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Why Marketing Never Changes

Posted by on Mar 19, 2012 in Marketing | 0 comments

Why Marketing Never Changes

From the very first business exchange thousands of years ago, to the online purchase completed a millisecond ago, marketing hasn’t changed. Many people claim that the Internet and, more recently, social media have transformed marketing into something that hardly resembles what it once was. But it’s not true, because marketing never changes. What is marketing? Marketing is the essence of a successful business. It involves 3 simple steps: Identify a customer need or want. Create a product or service to fulfill that need or want. Deliver a superior customer experience that serves as the foundation of a long-term relationship. Author and management expert Peter Drucker held a similar belief: “Because the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” If not marketing, then what? Some businesses choose different strategies that little resemble marketing. Production-oriented organizations focus on the physical manufacturing process. They create a quality product and expect customers to buy it. Sales-oriented organizations sell existing products. With little regard for customer needs and wants, they use aggressive sale techniques to push products on customers. Neither of these strategies is particularly effective over the long term. A production-oriented strategy can only work when demand is high and supply is low. Alternatively, a sales-oriented strategy can only work when demand is low and supply is high. A company cannot survive when it relies on a single supply and demand condition. Only marketing-oriented organizations consider actual and potential customer needs and wants. This strategy focused on continued customer satisfaction and every touch point in the business/customer relationship. What has changed? If you’ve ever taken a class in marketing, you probably learned about the 4 components of marketing—the 4 Ps—product, price, place, and promotion. While technological advances have allowed the 4 Ps to evolve, at the core they remain the same. Product Over the years, product production has expanded beyond individual customization to encompass both mass production and new mass customization. Computer technology has revolutionized that we used to think of as a product—a physical entity with some sort of packaging. Now, products such as software, publications, and music don’t require packaging of any kind. Instead, the customer receives an electronic file to be “consumed” on any number of devices. Despite these changes the product (or service) must still be created to fulfill a customer need or want to be successful over the long term. Price Pricing strategies remain essentially unchanged. Techniques such as discounting, variable pricing, and price leadership remain common. Corrupt people continue to attempt to manipulate prices however they can. Pricing has always been a complex component of marketing, but the competitive global marketplace makes it even more so. At the same time, computer technology enables sophisticated, real-time price changes and creates options—such as auctions—formerly limited to certain groups. In addition to creating products that meet customer needs, organizations must establish a product value that matches that of the customer. This requirement will never change. Place Products will always need distribution channels. Physical products will always be dependent upon various modes of transportation to reach customers. But transport time has diminished significantly, and products are commonly transported...

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What Infomercials Can Teach Us About Marketing

Posted by on Mar 18, 2012 in Marketing | 0 comments

What Infomercials Can Teach Us About Marketing

“Looks like denim…but feels like PJs.” That’s the unique selling proposition of one of the newest infomercial product sensations–Pajama Jeans. Why do so many of us want these jeans? Excellent marketing. Direct marketers have always possessed keen insights into what will drive a customer to make a purchase. Here are 6 things we can learn from the direct marketing techniques of our favorite infomercials: 1. Focus on benefits: Too often, organizations primarily emphasize their own excellence, rather than how they can help their customers. The benefits of Pajama Jeans are simple and direct–style, comfort, and value. That’s exactly what their target customers want and need. 2. Show and tell: Demonstrations sell. So do testimonials and case studies. Recommendations are the #1 driver of consumer purchases. Your customers want to “experience” your product before they buy. 3. Start with the challenges: The products sold through infomercials are almost always brand new inventions, conceived by individuals or small groups, and then marketed by experts. The inventor sees a challenge and creates a product to overcome that challenge. Many companies start with the product and don’t consider the customer until it’s time to start selling. 4. Make the call to action irresistible: The call to action is the most exciting part of the infomercial. You can’t wait to hear the offer. (With Pajama Jeans you get a free t-shirt, that’s yours to keep!) You can’t just place your URL and phone number on your marketing piece and call it a day. You must tell your customer exactly what to do and why they should do it now. 5. Be extraordinarily creative: Infomercial brainstorming sessions must be lively. Direct marketers think of every possible use of the product, even the ones that seem totally crazy. (Have you ever wanted to exercise in your jeans? Now you can!) You can find new customers and enter new markets just by thinking creatively. 6. Let the data drive your choices: Direct marketers are data junkies. They test. They gather information. They track with precision. As a result, they can predict what will trigger a purchase, and when it will happen. Although infomercial marketing can seem overly aggressive, the core techniques can teach us a lot about what works, and what doesn’t. If you’re curious about the Pajama Jeans infomercial, check it out. It’s an entertaining 2...

