Archive for Business

I’m Presenting at the Nevada Interactive Media Summit

There’s no doubt been a buzz about if I would be presenting at this year’s Nevada Interactive Media Summit. And the great news for all of my loyal followers (both of you), is that I WILL be presenting! The event will be Saturday, March 6, 2010 at the University of Nevada (click the link above to get more information and to register). Registration for the all-day event is only $25 and will be well worth it. Make sure you check out the lineup of presentations, speakers and discussion panels.

I will be doing two presentations this year:

1) New Media 101: What is it, Why use it?
2) Searching for Strategy: There’s More to SEO than Code

I hope to see you all there!

(BTW – could this badge clash more with my blog design colors? Then again, most everything clashes with my blog design colors.)

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Les Schwab Does Good Business

I know that we all have different experiences with companies – sometimes good, sometimes bad. In fact, good brands want to make that experience as consistent as possible from person to person. On this post, I’d like to compliment Les Schwab for the experiences I’ve had with their company. For about five years now, I’ve been visiting Les Schwab for all of my tire needs (although, I recently discovered they do much more than tires well). They’ve earned my trust – and I believe that is paramount in any successful relationship (be it personal life or professional life). Les Schwab is one of the few companies I’ve encountered that I trust to not rip me off. I have a long history of sales experience – I understand how it works, how up-selling works and pushing goals to increase the average transaction price per customer. Businesses can get carried away with this sales mentality, and forget to value the relationship with the customer. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Les Schwab.

I can’t tell you how many times my wife or I have taken our cars to Les Schwab only to have them find ways to save us money, tell us that something would be unnecessary, or simply give us a service for free, thank us, and send us on our way. Are you kidding me? This from someone in the automotive industry – an industry notorious for ripping you off (come in to get a filter changed, and end up replacing your transmission). Now, Les Schwab could easily tell me I need to replace all my tires with the top-of-the-line performance tires. But, instead, they’ll let me know I only need to replace two tires, and then suggest a model that will perfect for my car and find a way to give me a 10% discount on them. Thanks. Just last week, I brought my car in because my brakes had been squealing. I asked them to inspect the brakes and replace them. They inspected the brakes, cleaned them up a little bit and then informed me that they looked great and I was good to go – free of charge. Many other automotive companies would have replaced my brakes anyway, even if they were perfectly fine – and they would at least charge me for the brake inspection.

So, kudos to you, Les Schwab. You value my trust, and you have earned it – and along with it, my continued business. You need to be recognized for that.

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How Good Are You at Spotting Fakes?

 

smile

photo by strollerdos (via Flickr)

I took a very interesting test recently in which I was shown video of 20 people smiling, and was asked to decipher if I was looking at a genuine smile or a fake smile. I got 17 out of 20 correct. It certainly wasn’t easy, but I think that we are all programmed with pretty good bullshit detectors. We can usually tell if somebody is lying to us, giving us a fake smile, or isn’t genuinely interested in us. This can be a client, a new acquaintance, a cashier, a potential love interest or a customer service agent. And we don’t need to see their faces to tell if someone truly cares or if they’re just going through the motions. It’s generally very difficult to glean tone via text alone, but it is easy to tell if a person, company or organization is “phoning it in” even in e-mail or social networks. Yes, it will take you longer to respond to people, and to post new information, but take that time to make it genuine. It may seem like you’re accomplishing a lot when you re-post the exact same information across a dozen different networks or to your entire e-mail database. But, I assure you, you are accomplishing less. We can tell you don’t care about us. We can tell you’re not treating us special. We can tell you’re giving us a fake smile. Take the time to be real and make us feel special.

By the way – TAKE THE TEST

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Have You Seen Our Ad?

I was watching football on Sunday morning, and an advertisement came on for Symbicort that featured an older gentlemen working on his truck. He’s talking about Symbicort generically improving his life. You know how these medication commercials go – sometimes you get to the end of the commercial and you still have no clue what the medication does. Does it help with blood pressure, give you an erection, make your eyelashes longer, or all of the above? Well, it turns out that Symbicort is for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – basically, it’s like an inhaler that helps you breathe easier. I’ve included a shot of the ad below, as I couldn’t find the video online. Also – sorry about the resolution – I took the photo with my iPhone on a my non-hi-def TV in the bedroom.

Symbicort TV Ad

Symbicort TV Ad

My problem is not with the script for the advertisement, but rather with a line that appeared at the bottom: See our ad in Ladies Home Journal.

TV Ad 2

I have two issues with this:

1. Who is your target audience? COPD is not exclusive to men. In fact, it seems to inflict approximately the same number of men as women. This ad appeared during football on Sunday, which is dominantly male. OK, no problem, you want to reach the guys watching football. Why does your ad ask me to see the ad in Ladies Home Journal? Do you really think that a lot of the people that watch football on Sundays (men) read Ladies Home Journal? It’s not only unlikely, it’s stupid. Let’s say that in your channel planning, you decided to run  TV ads and magazine ads. Fine. And you decided to buy air time during a dominantly male program. Fine. Would you not also purchase an ad in a dominantly male magazine, like Sports Illustrated? THEN, it would be far more logical to say, “See our ad in Sports Illustrated.” I’m not mad at you for placing an ad in Ladies Home Journal – just don’t tell me about it during men’s programming.

