Keep your eyes right here!

November 30, 2007


According to Evan Carmichael, we should be watched!  Okay, he didn't mean it that way!

Drew's Marketing Minute was named one of the Top 50 Marketing Blogs to Watch for 2008!

My thanks to all of you for making this an environment ripe for vibrant conversations.  It makes it so much easier to create content, knowing that your thoughts, questions and explorations make each and every post better.

I also want to thanks Evan for creating the list.  For those of you not familiar with the site, is an amazing resource for small business motivation and strategies. With over 240,000 monthly visitors, 1,600 contributing authors, and 35,000 pages of content, there's something there for everyone.

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Get a referral by offering to give one?

November 30, 2007

We all know and understand the power of referrals.  Word of mouth is as potent as it gets.  You can't buy it or force it.  But you can encourage it.

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing created a short video about how to get your strategic partners/vendors to help you grow your business.

What do you think? 

I think just the act of creating the referral guidebook on your company would be a very eye-opening experience.  I'd love to see yours, if you actually take this idea and run with it.

Who knows, this might create a series of case study posts.

Related posts:
Turn things upside down
What is the most powerful selling tool?
Is that your hand in my pocket?

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Mickey and Minnie send their best!

November 29, 2007

Castle I'm back!

It looks like you all have been having quite a few lively discussions while I've been away.  To my readers — thanks for welcoming the guest bloggers with open arms and plenty of comments.  I am sure they feel well read!

And for my guest bloggers — thank you, thank you.  You added a lot of spice and diversity to the blog.  I really loved all the different points of view, topics and opinions.

Please…everyone, join me in a round of cyber applause for the superb guest bloggers:

Greg Verdino
Gavin Heaton
Cam Beck
Mark Goren
Matt Dickman
Roberta Rosenberg
Connie Reece
Susan Gunelius
Tim Siedell
David Reich
Lewis Green
Doug Meacham

And for your viewing pleasure….the Magic Kingdom's castle at night.

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Doug Meacham: People Don’t Want to Buy a Drill….

November 27, 2007

Picture_5 his book "The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth", Clayton Christensen writes:

"How do you create products that customers want to buy–ones that become so successful they "disrupt" the market? It's not easy.

Three in five new-product-development efforts are scuttled before they ever reach the market. Of the ones that do see the light of day, 40% never become profitable and simply disappear.

Most of these failures are predictable–and avoidable. Why? Because most managers trying to come up with new products don't properly consider the circumstances in which customers find themselves when making purchasing decisions. Or as marketing expert Theodore Levitt once told his M.B.A. students at Harvard: "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.""

Put another way, people aren't looking for that thing you are marketing; they're looking for the best tool to get a job done. Unless your product is some sort of "collectible", your customers are only buying your product because they believe it will help them achieve that objective. Product features and functions may change at an ever increasing rate, but the things that people want to accomplish in their lives don't change that quickly. Brands that help customers accomplish their objectives more effectively and conveniently than their competition are the ones that will be successful.

Given this, why do so many companies attempt to market their products and build their brands using an approach focused internally on the thing and not externally on the customer's need? They conduct focus groups, assembling panels of customers to ask if adding this bell or that whistle to their thing would make it more appealing.  They do extensive demographical analysis to determine those target customer segments that will find their thing appealing and then spend lots of resources convincing those customers to buy their new and improved thing.  Sure, they get clear inputs on what customers want, but don't typically take the time to understand what customers were trying to get done for themselves when they use the company's thing.  And this approach isn't isolated to just manufacturers.  It carries over to retailers who are focused on the products they are selling and not the job the customer is trying to get done.

Consumer Electronics retailers (my background) are particularly guilty of this. They are constantly telling customers that they have "all the great technology you want (or need) at prices you can afford". 

The fact is, very few people "want (or need) technology". Customers don't just wake up one morning and decide they need to go down to Circuit City to pick up some great new technology. 

They DO want to have an incredible theater experience in their home. They DO want to capture and share family memories. They DO want to be able to print documents from any computer in their home.

How do the marketers respond to these needs?  They dish out specs like 1080p, HDMI2.3, megapixels, and 801.11B, G or N. Whatever the latest spec is, that's what you want. For the customer, none of this hype guarantees a great experience.  Marketers who choose to promote their things this way will have a hard time building a powerful brand.

Marketers who understand what customers are really looking for will succeed by focusing on the experience enabled by their brand. Apple is, of course, the often-cited poster child for this. The iPod has never been the best in class from a technical standpoint, but the way Apple enables the music listening experience is what has put their brand miles ahead of the competition. In fact, the term "iPod" is often used generically in place of "MP3 player". Customers looking for a portable media player will almost always think of Apple and iPod first.

