There's no better way to learn than to mingle with smart people, learn from smart people and share your own smarts.
There are three excellent opportunities to do just that in November. Check them out.
I Blog Conference — November 5-7 (Perry, IA)
The I Blog Conference was designed to educate and celebrate bloggers in the Midwest. Sessions are filled with useful information from the brightest minds in social media. Whether you're just beginning your journey into blogging and social media or you've been building your brand for years, the I Blog Conference has relevant information for everyone!
The I Blog conference takes at the historic Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa; just minutes from Des Moines. You'll be embraced by the charm and history of Perry as you check into one of the 40 tastefully themed rooms and enjoy specially prepared meals from the extraordinary chef at David's Milwaukee Diner.
The Secret Service Summit — November 4 – 5 (Cleveland, OH)
The Secret Service Summit is a 2-day customer service learning experience where 10 speakers, authors and top brand executives from leading national brands, share HOW to evaluate, improve and become a 'World-Class Customer Service organization. Speakers include Dennis Snow from Disney, Amy Mendenhall from Hallmark and Aveda's CEO, among others.
The Ritz-Carlton, The Melting Pot, Progressive Insurance, Zappos.com, Starbucks, Nestle, Goodyear, PNC Bank are some of the bastions of world-class customer service excellence who have participated in the "Secret Service Summit."
The Senior Marketing Executive Conference by The Conference Board — November 9 -11 (NYC)
In 2009, The Senior Marketing Executive Conference was cited as the #1 Senior Marketing Venue Globally; this year’s 2010 conference promises to deliver. You will hear some of the greatest business marketing stories of our time—directly from the leaders. Speakers will include Steve Forbes, Tony Hsieh from Zappos, Shelly Lazarus from Olgilvy, Seth Goldman from Honest Tea and many others.
Day 1 you will hear the presenters focus on 7 focus areas like innovation and social media. Day two will be selected case studies and will wrap up with a panel discussing how to implement the 7 focus areas.
If you'd like a discount to this conference, please use the code DM1 and save $500!
One of the uncomfortable truths about the last few years is that we're not going back to the old normal. Perhaps it is a manifestation of the thought that Oliver Wendell Holmes expressed when he said:
"One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."
But…like our minds, our experiences and our expectations can't regain their original form, once they've been stretched (good or bad). And boy, have the last few years stretched all of us!
Other factors have taken their toll as well. Look at how our lives are different, simply because of the presence of:
the expectation of on demand products and services (Netflix on your Wii for example)
When I say to someone….imagine for a minute that you didn't have a cell phone — they are instantly thrown into a panic state (in varying degrees) at the image. I can remember walking through an airport (20 years ago) and seeing a guy on a huge cell phone. At the time, I couldn't fathom why anyone would need or want one. Now…like most of us, I very rarely have it further than an arm's reach away.
We get it when we're the consumer. Life has changed, our consumption has changed and we aren't going back. But….have your business model and practices made the same shift?
We polled the authors and Make-A-Wish was the first choice. So I reached out to them, to invite them to be the recipient of our efforts. Keep in mind that books I and II generated well over $20,000. So we're not talking chump change here.
The folks at MAW were very nice, quick to respond and connect. But when I explained what we wanted to do — their business model got in the way. We had to be willing to guarantee that each and every author would reference MAW in a certain way and only use their approved language on any blog post, tweet, Facebook update etc.
We can barely get everyone to turn in their chapters, so we knew there was no way we could make that promise. MAW stood firm and walked away from the opportunity.
In today's world — that business model is broken. I am the first to advocate for managing your brand. But you cannot control every voice and you cannot regulate every potential evangelist.
Our second choice was UNICEF. Through a personal contact (thanks LinkedIn) I was able to get to one of their big dogs on the charitable gifts side. She passed me onto someone in her department, who literally ignored my calls for almost a month. I even called and spoke to his admin assistant to get his e-mail address. But he couldn't be bothered…and UNICEF lost the opportunity.
In today's world — that business model is broken. Gone are the days when you can take your sweet time to return a call or ignore a potential customer. We don't tolerate long waits anymore. We just move on. But…as we move on, we typically share the story (as I am) about the disappointing behavior.
Our third choice was charity: water. Through a contact Andy Sernovitz (thanks word of mouth), we connected with Director of Digital Engagement Paul Young. In two quick e-mails….we were on board and charity: water will benefit from the worldwide effort.
charity: water understood the crowdsourcing model we use for creating the books. They have an attitude of "assume everyone is good and will do good if you invite them" rather than the old, protectionism model of the past. They also understood that in today's world, business is conducted in minutes, not days.
