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.

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?

Reading between the wines

“Renovating the Wine List” by Marnie Old (Sante Magazine, Holiday 2009). Another great post in our “This doesn’t just apply to _______” series. As you read this one-pager, substitute your communications medium, be it print or web, in the spots Marnie says wine list. Also notice the fact that she mentions context. That is, wine menus need to be readable in low light. As simple as these concepts might be it’s amazing how many times we’ve all see them ignored and/or done badly.

Does your “wine list” pass this test?

Looking at the world through empathy colored glasses

“The Three-Minute Rule” by Anthony Tjan (Harvard Business Review, 22 January 2010). Let’s look past the trying too hard title and focus on bottom line — context. Nearly everything from web design, ad design or a phone conversation, to buying a product or using service – exists within context. Furthermore, it’s crucial to keep in mind that the context is often not yours but theirs. So, as has been mentioned here quite a few times before, be sure to add Context’s twin Empathy to your checklist.

Essential pull quote:

These situations illustrate the narrow-mindedness to which it is easy to fall prey. In the Thomson example, we were thinking of ourselves as a data provider, though we were really part of a broader workflow solution. We failed to realize the importance of customer context over our own product capability. In the cross-selling and shopping-basket examples, the three-minute rule reminds us that rearranging the context of a shopping experience to better meet customer patterns can be extremely effective. Customers seek solutions, but it is likely that your offering is only part of one. The three-minute rule is a forcing mechanism to see the bigger picture and adjacent opportunities.

Understanding context is certainly important, but to truly interpret it correctly one must also have a healthy supply of empathy.

Think big but communicate small

“O’Reilly Insights: The Importance Of What You Say” by Scott Berkun (Forbes.com, 15 December 2009). A friendly but necessary reminder in the vein of Chip Heath & Dan Heath’s “Made To Stick” (Random House). Of course the idea is important, but if it can’t be communicated such that others can understand it then it’s no idea at all. The biggest take away I got from “Made To Stick” was to take care to describe your new idea (that you want to be understood) by referencing something that is already understood. I believe the example in the book was that the movie ” Snakes On A Plane” was described as Diehard With Snakes.  Got it!

A more current example is Google describing Wave as, “If email were invented today”. If you’ve used Wave you’ve probably realized that tag line is an over simplification. On the other hand, it is a bite small enough to consume without fear or confusion. Doubt, confusion, lack of comfort, etc. will kill a sale every time.

The key is to not be self-absorbed (as so many entrepreneurs are) and not to assume that everyone “gets” your product/service like you do. You have to step back and have some empathy. Success without empathy is rare. Think big but make sure when you have to communicate your ideas to others your genius is small enough for them to grasp. You don’t have to dummy it down, just keep the bites chewable.

Common sense-anomics

“On My Mind: Measuring Good-Cause Effects” by Raymond Fisman (Forbes, 10 December 2009). As the holidays get closer and resolutions are being made for 2010, doing well by doing good is probably on quite a few to-do lists. If that sounds like you, then give Mr. Fisman a few minutes of your time, please.

Now before you jump to conclusions, there is one bit (in the third from last paragraph) that is not fully explored but seems rather intriguing:

Interestingly, in the months after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, there was a big boost in sales probability and price from Giving Works for all Ebay sellers, young and old. So, when a national spotlight shines on particular causes, it may be possible to do well by doing good.

Possible conclusion? Be specific, and possibly current, about the cause you’re supporting. Just saying, “we do good” and “a percentage of sales goes to charity” might not be enough. Makes sense since most people would want to know exactly where their money is going. Don’t you prefer clarity and transparency over vague and mysterious?

They can hear you anywhere

Another buzz service that maybe you’re familiar with is Google Voice. In short, it’s a free phone number with it’s own outgoing message. No more using your personal number for business. Or maybe you just need a special (temporary) number for a special project. Skye, Yahoo! and others do provide free numbers but more often than not they don’t allow for your own personalize outgoing message.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg.


