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.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

5 tips and tricks to being a better speaker

November 18, 2006

At the Small Business CEO, Steve Rucinski offers his 3 keys to delivering an effective presentation.  I don’t disagree with a single one of them…but I’d like to add my top five, to get us to 8.19108125_1

They say it is the #1 fear of humans…to speak in front of a crowd.  But for us sick fools who enjoy it, here’s how to be even better at your craft.

1.  Have 45 minutes of material for each 60 minutes on stage.  Always leave a little room for questions, stories that just pop into your head and the unknown.

2.  Have at least 30 minutes of "back up material" in case none of the items in #1 occur AND out of nervous energy, you zip through your material.

3.  Beware of butt fatigue.  Allow your audience a break for every 60 minutes you present.  But start on time when you bring them back.

4.  Always end on time.  Meetings planners will love you.  Even if the speaker ahead of you took 30 minutes of your time, know how to condense your presentation on the fly without making the audience feel the difference.

5.  Realize that you are on stage long before you hit the stage.  Mingle ahead of time, chat up the audience and just get comfortable in the room. 

I’m sure between Steve and myself, we’ve just scratched the surface.  Feel free to jump in….what’s your favorite speaking trick?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Creativity Tip: Ask, ask, ask

November 17, 2006

Images2_3 In my day job, I have to be creative on demand.  As I am sure you can relate…some days, I don’t feel very creative.  I can’t wait until the muses arrive.  I need to be innovative, original and engaging. Now.


So I collect creativity triggers.  Games I can play, ways to twist the common into something fresh and brainwipes…ways to clear my head of all the expected, to make room for new ways of looking something.  If you too need this sort of creativity thumping now and then, I’m going to post some creativity tips every once in awhile.

Here’s one that usually serves me well. 

Be like a reporter.  Query the situation, problem, product that you’re needing to be creative about.  Not a who, what, where, how kind of an interview, but more of an in depth character study.  Do it out loud if you have to, but really dig in.  Ask probing questions.  Assume the persona of your interview subject to "feel" the answers.  I know it sounds a little silly but you’ll be amazed at the interesting insights.  Give it a spin and let me know how it works for you.

P.S.   If you want a big bundle of creativity, check out Roger von Oech‘s books, blog and tools.  My favorite is his Creative Whack Pack — a deck of cards with creative thinking strategies and tips.  You’ll love his stuff!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Is that your hand in my pocket?

November 16, 2006

Images1_4 Identifying your pricing strategy is a business element that purists will say is more operations than marketing, but I have to tell you, they are wrong.  Pricing is all about marketing.  It is about perception.   It’s part of the customer experience.

Let me give you a concrete example.  But first, a confession.

I am annoyed.  I’m actually beyond annoyed.  I am ticked.  And feeling taken advantage of. If you ever have a client express those feelings about your prices, heed the warning.   Bad things happen when you have a customer feeling that way.  This is what the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) will tell you is called bad buzz.  Watch it in action.

I’ve had a business relationship with an Iowa based bank, Bankers Trust, for several years.  For the past few years, I had a letter of credit with them.  I paid an annual fee of around $300.  I no longer need the letter of credit.  The annual renewal is January 1st, so I wanted to cancel it before I incurred the annual fee.  I got the cancellation confirmation letter today.  With a bill for $115!  When I e-mailed them to inquire why I was paying a fee, since I was specifically closing it to avoid the fee – they said:

“To cancel the letter of credit requires action on our part.  We charge the final fee of $115.00 to cover the cost of issuing the letter, updating our records, following up on retrieving the original after it matures and the cost of the courier fee. “

I’m stuck.  I have no need for the product.  There is no “early cancellation penalty” and yet, even though I paid for the privilege of having the letter of credit, now I am paying for the privilege of NOT having it?

Ridiculous.  And demonstrating a complete lack of customer awareness.  Their pricing strategy is about them, not me.  And they have lost a customer over it.  Worse for them…they have aggravated a blogger, community volunteer, and business owner who is going to tell this story over and over.

The dumb part of this is that it’s an easy fix.  No customer is going to be happy about being double-dipped.  So why not build the cancellation fee into the first year’s annual cost of having the letter of credit?  Call it initial/closing administrative costs and be done with it.

As with most things, it’s not what you say/do, it’s how you say or do that has impact.

Read more about how pricing = marketing at BizMord Search and Marketing Blog.   And weigh in on this:  What inadvertent impact might your pricing have on clients? 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Hey Scrooge, is that you?

November 15, 2006

Images1_3 Every year it seems to get earlier and earlier.  This year, some of the major marketers launched their holiday campaign before Halloween.  They argue that over 40% of us begin our shopping by then, so why shouldn’t they be out there.  Maybe they’re right.

Advertising Age (a trade pub for the advertising industry) is doing a survey this week.  I thought we’d borrow their question.

Do you think consumers will be resentful of retailers and other marketers that begin Christmas advertising before the end of October or even before Thanksgiving?

Share your thoughts here and also…if you are a marketer, do you market any differently during a holiday season?  Are you a President’s Day special kind of business?  What do you think of that as an advertising strategy?

(After we vote, I’ll tell you what the Ad Age readers have said.)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Hey Goliath, I think you’re going down!

November 13, 2006

David and Goliath.  A pretty famous tale.  Little guy takes on the big guy.  Logic tells us the big guy should win.  But, instead, he goes down.

It’s hard to imagine a bigger Goliath than Microsoft.  They usually win the fight.  But this time, I think they’re going to go down.Images_9

This week, Microsoft releases Zune, their answer to the iPod.  Their beige answer to the iPod.  Over at the True Talk Blog, Tom Guarriello great job of comparing the two products.

Here’s the problem.  Microsoft’s size begot a dash of arrogance and they made a classic marketing mistake.  They forgot to ask the customer.  In fact, they forgot all about the customer.

  • People buy the iPod because its cool.  Cool colors.  Cool online store.  Cool features. 
  • People buy the iPod because its convenient.  Convenient to use.  Convenient to find accessories.  Convenient access to music, movies, TV shows and music videos.
  • People have invested a significant amount of money in iTunes downloads and iPod accessories.  They are not likely to switch.  They are likely to add to their iPod collection with either an updated version (so they can move all their files) or more iPod stuff.

Keep in mind the #1 target for mp3 players like Zune and the iPod are the tweens and the teens.   They are all about cool and fitting in.  That trumps functionality and screen resolution any day.  And they are mortified if they appear to be "posers" or people are trying to be cool, but didn’t quite make it.  I suspect Zune owners will be viewed as iPod owner wannabes.

The smart strategy for Microsoft would have been to either out cool and out convenience the iPod.  But they aren’t doing either.  They are counting on the holiday advertising push and the wifi feature (you can share music…but it evaporates after a few plays/days) to topple the iPod.

I don’t think that’s going to happen.  Tomorrow, more on why not.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Who are you calling an SOB?

November 12, 2006

Those of you who know me won’t be all that surprised that I got called an SOB today.  But in this case, it was actually a compliment!Sobbutton3

Liz Strauss of Successful Blog recognizes a few blogs every week that, in her words…

"They take the conversation to their readers, contribute great ideas, challenge us, make us better, and make our businesses stronger.  I thank every one of our SOBs for thinking what we say is worth passing on.  Good conversations shared can only improve the blogging community."

I’m honored to be included among Liz’s very esteemed list of bloggers who have something of note to say.   Check out this week’s list and Liz’s past honorees in her Hall of Fame links.

Thanks for the nod Liz…I will do my best to live up to your moniker SOB!


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]