As a result — with your help, we're going to make sure many children around the globe has clean water to drink.
How about you and your business? Have you changed with the times? Do you embrace today's expectations, possibilities and new fangled ways of doing things? Or are you still behaving as though the past 10 years never happened?
Are you creating and sharing video as a part of your marketing strategy? No doubt you are uploading your work to YouTube as you should. YouTube and parent company Google top the charts, in terms of online video views.
No surprise there.
But what might surprise you is that Facebook is #2. Over 58.6 million Facebook users viewed at least one video in August 2010. That group of people racked up 243 million viewing sessions among them. That's a lot of eyeball time!
So, if video is part of your mix — don't stop at YouTube. Be sure you're sharing and spotlighting your videos on your Fan page or through your newsfeed updates on Facebook too.
One of the added benefits of sharing video on Facebook is how easy it is for your friends/fans to take that video viral. With a simple click, they can like, share or comment on the video — instantly putting it on their newsfeed too. (Assuming their privacy settings aren't incredibly stringent.)
In some ways — that instant shareability (I know it doesn't exist but it's a good word!) trumps the volume that YouTube can give you. The Word of Mouth reference is golden and sure beats 3 strangers stumbling onto your video.
Don't get me wrong — YouTube is still king but in terms of creating buzz, borrowing credibility from your friends/fans and generating some word of mouth chatter — Facebook is tough to beat.
I'm curious — are you more likely to watch a video that a friend has commented on or shared…or one that you you see referenced in a news article, blog post or some other third party mention?
it seems like many of the social media examples that people use on a daily basis (Zappos, Dell, etc.) are B2C products which sometimes gives the false impression that you have to sell a "thing" for this social media stuff to work.
Check out this little video (done by the Earnest Agency out of London) that puts some very interesting stats on the table. See if you recognize yourself in the video! (e-mail readers, click here to view video.)
So, what do you think? What do the stats say to you?
I have a friend who is launching her own business. As she's wrestled with names for the company, she started out very pragmatic — her last name and a descriptive word that would tell prospects what she sells.
But she's not crazy about her last name and wanted something more creative. So every new round of names became more fanciful and more creative in terms of spelling etc. She was down to a final four — none of which included the original group. Her prospects are very B-to-B minded, mostly men and very white collar.
Here's a portion of the e-mail I sent back to her when she asked my opinion.
Here’s the thing. The company’s name isn’t about you or for you. It is a business tool. And it may well be one of the most important business tools you’ll ever create. So…when it comes to naming this new baby — it’s a tough message for me to deliver, but you need to get over yourself.
You literally need to get over yourself. Crawl over your own preferences and see beyond that. To the sea of people who are milling about who might be your customers. They don’t want cute or clever. They don’t want to have to think about what your company’s name means or what you do. They want, in an instant, to know who you are, what you sell and if they might want to buy some.
You do X. And Y. I know you do much more than that — but to your consumer — that’s what you do in a nutshell. And here’s the rub. They’re going to think about you for about 10 seconds….so all you can serve them is the nutshell. If they don’t get it or can’t figure it out or it feels too anything…they’ll walk away.
I know you want to be creative. And clever. But you save that energy for your clients. A business name in the B-to-B space is not the time for subtle or inside baseball language. Cut to the chase. Tell them what you do in no uncertain terms and without cutesy spelling (like Kwik for Quick).
If you want to be more creative in your logo and build in some subtle messaging — have at it. Or in your website’s copy or even in how you package your proposals. But your business name is foundational and should be steady, solid and clear. Even if you don’t like it.
I was speaking to a college class on Monday night and our conversation reminded me of this tip. Handwritten notes are practically unheard of today. Everyone fires off an e-mail or texts a quick thought. But for someone to sit down and take the time to actually write a thank you note (or any sort of note) is an almost forgotten art.
Which is why it is so noticeable and memorable.
The photos to the right are a thank you note that I received nine months ago from a developer at Wufoo. (Wufoo is an awesome online tool that lets you create interactive, HTML-based forms on the fly). We've been a happy and loyal customer for a few years now.
Anyway — for no special reason and on no special occasion, I get this homemade handwritten card from Chris, one of the Wufoo developers.
Let's look at this "high end" card. He took thick construction paper and put a dinosaur sticker on the front. Then, with a pen, he created the "Thanks" on the front and wrote me a quick note on the back. He thanked us for our business and said that they valued our trust in them.
I still have the note. It sits on my desk. I get tons of e-mails and other electronic forms of communications. None of them are displayed on my desk.
