The theory and the practice

“5 Minutes With… Jack Daly” by Daria Meoli (New York Enterprise Report) In theory Mr. Daly makes some good points, multitasking management and sales roles isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. On the other hand anyone who has been an SMB owner understands that what Mr. Daly proposes isn’t that cut and dry.

So what are the alternatives?

Instead of loosely vowing to split your time, take it a step further and schedule time in your calendar of choice. But don’t stop there either. Log your time. At lunch and with two hours to go in the day assess your time budget. Adjust and repeat as necessary. If you’re within a reasonable margin of error come Friday, buy yourself something special for lunch. But if you’re not that close then buy pizza for the team or take a client out to lunch. Take your shortcoming and use it as an opportunity to keep in touch with your people or clients. Ideally being more aware will help with arranging your time the following week.

Another alternative is to delegate some of your responsibilities. Force yourself if it’s not your nature to do so. If you can save yourself 15 – 20 minutes a day that’s approx 90 minutes at the end of the week. That’s pretty good “found money”, no? The bonus is you might discover  an employee who’s  more capable than you thought. If they come up short, then you’ve learn something there as well and now having some training to do.

Regardless, there’s are always good times for investing in the promise of tomorrow. It’s not going to happen on its own, is it?

Mr. Ed would be proud

“Taking Customer Care to Heart” by Gerald Shields (CIO Magazine, Sept 2009). There is something to be said for the power of story and Mr. Shields strengthens that perception.

Behind everything we’re working on, there’s a person with a business problem, and we should be there to make life better for them. It must never become just a job — it must be something we have passion for.

Regardless of your role you should find that this one-pager succeeds on multiple levels. Now it’s up to you to make a moment to consume Gerald’s story. Enjoy.

Change will never change

“Survival of the Relatively More Fit” by Denis Pombriant (CRM Magazine, Sept 2009). These are evolutionary times and not just for CRM.  Read it and reap.

Three is enough (for now)

Oh! What the heck!! Here are two more helpful goodies on social networks.

“Understanding Users of Social Networks” by Sean Silverthorne (Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, 14 September 14)

“Q&A with:Sunil Gupta — Social Network Marketing: What Works?” by Sarah Jane Gilbert (Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, 27 July 2009)

Ok, that’s enough soc netting for a while.

Serious business

““Innopreneurs:” Tips For Success During A Recession” by Duncan Stewart (Business XPansion Journal, September 2009). Another round up to keep you focused and on the straight and narrow. Chances are you’ve heard these before but it’s always helpful to get another nudge.  Now that the summer is over and the kids are back to school it’s time to get back to business.

The AU faves:

3) Make it a no-brainer to try your product.

4) Find money in unexpected places.

7) Now is the time to finally invest in the latest productivity technology.

8) For better marketing results, go direct.

These are just the highlights. It’s up to you to consume the rest.

Just one step at a time

“Simplementation: 10 Tips to Smooth Your CRM Initiative” by Lauren McKay (CRM Magazine, July 2009). Hold onto your mouse, we’re about to hit the highlights…

1. Do Your Homework — …the front end is about 30 to 45 days of fully understanding what the business needs are, what the strategy is, and what you want CRM to supplement. The technology piece is relatively simple from that point.

2. People Who Need People — Before even thinking about solutions, organizations must get down to basics, involve key stakeholders, and discuss pain points and objectives.

3. Let It Trickle — While it’s imperative that solutions and implementations deliver results in a very timely manner, a step-by-step implementation approach is prudent.

4. Think Outside the Box—Just Not Too Far Outside — So make sure that any customization is done within your organization’s known limits.

5. Don’t Be Seduced by Technology — Regardless of how new, hip, or innovative a technology may be, employees must be comfortable with it…

6. Find Sponsors That Stick — The sponsor doesn’t have to be the CEO, just someone who’s passionate about the undertaking.

7. Plan for Product Enrichment — Recognize that CRM really becomes nothing more than a Rolodex if you don’t put the add-ons to the product…

8. Audit, Audit, Audit — By paying close attention from the start, it will be possible to tweak the solution as any problems arise. Users, for example, may be approaching the tool differently than intended.

