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I’m B.A.D. (did I need to tell you that?)

November 26, 2006

Image of Liz Strauss from FacebookImage of Liz Strauss

I had the good fortune of spending an hour with Liz Strauss recently as a part of her B.A.D. Blogger undertaking over at Successful Blog.  As I suspected, the conversation was lively, took some winding turns and left me with plenty of points to ponder long after we said "talk to you again soon."  One of the best elements of blogging is the remarkable people that cross our paths.

Thanks for your time, curiosity and sharing your story with me, Liz! 

Read Liz’s take on our conversation here.

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Privilege (Marketing lessons from Walt)

November 26, 2006

This is the second in my eight-day series – Marketing Lessons from Walt.  As my family and I enjoy Walt Disney World, I’m going to capture some of the marketing genius that I believe began with Walt’s passion and has now grown into one of the world’s most powerful brands.

20061126parade1jpg I witnessed an amazing sales lesson today.  I watched the Red Raider Band from Uniontown, Pennsylvania proudly march in the Magic Kingdom‘s parade.  I am sure for some of them, it was the highlight of their band career to date.  But let’s look at what  happened, from a sales perspective.

  • The buyer (the school) contacted the seller (Disney) unsolicited and asked to buy.
  • The seller said "Maybe, but prove your worth."
  • The buyer received an acceptance letter and ticket order form in return.
  • The buyers (students) paid for their own airfare, Disney lodging, and entrance into the theme parks.
  • The buyers helped Disney provide entertainment to their guests.
  • The buyer bought Disney t-shirts, sweatshirts, ears and other items to commemorate their trip.
  • The buyer no doubt also brought family and friends…who also stayed on Disney property, bought Disney tickets (have to cam cord the performance!) and Disney souvenirs.

And I doubt they only stayed for the day of the performance.  Was that a cash register cha-ching I just heard?  And they were thrilled to be the buyer.  They’d do it again if they could.  (The Rose Bowl and many other events handle band appearances like this too, by the way.)

Think only Disney can turn buying into a privilege?  How about Harley Davidson?   How about the consultant who only takes on two new clients a year?

Of course, the bigger question is this.  How can you turn some aspect of doing business with you into a privilege that your potential consumers would pay a premium to have and be thrilled to do so?  (Don’t underestimate that part of it. If they aren’t thrilled to do it, then you’re just too expensive.)

Marketing Lessons from Walt – The Series:

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Surprise (Marketing lessons from Walt)

November 25, 2006

This is the first in my eight-day series – Marketing Lessons from Walt.  As my family and I enjoy Walt Disney World, I’m going to capture some of the marketing genius that I believe began with Walt’s passion and has now grown into one of the world’s most powerful brands.

We’re all familiar with the golden oldie – the giveaway.  Typically, we ask customers to sign up to win or create some sort of contest.  And then they wait to see if they won.  And in most cases, probably forgot they even signed up.

To tie in with their yearlong theme, "The Year of a Million Dreams," Disney has added a brilliant twist to the age-old favorite.                                                      
                                                They’ve added surprise.

Surprise Here’s their twist.  "Imagine walking through one of the Walt Disney World Theme Parks when a Cast Member taps you on the shoulder to offer you a dream come true. Right now, over a million extra-special dreams, some thought impossible, are being randomly awarded to people just like you."

It goes on to list prizes that range from not having to stand in a single line all day (more valuable than you can imagine) to traveling around the world, touring all of the Disney parks.

No little pieces of paper for your name and phone number.  No essay contest.  You just win because you’re there.  At that very moment.

Wow.

Surprise is a story-inspiring emotion. It demands to be shared.

How could you add one of Walt’s favorite elements — surprise — to your marketing mix?

Marketing Lessons from Walt  – The Series:

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You are boring me.

November 24, 2006

Boring_2 I sat across from a potential client this week while he bemoaned the fact that he kept sending news releases but no one, not TV, radio or print, would pick up his stories. 

He wasn’t happy with me when I told him the reason he wasn’t getting coverage was because he was boring the reporters.  (I was more kind in the delivery. ..but the point was the same.)

He was sending them information that mattered to him.  But not to the reporters.  It’s not their job to help him sell his wares.  It’s their job to engage their audience.

