Sunday, August 28, 2005

Contextual Marketers --
Listen and Turn on the Empathy

Yesterday, I was sitting in my office at home and my eyes caught a section of my bookshelf with my old favorite business books. So I spent a few hours giving myself a refresher course, reading all the underlined sections.

One that caught me was Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was his section on listening that stopped me. I do such a terrible job of listening ... not what you'd expect from someone who started out as a sports reporter! I now have latent attention deficit syndrome, better known as tuning the speaker out so I can get back to what I want to do. Bad habit. Really horrible habit.

But I'm not alone and so I thought maybe all of us could use a little Covey refresher on the topic.

Covey tells us that the highest form of listening is empathetic listening. This is not listening to understand a topic. It is listening to understand where the speaker is coming from. Get a feeling for the motives behind the conversation -- but from the speaker's point of view. Why are they telling you what they are saying. Get inside their shoes for a moment and understand if you were the speaker, what, why and how would you be communicating. Listening of this sort is more likely to be productive.

Empathetic listening, I think, is especially important when the speaker is someone you don't trust or like. Get at the emotions that surround the relationship. Then see if the words spoken and the gestures made and the total environment of the relationship can be improved.

Empathetic listening is essential if we are going to do contextual marketing. How else will we learn the needs, wants, expectations and interests of the prospects to whom we want to market? Get inside the persona of the customer. You know the customer wants, for example, to get the lowest price ... as an empathetic listener we can discover the motives behind this quest for lowest price, or timely delivery, or faster ROI. Listen from their shoes for other clues as to how you can be of utmost service to the customer and shift the conversation to how you can respond better than competitors to these revealed truths.

At least that's what I will be practicing this week.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Conjoint Analysis Reveals Customer Attributes

The most powerful analytic tool a practitioner of contextual marketing can master is conjoint analysis. This tool unlocks the soft emotional attributes about your customers so you can produce content that is more relevant and useful … and therefore more likely to build trust, loyalty and transactional ROI.

Conjoint analytics considers two or more factors jointly to build a model of human behavior. By measuring preference for factors, the customer is in essence trading off one attribute to get another. By causing the customer to trade-off competing values and needs, the customer reveals important motivations.

Conjoint is used to determine such vital business decisions as price point, product specifications, who will buy these specifications, and why they will buy. That’s all traditional market research kind of stuff for product development. And, yes, it can be a powerful ally to marketers for this purpose.

But that’s not where I see this playing its powerful role in contextual marketing. Remember, contextual marketing is all about message content. What messages will be most relevant to a customer at any particular stage of the buying cycle?

In the hands of direct marketers then conjoint is played a bit differently than in traditional market research.

Every outbound initiative – be it a mailer, an email, a phone call or a web page – should attempt to learn something new about the prospect. So you always provide two options in your messaging that will reveal an attribute about the prospect. For example, find out if the prospect is shopping for best price or best value. Find out if the prospect is a senior manager or a user. Find out if the prospect is technical or non-technical.

A web page can provide two links. One link to information about how your product leads to cost reduction and the other link to information about how your product leads to greater effectiveness (value). When the prospect makes the selection, this attribute is captured and added to the prospect’s profile in your database.

Fairly simple technique to use if you plan ahead. What factors do you want to know about the prospect that will help you shift your messaging for increased relevance? Then insert the choices into your outbound initiatives. Capture them, Score them. Use them.

Which Sex is Your Web Site?

Kath Straub, Ph.D., CUA, Chief Scientist at Human Factors International, looks at recent research on the effect of designer gender on Web site design.

To identify the sex characteristics of Web sites, Moss, Gunn and Heller evaluated 60 Web sites, half designed by women and half by men across 24 characteristics. They identified 12 characteristics that robustly differentiated those designed by males from those designed by females.

Most saliently, they reported that:

Based on their statistical analysis, female Web sites:
- contain links to fewer sites
- use more informal language
- use more abbreviations
- show a greater tendency toward self-denigration
- tend to use more non-expert language

With respect to visual presentation, female sites:
- tend to use rounded rather than straight shapes
- tend to avoid horizontal layouts
- use more informal typography
- contain more colors (particularly white, yellow, pink and mauve)
- tend to contain more pictures of women

In contrast, male Web sites use more crests and contain more pictures of men.

Based on these findings, they concluded that there is a continuum of the male/female elements of aesthetics in design. While designers use a broad array of these elements, they tend to produce sites using elements consistent with their own gender.

New Study on Blogosphere

An analysis of the online behaviors of blog readers was just conducted by comScore, and co-sponsors of this research, Six Apart and Gawker Media. The result, based on comScore's permission-based research panel that measures the online activity of more than 2 million global participants, is this behavioral examination of consumers who visited the 400 top weblog properties and blog hosting services during the first three months of 2005.

Key findings include the following:

50 million U.S. Internet users visited blog sites in the first quarter of 2005. That is roughly 30% of all U.S. Internet users and 1 in 6 of the total U.S. population

Five hosting services for blogs each had more than 5 million unique visitors in that period, and four individual blogs had more than 1 million visitors each

Of 400 of the biggest blogs observed, segmented by seven (nonexclusive) categories,
political blogs were the most popular, followed by "hipster" lifestyle blogs, tech blogs and blogs authored by women

Compared to the average Internet user, blog readers are significantly more likely to live in wealthier households, be younger and connect to the Web on high-speed connections

Blog readers also visit nearly twice as many web pages as the Internet average, and they are much more likely to shop online

Marketing's Dynamic Duo

Let me add to my previous post from yesterday (Marketing's Double Edged-Sword). As we all know from the comic books, Batman was much more effective in saving Gotham when he had Robin at his side. It was a synergistic relationship that spelled doom for all the bad guys.

Likewise, outbound marketing initiatives produce dramatically better ROI when fully integrated with tlemarketing. Response rates will be several hundred percent better.

Most marketers tend to wait until the postal or email responses have peaked before launching the phone. The rationale for this old-line of thinking is that mail is less expensive so why cannibalize a $1.00 email message or a $5.00 mailer with a $20 outbound call. Experience shows that mail is simply a springboard for the phone follow-up. Why wait for 98% of the prospects to get cold while waiting for a 2% response rate?

Unified messaging allows marketers to manage all touchpoints with the same strategy, the same value proposition, the same view of each customer's data. This guarantees that the customer is contacted quickly with relevant information and offers. This requires thorough training, scripting, quality monitoring and detailed results analysis. The payoff is immediate.

Always make telemarketing part of every campaign.

Always make a unified view of customer data available to the telemarketing agent.

Pretty simple, really. Gotham will never be the same.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Elliot at A Clear Eye gets me chuckling everytime I hit his blog. Sandbox wisdom, indeed.

His post on "persuasion" carries a big message, but his style of delivery makes it worth the time even if there was no big message. And, you'll love his penquins on a later post.

For some reason, it reminded me of a moment in the past when my Director of Client Services was sitting on a couch opposite me. He was frustrated because he wanted to do ads for our clients and the strategies I delivered were targeted marketing -- no mass media. He got so worked up that he was screaming across the room "You gotta understand I'm an ad guy!"

I thought about that for 3.5 nanoseconds and screamed back that "I was a salesman for our clients and didn't give two hoots if we ever did another ad unless I was sure it would get better results than targeted communications." Well, the words were a little more colorful, but you get the idea.

Sixty days later he left the agency. Oh, what a relief it was! Thanks, Speedy.

Marketing's Double-Edged Sword

A tight integration of direct marketing via either interruptive or opt-in modes combined with telemarketing can increase response rates by huge margins, often way over 50% higher.

Here's one secret to make the two work better together: Schedule the outbound mailings in quantities that can be handled by your contact center within two days from when the mailer arrives at your targeted prospect's in-mail. Don't put out the mail in huge quantities. Space it out over several days so your telemarketers can stay on top and make their personal connections while the mail message and offer are fresh in the minds of the recipient.

Here's another part of good double-edged sword marketing: Prepare the telemarketing script when the mailer is prepared. Consider them two parts of the same integrated campaign. Train the agents to handle the calls, along with overcoming objections, upselling, cross-selling, and future selling.

Pushing the Envelope for Dell and Delta Airlines

I read great praises for websites that facilitate ecommerce. Two in particular: Delta Airlines and Dell Computer. And yes they are a cut above the ordinary website that sits stone silent like a brochure on a screen instead of an interactive experience of the sort that these two marketers provide.

