land Rover

Getting through to the media is never easy. They are inundated with news releases and gimmicks to get their attention. Here's one cited on Adrants that seems to have worked ... and has the potential to spread Land Rover's name throughout the entire news room.

In early June, Land Rover launched a campaign themed, "The New Rush" to promote the launch of the car company's new Range Rover Sport. It incorporated a website virtual cityscape along with outdoor. To attract attention to the campaign, Land Rover had a soft drink, called, appropriately, "The New Rush," made and distributed to the media and other promotional channels.

Adrants reports that "It's tasty "concoction of B vitamins, caffeine, water and fruit flavors" and it's better than most soft drinks available at retail. The Adrants offices received our flat of the drink and we're lovin' it. Oh, wait. That's McDonald's. Sorry, Land Rover. We're....uh...rushin' it. Yea, that's it. Thanks."

Copycat Car Promotions Just a Lot of Screaming

General Motors created an immediate firestorm when it launched its promotion offering its cars to consumers at the same price as it offers its employees. The deal, unlike so many other car deals, had the ring of straight-talk. We all figure the employees were actually getting the best price possible and therefore we would not have to go into that distasteful practice of haggling with the dealer. Great promotion concept!

But like so many other promotions, it was easy to knock off. Now Ford is doing the same thing. Net is that there is no differentiation at the point of sale. Ford gained equality with GM, but not an advantage.

The real problems at America's big car companies is that they have lost touch with the customer. They continue to crank out gas guzzling SUVs while Toyota is offering gas efficient hybrids. Being stuck in the past and losing touch with the customer is a sure fired way toward downfall. Time to differentiate. Time to wake up.

Positive-Context Customer Marketing

Chris Lawler's blog had a sympatico article on contextual marketing that I quote below:

Customer-centricity continues to emphasize the role of material conditions in shaping consumer needs and demand for products rather than the wider context in which people select, buy and use products and services. But, by thinking broadly about the challenges people face, rather than narrowly about what firms can sell them, new ways to make their lives easier and their decisions simpler can almost always be found.

Individual-centric customer innovating businesses understand this and aim to overcome these challenges. They focus on creating a more positive brand, marketing and customer context; one that reconfigures mostly intangible and unrecognized aspects of people’s needs and problems into new forms of social, relational and brand capital. These intangible value dimensions include new drivers such as time, attention, knowledge, uncertainty, trust, privacy, personal productivity and simplicity.

Importantly, the delivery of “positive context” is independent of traditional markets. By viewing markets from an explicit individual value perspective rather than the more typical company-, product- or service-centric point of view, customer innovating organizations are able to locate and address the new intangible forms of customer value.

The trick is to perceive markets as multi-faceted and connected holistic systems or networks and not as company-defined supply or value chains. Unfortunately, value chain thinking still dominates as a business concept.
But, by shifting from a world view of an assembler or value-added player in part of a supply- (or demand) -chain to one of becoming a nodal or partner player in an enhanced interactive positive context customer value network, the opportunity to identify, define and unlock new forms of holistic customer and business value are huge.

The first question managers need to address is quite simply, what domain of customer value are we operating in?. This is then closely followed by the second question, how we can adapt to identify, design and deliver mutual value within the new individual-centric customer space? Unfortunately, many organizations are so risk averse that they never even get to the second stage.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Noise or Music? It Depends.

Why is so much marketing just noise upon our ears?

The answer from 2,000 years ago: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."

Love and real concern for our customers is the only thing that turn noisy gonging into relevant and appreciated communications. When you care about your customers, everything about how you talk to and with them will change.

The Heart of Persuasion

"I hate this topic. I hate your approach. And I am starting to hate you." To which I responded, "Yeah, I know, but look at the chart on page 3. While in some sort of PowerPoint-induced haze, I thought I could persuade somebody who doesn't know me to buy into a proposal that he was skeptical about in the first place.I prepared for the content of the discussion without spending a like amount of effort on the context."

Susan Cramm at CIO Magazine demonstrates not just the sense of contextual marketing, but of its absolute necessity -- skip the context from the customer's point of view and you are dead meat.

Make Sure the Tone of Communications is Right

While many senior executives and managers pride themselves on their self-perceived communication skills, it is also no secret that many recipients of those communications do not feel the same way. Darwin Observer outlines some simple steps to create a better context and a better outcome.

