Thursday, March 26, 2009

A slice of marketing wisdom by Ian Laurie

I found this little gem of a blog post about 38 things he wished he had known when he first started in marketing.

My favorites were:

No one has a clue how to market anything. We are all winging it. It's just that some are better at winging it than others.

I really couldn't agree more. Winging it better comes with having more experience. Being a good marketer is all about trying and learning from failure. Can't bear to fail? Then marketing isn't your cup of tea.

That which you doubt becomes a trend. When I started, I hedged my bets that this internet thing was a fad by writing copy for print pieces, too. Cough.

Again, I've dismissed Twitter as what he described in point 4 - farts in the wind. Obviously, I was wrong, but so is almost everyone, most of the time.

Marketing is really, really, really messy. It's like painting your cat in peanut butter and then tying a bell to its tail. Stuff gets everywhere. That's OK.

I'd add to that cat analogy a massive ego and a shape warping mirror. It can get darn right messy.

Have some fun, and a sense of humor. As a marketer, ridiculous things will happen to you every day. You're going to have to roll with it.

A sense of humor is absolutely required! Otherwise, you'll lose your mind.

Customer Service - You're doing it wrong!

The dreaded S.A.A.Q., the French Canadian equivalent of the well known and sorely hated American D.M.V.'s.

Last week, I got my driver's license and health care renewal papers. Fortunately, to make our lives easier in Quebec, we have the chance to renew both at the same time, at the same location. Included in my envelope was a flyer on the new RFiD chipped drivers license which would allow me to leave my passport home if ever I wanted to drive through to the USA, or take the train in. The documentation was pretty clear, there's an additional charge and "please ask the clerk for more information". Great!

Of course, like any D.M.V., the air is dry, the waiting room is filled with anxious people, and the tellers are anything but friendly. We even get a sordid reminder with a plasticized note saying "Violent behavior will not be tolerated". Fair enough. I can understand tellers not liking impatient speeders yelling at them for the high price tag attached to their drivers license renewal. (In Quebec, the more demerit points you lose, the more expensive your license is to renew. It can range from the regular 80$ for two years all the way to the low four digits... Ouch)

My number is finally called and I approach the teller with all my documents ready. I say a very friendly "Hi!, How are you today?". She pinched her lips and didn't even look me in the eye. She mumbled something to the effect of "surviving". Great start!

I then add "I'm here to renew my drivers license, and my medicare card - if possible, I'd like the RFid Chip -" . Before I even finish my sentence, she blurts out very aggressively: "You can't just do whatever you please here ma'am." Woah! Where did that come from??? I took a step back, put my left eyebrow down - my trademark "what was that" look - and said, OK no problem.

She was taken aback. I don't think she expected my retreat. It was very awkward. She proceeded with my paperwork, complained of nausea and a headache and sent me off on my merry way.

S.A.A.Q. you need to review your customer service methods. Maybe the verbal abuse your tellers receive is partly provoked by themselves. I know you have to deal with some serious characters on a daily basis, but a smile and a positive attitude can make an uncomfortable situation a little bit more bearable. These tellers are the government representatives. By putting people with little or no people skills up front, you are giving yourself that image and we all end up resenting bureaucracy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What the heck happened, Facebook?

We used to have so much fun together. It was easy to find my events, and look up my friend's walls. I could randomly go through photo albums and revisit old memories.

For the few friends that wanted to spam me to boredom with the "Do you think I'm hotter than Jocelyn Wildenstein?" apps, I could blissfully block all their future requests without curbing their enthusiasm.

But now, I'm assaulted with conversations of friends between each other, my feed is polluted with quiz results and I can't figure out if I got a message sent to me privately or on my wall.

Facebook, we used to have a good time. Heck, I even got your help in setting up a very successful and memorable 30th birthday party. But now, I think it's time we spend some time apart. Maybe see different social networks, who knows, maybe I'll come back, but for now... Don't call me... I'll send you a tweet or two.

Quote of the moment: Your product should be a pain pill, not a vitamin.

Thanks to Stumble (see previous post), I found this great article about Startup Hacks: An Early Stage Checklist.

It's not a new concept or a bold idea, but it's a statement that probably will define those that survive this recession. Your products/services need to solve serious pain points, and that without it, life would be unbearable.

All of these value added services that we pay(ed) for are the first things to go. If your only value is to enhance, then likely you'll be next on the chopping block.

But if you can turn that value added offer into something life changing - you'll make it through.

Sunday, March 22, 2009 => What Yahoo! was for me back in 1996

It's no secret that is highly addictive and can cause many surfers (including myself) to waste entire evenings away just stumbling across the web, finding new websites. The web has always been a great time waster, for an internet geek like myself.

Back in 1996, I could waste entire days -college!- just looking at the various websites listed in the Yahoo! directories. Not withstanding the fact that 56k was slow as heck - and who doesn't remember these horrible animated gifs of the contruction worker on a site in progress?? - I'd check out a web site about X,Y or Z simply because it was online. I didn't care much about its content but it was there and thus it merited my attention.

Then I moved on to using other search engines with mixed results, and then kept me surfing for a few months until the editorship was taken over by shoddy spammers with promotional agendas. That was a horrible, messy time...

Until Google came along. And somehow, with Google, I ran out of ideas... and started visiting the same websites over and over again. I manage to get a life at that point, thanks Google!

Last year, a friend of mine introduced me to Stumble. It's a subsidiary of Ebay, Inc. Essentially this toolbar, that's installed in your browser, learns what you like based on your preferences and serves you other websites that match your interests. It's done an impressive job at serving me with websites I really enjoy and have bookmarked quite a few.