But let me push the envelope even for Dell and Delta.

The Dell site is held in high regard, but even this site does little to help buyers who are trying to figure out what their computer needs are, how to select a computer most appropriate for educating their children or running a business from home. They do not answer all the questions that such buyers have as to how to use the computer, what their specs should be and why, the kinds of things each buyer can do with one computer versus another. Instead, Dell very rapidly moves you into a cluster based on the one-sided transactional focus and gives you a few models to chose from. A truly helpful website would provide content that helps me understand my needs, helps me develop a checklist, helps me understand my requirements. So Dell can still push the envelope.

The Delta Airlines site has a wonderful functionality for buying tickets and tracking flight progress, both aimed at relieving their call centers from more expensive modes of transactions and service. There is minimal content to help various kinds of travelers to plan their vacations or to help business travelers to take advantage of their destinations or to assist them with personal needs in cities or countries where culture, resources, dangers, medical care are unknown. The Delta site is treated as a destination site instead of a journey that tracks and profiles customers to provide greater assistance and to generate increased loyalty. Such content would be a lot cheaper to produce than to pay off frequent flyer miles. The site is good, but misses enormous opportunities to build trust and loyalty. So Delta, too, can still push the envelope.

Take a look at your site. What kind of content can you provide that would make this site more than a brochure?

The Gartner Challenge to 1-to-1 Marketing

There's always the so-called "impossible trio" -- price, speed, quality. You can have any two but not all three.

Compare that to the challenge Gartner puts on marketers who want to claim real one-to-one website strategies:

1) The wilingness of customers to volunteer personal information because they get back value for the risk involved

2) The technical capacity to capture information and formulate rich online profiles

3) The ability to build and maintain business rules that determine when to serve customized content

4) The ability to access and integrate offline and external customer data in a reasonable amount of time

5) The ability to develop and manage content objects that can be combined in unique permutations

6) The technical capacity to match targeted information to customer profiles in near real time.

Table for Two: The Perfect Marketing Environment

Contextual marketing is a discipline that spells an end to white bread marketing. Instead of advertising jingles selling shelves and shelves of products, each screaming for an identity, think of dinner for two. Your product and your customer, across the table from one another in a personal conversation over a glass of wine. In the end, markets are nothing more than conversations.

Unfortunately, most of these conversations are entirely one-sided. Think how bored you get at a party when you run into someone who wants to talk all night about his or her life and never even once stops to let you talk. What a relief to get away from these arrogant, self-centered people.

Is that picture clear enough for you?

Why, then do we run our marketing communications like we're the center of the party?

Marketing on Steroids

We first put together the principles of what we called contextual marketing in 1979 when Richard Blumberg, Barron Krody and I formed a new promotional marketing agency. It evolved rapidly when we brought Ross Johnson into our fold ... Ross was a maniac over analytics. It worked for many Fortune 1000 enterprises: Procter & Gamble, Imation, Toshiba, Disney Institute, Compaq Computer, Canon, Olsten Services, Florida Power and Light, Wisconsin Tissue, Mercury Marine and many others.

This methodology reversed the 2% response rate that most traditional promotional marketing campaigns were achieving and delivered 35-50% response rates and sales that often increased 100% a year over multiple years.

Contextual Marketing aligns sales and marketing messages with:

(1) who the individual customer was,
(2) what the customer's identified needs, wants and interests were,
(3) what problem the customer wanted resolved,
(4) how the enterprise delivered value to match customer needs,
(5) when the customer was most likely to purchase.
Contextual Marketing blended and fused the activities of sales and marketing into a relationship management methodology (long before the acronym CRM became vogue), where the entire goal was to service the customer's needs.

Our first big initiative using this methodology was for Pillsbury. We produced about two million individually personalized recipe books, each with a set of smart coupons on the last page. These coupons were designed to reveal important information about the consumer household which was databased and used to cluster consumers into Persona Groups which then received new recipe books that tuned content and offers to the recipient needs.

This was, and is marketing on steroids. Caution, however. Walk before you run. Learn as you grow. Add complexity as you learn. It took many of our clients several years before this kind of marketing became second nature. And, did I mention, it is hard work ... which is why I believe most marketers shy away from it and stick with episodic marketing campaigns that are fortunate to pull in 2% responses.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Real Impact of Extended Buying Cycles

Ann Holland pumps out more good marketing facts and ideas in her Marketing Sherpa newsletter than the next 20 of us combined. A few titles she has provided to readers include:

>> Press Releases vs Blogs: 5 Ways to Catch Reporters' Attention in the Internet Age

>> How to Market to the Government: Top 5 Challenges & Solutions

>> Help Wanteds: 27 New Jobs + Post Your Own Opening

So without embellishing her words from a recent article in her newsletter -- "How to Create & Use an Audio Testimonial Library to Shorten Your Sales Cycle" -->

Last year, 67% of surveyed b-to-b marketers said their average cycle was six months or less. Now the tide has turned, and 55% of surveyed b-to-b marketers say their average cycle is *more* than six months.
All of us must understand the impact of sales cycles that are getting longer and longer. This adds a tremendous burden to the cost of sales and marketing. But it also demands that we develop better marketing and sales processes designed to guide a buying committee over nearly a year before they make a final vendor decision.

Profess Process! Write it on your whiteboard a thousand times. Take out a Sharpie permanent ink pen and write it in the palm of your hand. Tatoo it on the back of your eyelids.

Change how you go to market:

Look at it first from the customer's point of view. What is the value that the customer is looking for. Then back up one step at a time and build a process that will deliver this value. It's called value stream mapping and Microsoft Visio or some other flowcharting software should become your best friend. Get internal buyin from senior management, from the marketing team and from the sales team.

Change the culture:

Marketing is not the lead and sales is not the lead ... instead the two of us must get our collective house in order. Know each step in the value stream map for each particular prospect walking toward a 9-month decision. Know what marketing and sales should each be doing at each of these steps. Stop the infighting over "control" ... there's no longer time for the debate over whether a sales rep or a direct marketing specialist or a contact center rep owns the prospect. Everyone owns the prospect, but in a time-shifting flow. Communicate with one another. Capture knowledge together. Make decisions together. Close the sale together. Win together.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Power of PR Blogging Put into Action

"I am writing to ask if you will give consideration to a project we've started called" This request came from Robert French, PR Instructor at Auburn University.

My last post encouraged public relations practitioners to, among other things, look at the potential of blogs to supplement the traditional news release. Journalists use blogs as a resource to identify news strategies and to provide support for various trends.

Now Robert French is again pushing the envelope, not just for his students at Auburn University, but for all PR pros. He has created a site where anyone in the profession can get a free blog site in a non-profit, ad free environment. By the way, that's a picture of Robert to the left.

Why, Robert, do you do such crazy things as this initiative and the MarcomBlog site?

Well, of course, it’s a rhetorical question.

Truth is, Robert can’t help himself. He is an evangelist for the power of blogging as a medium that PR people (including his Auburn students) must come to grips with. He knows the only way to do it is to get people blogging themselves … and along the way, they will be promoting public relations as a great business strategy.

Enough said. Visit for yourself. All of his students have their class blogs hosted on this site this semester. They've just begun to blog. This project now allows anyone to sign up with ease. Just fill in three simple boxes and click one button. Automatic blog. It uses WordPress Multiuser 1.6 (version 1.6-ALPHA-2). That is, by the way, the same platform that powers the recently launched

Take a visit to MarcomBlog while you are at it … here 8 marcom professionals post their thoughts to create discussion.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

How Do You Get in the News?

Put yourself in the journalist’s shoes. Would you take time to read a news release from a company that’s been sent to every other journalist that is covering your market? Exactly how would such a reporter get ahead in the competitive world of journalism with me-too stories? Okay, you still need to send out news releases, but that will not get the real attention you covet. It might get you a few lines in the “industry update” section, but no feature stories that can drive business success.

Perhaps we can call this the PR practitioner’s version of “The Prisoner Dilemma.”

Anne Holland, famed eCommunicator on all topics marketing and editor of Marketing Sherpa, the industry standard for successful eNewsletter content, was pondering this dilemma recently and was meeting with Bob Evans, CMP Media’s Editorial Director and Senior VP. He got to the point fast: “If everyone's got it on Google News, what's the point?”

What can you do to get in the news?