Blogs Create Context, Even When
they Market a Company

In corporate blogs, the value of information is closely connected with interaction. Giving readers inside information creates an impression of trust and transparency; it doesn't matter that the information is ultimately being presented for the sake of marketing, it makes readers feel as if the company is sharing something with them, and it helps to build a community. This really kicks in at the level of reader comment, when readers talk back to the blogger.

Take a look at this blog by the Vice President of Marketing for Boeing.

This is where corporate bloggers are dropping the ball. The authors of personal blogs tend to reply to comments, and even tailor some of their own content in response to comments. This is the final step in making the blog a true online community, and actually co-opts readers as part of the blog itself, as they also create and inspire content.

The CEO as a Story Teller

If you want to motivate your employees, tell them a story, but not just any story.

Cincom Soon to Launch its First Blog

We're launching the first corporate blog for Cincom Systems as part of a major branding program around the fact that we simplify the management of complex business processes.

Cincom, where I work as a marketing manager, is perhaps the longest surviving software company in the world. It was founded in 1968 by Tom Nies who is still the CEO and Cincom just recently announced its 20th consecutive year in selling over $100 million in software and services. Revenue is up 25% in the past year and profits have hit record levels for the past three consecutive years.

Cincom has worked with some of the best companies in the world and our people have gained great insight from these experiences. The new Cincom blog will be a key component of a large commitment of sharing the wisdom accumulated in the heads of many very bright colleagues at Cincom.

We're blogging on the concept of simplifying business complexity. The blog will be officially launched the first week of August, but you can see it now at Cincom Simplicity.

The five topics to be explored by Cincom staff and selected consultants like Dave Stein, author of "How Winners Sell" and John Barry, author of an upcoming book on offshoring:

1. ACCELERATE / Business Growth
2. COMMUNICATE / Customer Dialogue
3. CULTIVATE / Business Optimization
4. INNOVATE / Business Transformation
5. INTEGRATE / Business Infrastructure

Wal-Mart Picks Off Share
from Christian Retailers

Independent retailers who attended the recent Christian Booksellers Association meeting were lamenting the loss of market share to Wal-Mart. Share dropped from 57% to 53% as Wal-Mart cherry picks the high volume SKUs for Bibles, faith-based DVDs and videos, books, crucifixes and choir robes. It’s a battle reminiscent of Meg Ryan’s Little Shop Around the Corner doing battle with Tom Hanks’ Fox Books in “You’ve Got Mail.” It is also personally reminiscent of how the supermarket grocery chains wiped small independent grocers (like my father’s store) off the streets.

Wal-Mart, in its quest to offer us the lowest prices, uses its buying power to force producers to drop prices more and more and more. He who owns the customer owns the producer. So P&G merges with Gillette to regain power in the bargaining wars. And smaller producers move their factories from the US to China, and they offshore their IT departments to India.

I can sympathize with the independent Christian retailers. They feel like their producers owed them more loyalty. But this is one of the harsh realities of free enterprise. Even Mel Gibson’s marketing juggernaut behind The Passion of the Christ, is subject to the lure of opportunity when WalMart purchasing agents come knocking. This DVD was released at a $26.99 retail price last year, he sold it for $19.99 through the Christian retailers. But Wal-Mart cut the price for the same DVD to $17.97.

Christian retailers, like every other business owner, operates in a dog eat dog world. And we as consumers often eat our own feet off by single-mindedly buying cheap. But we just can’t help ourselves from chasing the bargains. Unless smaller retailers can become more relevant to their faithful customer base than the big guys, we will continue ripping up the value chain that supports jobs and families and our way of life.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I Forgot My Manners

I have a bunch of posts that I want to get to ... just no time at the moment.

But more important, I forgot to give you a link to my source for my two previous posts about "We're Not Afraid" -- a fantastic photo gallery of images put together to declare Brits will not "cry uncle" with the terrorists. I mentioned his name. He's Troy Brumley. Now here's a link to his blog: The Doctor Is In. Troy's blog covers a wide range of subjects, many that discuss software and technology issues.

We're Not Afraid

I just like the attitude at this site ... it is evident in every image on the gallery cited in my previous post.

