Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Smarter Recession Marketing.

The reaction of many businesses to difficult economic conditions is to cut back marketing spending in line with general internal cost-cutting and to focus on providing value for money by cutting prices.

The former may reap some long-term benefits in helping to identify those marketing efforts that are most cost-effective, but it also suggests that marketing is viewed as an expense rather than an investment. Moreover, it also implies that you're in the same boat as everyone else and that you product/service is as vulnerable to a downturn as your competitors.

Wouldn't it be smarter to emphasise your difference from the competition and thereby your confidence in the value of what you're selling? Wouldn't it be smarter to emphasise the value for money you provide by focusing on quality, durability and relevance? Wouldn't it be smarter to think of totally different approaches and might there even be some mileage in showing their purchases to be a quasi-social investment in the well-being of the economy?

Cost-cutting is fine and entirely necessary where it is a case of trimming wasted effort and expense, but that applies at all times. As does the marketing imperative to be different, to be note-worthy, to be remarkable. It's amazing how many businesses forget that when times get hard.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Customer Satisfaction Cannot Be Bought.

An awful lot of marketing is predicated upon the incentivisation of customers. Offer them financial discounts and/or perceived psychological benefits and they will buy your product/service.

In contrast, the Yale-based weight-loss site is predicated on research that suggests that avoiding a negative outcome is much more of a behaviour enforcer. Facing a self-imposed financial loss if you fail to meet your target is apparently much more of a spur to continued action than being offered a positive reward.

The concept of opportunity cost which states that the true cost of something is having to forgo the next best option) seems to me to back this up and has been at the heart of my belief that not reducing customer irritation while avoiding blandness. A reward is nice, but inevitably short-lived. Having disappointment removed is less obvious but ultimately more noticeable.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Customer Data Should Help The Customer Too.

Conference badges are simple things. You fill in a form for an event and some days, weeks or months later you're wearing a badge with some of that data on it.

But is it the data you want to appear on you badge? Have you ever been prompted regarding which lines of data (company or occupation for example) will actually appear on the badge or in the yearbook or in some other piece of potential self-promotion.

If you're collecting data, you're no doubt keen on building a database of attendees in a format that makes your life easy and will allow you to market to them in the future. Wouldn't it be better marketing if you spent a little time showing that you were also aware of the self-promotion opportunities that they wanted to exploit?

Letting them know/influence how their badge will look is just one very simple way of potentially delighting them. But because it falls under the label of conference administration and not conference marketing, nobody does it. The business world is filled with missed marketing opportunities and most of them will cost you nothing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Look Behind The Customer Numbers

Last year when I attended Innocent's first AGM, there was a lot of heated discussion about their test-marketing smoothies within McDonald's outlets. This was an act that certain evangelistic customers seemed to feel was a betrayal of their ethical principles.

Thus, at Innocent's second AGM this weekend, there was an expectation of a lot of dissent regarding the recent sale of a slice of the business to Coca Cola. That it didn't really materialise was a reminder that noise does not equate to strength of feeling. Later, in discussion with one of the founders, it emerged that they had received 260 complaints. For a compamy with sales of 100 million smoothies a year, that's a very small number.

I've always said that to create a great product/service, it's imperative to focus on eliminating annoyances for your customers, but you also have to keep the numbers in perspective. It's what lies behind them that counts - as evidenced by another number that I discovered. Specifically that, on their ninth birthday, 38 customers chose of their own volition to send birthday cakes to the company.

260 complaints versus 38 birthday cakes. I know which number I find more compelling.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Customer Facing Marketing (Update).

Two alternative approaches to dealing with the persistant complaining customer (i.e. me as detailed here.

One company accepted that I was right and they were wrong (or more specifically "somebody at the service centre doesn't understand how to do percentages") and a refund is coming my way. I conceivably may buy from them again.

The other accepted that I was right, tells me that I should have been kept better informed and then offers me a 10% discount on future purchases within the next six months. I have no incentive to buy from them again.

Right the wrong quickly and you may still have a customer. Act as if you expect repeat business from a dissatisfied customer and you won't.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Measurement Maketh Marketing?

A number of recent conversations with advertising people have featured their defending of campaigns designed to "raise awareness" of a product/service. Of course, with the exception of the impulse purchase, it is probably important that a potential customer has some awareness of your offering, but I've always been concerned that awareness carries no inherent implication of action.