One tactic I like is to identify the hot topics and find a way to step into the path of controversy. Position your company as the thought-leaders who know more about the big issues than any other.

Ann cites several ways to get in the news. First on her list is …. Tah dah!!! BLOGS!

Anne suggests: “If you're pitching a trend story (which Bob says many journalists love), try including links to several independent blogs to back your assertions up. Helps prove you didn't invent the trend just to get your CEO quoted, and there's some genuine audience interest in the topic. Also better than citing a direct competitor's story (few journalists get ahead by writing me-too stuff).”

Other ideas from Anne … go to the full article at Marketing Sherpa.

#2. Trade show meetings

#3. Customer stories

#4. New and under-exposed executives

#5. Ads

Anne’s blog includes a great offer:

Bob Evans and I are co-presenting a teleseminar entitled, "New Trends in IT Marketing" this Wednesday, Aug 24th at 2pm ET/11am PT. We'll be discussing results from a MarketingSherpa & CMP study where we asked IT pros on site such as InformationWeek what they think about typical ads. If you're interested, you can get a complimentary reservation to attend here:

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Why Do Sales and Marketing Pros
Resist Consistent Process?

David Stein, one of America’s leading sales effectiveness coaches, has a post at Cincom Simplicity that points out 7 reasons that sales training programs are not having the desired impact on sales. Sixth on his list was one that reverberated with me:

“Many sales people (gotta love 'em) are, by nature, seat-of-the-pants type folks -- 180 degrees opposite of engineers. Show ten average reps a step-by-step process and five will run the other way.”
Despite the prevalence of various selling processes, most companies fail in making the cultural changes necessary for a sales force to adopt a process.

Most sales people would rather do it their own way, and many are highly successful doing things their way. The problem is that weaker sales reps are then left to their own with no cultural mandate to align. And an even bigger problem is that reporting and measurement systems sink when reps skip around the corporate process.

This kills management’s ability to manage the business and it wipes out any ability to identify process problems so that the entire sales organization can get better and better.

Interestingly, I think the same thing goes for marketers as for sales people. The lack of (often even the active resistance of) discipline to follow a process is rampant in marketing.

Many marketers treat campaigns as episodes instead of sequential points in an overall longitudinal process. If the prospect does not respond to the campaign, the prospect is considered no longer a valid prospect. The marketer then winds up the next campaign with a new list of prospects and once again reacts only to those few who respond.

Marketing -- like sales -- requires us all to follow a process that will maximize our penetration into a given market segment.

Like David, I keep wondering why we all seem to resist consistent process.

My conclusion is that following a process is hard work. Mining customers out of a market segment takes a lot of long, hard hours of work: segmentation, campaign development, collaboration, consensus building, creative, production, and analysis.

None of us likes hard work, and based on statistics, most of us chose to avoid it.
It appears that those of us in marketing and in sales need a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.

There is tremendous power in the emerging CRM, marketing automation and sales force automation technologies, but if we don’t do the human side of the process consistently, no technology will work.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Words Matter. Make them Relevant or Kiss Off.

Seth Godin says there are two kinds of writing. I agree, but not quite the same.

If you're writing for strangers, make it shorter. Use images and tone and design and interface to make your point. Teach people gradually.

If you're writing for colleagues, make it more robust.Be specific. Be clear. Be intellectually rigorous and leave no wiggle room.
My experience points to two kinds of writing, as well. Stuff that customers find relevant and stuff that is so out-of-touch that it gets dumped in the can, clicked off to ether, tuned out or sent into TIVO-hell.

If it is relevant, it can be short or long. Of course, shorter is better. But I get awfully tired of going to websites and finding a bunch of high-level gobbeldie-gook words that are a waste of time ... I want information to help me make a decision and I get short, irrelevant vagueness. I'm willing to read if the words tell me what I need to know. Don't treat me like an idiot whether I am a stranger or a colleague.

Subtracting Customers is Bad Math

Leave it up to my colleague Troy Brumley to give me an unexpected example of how contextual communications works (or fails to work) in the blog world.

He shared a post from Adrants about Dell’s resistance to bloggers and then connected that with a comment he heard in the morning drive to the office while listening to NPR.

Don’t you just love it when 1+1=5?

First to Dell’s resistance to the blog. Dell policy apparently is to ignore negative feedback that travels across the blogosphere. Well, Jeff Jarvis posted a negative Dell experience.

Jarvis recounts the trials and tribulations he went through to get Dell's customer service to come to his aide. They didn't and he wrote about it. People read about it. Lots of people but, apparently, not Dell. They have this hands-off approach to weblogs treating them as ignorable rantings of the few and the unimportant.
Instead of responding with polite and sensitive care, Jeff got ignored. Hell hath no fury … other bloggers picked up on this story … Adrants carried it. Net result a lot of unneeded bad publicity for Dell. I read it all and conclude I’d be better off with a ThinkPad or an HP instead of a Dell paperweight.

Next, enter Bill Clinton on drivetime NPR. He was explaining to college students how one of his long-time friends voted for Bush in the last election. A paraphrase of his comment:
No one in the Democratic Party was talking to me. I can’t vote for someone who isn’t talking to me."
Troy noted: “Jeff voted with his dollars and Clinton’s friend voted with his feet.”

How sweet it is.

Even the best companies and politicians forget that they must stay relevant to our concerns. They must understand the context from which our concerns arise. If they take the time and analyze what we’re telling them, they have a much better chance of connecting with us.

Lesson One: Stay connected to your customers, or enter Dell Hell.

Lesson Two: Use the blog aggregators to actively listen to what bloggers are saying and if it’s bad news, address it head on.

Lesson Three: Even bad news can become good news if you manage it properly.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Men are from Mars, Women from Venus

Context is a tricky thing to master ... there are so many wrinkles to it.

Take this notice that a friend forwarded to me:

THIS IS A MAN'S WORLD WIDE WEB. Men and women respond to the Internet differently, according to research done at the University of Glamorgan in Wales. That may not be all that surprising, but the research says men and women differ greatly in what appeals to them in terms of Web-site design. In almost every case, women preferred Web sites designed by women and men preferred those created by men. The problem, of course, is that the majority of Web sites are designed by men, including those--such as ones for cosmetics and beauty aids--meant to appeal to women. Not surprisingly, the University of Glamorgan has launched a consulting service for Web-site design.
At first blush, you could read this notice and say to yourself "that's not so surprising." But a lot of context is like that. We see it as so common sensical that we miss it and walk right into another marketing trap.

While I lack the facts to prove it, I might dispute the Glamorgan researchers in their conclusion that websites are designed by men ... my observation is that there are a lot of women working as web designers. That aside, the lesson for contextual marketers here is that women have a sixth sense and intuitively understand each other far better than we men ... remember, we are from Mars and they are from Venus. If you want to link into the sixth sense for a marketing project aimed at women, at least have the project evaluated by women before taking it live.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Context Demands Innovation Before Automation

Back to my main theme – context.

I was sitting next to a marketer from a British utility company. They had just purchased a content management system and only then discovered they had no idea how to use it. Based on the amount of interactivity on most websites, she was not alone. Part of the blame can go on the software. Most of it is so complex to manage that we mortal marketers balk. But more of the blame is on us. We’re not being innovative in discovering the things that our customers really want and then using this knowledge to carve out an unbeatable competitive advantage.

Microsoft Insights gives an example in “What Do Customers Really Want?” A bike shop owner was faced with the opening of a Wal-Mart store in his back yard. He turned customer knowledge into a program that delivered a knock-out punch. For the past ten years he was gathering data about his customers in exchange for free lifetime service on bikes purchased at his store. He knew which customers who had previously purchased a bike with a child seat were now ready to put their kids on a bike of their own. He made a deal to these parents. Buy a kids’ bike and the purchase price could be applied to a future bike purchase as the child was ready to upgrade. He turned context into a killer campaign that held off the Wal-Mart threat.

Peppers and Rogers tell of a food wholesaler who prepared maps of each customer’s store shelving. He knew which products were in aisle 1, aisle 2, etc. Then he packed his pallets to match the store layout, making it easier for the retailers to restock items. A simple, almost hidden strategy that made him indispensable to his customers.

Another retailer thought his business was run by walk-in customers. That is until he took the time to compare sales slips with Web hits. Then he realized his walk-ins had decided their product purchases on the Web only to discover the product was out of stock. He added an inventory confirmation service to the website that increased customer satisfaction.