Getting London into Context

Feeling empathy for your customer is primal.

Feeling empathy for fellow human beings under attack by ruthless murderers is also primal.

Connecting need not take a lot of words. It's a place where a picture, or in this case, a gallery of pictures says everything. The only words that repeat with the images on this site are "we're not afraid!"

Beautiful context is at

Thanks to Troy Brumley for sending me the link so I could share it with you.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

If Your Audience is the Journalist ...

A new study by Columbia University has revealed the perfect way for you to connect with journalists who are covering your industry. 51% of the 1,202 journalists surveyed indicate they use blogs regularly and nearly a third use them to help in their daily reporting of the news. So while you are reaching your target customer base with your business blog, you can also reach the journalists who influence your customers.

Thought-Leadership to Get
in on Early Buying Cycles

One of the techniques for achieving contextual relevance is to offer up free advice to your customers about problems they are experiencing. You can do this, of course, it a blog format as I am doing here. Other media for thought-leadership include white papers, speaking forums, articles in trade magazines and ezines, and commenting on other relevant blogs.

What this strategy does is to get you involved with prospective customers in their earliest buying cycle stages ... exactly where you want to be ... before your competition gets wind of the sales opportunity.

Keys to sharing your wisdom ... first and foremost, the content you develop must, must, must be relevant to your target audience. It should be current information; not a rehash of old stuff. It should have a direct linkage to your business value proposition so that it is an easy and natural step for the prospect to move from finding value in your thoughts to finding value in your products or services.

Marketers Must Get Prospect Names Right

Alexandra DeFelice at Destination CRM states “A business may call a customer by any other name than her own and she may still purchase its products, but that customer, without a doubt, has noticed the error. If that same organization gets the customer's name right and can track her life changes over a period of years, it can offer her products relevant to her family and/or culture. She'll feel that the company recognizes her, and she will have more reasons for continuing a long, rewarding, delightful relationship.”

Monday, July 11, 2005

Marketing Needs a Society where Freedom Reigns

Cultural Context Has a Long Way to Go

One of the things we've been promoting a lot to the rest of the world is freedom. Surely something anyone who breathes wants, but which is denied to many people. Freedom is one of those things that makes free enterprise. A culture lacking or inhibiting freedom is not a good environment for marketing.

Consider, for example, how hard it would be to market your goods and services in Saudi Arabia, despite its advanced infrastructure and great wealth. Why? Because the government controls the media too closely. The Internet is not freely accessible. According to Line 56, a draconian scheme of Web censorship exists in Arabia.

Or in Turkey where the government is disinterested in offering DSL service and where the highest level of DSL service costs a reported $230 a month (more than most people pay for rent).

In such cultures where governments limit freedom or control the structure of business, it is still common that people have almost no genuine knowledge of what is happening in the outside world. They have no idea that access to high speed online connections should be cheap. They have no idea that product and service quality should be better. They have fewer options.

The Internet has been one of the great levelers, bringing information to the masses, no longer filtered through just a few broadcast networks. But effective marketing must break through such barriers. Once we taste the personal power that the www has given us, we don't want to give it up.

Once cultures lift the barriers to freedom, marketers of products and services (and, yes, of freedom itself) ... then it becomes the task of all of us who produce the content to make sure marketing is relevant to the recipient. It is so easy sitting here in the US to see the world as if it was just like us. We need to put on a different set of glasses and see the world through the eyes of the prospect.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

What a Way to Shatter a Good Evening

It's a nice quiet evening on my patio, and I'm just kicking back and reading some of my favorite bloggers.

Joe at Jaffe Juice got me this time with a few stats picked up from a recent ANA Study: First, 60% of marketers believe measuring ROI is important, but only 20% feel they do it well. Second,73% of 135 senior-level marketers surveyed, lack confidence in their ability to understand the sales impact of a marketing campaign.

I know what I think about these two stats. Read what Joe had to say. What do you have to say?

Best Practices Can Destroy Unique Value

Frank at Focused Performance has hit on a subject that I rant on occasionally: Best Practices.

Sure, there are situations where best practices are vital to improving outcomes, especially in medicine, aerospace and defense ... places where mistakes are fatal.

