Tag Archives: marketing

Choose The Correct Lens For Your Marketing Plans

Courtesy of photographer Ryan Haddad

Sometimes people get so wrapped up in tactics that they try to make one tactic fit all strategies.  Two articles and a phone call this week reminded me of this. And, also, a project I am currently working on, but more about that later.

The first article is a plea on Search Engine Watch asking Can We Please Stop Hyping Social Media as the Marketing Messiah?  Not only a fitting title for the week, but a reminder that using just one lens to view our goals blinds us to other possible, and Continue reading

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Myths, Marketing, And Money

OK, here’s a story about the importance of using myths, or stories, to market product. Yeah, I know, the idea of Las Vegas as a myth is not exactly a big “eureka!” moment, but it does demonstrate that even in a fantasy town marketers need to be reminded of the importance of the myth in the marketing process.

The New York Times ran this article about using stories to sell sake in their Dining and Wine section, but it really belongs in their Business section.

Las Vegas “whales”, as big gamblers are known in Las Vegas, come to town on Chinese New Year to celebrate and they celebrate in a very big way. Part of the celebration is showing, and enjoying, their success, and that involves having the best of everything, including the best food and drink. In keeping with that theme, Las Vegas restaurants look for something special and expensive to serve, something that is not easily found anywhere else in the world, and at the moment that product is sake.

Sake suppliers and restaurateurs have rediscovered that a great story sells higher priced product, so they now have stories about all their sake. Some stories parallel Hollywood movies:

  • strains of rice that were thought extinct until small batches were discovered and saved with new growing techniques – Jurassic Park
  • the prodigy sake brewer (yes, sake is brewed, like beer) raised from a young age to become a master and carry on a tradition – Kung Fu Panda
  • the ancient sake company, around for over 800 years, that is saved by the new owner – The Santa Clause

Yes, these are ridiculous movie comparisons. But that’s the point, they develop and use the myth to enhance the product. When myth is not enough, there are special names evocative of Asian philosophy and poetry: Ice Dome, Devine Droplets, Ancient Beauty.

There is really nothing new here, the Las Vegas crowd is just applying standard marketing techniques to create and enhance brand image in a commodity market. Rosser Reeves invented the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) in the 1940’s to help focus attention on finding the most important product attribute and then build the myth on that attribute. Patent medicine peddlers of the 1800’s crowed about all the ills their miracle would cure and regularly cured someone in the crowd of their infirmities.

We can all take a lesson on this and look at how we market our most mundane products. There is always something special about “our” product and we can find the myth that supports our brand over all other brands.

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Starbucks’ New WiFi Plan: Building Customer Loyalty

Howard Schultz’, CEO Starbucks, announcement yesterday on two changes in Starbucks’ WiFi services demonstrates how even a large corporation must pay attention to customers on a local basis. The announcement took place at the Wired Business Conference “Disrupted By Design”. I’ve written about Starbucks before and how they shift their business model to meet customer expectations.

There is a lesson for small and local businesses in this change at Starbucks.

First, starting July 1, 2010, WiFi service at Starbucks will be free. This move reinforces the neighborhood/community aesthetic at the heart of Starbucks’ marketing. The free model follows a trend already instituted at most airports and many other public spaces. Moving to a for-pay model is a disconnect in the “public plaza” feel Starbucks customers expect, especially after experiencing the free model outside the Starbucks store door.

This is the second step to free WiFi service at Starbucks, a couple of years back they shifted from a pure for-pay model with T-Mobile to ATT with a model featuring  two-hours free daily with a registered Starbucks card and small service charge following the first two hours in a day. Granted, that’s not an expensive proposition, but just typing it cramped my fingers and it confuses many less technically comfortable customers. This change is much easier for customers to understand and act on.

Second, a new Starbucks Digital Network will be introduced later this fall. A partnership with Yahoo! and featuring free access to paid sites such as the online Wall Street Journal and other premium sites, the Starbucks Digital Network offers a new reason for Starbucks to be the preferred choice for customers. McDonald’s wired up 11,000 of their restaurants in 2009 and offered free access to customers and McDonald’s coffee business is major competition to Starbucks, so this new Starbucks access model is probably a response to McDonald’s marketing.

