Stop guessing what your customers are thinking

April 25, 2011

… Want to tap into your customers’ minds?

We spend way too much time in “I think I know” land especially when it comes to customers. We make huge decisions based on “my best guess is” or “it seems like…”

There’s absolutely no reason for you to not know what your customers are thinking. Here are a few ways (short of the brain probes in the photo) to ferret out exactly what’s going on in there.

Secret Shopping with a Twist: Invite your customers to sign up to be secret shoppers.  Let them sign up on your website and pick a good blend of them.  Then, after every experience (or in a given time interval) give them a little form to fill out, rating performance,, quality, or whatever else you want to know.  Every time they send in their form (or submit it, if you put it online) they get some reward.

Bonus: Even those you don’t select will now know you want their feedback.   So they’ll speak up more often.

Create a customer survey: Just ask them already!  Afraid of what they’ll say?  Steve Olenski’s tells us in a recent post that we shouldn’t worry about that. In fact, according to the study he cites — most customers who participate in surveys (even if they have a tough message to deliver) care about the company and want it to be successful.  That’s why they invest the time in answering your questions.   We do these for clients all the time and it’s remarkable what we learn and how tiny tweaks (that you learned about in the survey) can change the customer experience.

Bonus:  They feel important and valued because you asked.

Create a customer board of advisors: If you are going to be making some big decisions, why not create an elite group of your best customers (the ones you’d like many more of) and bring them together monthly or quarterly for a couple hours. This requires you being willing to bare it all — they can’t give you good advice if they don’t know the whole picture.   But their insights, questions and counsel will amaze you.

Bonus: They shift from customers to full on evangelists for your organization.

There are, of course, more ways to check in with your customers.  Some may be better suited for your industry than others.  But… guessing is never the best choice.

What say you?  How do you stay in touch with your consumers?

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Need some one-on-one direction?

April 19, 2011

An Eight Week Jumpstart To Exploding Your Business

Note: In almost five years of blogging, I’ve never done anything like this before.  And I probably won’t do it again for quite awhile after today.  But I keep getting requests and thought this was the best way to serve the need.

……. Is this your opportunity?

Every single week I get dozens of emails from people asking questions about marketing, building their brand and motivating their employees.

I would love to answer them all.  But, that’s all I’d do every day.

So in broad terms, I try to answer some of them on the blog – thinking others may be wondering the same thing.  No, I can’t get specific about someone’s business or precise problem, but it feels like I am helping a little.

As you know, I have a day job – running my agency, traveling to speaking gigs and spending time with my daughter before she heads off to college in August.

Those priorities don’t leave much time to answer all the questions I get via email.  Which is frustrating because I don’t want to say no when someone asks for help. And I love watching that light bulb go on in someone’s eyes.  It’s awesome to be a small part of helping grow someone’s business.

So I’ve got an experiment I’m calling Direction… from Drew.

I want to spend eight weeks intensely mentoring, coaching and consulting with three people who need direction and advice in their business.

These three people will get complete access to me and I’ll support you in every way possible.  We’ll spend time setting goals for your business and working backwards to create a plan that guarantees you’ll reach them.

Every other week for eight weeks we will spend an hour together on Skype discussing the unique aspects of your business and reviewing the work we’ve been doing/discussing via e-mail in between calls. At the end, you will have an action plan customized specifically for you to market your business, build your brand and motivate your employees.

You won’t even have to think.  All you have to do is take action on the ideas we discuss together.  And because we’re doing this over the next 8 weeks – we’ll have time to try some things and test some waters, to see what’s going to get you the biggest bang for your buck.

I’m looking for three people who are committed and willing to invest in themselves to make massive amounts of change in their businesses quickly.

I’ll be there watching over your shoulder and guiding you as long as you’re willing to take action.

Interested? Click on this link and I’ll tell you how to apply.

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A week of many perspectives

April 16, 2011

The many sides…

As you may know, I am a regular guest blogger on a couple sites beyond this one.

And I occasionally will share my thoughts on some none marketing/branding related sites as well.

