Thursday, September 29, 2005

Marketing to Boomers through My Eyes

In this post, I blend some of my writing with that of David Wolfe.

My First Point: Boomers Are Staying Active As We Enter Our 60's

A colleague of mine recently accused me of being as old as the dinosaurs. Actually I am just as old as Tom Peters, who is considered wise instead of old. Tom recently posted on his blog that he's heading off to a worldwide tour of speaking engagements ... his version of the TV reality show "Amazing Race."

Tom Peters is no less energetic than the snorting young bull he was at 32. And I point out that I still do my 60-hour weeks, plus author on 4 blogs, have two books in progress and still have time left over for family, church and fun. The wonderful thing is that we're not alone in actively pursuing careers at an age when our parents were thinking of retiring. The Boomer Generation is setting a new path.

Is Tom staying young? No.

Am I staying young? No.

We're just not getting older.

Think of John Barrymore’s immortal quote, “A man is never old until regrets take the place of dreams."

Ego sum erat. “I am where you will be,” is a phrase David Wolfe says he sometimes tells young people in marketing.

My Second Point: Boomers Understand Marketing to Boomers

This market segment is now the largest and wealthiest in the US and it officially turns 60 years old this year. While most companies still seem to be chasing younger generations, this is the one with the most extra cash to spend. But appealing to them is not so easy when you're not one of them.

As David Wolfe points out: "Unless someone has made an effort to show younger marketers life as seen through a lens polished by six, seven or more decades of life, young marketeers don’t really know where the Boomers are, or what they think or how they make purchasing decisions.

David suggests that the guidance of more seasoned minds is needed to figure out how to communicate to customers who are older, but think younger. David ponders how many marketing agencies commit time and resources to training the young among their staffs on how to market to the over-40 crowd?

Marketing client companies have no idea of how much money is wasted by marketing agencies that don’t have staff that is firmly grounded in what it takes to be successful in older markets ... imagine the wasted money when agencies use trial and error as a substitute for real-life experience. Getting into this type of customer's mindset must run deeper than skimming off "key insights" into consumers through conventional consumer research that comes up with "obvious" answers instead of real and compelling insights.

Marketers who are boomers themselves and who are still very active in their careers can be invaluable resources to agencies and their clients who want to tap this "older but active" boomer market. Fortunately, there are lots of experienced boomers who remain actively involved in marketing so there should be no shortage of this critically needed talent.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Syndicating Balls with RSS

Doc Searls has another pithy posting for marketers who are looking for a rationale to use RSS as a medium.

Titleist, a company that makes golf balls, clubs and accessories, now has RSS feeds. Really smart. Golf is a conversation, and if you make golf balls, you want to be part of the golf conversation.

The golf part of RSS is largely a void in 2005, so if you're Titleist, why not move to fill it? It's cheap. An example of RSS-as-advertising; much more powerful than advertising-in-RSS.
Why pay someone else to hitch a ride in a conversation, when you can host it yourself? Much more cost-effective, and appreciated by customers.

People don't like intrusive marketing as much as they like finding commercial information they're looking for.

If it is too good to be true, it probably isn't

Contextual relevance is one thing. It is the role model for effective internet communications. But what about marketers who lie on their websites?

We all know Internet fraud is a big deal. It destroys the credibility the rest of us are trying to establish. And, as we all know, it only takes one bad experience to ruin the party for everyone else.

Human Factors International's CEO Eric Schaffer reported in his recent newsletter about the rampant Internet fraud.

Stefano Grazioli of the McIntire School of Commerce at The University of Virginia investigated our ability to detect fraudulent sites. He studied 80 people who were savvy in both business and the Internet. He asked them to go to a webpage to help a friend purchase a $625 laptop; half were silently redirected to a page that included the most common devices that fraudulent marketers used to make themselves appear to be legitimate.

The altered cues included:

- A forged Better Business Bureau assurance Seal leading to a real looking report
- A warranty that was too good to be true
- False business location information
- Forged news clips from professional magazines
- Impossibly exaggerated company sales statistics
- Universally positive, hyperbolic customer endorsements

After viewing the site and purchasing the laptop (or not), participants completed a survey exploring whether they perceived the site to be deceptive or not... or were unsuccessful at detecting deception. Overall, even these business and IT savvy users were not able to discriminate between the trustworthy and the deceptive site. 55% of participants trusted the deceptive site (30% correctly suspected; 15% were not sure). Only 38% correctly trusted the good site (32% were suspicious; 30% were not sure).

Moral: If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Seth on Marketing with Context

Of course, I agree with Seth ... or does he agree with me?

Actually we both got to the same place because once you make the conversion to customer-centricity, then getting content contextually right is the next obvious step.