Intriguing, eh? From here be sure to consume “How To: Totally Overhaul Your Phones With Google Voice” by John Herrman (Gizmodo.com, 12 December 2009). That should get you started. Much like Google Wave, Voice is in limited beta. It’s invite only for the moment. But the turn around is approximately two weeks — http://www.google.com/voice.

What’s hard to say, but certain to be interesting, is how Google eventually integrates Wave with Voice. For those who have thus far underestimated Wave, the ball is still bouncing so keep your eye on it.

Price and cost are not the same thing

“Furnishing Higher Profits – Business Intelligence: How Analyzing ERP Data Helped a Retailer to Get More Value from Suppliers” by Kim S. Nash (CIO.com, 28 October 2009). Today seems like a great day for KISS so let’s just get to the bottom line.

BI (business intelligence) is great but even the less enabled don’t need such a heavy duty investment to benefit from the takeaways of this article. Keep in mind:

— There is more to cost than the number on the price tag.
— You get what you pay for.
— When you’re the seller (and not the buyer) be sure to communicate the holistic value you provide for the fee you charge.

Done! Enjoy!! Pass it on…

The Art of The Twitter

“How Twitter Is Revolutionizing Business (140 Characters at a Time)” by Jason Ankeny (Entrepreneur magazine, December 2009). Jason rounds up both a history lesson as well as bits on the current state of The Art of  The Twitter. Unfortunately, the Entrepreneur web site is not as current as the print version. Not to worry, just whip up a Google/Yahoo! alert so you know when they finally get around to sharing this article digitally.

In the meantime, here is the run down on the sites/services mentioned:

oneforty.com — “A Better Way to Discover Twitter Apps. oneforty is your Twitter outfitter, with tons of resources for all things Twitter. Currently tracking 2031 apps that make Twitter even better.”

ChirpCity.com — “Local Twitter search, latest tweets from and about your city… and a top user list for the cities (listed) above.”

NearbyTweets.com — “Instantly find Twitterers nearby.”

Tweepz.com — “Search, find and discover interesting people on Twitter.”

SocialOomph.com — “Tools to Boost Your Social Media Productivity.” For example, schedule your tweets.

CalTweet.com — “Social Events Sharing Tool via Twitter & Facebook.”

Seesmic.com — “Stay connected and share information with your friends.”

Twitalyzer.com — “For Tracking Influence and Measuring Success in Twitter.”

ExecTweets.com — “Find and follow top business execs on Twitter.”

Tweetdeck.com — “TweetDeck is your personal browser for staying in touch with what’s happening now, connecting you with your contacts across Twitter, Facebook and more.”

BingTweets — “BingTweets enables you to see deeper, real-time information about the hottest topics on Twitter by fusing Bing search results with the latest tweets.”

Twidroid — “The Twitter & Identi.ca client application for android mobile phones.”

And while you’re waiting for Entrepreneur to update their site, be sure to check out Mashable.com’s Twitter Guide Book — How To, Tips and Instructions.

Good stuff, eh? Looks like Black Friday will have to wait. How about you? Please leave a comment to share any sites you feel should have been on this list.

Great relationships require trust

“The Cure for the Common Virus” by Jessica Tsai (DestinationCRM.com, October 2009). Wow! Yet another I-wish-I said-that article from Ms. Tsai — especially for those seeking to break their 20th century marketing habits.

It’s a holiday week so you’re either quite busy or slowed down to enjoy the moment. Either way let’s skip the usual intro and jump to some highlights.

Measuring the totality of viral’s impact is extremely difficult, if not impossible. After all, how do you measure emails forwarded from personal accounts? Or URLs copied-and-pasted into instant message windows? Or a remark passed over a fence? And yet, no one would argue that messages spread virally are extremely powerful. After all, consumers are far more likely to trust one another than any marketing pitch out there. (See “Who Do You Trust About Trust?,” and our interview with “Trust Agents” co-author—and 2009 CRM Influential Leader — Chris Brogan, in Required Reading.)

According to customer experience company Satmetrix, and codeveloper of the Net Promoter score (NPS), word-of-mouth recommendations by promoters are increasing year over year in all industries. The uphill trend is not due to an increase in viral marketing–specific campaigns, says Deborah Eastman, chief marketing officer; rather, the Internet and social media have ignited a sharing frenzy.