My friend Ryan Karpeles wrote a great post on what he calls Reverse Branding which echoes this idea:

"People rarely think of your actual brand first. They think about what they want. Then they decide who, specifically, can fulfill that desire. Being that "who" is the essence of Reverse Branding."

Getting customers to drive your brand in this way is the holy grail of marketing. To get there, you first need to understand that it's the hole they want, not the drill. Once you get that, focus your efforts on being the best damned hole maker in the business.

Drew's Note:  Doug recently took a job with IBM as a Retail Consultant.  Before that, he was with Circuit City, focusing on their Innovation and Strategic efforts.  Doug is another Disney regular, which makes him a good guy in my book!

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Lewis Green: What makes you special?

November 27, 2007

Special If you are a small business owner, an entrepreneur or a consultant, you likely understand that customers have expectations and they expect them to be met. Therefore, in order for you to differentiate your business, you need to find a niche, which can be difficult as seldom do we sell products and services different from our competitors. Furthermore, even if we believe our products and services are better, it is nearly impossible to create that kind of customer perception, as again, they expect products and services to be good to excellent. So what to do?

One way to overcome the differentiation challenge or what I prefer calling the "what makes you special" opportunity is to focus on the "who" (customers)" not the "what" (your products and services). By doing so, you can create a customer experience that is unique to your business, and cater to those customers who want and need that experience. Of course, before you do any of this, you must understand who your ideal customer is and that should be done as early as possible in your business's life.

My business employs several well-thought out strategies to exceed our customer's experience expectations. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • We guarantee our services (marketing and communications). If we do not achieve the goals that were set before the job started, our customers keep a substantial sum of money, which is deducted from the final payment. Risky but our customers love it.
  • Our clients deal only with me. No matter how large or how small the client's business, every client talks with me and I am their Account Executive. It's time consuming but we also promise that every client is treated as if they are our only client. We have to keep our promises.
  • We are a values-based business and every decision, everything we say and do, is filtered through those values. That means we only work with clients who have similar values, which sets up a model wherein we and our clients work well together and are a good fit.

Well, that is how we strive to be special.

It works for us because we have a clear understanding of where our business is going, how it is going to get there, and what clients we are going to work with along the way. Some of you may find our strategies unwise and some may relate to them.

Feel free to share. We all can learn from each other through the comments section. How do you differentiate your business? How would you advise others to show their specialness? What works for you and what does not?

P.S. Drew, thank you for letting me to talk with your readers. It is my honor. And readers, I hope I delivered the quality you have come to expect from Drew. He is a tough act to follow.

Drew's Note:  With over 30 years of corporate marketing experience, Lewis Green jumped the fence and opened his own agency, much to his clients' good fortune.  Lewis' 5th book, Lead with Your Heart has just been released and Lew blogs to boot.  Just like his book title, Lewis leads with his heart and is clearly one of the good guys!

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David Reich: Is Blogging Losing Steam?

November 26, 2007

Steam Is blogging losing steam?  Or maybe the better question is – Are bloggers losing steam?

Over the past several weeks I've noticed a number of posts and I've heard talk, online and off, about blogging overkill, causing some of us to be less active in the blogosphere.  I've felt it myself somewhat, as my business has thankfully been very busy lately.  That, coupled with personal commitments including being involved in a major election in my town, has taken my time and attention away from the web.  But it seems to be not just me.

When I first began blogging back in February, I felt the need to post something new almost every day, following the example set by my mentor CK and some other blogs I'd been following, including this one.  What a rush I felt when I'd get comments, especially if the comments were from bloggers I'd been reading, like Drew, Lewis, Gavin and Cam.  And comments coming not just from around the nation, but from around the world.  It spurred me to write even more.  And my wife was feeling like a computer widow.

It's been interesting to see how some posts generate lots of comments and discussion, while others just sit there, unanswered.  After my first posts that drew a blank, I wondered, "What did I do wrong?"  But then I saw comments come in days or even weeks later.  And I also realized that some posts are fairly complete, answering their own questions and leaving little room for discussion other than, perhaps, a polite comment like "Good post." 

I've watched my daily readership grow, and I got picked up on some feeds, so I know that – comments or not – I'm not just talking to myself.  I'm not on Mack's Viral Garden Top 25 list, but my Technorati authority has gone up and people are reading.

The first time I got jammed with work and let my blog go unchanged for four or five days, I felt terribly guilty, like I was playing hookey from school or sneaking out of work to go to the beach.  But I was busy, and I guess nothing struck me at the moment as something worth writing about. 