Each of these three examples is an innovative example of using context to serve customers. The bike guy persistently collected customer information and stored it in a spreadsheet. Another just observed the same situation all his competitors could plainly see, but they didn’t. The third integrated web data with his intuition.

What can you do to learn more about your customers?

1. Use web surveys, scripted conversations and interactive content to solicit responses that reveal important factors about the customer’s needs, wants, interests, economics.

2. 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 the organization can make future communications increasingly more relevant to each customer.

3. 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 cycle to trigger promotional offers that are relevant to the customer’s purchase readiness.

When we start thinking differently and then add in the power of marketing automation software, context unleashes stunning power.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Can Marketing Change How
Healthcare is Delivered?

I think the answer is yes, but not unless marketing forms a new kind of bond with the government and with healthcare providers – not one of building awareness or expanding marketshare. Instead, marketers should become integrally involved in helping healthcare providers change patient behavior.

Isn’t behavior change one of the things we’re supposed to be really good at?

Read any of the current healthcare news and you can tell that patients, especially the elderly, are not practicing good health behavior. As a result, those few who are chronically ill are costing the nation a fortune to care for avoidable problems.

The Federal Government might well be on the right track with its overlooked emphasis on disease management. The new Medicare Act offers new benefits to eligible beneficiaries, including expanded coverage for prescription medicine. A key component of the new regulation is a bold pilot program to lead a shift from the current fee-for-service episodic treatment to a new pay-for-performance business model. This is designed to manage the health of a specified population of Medicare beneficiaries who volunteer to participate in the health management program.

A selected group of providers of disease management solutions were selected based on their ability to cost effectively deliver improved outcomes and patient satisfaction.

My concern is that these providers all came from within the established healthcare industry and cannot see the need for effective marketing programs to reach the elderly and very sick populations. They see the solution as nurses working from call centers and talking with the enrollees about their health. That is a vital part. But it stops short of the kinds of communications needed to cause people to change behavior.

Here’s how I suggest contextual marketing could dramatically change healthcare to the elderly
… and maybe keep the lid on exploding costs that seem to imperil the whole nation:

Close coordination and support of attending physicians to optimize compliance to their recommended regimens for each patient/enrollee.

Close coordination with the beneficiary and with his or her “support team” – family or community members who are in a position to assist the beneficiary.

Integrated processes and best practices that address individual health needs and also deliver personally relevant and understandable communications that inform, entertain, encourage, inspire and motivate behavioral changes that improve compliance.

The design and implementation of assessment tools, clinical monitoring and management systems and communications processes to work across face-to-face, online and traditional communications modalities.

The tracking and reporting to evaluate success and to make continuous improvements.

An underlying technology framework to enable the one-to-one health management and communications processes that can alter target audience behavior, including real-time access to a single view of each beneficiary in the program.

That's where I would put my money ... how about you?

Thought-Leadership Marketing Builds Business

Thought-leadership is vital because of its potential to establish a meaningful point-of-difference that cannot easily be copied by competitors. It rests on the reality that companies can connect through the noise based on the way they think, as much as on the products or services they sell.

Stepping into the path of controversy -- Thought-leadership builds a company’s image by demonstrating its understanding of a challenging industry issue and demonstrating the ability to initiate fundamental change.

A core business strategy -- Thought-leadership is driven with a consistent approach to resolving a compelling industry challenge with an original, forward-thinking position. It is based on what you say more than what you sell. Thought-leadership strategies are executed by communicating innovatively, directly to the customers and stakeholders who can most impact economic success.

Convince targeted decision-makers that you have the thought-leadership to contribute positive performance benefits to vital industry issues.

Supplement business development efforts with a content-rich eMail campaign directed at the target audiences.

Maintain continuous awareness during selection process.

Demonstrate thought-leadership, command of the issues and understanding of the target audience.

Demonstrate that you have a superior process for improving both care quality and effectiveness metrics.

Definitions Underpin Marketing Process

You know how the argument goes around the table: is this a goal or an objective? Is this an objective or a strategy? Can it be measured?

Does it seem that every time you start up a new marketing project in a team setting there is initial confusion on how to outline the task?

This Marketing 101 textbook definition part of marketing is one that gets ignored in real life. I can remember sitting in college class as the professor droaned on and on about the difference between a goal and a strategy. Is this what I came to college for? Perhaps I should have listened more carefully in that class.

Every business culture should have its own way of understanding these terms. Having worked as a promotion consultant to Procter & Gamble for two decades, everyone at our agency understood OGSM as the outline we had to follow: Objectives, Goals, Strategies, Measures. It is a way of life at P&G.

If you have the same issue, let me offer a set of definitions that have helped me get past this logjam. The key words that everyone involved should define in a consistent manner are: Need Statement, Goal, Objective, Strategy and Measures. If there is collective understanding of these terms then you will save a lot of time and misunderstandings.

Other companies have different ways of enabling a common understanding … but far more companies simply do not have a consistent way of using key terms … and that means every project starts with different participants assuming one thing while others on the team assume something else.

Here’s how I use the key terms:

Need Statements define the problem you want to solve. Examples might include (1) we need to increase sales lead qualification, (2) we need to increase measurability of our marketing campaigns, (3) we need to purchase software to automate our marketing processes but no one knows how to use this software.

Goals state the high-level purpose. The goal statement should be written succinctly in one or two sentences. Goals should be written to address business problems and needs. Examples might include (1) we want to improve how our brand is perceived with a specific target audience segment, (2) we want to gain sales department support for our next marketing campaign, (3) we want to improve the internal department efficiency so we can produce more campaigns without increasing staff.

Objectives state the expected performance outcomes of the marketing initiative. Objectives should ALWAYS be observable, specific and measurable. Objectives should always support the stated marketing goal. If not, the objective should be re-evaluated. Objectives state the expected performance outcomes of a marketing initiative, with specific measures for accountability. They usually involve performing a specific task or action. Examples might include (1) the website visitor will enter a product order from the shopping cart with 100% accuracy, (2) the campaign will produce a 35% response rate, (3) we will have 85% unaided brand recall when the campaign is completed.

Strategies are the few high-level processes for delivering the measurable objectives and tactics become the breakdown of the strategies into specific assignments. Examples might include (1) we will achieve our objective for increasing leads by 40% by initiating database driven marketing campaigns, (2) we will use trade magazine publicity to achieve our brand awareness objectives, (3) we will add a human-face to our brand image by initiating employee blogs.

One last comment … make it all measurable. Go on the line with clearly stated metrics and then measure the strategies and tactics. Again, from my experience, too many marketers write fuzzy Goal/Strategy Statements. They don’t want to be held accountable. If that’s the case, get a different career. Your company cannot afford sloppy marketing.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Salesforce of the Future

The Internet, according to Line 56, did not kill off sales reps, but it is causing dramatic changes in salesforce strategy and deployment.

Five new trends are noted as evolving out of traditional selling to future selling:

1. We need greater collaboration between marketing and sales.

2. We need to learn how to use the Internet to help salespeople sell.

3. We need to create an integrated information system for planning, scheduling, and controlling all the presale and postsale activities in an organization.

4. We need systems that connect and retrieve information, regardless of where the sales rep or customer are located.

5. We need simplified tools. Salespeople simply will not use a system that is too complicated.

Measure Marketing or Perish

Consider All Metrics Categories

Metrics are standards that convert measurements that you make into values that indicate whether a project or effort has succeeded. These results are often compared against benchmarks—the metrics values of the companies that are the best in their industries.

Metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of a marketing campaigns and longer-term efforts are numerous. The CMO Council has noted that metrics for marketing fall in four areas of performance, with perhaps the last two, because of their long-term impact, having greater significance:

1. Business acquisition and demand generation (e.g., market share, lead quantity and quality)
2. Product innovation and acceptance (e.g., adoption rates, user attachment, customer loyalty, word-of-mouth)
3. Corporate image and brand identify (e.g., brand value, financial equity, awareness, employee and customer retention)
4. Corporate vision and leadership (e.g., share of voice, message retention and relevance)

However, close to three-quarters of the senior marketing executives responding to a CMO survey said their primary role was to generate leads that culminated in sales, i.e., the other three performance areas were substantially less considered. At the same time however, other studies show that close to half of business decision-makers (read “customers”) considering technology purchases strongly look at the brand of the product. Fewer than 20% of respondents in the same study would buy a brand they had heard only little about. Furthermore, companies that reduced their brand identity-oriented advertising have found that their cost per sales lead generated rose substantially in the ensuing year.