9. Pull the Plug When You Have To — It’s going to hurt a little—in some instances, maybe a lot—but if enough time has gone by and a solution has not worked, it might be time to call it quits.

10. Mind the Generation Gap — If the implemented CRM software doesn’t provide instant value, it’s likely those users will find solutions on their own that better suit their needs.

Ok, now dive in and consume the whole article.

The Chaos Scenario

As heard on WNYC,org’s The Leonard Lopate Show:

Bob Garfield, Advertising Age editor-at-large and co-host of On the Media, documents how the digital revolution has separated the 350-year connection between mass media and mass marketing, and prescribes a new way for business and institutions to go forward in the changing media landscape. His book The Chaos Scenario looks at what happens when the traditional media world order collapses and there’s nothing in place to replace it.

The audio of the interview can be found here: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/2009/08/03/segments/137774

Mr. Garfield does a perfect job of summing up the current state of marketing and how the internet empowered guest is changing everything. Click to get a free download of the first two chapters of The Chaos Scenario.

Brilliant stuff.

What? Yes. When? Not so much so.

“What Data Mining Can and Can’t Do” by Allan E. Alter (CIO Insight Magazine, June 2007) The subject of business intelligence (BI) came up in a meeting a couple days ago. The discussion centered around using broad patterns, as well as past behaviors of individuals to make future predictions. This article isn’t new but given the authority of Mr. Peter Fader (who is the interviewee) it will help you properly wrap your mind around this topic.

In short, there seems to be a fair amount misunderstanding when it comes to BI. Well, at least Prof. Fader thinks so.

Changing the game

“Customer Loyalty Program Goes Beyond Discounts and Coupons” By Jarina D’Auria (CIO Mag, 15 June 2009). This is brilliant! Stop whatever you’re doing and read it now. Read it twice, it’s short. As a teaser here’s a pull quote from Haggen’s Chief Information Officer Harrison Lewis:

“We wanted to redefine the game because we believe this is a competitive advantage for us and we wanted things that really would benefit our guests,” Lewis says. By creating an experience different and easier than that of other supermarkets, Lewis believes customers will bring in more business for the company.

and another bit from the last paragraph:

Members of the Haggen staff took the time to hear the opinions of customers before implementing the program by holding a panel to discuss their preferences about supermarket shopping. “We wanted [the program] to make the experience easier for them to shop in our stores,” says Lewis. “We respect our guests and their time.”

Makes you want to pick up and move to Bellingham, Wash.

Ask a realtor, staging matters (and other late night thoughts) – Part 2

“Fortune Small Business Small Business Makeover: Cloz – Dress for Success” by Patricia B. Gray (Fortune Small Business, May 2009).  This post is a follow up to a post a couple weeks back. Full disclosure: It is also shameless self-promotion. The news… FSB  decided to print (on their Letters page) an edited version of the AU feedback submitted. YES!

After reading the recent Makeover of Cloz, the Chicago-based school uniform supplier (“Dress for Success,” May), I have a few ideas to share. Instead of launching a second garment business for the slow season, what if Cloz used that time to become a vendor for other manufactures in of outsourcing? The firm might also consider an airline pricing model, with price breaks for early (or even late) ordering. Maybe try offering other types of uniforms or consider exporting to countries in the Southern Hemisphere? I would imagine that once Cloz has gained a parent’s trust, there are other items the company could cross-sell to its base. In addition, the website needs an update. With all due respect, the site does not say to potential customer, “We will take care of you,” and it is hardly search engine friendly. It gives no indication of Cohen’s pedigree in dressing “scions of America’s wealthiest families for almost two decades.”

Mark Simchock
Chief Alchemist
Alchemy United
Princeton, NJ

One additional caveat: The original letter that went to was also submitted to Cloz via their web site. There was no reply, not even an autoreply. Maybe Cloz should also pursue a makeover of their guest services as well?

Btw, this was the second published letter to the edit this week. Feels good, right?

