Archive for August, 2010

The cast of Mad Men.AMC/Frank Ockenfels 3 - Thursday, July, 29, 2010, 12:29 AM

What makes a value proposition compelling is same as it ever was in marketing.  Web or no Web.

We still live in a multi-channel world.  Now there is empirical data showing that most word-of-mouth marketing happens off-line, not online.  Check out the findings of the Keller Fay Group, which said that 90% of the of the conversations people have about products, companies and brands do not occur on the Web.

This should be a wake up call for marketers obsessed with social media.  It suprises no one who has understood that a toolbox is not a strategy and that marketing techniques and tactics have always been in a state of evolution.  Look at it this way: Autodesk tools changed the way architects practice.  But the principles of architecture, structural engineering, materials science and mathematics are the same for the construction of the new Bay Bridge as they were for the Egyptian pyramids.  The way we reach out to markets today are a far cry from yesteryear, but the things that make a product’s value proposition relevant and compelling to a buyer are the same as they ever were.  The same in the age of Zuckerberg as they were in the time of Gutenberg, and long before that.  Knowledge of your customers trumps knowledge of whatever tool you happen to use to reach them.  Indeed, the former will always determine the latter.

If the social Web is a tavern and not a conference room, why do so many marketers still walk in and want to show slides?

1.  ACTIVE LISTENING. Tune in, turn up your gain and hear what people are saying about you, your competitors and your category.

2.  NEED FOR SPEED. The era of the “embargo” is past.  The news cycle is perpetual and relentless.  He (or she) who hesitates is lost.  Put this to work for you, don’t work against it.

3.  EXUBERANCE. Be an enthusiastic facilitator of social-media conversations.  Encourage your employees, partners, shareholders and customers to engage and further the discussions.  You can’t win if you don’t play and if this makes you queasy, don’t climb aboard.

4. AUTHENTICITY. The digital culture has a nose for frauds.  Mislead or misrepresent at your peril.

5.  GENEROSITY. Link to other sites.  Create and/or share great content.  Think in terms of service and support.  It is coin of the realm.

6. FLEXIBILITY. As nature abhors a vacuum, the social Web will make life unbearable for those who can’t roll with the punches, the ribbing and the needling.

7.  SENSE OF HUMOR. As implied in #6, taking yourself seriously is seriously inconsistent with the milieu.  The rough-and-tumble of the social Web is to business-as-usual as The Colbert Report is to Meet the Press.

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The way you are already marketing on the social Web probably deserves a closer look.

With apologies to JFK and deep gratitude to Jay Baer, here’s a list of questions that a lot of companies should be asking — and not asking — themselves about social-media marketing.  Specifically, how it applies to them, their customers and their brands:

1.  Ask not what the hot new trend is in social media, ask how you can
optimize and improve the social-media programs you already have in place.

2.  Ask not the best way to get the most possible Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers, ask how you can encourage existing customers to truly engage with you online.

3.  Ask not how you can make a viral video that gets thousands of views, ask how you can
optimize a video so that your prospects can quickly find it in a search.

4.  Ask not how much money you should transfer from the email budget to social media, ask how you can best integrate email and social media so that the whole exceeds the sum of the parts.

5.  Ask not how you can convince the CEO that you know your stuff when it comes to social technology, ask how you can create content in multiple forms and locations that demonstrates your expertise.

6. Ask not for the budget to hire a social-media expert, ask how you can distribute social-media knowledge across the entire company — including continuous training and knowledge sharing.

7.  Ask not how you can create a super-viral campaign, ask how you can
develop a sustainable, perpetual strategy that turns your customers into your most vocal cheerleaders — your auxiliary salesforce.

8. Ask not how to find the most influential bloggers and get them to write about you, ask how to find existing customers who are passionate about your products — and turn them into active evangelists.