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7 Ways Baseball is A Lot Like Marketing

Posted by on Mar 17, 2012 in Marketing | 0 comments

7 Ways Baseball is A Lot Like Marketing

I love baseball season. My sister Whitney and I are die-hard fans of the San Diego Padres. We’re always excited to see how our scrappy, low-salary team competes against the big-name, big-spending teams. In many ways, baseball is a lot like marketing. That’s probably why I’ve always found both so fascinating. Here are 7 similarities: 1. You must have a comprehensive strategy to succeed. If you get to the field without a strategy, you’re sure to fail. 2. You must analyze the competition. You need to understand their talents and their patterns to be able to compete. 3. Individual contributions can make a difference, but in the end, it all comes down to how the team works together. 4. A big budget can help, but it’s not always the deciding factor. When resources are limited, talent and creativity matter most. 5. When you identify a weakness in your team, you should bring in an expert for specialized training. 6. You must review your performance regularly, and collect actionable, statistical data to assess your strategy and make changes when necessary. 7. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and hit a home run, but you can’t count on it for every game. Consistency is critical to long-term success. Marketing, like baseball, requires strategic planning, smart execution, and careful analysis. Without these things, a last place finish is almost...

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The Effect of Marketing on Company Profitability

Posted by on Mar 16, 2012 in Marketing | 0 comments

The Effect of Marketing on Company Profitability

Marketing is misunderstood. Marketers are thought of as spenders, rather than profit generators. Many are skeptical that marketing dollars spent will increase incremental revenue. These misunderstandings are a result of a number of factors, including the lack of exposure to research on the subject. In this post, I’ll do my best to clear up these misunderstandings by: Discussing the question “What is the purpose of a firm?” and providing common responses. Exploring the effect of a market orientation on company profitability. Examining marketing budget processes. Analyzing the measurement of marketing effectiveness. Addressing the dichotomy of interests between marketing and finance, and proposing methods for reconciling differences to increase company profitability. What is the purpose of a firm? A compelling and much-debated question is “What is the purpose of a firm?” Traditional economic theory calls for a single, simple goal: the maximization of shareholder value. In other words, increase the wealth of the owners. Most organizations focus on maximizing profits, which may or may not increase shareholder value. Other organizations shun economic theory and choose a different strategic objective—increase market share. They assume that beating the competition will lead to increased profitability. Honored as one of the world’s leading marketing thinkers, Philip Kotler is the S. C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management. He argues against a strategy focused solely on profit: “Private firms should not aim for profits as such, but rather to achieve profits as a consequence of creating superior customer value.” At the core of this perspective—from a marketing expert—is the customer. Creating customer value involves 3 steps: Use targeted market research to identify customer needs and wants. Develop and enhance your product or service to fulfill those needs and wants. Execute an integrated marketing plan that focuses on the customer experience. The company profits through customer satisfaction. Focusing solely on profits or shareholder wealth—instead of creating customer value—has its problems. Such a strategy neglects the long-term financial health of the organization. A company that lives and dies by the quarterly profit numbers can certainly boost its share price—in the short term. Over time, companies must adapt to the changing market and current financial conditions to remain successful. From the finance perspective, corporate goals are much more complex than profit maximization. Goals must incorporate proper rate discounting and adjustments for future risk. And, there is no definitive proof that increasing market share always leads to increased profits. The effect of a market orientation on company profitability While there are disagreements as to the purpose of a firm, the purpose of marketing is clear: create customer value. By concentrating on the customer and satisfying their needs and wants, marketing can achieve the ultimate goal of profit maximization. Many studies have connected marketing to the profitability of a firm. The academic research of John Narver and Stanley Slater serves as the foundation. They use the term “market orientation” to illustrate the importance of this connection. Market orientation consists of three behavioral components: Customer orientation is a sufficient understanding of target buyers to be able to continuously create superior value for them. Competitor orientation refers to understanding the short-term strengths and weaknesses and long-term capabilities and strategies of both the key current and key potential competitors. Inter-functional coordination is the coordinated utilization of company...

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Branding Yourself With Color: 3 Everyday Sources of Inspiration