But there are other times in the arena of business competition where emulating a competitor's best practice makes your company look more and more like everyone else. If a competitor is beating you consistently because they have better processes, then you need to do something about it ... like improving your own processes rather than copying someone else's.

Here's where I think "best practices" is especially luring, and dangerous.

When you buy ERP or CRM software that sits at the heart of your business, and that software has hardwired into it a best process for accomplishing all the core tasks of your business efficiently. That's when you have fallen into the Commodity Trap.

Our internal processes are what make our companies unique. They are the heart and nervous system. If Holiday Inn and Hilton Hotels are wired into the same software program, using the same systems to process reservations, provide services, etc., then Hilton and Holiday Inn will become increasingly more like the same company.

It's hard enough today for marketers to find unique value propositions that cause customers to select our products or our services, but when the inner workings of companies become identical, the battle for customer preference is over.

I caution all of you who are at the C-Level to weigh carefully these enterprise-wide best practices software solutions. Find solutions that allow your company to breathe it's own unique way of providing customer value. Find solutions that give you process flexibility. Find solutions that are perhaps smaller in scope, simpler to install and that preserve your character.

A Shocking Marketing Statistic!

According to a recent study by Direct Marketing Association, only half of all companies track both response and backend performance of direct marketing programs so they can calculate ROI.

Given that it is more important than ever to understand how customers are responding to marketing campaigns, it is shocking that half of us don't even bother to track responses. When we gather data on customer response, we can sharpen our targeting, our offers, our messages and our response channel strategies.

But tracking and analytics will do us little good if we don't apply our intelligence and creativity to what the number crunchers are telling us is essential to create effective marketing programs ... the output of analytics is better content directed at precisely the right people. In the end it is the content that we must make better.

The tough part of marketing is to make the customer contact worthwhile to the customer -- and that takes the skill of content producers who can hone messages so the relevance to each targeted prospect fairly leaps off the page, whether it is a mailer, a website, an emailing, an outbound call or a visit by a sales rep.

We must all become better and better at hearing through the numbers what customers find as relevant.

"Teachable Moment" Marketing
Use Relevance to Shift Opinion

One technique for increasing message relevance is to look for "teachable moments" -- those points in a customer's life where the customer is most open to learning about a new solution.

Take for example a program we did for Comet, the P&G cleanser. The product had been recently reformulated so that it would not scratch soft surfaces like countertops, porcelain and sink fixtures. We determined that one segment of customers was in a good "teachable moment" -- people who had just purchased a new home that featured these soft surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms.

We co-sponsored a program with the manufacturers of these building products and major home builders so that when new home buyers moved in, they found packets of Comet samples along with a recommendation from such companies as Formica, Owens Corning, Delta Faucets, Eljer Plumbingware that Comet was safe and powerful. In exchange, P&G featured these manufacturers on packages of their products, giving the partners massive retail exposure. The homeowners tried the sample, saw that it worked and used discount coupons to buy more. Result: Comet broke its previous image of harsh and scratchy and replaced it with one that was safe and powerful.

Marketing to the Largest Segment of Consumers

If you missed my previous post referencing David Wolfe's Ageless Marketing discourse and if you are in B2C marketing, don't wait to read more here ... go immediately to see what David and his readers are commenting. The headline says it all -- "Life Expectancy Ends at 50 According to Madison Avenue." This is a movement we all must understand better if we are to be successful marketers.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

CMO Magazine Reaffirms Need for Context

CMO Magazine’s latest issue reiterates the need for context in a great article: “Soothe Sayers” by Constantine von Hoffman. Several great tips on how to build trust with the customer.

The article opens with a series of questions … the type that run through all our heads these days. “Who’s that strange-looking guy with the backpack over there? Can I afford to fill up the car this week? Did you hear Dave lost his job? Is anybody hiring? How many carbs are in that beer, anyway?

The questions set up the fact that as customers, we are all in our own little worlds and those worlds are far from what brand of computer I should buy, or what brand of hot dogs I should serve at the family picnic.

CMO then establishes “the basic mission of marketing, of course, never really changes: It’s telling customers that you have what they want. But now, whatever you sell, you’d be wise to give customers something that goods or services rarely provide: a sense of stability in an unstable world. In today’s environment, no matter what your company produces or provides, you want to sell reassurance. Consumers want to be inspired. Show me something that I can aspire to and you’ve got my attention.”

