All I want for Christmas…

October 30, 2006

…is another popcorn tin?

Less than 60 days to the culmination of the holiday gift giving season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa.  (Or any combination!)

Most businesses try to acknowledge their best clients over the holidays.  A smart plan.  But it often loses a great deal in the execution.  What do you give your clients?  Popcorn tin?  Fruitcake (eww) or  fruit basket?Images1

I know, how about a paperweight or nut assortment? 

All fine ideas.  (insert yawn here).

Sorry — but could you be any more like everyone else?  Why bother?  Do you have any idea how many of those items stack up at the average business?  What does your gift say about you and your organization?  Here’s what I think those gifts say:

  • We didn’t want to put a lot of thought into this.
  • We wanted to do something easy.
  • All of our clients are getting the same thing, so you’re really not that special after all.
  • We’re generic — nothing special about our gift, nothing special about us.

I know, that’s a little harsh.  But come on…admit it.  When you receive your 4th popcorn tin of the season, are you all giddy inside?  Can you even remember who gave you what?

I have searched the blogosphere to find others having this conversation and guess what.  Most of them say "Be generic. Give the same stuff everyone else does, it’s safe."

Sure is.  And it is completely forgettable too.  Why waste your money?

You have two choices, in my opinion.  If you have a handful of clients, then buy them something that shows you understand what matters to them.  If they love theatre, tickets to a show.  Into their kids — a game night package, complete with popcorn.  Demonstrate that they matter to you by knowing who they are.

If you have a larger number of clients to remember, think about your company’s brand.  What are you all about?  What’s your brand promise?  What gift seems to be fitting with that?  What feels like you?  What gift, when they look at the booty for the season, will stand out and be unmistakably from you and only you?

So…what will you be wrapping up for clients this holiday season?


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Do you sound stupid?

October 28, 2006

Images2 Okay, right off the bat I need to admit I am annoyed.  So if there’s a sharpness to the tone, you know why.  It’s not you.  But out of my annoyance comes a great marketing tip.

I have decided I need (not want) a smart phone.  I’m tired of not having my calendar and contact lists with me at all times.  I’m content to pay for the upgrade, knowing it will make me more productive.

I am an ideal customer.  I am ready to buy.  I have money to spend.

So…with that mindset, I enter the Verizon store.  Before I can buy, I need some help.  You see, like the rest of the world will someday be…I am a Mac guy.  (more on this later) I ask them which smart phone is most compatible with Macs.  Here’s what tech support guy and sales woman both say.

"Oh, you can’t use a Mac with them.  It’s Windows technology."

I say…."are you sure?  Seems to me that with all the Macs out there, someone would have figured that out."

"Yeah, well, when they were designing the phones, Mac didn’t have a computer so they didn’t take that into account." 


To which the other adds, "actually, with Mac declining, Verizon is really not going to be worrying about that platform."


Here’s the marketing tip.  If you are ignorant, for the Love of Pete, admit it.  Clearly both of these professionals are under educated about their product.  And technology in general.  Which is a shame.  But, if you find yourself in that same boat, just admit you don’t know.  Consumers are much more forgiving of ignorance than they are of stupidity.   Be authentic.  Just say you don’t know.

The other downside of sounding stupid as opposed to admitting ignorance is that you are not inclined to go find out.  Admitting you don’t know is often the first step in finding the answer.  Aral Balkan actually proposed an "I don’t know day" which is an interesting concept.

By the way, for the rest of your forward thinking technology users, here’s the information from ZDNet on which smart phone works best with the Mac.

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Not a hand check…a brand check!

October 27, 2006

050409_5303_1929_j__pthm Remember those junior high and high school parties?  When some parent, thinking they’re funny, would shout "hand check!"  Well, think of me as a marketer who thinks he’s funny and I am shouting…

"Brand check!"

Think your brand is rock solid?  Let’s check. For the next week, we’re going to conduct some poor man’s research.  You’ll need a pad of paper and a pen or pencil.

Ask every customer, vendor, consumer of your goods/services, and employee to describe your organization in a single word.  You’ll be amazed at the insights from this little exercise.

Anyone brave enough to share the results on my blog?  Why not share the learning?

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How do your customers shop?

October 26, 2006

Here’s one thing I know for sure about your consumers.  They are either men or women.  (Or kids who will soon evolve into one or the other.)  Especially in a retail setting, they  behave like completely different animals. 5298_040827_14828thm

Paco Underhill, founder of Envirosell, a market research company dedicated to examining consumer shopping behavior wrote a fascinating book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.  In the book, Underhill explores the shopping beasts by gender.


Here are a few observations Underhill made about male shoppers:

~ Men equally rarely ask for the department they want in a store. They’d rather wander around lost and leave if they can’t find it. 

~ If a man tries something on, he’ll buy it 65% of the time.

~ Only 25% of men will grocery shop with a list, as opposed to 70% of women.

If men shop this way – what clues does this give you for dealing with men in your environment?


How about the ladies, you ask?  Well…

~ If a woman tries something on, she’ll buy it 25% of the time. (Remember, men were at 65%)

~  At the supermarket, over 90% of women brought a shopping list.

~  Women particularly hate being jostled from behind and may leave a store without buying if aisles are too narrow.

Wondering what others are saying about it?  Secrets of the Male Shopper is a long but very interesting read about the state of the male shopper.  Check it out.  Smart thinking made even more notable because the author is an 18 year old student.

So, are your shopping habits typical of your gender?  How can you use these insights as you think about your customers?

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P.S. Don’t miss this post!

October 25, 2006

21121021 Made you look, eh?

That’s the beautiful power of the P.S.  When you are writing any sort of direct mail letter, always include a P.S.  The two most critical elements of your letter are the headline and the P.S.   Ask yourself this question — if they only glance at this document, what is the one thing you want them to know?  Guess where it belongs?  Yup — the P.S.

