Church of the Customer: Business archives
February 06, 2012
Playbooks and visual explanations
By the time the New York Giants and the New England Patriots took the field Sunday for their Super Bowl matchup, the players on both teams had read, re-read and rehearsed their respective game playbooks dozens, if not hundreds of times. They'd studied each play via multiple diagrams and photographs, stats and descriptions of assignments for every player on the field.
A playbook is an apt metaphor for any business team that needs concise, how-to plans to deal with the complexity of systems, processes and moving variables, especially with social business. Whether it's for one of the world's largest companies or one a fraction of its size, a playbook quickly becomes a go-to reference for learning, planning and doing.
I've discovered this by quietly leading a playbook practice for the past year at Ant's Eye View, and it's been some of the best fun i've ever had. I've been building a team that works with clients to gather as much data, knowledge and practices about social business inside a company, then we distill all of that data into a visually rich, how-to playbook. Many of the playbooks we're producing are stunning in the breadth of their scope and design approach.
Today, too, we're announcing that David J. Neff is joining our playbook team as a senior consultant. He's a well-regarded figure in social media, especially in Austin. He wrote a must-read book for non-profits on preparing for the social age. Combine that with experience in documentary filmmaking and helping non-profits like the American Cancer Society enter the social era, Dave will make a great addition to our burgeoning team.
Bonus: Bill Belichik's playbook from Super Bowl XXV when he was the Giants' defensive coordinator.
October 08, 2010
5 questions about your company's design competency
The mini-disaster around the Gap's logo redesign is a good backdrop to understand that today's marketplace practically requires design competency. It can no longer be a relegated function but should start to become a core company competency.
Umair Haque has a relevant piece about what it means for a company to lack design competency. He posed five questions to gauge whether your organization is taking design seriously:
- Do designers have a seat in the boardroom? How often does your CEO talk to a designer?
- Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters — or vice versa?
- Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to "real" business decisions — or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
- Are designers seen as mechanics of stuff — or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow's big ideas?
- How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot — or, as for most companies, almost none?
October 04, 2010
Spreading the word offline
Marketers may be obsessed with social media these days, but spirits marketer Maker's Mark continues to use offline tactics to build loyalty and help evangelists spread the word.
I've been a Maker's Mark Ambassador for a few years, and last week I received a personalized note card along with a stack of business cards with my name on them as a reminder of my ambassadorship. They are the same cards you receive when you sign up to be an ambassador. The note was signed by President Bill Samuels Jr. It's very old-school from a company with a lot of old-world charm.
We interviewed Bill back in 2006 and he told us stories of customers at bars who offer to buy Maker's for new friends they just met, throw down their Ambassador card on the bar, and say "I'll get this round. I'm part of the company." When you give loyal customers the tools to spread the word, and if the opportunity arises, they will.
Listen to our full interview with Bill Samuels and his concept of "marketing without fingerprints" by clicking on the podcast icon.
June 02, 2010
OGST visually explained
If you're a fan of OGST -- Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Tactics -- then this visual explainer that Paula Hansen of Chart Magic drew during my talk last month at the Social Commerce Summit is a handy way to explain it to colleagues.
May 20, 2010
For today's marketer, the real enemy is obscurity.
How do you build attention for your product, company or brand and rise above the marketplace noise?
One way is to make sure your web content is completely spreadable. Adding links for people to share your content on social networks and social media sites is pretty much mandatory. Remove all barriers so that customer evangelists can share your content and messages freely. Nothing new about this except that I found find this archaic message at the start of a B2B company's product video on their website.
Social networks are word of mouth jet streams. Your web content should be designed to ride them.
May 06, 2010
How to humanize your brand
If you travel for business frequently, take this quiz:
Think of the hotels you've stayed at this year. Can you name even one employee by name?
I can. Felix from the San Mateo Marriott. I stayed there a few weeks ago and noticed this poster in all of the elevators:
Curious, I stopped into the Marketplace Cafe and sure enough, there was Felix.
