Archive of ‘marketing’ category

Minnesota Tech Scene at SMBMSP

I attended the latest Social Media Breakfast on Friday morning. I’ve always been curious to go and since the event was at the State Fair this year (and I wanted to go there anyway) I decided it would be a good time to give it a try.
The day started off early and wet and I found myself wandering through an un-crowded fairground for the first time I can remember. The event was held at the Blue Ribbon picnic area, on the opposite side of the fair from the bus drop off. That meant that I arrived a bit late but didn’t have any problem finding a seat.
The program itself was pretty silly. It was funny to sit back and hear the bacon jokes and mixer games but there wasn’t a whole lot of new content presented there. I started to feel a little disappointed that I’d come out until I left the tent and started shaking hands.
I spoke with Rich Goldsmith for a few minutes. (He had just presented an especially angst-ridden bacon haiku about the temptation to eat the non-Kosher food.) He shared a bit about his work in social media and how he’s using it to reach new audiences. You can read Rich’s work at Defenestrator.
Thanks to David Erickson (see his e-Strategy blog) from Tunheim Partners as well. He was at the fair representing No Name Steaks and we talked about their recent effort to add social media tools to their campaigns. The chocolate-and-bacon Conan O’Brien bust that has been all over the media lately was their doing and it was interesting to get a behind the scenes look at how they pulled it off.
The official content up on stage came around too. Eventually, the program moved away from musical chairs and toward some interesting and useful case studies from local companies. That of course is what the Social Media Breakfast events are all about – meeting people and learning from each other. Although I could do without some of the silly games, I enjoyed the event and would try it again.

The rain dried up quickly too and I had a great day at the Fair with my family. I recommend the cinnamon rolls for pre-lunch snacking!

When Going for Word of Mouth, Sweat the Small Stuff!

It’s easy to ignore an acceptable business transaction, one that fulfills all or most of a customers expectations. But if a company can deliver the must-haves first AND surprise the customer with more, it will be hard for the customer to avoid spreading the word.
I ordered some business cards from Moo the other day. They are not like other web based printing companies and that’s a good thing. The thing that made my experience really fun and memorable, and the reason I’m writing about it now, is what happened days after I left their website.
Moo.com is not for everyone. The cards are expensive compared to other vendors online and the turnaround time is an unimpressive 5 business days. The design choices are neat but have very limited options for customization and there is no phone support. From a logical, features point of view, the site really doesn’t cut it. But Marketing is not all about logic.
It was easy enough to get my cards designed and I finished my order feeling okay about the whole process. They even sent me order confirmation details from a fictional personality named Little Moo, using snarky, sarcastic language. Fun, but a lot of people are doing that these days.
My view of Moo went from ordinary to remarkable when I got my cards in the mail.

Instead of packing the cards into a big brown box, they were delivered in a sturdy, handsome desktop display. The Moo logo is subtly included on the box in silver foil and my cards look great stacked inside. True to their personality, they also included an extra business card printed with a meeting crossword game, just for fun.
The effect was that I immediately wanted to show them off. It feels good to see your name on a high quality item and I was excited about the display. It was unexpected. The carrier itself makes you want to slide out a few cards and start handing them out.
For companies producing personalized products, the moment of unboxing is critical. When I was shopping around for a business card vendor, I compared the features like a rational shopper. But when I was opening up the packaging, I was excited to see what I would receive – at a fulcrum point for potential experiences. By nailing the product packaging and including surprise extras, Moo left a great final impression.
The attention to detail may cost a little more in materials and product development time. But the differentiation created and emotions produced make it worth it.

Help a Reporter Out – Easy and Cheap PR

For a small business owner, PR campaigns are tough. It’s hard to reach out to reporters on your own and going through an agency is expensive. Help A Reporter Out is an easy way to get a boat load of opportunities to get published, and it’s free.
By signing up for the service, you are offering to become a source. Reporters that need a subject matter expert will forward their requests to Peter Shankman, who organizes them and forwards them on to sources. You can sign up to receive the requests here.
The only problem with HARO is the volume. A typical email could contain about 30 inquiries and they’re sent 3 times a day. You may only be interested in 1 in 100 topics so it presents a real information overload problem.
Luckily, Gmail’s filtering rules are perfect for sorting through mountains of information. Here’s how I’ve set up a filter to send me relevant requests:
1. Sign up at helpareporter.com with a gmail address
2. Create a new filter in gmail that looks for “shankman” as the sender
3. Create keywords to identify the inquiries that are likely to be relevant
4. Skip the inbox, apply a label (‘HARO’ will work) or forward it on to a different email address.
(If your RSS reader supports authenticated feeds, you can even turn that gmail label into an RSS feed and read it there. Google Reader does not have that option.)
Once you have the right email message, it’s easy to ctrl+f to find the appropriate query. Gmail even highlights the term that triggered the filter. As always, be take care when reaching out to these reporters and make sure you can really contribute good info. This could be your opportunity to build a relationship with a valuable contact in your industry.