Two of the sides to the CRM story

Whether your CRM aspirations are for 1 or 1,000, these two views will provide some valuable insights:

“CRM on the Cheap: Five Strategies That Really Work” By David Taber (CIO Magazine, May 2009)

“CRM On The Cheap: 5 Strategies That Backfire ” By David Taber (CIO Magazine, May 2009)

Staff are guests too

“Your Customers and Your Staff ” by editor Mark Vaughan (Sante Magazine, May 2009). Without a doubt, staff is important. They become an extension of your brand. Therefore, a brand seeking a more dominate position needs to be sensitive to not only it’s marketing effort to customers but also how those efforts might also enable the company’s ability to attract the right staff.

For example, in the restaurant / hospitality industry many front line employees are younger and therefore more web savvy. A second rate site might very well attract second rate applicants. Like it or not, the iGeneration will judge a book by its cover and quite possibly seek employment elsewhere.   A good web site is not just a way to build sales but also a way to attract the right talent that is also necessary for sustainable growth once the customers come in the front door and sit down.

In short, as times change and traditional lines continue to blur the need to think outside the silo gets to be more and more urgent.

Everyone has to eat. And if you offer the perfect product at a price (guests) can afford, served by professionals with personality and skill, you will survive.”
– John Foley, The Restaurant Blog, www.AllBusiness.com

Unfortunately, Sante’s site only allows access to the current issue via a Flash-esque reader, as well as registration. If you’re willing to jump through that hoop be sure to check:

“Online & Hooked” by Aaron Deal (page 23)

“Hiring the Best: No Time for Dice” by Tad Carducci and Paul Tangauy (page 27)

Let’s talk about the solutions

The latest issue (May 2009) of The New York Enterprise Report (NYReport.com) is bursting with must-reads. Below are the highlights with an essential pull quote from each, as well as a few caveats.

Enjoy! Pass it on…

“Marketing Matters More Than Ever” by Robert S. Levin

The reality is that marketing is on the back burner of most small businesses, but marketing is what puts your company on the front burner of your prospects.

AU caveat: As tbarriers to entry (read: costs) for marketing falls for the amount of clutter is going to increase. Now more than ever the quality and relevance of the impression is as important as the quantity.

“Levin’s Law on Cheap and Easy Marketing Mediums” by Robert S. Levin

There is no magic pill in marketing, regardless of the cost of the medium. Success in marketing depends, and always will, on hitting the right audience with a compelling message.

“Get The Right PR For Your Event In 8 Steps” by Beth Silver

Whether in magazines and newspapers, or on radio, TV, or the web, it’s vital to understand the different types of media and audiences that are available, and what is correct for your audience.

AU caveat: Where Step 4 speaks of focus we would use target, targeting, etc.

“Maximize Your Online Presence” by Tony Grass

SEO is not about chasing marginally interested traffic and then trying to sell everything to everybody, it’s about targeting and pulling in those customers who want to buy, and selling to them by featuring what they are searching for. To put it another way, traffic quality means more than quantity.

AU caveat 1: If it’s been three years since you’ve revisited the objectives of your web site – or any other part of your business for that matter – then it’s probably time for a redesign or at least a serious make over.

AU caveat 2: When done property SEO is all part of the up-front analysis / design / development process. Yes, there are adjustments that can be made after the fact but doing so once the site has been built is the less than ideal approach.

AU caveat 3: To paraphrase President Obama, “You can’t put lipstick on a pig.” All the SEO / SEM in the world is not going to save an ugly site with a poor UX. Get your house in order before you decide to invite guests.

AU caveat 4: In 2009, if your designer / developer isn’t insisting on a content manamgent system (CMS) then engage someone else. ASAP!

The more things change, the more they stay the same

“The Psychology of the Sale” by Marshall Lager (CRM Magazine, May 2009).  No matter how you cut it, we are all in sales. Whether it’s getting someone to buy our product or service, or getting the kids to buy into the idea of cleaning up after themselves, it’s sales.  A sale is establishing a relationship and getting someone else to embrace your ideas.  This is a handy article end to end but this paragraph was worth pulling:

More than mere honesty and comprehensive product knowledge, it’s important to express what your product or service is really worth to the customer, Champy says—what it means to their lives and livelihoods. “Pricing is not it,” he says. “The value proposition is what brings them back.” Knowing why your offer is better—and especially why it’s different—is something every salesperson must communicate. “Zipcar is a highly compelling and attractive business because its value is shared ownership, not car rental,” Champy says. “It changes the frame of reference.”