Main Street businesses are always looking for a way to build loyal customer relationships and gain an edge over their competition. Small businesses can use this example from Starbucks as a guide for another way to find a way to differentiate themselves from their competition. Of course, a small business will probably not get the national or international news coverage nor will they probably be able to swing a deal with Yahoo! or other major corporations to present exclusive offerings, but small businesses can find equally enticing draws for their local customers.

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Five Reasons Small Businesses Should Use Twitter

Small business marketing can be tricky, it needs to reach your customers quickly and easily without costing an arm and a leg. Twitter, no matter what the buzz you’ve heard, is a great communication tool that can help you with marketing and sales. Here’s why:

1. Most business is small business.
More than 99% of business in the U.S. is small business, defined by the SBA as under 500 employees (more staggering, the percentage is actually 99.7%). But 500 employees is a really large business in most of our eyes, so a more important number for this discussion is that over 98% of businesses in the U.S. have fewer than 100 employees. Mike Clough, a serial entrepreneur and SCORE consultant, has a very readable blog post that helps parse the dense SBA figures (and you might want to read Mike’s blog on a regular basis).

Why are these numbers important? They show that if Twitter can be used in business, and I’ll write more later on businesses using Twitter, then the overwhelming majority of businesses using Twitter will be small businesses.

2. Your customers are using Twitter.
And more will begin using it this week. According to Nielsen, Twitter grew 1382% between February 2008 and February 2009, rapidly expanding from less than a half-million to over 7 million users. The overall numbers are still small, but this growth rate means over 91 million people using Twitter next February.

Twitter users are not kids. Better yet, the sweet spot of Twitter use is in the 35-49 age group, this group represents roughly 42% of all Twitter users and the core age group of the working world. This number will definitely change as Twitter use continues to grow, but it is an important age group for small business sales.

3. Your competitors are probably using Twitter and they are talking to your customers.
Come one, you already know this. When was the last time you tried some marketing or sales activity and you didn’t find out or know that a competitor was already doing this? The boom in Twitter business use followed the boom in Twitter users, it’s an organic growth curve, but you can still get started now.

The New York Times recently covered business use of Twitter and mentioned some small retail business uses along with the typical array of large corporations, but they left out the backbone of American business. They left out the business-to-business, industrial/commercial aspect of business. Twitter talks to and through your distribution chain, reaching your reps, distributors, and retailers, as well as your end customers, affecting end-to-end marketing along your entire distribution chain, no matter how many tiers and branches in that chain.

4. You can extend customer loyalty.
There’s a period following the purchase process where the customer becomes loyal to your product or company. Continuing that loyalty can be hard for small businesses, especially when repeat business is spread over longer periods. You can use Twitter can keep customers in the loop on your product or service, keeping them in a positive purchase state long after the sale is complete, possibly through to the next sale. And the word-of-mouth

Even better, it doesn’t matter whether your customers are local or geographically dispersed. Your regular sales skills are the main requirement in Twitter, the same as the conversation on the phone or in the office. One good difference is you can reach multiple customers at one time and then handle individual conversations through other methods appropriate to the customer need.

5. You determine how much time you spend using Twitter.
Twitter use grows organically, it is a self-defining use responding to the conversations surrounding your business. Yes, there is the group that tweets what they had for breakfast, but far more serious questions and discussions also happen on a minute by minute basis. Finding these discussion depends on your customers and their habits, but the best place to start finding them and listening to their discussions is by using a form of search.

Use TweetDeck or Seesmic, desktop applications that will continually track and report uses of searchable terms used in your business. Or use TweetBeep to get search term uses emailed directly to you (be careful with TweetBeep, it’s great for lower search activity but can overwhelm your email inbox if a search term is heavily used). These tools can get you started effectively using Twitter in business, but there are many other methods as well.

So that’s five reasons to start using Twitter today. There are many more reasons, but they will be specific to your business needs, feel free to comment here or email me with specific questions and I’ll try to give you some quick general answers to your possible uses.