Still, it's nice to see confirmation so I don't feel like I'm yelling down an empty hallway.

When you spend all day making stuff (and making it better) it's easy to get carried away with the magic of your stuff. You (and your team) believe that your service, your candidate, your new product--whatever it is--is so powerful and well-priced and effective that any rational person will choose to buy it instead of the competition.

But what if you're selling it in the wrong place?
Or with the wrong tone of voice?

I think context is underrated. Especially online.

Weren't Mainframes Wiped Out by the Last Asteroid?

CINCINNATI, OH, Sep 20, 2005 (CBS Marketwatch) -- Cincom Systems award-winning Expert Access e-zine provides some real-world business thought leadership with an article published today entitled "Weren't Mainframes Wiped Out by the Last Asteroid." ...

Another epistle from my Cincom colleague Lou Washington (see my previous post on marketing by government agencies) ... Actually, I'm thinking about making it Lou Washington Day in all 50 States. You'll love his sense of humor woven inbetween some pithy observations.

One thing I find interesting is that the technology marketing world has spent most all of its capital on reaching desktop and web tech users ... plain out left the mainframe folk in the dust ... where they practice their skills in the shadows doing stuff that most big companies simply cannot do without. Maybe if we were really focused on customer-relevance, the industry would get hold of this powerful segment of tech buyers and figure out their needs and interests.

Someone just might scoop up a huge opportunity lost in the IT labyrinth.

Marketing by State Governments.
Such a Shame!

Wouldn't you assume that a State Government website is there to serve the public?

Wouldn't you assume that if any entity understood its role of serving customers, it should be our elected officials who use our money to run their programs?

My colleague, Lou Washington, recently took the opportunity to visit the various Secretaries of State web pages in search of data related the companies we do business with. Here you have an office and function which is essentially the same in all 50 states. However, what you find is a great example of how people can misunderstand and hence, mis-use the internet for the conduct of business.

The information Lou looks for is typically under a heading titled CORPORATIONS. The very best sites display this on the opening page along with several other commonly requested subject areas. The worst sites open with an extensive biography of whatever political hack is occupying the office of Secretary of State for that particular State. They will have page after page of this person's personal history, family photos and perhaps some information about their athletic career at Northwest by Southeast State College of Interior Design and Horticulture.

The other major sin Lou identified with is the lengthy registration and especially the fee required database access. It is disheartening to plow through the pages of moosepoop discussed above, only find the this State requires that you set up and account a pay US$10.00 for every query you run against their businesses database.

Our governments have the opportunity to serve us and return to us some value for the taxes we pay ... and then they abuse the relationship.

As customers now control companies who sell them stuff, taxpayers surely should be in control of our public websites and make sure they are relevant to our needs. Time for a wakeup call.

Innovation in Marketing Rides High at P&G

This great piece of reporting comes from Reveries' Cool News of the Day. I just had to share it with you because it should get your own gears turning in a new direction. If P&G, with its historic commitment to mass advertising, can make the shift to delivering messages in a more relevant manner, what can you do?

Take an hour of your best thinking time and ponder this. Let down all your preconceived notions and some whacky brain burst is likely to pop out ... and it just might not be whacky!

And now for the article that got my mind turning:

Almost a century ago, Procter & Gamble popularize the concept of mass-market advertising. Now ... it wants to tout its brands directly to consumers where they're most likely to be influenced: in the store," report Emily Nelson and Sarah Ellison in The Wall Street Journal. P & G has even coined a term for the in-store equivalent of the 30-second commercial: FMOT, or "first moment of truth." It's a lot shorter than 30 seconds -- the FMOT is the amount of time it takes "shoppers to make up their minds about a product" -- somewhere between "three to seven seconds." This is serious stuff: P & G has a 15-person FMOT department in its headquarters, "as well as 50 FMOT leaders stationed around the world," led by a Director of First Moment of Truth, Dina Howell.

P & G "won't say how much it spends on" FMOT (pronounced EFF-mot), however "it has cut its commitments to advertise on cable channels for the current season by 25 percent and its broadcast-TV allotment is down about five percent. At the same, overall ad spending rose slightly." So, how is P & G spending its FMOT dollars? In the UK, to promote Pampers, they "put fake doorknobs high up on restroom doors, to remind parents how much babies need to stretch." In the US, "for the launch of Kandoo wipes ... P & G convinced retailers to place packages low on shelves, so they would be at toddler's eye-level. It also created display shelves in the shape of the product's frog mascot to attract children's attention." Dina Howell says the idea is to make the packaging "interrupt" shoppers. It's all a far piece from a Super Bowl ad, although a good chunk of FMOT effort actually goes into TV as well.