Before you send your next news release, ask yourself why anyone but you would care.  If you can answer the question — there’s your lead sentence.  If you can’t — think twice before you bore them.

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Do more than throw them a bone

November 24, 2006

Bone It is one of the most powerful and most overlooked marketing truths out there. Employees that feel appreciated will do the same for your clients.  Lisa Cieslica, from JobPoint makes the point that sometimes a sincere “thank you” can be the best incentive around.  But if you want to go beyond that…here are some other ideas.

  • Let them decide:  The CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK asks his employees for 101 life goals.  When someone exceeds his expectations and he wants to reward them, he looks for ways to help them get closer to one of those life goals.
  • Don’t forget their families:  When one of your team has been putting in a lot of extra hours and effort, or been on the road for a while, why not send a thank you note or gift to their family?
  • It doesn’t have to be big:  Employees love creative coupons that can be redeemed for a long lunch, or a half day Friday.

No matter what you do, make sure you couple it with Cieslica’s suggestion – a genuine thank you.  That’s sweet music to anyone’s ears.

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Is that Paris Hilton jammin’ with a PS3 while calling George W. Bush a fascist?

November 22, 2006

Puppet_1 Headline writing used to be an art.  A well-crafted headline enticed the reader into your body copy.  It was the appetizer, hinting at what was to come and on rare occasion, if it was tasty enough, it could actually satiate an appetite without another word or morsel. 

But it seems of late, everything I read is about writing headlines to trick people to visit your blog, even though they have no interest in what you’re actually writing about.  Using names of the infamous, "hot" topics and other elements of bait and switch, all for the intent of rankings, rankling, being dugg, ditched and double-dipped.  It’s like having a puppet on a string, right?  You tug and they jump.

Good short-term gain? Maybe. More clicks?  Probably.  But at what cost?  How about losing the very audience that actually gives a rip about your topic?  Or you.

Hype, over-promising or out and out manipulation can’t be hidden forever. People hate being made the fool.  Don’t let your headlines, online or off, put them in that position.

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Indulging in my own gratitude

November 21, 2006

I try very hard to make every post in this blog about you.  The reader.  The businessperson.  The marketer.  The writer.  I want to infuse value, insights and fresh ideas in every post.

So I hope you’ll forgive me this self-indulgent post.  What I would love is to have you add to it with your own self-indulgent gratitude.  That would make me feel better.  (Does that make this post even more self-centered?)

Anyway…enough prelude.Soglogo

Over at the Balanced Life Center blog, Nneka has created the Season of Gratitude.  She’s invited other bloggers to share “a gratitude moment” and she’ll weave them all together with links and blog magic.  I couldn’t resist joining in.

Rather than create a laundry list of the incredible and plentiful blessings that I am surrounded with every day, I decided to narrow my focus to my greatest gift. 

My daughter.  She is quite simply, the best part of me. 

Her questions force me to find my own clarity.  Her humor is the perfect salve for a stressful day.   Her fears remind me of my own humanity and her teen-induced insecurities keep my heart tender.  Her zest for life’s delights feeds my spirit and her need to re-charge urges me to slow down now and then.   Her laughter triggers my own (sometimes in the most inappropriate places and times) and her tears show me the depth of my own vulnerability.

Her drive to succeed tempers my own so we can talk about balance and her sense of discovery (both academic and of self) lets me indulge in the same.  Her need to learn about the responsibilities that come along with being given a good life allows me to share my talents unselfishly and take her along for the ride.

Her presence gives me purpose.  Her future gives me hope.  And her faith in me inspires me to be a better person.   

She is my Jiminy Cricket.  She is my legacy.  And she is, every single day, my season of gratitude.

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Are you really listening?

November 21, 2006

Innovation is certainly one of the buzzwords of the day.  Business leaders are wrestling with how to create a culture that inspires innovation and expecting their R&D team to create the new wonder product.  But, it’s not just R&D’s job.  Anyone can be innovative.

Patricia Seybold makes this point over and over in her blog Outside Innovation.  She contends, and I agree, that our clients/customers will innovate for us, if we let them.