If your marketing solely raises awareness of your existence, it's more than likely raising an equal awareness of your category and will result in a general sales spike for you and your competitors. Unless your marketing prompts awareness coupled with genuine interest and, I would argue, a degree of real desire to purchase, then there is no guarantee that your sales spike will be better than your competitors.

In an age of metrics, building awareness has the advantage of being a goal that is reasonably convincingly measurable in terms of unprompted customer recall (though prompted recall still seems totally disingenuous to me). But to do so is to elevate measurement above effectiveness as your marketing goal. It's the difference between being Miss/Mr Congeniality and the one that everyone wants to date.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The 4 C's Of Social Objects.

What the world definitively does not need now is yet another blogpost about social objects. I just want to remind you that regardless of what social media agencies might say, the social does not have to be about socialising in the sense of directly interacting or indulging in the dreaded conversation.

Consider that most quoted of social objects the iPod. It fulfils 4 C's of social media, but conversation is the last of them because it's specifically designed to isolate you from conversations. Remember that when you think of social objects in respect of your own marketing efforts.


Talking is just one way that we communicate. As Mark continues to tell us, ideas spread predominantly via copying. We see something that we like and we adopt it ourselves. We don't have to discuss it with the previous user. The "conversation" has happened anyway.


Confirmation follows from copying. Seeing the social uptake of something we've bought serves to confirm to us that we made a good choice. Nobody needs to tell us that, but every time we see it, we feel better about our decision and the product/service. A lot of marketing (think car advertising) works on that post-purchase reinforcement.


We see fellow users and delight in the realisation that not only did we make the right choice, but that the act of doing so ordained us with membership of a community of like-minded, savvy people. Our people, but not necessarily people with whom we have to have a conversation. Kathy Sierra summed it up perfectly when she wrote of the nod.


And finally there is conversation. But it's not conversation about the product/service. Most of the time (as I wrote before) we don't want that. However, we enjoy conversations that spring from the preceding C's. Those are the conversations you want to inspire or simply faciliate amongst your users and prospects.

Interruptive conversations are much more interruptive than they are conversational and are the result of imposing an old communication model or a new communciation world. Avoid them and your product's social life will be a much richer and happier one.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

A Nonsense Of Customer Service Urgency.

We confirm receipt of your letter addressed to the Managing Director who has referred the matter for our urgent attention.

A member of our customer service team will get back to you within ten working days.

Can you spot the dissonance between the words and the promised action? It's not what you say that counts, it's what you do.

The speed of resolution isn't really that important either. After all, some problems are more complex than others. Thoroughness is good, but applying an arbitrary ten day response is not only daft, it's impersonal.

Will I be happy in ten days time. Who knows? Am I happy that it will take ten days before I get a clue of what they're thinking of doing? What do you think? The speed that matters is the speed with which you inform the customer what you're doing and not merely that you're doing something.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Your Prospect Is Always Right.

Good marketing is about helping the customer, informing the customer and crucially about not frustrating the customer.

My friend Mark McGuinness has a new angle on this. We're used to companies buying up multiple versions of url in order to capture any browser search, but I've not seen it done on Twitter. Mark realises that people like me might mis-spell his name so he's anticipated that and ensured that when I made that mistake, I was still just one click away from where I wanted to be.

He could have opted for an easily spelled pseudonym, but this is better. Not only does he "own" his name (which in itself makes it easier for users to find him), he shows that he's thinking about what they want before they even get to him. Attention to detail costs very little and returns a lot.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Escape From Cubicle Nation.

Pam Slim and I met in a non-descript corridor in the Austin Convention Center about six weeks ago. We'd known each other for some years. She was an early commenter on this blog and we'd spoken via phone and email on a frequent basis, but we'd never met. The fact that we immediately started chatting as if we'd seen each other yesterday speaks volumes to me and made me think.

Because if marketing is all about making people like your product/service so much that they want to hang out with it, wouldn't it be useful to ask oneself the question "What makes me like somebody?". Not with the aim of anthropomorphising your offering along the lines of the ghastly Microsoft Clippy, but to identify the traits that appeal on a human level.

For me, some that spring to mind are common sense, energy, intelligence, communication, transparency, realism, passion and fun. Pam has all these in abundance which is why I like her and which is why I think you'll like her book that came out yesterday. When the time comes that you choose or are forced to go it alone, you should have it (and her) by your side.