But that would be Wal-Mart TV-- an in-store television network -- which is seen by some "120 million shoppers a month," according to Neilsen Media Research. "Last year, 122 new products were launched on Wal-Mart TV ... including goods from P & G, Unilever and Gillette." However, much of the time, the FMOT is far more complicated than running a TV spot, and demands new approaches. According to Joe Celia, of Grey Synchronized Partners, the in-store piece is no longer the afterthought it used to be: "Now we all start together from the beginning," he says. And for agencies, it's no longer a matter of simply pleasing their clients, but also the retailers -- not to mention making sure P & G's doorknobs, or whatever, get installed. All told, "companies are expected to spend about $18.6 billion on in-store marketing and in-store ads this year, up from $17.6 last year," according to Veronis Suhler Stevenson Partners.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Customers Will Hear What They Want to Hear

Dave Pollard wrote a post on why we don't share information with one another ... well, to be exact, he says we share peer-to-peer but not up or down. His insights are good reading and helped me come to a better understanding of this age-old problem.

One of his points, however, aligns with contextual marketing as much as it explains the lack of information sharing:

"People only accept and internalize information that fits with their mental models and frames: Ask people after a presentation what they learned and what they thought was the central message, and you'll find that most people will respond with something that reinforces what they already believed, which is often very different from, and sometimes even contradicts, what the speaker actually said."
This Pollard insight is another reason so much of our communications to customers fails to click with them. If we are not on their wave length, they will read into our messages what they want to hear; not necessarily what we want them to hear. The more relevant our messages, the more likely the messages will click.

Laughing Myself to Sleep

Last night I hit a blog by a Chief Technical Officer. I always attribute links to my sources, but this one's so embarrasing that I can't go there.

He writes:

"I think the general public expects too much. They want a product that not only meets their current needs but anticipates their future needs. They want simplicity but plenty of flexibility. They want their product to last forever, even though their use and needs for the product change over time. They want a lot of functionality but make it easy to use and figure out. They want immediate answers to problems that they have even if those problems have never occurred before or happen rarely or sporadically. These are all conflicting needs and wants, so the idea that you can satisfy all of them is not only impractical but unrealistic."
So many high tech company managers just don't get it, do they?

When he wakes up, or I stop laughing, whichever comes first ... he will have a competitor who figured out exactly how to meet the customer's needs. This kind of stinking thinking is why so many marketers have trouble turning their ships around. Marketing sees the handwriting on the wall, but other managers just plain don't buy into it.

Our biggest task in marketing may not be in serving customers, it is knocking down all the stinker thinkers who roam our halls and leave us vulnerable to customer-centric marketing-driven companies.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Contextual Marketing:
Rebuilding the New Orleans Levees

Katrina delivered what all feared. She smashed big holes in a levee system that was not capable from the beginning. She sank a city that sat below sea level and water flows downhill. We all know the result.

What we don’t yet know is the future.

What we do know is that if they rebuild New Orleans on such an unstable platform, we must only wait until the next Category 5 before more lives are lost.

The same can be said for marketing.
Marketing was built on a model that worked in the past. One that was built on mass advertising and mass marketing. One that has been blown aside by over supply of just about everything except enough customers. One that must come to grips with the reality that customers are in charge.

Marketing is taking a bit of a right direction with Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM) processes and technologies. But CRM has also stalled under software applications that were so complex that even Ford could not get them installed. Marketing further balked when CRM applications forced companies to adopt the vendor’s built-in “best practices” instead of their own proprietary processes that create differentiation and competitive advantage.

A further reason that I believe CRM is under-performing … that marketers are still delivering content to customers that remains corporate-centric. We have not yet learned how to create the new kind of content that customers want, especially for those in early buying cycles for complex products.

If we attempt to rebuild the New Marketing with out-of-date content strategies, our levees will burst open upon us.

We must find firm ground upon which to rebuild marketing. Our minds must come to a new point of view, a new vision. Content must serve the needs of customers. Content must build trust. Content must build on the value we deliver to customers.

This blog has in its archives many examples of how to develop contextually relevant content. And I will continue posting more illustrations in the future.

But for now, what I want to encourage you to do is to STOP building on shifting sand. Find the bedrock. Change your vision. Get grounded on the new values of serving customers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What Role for Customers in Product Innovation?

A great blog, Signal vs. Noise, that I just stumbled across has a post about an article in Time Magazine.

Time accentuates what on the surface might be a conflict with my notion that the customer is king and that we are here to serve the customer. When it comes to product innovation, however, customers are not a reliable source for breakthrough ideas.