2. See your ad in a magazine? Seriously? Why even add this line to TV ads? Unless you have the magazine in your home, you’re not going to head down to the grocery store and grab the magazine to find out more about an obscure drug ad. We already know that fewer and fewer people are reading magazines – they’re going out of business left and right. We’re going to go online to find out more information. In their defense, they did include their URL. I think my bottom line is that it’s a outdated technique to put, “See our ad in…” Don’t get me wrong, integrated marketing campaigns are supremely important. But, I think this technique misses the mark completely.

What do you all think? Was this poor marketing, or was it smart integration?

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The Greatest Talent You Can Have

There are a lot of talented people out there in the world. Slick salespeople, creative artists, intelligent programmers. They all have a skill set that makes them special and that makes them valuable, but for my money, the greatest talent or skill that you can have is empathy: the ability to understand or identify with another person. Don’t get this confused with sympathy, which is more about feeling the same as another person. But empathy doesn’t require you to share a feeling, thought or motivation with another person. Rather, empathy refers to your ability to simply understand or identify with those feelings, thoughts or motivations – and that is a talent you can leverage in many walks of life. 

Of course, I think the unspoken caveat to having this talent is that you then know what to do with that understanding. In my line of business (marketing), this talent is essential to success. This industry is about understanding a specific target, and what motivates them, engages them, scares them, makes them happy, etc. Those who can use their skill of understanding another person can really connect with their message. 

But, empathy is a great talent in many other industries, as well. Nearly every industry that provides a product or service has another person as the end user. Those who can best understand what that end user wants are in a position to succeed. 

OK, let’s say you don’t have a product or service – you may have a boss, and it helps to understand them. What motivates them? What might they be going through? What will mean the most to them?

If you don’t have a boss, you may have employees. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t be in a better position if you were able to empathize with your employees. By better understanding them, you can get better results out of them. 

Heck, let’s move this away from work. There is incredible benefit in better understanding a love interest, or a friend, or a family member. There is benefit in understanding the cashier, the waiter, even the guy who cut you off in traffic. 

The great thing is that we’re all capable of some level of empathy. It’s that old adage of “putting yourself in their shoes.” But this is where there is varying levels of what I consider to be a talent. We’re not all great at putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. We often view the world exclusively from our own perspective – which is another reason I consider strong empathy a talent. If you are able to “step in to” somebody else’s perspective and really try to understand why they do what they do, and why they think what they think, and why they feel what they feel, then you’ve really got something special.

So, if you really want to perfect a talent, I’d work on empathy. Take opportunities to really try to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Really try to imagine that you are experiencing exactly what they’re experiencing, then ask yourself how you would feel/react in that situation. This does take a strong imagination. I think you’ll find that by working on your empathy, you’ll really see the effects in your life.

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PostSecret: A Lesson in Social Media Excellence

needles  hacker  baby   

PostSecret is a very interesting entity. It calls for people to submit their secrets (some funny, some sad, some loving, some scandalous), anonymously, on a postcard and mail them to PostSecret’s founder, Frank Warren. Frank then selects a handful of postcards to share, online, once a week (Frank actually refers to PostSecret as a “community art project”). I’m not going to review the history of PostSecret (although it’s very interesting, and Frank now tours around both with museum displays of submitted secrets, and speaking to large groups about the therapy of letting go of secrets, among other things). But I encourage you to read up on the history of PostSecret (plus a pretty decent little interview on Guy Kawasaki’s blog, actually).

This post, however, is to highlight how well PostSecret has done in entering the world of social media. I know I usually complain about how awful most organizations are at participating in social media, but this time is different. I’ve been consistently impressed with PostSecret, and their ability to be true to their community and offer value to the relationship. PostSecret secrets have been simply shared on a blog for a long time now, and I feel like they cautiously moved into the world of social media. Based on what I’ve read, this was due, in part, to the PostSecret Community (those loyal PostSecret followers) begging to not “taint” PostSecret in the social mediasphere. Ironically, I feel like they didn’t want to share the secret pleasure they had discovered in PostSecret with the social media world. PostSecret moved into Facebook not too long ago, and then recently into Twitter. And it’s really their Twitter presence I’d like to applaud the most. Here’s the top 5 things they’ve done BRILLIANTLY in their Twitter community:

1. Kept It Real: Frank is at the heart of all communication. He is the face of PostSecret, he is transparent, and he is accessible. Followers feel like they have a relationship with him. He responds in a reasonable amount of time, despite having more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. He also talks about real things that are happening in his life. Sure, the tweets about seemingly mundane parts of people’s lives are what makes Twitter laughable and futile, it’s also what makes you a real person. People don’t want to talk to your brand – they want to talk to a PERSON who represents your brand well. So, it’s ok to pepper in some flavor with an occasional tweet that contains your opinion, or your joys, or your frustrations. we all have them. Use discretion, but be real. Who ever wanted to join a community of logos?

