“Tweet Me The Money”

“Follow the Money (Facebook, Mobile Phones and the Future of Shopping)” by Kim S. Nash (CIO Magazine, December 2009). Last week’s post on Wired’s “The Future of Money” article might have been a bit abstract and heavy duty for some. This is more particle guide to the state of the online shopping art.

Here’s a bit of inspiring food for thought:

On Facebook, millions of people declare themselves as fans of performers, products, even the president. The number-one fan page on Facebook is dedicated to the late Michael Jackson, with 10.3 million members. President Obama is next with 6.8 million. Starbucks is the biggest retail brand with 4.8 million fans. But becoming a fan of something is the equivalent of wearing a logo T-shirt. It doesn’t bring M.J. back to life, reform healthcare or sell more coffee. 1-800-Flowers intends to find out whether social networkers are also social shoppers.

As well as:

The company is also tuning its marketing volume to match Facebook’s atmosphere. That is, rather than promote products all the time in the store’s status bar, there are trivia contests and craft ideas to keep fans engaged. “This is definitely a new and unique channel. Jumping in there and hard selling is not the way to go,” he says.

Understanding a non-profit and loss statement

“Helping Hands” by Jessica Tsai (CRM Magazine, February 2010). It’s not easy being a 501(c)3, aka non-profit. By their very nature the measuring stick that the rest of the world use to define success has been removed. Therefore, the challenge is to define what cause’s  success will look like and communicating that to the public/target. Easier said than done, eh?

On the other hand there are a fair number of best practices, free tools and other reasonably priced resources that readily available yet too often ignored. So maybe the issue isn’t so much profit vs. non, but must adapt vs. adapting isn’t so important when all that’s needed is another grant and some more volunteers?

But does it have to be that way? From the outside (i.e., guests) looking in (at the brand) is there really a difference in perception and expectations? In  saying, “But we’re different…” are non-profits actually doing themselves a disservice? Does the fear of competing create an organizational environment that is unable to compete?

I think I think I can

“Interview: Jonah Lehrer – Indecisions, Indecisions, Indecisions” by Joshua Weinberger and Jessica Tsai (CRM Magazine, February 2010). Lehrer’s latest book, “How We Decide” explores the more scientific side of decision making (read: making purchases). It seems that we are probably a bit more complex than most sales and marketing formulas give use credit for. That said, there are a couple bits here that good/better marketers should be aware of. It read quick so do give it a go.

And now for the customary pull quote to whet your appetite:

CRM: So—the less the rational distinction between products, the more emotional the marketing has to become?

Lehrer: Yeah, that’s exactly right. The less qualitative difference there is between the actual products, between you and your competition, the more important it becomes to turn the brand into this emotionally resonant thing. It’s all about what neuroscience calls predictive utility—how much pleasure we expect it to give us versus what it actually gives us turns out to be profoundly important.

Sounds tasty, right? Ok then, now dig in.

Dollars and future sense

“The Future of Money” by Daniel Roth (Wired.com, March 2010). If you thought it was just about dollar and cents then think again. Roth puts one of the world’s oldest traditions in a whole new light. If you like to speculate about the future (pun intended) then this one’s for you.

Also be sure to check out the sidebar bit, “From Credit Card to PayPal: 3 Ways to Move Money”, as well as, “The New Ways to Pay” (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

The moral of the web design story

“Keep Your Graphic Designer on a Short Leash” by Tim Ash (Website Magazine, February 2010). It’s Friday so let’s get right to the meat of the matter. First, it’s not just your graphic designer you need to keep on a short leash. Chances are good you need to keep you on one too. A web site is a tool. A tool that helps you meet certain objectives to engage your guests. But more importantly, it’s a tool that helps your guest satisfy certain needs. In short, it’s about them, not you. Define those needs and then work from there.

For example, just because you (or your designer) see something “cool” on another site does not mean it’s a good idea. The question is, does that “coolness” meet one of your defined needs or not? If it doesn’t help to meet a need then it should be taken off the table. No ifs, ands or buts. The fact is, there are far too many “cool” but bad ideas out there already. Don’t get sucked into thinking “cool” is the answer. Quite often such gimmicks get tired pretty quick. Unless of course you want your brand to seem tired.

Tim’s key pearl comes in the final paragraph:

The moral of the story is clear: When it comes to landing pages, graphic artists need to follow a minimalist visual aesthetic that focuses on conversion and not window dressing. The new landing page may not be exciting visually, but that is not the objective. On a toned-down page the call-toaction emerges from the relative stillness of the page. “Boring” works. And it makes more money — that should make it plenty exciting.