It just so happened that several of these guest appearances coincided with each other, so I thought I’d share them with you here. I invite you to check them out and join in on the conversations…

Taglines and Brand Equity: In this post over at Marketing Prof’s Daily Fix, about taglines and brand equity, we’re discussing the National Pork Board’s decision to completely discontinue use of The Other White Meat and change taglines again. (click here to view post)

Leadership versus Managing: The best leaders understand that they need to build their team’s leadership abilities as well.  In my post at, there’s an incredible video of Seth Godin talking about managing versus leading.  You’ll want to check it out. (click here to view post)

Civility: I serve on the board of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and just wrote a guest post on the importance (and apparently loss) of civility, especially online for their Business Ethics and Leadership blog.  (click here to view post)

The Power of MultiMedia:  We all know how potent video can be but don’t forget to include Facebook in your distribution of that video.  My post on the MENG Blend blog explores some stats on where videos are actually viewed. (click here to view post)

So….those are the many sides of where my brain was headed last week.  Hope one or more of them gives you a spark of insight or a new idea!



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Your logo is a business tool

March 28, 2011

Your logo is a tool, not art

We were sitting in the conference room the other day with a new client.  He’s been in business for many years and is very successful.  He’s ready to reallyramp up his marketing and tackle some lofty goals.

And we’re ready to help. (After all, that’s what we do)

He went on to tell us that he really doesn’t like his logo.  It doesn’t tell his company’s story very well, it’s a little expected and in his opinion, it isn’t very attractive.  So the first project he’d like us to launch is a logo re-design.

I took a deep breath and told him no.

Now… granted I said it with more words…and nicer.  But basically I said this:

  • No logo is going to tell the whole story of your business
  • You have over a decade of equity in your current logo
  • Your current logo isn’t costing you any customers or any money (no one’s not choosing you because of your logo)
  • Your current logo is fine.  It’s not perfect and we’d be able to come up with something better.  But not so much better that it will line your pockets.
  • Remember a logo cost is far beyond just the cost of designing a new logo.  There are legal costs to register it, you have to re-print all of your business cards, letterhead, etc., your staff’s uniforms would need to be changed and your trucks would need to be re-vinyled.  Then, there’s building signage etc, etc. etc.

I summed it up with… if the only reason you want to change your logo is because you don’t like it, it’s not a good enough reason.  It’s not a piece of art you choose to put in your home, it is a business tool and your current logo is doing the job adequately.

I also told him, it was his company.  And if he hated the logo that much and he gritted his teeth every day when he saw it and it haunted him in his dreams — we’d design him a new logo.  But that if it was my money — I wouldn’t spend it there.

Do not get me wrong.  A logo is a very important part of your marketing effort.  Most logos suck and should be changed.  But his didn’t.  And it shouldn’t be changed for the subjective reason of his personal taste.

Your logo is a business tool.  If it’s doing a good job — leave it be.


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Marketing math: how do you measure success?

February 23, 2011

Are you measuring your marketing?

I don’t like math.  It’s not that I can’t do it – I took advanced math all through high school.  I just really don’t enjoy it.

But math matters.

If math = measurement.  How can you justify your marketing budget/spend if you can’t point to how the dollars are moving some needle.

You see — there isn’t just one needle.  No one indicator or sign of success.  It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish.  Depending on the size of your organization, measurement does not have to be complicated.  For most businesses — it’s more a matter of discipline than it is sophistication.

Let’s look at some common indicators and how you might measure for them.

Are you trying to measure perceptions/opinions?

A good way to measure mind shifts is to do some benchmark research and then repeat that exact same research after a given period of time.  Compare the results for your measurement – does the marketplace see you differently than they did when you did the benchmark. (Depending on your size, budget etc. you should probably repeat the research every 2-3 years to get accurate results.)

Are you trying to measure a change in traffic (initial interest) either in your location or online?

Online is easy — track hits and unique visits with a tool like Google Analytics.  Drive them to a specific landing page and simply monitor change/activity.

Offline is a little less scientific.  You can guestimate foot traffic.  Or you can ask people (as they check out or you engage with them) how they heard of your business.

You can also use a unique phone number or e-mail address in your marketing and track the number of inquiries that way as well.

Are you trying to measure inquiries or trials?

Again, this will differ on and offline.  Online, you can track things like e-newsletter sign ups, downloads of coupons or e-books and requests for more information.

Offline, you might monitor phone calls and requests for proposals, bids or initial meetings.  If you’re a retailer, you could also count redeemed coupons or how many samples you give out.

Are you trying to measure sales (new or residual)?

This should be pretty easy — just track sales.  You’ll need some historical data so you have something to measure against.  Be sure you divide up the data so you can track new versus repeat customers.  For our purposes — you don’t need to boil down to the nitty gritty.  That someone came in and spend $42.37 is enough.  You don’t need to record that they bought a hammer, a box of nails and  a garden hose.

