Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Monday, July 30, 2007

10 Rules For Web 2.0 Success.

Derived from two terrific panels (videos available here and here) of extremely successful entrepreneurs and applicable to all businesses.

1. Build: Build and they will come. If they don't what have you lost? Lose quick. Lose cheap.

2. Listen To Users: They will tell you what they like, what they hate and what they want.

3. Don't Market: Don't spend money or time on expensive advertising.

4. Product Is All: Spend money and time on making your product/service as good as you can (this, of course, is marketing but let's not quibble).

5. Ignore The Business Plan: The goals of business plans (e.g. raising capital) are not your goals. Flexibility is much more important.

6. Be Aware Of Competition: Don't be totally insular. Obsess about your customers but don't forget to keep an eye on potential competitors and what they're doing better or worse than you.

7. Self-Publicise: You know more about your business than anyone else so you're the best (and cheapest) person to promote it. Take every opportunity to tell your world about what you're doing.

8. Utilise User Passion: If you show you're listening to them, they will willingly talk about you and promote you. For nothing. Faciliate this in every way you can.

9. Be Frugal: If you don't spend, you don't burn through your cash and therefore retain more of you business in the long run. Equally importantly, frugality makes you focus on the essence of the issues at hand.

10. Have Fun: If you don't love what you're doing, you won't exude passion for it and you're unlikely to do it remarkably well.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I'm Talking Here! I'm Talking Here!

Yesterday I left a version of this comment on two blogs that were discussing varieties of audio blogging.

Is the addition of voice to the online world really an advantage? It's possible to speed-read,scan or flick through slides at an accelerated rate but you can't do that with aural additions. My big problem with podcasts and video is that generally they're too long. If you end up with a page of notes, wouldn't it have been better for you and for the distribution of the "voice" if it had appeared in that form in the first place?

As I've written previously, the problem with podcasts is that they are increasingly easy to produce badly and hard to produce in a way that delivers value to the listener because it's in audio.

After all, in most online environments, it takes greater concentration to listen to every word of a podcast than it does to read every word of a blogpost. Moreover, very few people can speak spontaeously off the cuff so unless you've drafted your script and know exactly where you're going, then the listener's interest will pall (as mine did within a minute of the excellent John Batelle's podcast). You wouldn't approach a conference or a business presentation without real preparation so what are you saying about your opinion of your potential listeners if you don't?

Generally speaking, quick and dirty doesn't work. So the question then becomes, once I've conscientiously drafted my talk, what is the listener going to gain from this that they wouldn't if they just read it from my blog? They're not getting (nor expecting) the live conference experience of interaction and audience; they may find the format more convenient (though I'm not fully convinced on that) and they may have to use more time to consume the message.

As always, it's all about the actual rather than the imagined user experience. There need to be advances in quality, editing, notes and tagging and then I may be convinced. For now, it's all too often a medium that exists because it can. And don't get me started on Twittergrams!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Is Your Welcome Genuine?

The sign above the bank's reception booth says welcome.

There are staff and customers in the distance. I am seen but not acknowledged. There is no bell. I wait and wait and wait. Ten minutes this time, five minutes another. I enter the body of the beast. I walk around. I hear other grumbling customers. Still no acknowledgement.

Dealing with other customers' queries is important, having posters that announce that "our staff are here to help you" is nice, but not ensuring that your reception (be it real or virtual) is always, always staffed is just the dumbest thing.

A busy day, staff shortages or dealing with another customer are excuses not justification. Excuses are never good enough.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Slowness Of Crowds.

So your debut album sells 650,000 copies in your native Australia and is the biggest seller of 2005. And yet, you're off the radar elsewhere. Word of mouth is a fickle mistress - but if you're remarkable it will get you there eventually as Missy Higgins is, I predict, about to prove.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bowser. Bowser. Bowser.

Parts of the country have been deluged with serious flooding and some water supplies have been disrupted to 150,000 homes. An early reaction of the water companies was to announce that they would be "deploying bowsers". How many concerned customers do you think understood that this meant there would be portable water tankers on street corners?