Time writes how Steve Job's team invented the iPod and how with this invention, Apple reaffirms their mission to guide instead of follow their customers:

It was a gutsy play, and it came from the gut: unlike almost any other high-tech company, Apple refuses to run its decisions by focus groups. You can and of course should listen to your customers. But to be able to innovate on their behalf, you need to place an even higher premium on your own vision.
It is my experience that customers can tell you about their unmet needs ... the places where they have pain or hopes. But customers are not the best source for innovation, or they would have solved their own pains and hopes. Innovation does come from your vision, culture and the imagination to see some new way of meeting customer's unmet needs and hopes.

You get no disagreement from me, that despite the hard core fact that we are living in a customer-centric world, customers are not good at helping us invent solutions ... especially, most especially focus groups (they are better at killing good ideas than creating them).

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Category 5 General: Example of Leadership

The Washington Post answered my previous post on what leadership looks like. He's U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honore -- now in charge of Gulf Coast and New Orleans military operations. A no-nonsense leader gives us some significant attributes to aspire toward.

Leadership Attribute No. 1 -- Take Command, Communicate Clearly

It takes a big personality to command the army east of the Mississippi River. A reporter told Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that a Louisiana politician had complained there was too much red tape facing victims. Before Chertoff could answer, Honore snapped: "That's b.s.!" He isthe kind of commander you don't mess with, you don't cross, who punctuates pronouncements with barked questions like "Everybody got that?"

Leadership Attribute No. 2 -- Serve Those You Lead

He's a soldier's soldier, the man you want in the trenches with you, the kind of man who'll cover your back. Read his conversation with Spec. Amy Firestone to see the perfect example. "This ain't about me," he says, there amid the troops. "This is about us."

Leadership Attribute No. 3 -- Create the Mission and Take Action

It's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. What Honore has done is understood his role and understood the broad mission. He will make somebody mad. He will step on somebody's toes and probably do some things wrong, albeit very few things wrong.

Leadership Attribute No. 4 -- Be Accountable and Expect Accountability

"I got in the military and I liked what I was doing and the opportunity to be judged by your performance as opposed to other measures." He is talking about race, but he does not want to elaborate. Rather than talk about the racism of those days, he says, "I'm more about the future than the past."

Fending off early criticism of the federal government's response to the crisis, he says, "It's like the first quarter of a football game. You're losing 25 to nothing. What in the hell is the coach gonna do?"

Sunday, September 11, 2005

We Still Remember

Our prayers continue. May we all live in peace.

Spreading Contextual Love

Doing contextual marketing does not have to be expensive. Not that giving several dozen roses is cheap, but it's a lot cheaper than media advertising that most people would have missed completely.

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association reported about Ashland Addison Florist, a 73-year old family-owned florist based in Chicago and how they recently "shared some love" (and got people talking) in a fun, good-natured stunt.

On a busy street in the Loop, the florist gave out bouquets containing five roses to curious onlookers. Each bouquet came with a printed coupon of instructions that read: "Share the love!" and asked that each rose be shared with five other people to "make new friends and share goodwill to neighbors."

Not only was the story picked up by local media, but it also sent many post-vacation depressed workers in to their offices happy with a smile on their faces.

Now, I assume that each rose that was distributed included a message tag that allowed the "giver" to personalize a note to the "recipient." And that the tag provided a bounce-back coupon to create new customers ... at least that's what I assume because that would make this a pretty nifty "full-circle" promotion.

Another way a similar promotion could work is for Addison to deliver 5 roses to the CEO of nearby companies. Let the CEO thank 5 of his best workers by giving each of them a rose from Addison. Fairly sure bet that that CEO will use Addison the next time he has to send flowers from the company.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Getting Down to Their Level

Oh, I know, it's so comfy in our soft swivel chairs behind a big wooden desk with a view out to the cars parked around the corporate headquarters. Here's where we feel confident of our positions in our careers.

We've made it. People will now listen to us.

Not so fast, Sparky.
If we are going to create passionate customers who keep buying, upgrading and renewing instead of cutting back, switching, leaving ... then we have to get into the conversation at the level of each customer.

I said a few days ago that we're really just storytellers. I think that's true. But stepping up a few feet higher, we're really teachers who tell stories. The more conversational that talk is the more likely we are to connect. Formal, high-fallutin ads mean less today that between-the-eyes, casual talk.

We need to be more like teachers than preachers. But if we talk like PhD academics with formal, stilted text and jargon, we will leave most of our prospects in the dust.

Teaching has its apex in grade school. That's where we learn the basics of life. After that it is just adding detail and style. The techniques used by grade school teachers are what we should be practicing every day when we make pitches to prospects.

I watch my daughter who teaches art to kids in grades 1 - 6. She gets down on their level. Physically. She's down on bended knees, looking them in the eyes and showing them how to create art they didn't believe they could create. They feel her passion and look forward to her class.