Ask a realtor, staging matters (and other late night thoughts)

“Fortune Small Business Small Business Makeover: Cloz – Dress for Success” by Patricia B. Gray (Fortune Small Business, May 2009). Below are a few more opportunities that were shared with FBS.

Dear FSB,

With regards to Mr. Michael Cohen and his firm Cloz, I have a few ideas I’d like to share before I shut down my notebook and get some sleep. To that I add, please excuse any typos or other obvious
mistakes – it’s late and I really should be asleep already.

> Instead of a slow-season biz why not use what is essentially excess capacity to:

a) Be a vendor for others in need of outsourcing

b) Use an airlines-esque pricing model and offer price breaks for early (or even late) ordering. Given the economic climate, (slightly) lower prices might retain some customers from defecting. It might also be a good way to attract new customers.

c) What about other school / organization uniforms? For example, cheer leading, or marching band? Both of these might be a good way to get new customers to try Cloz.

d) Would it be feasible to consider exporting to southern hemisphere countries?

e) I agree that a side-biz might be taking a chance but I would also imagine that once Cloz has gained a parent’s trust that there might be other things that could be used to “cross sell” to his base.

> I don’t believe the articles mentions (whether Cloz already does so or not) but instead of expanding into more space maybe the answer is to add shifts to maximize the use of his manufacturing when the season is peaking. Further expansion might only increase the risk and depth of the valleys in between the peaks.

> If the correct web site is Cloz.com then I beg to differ – that site needs a make-over. In addition to the design, a simple right click / view source (code) reveals dated web dev code that is hardly “search engine friendly.” An updating could have a positive impact on his organic search engine placement. There’s no guarantee but the article certainly implies he can’t do much worse in that regards.

> With all due respect that site does not say to a new potential customers, “We are $10m biz and we will take care of you.” Like it or not, people judge a book by its cover.

> The article mentions that “Cohen has dressed the scions of America’s wealthiest families for almost two decades…”. Best I can tell, the site gives no indication of that pedigree, nor of the elite private and boarding schools Cloz serves.

> Once again, FSB’s “web expert” (mistakenly) recommends buying keywords. Ironically, the “Google Wants You” article (by Chris Morrison, page 27 of the same issue) draws a less than absolute conclusion. Keyword might help but not only are there alternatives but it is highly recommended that Mr. Cohen read the attached article that appeared in eWeek (“Searching for more traffic” by Jim Rapoza) a few months back. Btw, please excuse the copy right infringement.

> It should be noted that it is estimated that 15 – 20% of AdWords clicks are bogus. With what authority does Mr. Dalton say, “It’s a cheap, easy fix”? It might be cheap *if* it works, but if it doesn’t Mr. Cohen could lose more to Google than he bargained for. One has to wonder if driving traffic to a site that’s really that “shabby” makes sense. Again, please read the eWeek article – it’s brilliant.

> The article makes no mention of a sales force – independent or otherwise. Regardless, I would suggest Mr. Cohen use Yahoo! alerts or Google alerts and enter “school uniforms” (or some combination of words) to try to get alerts on school districts that are either considering going to school uniforms, or where maybe there’s a news item of a contract expiring.

> With regards to school systems who are considering such a shift to uniforms, I would suggest Mr. Cohen start a blog that collects articles / links on studies that support increased student performance, as well as other benefits from  student being required to wear uniforms. This would give him a tool to supplement his alerts. For example, he gets an alert and then reaches out to that school district with an email that says, “Here are some links that I think you might be interested in…”

> Some testimonials of current clients probably wouldn’t hurt either. Should Cloz market / advertise? Of course it should. Might there be things Cloz can do so new clients come looking for them too? Absolutely there are (and it’s likely they are cheaper and/or more effective than keywords.