Handwritten says you went out of your way. Handwritten says you have good manners, handwritten says it really mattered to you.
Handwritten notes are brilliant marketing. What if you wrote one thank you note a week to a customer, employee or vendor?
I think you'll be stunned at the response. Try it and let me know.
Remember that one essay test you took in school. You meant to study. But for some reason you just didn't have the time. Truth be told, you didn't really read the book. But you skimmed over the Cliff Notes. And you did repent in the end — cramming the night before the test.
Sure, sure…you should have started cramming a few days earlier or at the very least, not so late that night. With the radio on.
Do you remember what you got on that test? I'll bet you weren't happy with the grade.
I get why it happens. There's an almost constant demand on CMOs and marketing directors to produce results. And no agency worth their salt doesn't want that too.
But there are some pretty important aspects of your business and products/services that need to be understood before we just whip up a brochure or direct mail series.
We aren't doing the strategic thinking and planning just to get our jollies. We have a responsibility. We owe it to you. Because you're about to spend a lot of money. We want to make sure you spend it right.
This applies if you're doing your own marketing too.
Getting ready to produce something. Are you sure you're not taking a shortcut?
If you can't describe how you are genuinely and relevantly different from your competitors, STOP.
If you can't describe your ideal customer, STOP.
If you don't have a broad brand/marketing plan so that you aren't operating in a vacuum, STOP.
If you haven't defined how you are visually going to communicate your company's offerings, STOP.
If you don't know how you're going to follow up on the leads the new marketing tactic generates, STOP.
Whether you're working with your internal team or with your agency – don't short change the process. If you do some strategic thinking up front and make some of those key decisions, the tactics and tools actually get produced much faster and much more cost effectively.
Shortcuts are never going to yield the results you want. Better to do it right than do it again. Just ask your former teacher who gave you the C.
How do you ensure that you're not taking a shortcut?
Over my career, I have worked with many companies and entrepreneurs to name their products, services and organizations. It's actually much more science than art — you need to have a very good understanding of what you are trying to communicate.
It's much more about tone than the actual words — that's the tough part to help clients understand. It's the feeling the name evokes — not so much the literal translation of each word.
Take the product above — Anti Monkey Butt Powder. Sure…they could have called it Chaff-B-Gone or something that was more clinical. But this company decided that part of its brand and its product was to have a little fun. They wanted it to pop off the shelf and for its packaging to be difficult to ignore.
I think they accomplished their goal. Now…why was this a good decision?
Gives us an idea of how the product can help us
Takes into account the attitude of their core customers (bikers, people that work outside in the heat, extreme sports enthusiasts…and now they have added, new parents with their baby version)
Differentiates them from the competition
Gives us a sense of their corporate culture/attitude — what will they be like to do business with?
In today's world — you can find the right URL. (Hard to imagine that someone else hadn't scooped up www.AntiMonkeyButt.com already!)
Many business owners get hung up on the wrong thing when they're trying to name their company. It's not the specific words — it's the overall effect. If the folks at AMBP had worried about including the word "butt" in their name or debated if "anti" was a negative word….and they only wanted to create positive feelings — they would have ended up with a boring and forgettable name like Chafe-B-Gone.
But…they let the attitude, tone and message of the name carry their decision. They didn't over analyze or get too far into their own heads.
They trusted their culture and their brand. And created a very memorable name!
Clients have high expectations of us and rightly so. And I think that most companies (and employees) bust a hump to meet and exceed those expectations. But sooner or later, we're going to mess up.
It's inevitable. We're human beings and we screw up.
Whether we catch our own mistake or the client points it out — how we respond in those first few minutes will make or break the experience. I have always said — it's not the screw up, it's how we handle the screw up that matters.
Because we work our tails off to please and serve our clients — when we mess up, we're embarrassed and we are highly motivated to correcting the problem. So we go into "Fix It Mode."
It's not that the client wants you to grovel or beat yourself up. But they're feeling pretty lousy at this point. And they want to know you're in it with them. They want you to feel as badly about it as they do. This is less about blame and much more about reassurance that when things go wrong — you give a damn.
Then and only then, can you go into "Fix It Mode." If you go immediately to fixing the problem and you're all logical and left brained — to them it feels like you don't care. You're just trying to get out of the jam you find yourself in. When you go right into "Fix It Mode" — it feels to the client like it's about you, not them.
And they really need it to be about them. (As it should be.)
But once you've demonstrated that you're sitting right there beside them and are feeling as badly as they are — then you can roll right into your creative problem solving and fix whatever is broken.
Ultimately, they do want you to solve it. But not before you've felt it. So remember…heart and then head.