Why can't we capture this style when we are teaching our prospects about how our products address their needs and interests?
Get from behind our desks and down to their level where they can feel our passion, and better yet, take on our passion. It all starts with the word "you."

The Blogosphere is the
Place to Know Your Customers

Every marketer should be using the blogosphere (couldn’t someone have come up with a word that didn’t sound so geeky to describe “all the blogs in the world?”).

If your company has a point of view to profess, do in on your corporate or brand blog … as long as you serve the reader’s needs ahead of yours … for if you don’t do that, you wont have readers.

But more important you should be reading the blogosphere and discovering what your customers and prospects are saying about their needs, their interests … even what they might already be saying about you and your competition.

My previous post held two illustrations where marketers made really bad decisions because they were not really connected to their customers.

By now, we all know the well documented problems that one blogger created for Dell. Instead of ignoring what was being said on customer blogs, they should have had an active listening program.

Sign up today with any of the good RSS aggregators; most like Bloglines, Intelliseek’s BlogPulse and Technorati have search capability with alert functionality that makes it easy to track each and every blogger talking about their needs, talking about you, talking about your competition.

You Gotta Believe the Customer or Perish

Line 56 reports on two illustrations at the AMR website for how we can almost deliberately refuse to see what the customer wants – even when our business intelligence tells us that our strategy is out of synch with customer demand.

The first illustration shows how clothing retailers can make huge marketing mistakes by misreading the tea leaves. Retailers unanimously agreed that over this past summer denim was going to be a huge hit. So they stocked up on denim. Unfortunately, as it turned out, demand bumped up by only a small percent, and now retailers are scrambling to move product off the shelves and out of store rooms with markdown strategies that cut into their bottom lines.

Fashion trends can hang on little signals from the audience world instead of in the offices of the clothing merchandisers.

Does the average retailer know who the next singer who's going to be the next teenage pop star? Are the retailers even watching MTV?
The point is that there can be catastrophic and unexpected shifts in demand either way. AMR reminds us of a similar event when Clark Gable appeared in a movie without a vest. Sales of vests immediately plummeted.

As marketers, we need to plug into the signals that most influence buying behavior and make sure our products and messages will be relevant.
The second illustration of ignoring the buying signals from the customer is Atkins Nutritionals. Their own data had to be a warning signal that their business model was heading toward a Category 5 Hurricane. Why did Atkins Nutritionals never see and respond to falling revenue in time before hitting the wall?

We have the data analytics engines that can help forecast the trends, but as in the case of Atkins, human nature takes over.

As AMR points out, “the very foundation of the organization was disinformation, that is, an assault on established nutritional and medical science. Atkins was a "true believer," an organization whose own philosophical worldview would prevent it from responding to actual changes in reality. It couldn't reposition itself because of the commitments it had already made to achieve its success; such a repositioning would have been a denial of the company's very identity, and therefore no amount of data could have prevented the change.”

The two illustrations are at opposite ends of over-reaction. Retailers overstocked on denim and Atkins refused to believe the data. Neither was integrally fused to the customer in the way in which contextual marketing requires.

We all know the customer is in charge. But we refuse to believe it.

Now it is time to BELIEVE IT!
We must invest in learning the customer’s interests and serving these interests or we will be overstocked or out of business.

How Much Relevance for $8 Million?

This from the New York Daily News ... Whoa!

Madonna may want to thank her horse for bucking her.

We hear Motorola execs were so worried that the singer would pull out of a commercial for their new Rokr phone that they dangled twice as many carrots in front of the aspiring horsewoman.

According to a source, Madge made close to $8 million for 10 hours of work on the ad, which she shot last week in London. (The spot has the flirtatious superstar surprising a Middle Eastern teen as he talks in a phone booth with a girlfriend, asking, "Who's that girl?")

Word is Madonna couldn't have been friendlier during the shoot. But the singer, who had her arm in a black sling, grimaced between takes. Her rep confirms that the health freak won't take painkillers and is still doing Pilates.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Transforming Culture to Support Customers

David Wolfe at Ageless Marketing has taught me a new word, and I love it.

Has a bit of a ring for my hometown, Cincinnati. But it's meaning comes to the heart of attitude needed if companies are to make the transition from corporate-centric to customer-centric. This is the transformation I frequently write about because without it you cannot likely be a successful contextual marker.

David notes in his post "The Self-Actualizing Company" that concinnity means, “a skillful blending of the parts achieving an elegant harmony.” While the term usually refers to well crafted artifacts, there are also organizational concinnities – entities reflecting skillful blending of their parts achieving an elegant harmony.

You might refer to my previous post on "7,000 Moving Parts that Do Nothing." We can build Rube Goldberg machines or we can build companies that deliver value to customers so we can gain profitable revenue ... the choice sounds easy, but if so, why are so many companies still clinging desperately to traditional self-serving marketing?

