Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cutting The Line.

Three lessons from my post office.

1) Don't put a sign announcing changes at the entrance.

It seems logical to put it there, but people have been visiting the post office since they were young and they are not there to browse. They have a purpose and will purposefully walk straight past your sign because they know what they want to do and will not be seeking guidance. If you want to change their behaviour, a sign won't cut it. You have to understand their existing behaviour and adapt to it.

2) Don't dislocate human contact with your customer.

Yes, the queues/lines are a source of dissatisfaction. The solution is to reduce the waiting time not to displace it by getting people to sit down and wait for a number to be called. Moreover, a queue does give the customer some sense of connectedness with their goal where waiting for a number to be called with no indication of "time till service" is alienating.

(Side note - if you do have an indicator of "time till service", make sure it's accurate and make sure it counts down - unlike that in my revamped council office that identified me as the only person waiting for attention from a particular department and proclaimed my waiting time as 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 as the attention failed to materialise. Seeing your waiting time reduce is encouraging, seeing your waiting time being relayed to you is beyond annoying).

3) Don't berate customers for not understanding your new system.

Were a customer to stride past your sign on the way to buying some stamps and then stop bemusedly when assailed with an interior that looked like a doctor's waiting room with faux-leather banquettes scattered around, don't ask him if he's got a ticket. Ask him how you can help. And if he were hypothetically to ask what sort of stupid system this was, don't answer one in which queue jumpers are frowned upon. He might take offence at the implication, he might never darken your doors again and he might write to the chief executive about it. Hypothetically, of course.

The queue is never the real problem, the wait is.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

500 Days Of Summer.

Some blogs recently suggested that fiction titles were better sources of business advice than the traditional non-fiction tomes.

Accordingly I was going to recommend the new movie 500 Days of Summer as a guide to the futility of trying to match your product/service with people who are just not interested. But that's not why you go to movies, so I leave what you take from it up to you.

I'll simply recommend it highly and, in line with the impact of previous recommendations here, I expect its success further to confirm my influencer status.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Marketing Encore.

One of the oddest aspects of live performance is the end of a comedian's set. The end of a theatrical or a musical performance is usually very obvious. Climactic even. The audience shows its appreciation and there may well be an encore or a curtain call.

In comedy, the performer tells a final joke and that's it. You don't really know it's the last joke until they say "thank you and good night". And is there anything more incongruous than a comedy encore? The performers who've thought this through are few and far between, they stand out a mile and they tend to be the best performers anyway.

The way you take your leave of your audience is much under-rated. First impressions are important, but so are last ones. Is your audience's last impression one of resisting unwanted up selling offers, one of indifference as you look for the next prospect or one of unsatisfied needs that leave them in the same position they were when you strove to make that first impression?

Or is it something that cleanly ends the encounter in a way that leaves them eager for an encore?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Customer Service By The Book.

I walked into the sneaker store. Within seconds, an assistant asked if he could help me. My response was to point out that I had just arrived and might need his assiatnce shortly.

The timing of when you address your customers is arguably even more important than what you say. Good customer service takes that into account. Regimented customer service manuals do not.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Geek Marketing 101 (revisited).

Three years ago today, I posted a guide to my views on marketing disguised as a discussion of technology marketing. It became my most viewed post (thanks Guy Kawasaki). Three years on, I think it still applies. Three years hence, I fear, marketers will be making the same mistakes.

Geek Marketing 101 is so named because I see amongst many geeks a pervasive misunderstanding and consequent distrust of what marketing is, and a failure to recognise that much technology marketing is no longer geek to geek since complex products are increasingly being bought by non-geeks. Of course, these observations are equally applicable to geek to geek and non-geek businesses.

1) Marketing is not a department.
Marketing is a combination of elements that creates the environment in which it is possible to meet a customer need (starting right back at product development). Promotion and sales are just sub-sets of marketing.

2) Marketing is a conversation, but most people don't speak geek.
Successful technology marketing must translate the creations of the uncommunicative into the needs of the untechnical. Spin is not good marketing. Lucid two-way communication is.

3) Simplicity does not negate complexity.
Reductive marketing that simplifies ideas does not undersell your complex creation. It facilitates an entree to your world. You can't have passionate users until they start using.

4) Think what, not how?
Think of the "product" in terms of what it does, not how it does it. You may be interested in the latter, but your users generally aren't. Portable computer memory is not a difficult concept to enunciate, yet flash drive and USB drive nomenclature is predicated on technological aspects not the actual function. Long words confuse, don't they?

5) Think will, not can.
Think of the "product" in terms of what most people will be happy doing with it and not in the myriad possibilities it offers. You may think speed and multiple settings are hot, but outside the lab such attributes may not provide the greatest satisfaction. Simple, intuitive interfaces will.

6) Only you RTFM.
Regular people don't read the manual. It's too big (see 5), too complicated (see 3) and thus incomprehensible. It's not that people are averse to science and technology - they're averse to being made to feel helpless. The demand for books that simplify science is huge the world over. Your manual is marketing.

7) Technical Support is marketing.
In the absence of all of the above, your users inevitably need help. A technical support department speaking in non-technical, hand-holding language transforms their purchase from waste of money to life-enhancing boon and is the greatest marketing tool you have.

8) You're not marketing to people who hate marketing.
Don't allow your misguided prejudices about advertising and snake-oil to infect your approach and damage sales. People hate hype, spin and unfulfilled expectations. They do not hate having their needs met (see 1).

9) You're not marketing to people who hate technology products.
They're not Luddites, but nor are they geeks - that's what you're paid to be. However, they often hate how technology products make them feel because blinding with science is as bad as baffling with bullshit.

10) Marketing demystifies.
As the conversations develop, the users comprehend your products better and you better understand their needs. With increased confidence, they utilise more and more of your geekiness and, with increased awareness, you are better able to adapt to their behaviours. They feel more warmly about geeks and you may get the chance to buy them a drink. That doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sign Of The Times.

All too often, "marketing" adds unnecessary detail and blurs the message. Why say soon when you give me the actual date? I know what soon means. And now I'm thinking about the composition of your message and not thinking about your message at all.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Best Definition Of A Blog.

Your website is an image.
Your blog is a reflection.

Courtesy of Thomas Mahon of English Cut. Not a bad definition of effective maketing when you come to think about it, is it?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Inertia Marketing.

How do you buy things? Do you try new options in the myriad categories you consume or do you just buy what you usually buy? I'd contend that even the most ardent early adopter is pretty lazy and disinteretsed in the majority of their purchases.

That's why it's cheaper to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. That's why a lot of advertising serves as post-purchase reassurance (and will not be going away anytime soon). And that's why you have to do something remarkable to get people to change their habits.

Inertia is your true competition.