Posted by on Mar 15, 2012 in Marketing | 0 comments

Branding Yourself With Color: 3 Everyday Sources of Inspiration

There’s no rule that says only businesses can brand themselves with color. You can strengthen your personal brand by choosing a color palette that truly represents who you are. It all starts with a single color choice. Don’t worry if making this choice sounds like an incredibly daunting task. You will find your color inspiration in the things you see every day: Your clothes Your furniture & decor Your car (or the car of your dreams) Clothes Take a look in your closet. If you’re a bit quirky like me, it will be organized by color, starting with a crisp white button down shirt, and ending with a black wool blazer. If not, you’ll still notice that some colors will stand out. What’s the most “popular” color in your closet? What color do you tend to wear the most? In my closet, varying shades of blue tend to dominate, followed by red. What color is your favorite shirt? Think about choosing a single item from your closet that you love wearing. Now ask yourself this: What color in that item connects to who I am? Furniture & decor I’m not a decorator, and there’s a good chance that you aren’t either. Still, we’ve undoubtedly made many color choices that make us feel comfortable and happy in our surroundings. Look at these items: Sofas and chairs Bedding and pillows Artwork Accessories Walls (if you had the luxury of selecting the paint colors) Which colors do you see most often? Which ones do you gravitate to? Even if someone else selected the furniture and decor, you will still be able to find color inspiration in the things you like the most. To determine which shade of blue would represent my personal brand, I went to the Pottery Barn catalog straightaway. That aesthetic has always appealed to me visually, so it was very easy to find the right blue. If you were redecorating your room, what color choices would you make? Maybe your inspiration will come from an architectural magazine or an art gallery. It doesn’t matter where the color comes from, as long as it fits your brand. Car Look at the car you currently own, or the car you dream of owning. Even if you live in a city and have no need for a car (like my sister in NYC), you’ve probably imagined the car you would want if money wasn’t a factor. Maybe it’s a bright red sports car or a dark grey luxury sedan or an aqua blue classic. Think about what color you would choose if you weren’t being practical. The colors of the cars we drive are often determined by necessity, not inspiration. For example, I chose silver because it doesn’t absorb the sun or show much dirt. Sometimes you get a better deal on the less popular colors. Just think beyond what you need. What color is that dream car? Turning your inspiration into a color palette Once you have found the color that represents your personal brand, you need to create a palette. Fortunately, there are lots of great tools that will help you accomplish this. I started by figuring out the hexadecimal color code of my Pottery Barn Blue using Gimp, a freeware application similar to Photoshop. Then I went to a number of different color palette websites to...

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Origins of an Entrepreneur

Posted by on Mar 14, 2012 in Marketing | 0 comments

Origins of an Entrepreneur

Every kid has a touch of entrepreneurial spirit. It comes out as soon as they realize that the things they want, like toys, candy, ice cream, and DVDs, aren’t actually free. Kids say the darndest things I remember my then 4-year-old brother Jordan asking me to take him to the store to buy Pokémon cards. When I told him I didn’t have any money, he said, “Just go to the ATM and get some.” Then he gave me driving directions to the bank. Who needs a GPS unit when you have a determined kid in the car? More recently, my 3-year-old nephew Shane asked me why I didn’t have more Play-Doh at my house. Then, he told me we could “go buy it at the mall.” But I protested, “We can’t. I don’t have any money.” His response: “I have money.” Wow, he’d already started doing chores (small ones of course) to earn some cash. Both my brother and my nephew figured out that some adults would (eventually) decline their demands. But they quickly deduced that some way, somehow, they would need their own money to get what they wanted. That’s the entrepreneurial spark. Pom-pom racketeering In third grade, my friends and I resolved to turn our pom-pom making hobby into a small business. (Pom-poms are those puffy things made from yarn that you often see on clown costumes.) We had a large supply of yarn, courtesy of a knitting grandma, and dreams of big profits. We created two price points: a dime for a small pom-pom and a quarter for a large one. Once we exhausted our neighborhood customer base, we moved distribution to a much bigger market—our school. It didn’t take long before our business faced an imminent shutdown. The principal wasn’t very happy with our backpacks filled with pom-poms…and cash. We had to negotiate with him to be able to prevent our pom-poms from being locked up, but every deal has its price: no more selling (anything) at school. So maybe the pom-pom business wasn’t for me. That didn’t stop me from dreaming up new ways to make money. From lemonade stand to Broadway production The school year wasn’t really the best time for a kid to run a small business, so I set my sights on a summer job. What’s the perfect business for a 10-year-old during summer vacation? The lemonade stand, of course! I used to spend my summers at my Dad’s house. He lived on a street with lots of kids my age, so I had plenty of potential business partners. Cutting production costs We started with a small business loan from my Dad to purchase powdered lemonade mix and cups. For a few days, we were thrilled, but the overhead was killing our profits. We needed to cut the cost of goods sold. We were already using the cheapest cups possible, so we looked to the lemonade itself. That powdered mix was expensive—we could buy several huge bags of sugar for the same price. So that’s what we did. Living in Orange County, California, we had an endless supply of fresh lemons from the trees around our neighborhood. In fact, most people had so many that they encouraged us to take as many as we wanted and to keep coming back. The...