Customers don’t care if you want them to pass something along. Abandon the PR lingo and the corporate speak. No one wants to listen to it, let alone pass it on to their friends. “Share honest information,” says Tom Anderson, managing partner of Anderson Analytics. “What are you worried about—your competitors seeing it? Big deal. Everything’s instantaneous now.”

The bottom line is this… If you want to tap into the natural conversational energy of the crowd, then you have to give them something worthy of discussion.  But you also have to take that a step further and realize that worthy is defined by them, not by you. Traditional marketing’s one-way, dictate it and they will listen approach no longer applies. In fact, spin might only get you backlash.

We are by nature social beasts and that can certainly work to your advantage. Nothing beats word of mouth! But in order to win you must be honest and you must be authentic. Most of all, you must give them something truly worthy of their time. Because don’t you expect the same?

Today’s word: relationships

“Developing Strong Work Relationships” by Kerry Patterson (BaselineMag.com, 13 November 2009).This one is as much about the who as it is about the what. “Kerry Patterson is the co-author of three best-sellers: Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations and Influencer. He is also a speaker and consultant, and co-founder of VitalSmarts, which focuses on corporate training and organizational performance.” Influencer has been mentioned here before, and is recommended reading. The other two are on the hopefully sooner of later list. In the meantime these short article will have to fill the gap.

As is often the case, Kerry’s expertise doesn’t reinvent the wheel as much as it serves as another friendly reminder on how not to be that guy/gal. The bonus here is that once you invest the time to consume these tips/article at work, you’ll be able to take them home as well.

— If you want better relationships, never air your dirty laundry in public.

— If you want better relationships, seek face time with your colleagues.

— If you want better relationships, learn to listen and then speak respectfully when conversations become crucial.

Certainly not rocket science, eh? And while we’re on the subject of relationships, “Create Your Own Upturn (A shift from managing volume to managing relationships)” by David Rich (DestinationCRM.com, October 2009).

Relentless attention to getting the customer experience right will yield increased customer equity. When customers are satisfied, companies may reap opportunities to cross-sell products and services, adding to their bottom lines. If approached correctly, the customer experience can also aid the acquisition of new customers, as they determine where they’d like to purchase products and services.

Maybe not as easy to bring home to the wife and the kids but the idea of The Experience having to stick does seem to be universal. What do you think?

Stop selling (and find out what they’re buying)

“Rouse Your Silent Prospects” by Steve Bookbinder (New York Enterprise Report magazine, November 2009). Pardon the rush job but given this morning’s time constraints the focus will be to stick to the highlights. First, the sub-headline of this one is: How to craft emails and voice mails that will get a response.

Pull quotes:

There is a golden rule for getting a response from a silent prospect: If you want a response, ask a question the prospect can answer.

Avoid using emails as an opportunity to type your entire sales pitch or provide your manifesto to strangers… Just get to the point. Your Blackberry-reading receiver of this message will appreciate this more while they walk and read.

If nothing else, on page 3, be sure to consume, “7 Tips for Getting a Response from a Silent Prospect”.

Also worth checking is, “Putting An End to Cold Leads” by Jeremy Nedelka (www.1to1media.com). Note: Unfortunately, the 1 to 1 site requires registering. None the less, here’s a pull quote to wet your whistle:

Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies, says that a little research like that to get in the door is all salespeople need to stand out in the ever-growing crowd. “Today corporations get pitched by so many people that the price of admission requires additional research and a deep understanding of what that company and its employees are going through…[like] looking at triggered events that happen within or external to a company that cause it to shift priorities.”

Making it simple

“Looking at Life as One Big Subscription” by Damon Darlin (New York Times, 10 October 2009). Interesting, a concept that should be considered especially given how comfortable many people are with the idea of pay once for year round service.  There are certainly no shortage of instances where making multiple sales (i.e., three or four times, or more) per year can be simplified into a single “subscription”. For example, a florist might be able to make use of  “subscription” in offering a package for three holidays per year. Those holidays could be set or picked by the guest. Not only does that free up resources from pursuing each sale individually but the following year a simple, “Did your wife like her flowers? Would you like to renew your subscription?” is all that needs to be asked. The sale has been made, now it’s an issue of renewing.