Around that time, I had coffee with Transmission Marketer Mark Goren, who was visiting from Montreal.  He said he was having similar feelings and felt pressure to post more often.  I told him, it's better to take a break for a few days than put up drivel just for the sake of having a fresh post.  If I don't have something useful to say, I'd rather say nothing, I said.

So when I got busy in September, I took my own advice.  I didn't post as often.  I don't think my blog suffered and perhaps my readers appreciated the break, instead of being served mindless chatter.   

I'm realizing that we're all busy and we're pulled in many directions – work, family, friends, hobbies and even relaxing.  And some bloggers have migrated over to newer social media, exploring places like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.  They're still out there having discussions, but on other channels.

Steve Rubel wrote at Micro Persuasion a few weeks ago about Web 2.0 overkill and how the pioneering spirit he felt a few years back is giving way to the smell of money — cashing in.  Hey, if the guys who developed Facebook and the others can reap big rewards for their efforts and their smarts, good for them.  Many of us newbies still feel like pioneers, though.  We are in the minority.  Among my public relations peers and even among my marketing friends, I'm still a pioneer to them, plying what they see as the uncharted waters of blogging.

But there's definitely an undercurrent of talk about blogging losing steam.  Some have posted about it, and a quick check around will turn up a number of once-active blogs that have slowed down or have gone silent for weeks at a time. 

What do I make of this?  I can only speak for myself and speculate, at best, about how others might feel.  I still love this blogging stuff.  It continues to give me the chance to write in my own voice about things that interest me and ideas and issues I'd like to share with others.  The feedback, the camaraderie, and some new friendships that I'm sure will last have been rewarding and inspiring.

Posting every day?  I don't feel the pressure now because I realize – call it, perhaps, blogger maturity – that it's better to wait till you have something of value to say than to say anything just to hear yourself talk.  If I'm not as active all the time, it's just lack of time, not lack of interest.

So I don't think blogging is losing steam.  Some who have been doing it for a while may be growing tired or bored, but there are still hundreds of new voices coming on line every day, and more conversations are popping up in other online venues besides blogs.  As businesses learn how to utilize the blogosphere, blogging activity will continue to grow.

Losing steam?  Hardly.  It's full steam ahead for blogging.

Drew's Note:  David Reich started Reich Communications in 1991 and blogs at My 2 Cents.  He's worked for clients like RJR Nabisco, Gulf Oil, General Electric, and many more.  When Age of Conversation broke, David was the guy who got us all the media play.   Not only is he good…but he's most definitely one of the good guys.

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Tim Siedell: 15 Steps to Bigger Ideas

November 26, 2007

Blankpage Thinking is hard work. When you're up against a deadline or facing a declining sales chart, it gets even harder. Whether you're a business owner or a creative professional, here are some steps you can take to get even bigger and better ideas.

First things first, however. It's a process.

Creativity is not a magical act. It's a process. Scientists, authors, musicians, and other creative professionals who have studied such things have broken down the creative process into five basic steps:

  1. Gathering information for the task at hand
  2. Thinking through various solutions
  3. Walking away from the problem
  4. Getting an idea
  5. Testing the idea

Yep, walk away.

No doubt, the most surprising aspect to this process is step 3. When you think about it, however, you've experienced this firsthand many times. Frustrated by a project, you walk away in disgust. Hours or even days later, you come up with the perfect solution seemingly out of the blue. It's the clichéd shower experience. Your subconscious is an idea machine. 

Ten Steps to Bigger Ideas Now

1) Give yourself a target.
The more concretely you define the problem, the more energy you can focus towards a specific solution.

2) Manage the process and deadline.
Don't allow yourself to move onto the next step until the current one is finished. And build time into your deadline to walk away.

3) Find a comfort zone.
Surround yourself with the creature comforts that make you feel most at ease.

4) Attack the white bull.
Hemingway feared the blank page. He called it the "white bull." If Hemingway can fear the start of a project, you can, too. It's natural. Attack your fear head on.

5) Free-associate with abandon.
Robert Frost called an idea "a feat of association." Smash thoughts together. Write down words and see if they connect. Mash, smash, and crash.

6) Actively search for inspiration.
Look into other industries or unrelated fields for sparks of inspiration. Search the web. Look for items that spin you into new directions.

7) Aim low at first.
Nervous about a deadline? Frustrated? Get an easy solution onto that blank page and you'll loosen up and feel more confident.

8) Forget about it.
Seriously. Go to a movie. Take a walk. Move on to another project.