Friendly, approachable and mostly resembling the man on the poster, Felix told me he has worked for the hotel for 12 years. He said he loves his job and loves meeting people. He recounted the story of a man he met from Europe who, on his second stay at hotel, remarked that we was surprised that Felix was still there. Felix asked him when he had visited the hotel the first time. The man said "seven years ago."
A now-departed manager had thought up the idea eight years ago for putting Felix on the posters. Felix said there used to be a life-size cardboard cut-out of him in front of the cafe that was so life-like that it would stop people in their tracks to say hi. That is, until someone stole it.
I travel alot and for the most part, hotels are nameless, faceless places that aren't very memorable. But I won't forget the San Mateo Marriott because of Felix.
February 04, 2010
A tale of 2 birthday cards
It was my birthday this week, so that usually means birthday-related direct mail from women's retail stores. I have two examples that showcase distinct differences between doing the minimum amount and doing something worth buzz.
Ann Taylor delivered a typical postcard: 15% off a one-time purchase in February. "On your special day, treat yourself with your Birthday Bonus," says. "It's your birthday. May all of your wishes come true."
Anthropologie sent a card in a odd-sized bubble pouch featuring a perforated cupcake with a candle on it. The candle is part of a necklace. It, too, offers 15% for a one-time purchase in February.
"Happy Birthday! Make a wish. And treat yourself to something special...Your candle necklace is for you to keep," it says. "This little gift is for you and only you. And cannot be turned into chocolate, flowers or cash. It's a one-time treat...."
If there's a card that leaves a lasting impression, both of the brand and how I could possibly talk about and show to others, it's easily the Anthropologie card. From the non-standard packaging to a necklace that you can keep to the non-boring copy, it's a winner.
It's easy for anyone to print a postcard. It's a bigger challenge to create something that demonstrates your ability to connect with someone at an emotional level.
January 27, 2010
Simplify your objectives
Strategic objectives are the Holy Grail of a company's being. They typically involve big plans, so the natural inclination is to compose a lengthy description of each objective.
That means strategies and tactics are often piled into the wording of the objective. That unnecessarily complicates the objective, making it less likely to be understood quickly and efficiently. Anything not understood easily is unlikely to spread.
Here's a fictitious, slightly over-the-top example of what a top-heavy objective might look like:
Understand how to create better innovation opportunities for our products by listening closely to our customers' needs through a world-class community solution that deepens our customer relationships and helps customers share and collaborate together.
That's an unspreadable objective. It lacks clarity because it tries to say everything. It's loaded with strategies and solutions. It has a poor chance of blossoming because there's nothing simple to rally behind.
A strong objective is clear and concise like a headline. An objective is an intention, as my friend Stephen Harvill says when he helps companies clarify their thinking. A comparable example is when champion tennis player says simply, "I intend to win" before heading out to a court. How she'll win is through a series of strategies and tactics.
Therefore, to create a simple objective, strip away anything that looks like an action, a program or a piece of technology. Remove anything resembling buzzwords. Get to the soul of an intention, and make it simple.
Using that approach, the complicated objective above could be rewritten to say:
Innovate using customer feedback.
January 25, 2010
Why it's important to be a linchpin and an artist
Q: What is a linchpin, and why is it important to become one?
A linchpin is the part you can't live without, the thing that makes a difference. In every organization there are one (or several) people like this. It might be the brilliant inventor who creates the impossible, but it's far more likely to be the great sales rep or customer service person who makes a connection, or the marketer who knows how to tell a story that resonates.
In a post-factory world, manning the assembly line isn't so critical. Stuffing the candies into the boxes, running the punch press, following the manual... these are easily replaced roles, ones where neither the worker nor the organization gains much on the margin. If you want real job satisfaction and security, then, you need to figure out how to do the unexpected, to do work that matters and to create human interactions.
Q: You talk about linchpins being artists. What's the difference between a conventional marketer and one who thinks like an artist? Can you give an example of a marketer who is an artist?
