Monday, November 26, 2007

Marketing Musing: Be Authentic

In Week 15 I referenced Naomi Klein and her belief that marketing is not about spin; the heart of every good marketing campaign is a positive and valuable product or service. A new book called Authenticity really digs into this subject and is essential reading. Consumers are more informed that ever; don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes.

Take a brief look back at Week 12 where I talked about creating unexpected experiences in your business. Often times many of the little perceived extras you provide are considered part of the service – you need to look beyond these and wow your customers. Previously I would have said create “amazing experiences” for your customers. Really I should be saying create “authentic, amazing experiences”.

Many PR companies are great – they know a whole bunch of influential folks that you don’t, they know when and how best to reach them and that is hugely valuable in itself. However, never lose sight of your core business offering and that by focusing on making it great the PR will begin to take care of itself.

There is so much noise and clutter in today’s environment. We are told we have to “spin to be heard” which in fact might be true if your product sucks. The authors of Authenticity also wrote “The Experience Economy” in which they talk up the benefits of the service economy. Ironically it is the service economy itself that’s almost self devouring. Every day another “serviced based business” pops up to fight for recognition on behalf of their client’s product. The noise is more deafening than ever. Be authentic.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Random Quotes - Inaction Breeds Fear

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."

Dale Carnegie

Week 51 - Choices - What a Feeling!

Above all, one time actions equal one time results. You MUST keep repeating the actions that we have highlighted over the past 12 months. Keep reading, keep networking, and keep learning about new industries and where yours is going. Stay positive and choose your friends on that basis. If necessary, make the decision to change businesses.

If you can stick to the plan, you will be faced with the most liberating of all words…. CHOICE. In this case, the choice to sell your business, to franchise your system or to simply work in your business less while it provides you with the income you need. There is no way we can put a timeline against this. Every business is different and whilst many are facing the same challenges, most are doing so from a different starting point. So don’t get discouraged if things don’t happen as quickly as you would like.

Try to enjoy the process - you will know you are on your way when your weekly sales start to increase, your bills get paid more quickly and you start to generate more and more referrals. Along the way you will have the choice between watching TV and reading a business magazine, or the choice between a game of golf or attending a tradeshow. Just remember the longer term effects these choices can have and the question “do you want to continue to exist, or do you want to do something really special with your business?”

As I have said repeatedly, we are all different and are running different types of businesses so no two situations are the same. Having said that, how you view your business, how you market your business and create new income streams and how you tie it all together with systems are factors that can lead to success in any business. Further you need to use all of the tools. Use some of the tools and you will only get mixed results. This is because all the systems tie together so tightly. You cannot do any consistent marketing without knowing exactly who you are and what you stand for. You can’t be consistent without knowing what systems deliver you the best results. You cannot ask people to make referrals unless your systems are delivering an awesome experience for your customers. The list goes on obviously. Use all of the tools in a systematic way and the world will open up for you

Occasionally some of the people you work and share life with hope to forestall change and hang on to the old system - even though it may be broken. Why do people behave this way? It could be because they fear they will not be able to “grow” into a new thing, create new skills that will be valued. Change makes people worry about being left behind. If you have not already read it, get a copy of Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. This will help you to understand feelings that surround change. You may also be able to recommend to those who just cannot let go of the past.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Random Quote: Choose Your Friends Carefully

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe you too can become great.”

~

Mark Twain

Week 50 - Make Changes Stick

Any change you make needs to be supported by a system to ensure actions continued to be carried out in the new way. By now you should be comfortable with systems, policies and procedures so this is the point where you must systematize the revisiting of the policy and procedure making process. That’s right, before you laugh, we do really need a system for updating your system!

Set aside one day each month to review your policies and procedures. During this day you should spend one hour on each different area of your business. Do this every month with unwavering commitment and your business will improve as never before. Can you honestly remember when you last took the time out in this way to make positive improvements?

Some things you can look at each month are:
  1. What problems arose for us during the month and how can we modify our policies and procedures to avoid a repeat of these?
  2. Did any of our policies and procedures cause trouble during the past month – how can we adjust them to avoid a repeat?
  3. How do the employees feel about the policies and procedures? Which would they like to see modified and why?
  4. Responsibilities – are all bases covered? Do we need to assign new responsibilities to employees to cover new areas of business?
  5. Does anyone think we could make more money or make our jobs easier by changing the way we run things?