I remember that / I love that

Oh yeah! Thinking about something or someone that hasn’t crossed your mind in years is a pleasant experience. I remember that! It’s kind of like scratching an old itch, an echo of the feeling you get when an answer is stuck on the tip of your tongue but then, there it is… Got it!

Sometimes that nice moment of realization is translated to the memory itself. “I remember that!” becomes “I love that!” I’m reminded of this phenomenon every time I run out and buy a song I was recently reintroduced to only to realize later that I didn’t especially like it in the first place. That’s why I’ll accept a Facebook friend request from someone I wasn’t even high school friends with. (Although I have gotten over that one in time – I ignore most friend requests lately.)

The transfer factor is multiplied when an old item is presently unavailable or if it achieves cult status. “New York Seltzer Water was the BEST!” or “I LOVED Married with Children and watched it every night!”
Just don’t let it get too mainstream. “Nah, I didn’t really get into Transformers much – I was more of a GoBot man.”

Our memories are unreliable and surprisingly pliable by present forces. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and the smart marketer will remember that. So will the smart consumer.

Logical Marketing: An Oxymoron

I’m a pretty logical thinker. I like to systematically break down a problem into its base parts until I understand all of the variables. I love figs. When I need make a decision (especially when spending money) I’m obsessive about research, listing pros and cons and triple checking my work. The problem is that people don’t really make decisions based on logic, myself included.
The truth is, we’re much more primal and impulsive than we like to think. If it were possible to be completely honest about why I do the things I do or buy the things I do, I wouldn’t find a list of benefits or features. I’d find emotion, needs, justification.
The truth is, even logical arguments aren’t logical if you look closely enough. I’m reading Godel Escher Bach right now (a real mind bender!) and it shows that there is no completely self evident statement. You can always question the assumptions of an argument into statements and then question the assumptions of those statements, on and on indefinitely. Eventually you need to just accept that a concept ‘feels right.’ In other words, you need to take a leap of faith.
So despite my love for data points and even though it makes me feel better to have all the background on an issue, it still comes down to feelings. My takeaway from a Marketing point of view: speak to emotional benefits, indirectly if need be, and take a flier on a project every once in a while.

Beyond ‘copy & paste’ knowledge

Because I wear several hats at work, I tend to be kind of a jack of all trades but a master of none. That’s okay for most applications but I’m resolving to go deeper in a few areas.

I recently took the Strengths Finder test to better understand my own style and how I interact with others at work. One of my top themes as identified by the test is a desire to learn and continuously improve. That rings true to me because I do like to take on new challenges and stretch my thinking. (I love trivia too, Jeopardy rocks!)

I find that when I’m learning a new skill, there is a progression of understanding:
1. There is no understanding but there is an interest in the results
2. Borrowing knowledge from others, I can mimic tactics to get some of the results
3. Because of thorough understanding of the dynamics, I can create original ways of driving the best results

I usually end up somewhere between 2 and 3 before moving on to the next skill. This tendency to skip around to new topics leaves me with a fairly wide breadth of basic knowledge within the Marketing discipline but few areas of true expertise.

Because remarkable results are usually only achieved with original tactics, I’m required to partner with an expert to get the results that I want or I fall short of being great. I’m all for outsourcing, letting the pros do their work. But for personal reasons, I also want to contribute. I want to become an expert that people go to when they recognize a need for a special skill.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working to identify one or two or three skills that I can commit to and really dig into this year. So far, I’m thinking writing for persuasion and HTML…

Neo’s specialist, the Keymaster

Arguments as Justification

As marketers, we tend to craft our messages according to what we think will be the most effective way to convince someone of doing something that we want them to do. Logic is a classic example, although not always the most effective (people are emotional and irrational beings!)
But it’s interesting to notice that sometimes our arguments don’t need to convince people at all, only help them justify. Even if a sales pitch is rejected on a logical level, it can serve as a useful justification if the customer wants that end result to begin with. If that’s the case, the customer is likely to use the argument to justify that action to self and to others. The argument doesn’t even need to make sense – just look good enough to avoid a feeling of guilt or embarrassment.
It all brings to mind the classic marketing resource National Lampoon’s Vacation. When the car salesman tries to pitch Clark on the Family Truckster, Clark doesn’t bite, “I’m not your ordinary, every day [fool].” But he wants to go on vacation and ends up buying thing anyway. Once he gets home he uses the same lines on his wife that the salesman used on him: “If you think you hate it now, wait till you drive it!”

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