There are geeks in every industry. They should not be allowed to make public announcements.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Segmentation - Just Say What You See.

The blinkering effect of targetting your product/service towards a specific demographic was reinforced to me by a series of disparate conversations I had in the last couple of days. Firstly, Lee Thomas was telling me about the committee-style marketing of an urban movie which decided on an 18-25 year old male focus, but then wanted to sex up the poster so as to appeal to women.

Later that day, I was chatting to Hugh Macleod and was reminded that part of the success of English Cut came from simply answering the question "Who would buy an expensive suit?"

You might respond people with a style obsession, people desiring to show off or people whose parents bought expensive suits. All may or may not be valid answers, but the commonality is simpler. The people who buy an expensive suit are people who can afford to buy an expensive suit. That single, profound realisation opened up a whole new market for the business amongst successful geeks.

Then online, I was trying to add to a blog conversation by supplying the answer to a question that had been raised, specifically the identity of an american choir of retirees that had featured on a TV documentary.

Googling "oldest choir" only led me to longest established choirs. Even adding in "documentary" and "British TV" to my search term didn't help. Like any other adjective/attribute, oldest means different things to different people. So I focussed on what they really were. I searched for the real commonality and googled "old people singing". Et voila. Success.

Segmentation is about the group of people who want the attributes you are offering. They decide, not you. So it's much better to focus on what those attributes are rather than the specific collective identity of those who value them. Urban movies will be watched by people who like the genre, expensive suits will be bought by people who can afford them and your product/service will be bought by people who value it. That's who and how you should be targetting. Demographic subdivisions are not.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Corporate Blogging: The Definitive Approach.

We interrupt the normal flow of this blog for a seminal lecture uncovered via Johnnie Moore.

Watch and learn.

SQUAT Analysis.

More insights from my favourite business guru.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Don't Become Some Background Noise.

Camp Charles is constantly providing me with marketing insights about a part of the world I don't know. This one is a mind-boggling example of how looking differently at something mundane and workaday can create something remarkable.

If a prison exercise hour doesn't have to be a dull, tense occasion, then what's your excuse for not transforming and energising the boring parts of your business?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Human Capital Not Human Costs.

As Daniel Pink says "the future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind - creators and empathizers, pattern recognisers and meaning-makers" - these are not cookie cutter people and yet we still seem to see the recruitment of human capital as an expense rather than asset accumulation.

Why farm out the acquisition of your most important assets to people who couldn’t get the job in the first place, don’t really understand your business and make their money on churning applicants? Wake up people! Do it yourself! It’s too important and now, of course, through this medium, we get to know people and their talents much more intimately, can cross reference them simply and the only fee we pay is some occasional abusive blog comments which frankly some of us deserve.

If you don't, web 2.0 is a double-edged sword and potential employees/customers will find out how you really think about people.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I Before We, Except When Seen?

Many people read the New Yorker for its insight, erudition and wit. This week I read it because I found a copy on the Tube. C'est la vie.

Glad I did, because in it James Surowiecki of Wisdom of Crowds fame wrote a small piece relating I think to the study I mentioned here and backed up some of my doubts.

It turns out that the headlines seized only on part of the study - the wisdom of the crowds was not quite as was reported. Yes, people's ratings of music were influenced by the ratings of other but this herd behaviour was not translated into action. The highest rated songs it turned out were subsequently not always the most frequently downloaded - success on that score was random.

As Surowiecki himself says "The collective intelligence of consumers isn't perfect - it's just better than other forecasting tools" and that is very much dependent on the questions you ask of that wisdom.

Indeed, while Googling to find the link above, I came across Surowiecki's next article in which he points out (with particular reference to fuel-efficient transport) how individual desires often outweigh the same individual's views of what is best for the collective good.

People are influenced by others, they like to belong to a tribe, but they also act in their own self-interest. I and we seem to be interchangeable and what prompts that change has, I think, yet to be determined.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why Twittering Isn't Good Marketing.

Via Adriana's metatwittering, I read about twittering being used as a marketing tool.

TV producer and director Greg Yaitanes was one of the first in television to use the service for marketing. In mid-April, he "twittered" with viewers of his Fox show "Drive," sending messages from a party after the show's premiere, on his own initiative, and with Fox's permission.