David ends his post with a description of what a company built with concinnity looks like to outsiders:

"Then there are companies that seem to have it all together. They carry themselves with an engaging élan. A will for continuous innovation secures their adaptability to new challenges. They conduct their operations with a surefootedness that is the envy of their competitors. Stakeholders look up to these companies and hold them in their gaze with great esteem. Call these companies developmentally mature. They have achieved organizational concinnity. They exist and operate in elegant harmony internally and with all their stakeholders."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

How can an insurance company become relevant to a 27-year young woman who feels like this? The excerpt is from a letter written by Rachel at Life Insurance Quotes.
"What is the point of having independence in old age, if you cannot experience it in youth? That is not to say young people should be encouraged or supported in their debateable extravagance, only that we remain unconvinced by old age. We may have seen our parents lose money in shares or private pension funds, or get divorced and lose money through property. We may be worried about global warming and in an age of suicide bombers, we may not even be confident about how much control we have on our lives anyway. With so much choice on what we can do, but so few people empowering us with confidence, we may well rebel for years to come – chopping and changing until we find something that fits or until we get tired."
Rachel pitches in at least one answer ... and her answer has application to all of us; not just life insurance or financial services firms.

"What we need are comprehensive financial research sites that provide information which directly relates to our circumstances. Websites such as moneynet with their product price comparisons and finance guides (especially the student finance guide) –do go most of the way, but we want something that also takes into account our aspirations, situations and will go the distance. We’re not adverse to pensions, life insurance and mortgages, but if we’re going to splash out lots of dough, it has to be a reasonably reliable investment and we remain unconvinced from we’ve seen so far in provocative, panic-stirring media."
Relevance is a really practical thing if you can just get inside the heads of your customers!

Doing Better at Contextual Relevance

The New York Sports Club ad campaign is featured at Adrants.

Tantalizingly relevant photography along with headlines that challenge different types of prospective fitness customers to get better at the things they really want to get better at.

"Oh my God,Better"

"Blog Better"

"Scream Better"

"Play Better"

A bit risque, but we get the point ... we can get better.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Automated Contact Center is New
Nerve Center for Contextual Marketing

The future of business success lies in impacting customer relationships. Twenty years ago, we told our customers how to solve their problems and what they needed for solutions. Today they tell us what they want us to do.

Companies need a marketing architecture to interweave the talent and resources within a continually learning, networked team that improves as it engages customers, reacts to competition and adds capabilities. Marketing techniques for influencing people are being embedded into software and technology-supported systems. The software and the network will become the means a business uses to build and maintain its customer relationships. Enterprises that are slow to adapt to the new marketing paradigm will vanish, and those that do adapt will become market leaders.

The idea that customers are lemmings is so ingrained in the thinking process that marketing executives have missed the opportunity to go beyond traditional marketing thinking, departmental architecture and technology support.

A prime example is the in-house contact center.

Cost management may be the initial motivation to install customer-facing technology in the contact center, but once the systems are in place, the motivation quickly turns to one of serving customers and growing revenue. In some companies, such as Cincom, the contact center is housed within the marketing department. In other companies, it resides in customer service, or sales, or IT. Wherever it sits it must come under the influence of marketing so that the skills in customer development can be applied consistently across the company.

Technologies like Cincom’s Synchrony are converting contact centers into computerized network managers, receiving and integrating all the various customer interfaces -- including phone, fax and Internet requests -- and then orchestrating and directing the appropriate responses. Such contact centers are now the information nerve center that enables a real-time "customer listening process."

Making these interactions unique and positive experiences for customers demands creativity. We must develop new ways to deploy the network and engage participants. We build trust by delivering consistent results.

Information, customer expectations and satisfaction, and brand must operate as inseparable, closely interrelated partners. The common unifying thread across this architecture is information turned into content. That’s where our skills as contextual marketers will come into play.

We need to learn how to capture the right information and plan in advance how we will use that information, first, to serve the customer and, second, to grow our businesses. Contextually relevant content is the new path to increasing revenue. We must think more like customers think. Anticipate their needs, their interests and then have responsive content ready to go, depending upon how and what the customer decides to do.

7,000 Moving Parts that Do Nothing

I am told that the medal winning exhibit at the 1851 Exposition in London was a steam powered machine with 7,000 parts that ran in perfect synchronization, but did nothing else. It had no purpose except to prove that such a complex monster could whirl and spin.

It reminds me of many of our companies. Thousands of moving parts that do nothing because the organization is not aimed at achieving a collective goal. If you aim at nothing, you will most surely hit it.