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14 Must-Have Books for the Marketing Content Creator

Posted by on Mar 13, 2012 in Writing and Editing | 0 comments

14 Must-Have Books for the Marketing Content Creator

I think of myself as a marketing content creator. Why? You can’t  be a just copywriter or copyeditor anymore. You need to expand to a new role that goes beyond the basics. Writing original content All writers need flexibility to be able to create content for new mediums. Here are a few examples of how things have changed: Traditional: Collateral, advertising, direct mail Modern: Email, websites, microsites Now: Blogs, Tweets, comments, questions, answers, and more—sharing relevant information Editing content Editing involves much more than fixing typos and grammar errors. You must be able to adapt information from traditional, to modern, to now. This could mean: Rewriting in a different tone Re-organizing for readability Considering how to add visual interest Curating content from multiple sources to create something new Recommendations Here is a list of the books I recommend, along with some links to corresponding websites (if I found them). I’ve also summarized my reasons for selecting each book for my reference library. 1. The Elements of Style, Strunk & White A classic. Small, short, everything you need to be a good writer. Some content is out-of-date, but still a necessity. I have my original copy from high school. 2. Writing with Style, John R. Trimble Combines some grammar with information that will help you develop your personal writing style. Good source no matter how much experience you have. Another original from high school. 3. Grammar for Smart People, Barry Tarshis Illustrated, easy-to-follow, funny guide that covers most (but not all) of the basic grammar rules. 4. On Writing Well, William Zinsser A classic for writing style. Helps you understand why to write and how to write for different mediums. 5. Sin and Syntax, Constance Hale Witty. A fast read. Learn some things you didn’t know. 6.Woe is I, Patricia T. O’Conner This book has a sense of humor. Can you tell from the title? Formatting makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. 7. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Every writer needs a good, hard-copy dictionary. Online dictionaries can give you too much information. I like this because it’s not too big or heavy. 8. Merriam-Webster Thesaurus First thesaurus I ever owned. Got the original at a book fair in elementary school. I use the latest edition now. Small paperback, simple. 9. Chicago Manual of Style Or AP, MLA, etc. For those times when you need a final authority on grammar and style questions. I use the online subscription for easy searches. 10. Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples Fundamentals from an industry legend. Will always be relevant. My copy is filled with notes and yours will be too. 11. On the Art of Copywriting, Herschell Gordon Lewis I attended his session at the DMA Conference in San Francisco a few years back. The basic idea is “write this, not that.” How your words will affect the reader. Tons of visuals. 12. Words that Sell, Richard Bayan Great brainstorming source. Lists are divided into categories. Not just words, but also phrases and slogans too. 13. More Words that Sell, Richard Bayan Expansion of the last book. Great for power words as well as descriptive words and phrases. 14. Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More), Ann Handley and CC Chapman Newest addition. I have the...

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Writing for Readability: A Few Simple Tricks

Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 in Writing and Editing | 0 comments

Writing for Readability: A Few Simple Tricks

Readers have become scanners. Information that was once scarce now deluges our computers, our mobile phones, our lives. Processing this information takes time, something most of us have little to spare. To adapt, we’ve perfected our scanning abilities to filter out unneeded information. No matter what we are writing—blog posts, marketing promotions, emails, etc.—we must accept that the majority of our readers will quickly scan the content. Some will decide to read it, and others will move on. As writers, it’s our turn to adapt. And it doesn’t require a lot of effort. We can tailor our writing to the scanning audience with a few simple tricks. Set up some road signs In elementary school, I discovered the monotony of reading textbooks—page after page of dense paragraphs with tiny type. Luckily, I had a clever friend who showed me how to look for the “road signs” in the content. What is a road sign? Title Header Sub-header List Graph Chart Table Image First Sentence in each paragraph My friend explained that I could save time by reading only the road signs, and still gain a reasonable understanding of the information. Our readers are looking for road signs too. We can help them by making our text easy to follow–and read. Play the numbers Readers are visually attracted to numbers–especially odd numbers. That’s why most magazine covers feature phrases like “7 Ways to Save a Million Dollars” and “5 Days to Perfect Health.” Many bloggers and marketers are already applying this principle when crafting headlines. But we can also use numbers in other ways to make our content easier to read. Here are a few techniques you can try: Use numerals (1, 2, 3…) when you want the number to stand out. Spell out the number (one, two, three…) when you want the number to be less conspicuous. Create groups of 3, 5, or 7 bullets or numbered points when building lists. Break up paragraphs longer than 3 sentences (4 if the sentences are really short). Limit the number of paragraphs in each sub-section to 3 (4 if the paragraphs are really short). Let the words flow Readers like smooth sentences and paragraphs. Being consistent is the best way to keep your words flowing without hitting any jarring obstacles. When writing a paragraph, the subject of each sentence should be the same. This doesn’t mean you have to start each sentence with the same exact words. It just means that the focus of each sentence should be on the same subject. For example, if you are writing a paragraph about Google, you shouldn’t suddenly start discussing bananas in the same paragraph. Similarly, when you write a list of bullets or numbered points, the structure should be consistent. If you start the first point with a verb, you should start every point with a verb. If you start with a noun, you should start every point with a noun. It’s also important to keep the length of each point about the same (no 10-word phrases combined with 50-word phrases). Another key to smooth writing is using transitional words and phrases when changing subjects. Here are a few examples: In addition Specifically Therefore Finally Although However Then You can find more here. When combined with road signs and a strategic use of numbers, transitional...