These findings, among others, may indicate some degree of misalignment between the internal drivers of marketing departments versus what customers are actually looking for—which brings up the issue of customer-centricity versus product-centricity, a recurring theme in Cincom’s effort to help you simplify your business operations.

Consider Your Company’s Overall Goals and Individual Product Goals

What are your company’s objectives in the marketplace? Are there different objectives for different products? Where are those products in their life cycles? All these questions affect the marketing messages and programs developed to promote the company and products, and by extension, the metrics used to measure the success of those messages and programs.

A new company or a company introducing new products is likely to be more focused on building market share, for example, than an established company with very recognizable brands. A company established in the marketplace may emphasize building, extending, improving, and retaining customer relationships. The metrics related to different company goals also correlate to the metrics categories mentioned earlier.

Market Share Goals

To increase market share, marketing efforts usually emphasize awareness and education of customers about products, i.e., help take potential customers through a good part of the buying process. Some metrics that may be used to evaluate market share growth as a result of marketing activities are:

1. Growth in number of customers/lead generation (from all sources)
2. Share of preference
3. Share of voice/discussion
4. Share of distribution

Customer Retention/Market Penetration Goals

It’s been said many times that it costs a great deal more to find a new customer than to keep the customers you have. Losing customers after just one purchase indicates dissatisfaction with your products, a lack of up-selling and cross-selling ability among your reps, or a severely limited product line that does not pique further interest among customers—all of which point to serious problems. Some metrics that relate to your long-term growth in market penetration are:

1. Purchase frequency and recency
2. Share of wallet—the amount of your customers' total purchases that your company controls; to some degree, an evaluation of customer loyalty and potential for greater sales that exists in your customer base)
3. Customer loyalty and advocacy—how active your customers are as “sales reps” for your company
4. Customer satisfaction

Market Value Goals
Over the past 50 years, the intangible assets of companies have grown to comprise close to half the total market value of nonfinancial companies. In other words, today, the brands, customers, franchises, goodwill, and intellectual property of a company generally comprise around half the value of the company. Plant, equipment, cash and marketable securities, and receivables—which used to play more important roles because companies were evaluated only in terms of book value—are only part of the picture now. Some metrics that provide proof of market value improvement from marketing activities are:

1. Price/share premium—an indicator of brand equity (the price your product commands in the marketplace compared to your competitors that have similar market shares, or the share of the market your product commands in the marketplace compared to your competitors that sell their products at similar prices)
2. Customer franchise value
3. Rate of new product acceptance
4. Net-advocate score

Want a Good Dose of Inspiration?
Try The Big O

Back in 1960, I was still in high school. It was a great year, made especially great because Oscar Robertson was playing in the National Basketball Association. He had just graduated from the University of Cincinnati Bearcats with every honor imaginable -- except the NCAA Championship which somehow had eluded the 'Cats, despite The Big O's heroics.

Fortunately for all us Big O fans, he was recruited by the Cincinnati Royals, then an NBA team. I would get on the bus, transfer to three other busses and travel across the city to watch him play with the Royals. His stats: 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists per game-an average of a triple-double for an entire season. Not even Magic Johnson or Larry Bird could match those numbers.

Another interesting note that many sports fans don't know is that the Bearcats won two back-to-back NCAA championships after Oscar graduated (and they missed by the edge of their teeth getting the third one in a row). By then, I was the Assistant Sports Information Director while a student at UC, so I had a front row seat for the 'Cat games.

Those were the Glory Years in Cincinnati.

Why talk about them in my marketing blog?

Well, perhaps part of it is that Oscar is now a millionaire -- but he made it in the world of business. His story of success is one that should inspire all of us to move on from great to greatest. After he retired from pro ball, Robertson became president of Orchem, ORDMS and Orpack-Stone, with interests in banking, real estate and media. 45 years after graduation, The Big O is still scoring points for Cincinnati as mentor, benefactor and organ-donation advocate.

He became successful as a man because of his incredible pursuit of excellence, whether on the court or in construction or in his many civic efforts. He is a model and an inspiration for any of us who want to be successful -- no matter what our field of endeavor.

Now, I'm doing a little "on my own" grassroots marketing for someone from whom we can all learn ... and now you can follow this link to get a copy of his new video: The Big O.

If anyone wants a quick dose of inspiration for a career that needs a little recharging, The Big O can provide it. Get the video and watch a real pro in action.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Reveries Cool News -- A Great Marketing Resource

Do you subscribe to Reveries' Cool News eNewsletter?

If not, you should get it ... honest, it is a great read about marketing and customers ... comes daily, but takes just 5 minutes to read and almost always has some clever reinterpretation of an article from WSJ, New York Times, Financial Times, etc.

I quote Reveries' Cool News frequently because they get my tiny brain tripping off in some directions that I would have missed without them.

For example, the August 11 Edition talks about customer identity and how it is more important to get at the customer's "state of mind" than more ostensibly rational factors ... as I preach here, this state of mind is the attitudinal aura that truly impacts purchase behavior ... it reveals the contextual relevance path for your messages and promotional offers.

Identity & Behavior. "Because identity is fundamental to behavior, choice of identity may be the most important 'economic' decision people make," according to study by economists George A. Akerlof and Rachel E. Kranton, as reported by Virginia Postrel in The New York Times. That view is different from "standard methodology in economics" which "tend to ignore attitudes of states of mind" and focus instead more objective, or ostensibly rational issues. For example, "economists calculate that students will stay in school as long as they believe the benefits of education -- its effect on future earnings -- outweigh the costs in income lost by not working while in school."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Personal Productivity ... Personal Focus

Does this sound familiar?

There are already fewer people in most organizations than ever before, and most of us have more work heaped on us that before. It is harder to delegate work to other people, and the drumbeat of most businesses is not slowing down - it's increasing.
That's a leading comment from Jeffrey Phillips where he writes about personal productivity in One Thing at a Time.

Having just posted an article on personal focus, I then caught up with Jeffrey writing about the same subject. It's like someone is trying to tell me something! Maybe I need to allocate 9 am to 10 am tomorrow morning on just one task and get it done. Thanks, Jeffrey and David.

Overcoming Your Next Self-Induced Slump

Growing a business is too often a cyclical event instead of what we all know intuitively would work better – persistent, consistent, everyday progress. But we’re all human and we have good days and off-days. That just means we have to overcome the human tendency to spin down into a self-induced slump. That’s where a set of best practices can come into play … so we can keep business growth a simpler task that grows the business and assures better compensation for the effort.

Dave Lakhani is what he calls a “business acceleration strategist” and his credibility rides on a career of positive results – with strategies that have achieved record breaking growth for over 500 businesses in the past ten years. Dave shares a seminar he recently delivered to a client on how to get out of a sales slump at his website where you can get a copy or where you can listen to the seminar.

Some key comments from Dave:

“Sales slumps are caused because we decide to not focus on accomplishment, but rather we focus more on doing something completely unrelated.” In other words, we allow distractions to divert us from the prime task.

His main recommendation: The one tactic that works best is to focus for one hour each day where you do non-stop something that will move your business forward – no interruptions, no mental lapses. Total focus.

Here’s what Dave wants you to do right now. “Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down the three most important things you need to accomplish for your business in the next thirty days. Next, schedule an hour tomorrow where you can work on the first item on your list. At the appointed hour, get busy. I mean it. Close your door, turn off all your phones and don’t check email even once. NOTHING will happen that is so important it can’t go without your attention.

Let me add a few thoughts of my own to Dave's. I used a similar technique when I was running sales for my promotion agency. I kept a large framed sign on my office wall: Dale, what have you done today to move one step forward?

And as to keeping focused on the right things, here's what I did:

If you don’t have three activities that scream at you, I suggest tackling one that most of us have difficulty with – focusing on the focus of your business. You cannot be all things to all people. Where should you concentrate your time and resources to assure business success. Take the first hour to develop the list of potential opportunities. Take the second hour to winnow. Take the third hour to validate. Take the fourth hour to develop a strategy. Take the fifth hour to communicate this business focus. In one week, you will be amazed at how far you have energized yourself and those colleagues from whom you need help in delivering on your business focus.