How do you start?  I think you start by listening. Really listening.  I think your customers are giving you all the clues you need, if you’re tuned in.  Want an example?  Let’s take a product that’s in the mature phase of its marketing life cycle.  Toilet paper.  Really, once we got past the one versus two-ply, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in this product line.  Until recently.Images_11

You can now buy toilet paper with paw prints on each square. The paw prints lead to a puppy.  That’s how the kids know how much toilet paper to use.  If you have ever unclogged a toilet because your child used half a roll, you know how brilliant this is.

This was a problem that consumers of toilet paper have complained about for years.  It wasn’t enough to make us stop using the product but it was aggravating.  And then one day, voila, someone at Cottonelle was listening.  And looked at the product in a new light.  Hello jump in marketshare.

What are your customers grumbling about?  I’m not talking serious complaints, but minor irritants or frustrations. It probably seemed so small that you just dismissed it.  Or as in the Cottonelle’s case, it wasn’t really your product’s fault at all.  It was really user error. 

They didn’t dismiss it.  They listened.  And now they’re innovators.  It’s time for you to follow suit.  Pay more attention.  Listen more intently.  Wonder a little.

Ask yourself…what could you put paw prints on?

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Exceed my expectations, please

November 20, 2006

I was flipping through an old Business 2.0 magazine and an ad for Hampton Inn caught my eye.  It wasn’t anything special from a copy or design point of view.  So why did I notice it?

Because they surprised me.  Along the right side of the ad, they list some of their amenities.  A great bed.  Check.  Free high-speed internet access.  Check.  Complimentary breakfast.  Check.  Complimentary breakfast bag.  Whoa…back up a second.Images_6

Hampton Inn is demonstrating a very important marketing principle.   Yesterday’s WOWs become today’s expectations. 

Remember when high-speed internet and a free breakfast were innovations in hotel offerings?  But today, any hotel without free high-speed doesn’t even get on my short list.  It’s a given today.  Same with the free breakfast.  But many mornings, I am off and running and don’t have time to linger in the hotel long enough to even butter a bagel.  I just figure that’s my loss.

But Hampton Inn was paying attention to their guests.  They noticed how many of them were up and out.  And they created a solution.  As they probably did when they first added the internet access and free breakfast, they are now exceeding expectations with the breakfast bag.

Until tomorrow.  When yesterday’s WOWs become today’s expectations.

Read a great interview with Colleen Barrett, president of  Southwest Airlines about how they strive to exceed expectations.  (A search for this article lead me to a great blog Client Service Insights.)

You’re working hard to exceed your clients’ expectations, yes?  Let’s assume you’re successful.  Repeat it a few times and you are no longer exceeding their expectations.  You’ve just set the bar higher. 

Here’s the question for us as marketers.  Forget what you did yesterday or today.  How are you going to exceed your clients’ expectations tomorrow?

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Ease into the week — Wave your Magic Brand Be Gone wand

November 19, 2006

I don’t know about you but Sunday nights are time for me to catch up.  On my reading, on my work, on my relationships — all with an eye on Monday morning and knowing that the 180 mph pace is about to resume.

Sundays also seem to be my day for deep thoughts.  I thought it might be fun to ease into the week together with a question that is sort of about branding and marketing but also has a personal element to it as well.  A chance to get to know each other AND talk shop.  Perfect for a Sunday night.

Once a brand becomes part of the consumers’ consciousness, it’s pretty tough to shake. It’s a lot easier to seed a brand than it is to do a 180 degree adjustment to a brand that is already firmly implanted into people’s mindset.  So here’s this week’s question:

If you could wave your "Magic Brand Be Gone" wand and erase a bad brand that you don’t think can be repaired or redirected, whose brand would you erase so they could start all over?  Oh…and Paris Hilton is off limits, that’s just too easy!

My answer?  Reality TV shows.  I will say right up front, I think most of it is dreadful.  And deserving of the brand it has earned.  But, in the midst of the greed, nastiness and gratuitous everything…I think there are a few shows that spotlight the human spirit, like ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. 1539 Unfortunately, TV producers believe their own brand and see to try to outdo themselves in making the worst, most exploitive reality TV shows possible.

With my wand, I’d wipe out those pre-conceived ideas and let them try again.


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