The focus of all our corporate moving parts must be to serve customers ... to provide them a needed and unique value. But if we aim somewhere else, we'll never become a customer-centric company. Everything should be centered on the customer. Lock, stock and barrel. Hook, line and sinker. A total commitment.

That has to come from the corporate leaders, but it must also be adopted by us all.

The customer first vision is the front line to transforming business. Once that is set in place, then contextual marketing can gain the foothold.

The content we produce -- whether it be on the website, collateral, advertising, publicity, telemarketing scripts, sales elevator speeches -- all content must help the customer understand their needs more clearly and demonstrate how your solutions mesh with these needs. This is a mile wide from the kind of content that most marketers have been trained to deliver ... content that acts like the 7,000 parts of the medal winning steam machine with no purpose except to serve itself.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

An Outpouring of Love

Like most of you, I have sat here now for a week watching the terrifying images from our Gulf Coast. I have debated back and forth whether to write here about the experience ... this is a marketing blog; not a news blog. I tossed the debate around for several days and finally could not go any longer without adding my prayers to all the victims and all the caregivers and to all the wonderful people in Texas who have adopted so many of the now homeless.

What could be more relevant than that we all share somehow in the grief, and that we each find our own way of helping. I have learned personally that prayer is powerful so it is not an unimportant act that we all lift our voices in unison to grant some sense of peace amidst all the turmoil. My daughter and I went to Kroger, like so many others, to buy food and supplies that we took over the our church. Churches all over Cincinnati are doing the same thing and sending the donations to a central warehouse where it is all being boxed and then shipped to churches in the distressed areas so that 3 meals a day can be served to those who find their way to these centers of hope and humanity.

It is our nation's largest natural disaster ever. It will also be our nation's largest outpouring of personal giving and sharing.

We're Really Just Story Tellers

Jennifer Rice got into a blog conversation with Seth Godin on her blog What's Your Brand Matra? The conversation resonates well with the objective of this blog:

Jennifer's asks Seth to comment on General Motors putting its GM badge on the sidepanel of everything from Cadillacs, Saabs and Hummers to Chevys and Pontiacs? She is pointing at the obvious dilemma this strategy creates ... it takes away the distinctivness that each brand has for different customers ... it levels them all as just GM vehicles.

Seth gets to the heart of it all ...

"GM needs to learn before it's too late that they are NOT in the assembly line business. They are in the business of telling stories."
The heart of contextual marketing is customer relevance. We need to tell our stories so that the strike a chord inside the customer's heart and head. When you buy into the Hummer story, you are a very different person than someone tuned into the Cadillac story. While GM is proud of its corporate brand, customers are buying into personal brands. It is hard to see positive leverage in this move.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Another Word of Mouth Illustration

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association keeps talking with almost no words.

Word of Mouth Triumphs When Relevant

Once again a few pictures (with a few words) tells more than a thousand words. This one from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association blog. Good stuff there. Check it out.

Contextual Relevance in a
Culturally Diverse World

One of the things I enjoy most about working at Cincom Systems is the fact that we are a global company. In fact, Cincom has been global for 37 years, making it one of the first software companies in the US to open offices outside the US. Even though everyone at Cincom must be able to speak English, communications can frequently be a challenge – and that’s just within the company.

While I have worked on many multi-country promotions in the past, my biggest indoctrincation was over the past year, leading the process to convert the Cincom website into an international site. My first lesson was that the United States is not the center of the universe. I had to change fundamentally how I viewed the role of this website as it addressed the varied needs of people around the world.

Genetically, I am German, Irish, and Cherokee. But any association with these cultures is long in the past. I’m just an American and tempted often to think that all other people think the way I think. When I land in Paris or Dusseldorf, I am immediately lost and isolated. Imagine, this is how people from other cultures must feel when Americans come barging in – whether in a business meeting, a phone call or an electronic communication.

The challenge is ever greater when communicating with prospects and customers in all these other countries, cultures and languages. It’s the challenge that I enjoy. It forces you to think more clearly and simply than if you are just US-centric. But even the US, being the melting pot that it is, communication across cultures is becoming more difficult as larger and larger portions of the population are now Hispanic, Asian, African, Indian, Middle Eastern. Consider the difficulties of launching the launch of a new product into a global setting with so many different ways of thinking and responding.

Patience, Courtesy and Curiosity Transcend Cultural Diversity

This brings new communication challenges to the workplace. We speak different languages, live in different time zones, eat different foods, practice different religions, different holidays, different schooling, different politics, different histories. Even our use of different colors can impact how we communicate. All of which may cause unintended communications.

Generally speaking, patience, courtesy and a bit of curiosity go a long way. It is not impolite to ask if you are being clear or if, perhaps, you are not understanding the source of confusion. Most people will not be offended if you are genuine in your desire to be more sensitive to cultural issues.