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Smart Editing: The Key to Good Writing

Posted by on Mar 11, 2012 in Writing and Editing | 0 comments

Smart Editing: The Key to Good Writing

My high school English teacher shunned the standard textbooks, selecting instead a small paperback with a big reputation, Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. I still have my original copy–it’s my favorite reference when I’m unsure about grammar or word choice, or when I need a little style inspiration. Rule #17 For me, one rule stands out because it’s so critical to the business writer, #17: Omit needless words. If you’re a writer, you also need to be an editor, with one overriding goal–clarity. Every word must have a purpose. As marketers, we’re speaking to an audience that is inundated with information and pressed for time. In this world of tweets and likes and comments, we need to cut back on formality and adopt a conversational tone that’s straightforward and concise. This doesn’t mean that it’s OK to abandon the rules of grammar and proper spelling. Everything we write and publish is a reflection of our values. Our customers want to purchase products and services from organizations that care about accuracy–because accuracy creates trust. Real-world editing In my most recent role on an internal creative services agency, I did my best to move away from the traditional writing style that I find excessively long and boring. When writing, I was direct–I simply left out those extra words that muddle our ideas and confuse the reader. When editing, I never hesitated to eliminate words, or even entire paragraphs if they served no purpose. My clients were at times surprised by my boldness, but they grew to appreciate the simplicity of this approach. The next time you’re reviewing any type of communication, take a few extra minutes to assess the clarity of your words, and you’ll become a “smart...

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The Truth About Typos and Why You Keep Missing Them

Posted by on Mar 10, 2012 in Writing and Editing | 0 comments

The Truth About Typos and Why You Keep Missing Them

Imagine this: You’ve written a brilliant post. You read through it twice to check for errors. Finding none, you hit the “publish” button. All is great with the world. A few hours later, you return to the post to respond to comments. You are shocked to see a glaring error in your opening sentence. You think, “How could I have missed that?” Maybe an evil-doer hacked into your blog and planted the misspelled word to embarrass you. What really happened when you did those error checks? You looked at the words, but you didn’t see the mistake. But why does this happen? A fascinating book explains this puzzling phenomenon:  The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. The authors are psychology researchers using a “wide assortment of stories and counterintuitive scientific findings to reveal an important truth: Our minds don’t work the way we think they do.” After reading it I realized how their findings can help us understand how and why we miss things that are right in front of our eyes. If you’re curious about the research, watch the videos on their website to learn about some of the experiments. When you are proofreading your post, you are falling victim to what Chabris and Simons call the “illusion of expectation.” Your brain is wired to find what is expected: an error-free post. Basically, your brain is on auto-correct, so you actually do not see the typos. They are invisible. How do you make the typos visible? Well, you can’t, at least not 100% of the time. But you can improve with practice. You need to re-train your brain to expect that your writing contains errors. That’s why it’s easier to find typos when you proofread someone else’s work. You expect to find mistakes even before you start your review. If you adopt this  new perspective, you’ll be more successful in your battle against typos. Bonus tip: It’s easier to spot errors if you start your review at the end of the text and read the words in reverse order. This technique disables your brain’s auto-correct setting so you can be confident that your text is error-free. It can be time-consuming, but when perfection is critical, it’s worth it....

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How One Spelling Bee Gave Me An Eye For Editing

Posted by on Mar 9, 2012 in Writing and Editing | 0 comments

How One Spelling Bee Gave Me An Eye For Editing

I’ve never won a spelling bee. I participated in a few during elementary school and junior high, when the words didn’t sound like they came from a 10-pound medical textbook. The most memorable (for me, at least) happened when I was in fourth grade. That year, I made it to the school finals with maybe 20 other kids. What was so unforgettable about this particular spelling bee? It lasted only 15 minutes. They had arranged us in alphabetical order. Since my last name starts with “W-o,” I was the second to the last speller. The first word of the competition was “odd.” Pretty easy, right? Imagine my surprise when the first kid said, “Odd, o-d-d, odd” and the judge said, “I’m sorry, that’s incorrect.” This pattern continued as confused spellers repeated the same exact thing, and met with the same fate. By the time it was my turn, I was in a state of mild panic. Somehow, I worked up the courage to ask, “Can you please use the word in a sentence?” I had an “ah-ha” moment. Then I said, “Awed, a-w-e-d, awed” and the 18 kids before me were eliminated. I don’t remember the word that knocked me out. I think it was one of those “i before e except after c” words. But the end did come quickly. And even though I didn’t win, I felt pretty pleased with my “awed” triumph. From that point on, I developed an eagle eye for typos and grammatical errors. When I look at a document, the errors seem to glow. Imagine the kid in Sixth Sense who says, “I see dead people.” I see typos. When you work in marketing, this skill is critical. When I come across these mistakes, I cringe as I remember those 18 kids who said, “odd, o-d-d, odd.” The biggest, most successful organizations full of talented people miss typos every day. I once received a confirmation email from Facebook. The first line reads: “John Doe confirmed your request to list his as family on Facebook.” I was shocked, wondering how someone could miss such a glaring error. Although we live in a world of casual communications, we still need to spell words correctly and use proper grammar. Someone with an eagle eye might notice our mistakes. And we definitely don’t want to experience an “odd, o-d-d, odd”...