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Web 2.0 is officially dead: WSJ writes a big story

You can tell when a movement dies: it becomes recognized by your parents and guides are written about it by major media.

I’m being only half-facetious. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has taken upon itself to describe “The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World,” and that pretty much hammers home the final nail in the web 2.0 coffin (yes, the tired cliches in this sentence are here for a reason).

Is the WSJ wrong or did they write a bad article? No, in fact they provide a fairly clear and concise look at web 2.0 marketing. But, this article is late, very late, in the marketing lifecycle. The WSJ so much as admits they are late in picking up on the web 2.0 trend when they state, “Millions of people have become familiar with these tools….” The article states the standard web 2.0 advice (i.e., don’t just talk to consumers–work with them throughout the marketing process,etc.), and even suggests coining a term for the type of person who should be directing these web 2.0 marketing directives (a “technopologist”, sounds too much like an “apologist” to me), but this comes at a time when many people are suggesting steps beyond web 2.0 is in the making (see Peter Kim’s “Social Media Predictions 2009” and read Charlene Li’s prediction on exclusivity).

As said above, the WSJ doesn’t say anything necessarily incorrect or bad, and this is not the first time they’ve paid attention to marketing on the Internet, but this coverage just seems late in the game. Read the entire article, see how it fits your marketing strategy; you are most likely beyond the basic steps outlined in the article, after all, you are reading a blog entry, one of the most basic web 2.0 components. If you are not taking these basic steps, then maybe it is time to review your marketing strategy.

Maybe I misunderstand the WSJ audience, maybe their audience is made of marketing followers, but somehow I think that impression is wrong. Then again, my teenage kids wonder how relevant Facebook is anymore since they discovered I’ve had a page there before they joined. To each, his own.

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My First Anniversary With Twitter

Yes, I’ve been on Twitter longer than I’ve been blogging; although I think we can safely say that Twitter is a short-form blog, so maybe Twitter counts in my blogging  timeline.

What have I learned in this first year?

Twitter is something I really enjoy. I follow a small group of tech industry analysts, a few Web 2.0 proto-celebrities (a couple of whom I’ve known for a few years), a group of marketing and communications workers like myself, some new media workers, a large number of Portland, Oregon-area tech industry workers, and a few good friends that have no connection to technology other than using it on  a regular basis.

As a feedback mechanism, Twitter works pretty well. Twitter has a Virginia Woolf stream-of-consciousness about it that can be distracting, but it also gives a good feel for the emotions of the day outside my office. And I’ve gotten instant news reports on Twitter that beat the timeliness of any other communications medium.

Could all this Twitter stuff fall into group-think and garbage? Yes, but I think that depends on who you follow and pay attention to. I follow as many people as I can keep up with and I drop those who add nothing valuable to the daily conversation.

So, the first year with Twitter is up and I’m giving it a successful rating, with an expectation that the next year will be even better. Hope I can say that about my blogging activity.

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Building Your Customer List

McCormick & Schmick’s is a nice restaurant, really an upscale fish house, that started in the Northwest and now has tentacles reaching across the U.S., now with probably two-thirds of it’s restaurants east of the Mississippi River. One of the oldest McCormick_and_Schmick_logorestaurants in the chain has occupied it’s current location since 1892, but this business understands how to treat it’s customers and has made the leap into their third century of business.

I placed a dinner reservation there just this morning. The hostess took the usual information and then asked if I wanted an email confirmation sent to me. Now, email confirmations are not unheard of, but this one happening in my own neighborhood restaurant triggered my senses: McCormick’s has shifted their thinking to include drawing their customers into an online relationship.

Customer relations are fickle and a business needs to keep up with the trends and customer preferences. McCormick’s also recognizes that cooking and serving food is not their real business, their real business is being a place of entertainment for their customers, the food is one part of the entertainment customers expect when they come to a restaurant.

How does this idea inform your business? And what is your real business, the parallel to McCormick’s actually being in the entertainment business?

Addendum: Of course, I said “yes,” and I’ll give a report back on what McCormick’s actually does, now that they have my email address. 

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