CMO calls it “soothe saying” and I call it “context” but whatever you call it, it boils down to relevance with what’s in my head as a customer. Start with my needs and build trust and show me how you can then deliver.

Friday, July 08, 2005

A Marketing Conundrum

David Wolfe's blog at Ageless Marketing featured a comment I posted there. It's my best guess at why the media seem to ignore the +50 age segment in their programming and why advertisers continue to go after the 18-49 market despite the fact that +50 is the largest, fastest growing and wealthiest segment in America. I could be wrong. What do you think?

Whoa! Perceptions Indicate
Half of Us are Useless!

When perceptions form, even reality cannot shake them. A recent MediaLife survey has confirmed that marketers who buy advertising media have the perception that only 50% of all media sales reps are useful. Many were even more negative, holding that only 20% of sales reps are useful in helping them make media decisions.

Complaints centered, unsurprisingly, on time wasting, both in the form of over contacting and proving ill-prepared when conversations do take place. Another big complaint proved to be overly hard selling, with some reps seeming to believe that repetition or browbeating may succeed in getting a property on the buy where the numbers won't.

Good sales reps in any industry take the time to prepare and to provide value. They understand the customer's situation and use context to shape their services, and to win the customer's respect, trust and purchase.

What fascinates me here is why any company tolerates incompetent people in any position, but especially in sales and marketing where the company's success or failure become crucial. Context masters are winners and while it is hard work to dig into a customer's situation and needs, wants and expectations, the hard work does pay off.

If only 50% of us in this business produce marketing materials, campaigns or face-to-face conversations that are useful to customers, it is no wonder they turn us off.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Contextual Marketing
in Grocery Store and Classroom

Remember, it's all about relevance ... what matters to the audience.

My mom and dad ran a small, independent grocery store when I was growing up. It was a good business, mostly because they were such a good entrepreneurial team. Mom ran the business side and dad did the customer relationship thing. He did it instinctively -- no training, in fact he only went to school through the sixth grade when he had to become the main breadwinner for a family of eight. He started out as a golf club caddy and then became a baker and then opened the Highway Del. A good business despite the armed robbery. A good business where dad knew every customer. He knew their stories. He knew their needs. He could talk with them about whatever was on their minds. And because he cared so genuinely about their needs, they were incredibly loyal to the store. The perfect role model for CRM. So I inherited this contextual marketing stuff naturally.

My daughter's got it, too. She's an art teacher at an elementary school and has 600 kids. From her perspective, she's a salesperson for fine art. Every week, she gets an hour with each student and she wants to stimulate their creative minds and spur an interest in drawing, sculpting, weaving, painting, calligraphy, all those expressive media. She takes each student at their individual levels. With the first graders, she is so animated it reminds me more of a stage play or a locker room than a classroom. She knows each student and appeals to each from where they are. The kids come away excited about expressing their creativity.

That's what relevance is all about. Your pitch should be enveloped inside the customer's situation and interests. Start there and you can teach them why you deserve their trust and the relationship can grow. Compare that approach to most websites that treat all visitors alike, that propel them immediately into your features ... and see why they leave in two clicks ... nothing there to capture their interest. Or do as my dad and daughter ... appeal to their intersts, show them slowly how you can help them achieve their goals ... take them one step at a time and win them for a lifetime.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Every Three Seconds

Some pictures are truly worth a thousand words.

This image stopped me cold. I tried to move on, but couldn't.

Every three seconds a light goes out ... just about the time it takes one of us in marketing to capture a viewer's interest in a TV commercial, or to take notice of a package on a retail shelf, or to open a mailer. Every three seconds something far more meaningful is happening.

The story behind the image is even more startling. Because she received aid, that little girl survived.

The Live 8 Concert ... I hope and pray it did some good. I hope it raised money that will give other little girls and boys the chance to live, and even prosper.

This haunting image is something none of us in marketing can or should ignore. Not if we really care about people the way we should.

What is it that we can do with our God-given marketing skills -- individually or collectively to help relieve such sadness from the Earth?

Thanks to Focused Performance for reminding me of what is important.