2. Asked for Feedback: Frank will be publishing his fourth PostSecret book soon, and I have LOVED that he is asking his community on Twitter for feedback on the cover artwork being sent to him by his publisher (example here). Heck, he’s even asked his Twitter community to submit their own cover artwork for consideration. It’s this kind of engagement that is frickin’ gold! We don’t feel like followers of PostSecret, we feel like valuable members of a community. You should all strive to offer your community opportunities to give you feedback. What can you ask for feedback on?

3. Asked for Help: Besides asking for feedback (a form of help), Frank has even reached out to his Twitter community to ask for help with translating, decoding, understanding certain postcard secrets that are sent to him. He recently asked for help decoding a Star Wars coded secret he received (here). Think about how you can apply this to your organization. How can you ask for assistance? Make your community feel valuable. 

4. Gave Added Value: One way to reward your community for connecting with you in a social media space is to give them “more than the average bear.” What I’m saying, in a convoluted way, is thank them for being a part of your community by giving them things that the people that simply browse your website wouldn’t get. For example, a sneak peak at a new product, a discount that only your community gets, a prize giveaway or just some kind of access to something that ONLY they get. For PostSecret, it’s sharing secrets that come in the mail before they get published (and some of them never get published, making the community feel that much more special). We’re getting secrets that nobody else is getting! So, think about it. What can you offer (OF REAL VALUE!) that adds value to your community, and makes them feel special for being a part of it? It has to be more special than simply reminding people in your community of the discount that you’re already offering every Tom, Dick and Harry.

5. Sparingly Self-Promoted: Yes, you need to promote. And yes, PostSecret promotes. Frank promotes his book release, his tours and the art shows. But he does it sparingly. It’s OK to talk about the great things you’re doing with passion and excitement. Again, we didn’t join this community to be sold to. BUT, Frank gives us so much value in being a part of this community, that we don’t mind the occasional promotion of a book or a show. Think about it in terms of talking to a friend – if they had a new product, or an exciting tour, or something coming up and mentioned it, you wouldn’t consider it promotional. Well, that’s how it works here. It’s just like a buddy mentioning another exciting thing that is happening in their life. So, promote, but promote in an unassuming way that reads like another excited statement about your life. 

My hat is off to you, PostSecret (and specifically Frank Warren), for being a glowing example of how to use social media properly. Thank you for doing it right. There are so many people treating Twitter as a new ad platform, that’s it’s refreshing to see you use it as a community.

(note: images from postsecret.blogspot.com)

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More Advertising, Please

I am SO sick of companies thinking that if they give you a taste of content that they’re entitled to blast you with tons of worthless, one-way advertising. Disgusting.

A few times a week, I have to endure receiving the “Neighborhoods” version of the Reno Gazette-Journal in the mail. There are a lot of problems with this publication, despite it not delivering on its promise of news in my area of town. This publication is nothing more than a shell for advertising. In this latest issue, it contained 3 pages of content/articles (and 2 of those three pages contained some advertising), and 214 pages of advertising. I’ll repeat those stats – 3 pages of articles, 214 pages of advertising!!! That’s almost 99% advertising. I know, you’re wondering how the hell that’s possible. I must have my numbers wrong. Nope – I counted three times (I’m careful, plus I often waste my time if I can make a point).

RGJ Neighborhoods

RGJ Neighborhoods

99% Ads

99% Ads

Of the flood of ads I received in my newspaper, how many were relevant to me? Who knows? I don’t. I typically throw this whole package away because I know that I am not getting any relevant content in that publication. Advertisers – you are wasting your money! 

It’s no surprise to see that consumers are growing increasingly weary of this kind of “interruption advertising” and turn to communication channels in which they can better control the interaction. Yes, I’m talking about everybody’s favorite hot topic – social media. Sadly, advertisers are already in full stride toward the gold rush that is social media, and treating it the same way they’ve abused mass media. This parasitic behavior makes me ill and angry all at once. Some advertisers are  slithering their way into the established communities in different social media channels, and treating it like their own “Neighborhoods.” Are they giving members of their communities valuable content, meaningful conversation or a symbiotic relationship? Nope. They treat it as a new place to put their ads (and advertisements take many forms). I am warning advertisers again, that you should treat social media like this only if you want to fail. 

You think you’re participating in social media? Re-examine that notion – because if you’re not “playing by the new rules,” you will fail. Have you created a blog and are simply posting your press releases there? Fail. Maybe you created a Facebook page – but is there any community interaction other than you blasting out promotional messages? Fail. Maybe you have a Twitter account so that you can syndicate your blog entries of your press releases. Fail. Are your YouTube videos nothing more than advertisements (be honest)? Fail. I encourage diversification of your presence in social media – but you have to think differently in this arena. It’s not another advertising platform. It’s a community-based form of communication. If I invited you over to my house for dinner, and all you talked about was how Cinnamon Toast Crunch was $2.95, or that your new pickup truck had 250 horsepower or some other way I should come spend money with you… I would never invite you over ever again. Please understand the analogy here.

So – anybody who is putting out content – be it in publications or in social media – evaluate your communications. How much of it is promotional? Don’t let it be 99%. Not even close.

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