Of course… the key to effective measurement in marketing is understanding why you’re doing it in the first place.  Measurement isn’t an afterthought.  It should be built into your marketing plan’s strategy.

Knowing what you are trying to accomplish will tell you what you should measure.  But…it’s a what, not an if.


Best social media/marketing conferences for 2011

February 2, 2011

108613913 I often get asked — what social media/marketing conferences should I go to?  Ask 100 people, you'll get 100 answers, I suspect.

But here is my answer, based on the following criteria:

~ You are a marketing professional or a business owner who wants to get a handle on how to connect with your prospects and customers through social media and/or content generation or curation.  (In other words, you don't make your living just by blogging)

~ You want tangible, practical ideas you can implement when you get back to the office.

~ You want to meet some smart people who live in your world and know your challenges, pain and why you do what you do.

~ You want to hear examples of organizations your size/shape — not just Zappos and Dell.

~ You want to the leaders of the conference to be human, approachable and someone you can/will stay in contact with long after you get home.


If you nodded your head at each of those…. check out these conferences:


SOBCon:  April 29-May 1 in Chicago

The speakers are excellent, the topics interesting but what makes this a must do conference is the structure.  Lots of "workshop" like small group thinking.  You will meet many small business owners and people in the trenches — and you will create new alliances that will serve you for years to come. 


MarketingProfs B2B Forum: June 13-15 in Boston (sorry no link for event registration yet, but keep checking here)

These guys always do it right.  An incredible array of approachable, knowledgeable speakers, plenty of practical how to stuff and the participants will be people you can steal plenty of ideas from — because they'll gladly share.  Tons of resources/ideas will be shared here.


Content Marketing World: Sept 6-8 in Cleveland

From David Meerman Scott, my pal CK Kerley to Ann Handley – the speakers line up is staggering.  Lots of B2B thinking here… as well as plenty for you B2C folks.  Lots of case studies, and you're going to want to bring two people, just to cover the "how to" break out sessions.


You probably can't go to them all — but do your best to get to at least one.  It will be one of the best marketing investments you make all year long.

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Something all wrapped up for you!

December 27, 2010

Shutterstock_67803928No matter which holiday you choose to celebrate in December — it seems like it's a season for sharing, for hanging with the people we care about and for giving gifts.

I don't want to get all mushy — but I am so grateful that you keep coming back to the blog to share your ideas and thoughts on the blog posts, I value your friendship and collegial spirit and look forward to exploring 2011 with you.

To that end, I've rounded up some gifts I'd like to share.  I think you'll find them both well worth the time to unwrap!

Junta42's annual Content Marketing & Social Media Predictions for 2011:  Joe & his team reach out to marketing folk and ask them to contribute their predictions for the year.  

With over 100 participants — there is plenty to read, chew on and use as you plan out 2011 for your organization. (click here to download the PDF)

RainToday's Research Excerpt on Lead Generation:  As you know, I am a huge fan of  They provide lots of very pragmatic, B2B focused research, tools and how to advice.  They just finished up a new study on best practices for lead generation.

If for no other reason that reading more about Best Practice #3 — it is worth the download.  click here to download the PDF)

I hope you find value in them both!


Photo courtesy of

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Marketing tip #38: Beware of unintended consequences

December 13, 2010

87637195As business owners, we often make decisions that at first blush serve the business well.  But, as things roll out, there are consequences that we didn't anticipate and don't want.

The airlines are living this out as we speak.  A while ago, to boost themselves out of the red, most major airlines instituted bag fees.  A passenger must now pay an additional $25-$35 per checked piece of luggage.

I'm sure that when the airline executives came up with this plan — they were elated.  I can envision the equation on a big white board somewhere.  X million bags times $25 = a TON of money.

But what they didn't think through was the consumer's reaction.  At the same time they were trying to boost their bottom line, so were traveling families and business people.  So rather than pay the $25 fee, people simply ignored the carry on bag size regulations and more and more people bypassed the checked luggage option.

The baggage fee has generated income ($2.2 billion for the industry combined in 2009) but it has also created these headaches:

  • Longer lines in security as people take more through the check point (and have no idea how to manage it all)
  • A jam up in plane boarding (everyone wants to get on early in hopes of snagging some overhead bin space)
  • Adding significant staff time in gate checking many, many more bags
  • Disgruntled customers who are now being forced to gate check bags with computers and other valuables that they thought they could carry on
  • More broken overhead bins due to people shoving bags that are too large into them
  • Delayed flights because people board with bags that won't fit — and have to swim upstream to the front of the plane to do a late gate check
  • Increased dissatisfaction ratings from frustrated fliers

Maybe the money is worth it… but imagine the brand position some airline could take by renouncing fees and putting some of the convenience and comfort back into flying.