9) Go to sleep.
Research shows that a good night's sleep leads to bigger and better ideas. Let your subconscious go to work.

10) Be willing to kill your babies.
Don't fall in love with your ideas. Try to get as many ideas as possible and then test them without prejudice at the end.

Five Steps to Bigger Ideas Long Term

11) Break out of ruts.
Pick up a trade pub from a different industry. Eat at a new restaurant for a change. Listen to new music.   

12) Be a sponge.
The more stuff you have in your brain, the more material you'll have to work with the next time you free-associate.

13) Keep your radar up.
Actively look around you. Carry a journal to record little nuggets of inspiration.

14) Gain confidence.
Confidence is key to any creative person. The more you employ the above steps, the more your confidence will grow.

15)  Collaborate. 
Working with others will help you grow your ideas exponentially.

Now it's your turn. What steps or tips have you found effective when it comes time to be creative?

Drew's Note: Tim Siedell is creative director and co-founder of Fusebox Brand Communications. His bad banana blog is an excellent daily resource for creative ideas and inspiration (step 6 above).  Tim is one of the funniest Twitterers I know…and has very quickly proven to be not only smart but a good guy.

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Susan Gunelius: Is Demographic Segmentation Dead?

November 25, 2007

Same Social media and viral marketing strategies have become critical components to any marketing plan.  While many companies have yet to learn how to fully leverage the strength of the social web to boost sales and profits, it's essential that companies don't give up to soon and continue testing the waters of Web 2.0 to find the right marketing mix.

Part of leveraging the social web to market a brand or product involves changing your marketing mindset related to segmenting your customer base.  Finding your 'best' customers is a fundamental step in building a business. 

Typically, the next step involves defining ways to find more people like your 'best' customers in order to target that market with advertising, promotions, etc.  Usually, this step is done by the traditional segmentation of your customers focusing on similar demographic characteristics then finding similar people based on those demographics. 

However, this is not the most effective way to segment and target customers in the world of Web 2.0. The social web is defined by behaviors rather than demographics.  People can use the internet for researching, communicating, shopping and more without revealing a single piece of demographic information. 

Relying on demographic segmentation when building a Web 2.0 marketing strategy will lead a marketing strategy down a path to failure.  Instead, internet users must be segmented and targeted based on their online behaviors.  What sites do they visit, what pages do they view on those sites and what links do they click?  Those are just a few of the relevant questions marketers need to ask to understand their current and potential online customers. 

By continually evaluating online customer behaviors and adjusting the marketing plan to address those behaviors, marketers can find similar people and introduce the best offers, in the best places and at the best time.

Shifting your thinking from demographic segmenting and targeting to behavioral segmenting and targeting can be a big change, and managing that change can feel like a big risk.  However, marketers who learn to leave demographics behind and embrace behaviors will thrive in creating and executing social web marketing strategies.

Drew's Note:  Susan Gunelius is the author of two marketing blogs, Brandcurve and MarketingBlurb as well as a new business blog called Women On Business.  She has over a decade of experience in corporate marketing, advertising and branding.  Susan is the first of the good guys who is in fact, a good woman.

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Connie Reece: Think Small for Big Results

November 25, 2007

Picture_4 One word of advice for Drew and family as they enjoy the annual pilgrimage to the wonderful world of Disney: steer clear of It's a Small World. Talk about things that are “sticky” … you don't even have to get on the ride. All you have to do is walk in front of the Small World pavilion and that annoying theme song will be stuck in your head for days!

At Disney the tiny animatronic dolls representing countries around the world have been a phenomenal success. What about your business? Are there small things you could do to produce big results?

Recently Hugh McLeod wrote about using micromedia for micromarketing the new labels for South African wine Stormhoek. Previously the company has sponsored large celebrity-driven geek events; now they're about to host a number of small, intimate gatherings—and they're using the microblogging service Twitter as the promotional vehicle. (Note: the offer is limited to UK Twitter users, so don't bombard Hugh with requests from other countries or through his blog. It's not that small a world yet.)

Why the switch? Here's what Hugh said:

When we sponsor large parties, nobody notices, talks about, or remembers the name of the wine that was served that evening. With smaller parties, the opposite is true. People seem truly appreciative that a commercial wine business would go to all that trouble, just to reach out to so relatively few people. But why not? From trying to connect with people on a much more intimate and human level, we have far more stable and stronger building blocks to create a community around our brand.

Stormhoek's mass market is everyone who drinks wine, and the label is sold in major retailers. However, their primary marketing venue has been the blogosphere. Now they're further refining a niche market strategy: find small groups of wine drinkers among early technology adopters (i.e. Twitter users),  send sample bottles of wine for those who want to host a dinner party, and generate word of mouth buzz.