And while you’re at WebsiteMagazine.com be sure to also check the primer “Building and Maintaining an Online Brand” by Peter Presitpino (Editor-In-Chief). A good piece of back to basics to keep you on track.

Go team!

“Teamwork: It’s About Trust, Not A Technique” interview of Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene by Jonathan Erickson (Dr. Dobbs, 20 February 2010).While this interview/discussion centers about programming teams, the idea certainly apply to all teams.  The most interesting point was:

Dr. Dobb’s: Can tools alone turn an ugly team into a beautiful one?
Stellman: A good team tool can help a good team be better. But if you’ve got a team that’s deeply flawed, just adding a tool won’t fix the problem. At best, it will help you make mistakes faster.

Also from Dobb’s was “Team Building Goes Viral” by Jerry Tubbs (21 February 2010). It’s another quick read with the biggest piece of the take away pie coming from this list:

7 Key Factors: Effective Development Teams Start Here

1. Common Purpose Get everyone on the same page.
2. Commitment Do what’s necessary to get the job done.
3. Trust Establish trust,because it’s mandatory even when you don’t always agree.
4. Understand The Process Master the tools and processes before coding begins.
5. Communication Share knowledge and information constantly.
6. Resources Have adequate resources at the outset so team can focus on the project, not the tools.
7. Leadership Ensure leaders are in place to make technical or business decisions.

In a word… Brilliant!

Seven strategies you need to unforget

“Keep Business Cooking” by Tony Conway, CMP (Sante Magazine, Holiday 2009). Too much to do? Too little time? While this quick refresher doesn’t look to cure your time management ills, Tony does lay down seven simply great ideas to help you regroup and recharge. There might not be much new here but that’s alright. Quite often the tried and true of keeping it simple can be the “new black”. In other words, sometimes it’s the forgotten fundamentals that need to be unforgotten.

Survey sez…

“Want to Know How to Market Better? Just Ask” by Eric Groves (The New York Enterprise Report, February 2010). First of all, kudos to Eric for fighting the good fight and making the right recommendation. That is, just ask (the customer). It often seems that too many “experts” are so self-absorbed with selling their one-size-fits-all kool-aid that they forget the most easy and obvious answer. There’s no reason to guess. Just ask. And let’s face it, in a Web 2.0 world it’s getting easier and easier to do so every day.

There are however three caveats that should be mentioned here:

1) Realize that you’re human and try to be objective about the question you ask and how you ask them. Try to take it a step further and have an objective third party read what you come up with before going forward with the asking. Wording and understanding that you take for granted as an insider might not be heard the same way by those receiving your communication (i.e., survey).

2) Keep in mind that any survey results you do collect should always be interpreted with the understanding that what has been collected is not the opinion of all your customers, just the ones who elected to participate in the survey. Some good input is better than no input at all but don’t overestimate the value of what you’re collecting. That being said, don’t be too quick to dismiss your findings just because they are not what you want to hear.

3) Rest assured that the answers you do get will be subjective, and probably biased by the survery itself. We are all human and tend to forget, embellish, overlook, etc. Those who arer familiar with surveys understand that even something as subtle as the order of the questions can greatly influence the answers.

The bottom line here is this… Listen to your guests. They are telling you a lot and will tell you more if you ask. The biggest issue seems to be listening. Are you listening?

What you see is what you get (or not)

“Is There an Ecological Unconscious?” by Daniel B. Smith (New York Times Sunday Magazine, 27 January 2010). The majority of this blog is devoted to the more technical if not clinical aspects of life in the business world. But as they say, “All work and no play makes Mark a dull boy.” Speaking from personal experience I have no doubt that there is a positive and necessary connection between my mind, body & soul and my ability to maintain a healthy connection to the world around me.

Yes, Wired’s pro-technology approach – “How Twitter and Facebook Make Us More Productive” by Brendan I. Koerner, 22 February 2010 – makes some sense. That is, humans are wired such that we need to take breaks from the immediate task at hand. However, maybe the true productivity advantages come not from dialing up a browser and Facebooking but from stepping away from the desk and taking a quite moment outside? Maybe there really is an advantage to having a corner office with a view?

Furthermore, if you subscribe to the ecological unconscious ideals then it would seem that they might also explain the increase prevalence of human disconnect (e.g., the need for anti-depressants) in our society. Are we building a world that more and more of us are not fit to live in? Is a (short term looking) productive work environment the same thing as an ongoing healthy human living environment?