> I’m not too certain if this next idea applies but what about the idea of seasonal uniforms? Or something similar to the English Premier League (Soccer) where the teams change “kits” a couple times a year. Naturally, that helps increase concession sales. The idea might not apply here but maybe there’s the inspiration for a better idea for Mr. Cohen hidden in my idea somewhere?

> Finally, scientific school equipment (read: static) and school uniforms are apples and oranges, IMHO. An “expert” from a company who sells school uniforms, or even text books might have been able to offer better insights. Not that Mr. Flinn’s where bad. I am only suggesting the possibility of a more appropriate “expert” for next time.

Alright, that will have to do it for tonight, time to get some sleep. Good night.

Hoist a new flag
Mark

Mark Simchock
Chief Alchemist
Alchemy United

Your vision . Our passion . Success realized

Site+Blog: www.AlchemyUnited.com

Costs are important but it’s results that matter most

Deliver Magazine (Volume 5, Issue 2, May 2009). Please keep in mind that Deliver is published by USPS. Therefore the editorial perspective is biased towards direct mail. This could also explain why the articles aren’t part of their web site but (currently) can only be accessed via pdfs of each issue. To access the latest issue please click here.

Recommended articles:

– “What Direct Marketers Can Learn From Social Media” (pdf page 4, print page 6)
– “Direct Mail and the Purchase Funnel” by Charlotte Huff (pdf page 4, print page 7)
– “Driving The Message Home” by Bruce Britt (pdf page 7, print page 12)
– “Enlighten & Engage” by Natalie Engler (pdf page 14, print page 26)

If you only read one of the bunch then please jump to pdf page 15 (right page – print page 29) and consume the Paths to Marketing Betterment section. Those four tips are universal and essential to all.

When looking for “work”, get words to work for you

“Six Ways To Ruin Your Resume” by Greg Schaffer (Computer World, 13 April 2009).

You may have already realized the AU state of mind often takes things from one box and furthers the use of those ideas by applying them to a situation in another box. In this instance, please shoehorn this article into the other box of copy writing – specifically copy writing for web sites. One of the highlights was actually a handful of words in the sidebar. Please reword to fit your particular situation.

Speak to your audience

Your résumé should be directed to a technology professional.

Yes, human resources may review the application as well, but ultimately the position’s supervisor (and most probably peers) will choose whom to interview. Your résumé should talk to them.

Remember that your goal is to get your foot in the door for a face-to-face interview. If you’re applying to be a network administrator, have a fellow network administrator or two review your application, and ask for their impressions from a peer perspective. Does it convey that you know networking? If the answer is yes, you’re well on your way to landing that job.

In short, job hunting is like sales, and sales is like job hunting. Aside from good copy both also require focus, persistence and most of all an understanding of the audience being targeted. Whether you’re selling a product, a service or yourself to a prospective employer, the tactict and strategy for success are essentially universal.

If the CIO fits then wear it

“How to Successfully Market IT” By Susan Cramm and “How CIOs Can Best Influence Stakeholders” from the CIO Executive Council (CIO Mag, 1 April 2009, CIO.com)

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions such as, “Why should I read all this CIO stuff? I’m not a CIO.” Well, either are we – but that doesn’t mean we can’t all gain something by thinking like one. IT divisions are  often (ideally) set up to run like independent companies and in adding value and serving customers, etc. there are themes (read: best practices) that exist beyond type of industry, size of company, etc. When you read these two quickies just replace CIO with business owner and IT with the name of your company.  The odds are good that you’ll be happy to be thinking like a CIO.

To be the best, study the best

“Broker of the Year Finalists” by Denis Storey (Benefits Selling Magazine, 1 April 2009). The best of the best, sir. AU would like to recommend focusing on the thoughts of:

– Ted Bosse
– Steve Fallon
– Lisa Martin

Nothing new. No rocket science. Just simple fundamentals and the willingness to execute.  The irony is, such a proven approach tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

Four of a kind

Here’s a series of highlights from the Spring 2009 issue of 1 to 1 Magazine (1to1media.com). Unfortunately, this site requires opening account to read some of the content. Since these article are all pretty brief they’ll be copy / pasted in below to save you the trouble.