Unfortunately, Marketing Execution is Hard Work

A Big Difference Between Ideas and Execution

Bruce Henderson, now a healthcare consultant with PriceWaterhouse Coopers, and a longtime friend, is one of those really deep thinkers. I asked him once why he's so willing to give talks on his solutions for the major issues facing healthcare CEOs. In his talks he freely shares his experience. His answer was that knowing the solution and knowing how to execute the solution were miles apart.

In a speech, Kevin Rollins, COO at Dell Inc., was asked a similar question. He's also a willing sharer about the wildly successful Dell business model. Like Bruce, he has learned that knowing the model and executing it are miles apart. His answer was a bit different than Bruce's but equally insightful: "It's very difficult to change an entire culture to a new business model and become good at doing the necessary things to be successful with that model."

It might be the same with contextual marketing. Despite years of openly sharing the model for doing contextual marketing, few companies have done it well. Equally few companies have made CRM work, either -- after nearly a decade of rhetoric and installation of some frighteningly complex technology, real customer management is virtually non-existent at most companies.

Contextual marketing is complex and requires hard work to execute. It is not rocket science, but it is not easy. We worked it through at companies with the commitment to process that it takes (P&G, Toshiba, for example) and had highly rewarding results everytime. It's beginning to take foot now at Cincom, and it is one of the processes that is propelling this software company into a steady, strong and profitable growth pattern.

No company is short of managers with great ideas. What's missing is the commitment to execution. Doing the right things, building the right customer data, using that data to manage outbound campaigns and inbound channels, using the promotion history to learn more and more about individual customers, clustering of similar customers into tightly defined segments, sending increasingly relevant offers and messages to these customers, taking each customer one step at a time toward purchase and re-purchase.

I will be sharing more in future posts on how to execute contextual marketing. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Contextual Marketing Calls for Better Listening

If I pay attention to my own words then true concern for the customer is a transformation we all must go through. The fastest way to demonstrate concern about anyone else is to listen to them when they talk. But listening is so difficult because what we really want to do is to talk and impress those around us. So in some ways, becoming a better listener is the first rule for contextual marketing. The admonition comes from the Bible when James spoke: let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.

More contemporary advice comes from a newsletter by James Manktelow & Kellie Fowler of Mindtools.

Their June newsletter recommends four points:
1. Repeat the facts you just heard
2. Share the thoughts and beliefs you heard
3. Convey and underlying feelings and emotions you believe are involved
4. Take the time to communicate the message sender’s wants, needs and expectations

They caution not to insert questions while the other person is speaking. Let them finish before interrupting. Instead, they look beyond the words for the feelings and the intent. By doing this, you ensure you receive the entire message every time. If you are the least bit unclear what was said, ask for clarification – this is still part of listening.

Can you see how effective listening now becomes part of the interactive process for contextual marketing?

By listening, you can now provide more effective help to the customer because what you say or do will be contextually relevant to the customer’s stated needs. Sometimes you can conduct this conversation directly with the customer – telemarketing or during a sales call. Most times, you will be presenting content or programs that leave the customer with the option to directly or indirectly communicate important things about his or her needs.

For example, your website opens with content about a customer need and then gives the visitor the option to click on one of three options. The path that the visitor takes is important … it is the visitor’s way of talking with you. But you need to be listening and then continuing the dialogue to hold their attention.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Touching the Spirit of Your Customers

No one cares about your marketing except you. The rest have already tuned you out. You can yell, scream and dance, but they don’t really care about you. They are too busy surviving, caring about themselves. And no one seems to care about them. The secret to marketing is to get them tuned back to you by you tuning into them.

Customers do not filter out what they find relevant. And while you might think your product features and benefits are relevant, most times they are not – until you attach them to other information that has primal relevance to the individual. Slide along with this information instead of making your product the center of attention. Gain respect and trust first.

What’s the secret to making this an intuitive process? Simple really, but it requires a transformation of thinking. We must come to see ourselves as serving customers instead of customers serving our needs. I don’t think you can really make the leap without adopting a real and unconditional concern for their wellbeing that transcends the stuff you are selling.

Microsoft’s recent TV campaign “We See Potential” is contextually relevant – the commercials talk to me and help me see Microsoft in a different light than I saw them previously. Before they were this giant cold company selling software and now they are a caring company trying to help me reach my potential.