If you are sense that communications snarls may exist, simply ask team members. This may best be done in a one-on-one setting so that no one feels “put on the spot” or self-conscious, perhaps even embarrassed, about discussing their own needs or differences or needs. When dealing with people in a different culture, courtesy and goodwill can also go a long way in ensuring successful communication. Again, this should be insisted on.

Keep It Simple

It is a mistake to assume that every businessperson speaks good English. In fact, only about half of the 800 million people who speak English learned it as a first language. And, those who speak it as a second language are often more limited than native speakers. When you communicate cross-culturally, make particular efforts to keeping your communication clear, simple and unambiguous.

Speak Slowly and Keep Your Ears Open

For me, the hardest part of being in a cross-cultural meeting is the intensity with which I need to listen – even when the meeting is being conducted in English. Vocabulary is different. Pronunciation of the same English words makes it sound as if there are different words entirely. I come out of such meetings mentally and physically worn out from listening so intently. And, everyone in the room is in the same boat. So it helps to slow down. Reinforce with visuals. Watch the eyes for confusion. Watch out for jargon or colloquial phrases.

Use Humor Cautiously

Humor is notoriously culture-specific: Many things that pass for humor in one culture can be seen as grossly offensive in another. Avoid humor until you know that the person you’re communicating with “gets it” and isn’t offended by it.

We have a great eNewsletter at Cincom called Expert Access, with 36,000 subscribers from around the world. The newsletter is built around Steve Kayser's love for the humorous phrase. Because we have so many subscribers from around the world, we were tempted to believe that the humor was translating, but it was only after our Regional Marketing Managers got very vocal about the publication that we finally changed our business strategy regarding promotion of this newsletter into other cultures.

Enjoy the Experience

Working and communicating across cultural divides is a wonderful and enlightening experience. Celebrate our diversity.

Friday, September 02, 2005

To Register or Not to Register
Ah, That is the Question!

I understand the resistance to website registration. Adrants discusses this dilemma.

I have watched our prospects during focus group studies from behind the one-way mirror. They don't like giving up their information, especially email addresses for fear of being spammed. But most conclude that they will register if the site is offering something of value that they want.

So the task in website marketing is to offer stuff that prospects will value. I prefer to email or snail mail it back to them to make sure I get a legitimate email address. I do not put this registration process on product-related collateral ... I want them to read this so they can learn more about our products. But high value white papers, webinars, special offers, free downloads ... these are enticing enough to create registration.

Yes, I lose some people who simply will not register ... but they are not likely good prospects anyway.

Cashing in with Content

David Meerman Scott has joined our panel of expert feature commentators at Cincom Simplicity Blog. I am excited about blogging with this highly articulate author ... you can read his first post here.

David is the author of a new book "Cashing In with Content." David features 20 "content-smart" e-commerce, B-to-B, and not-for-profit sites from over 1,000 that he analyzed. He explains why Web marketers can't rely on "aesthetics" or "slick, TV-influenced, one-way broadcast messages" to get one's message out. People are looking for information, and they appreciate companies that give them answers to questions they hadn't even thought to ask. You will find his comments on why he chose each of the 20 featured sites quite insightful. You can download a complimentary e-book preview of Cashing In with Content. Enjoy!

Three Strikes and You Are Out

For some reason, I am cheering for a Martha Stewart rebound.

She went to prison for lying. And now her magazine property Martha Stewart Living Magazine is one of many consumer magazines trapped in the spotlight of reporting untruthful circulation numbers. What do they say in baseball? "Three strikes and you're out?"

I wonder what the fallout might be to the upcoming Apprentice: Martha Stewart reality show. Producer Mark Burnett reportedly has signed up some major advertisers to the new series: Buick, Delta, Song, Random House, Westin Hotels among others.

For those of you who read my blog carefully, you already know I am a reality TV show junkie. So I am looking forward to Martha putting on a more interesting show than Trump -- one that has become terribly boring over the last season.

The Truth is All We Have reports that Martha Stewart Living, Family Circle and House Beautiful are the latest magazines to be caught in a circulation scandal that is sweeping through the media industry like “an apocalypse,” as one worried publisher dubbed it.

Worried they should be. Not fun to be caught in a lie. Lies destroy all credibility. In this case, the credibility at stake is with media buyers for ad agencies and corporate media departments who place their professional reputations on their analyses of the circulation numbers presented by ABC-rated magazines. If it's based on false numbers, the whole business sits on quicksand.

Media buyers and their clients must be quite firm in dealing with this scandle. In the end, if our honesty is at question, then all of marketing is at risk. Seth Godin might believe all marketers are liars ... well, this sure does put an understroke to his claim.

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