“Winning Over Difficult Customers” by Kevin Zimmerman

Got angry customers? Good service recovery can turn them into evangelists

It’s been noted that, in some cases, companies that right perceived wrongs for customers can turn them into über-loyal consumers, to the point where they’re more likely to become company evangelists than regular customers who’ve never had a complaint.

Bruce Temkin, vice president and principal analyst of customer experience at Forrester Research, says, “I do believe that good service recovery drives loyalty. When customers run into a problem, their long-term opinion of the company is very vulnerable, so a well-timed and appropriate recovery makes sense for building loyalty.”

Such strategies are in play at companies like Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, and supermarket chain Publix, which regularly appear high on BusinessWeek’s annual “Customer Service Elite” list.
“Those are companies that are looking at the promises they’ve made in the marketplace and are making sure the experience at every touchpoint exceeds expectations,” says Liz Miller, vice president, programs and operations, at The CMO Council. “Southwest backs up its brand message by featuring low prices and making sure it’s very easy to book or change a flight. Home Depot’s ‘You Can Do It, We Can Help’ is built so that, no matter what level the customer is at…they help you find the supplies, offer information on their website, or even take on the job themselves.”

These companies, Temkin explains, often design approaches for dealing with negative circumstances. “They don’t just recover from the problems; they work hard to eliminate similar problems from happening in the future,” he says.

Maria Brous, director of media and community relations at Publix, cites the chain’s purchase guarantee, wherein customers can return an unsatisfactory product for a full refund, as a key component of its customer engagement strategy. “Our guarantee extends to products we don’t carry,” she says. “We will shop at a competitor for our customers and bring that product to the customer to prevent her having to go around to several different stores.”

In other words, by better understanding each customer’s experiences and expectations, a company stands a greater chance of retaining customers when its service or product fails to deliver on their expectations.

Weathering the Storm by Don Peppers

Even in the worst possible downturn, there will still be some customers who are buying, some who remain profitable and loyal. So one very useful aspect of customer strategy in a recession is customer data and analytics—simply having enough insight to tell one customer from another.

However, there are many elements of customer service that can be delivered at very little cost, even when times are tight. Smiles and courtesy cost nothing. Send a hand-written thank-you note to a good customer. Call a customer to ask if everything was delivered properly, or if there’s anything you should do differently next time. As a bonus, these kinds of actions are likely to improve employee morale in a difficult situation.

And remember: Business is a competitive sport. It might be snowing on the ball field, but that doesn’t mean there won’t still be a winner. It just requires perseverance and a different set of skills to play through a blizzard.

The Nature of Nurturing by Jon Miller

Lead nurturing is a key element to successful lead generation strategies. But what makes a good lead nurturing program? Jon Miller, vice president of marketing at Marketo, highlights three points to consider when developing a lead nurturing plan.

Every interaction needs to be valuable to the lead, not just valuable to the company. Any interaction with a lead must contain relevant, useful information that helps potential customers become smarter. Leave the promotions and sales fluff out.

Keep interactions bite-size. Miller recommends a “YouTube” approach: easily digestible chunks of information. A webinar, for example, may not be a good lead nurturing activity because prospects might not attend one regularly. But a white paper or newsletter allows prospects to learn through short yet frequent interactions.

Know your leads. Classic lead nurturing is composed of drip-marketing campaigns. The most successful nurturing programs look at a lead’s past behavior and then adjust future interactions on an individual level.

Three Keys to Customer Centricity based on an interview with Herb Baer

Complete honesty: The retail business changes constantly, so trust is crucial. “Your customer trusts you so much more if you tell it exactly like it is,” says Bear.

Frequent and direct communications – Baer consistently engages numerous individuals within a customer organization, including the buyer, the buyer’s boss, the marketing person, and then accounts payable manager among others.

Caring about the customer’s customer – “We’re going to sell something differently to Home Depot than we sell to Walgreens,” he says. “We might sell hand sanitizer to both but it will be in different forms – different bottle sizes and maybe different labels – and marketed differently.”