"The idea that someone from the show is coming to sit down and talk with everyone [viewers], it all of a sudden makes it feel more special," he says.

Well, not exactly. I am not happy being "everyone". If I don't have a relationship with you, then chances are you won't be engaging me enough to get my attention and you'll be ignored much like SMS marketing is over here. Building an electronic mailing list is easy, creating a network is not.

The key part of social networking is the social aspect and you and I are very particular about those with whom we socialise. That's the point.

Addendum: Drive wasn't picked up for a second season. Full article here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Who Had A Starter?

Stowe Boyd brilliantly solves an annoying social phenomenon The Only Way To Solve Restaurant Squabbling by personalising the transaction and trusting the "customers."

Does Blogging Destroy Brand Equity?

Overheard at a branding/blogging event - "we've heard about how blogs can destroy brand equity, it would be interesting to find out how they can effect it positively".

For the umpteenth time, repeat after me - blogs don't destroy brand equity, they just reveal the self-harming tendencies of brand managers.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

Local councils are considering banning the use of plastic bags in town centres - those in London are proposing a levy of 10p per bag similar to that which exists in Ireland. All very commendable but I wonder if the real problem is that to change people's behaviour, you have to make it easy for them. Otherwise they'll just grumble and take the hit. Things will improve but not as much as they might

I make the effort. I keep some reusable, supermarket-provided bags in my car so that I won't use plastic bags. Trouble is, I generally remember this fact when I'm waiting at the till!

Somebody needs to create a bag that collapses to such a small size that you can carry it in your pocket (or has the same effect) - then behaviours might radically change. Punishment no doubt works with some, so too does encouragement but facilitation is a much better marketing tactic.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Glastonbury Cause And Effect.

In order to counter ticket touting/scalping, the recent Glastinbury festival insisted that tickets were only available online and sold under strict rules. They sold out in minutes.

Now the founder Michael Eavis is complaining that, because the young don't have such good internet connections, this led to an audience that was too old and sedate. It's a strange argument.

Indeed while I doubt that they have insufficient internet access, I'm more convinced that teenagers have less access to the £154 that was charged for the three days, or excitement for what was called a bland line-up.

Making 40,000 tickets available via mail applications is unlikely to change that. Causality is rarely as simple as people think. That's why it's called the marketing mix!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Zone Of Curiosity.

Buried within one of the links from Faris's post about a viral movie marketing campaign (trailer highly recommended), I came across this graphic which seems to fit well with this week's first two posts.

If what you do is neither noteworthy nor mysterious nor not so different from the norm you'll elicit disinterest. If you get over-complicated or particularly geeky, you won't see the eyes glazing over but they will. However, if you edge people just beyond their comfort zone, make it a little challenging for them, then you'll risk engaging them. Give it a try.

Addendum: For those of you who want to counter with the infinite segmentation/personalisation argument that's all very well but it does have consequences.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Know Your Audience.

Following on from yesterday's confusion theme, I found this lexical density analysis of keynote speeches made by Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Michael Dell. They were all talking about computers but did so in different ways.

People (as the comments illustrate) have their definite preferences while I can find cringeworthy material in Job's evangelism, Gates's geekiness and Dell's jargon but that's not really relevant. In all communication, you have to focus on tailoring your lexical density and style to your audience. This analysis (while very interesting) can't do that because it's objective and the whole point of effective communication is that it's subjective.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

WTF Buttons.

Listening to the SXSW podcast of the much-missed Kathy Sierra, I was reminded of her great invention - the WTF button.

If you're serious about improving your service, if you truly want to know what you're doing wrong in your business, you have to have one. Doesn't have to be a button, but there must be a conduit that lets your customers tell you when they're totally bemused.

Because if you don't, you've lost them. Not to mention any number of customers you never knew you had a shot at having.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Make It Hard.

A few weeks back I read Fred Wilson's plea for a single text message to allow him to upload an image to a variety of applications. It's an entirely logical request and will no doubt come to pass. Simplifying life is a good thing, but is it that simple?