Roberta Rosenberg, the Copywriting Maven, gives some great tips on writing a stronger P.S.  It’s well worth the read. 

I will say that I disagree with her third tip — use two P.S.’s.  I think it waters down the effectiveness of the technique.  But that’s nitpicking.  Overall, I think she’s right on the money.

I’ll also give you a warning — a P.S. does not work as well on a blog post because so often it will appear below the scroll.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use one, just don’t expect it to have the same effect as it would on a traditional direct mail letter.

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How is your blacksmith shop different?

October 21, 2006

250pxhorseshoe_1 I want to share one of my favorite analogies with you because it’s impossible  not to get it.  And it’s a branding basic.

In the good old days, if your horse needed a new shoe and I owned the blacksmith shop, you came to me.  Not because I put a coupon in the local paper or because I was your sister’s husband.  But  because I was the only option.  One town.  One blacksmith.

Ah, if only it was that easy today, my friends.  But now, on every street, in every town, no matter what you do…you have competitors.  Lots of them. 

Let’s go back to my example and fast forward to today.  If you needed a shoe for your horse, you’d have lots of choices.  All in the same town.  Some on the very same street.  So how do you decide?

As the shopkeeper, I have two choices, in terms of trying to get you to choose my shop.  I can either differentiate myself (translation — brand) so that you can tell how doing business with me would be a unique experience or I can be the cheapest.  That’s it.  I have to give you a reason to choose my shop. I have to clearly (and repeatedly) tell you why we’re a great match.  Especially if I am not the cheapest. 

Having a good product or offering good customer service is not a brand.  You have to have/create a personality.  You have to create a bevy of loyalists who are going to not only choose you but they’re going to sing your praises to everyone they know.  That’s the power of branding.  You can create a fan club.  In her blog Flooring the Consumer, C.B. Whittemore talks about creating a customer experience that allows you to romance your customers until they fall in love.

So…are you the cheapest or is your blacksmith shop different?  Can you describe that difference?

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How will you join in on Make a Difference Day?

October 17, 2006

An Issue of USA WEEKEND. The top blank bar fea...Image via Wikipedia

USA Weekend magazine declared that October 28th is Make a Difference Day.  Cool idea.  Sure…every day should be (and can be) make a difference day, but there’s something powerful about the idea of an entire nation working together on that goal, all in one fell swoop. 

So on a personal level, I challenge you.  How are you going to make a difference on that day?  But wait, I’m not done.  On a business level — how could your team/organization make a difference?  There’s great team building and a sense of greater good that comes from working together to help someone else.

At McLellan Marketing Group, we’ve adopted families during the holidays, bought items for a womens shelter, volunteered for a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish and many other community building activities.

I’m sure the recipients of our good works benefited from them, but really we were the ones who got the most out of it.  We felt good, did good and had fun doing it.  Best of all, our team was strengthened by the common experience.

How are you going to make a difference?

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Hey politicians….we are not listening!

October 14, 2006

Images_4 Ah, fall.  The crackle of the fallen leaves, the sounds of football fans cheering in the stadium, the crisp air and the unmistakable squawking of politicians trying to get elected.


Here in Iowa, we are in the middle of a heated political battle for Governor.  In one corner, we have Jim Nussle.  His website tells us how horrific his opponent is and we can see him shown with the Iowa Pork Queen.  (Could we not all do 20 minutes on that alone?)  In the other corner, we have Chet Culver.  Chet’s site and ads tell us of the evil that is Jim Nussle.

Enough already!

Imagine for a minute that every Pepsi ad simply told you how awful Coke was, and visa versa.  How stupid can politicians be?  And a better question, how stupid are we for allowing it?

Marketing 101 — define yourself.  Tell your audience why they need/want you.  Demonstrate how you are going to add value.  Earn the audience’s trust.  Be credible, consistent and authentic.

Have you seen one political candidate this election season that has understood or embraced the principles of Marketing 101?  I sure haven’t.  And you want to know the saddest part of it all.  I’m not sure, if there was a candidate ethical and brave enough to do it — that he/she’d get elected.

Over at the Brilliant at Breakfast blog, the point is well  made.  We say we hate this sort of election antics and yet, we keep responding.

We’ve all seen horrible ads that seem to keep running over and over for products or services that appear to be less than desireable. Why do they keep running?  Because they are working and someone is making a lot of money.  I guess the politicians aren’t such dumb marketers after all.  How sad for us all.

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Who are you calling cheap?

October 12, 2006

At McLellan Marketing Group, we talk to clients a lot about their pricing strategies.  At first, they don’t see it as a marketing issue.  "It’s an operations issue," they tell us.  Cost of goods, profit margin and voila — there’s your price.  Right?

How you are priced, both in terms of where your prices fall in the marketplace and also the structure of your pricing, tells your potential customers a great deal about you.  Seth Godin, in a recent post, suggests that you can be cheap or you can be better. 

While I don’t disagree with Seth, I don’t completely agree with him either.  His logic is simple. If you are of a better quality, you can be more expensive.  If you stink or are mediocre, you need to be cheap.  That feels like a sucker’s choice to me.  While what he suggests is true, it is not the only truth.  Frankly, I think you can be of marginal quality and position yourself to be expensive.  If you’re cool enough, you’ll be able to command a high price tag.  And visa versa.  You can be great and still decide to be cheap.

My point is not to tell you what your price point should be.  My point is to tell you that you should purposefully decide, from a brand perspective, what your price stragies should be.  Do you have a pricing strategy?  Can you articulate it?

Let’s talk about pricing structure in the next post, eh?

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