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previous Although he no longer ran the place at the time of this 2... Craig Lee / The Chronicle

Ed Moose applied social media long before the Internet

Everything new is old.  Everthing old is new again.  What the late Ed Moose did when he launched his legendary restaurant 37 years ago, the Washington Square Bar and Grill, in a town with no shortage of destination restaurants (yes, even then) sounds all-too familiar in today’s social-media driven world of word-of-mouth marketing.  My point: “word-of-mouth marketing” is hardly new.  What’s new is the speed and extent to which it can be generated today via the Web and the channels through which word spreads.  Pay heed to the lessons:

First and foremost, know the business you’re in.  If you’re shy on know-how, make sure there’s someone close at hand who knows the ropes. In Moose’s case, his partner Sam Deitsch was an experienced restaurateur.  Dietsch’s business chops, plus Moose’s instinct for promotion and service, added up to a whole that far exceeded the sum of the parts.

Second, cultivate patronage one influencer at a time.  The way San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carl Nolte tells it, “Business was slow at first, and then, with meticulous attention to detail and careful cultivation of newspaper columnists, television types, lawyers and politicians, the Washington Square caught on. With good music and reasonably good food, the joint – as the owners always called it – became more than fashionable.”

The marketing take-way in today’s world: Sow your seeds in the most fertile ground and reap the optimum fruit of your labor.  Who are the “types” most likely to spread and amplify your message?  How do they like to be engaged?  What can you do for them?  Why would they care?  What would inspire them to care?

“It looked easy,” said Nolte,” but the owners worked at it. They put on book events, brought in good musicians and hired sharp public relations people.   Mayor George Moscone became a regular; so did Chronicle columnists Herb Caen and Stan Delaplane. CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite would stop by when he was in town, and so did Tom Brokaw.”

(Note: D-I-Y PR can suffice if you’re on a budget, so long as you apply the best practices, but don’t stray from the rules noted here.)

Finally, create an experience that gets your customers to become your sales force. Look at your product through the eyes of your customer.  DO NOT look at your customers through the lens of your product.  This is what is meant by ensuring a great customer experience.   Nolte relates a classic example of how Moose created an experience and how it got customers to “evangelize” on his behalf:

“Deitsch knew restaurants; Moose knew people. He had a way of making people feel welcome, said (wife) Mary Etta Moose.

” ‘One night,’ she said, ‘Ed saw a kid come in with a girl. He could see that it was a first date. Ed could also see by the way the kid acted that he’d never been in the Washington Square before, and maybe never in a good restaurant. He could just tell.

” ‘Ed greeted them like they were old and valued customers, gave them a window seat and sent over a drink. He had this way; he knew what people wanted, what would make them happy.’ ”

Note “happy customers”, not just “satisfied” customers. In business, this is the secret to eternal youth.

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previous Mark Hurd was forced to quit Hewlett-Packard after an inq... Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

As if the term “marketing consultant” wasn’t already a lightning rod for boardroom skeptics…

Seems that Jodie Fisher, the actress-cum-realtor-cum-HP consultant, brokered high-level connections between  HP XOs and customer CIOs at corporate gatherings. And received good days’ pay for good, however short, days’ work. So much for cost-cutting.  It strikes this observer as odd in other ways, however.  And making it all the more curious and mysterious were the private reactions and observations shared with me over the weekend in Palo Alto.  Some very prominent IT industry people, including a noteworthy HP competitor, confided that while they were surprised by the circumstances, they were not at all shocked by the swift departure — read: lack of support — shown for Mark Hurd.   This may strike outsiders as strange, in light of the way shareholders have been so richly rewarded during Hurd’s tenure.  OK, so he wasn’t Steve Jobs when it came to the vision thing.  But a 136% stock price jump in a lousy market wasn’t too bad.  And what if he was known as a ruthless cost-cutter?  Certainly, there are worse images for CEOs.

HP partners have a different take. The customer experience was suffering, they say.  The cost-cutting had gone too far.  Buyers were reduced to doing their own fixes, for example. As for now?  Expect low clouds and fog along the Halls of Bill and Dave, at least from the outside looking in.  And whither Ms. Fisher?  Will she leverage her CIO meet-and-greet credentials elsewhere?  One thing is clear: outside of HP’s CIO shmooze-fests, she no longer owns a low profile.  Maybe it’s exactly what this particular Fisher was angling for all along.