Contextual marketing is a corporate expression of caring, an outpouring of concern. It feels kind, cooperative, humble, gracious. It touches me where oldline feature-benefit marketing could never touch me. It respects me and now I am engaged and want to learn more about the company.

Words from another old master that are still meaningful today: “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Advertising Produced by Customers
The Ultimate in Relevance

Last December, school teacher George Masters set the marketing world abuzz with a homemade ad for Apple Computer's iPod that rapidly went viral. Experts cited in the Wired News replay of Masters’ creative effort belive this heralds the future of advertising where homemade ads will play a big part in marketing, just like blogging is shaking up the news. The ad got picked up by the blogs and within weeks it was seen by an estimated 40,000 people. Though his ad looks like it was done by a pro, Masters is a 36-year-old high school teacher from Orange County, California. He created the spot in his spare time. Working a couple of hours at a time, the ad took five months to make. "I did it for fun," he said. "I love motion graphics. I like creating visuals." Steve Rubel, a vice president at New York PR agency CooperKatz and author of the Micro Persuasion web log, cited the ongoing Spread Firefox campaign, a collective promotion of Mozilla's web browser that includes raising money to buy ad space in The New York Times.

Friday, July 01, 2005

There's Trouble in River City
And Advertising Can't Cure All Ills

My earlier post on GM as still the reigning leader of US advertising expenditures was sinking in my head as I ate dinner. It is great for all of us in marketing to have such investment in the media that produce so many jobs. But it isn't all pretty at GM, as we have all been reading in the financial news. Standard & Poors' downgrade of GM has pushed their bonds into junk status.

Despite $4 billion in advertising, they are not selling enough cars to cover their debt. Massive incentives to car buyers are not creating sufficient market share and analysts are openly talking about a GM bankruptcy. That would be a tragedy for the workers at GM and all the vendors who support the company. It will also be a tragedy for the advertising community. Can GM become relevant to car buyers and reverse the downfall? Where will this all shake out?

Sticking Our Marketing Heads in a Hole?

Ageless Marketing gives us a thought worth pondering:

Does anyone else have a better explanation why only a reported 10% of marketing dollars go toward 50-plus markets despite the fact that these markets are larger than the 25-49-year-old market and represent two-thirds of all private wealth?

Is this just another example of "worldview" dominating the facts ... perception conquering reality? The movie line says to follow the money. If that's the case and if we want to create content that is contextually relevant to people with the money, then there should be more programming to appeal to the +50 segment. Is it that the creative people are young and just don't want to create boring old sedate stuff?

What's really going on here?

Leading Advertisers: General Motors and P&G

General Motors and Procter & Gamble continue the back and forthing in winning the crown as Largest Advertiser in US. According to Ad Age, GM just nosed Procter out, but both are close to $4 billion a year. Assuming the P&G acquisition of Gillette gets past investigation by the European legal beagles, they will next year be safely entrenched at the kingpin of all advertisers since Gillette spends over $800 million a year.

Think about how these massive marketing investments have contributed to our lives by paying for the production of all the shows, events, news casts, newspapers, magazines, and websites that we all value. That's nearly $10 billion that we as content users would have to fork over if we still wanted the programs and publications we rely on ... and that's just from two of the biggest advertisers.

Marketing, and its advertising campaigns, are the juggernaut of business and our American lifestyle. I say thanks to GM, P&G and all the other advertisers who bring news and entertainment to us.

Blogs Launched to Steal Copyrighted Content
From Sites that Use Ads to Cover Costs

There is a bit of craziness now afoot ... vigilante bloggers who blatantly republish the entire editorial content of Gawker and selected content from the Washington Post. It is simply a new form of terrorism clothed in a righteous-sounding appeal to free the rest of us from advertising. This was first reported at Adrant's blog where you can read the whole story including the justification form the anonymous thief.

It is a blatant example of how one person can ruin the whole blog for the rest of us. Would we like to avoid seeing ads? Sure. But do we want to pay for the content we find so useful? I think not ... advertising has always been an acceptable tradeoff to compensate publishers for the work the do in bringing us news and opinion.

This self-appointed jerk blogger is as bad as spammers and hackers. I say give them all some time in jail.

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