Bigger picture for us — we need to think past the first blush advantages.  Ask yourself these questions before you make a major shift in how you do business:

  • How might our customers act differently, based on this change?  What are the consequences to those shifts?
  • How might this change the way we are perceived by our customers?  By our employees?
  • What hidden costs come along with this decision?

What do you think — if they would be candid, would airline executives tell you that baggage fees are worth the extra hassle, staffing, and customer dissatisfaction?



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Marketing tip #1: Create a love affair with your customers

November 1, 2010

96360627 Satisfaction is nice.  Loyalty is good.  Repeat business is dandy.

But none of that is love.  And if you really want to get and keep a customer for life — you have to be willing to stick your neck out and love them.  You need to put your heart on your sleeve and woo them.

You need to create a love affair
with your customers.

Why?  Let me give you 5 good reasons.

It feels good:  No matter what you sell — it feels better to serve people you care about. It's easier to go the extra mile for customers that are special.  It helps elevate your work to noble work.  As my friend Steve Farber says…"do what you love in the service of people who love what you do."

It's easier to sell more to a current customer who loves you, than a new customer:  In fact, recent studies show that it 6-7 times more costly to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an old (in love) one.

It's more profitable:  Boosting your customer retention up by as little as 5% can elevate your profits by 5-95%.  New customers are more price sensitive and require a huge amount of up front time, even after you've closed the deal.

It generates word of mouth:  When a customer loves you, they can't help but talk about you to others.  When you make them feel special and go out of your way to love them — they will be your most powerful marketing tool — advocates who spread word of mouth.  

It's incredible for employee retention: Who doesn't want to work at a place that gives them permission to be incredibly kind and considerate?  Who wouldn't love to hear customers rave about them?  Who isn't looking for a way to put more meaning into their work?  Why not make it a labor of love!

Is there a business who has created a love affair with you?  How does it feel to be on the receiving end of that kind of attention?

The real question in my mind is — why wouldn't you create a love affair with your customers?




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Marketing tip #57: Charitable dollars are marketing dollars

October 19, 2010

97121298 I believe that every business has a responsibility to give back. No matter where you practice your trade — there's a community that makes it possible.  To not share your time, talents and treasures is irresponsible and short-sighted.

I honestly think most companies share that belief and serve their communities well.

At MMG, that's why we started the Adopt a Charity program several years ago.  We also make cash donations, serve on boards and volunteer for the charities that matter to us.

That's not just because we're good people.  It's because it's smart business.  And here's the part of the message that makes people uncomfortable.

There's nothing wrong with a business benefiting from the good they do.  In fact…every charitable dollar you spend is actually a marketing dollar.

You wouldn't buy equipment that didn't help your business grow or spend money on computer software that didn't serve your clients better.  So why should your charitable gifts be any different?  

Every dollar or hour you donate is a business asset.  So spend them wisely.  If you're feeling charitable, make sure you get the maximum bang for each buck.  Here are some strategies to keep in mind.

It's better to give big to a few:  Don't get caught up in the "but we don't want to say no to anyone" trap.  If you give a little bit to everyone, you end up being one of 42 logos on the back of a 5K run t-shirt.  

It's far better to be the presenting sponsor or one of an elite group of sponsors.  You'll get a lot more exposure and you're giving enough money to actually make a difference.  Writing 100 checks for $25 is a waste of your efforts and isn't really impacting any of the non profits you support.

You won't get what you don't ask for:  When you're donating your money or your talents, don't be shy.  Ask for the recognition that will benefit your business.  

Want your logo on the greens at the charity golf tournament — ask for it.  Want to have your efforts recognized at the next board meeting — ask for it.  Want the celebrity host at the auction to appear at a private client only cocktail party before the event — ask for it.

Think about how you can leverage your donation.  What will cost the non-profit very little but provide your business with a boost?

Be creative in the perks:  There won't always be an opportunity to have your logo plastered on an event or get naming rights.  After all, you might not have $25K to donate. Even if your charitable gifts are modest — you can still enjoy some marketing benefit.

An introduction to an influential board member, a thank you from the podium, or four tickets to the fancy dinner/dance (two for you and two for your best client).  Don't think that only the big donations can garner a return on that investment.

Everyone of us should give back.  It's part of being a good neighbor, a good business and a good corporate citizen. But, there's no reason it can't be a win/win situation!

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