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How to Write an Opening Sentence that will Captivate Your Audience

Posted by on Mar 8, 2012 in Writing and Editing | 0 comments

How to Write an Opening Sentence that will Captivate Your Audience

It’s a simple technique. And it works, whether you’re writing an email to a friend, a professional blog post, or a technical white paper. Craft a powerful opening sentence with 5 words or less. I discovered this idea in high school. My English teacher gave us a long list of writing tips from a variety of sources. Lucky for me, one little gem of a tip seemed to stand out from the others, and I’ve been using it ever since. I call this technique a “Trimble” because it comes from an excellent book by John R. Trimble, Writing with Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing. (Read a book review here.) In the book, the technique is almost buried in a chapter called “Openers.” Here are Trimble’s words: “Consider opening with a dramatically brief sentence–say, four or five words long.” My paraphrased version that appears above is more direct. So, when you’re stuck on that very first sentence, try a “Trimble.” It sets a a compelling tone that will entice your audience to read...

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How to Write a Marketing Email That Gets Read

Posted by on Mar 7, 2012 in Writing and Editing | 0 comments

How to Write a Marketing Email That Gets Read

Even as social media becomes a more prominent  medium, email continues to bring a strong return on your marketing investment. According to the 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, “MarketingSherpa research showed that more than 89 percent of email marketers find email to be an effective tactic for increasing sales revenue, improving customer retention and driving website traffic.” A direct response email  presents an interesting challenge to marketers. To stand out among hundreds of emails, it is critical keep your content compelling and concise. Here are 6 guidelines that have helped me write great direct response emails: 1. To determine how much text you should write, follow the 50-50-300-500 rule. These numbers represent strict maximum character counts (not word counts), including spaces. Subject line: 50; Headline: 50; Body: 300; Bullet points: 500 (3-5 bullets). When you use strict character limits, you’ll find that it’s very easy to cut out extra words that don’t drive your call to action. 2. Don’t focus on your company and how fabulous it is. Instead, talk about the recipient’s challenges, what you are offering, and how it will help the recipient. 3. Use short, action-oriented bullet points to describe the benefits of your offer. Example: Watch this 2-minute video to learn how to: Purchase the correct oil and filter for your car or truck Drain your oil without making a mess Install your new filter using a $3 tool Add the right amount of oil to keep your vehicle in top shape 4. Tell your recipients exactly what you want them to do using action verbs. Examples: Download White Paper, Watch Video, Join the Community, Read Article, Follow Us, Register Now 5. Repeat your call to action at least 4 times, including once in the email header text. (Some people will take action based solely on seeing that text in a preview pane.) Try different versions of the same CTA. 6. Test, test, test. Don’t settle for good email content. Test and find out what will make your content great. I  think email can be one of the best methods for generating a direct response. That is, if it gets read. If you combine these techniques with a powerful subject line, you’ll be on your way to email...

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Let Your Customers Decide: The Importance of Web Testing

Posted by on Mar 6, 2012 in Customer Experience | 0 comments

Let Your Customers Decide: The Importance of Web Testing

Have you ever relied on your professional judgment (or the personal preferences of an executive or designer) to make decisions about website design or content? I know I have. I attended a really cool webinar about web testing. I learned something very powerful: You will NEVER know what will spur your customers to take action–unless you test. What may seem intuitive to a marketer, might not be intuitive to your customers. Here are some of the variables that were reviewed: Simplicity vs. complexity More text vs. less text Color choices Headlines Images Moving “stuff” around Button text and colors One page forms vs. multi-page forms When we were shown two versions of a page and were asked to guess which was more successful, I usually felt that I knew the answer, without any doubt whatsoever. The result? I was wrong–not every time, but enough to make a significant impression on me. Check out the gallery of winners from the webinar to see for yourself. For each test, go straight to “Click for Case Study” to see what I saw. If you’re looking for a great book on this subject, read my favorite: Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. His site is fascinating. Here’s another interesting post that could apply to color choice testing: The Emotional Use of Colors on Your...