Keep the one-hour appointments with yourself for 30 days.

Then shift to a new business opportunity that needs the same level of intense focus.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Story with a Happy Ending for Shari

Sometimes it is wonderful how communication and prayer works. I saw a plea on July 22 for a liver transplant on Adrants. Shari Kurzrok, the vp of public relations for Ogilvy was in desperate need for a liver transplant. Immediately, I did a post here and notified my colleague Steve Kayser who also posted her need in our Expert Access newsletter. Her need carried with it exacting and difficult specifications: Shari could not accept a liver from a healthy living donor. The person HAD TO BE in critical condition, on life support, or facing imminent death. The donor's family and doctor MUST DESIGNATE THE LIVER DIRECTLY TO SHARI through UNOS. The donor's family needs to consent to donate a liver. Must be a full (NOT partial) liver transplant. Must be an A or O blood type. Anything less than that and 31-year-old Shari Kurzrok would die within days. Often in times of medical crisis and urgent need, special requests for help like these end up having sad endings.

The good news: We have received notice from Heather Scherman, of Ogilvy Worldwide Pr in NY -- and a post from Shari’s family (see below). We will never know who the donor was, but hopefully all the awareness and special prayers from people around the e-world that read and circulated her story had a positive effect on this outcome.

Hi Steve:

GREAT news - Shari received her liver on Saturday!

She is doing well and is in recovery. ‘

Thank you again for all of your help!


Heather Scherman,

And a thank you post from her family:

Her doctor finished the surgery Saturday night and said that it went very well. She is still recovering in the ICU, but is stable.

We just wanted to thank everyone for the unbelievable outpouring of love, support and prayers over the past three weeks. It has been an amazing source of comfort and inspiration and we have been touched by the kindness of strangers and friends alike. Shari will be overwhelmed when she learns the extent of the efforts that took place on her behalf across the nation.

We are forever grateful to the donor’s family for this amazing gift and our thoughts are with them during this difficult time.

We hope that Shari’s situation has helped to draw attention to organ donation and that it will encourage those who may not have considered it before to become an organ donor. According to UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing), there are over almost 90,000 people in the United States waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, with more than 17,000 awaiting a liver, illustrating the importance of organ donation. We know how hard the waiting can be and truly hope that everyone continues to spread the word for this urgent need so that other families can experience the joy that we are feeling today.

Thanks again,
Shari’s Family, Friends & Colleagues

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Path 3: Overcoming Channel Proliferation Woes

Encourage Customers into Profitable Channel Behavior

Communications with customers has become fragmented, inconsistent and confusing. For business originators, this translates into dissatisfied customers, more non-productive administrative work and lost business opportunity. Such fundamental issues are putting renewed pressure on profits and demand new answers.

PROCESS: Set your target for customers that you want to encourage to migrate to new channels. Have your customer managers identify customers who are marginally profitable. Set a corporate goal of moving, for example, a third of these customers into more profitable channel behavior.

CULTURE: This calls for educating customers on the added value they gain in using alternative channels and about the various channels available to them, with suggestions on how to use remote and electronic channels. Yes, customers will always prefer using the channel they find most convenient for each particular activity. But this desire for convenience can be instrumental in changing behavior if you show them how remote and electronic channels actually give them more control. Reward managers for actively steering customers to alternative channels and reward the customers themselves – using both one-time incentives and/or long-term discounts on services to cause channel trial and to get the new behavior in place.

TECHNOLOGY: Building a unified view of each customer, using all the data throughout the enterprise. Apply business analytics to understand what drives channel satisfaction among customers with similar needs. Match services to deliver these drivers in each appropriate channel. Create cluster groups of customers with similar needs (i.e., low-cost segments, convenience segments, loyal segments) and develop a matrix for each, including such factors as segment characteristics, prioritized customer needs, channel objectives, product purchase patterns and ideal products and channels for each segment. This matrix helps you understand the issues you are dealing with in each channel and gives you a basis for making sure your channels are delivering the best possible service at the most profitable rate of return.

Path 2: Overcoming Channel Proliferation Woes

Align and Integrate Stove-piped Channel Structures

Channel strategies should include the ability to provide customers with personalized experiences based on individual preferences and interaction history. Providers should be able to leverage this information to provide services and products that are meaningful to the customer. Channel services can be further separated into front-end services (such as Customer Preferences, Interaction History and Pre-sales Consultative Advice) and back-end services (such as Help Desk, Installation and Transaction Management).

Cap Gemini Ernst & Young reported in “A Need to Change Perspective” that 89% of institutions surveyed cited “lack of integrated systems” as the leading reason for the failure to synchronize channel support systems around customer needs. Each channel was maintained as an independent silo with its own workflow, database and sales and service processes.

Consensus in our research is that it will take an integrated approach to customer acqui¬sition and development to be successful. Such point-of-service solu¬tions will wrap frontline, telephone, internet and mail media into a total offering. No matter which medium creates a particular touchpoint with the customer, the channel will deliver the same information and experience in a highly personalized manner.

PROCESS: When channel processes are integrated, it is possible for managers to map out transac¬tions and channels and guide customers to the most efficient use of their own time to accom¬plish their particular goals, while conserving enterprise resources. Implement processes to assure efficient channel integration and to improve quality and speed. Realign customer sales and serv¬ice processes around customer preferences. Whereas in the past, customers completed an entire transaction in one channel, now they will do research on the web, get product and pricing information from the 800 service, visit the local “brick and mortar” office or retail facility to get personal advice and complete the application process online. Optimize the ability for channels to transfer knowledge to one another. Extend business process flow across multiple channels. Improve customer communications and agent support across channels. Accelerate quoting and policy issuance processes.

CULTURE: Define where customer ownership really belongs – frontline or back-office. If back-¬office (where service is actually delivered), then empower these people to do the job right. Make sure that operations people traditionally focused on efficiency can become relationship managers. Upgrade the call center into a customer relationship center and train them on selling as well as servicing. To minimize channel conflict, define clear roles and responsibilities for each channel and clear policy for how channels help everyone grow. Encourage knowledge sharing to replace the natural tendency to hoard knowledge to protect turf.

TECHNOLOGY: Data access and integration, process automation, sales automation, multi-channel contact center automation and document automation are just a few of the automation technologies available.

Path 1: Overcoming Channel Proliferation Woes

Improve Internal Processes and Sales Inefficiencies

As promised, here is a more detailed look at Path 1 for overcoming channel proliferation woes. Each detailed view will center on Process, Culture and Technology.

Internal workflow processes surrounding ever-expanding channels have grown in a haphazard fashion. The task of processing a new customer sale or assisting a current customer requesting service is too complex and is different depending upon which channel is involved. There are too many people involved, too many steps, too much confusion, and too many mistakes. The end result is too much cost, lost business opportunities and unhappy customers.
As companies drive more of their customer interactions from the frontline into automated back-office operations, there is likely to be a decrease in overall service satisfaction. Frontline people are by nature and training skilled at delivering services to customers while back-office staffs are more operational and typically not as sensitive to customer concerns. The challenge then is to push the appropriate customer interactions into automated channels, but not lose the customer in the process.

PROCESS: Eliminate or automate inefficiencies that hinder channel success. Integrate processes to improve customer acquisition, cross-selling and up-selling. Improve customer retention with service that meets the needs of customers while optimizing sales and service efficiencies. Become world-class in processing business faster and better than the competition.

CULTURE: Organizational “fiefdoms” must be integrated under common man¬agement so that resources and processes are centered on deliver¬ing an enterprise commitment to customers, using the most appropriate channel mix possible. Management should guard against cultural drag or even subterfuge that can minimize success. Look for structures and rewards to overcome cultural issues and get all management working toward integrated channel programs. Only when organizations move to a customer-centric mode will they be able to route customers cost-efficiently to the channel best equipped for each customer process.

TECHNOLOGY: Utilize technology to improve internal processes that can impact marketing, sales and service: analytics, knowledge management, marketing automation, guided selling, process automation, multi¬-channel contact center automation, document automation, mobile messaging, and agent support systems. Implement standards to add to efficiency and better external connectivity.

Three Paths to Overcome
Channel Proliferation Woes

Channel proliferation has quietly become one of the biggest headaches facing senior executives. The reasons are many. I offer three paths to help put CEOs back in charge. I summarize them here and will add more detailed posts on each Path.