The toolbar offers a rating system where you can stay if you like or dislike the website, add tags, send it to friends, post comments on it and more. It learns based on the feedback you give it and adjusts future results accordingly.

I love it. It's my guilty pleasure!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bad business decisions: cutting back on branding efforts

I've been hearing horror stories of companies laying off employees that had no direct impact on sales. What a horrible company decision. Some of these cut backs affected branding and public relations. A big no no in my book. How can a company, or group of people come to the conclusion that branding and PR has NO effect on sales?

Brand perception is key to many purchases we do. We may choose to pay more (even in this down economy) for certain items if we are buying a sense of quality, trust, integrity. Branding builds on these concepts. They help that "top of mind" feeling when consumers are deciding between two items of similar value and appeal.

For example, I may not buy the flashiest expensive designer handbag but I may just decide to go for a mid range brand since everybody's purse strings are tightening. Which of these brands are standing out to me right now? Those that are still investing in branding in magazines and online. With a smart branding/awareness campaign, I've discovered Betsey Johnson, which is fun, frilly and friendly to your wallet. Would I have looked twice at the bag if I didn't recognize the brand? Call me shallow, but I probably would have walked away.

I'm a huge proponent of direct marketing - immediate, measurable and ROI driven marketing, but cutting in branding is making your organization dependant on continuous spend to maintain sales. If you have to slash the marketing budget, don't kill off a whole tactic, but reduce across the board and push for smarter strategy.

Take a hard look at the marketing objectives and strategy. View marketing as a holistic, whole entity where each member is important to the survival and mobility of your product. Tie your programs together, and make sure each tactic works with the others to create one voice.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

If you're tellin', you ain't sellin'

A great line I learned from the very wise guru Ganesh in a sales training workshop. Something rang true to those words, and helped me become a better marketer.

A bad salesman will be able to occasionally sell to a client while dazzling them with big fancy words, and flaunting knowledge. Unfortunately this kind of selling often leads into contract cancellations and unused products and services.

In this down economy, it's never been more important to treat the sales process as a diagnosis exercise. To give proper diagnosis of the issue at hand, the art of asking the right questions and drilling to the heart of the matter, is what will make you and your company look like heroes.

Asking the right questions and listening for cues on pain points is where sales opportunities are made. Even the most stoic prospect can be broken with sincere concern and interest in why they initiated contact in the first place.

Over sell, and you'll be on the short list of items to cut. Under sell, and you'll miss out on being the good doctor that saved their business with your solutions.

Monday, March 16, 2009

When self-serve and live support fails ...

Today's post from Seth Godin, with linear versus parallel got me thinking about the types of businesses or situations that fail horribly even when using both method to deliver optimal service.

This has happened to me last week, as a matter of fact, with GotoWebinar. Great product, often a life saver for telecommuters (like myself). Despite my bad experience, at this point in time, the benefits of this product outweighs somewhat the pain caused.

I needed to have questions enabled in the product, and for some strange reason, people could only 'raise their hands' and not type in a question. I thought something was very wrong. I read through all the documentation, googled, knowledge based and finally, wrote an email. That yielded 0 response within 48 hours. Seeing as I needed an answer fairly soon, I called in.

The wait was extraordinary - 1 hour on my cell phone (welcome to the digital age) with no land lines in my home office. While I was waiting, the automated attended stated that there were 2 customers being served before me. 15 minutes later, down to 1. Then another 20 minutes go by and I'm told that there's no one in the cue.... I waited another 25 minutes - with no one in the cue (!!!), to speak to a human. Once someone finally picked up the phone, I was told that the service had to be enabled in my account by my administrator. Ouch!

Both linear and parallel processes here failed, miserably. Had the documentation online said: in some cases this feature has to be enabled in your account by your administrator, I would have saved 2 hours of my company's time.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I don't like the word corporation in a small businesses name...

As I was walking towards Lebeau Vitres D'Autos to pick up my car, (pebble under the tire of a vehicle on the highway plus my windshield, equaled a nasty spider crack - had to change the whole thing!) I saw a small store front office that had the word in its name.

It seemed like such a small place, it didn't make sense. To me, the word corporation - and maybe this is this documentary's fault - equals large faceless bureaucrazy (typo but it stays) that will keep you on hold for hours on end, won't bother serving more than preset "customer service" scripts and will recite over and over again that the FAQ on their website holds the holy grail answer to your question, and that your business is oh-so-important to them...

To make matters worse, the name of the company included the Surname of the owner. Walking away from this place, I still had no idea what this "Surname Corporation" did, or why I would even want to do business with them in the first place.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is Facebook an appropriate business networking tool?

With the economic downturn, many so called experts are pushing with much fanfare the fact that to rise above, you need to use social media to network, network, network.

Recently, I started getting friendship request on Facebook from fellow Montreal marketers and networkers. This led me to think, why not reach out to me through Linkedin instead? That is, after all, what its main purpose is.

I find Facebook too personal a space to do business. Although many are preaching to connect through Facebook, I really don't want potential business associates to know what I was doing last night or even my birth date for that matter!

Linkedin offers just the right amount of information that's pertinent to the objectives of business networking. Sure, it has still a long way to go in terms of usability. And these micro apps a la Facebook really fail to be of any real use... Will your employer let you post the work you've done like power point presentations on your profile? Think about it, doing that just makes you even more attractive to the competition... Not some thing the company signing your paycheck wants... But I digress.

I use Facebook to stay in touch with my friends and family. I post personal thoughts, pictures and keep tabs on them without having to pick up the phone to get the latest news.

So are you using both? How differently are you leveraging them?