Another option, might be a non-profit. Maybe a donation can be packaged in such a way to be sold as a subscription/membership (i.e., there would be something given in return to the donation). Reciprocity can be a very powerful tool. Again, renew is a much simpler concept than trying to get a repeat purchase.

Think about it, how can subscription help your business? What do you buy that you wish you could subscribe to?

Make it sticky

“Prototype: It’s Brand New, but Make It Sound Familiar” by Mary Tripas (New York Times, 3 October 2009). A classic lesson in, it’s not what you sell, it’s how you sell it. The key is empathy — as the sender you are responsible for packaging your ideas in a form that the receiver can consume, not the other way around.   If you find this interesting/helpful then you might want to check out “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath (www.MadeToStick.com).

Be careful what you wish to measure

“The Dangers of Bad Data” by Vik Torpunuri (CRM Magazine, 1 Oct 2009)

“You Are What You Measure” by Lior Arussy (CRM Magazine, 1 Oct 2009)

“Goals Gone Wild” by Stephanie Overby (CIO Magazine, 15 September 2009)

No one will deny that setting goals and measuring progress are important. What’s even more important is setting the right goals, using the right measurements to determine progress, making sure the data is accurate and complete, and then how those measurements are used to manage the initiative.

For example, Google’s AdWords preaches the value of Click Through Rate (CTR), as well as cost per click (CPC). While both are helpful and should be monitored, they are both in many instances the wrong measurement. The better measurement is conversations as well as what Google Analytics calls goals. In theory you can have a great CRT and CPC for one campaign, but another campaign can have a lower CTR and a higher CPC but lead to more or better conversions. It’s an issue of quality verse quantity.

It should be noted that Google only gets paid for clicks not for conversions. So much for “Don’t be evil”, eh? Also, the next time some SEM “expert” starts praising himself/herself about CTR and CPC ask them about their conversion rate. Ask them about the impact their efforts were able to make on the bottom line. CTR and CPC isn’t enough and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Success is much more holistic than that.

Another example, is a call center. We’ve all phoned an 800 number looking for help with an issue only to get bounced from rep to rep to rep. Guess what? In that call center lenght of call probably factors into a rep’s review. Should length of call be measured? Yes, it should be. Should it be used to alter behavior of the reps in such a way that it compromises the relationship with the guest? Probably not.

The bottom line is this… measurement is important. Just be careful that you’re doing it right. And always question numbers and graphs when they are presented to you. Never assume that the messenger is right and is telling you what you really need to know.

If your message falls on deaf ears/eyes, does it still make a sound?

“Prospect Research” by Waddy Thompson (The NonProfit Times, 15 September 2009). Please note: The link to Mr. Thompson’s article will actually take you to his web site, not NPT.com. NPT, being an old media outfit (?), did not have the article posted on their web site. They also did not respond to an inquiry as to whether it was going to be added any time soon. And old media wonders why they’re losing readership. I don’t get it. Actually, they don’t get it. Oops, I digress.

Waddy does a super job here in laying out a framework for segmenting your mailing list and why that matters. What’s beautiful is that this mindset works for all types of businesses, not just 501(c)(3)s. With tools such as Salesforce.com or Zoho’s CRM offering (http://crm.zoho.com/crm/) the possibilities are powerful, inexpensive and nearly endless.

Here is another article of interest (that has been sitting in the to-be-posted pile, so please excuse the delay, the information is still spot on): “Email Segmentation for Higher ROI” by Peter Prestipino (Website Magazine, February 2009).

Don’t forget, targeting your message is not only good for you but it’s even more good (note: the word play was intentional) for your guests. They, just like you, have limited time and attention. The better you stay on *their* message, the more likely they are to keep you in their conversation. It’s not so much about what you want to say, but about what they want to hear. Right? Right!