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Two Burger Joints That Get Customer Service Right

Posted by on Mar 5, 2012 in Customer Experience | 0 comments

Two Burger Joints That Get Customer Service Right

I read Consumer Reports. Faithfully. I have for at least 10 years. I also pay an additional annual subscription fee for full access to the review on their website. I’ve taken copies of the magazine with me to many stores, and I’ve never had a problem with a product recommended by Consumer Reports. Most recently, I had to buy a new laptop, which can be an onerous task. But it turned out to be a fairly painless process—thanks to Consumer Reports. Bottom line: I trust their recommendations, unequivocally. About 6 months ago, Consumer Reports published an article that caught my eye, “Our readers reveal: Best burgers.” I try not to east fast food too often, but I’ll admit, I do enjoy a tasty burger now and then. Here in California, we have a chain known for its simple menu, quality food, and excellent treatment of its employees: In-N-Out Burger. You can also find In-N-Out in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. So if you’re ever in Vegas, be sure to check it out. According to the Consumer Reports survey, as I expected, In-N-Out topped the list. No, wait a minute. Another chain actually tied for the #1 slot: Five Guys Burgers, which has locations in 42 states. Interesting. I wanted to know how Five Guys compared to In-N-Out, but alas, they had no restaurants in San Diego at the time. A few weeks ago, I discovered that a Five Guys Burgers had opened about 5 miles from my house (only 1 mile farther than In-N-Out). I remembered the Consumer Reports article and told my sister we needed to give it a try. That’s where we had lunch today. And yes, it was a very tasty burger indeed. I noticed several differences between the two immediately: Five Guys is dine-in or take-out, while In-N-Out also has a drive-through. A Five Guys burger is about $5, including great toppings that you would find at a sit-down restaurant, while an In-N-Out burger is about $2.50 with limited topping choices. But it’s the similarities of the two chains that really stood out: A simple, limited menu: burgers, fries, and drinks. That’s it. Atypical fast food marketing: no funny commercials and no coupons. Neither offers any discounts. A focus on high-quality ingredients and a delicious product. Superior customer service delivered by a cohesive team that treats every customer like gold. I was curious to learn more about their marketing strategies. I wanted to know if they were using social media as a major part of those strategies. I expected strong social media presences from the corporate brands, but I was wrong. Both have adopted customer-centric marketing strategies. They offer good food and top-notch service at fair prices. In exchange, their customers have become the marketers. Delighted customers blog and tweet and like. They create fan pages. They proudly purchase and wear branded apparel. They tell the people they know (and don’t know) about their experiences, like I’m doing now. As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to mediocre treatment. As a result, we want to tell people about it when we receive exceptional treatment. With their #1 ratings in Consumer Reports, Five Guys and In-N-Out have proven that you can be extremely successful simply by delivering an extraordinary customer experience....

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How to Lose a Customer in a Single Phone Call

Posted by on Mar 4, 2012 in Customer Experience | 0 comments

How to Lose a Customer in a Single Phone Call

As a customer, I’m pretty loyal–if I’m treated right. If not, I’m the type of customer who will take immediate and sometimes drastic action. If pushed, I will move to the competition, even if it takes a fair amount of work on my part. Cox has provided my cable, phone, and internet service for more than 5 years. Recently, I checked my monthly bill online and was shocked to see that it was $20 higher than usual. It only took me a second to find the source of the additional cost: one 20-minute call to Canada. One of my clients is located in Canada. So, I need to be able to call her without being subject to an exorbitant charge. I readily admit that I didn’t know Canada wasn’t included in my unlimited calling plan, so I don’t dispute that I need to pay the extra $20. My mistake, my loss. But I still wanted to do something about it. I checked AT&T Uverse pricing online. Canada IS included in their plan. Then, I called Cox–not to demand a $20 refund–but to ensure that my future calls to Canada would be affordable. I did mention Uverse, but not in an aggressive or threatening way. What happened? They said they can’t offer a Canada plan to customers in San Diego. There was nothing they could do to help me. What I heard: Even though you subscribe to one of our most expensive packages and you’ve been with us for a long time, we don’t value you as a customer. Go ahead and switch to Uverse. We really don’t care. Thanks for the suggestion, Cox. I’ll schedule the installation right away. Smart companies delight their customers instead of pushing them to the competition. Now Cox will have to spend even more marketing dollars to replace me than they did to acquire me. Not smart. Check out Seth Godin’s blog post: How should you treat your best...

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Are You Treating Ex-Customers Better Than Current Customers?

