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!”

Subscribe to Google Search Results

While there are several sources for content when setting up persistent search queries, nothing is as comprehensive as google. They don’t offer RSS feeds out of the box but getting a feed from those results is still possible.

Feed43 is a nice application that turns static pages into feeds. The tools they offer to define what content that you want set it apart from other services like feedity and page2rss.

To subscribe to search results, start by creating your query at Google. Go to advanced search options and restrict the search to pages updated in the last 24 hours to get the most dynamic RSS results. You can also set the number of results to return to 80 (if you set it to 100, Feed43′s service tends to choke.)

Once you’ve got a query that you like, copy the URL of the results page. It should look something like this:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&as_epq=persistent+search&num=80&as_qdr=d

Now jump back over to feed43 and start a new feed. Paste the google URL into the address field and press ‘load.’

For Step 2, you’ll define what feed43 should consider an item.

My settings are:

Global Search Pattern:
Item Search Pattern:
That seems to do the trick for me. Press ‘extract.’

In Step 3, you can name your feed and decide how it should be displayed.

My settings:

Item Title Template:
Item Link Template: blank

Item Content Template:

Try the preview button. If everything looks good, you’re done. You can now subscribe to your feed in your favorite RSS reader.

Because Google’s reach is so broad, the results of this feed tend to be very noisy. Save this option for very specific queries and use filtering tools to fine tune your feed.

By the way, you can also use this trick to subscribe to results from a Custom Search Engine. CSEs don’t offer advanced search options by default but you can simply manipulate the results URL to get the same effect. After you’ve set up your Custom Search Engine, add &num=80&as_qdr=d to the results URL to restrict them to the past 24 hours and to list up to 80 results.

Persistent Search

Setting up a listening post is one of the best uses of RSS that I can think of. Here is a slide deck reviewing some of the tools available for creating persistent search queries.

Persistent Search
View more presentations from mattsweb. (tags: tools search)

Some helpful links for taking persistent search to the next level:
Google Custom Search

RSS from Google Custom Search

Create a feed that searches the top ten social networks

Create a feed that searches blogs, boards and twitter

Tool for creating RSS from static pages

I’m sorry I’m not sorry

We’re doing company branding work at the office so evaluating how companies represent themselves to customers has been on the brain lately.

It can be interesting to debate the merits of a position in a marketplace. Should we be the low-cost, efficiency leader? Or should we offer the best customer service possible or go after a luxury segment? While one approach may be more appropriate for a given company vs another, I think the important thing is to be consistent. My personal experience tells me that when a company’s behavior lines up with who they claim to be, it usually works out fine. When it doesn’t, it’s ugly.

I recently found a bogus charge on my credit card. Luckily, I saw the transaction while it was still pending and payment hadn’t been sent. So I called the bank that issued my card and told them the whole story. Their response was to tell me that they couldn’t stop the payment from going out and that I needed to call another department to place a fraud claim. Fine, whatever. When I repeated my story to the fraud department (45 minute hold time) they told me that they’d investigate and get back to me. That was over 2 months ago and still no word on the verdict, despite several phone calls from me. Now to their credit, they did issue a provisional credit to cover the amount in question while the investigation was going on. But I’m not comfortable spending that money since I don’t know whether I’ll be able to keep it or not.
All of this wouldn’t be so bad if the credit card company had painted a more realistic picture of how this would happen from the get go. I still have their sales brochure, which says things like “You won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized purchases.” My claim form says “your claim is top priority with us.” Riiiight.

On the other hand, I checked out the local Snap Fitness earlier this week. They are a stripped down health club with about a tenth of the equipment, resources and service that Lifetime or Ballys would offer. But they don’t apologize for it. My conversation with the sales person was sugar coat free.
“Do you have showers?”
“No, most people just get in and out.”
“Okay, how about lockers for my stuff?”
“We have cubbies.”
“Alright. Where’s the drinking fountain?”
“We don’t have one.”

Not the most impressive set of features for a health club but there is no misunderstanding about what they offer. And it’s only $30 a month, less than half of the dues at Lifetime or the YMCA. I think that Snap Fitness may grab a smaller slice of the total market with this approach, but the customers that they do have will be satisfied and likely to stay.

Eye on the prize


Working at a company that serves consumers, I’m all too familiar with how competitive a space it is. Individuals are presented with an incredible amount of choice when shopping online and have real power to promote or sink a company’s good name.
We marketers have a wealth of information available to us too, including what our competitors are up to. Using persistent search tools and RSS you can listen to what any web-focused company is doing, almost in real time. That can provide valuable info and insights. (I use these monitoring tools every day.) But they also present a danger of shifting a company’s focus.
Our stated objective is to serve our customers in the best way possible, which will lead to organic growth. However, each time we see a company in our market place launch a new product or offer an interesting tool on their website, it sets off a minor panic. Why don’t WE offer that product? What is the fastest way that we can develop that feature for OUR website? Soon we’re letting our competitors dictate which products and designs we offer and how. The obvious problem with that scenario is that we will always be following the leader, not catching or surprassing them.
No one in our marketing department would come out and advocate moving to a flawed strategy like this but the mentality tends to creep into our decision making nonetheless. Watching competitors is great if we can remain focused on our customers. If not, it’s time to turn off the firehose of information that is distracting us.

Learning more by learning RSS

When considering options for continuing development, the resources available are plentiful. I’ve taken classes, attended conferences, read books and considered grad school. But the best value that I’ve seen for staying sharp is RSS.
Using Google Reader, I can stay on top of the latest trends in the markets that I’m working in, monitor the reputation of my company, get inspired by some of the most outstanding voices in Marketing and find out about the latest tools and resources.
RSS isn’t hard to use at all and yet I find myself being one of the only ones at my company using it. That’s a shame. A lot of time and money is spent on learning through conventional channels despite the ease and cost savings available on the web.
This isn’t one of those niche technologies that will benefit a small group of technophiles for a short time. RSS is really valuable and not using it is a major detriment to any company with a marketing function. Google has made it about as easy to use as I can imagine it to be. What more will it take for RSS to go mainstream?
It may be that it is simply priced too low. If it’s free, the feeling goes, it must not be that valuable or powerful. If that line of thinking is right, this is an exception to the rule.

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