Path 1: Improve internal processes and sales efficiencies

Resolve sales process, roles and support to increase proficiency of selling to prospective and current customers. Integrate channels with back-office staff and processes so everything works seamlessly to sales closure.

Path 2: Align and integrate stove-piped channel structures

Resolve channel conflict and enhance channel cooperation to improve management, agent and customer satisfaction. Manage channels against business profitability requirements to achieve profitable revenue growth. Resolve the frequent conflict between marketing and sales departments that lead to wasted resources.

Path 3: Encourage customers into profitable channel behavior

Align channel strategies around customer demand and channel usage. Resolve access and integration of customer data on disparate systems.

Turn on Your Marketing GPS

Do you get lost as easily as I do? Driving somewhere unfamiliar is an invitation for crisis and confusion. If I am supposed to turn right, I turn left. If my wife is giving directions, it is double trouble. We both get lost. What we needed all along was a Global Positioning System. A GPS to navigate us simply to the right place. A computer voice that says: “Turn left at the next intersection.” Or, “you just missed the exit, dummy, turn around and go back.” What a wonderful invention!

What we all need in marketing is a GPS Navigation System. The first thing it would want to know is where we are headed. Then it would give us directions to stay the course.

By chasing too many rainbows, we find no pot of gold. For too long, business has stared at its own navel, building complex processes that brought no value to customers. The hardest rule of marketing to learn is to do less but do it better.

A GPS gives us focus. The best model will point you directly at your customers.

It will tell you that the place to begin your marketing plan is on developing, sustaining and growing customer relationships. If, as is true of the vast majority of businesses, your focus is company-centric or product-centric, you have the old model GPS. Your workforce will likely create a more complex labyrinth than one riveted on serving customer needs. A simple, singular focus on customers will do more to unravel complexity than any other action. It will empower your entire organization to see more clearly and to act more precisely.

Most of us do not know enough about our customers to change how we produce our products for them or how we interact with them. Unknowingly, we treat our most profitable customers to a complex maze of processes that hinder good service. Not knowing our customers' needs will cause us to introduce the wrong products for the wrong reasons. Our production processes will create inventory of parts or finished goods that turn too slowly, with a direct impact on overall profitability.

Customer profitability is not constant over time, particularly for industries directly serving consumers where life events such as marriage, children, and a family death greatly influence a person's wealth and their ability to be profitable to you. We literally push customers out the door, only to discover that one firm's unprofitable customer is often another firm's most profitable customer – just because the competitor had a different process for recognizing customer profitability and serving the customer’s needs.

Without a clear idea of who buys your products and from whom you make the most money, you're setting yourself up to be run down by a more informed competitor.

An Inspirational Marketing Story from Xerox

We all know the power of story-telling in marketing. Stories bring basic principles to life. Like the parables of the Bible.

I'm not sure if this story that was passed on to me is true or not. Either way, it serves as phenomenal illustration of how extra effort can make all the difference in marketing.

Xerox ran a promotion in the capital city of one of the Scandinavian countries: order a printer and, if it doesn't arrive by 5pm the next day, you get it for free. Or something like that. The offer was limited to the zip codes that covered the capital only, as the company knew that the heavy snow that was around that time of the year meant it would not be possible to deliver to mountainous outlying areas and hit the deadline.

So, the fulfilment personnel were surprised to find an order had come from an address that was indeed in the snow-covered mountains that surrounded the capital city. Looking closely at their zip code map, they discovered that a fluke in the coding system had embraced a neighboring mountain with one of the city's postal codes.

The order had come in from a chalet at the top of the mountain. And there was only half a day left before the offer expired. Rather than give up, two Xerox personnel pulled the order out of the normal delivery system and set off themselves.

They hired a snowmobile and packed the printer on the back. Hours later, exhausted, and battered by the wind and the snow, they carried the printer up the last few hundred meters to the chalet door and knocked. It was just past the deadline.

"Sorry it's late, sir", they gasped to the astonished man who opened the front door. "Here's your free printer. We missed the deadline, so there's no charge."

Disappointed and weary, the two Xerox people made their way back, feeling like failures. The story soon found its way around the company. A couple of weeks later, they got a call from another department. Xerox had just landed a massive printer order from one of that country's largest companies. It turned out the man they had delivered to was the CEO. He was so impressed with the lengths the two Xerox employees had gone to to deliver just one printer to an individual customer, that he ordered his procurement people to switch all their printer business to Xerox.

And all because two people decided to go to extraordinary lengths to deliver on a promise to a customer (and not to have to give away a free printer, of course!).

The KISS Principle and Occam’s Razor

We all like things that are simple, but in business that’s a rarity. It gets worse if we don’t deliberately work at simplification on a regular basis. When we keep things simple, we gain competitive advantage by being faster and more productive, by being easier to work with, by producing products and services that are easier to learn and use, by being more approachable, by resolving customer needs more consistently.

At McDonalds, you give them money for a hamburger and they give you a hamburger. At UPS, you give them money and a package and they give the package to someone else, somewhere else by 10:00 AM the next day. But behind the simple scenarios, lies a set of processes that have been honed to perfection.

When we began the venture to build a blog around the concept of simplicity, of course, we did some background research work … to give you a foundation of understanding upon which to design your path toward simplification.

The KISS Principle got its start in the 14th Century. Franciscan monk William Occam (1285-1349) spent his life developing a philosophy that God’s existence was a matter of faith that could not be justified by rational proof. Occam insisted on paying close attention to language as a tool for thinking and on observation as a tool for testing reality. His thinking and writing is considered to have laid the groundwork for modern scientific method. His insistence on parsimony or minimalism led him to write simple, to the point phrases that cut through to the essence of thought … hence people referred to it as Occam’s Razor.

On the subject of “complexity/simplicity,” Occam realized that the weakest link in a chain would be the one that failed … and that the longer and more complex the chain, the greater the chance of a critical meltdown somewhere along the chain. He wrote: “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate.” This roughly translates to “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” Today we translate this as “the simplest solution is usually the best.”

Occam’s Razor becomes a methodology wherein the simplest or most obvious explanation for several competing ideas is the one that should be preferred until it is proven wrong. As Einstein later said: “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Or as we now say: “Keep it simple, stupid.”

What have you simplified today?

Opt-in Versus Opt-out Marketing

The Reality of Switching

Don Peppers, principal in the 1:1 consultancy Peppers & Rogers, writes in their newsletter about “opt-in versus opt-out: the reality of switching. He cites Seth Godin’s oft-quoted comparison of the two communications models as “one way is to go to a singles bar and propose to everyone you meet; another is to go on a date and build up from there. Opt-out is like going to the singles bar.”

Now, I must admit, I like opt-in communications because they are friendlier, less intrusive and typically more relevant to each customer’s individual situation. Customers choose to visit your website, they choose to receive your newsletter, they choose to post a comment to an article on your blog. That’s the grist for true contextual marketing.

But for the life of me I cannot figure out why there is a debate over which model to use. I want to use both outbound and inbound communications. Outbound can create awareness for your brand’s value message and steer a prospect or customer toward the start of a relationship. But the relationship will not bud unless your communications are relevant to the customer, and the quicker you notice the customer’s interests, needs and expectations, the sooner the relationship will bud.

But give me both opt-out (outbound, intrusive) and opt-in (inbound, relevant) in my toolbox. Each has its place in building and nurturing customers.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Changing Marketing Minds

You can look at marketing/sales programs (or the photo to the left) from different points of view and arrive at totally different conclusions. We need to create the common viewpoint if we are to move forward successfully.

I blogged recently about Strength Through Unity. It was a posting that was inspired by the pastor of our church -- so I don't want to claim the thinking as all mine, but he did send me into a pathway that had relevance to how we run our businesses.

The essence is that when we come together, we can accomplish so much more. But it clashes with the reality that too often managers at the same company are not aligned and they actually subvert plans -- knowingly or unknowingly.

This was an observation we made years ago at my promotion agency. Marketers (with our help) produced lead generation programs that worked. They brought in tons of leads. But the leads went ignored when they went into the field. Now we were clever enough to know sales people were not ignoring the leads just to avoid work. They simply were never involved in the development of the campaigns ... they did not see the process ... they were not in alignment. When they had trouble turning the first few leads into qualified prospects, they assumed the programs were duds and the leads were not worth their time. So we worked with our clients to create alignment between marketing and sales. This did not happen overnight. It takes time to change behavior. But eventually the alignment process did begin improving results.