It is essential that you involve your key employees (perhaps all of them) in this workshop discussion. Through a combination of effective systems and development of new income streams, your business will be far less vulnerable to the ebb and flow that is business today. So what about you personally - can you handle the ebb and flow? You see the same principles apply to you as an individual. You need to prepare your mind, constantly feeding it with rich information and positive re-enforcement.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Marketing Musings: Scowls on Rodeo Drive

This week The Wall St Journal ran a story about customer service on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. In Week 42 I wrote that you really must ensure that all aspects of your business are firing. It’s not enough to have a nice shop fitout, or helpful front desk staff. All areas of your business must be lifted to the same level. What’s interesting about the WSJ article is that despite the multi-million dollar shop fit outs, the global branding budgets and the huge expense of staff, you can still “Fall at the Last Hurdle”. Here is an excerpt:

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…I decided to gauge just how inviting Rodeo Drive's stores are with the help of Mr. Hill, who is president of Sensory Logic, a company based in Minneapolis that helps businesses from Target to Toyota connect emotionally with patrons. Mr. Hill employs "facial coding," a technique of reading and using facial expressions to elicit the most profitable emotional response in a customer. The premise is that feelings occur more quickly than thoughts and play a more effective role in purchasing decisions, so businesses need to appeal to our emotions. This is territory plumbed eons ago by Madison Avenue's ad men, but it's been harder to put into practice in many retail stores.

If it's the emotional rather than the rational part of our brains that makes many of our buying decisions, that's particularly true when it comes to luxury. (Certainly, it was my emotional brain that bought a St. John Knits suit recently, which my rational brain is now trying to justify.)

Yet just training sales clerks to say, "May I help you?" may not be terribly effective, given Mr. Hill's argument that only 7% of communication relies on verbal exchange. The rest is store d├ęcor, the facial expressions of sales associates, and things our eyes and ears pick up subliminally. Thus, on Rodeo Drive, Chicago's Michigan Avenue or London's Bond Street, one of the key factors deciding whether you walk out with a new Prada handbag may be the muscles at the corner of a sales clerk's mouth.

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It’s great stuff and worth while reviewing your business from the ground up.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Marketing Musings: Shape-Shifting via Facebook

My usual stance on ANY advertising that does not result in a lead that has a chance to be converted into a sale is, don’t do it – especially if you are a small business with limited resources. In general this has resulted in me viewing “institutional advertising” or general branding messages (without a call to action) as simply a waste of money. This month in Fast Company magazine a new Facebook VP really got me thinking about whether or not this type of advertising is truly dead in the water.

Read the paragraphs below - it makes complete sense that there will always be a place for the emotional pull of a generic branding ad in forming opinions in the first place. Not all companies are lucky enough to benefit from extreme word of mouth marketing and for them, spending somewhere remains a necessity. I love the phrase "shape-shifting".

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...The primary accelerant is a Facebook feature called News Feed, which automatically shares information across friend networks and groups. As a result, "News Feed optimization," the art and science of writing a compelling News Feed announcement, has become an industry itself. "News Feed is as important to Facebook as AdWords or AdSense is to Google," says entrepreneur and blogger Dave McClure, who is teaching the Stanford course.

Harnessing the power of News Feed, the new apps, and the booming user base to make money for Facebook itself is the task of a new hire, VP of product marketing and operations Chamath Palihapitiya. Zuckerberg brought him aboard this summer to help figure out how to exploit what Facebookers call the "social graph"--those thousands of threads that make up users' connections to other people--and to create Facebook's coming targeted advertising program. Palihapitiya, 31, is tall and whippet thin, with elegant manners and a ready smile. A former electrical engineer, born in Sri Lanka and raised in Canada, he ran AOL's instant-message group, then jumped to the venture fund Mayfield. He is part Sand Hill Roadster and part freethinker; he appeared in an art film last winter making pointed comments about Silicon Valley's "old boy's club."

It is only day 67 for Palihapitiya at his new job when we sit down to talk, but he already sounds like a true believer. While cagey about details, he isn't shy about the potential he sees for targeted ads to fill Facebook's coffers. He madly sketches on a notepad, drawing a fine distinction between demand fulfillment (I want a cheap ticket to Hawaii. Now!), which the Internet has become quite good at, and demand generation, the shape-shifting set of marketing messages that conspire to get a consumer to want something. That, he says, is where he sees serious money on the table. "Facebook users are more engaged with each other," he says. "Aren't you more likely to be interested in what your friends are doing?" Google, which focuses by and large on demand fulfillment, is a $160 billion company. "For every dollar that goes into fulfillment, there are hundreds that are spent on generation," he says, particularly by the big brands. So what could Facebook be worth? Five times Google? Ten times? "Could be," he smiles.
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