The easier we make something, the more people will do it. That's good in one sense, but potentially overloading in another as the current social networking backlash is suggesting. Does simplification at some point denude our perception of worth?
Is that what's behind reports that online sales are plateauing because people value the experience of shopping when it comes to purchasing certain non staple items?

The secret of exclusive distribution, scarcity and waiting lists is the non-monetary investment required of customers, so perhaps you should consider not making it too easy for them. Make the acquisition process flow smoothly for sure but don't remove all the effort involved because while inefficiency and incompetence will turn them off, being too easy won't turn them on.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Socially Aware Marketing.

Some weeks ago I brought you the story of the very busy office that was doing its business no favours by not being socially-minded and suggested that a more charitable approach would yield dividends for them.

Now through the wandering lens of the magnificent funkypancake, here's proof of the because effect in action in Islington.

£700 raised for a children's hospital, but how much more raised in goodwill for his business?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Is That Your Final Answer?

Not content with the reality that your customers have specified they don't want unsolicited contact from you, you have the timerity to require all telephone enquirers to your customer care centre to explicitly state that they still do not want you (or approved third parties) to contact them with occassional "marketing" offers.

Do you think they've suddenly had a change of heart or do you assume that they will be more interested in discussing what ever issue caused them to call in the first place and will forget to confirm their position?

That might increase your mailing list, but it will only do so with people who have already shown themselves to be opposed to spam and who are likely to greet your offers with indifference or, worse, annoyance. Tricking your customers is the dumbest marketing of all.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Secret Of Customer Loyalty.

No great surprise to read in this report that "Nearly 40% percent of MySpace users keep profiles on other social networking sites such as Friendster and Facebook. Loyalty among the smaller social networking sites is even lower, with more than 50% of all users actively maintaining multiple profiles."

Ease of entry generates all sorts of innovation for sure, but it's not so helpful in terms of creating the barriers to entry that have traditionally been at the heart of any sustainable business. Build and they will come, but you have to keep building or else someone else will jump in. First mover advantage is dependent upon not making a mistake and some might say that the corollary of living in beta could be that customer loyalty is denuded.

But for me, the lesson from this is not about technology but rather that loyalty in social networks (and in most businesses) is devoted to the connection not the method of connecting. It echoes the age-old argument in media industries about whether you should focus on content or distribution for competitive advantage. If you own distribution you can monetise even your worst programming runs the theory, but, in reality, you can't monetise it much because if it's bad programming, nobody wants to see it. The connection isn't strong enough.

Build and they will come, but build well and they're more likely to stay. That is message that risks getting lost in the hype. For loyalty, read customer value. The value to the media consumer lies in the content above and beyond the distribution. The value to the social networker lies in the social connection not the connector. Focus on providing your users with great value - their definition, not yours - and loyalty will follow.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Six Stages Of Social Networking.

While spending far too much time deciding the best way to activate some of those social networking applications that I've acquired but not adopted, I came across the inimitable Nora Ephron's six stages of email. The parenthetic explanations are mine.

Stage One: Infatuation (communication is new)

Stage Two: Clarification (communication seems simpler)

Stage Three: Confusion (communication multiplies)

Stage Four: Disenchantment (communication overload)

Stage Five: Accommodation (communication reduced to grunts)

Stage Six: Death - Call me. (communication returns to manageable levels)

Methinks that as people switch from network to network in order to solve the aggravations of this progression, we're all going to go through these stages faster and more frequently in future. I just hope people ultimately get a better understanding of communication and how to optimise it because joining and overseeing myriad networks is not progress.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Aligning With Winners Who Lose.

My bemusement regarding the whole area of personality endorsement is no secret. Most of the time I just don't get it - it's badly executed, intellectually nebulous and all too often prone to self-sabotage.

While glancing at the French Grand Prix this afternoon, I saw a television spot for the Iveco Stralis which I take to be a truck. It proclaimed the usual trucky attributes of strength and performance by associating itself with the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. Pretty lame in and of itself, but all the worse when my newspaper informed me that the latest performance of the All Blacks was to be outplayed by Australia yesterday.