Instead of occasions for celebrity-sightings, the small dinner events are likely to stimulate conversation about the quality of the wine and its unique marketing strategy. Stormhoek is hoping to build brand evangelists and to develop a loyal community among a relative handful of people who have a proven habit of answering the question: What are you doing? (Twitter's raison d'être.)

What lesson can you learn from Hugh McLeod and Stormhoek? Can you pare down your marketing budget while beefing up results through smaller, more targeted campaigns?

Drew's Note:  Connie Reece blogs at Every Dot Connects and is the the founder of Reece & Company.  When it comes to mixing social media principles with PR and marketing tactics, Connie is one of the experts.  I had the privilege of meeting her at SOBCon '07 and she's the real deal. 

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Roberta Rosenberg: Re-framing the Fruitcake: Taking a Fresh Look at Your Product/Service Marketing

November 24, 2007

Picture_2 I teach an online course for budding copywriters. One of the examples I use as illustration of "the big marketing idea" is that of a Texas bakery who had a perception problem. Their product was delicious. Their delivery was speedy. Their customer service was impeccable. Customers loved the product and purchased these baked goods via store and catalog faithfully, especially at Christmas.

At this point you're probably thinking, "Okay, Roberta. If everything was so great – product, delivery, customer service, loyal customers — what kind of major problem could this bakery have had?"

Your tip-off is the title to this post. The Collin Street Bakery of Corsicana, Texas made fruitcakes and they still do. They've been making and selling fruitcakes for over 100 years. Now I'm not exactly sure when the holiday fruitcake became a favorite Christmas time joke gift (like The Singing Bass plaque from a few years ago), but it has. You know it and I know it.

In fact, when I did a Google search for "fruitcake jokes", Google returned 342,000 references. That's a lot of references, especially when compared to "latke (potato pancake) jokes" which came back with only 81,100 citations.

So what do you do, how do you sell profitably to new customers, when your main product is a holiday joke?


That's what Garry Hennenberg, master copywriter, did. With a flick of his pen and a click of his keyboard, fruitcake became (drum roll, please) "Native Texas Pecan Cake!" (cue rim shot!)

Now that's genius. The bakery's holiday direct mail promotion waxed strong and poetic about this delicious taste treat, so perfect for holiday gift giving. I'm sure it used much of the same advertising copy that it used before. But by calling fruitcake something else, the entire sales promotion/the marketing argument was completely re-framed for the prospect market. Rather than get sidetracked by "fruitcake as gag gift", prospective customers could be encouraged to give "Native Texas Pecan Cakes" as a gift from the heart.

And if you're wondering, yes, this promotion sold a LOT of fruitcakes. Like I said, pure genius.

How many slow moving products or services are you sitting on that couldn't benefit from a little re-framing of your own?

Jonathan Winters, a comic madman and another genius to my mind, was known for being able to take any object handed to him – a broom stick, for example – and within seconds, he'd transform the stick into a cane for an old man, a rifle for a soldier, a cigar for a giant, and so forth to the delight of his audience.

Here's another example. Arm & Hammer, the baking soda manufacturer, has been around for over 155 years. In the last 50 years they've marketed the heck out of that humble little yellow box of baking soda Grandma used to bake us cookies and with the power of re-framing, turned it into a marketing juggernaut. We've got it in our refrigerators/freezers/litter boxes as a deodorizer … we use it as a safe, effective, eco-friendly cleaner … heck, we even brush our teeth with it to make our smile a little more sparkly.

And it's all still just baking soda.

  • Jonathan Winters re-framed a slim stick of wood and made his audience see Babe Ruth at the plate, ready to let one fly toward the bleachers.
  • Arm & Hammer "re-framed" baking soda and made it a personal/household staple and they're still finding new ways for consumers to use it.
  • Collin Street Bakery re-framed their fruitcake from holiday gag gift into a native Texas delicacy that folks just had to have and give.

Imagine the possibilities when put the power of re-framing to work for your own product/service marketing. I can't imagine a better time than right now. (Now will someone please pass me another piece of fruitcake …, er Texas Pecan Cake. I'm starved! :=)

Drew's Note:  Roberta Rosenberg is one of the first bloggers that I really got to know and she is wacky, witty and about as smart as you get.  She's had her own copywriting business for years and blogs at the Copywriting Maven.  Roberta, as you might surmise, is the first of the good guys who is in fact, a good gal. (woman, lady…you know what I mean!)

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