Posted by on Mar 3, 2012 in Customer Experience | 0 comments

Are You Treating Ex-Customers Better Than Current Customers?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my negative experience with Cox–and my intent to switch to AT&T Uverse. Well, I’ve been an ex-Cox customer for about a week now, and so far so good. I get about a thousand channels, tons of cool phone features, and lightening-speed internet. I no longer have to start an audiobook download before I go to bed and hope for the best. And calls to my client in Canada no longer cost an additional $1 per minute. I did lose my access to San Diego Padres games (Cox still has exclusive television rights), but I can live with that. I should be pretty happy, right? Actually, I’m incensed. Why? Cox is now treating me–GASP–better than ever!  The proof: 1. When I was a long-term customer I and told them I was considering switching providers, I was told that I would have to return my Cox DVR to one of their local stores within 10 days–or else. Now that I’m an ex-customer, they called to tell me that they’d be delighted to come to my house to pick up the DVR. Their rep arrived within 15 minutes. 2. When I was a customer, Cox demanded that I pay an additional monthly fee plus a per minute charge to call Canada. Now, Cox would be happy to give me a monthly rebate to cover this fee–and more. 3. When I was a customer, my monthly bill slowly crept up. But now that I’m an ex-customer, they are willing to give me a 50% discount for 6 months! That does it. It ticks me off when companies treat ex-customers better than current customers. It’s a financial blunder of epic proportions. I am certain that if Cox had calculated my lifetime value, they would have made me a reasonable offer during that first phone call. And they wouldn’t have to promise me the world to re-acquire my business. This experience simply reinforced an imperative marketing truth: If you treat your current customers right, they’ll never be your...

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Are You Speaking the Same Language as Your Customers?

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 in Customer Experience | 0 comments

Are You Speaking the Same Language as Your Customers?

My 4-year-old nephew is a real character. He has developed a quirky sense of humor and he enjoys entertaining the family with his funny quips. On Friday night, we had a little sleepover at Grammy’s house with my sister, our nephew, and me. When we were trying to figure out what we should have for dinner, we started with a simple question: “What would you like to eat?” His response: “two-tees.” To us, this sounded like “turkey,” and we kept saying “turkey?” while he kept saying “two-tees,” while laughing hysterically. We knew we didn’t understand what he wanted, so we decided on pizza. Every kid likes pizza, right? (Clever kid—he did manage to clearly tell us that he did NOT want pepperoni.” After he ate his pizza without pepperoni, he again started talking about “two-tees.” And again, we were perplexed. Finally, he went to the refrigerator and found exactly what he was looking for: cookies. He wanted to make cookies! This same kind of communication problem troubles many organizations. In their marketing campaigns, they assume that every target prospect “speaks the same language” and a single, blanket promotion is created. But this strategy no longer works. Your potential customers now expect customized communications, not the standard form letter from 20 years ago. In the high-tech industry, for example, the same product may be purchased by a C-level executive such as a CIO, an IT professional, or a business line manager. These 3 groups will respond to different types of messages. You wouldn’t necessarily send a highly technical white paper to a business line manager or even a CIO. They don’t speak the same language. You must be prepared to segment your audience and deliver targeted messaging. The same rule applies when you communicate with your current customers. You can’t respond to a business line question with an answer that only an IT expert will understand. To start and maintain conversations with your prospects and customers, you need to speak their language. You won’t be able to build the kind of relationships that generate ongoing business if they’re saying they want “two-tees” and you’re giving them “turkey.”...

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The Art of Customer Engagement

Posted by on Mar 1, 2012 in Customer Experience | 0 comments

The Art of Customer Engagement

Social media gives organizations unprecedented access to their customers. Some companies have seized the opportunity to engage, while others continue to languish in tactics that have long since proven outdated and ineffective. Customers are eager to share their experiences—good and bad—to help others receive the same positive service or avoid poor service. Personal recommendations have always been the gold standard of marketing. A recent study by Accenture found that when respondents were deciding whether to do business with a service provider, 76% relied primarily on word of mouth, and 56% considered it the most important factor. Social media makes sharing these recommendations faster and easier than ever. But it also enables companies to “listen in” and respond to them. A quick response to a negative incident can “save” a customer who may have defected to the competition. When problems occur, customers want consideration, communication, and resolution. Unfortunately, I seem to receive an inordinate amount of mediocre service. I’m not sure if this is the norm for everyone, but it definitely is for me. When I unexpectedly receive superior service or encounter a product that goes beyond my expectations, I tend to share that information. Last week, I decided to be more budget-conscious with my lunch choices, opting to eat at home instead of running out for fast food. Since I don’t cook, eating at home usually means heating up a frozen meal in the microwave. I don’t have high expectations for frozen food, but it’s usually OK, and sometimes, when I splurge and buy the organic meals, it’s pretty good. Convenience and affordability are my top priorities, while taste is secondary. As I perused the frozen food aisle at the grocery store, I noticed that some of the Stouffers items were on sale for less than $2 each. So I added 3 or 4 to my cart, pleased with the great deal. I was completely surprised when I tried my first meal and discovered that it was indeed quite good. Immediately, I decided to send out a tweet to announce my good fortune and recommend the product to others. I included @Stouffers in the tweet and went on with my day. In less than 30 minutes, Stouffers responded. Here’s the exchange: As you can see, Stouffers (owned by Nestlé) is listening on Twitter, engaging with customers in a conversational way that enforces their brand. I was impressed and hopeful that others will adopt the same model. Simply by opening the channels of communication, any organization can deliver a superior customer experience. It just takes a commitment to a more effective—and very straightforward—customer retention practice: listen and respond....

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