Seth Godin touches on the same subject when he writes about how to encourage business associates to change their opinions during meetings. Read his whole post (I Changed My Mind Yesterday) because he provides several good guidelines to encourage greater alignment.

From my perspective, the essential order of the day is to realize that when you call a meeting to initiate a major marketing program, there are people around the table who do not agree with you and who do not want to agree with you. This is the most important task we have as managers ... either they have to change their minds or you have to change your mind. You cannot leave the room with hidden dissention. The program will unravel if everyone is not on board, together, walking arm in arm toward the goal and perfect execution.

WOM Marketing Works

No mystery about it ... word of mouth marketing works.

Apparently, it even elected Abraham Lincoln as president.

So it was not newly created with the advent of the Internet.

A good post at Seth's Blog.

The essential thing to remember is that whether it is an old technique or a new one, word of mouth spreads fast ... even faster now that we have billions of bloggers.

Can CRM Really Support Marketing and Sales Warriors?

On his way to challenging the very foundation of many of today's CRM systems, Louis Columbus builds his rationale from three observations about the most successful sales warriors he's worked with at Cincom and at former companies he has worked for or consulted with.

In watching the best salespeople work, here is what becomes apparent: (1) Relationships rule over process. (2) The best salespeople have simple, manual systems that have relationships in the center, not just transactions. (3) Integration rules.

Louis, you are smack on. I suspect at the base level somewhere this is one of the unintended mis-firings of many failed CRM implementations. The same could be said for creating "marketing warriors."

The marketing and sales professions are blurring as marketers now have 1:1 marketing strategies that communicate to prospects and customers at the individual customer level -- simulating what a sales rep does in the field. This calls for greater and greater coordination between marketing and sales, and a sense of shared ownership in the success of winning trust with customers and moving those customers step-by-step into a positive relationship.

In the end, the key measures are not "transactions." Instead, they are on softer attributes that govern a personal relationship and build on contextual relevance. CRM systems are not yet good at detecting and managing these personalization attributes, so it often takes brute force by marketers and salespeople to create and grow such relationships.

Marketing Advice You Won't Hear
From Your Own Ad Agency

Al Ries is a good friend of Cincom Systems and is one of several experts who regularly publishes advice in our newsletter -- Expert Access.

Al and his daughter, Laura, (in picture to left) are best known for their landmark business books on advertising: "The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR" and their most recent book "The Origin of Brands."

Al recently sent an email to Steve Kayser, our PR Director. This email contains advice you will not get from most ad agencies, but Al and Laura have the facts to back it up:

Dear Steve:

The biggest problem with PR is the lack of leadership. If you are the head of a PR unit owned by a giant ad agency, you are going to hesitate to say very much about one of the most important issues in marketing. PR vs. advertising. We believe that PR should come first in the launch of a brand. PR should set the tone and the strategy for the brand. Only after the brand has achieved some credibility in the marketplace should advertising be used.It’s obvious that no “captive” PR firm is going to say that. There’s only one large PR firm that is independent. Edelman. But Richard Edelman can’t do the job alone. He needs a lot of help in communicating the PR story.

All the best, Al
Editor's Note: I would have shown a photo of Al Ries, but Laura is much better looking. Sorry, Al.

Marketing Needs Transparency
in All We Do

Jack O’Dwyer just blasted the big public ad agencies who have gobbled up the top-ranked PR agencies who were once independent. The largest remaining independent PR agency is Edelman, with $230.4 million in annual revenue. How big are the PR outfits now resident inside ad agencies? No one seems to know because they have dropped out of O’Dwyer’s annual PR agency ranking. O’Dwyer calls a spade a spade: “It’s like a baseball team that won’t report its players’ batting averages to baseball writers.”

From my perspective, transparency of results is essential in helping us all get better at what we do. This is true whether it is agency billing records, marketing department campaign metrics or sales force pipeline progress. Sure transparency puts us all on the line and makes us fess up to what we’re doing wrong. That’s how it helps us get better. The weak hide. The strong profess.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Karen Hughes: Marketing Freedom
and the American Way of Life

A few weeks ago, I read about the US Government's ongoing public diplomacy program aimed at curbing the hatred that breeds terrorism. Iposted on the concept of "marketing" the American way of life to people who misunderstand it or who have been taught to hate it without experiencing it for themselves. I also noted that it is difficult to communicate to people when even the technology to receive the messages is denied to people living in many countries where the government controls media and media distribution.

The PR Machine took it a step further, suggesting Craig Newmark join Karen Hughes' new initiative to promote America. Karen Hughes recently declared to the LA Times:
"the urgent need to foster greater understanding, more respect and a sense of common ideals among Americans and people of different countries, cultures and faiths around the world."
Back on August 11, 2004, Craig Newmark said on his own blog:
"Companies need to get serious about listening to their customers, not just talking about it, but really doing it."
Whether this is public relations or marketing (the difference often blurs), the essential task of helping different cultures to understand, appreciate and even enjoy one another instead of killing one another is one of the loftiest goals any of us could embrace. But way before we start preaching about the wonders of America, we need to listen to the target audience so we can see our words as they would see them.

Karen Hughes understands the listening mission ... which is why she is such a good communicator. At her confirmation hearing before the US Sentate, Hughes told Senators Richard Lugar and George Voinovich, she intends first to listen: "I want to learn more about you and your lives, what you believe, what you fear, what you dream, what you value most."

Changing behavior is the underlying task of marketing. Behavior does not change unless you have created an environment of mutual trust. This is true whether I am marketing Cincom software, or Karen Hughes is marketing the American way of life. And as we all know, trust begins with listening.

But listening in this particular public diplomacy initiative is not so easy. Sure the Hughes team will have ears, but they are also listening through their own mindset. We value freedom. We demand freedom. We cannot conceive of people who don't likewise demand freedom. We watched the Soviet Union break up because people wanted freedom. So we assume all people want to hear our message of freedom. The people of the Middle East, however, might not hear our message from the same vantage. For some of them, freedom is frightening ... how can you hold together so many different cultures within a country like Iraq without a dictator? Can the people of the Middle East hear our message, and can we hear why our message might fall on deaf ears?

If we can convince a prospect to trust us so they will buy and be loyal, can we not also help cultures begin to trust one another? Not an easy task when generations keep passing distortion on to the next generation ... breaking through all this just might be the most important marketing assignment going on in the world today.

Confirm Audience Stereotypes Before Marketing to Them

There's a huge difference between marketing to Personas and marketing to stereotypes of what we think an audience looks like. Persona marketing is based on data and critical insights. Stereotyping is based on opinion (often wrong).

Two examples:

The first is from Ageless Marketing:

Today’s 86 million young adults generally have idealized and somewhat narcissistic images of their life’s meaning. Life is all about self. And it’s been that way among the young from time immemorial.

Today’s 132 million middle-aged and older adults generally have more realistic and less self-centered images of their life’s meaning. While the young dream of what they want to be in the future, older people tend to strive to be what they want to be in the present. Much of that striving revolves around the pursuit and expression of life meaning.
My second example comes from an observation made by Lou Washington, a colleague of mine at Cincom. Lou attended a conference on mainframe technology sponsored by IBM. During the meeting, he took time to look around the room and observe the audience surrounding him. He realized that many of the preconceptions we had about the people working in the mainframe sector of the computer industry were dead wrong.

Here's what Lou observed:

There was a fairly wide range in age of the attendees which I found to be somewhat surprising. Given the fact that the subject was mainframe computers and the target was decision making executives one would have expected an older group. Don't get me wrong, there were older guys there, but there were plenty of younger folks, some in their late 20s and many in their 30s and 40s. One presenter even commented on the lack of "plaid pants" in the audience and also mentioned rest homes as a recruitment target for COBOL programmers. That kind of humor does not play well with people coping with end of career irrelevancy issues and this crowd enjoyed the joke! I felt I was with a fresh, "quick study", connected group of people who were critically involved with their company direction, management and strategy. You heard a lot of cell phones and saw a lot of blackberry units in use as well as a plethora of high-end laptops. These were clearly not people waiting out their careers, looking to reminisce with each other about the good old days of the mainframe.
Now this is the fodder for marketing!

Put aside our opinions and get out in the marketplace and observe. It can shake things up pretty good.

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