Give more get more

“T-Shirt Premium Jazzes Up Public Radio Fundraising” by Michele Donohue and Mark Hrywna (The NonProfit Times, 15 September 2009). Good stuff. Who doesn’t love a success story? And a premium? But as you read this please keep these AU caveats in mind:

— Why was the KCSM-FM promotion only offered to “lapsed” members?

— The article says that there was over $42k raised from 577 donors with an average gift of over $100. Simply put, that math doesn’t add up.

— There is not mention of a control group for the KCSM-FM promotion. And while the results sound impressive, the true effectiveness is impossible to analyze. Maybe it just a better looking mail piece?

— While the fulfillment vendor isn’t specifically mentioned, AU wonders if Zazzle.com (or a similar service) might have been a better, more cost effective choice.

— Since when are mailing labels considered a premium?

Last but not least, maybe the concept of donor should be put to rest already? To a certain extent,  donor implies a sense of one-and-done. However, member and membership not only gives the guest a sense of belonging to a community but it should also force the NPO to not see every warm body as a dollar sign. Perception and words matter.  Needless to say, donor, in a world where expectations are formed by Web 2.0 does not inspire an appropriate “UX” (user experience).

Calculate your IIE (Investment In Expectations)

“What’s your Twitter ROI? How to measure social media payoff” by Mary K. Pratt (ComputerWorld.com, 21 September 2009). Ms. Pratt crafts a soft, user friendly overview of some of the ROI issues that are confronting organizations as they migrate their brand into the realities of Web 2.0 and beyond. If you’re in this camp then this article will let you know that you are not alone.That said, aren’t these the say type of questions we asked 10 years ago as the internet went mainstream? My stock tongue in cheek joke is — The internet, I hear it’s gonna be big.

Unfortunately, the article misses the mark on the point of social media, Web 2.0, etc. and the associated shift in the paradigm. The world as it now exists isn’t about the brands, it’s about the guests. I’m certainly not going to suggest that any effort be pursued at all costs. We are talking business after all. However, the old mind set of, is what I’m spending going to get my customers to do what I want them to, doesn’t really apply in a world where the guest has the power. The question guests now ask is, is brand such-n-such doing what I expect? Are they living up to MY expectations?

In short, you don’t really have a choice.

You’re going to have to surrender to the fact that some of the old measurements (of control) no longer apply. The approach needs to more holistic. There needs to be effort put into being part of the conversation (and stop focusing on leading and/or manipulating it). For example, the reality is, you don’t have to tweet. However, you do need to give people something to tweet about. It’s amazing what you can get for free if you know how to play your cards right. The fact is, in the history of business, no marketing tool has been more cost effective than word of mouth/Tweet/FB status.

Actually, you have two choices. One, figure it out now. Two, figure it out later. Either way, you will have to figure it out. These things — whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or their eventual cousins — aren’t going away anytime soon. If you wait to make the investment in understanding and using the tools then you will only be that much further behind the curve. This isn’t a sprint, it’s an ultra-marathon. So while you’re scratching your bum, focused on ROI, others are being guest-centric, putting their self-interests aside for the moment and pushing forward knowing that the return will come.

Because as we all agree, standing still isn’t the key to success.

Look good. Feel good.

Design matters. Why? Because it is one of the first things to effect The Guest Experience. It establishes the tone of the on going relationship. Whether it’s your store, your club, your restaurant or your web site, these impressions matter. If you have any doubts about the value of investing in good design, and thus The Guest Experience, these two articles should help reorient your compass.

“Environment Plays a Huge Role in Member Retention” by Bruce Carter (Fitness Business Pro, August 2009).

When you spend on your club’s environment, you are spending on marketing. Think about having an environment that is so exciting, fun and stimulating that people actually love being there, and it makes them want to tell their friends about it.

“Turning Up the Juice” by Garrett Peck (Sante Magazine, September 2009)

No matter the size or demographics of your bar, creating and sustaining a successful vibe requires tuning (and sometimes retuning) the sensory experience and physical layout to match your clientele’s expectations and, above all, affording each customer personal and professional service.

The key is empathy. Stop thinking about what you see, or what you think you see. Now look at your company from the outside in. What do they, The Guest, see? And what impression(s) does that make on their experience?