Art, by my definition, has nothing to do with painting and everything to do with connecting with people in a generous way and causing a change to take place. A movie director is making art when she makes you cry. A product designer creates art when the UI is better than it needs to be and it creates efficiency or even joy. Marketers can find plenty of Dummies books and manuals and insider PDFs that demonstrate, step by step, how to follow the rules. That's easy and not particularly valuable. A marketer becomes an artist when she goes out on a limb, does the unexpected or the risky and makes a difference.
I'd argue that you two do art when you stand up and give a talk about the 1%. Or Biz Stone was an artist when he figured out how to launch and scale Twitter's marketing. Or Scott Monty at Ford when he does a car show rollout that bypasses the cocktail parties at AutoWeek in favor of individual interviews with social media mavens. The second time someone does something, it's a copy. The first time, it's art.
Q: We understand the concept of "physical labor" when it comes to work, but you stress the importance of "emotional labor." What do you mean by that, and can you give us an example?
I don't know about you, but I haven't gotten paid to do physical labor in a really long time. Maybe typing.
Emotional labor is the act of smiling when you're scared, or getting on a plane when you're tired. It's dreaming when you don't feel like dreaming, caring when the other person is (frankly) acting like a jerk. Emotional labor is work with your heart and your soul and your feelings. We seem to feel it should be easy, but it's not. It is, though, important.
Q: We love this quote in the book: "The easier it is to quantify, the less it's worth." Can you tell us, and our MBA friends, why this is true?
If you can quantify it, then probably someone before you figured out a why to grind it out. And if you can grind it out, someone can grind it out cheaper than you can.
On the other hand, the really valuable stuff, the stuff we pay a lot for, is unquantified. Things like creating joy or security or happiness. No easy measurements for those, thus they are art, and art is always worth more than the predicted.
We measure the quantified because we can. But we should create the unquantified because it's so rare.
Q: Our lizard brain tells us to "Shut up. Don't stand out. Don't speak out. Blend in." If we want to be a linchpin, how do we silence this negative part of our brain?
Steve Pressfield calls this the resistance. The voice in your head that destroys your art. There are a myriad of ways to defeat it. You can distract it. You can trick it. You can steamroll it. You can seduce it with small steps. I'm not sure there's one best technique, but I know for certain that it must be done. My book has only one goal: to sell you on committing to this very task.
January 18, 2010
5 new ways to compete for book PR
(Editor's note: This is a guest post from Barbara Henricks of CaveHenricks, a public relations firm for business books and authors. She's considered by many to be one of the best book publicists in the publishing industry. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I’ve been in the PR business nearly 20 years, and there’s been more change the past two years than in the first 18.
That’s created much fear and confusion. Readers are consuming content from more outlets and with a staggering number of devices-- via iPhones, computers, Blackberries, Kindles, Nooks and Sony Readers, to name a handful.
Getting a book published in 2010 is vastly different than in 2007. Advances are lower, editors are more wary of risk, print runs are shrinking, bookstores are ordering fewer copies, marketing dollars are tighter and publicists are chasing coverage in a media world that is undergoing its own transformation. That means authors today must master a new environment, relying on strategy, customization, and increased author participation.
Here are five ways for writers, authors and publishers to market in this new environment:
- A great media campaign will discard many if not all of the old notions, conventional wisdom and template approach of the past. There is no one blueprint for building a best seller. The best campaigns draw on all forms of media, with increased emphasis on digital forms. Campaigns today rely on the author’s participation beyond traditional tours and interviews. The best campaigns draw on an author’s natural strengths.
- There are no longer any magic bullets. No one single media hit can ensure a book’s meteoric rise to the top, with the possible exception of a full hour of “The Oprah Show” that features only one book, its ideas or the author.
- Magazine coverage is coming later and later, but now has the potential to prolong a book’s sales life. Not so long ago, if a magazine did not commit to coverage 3-4 months ahead of a book’s publication date, the process was over. Now, magazine editors will often take a look at finished books and post a review, an article or a bylined piece by the author in their online editions almost immediately. In some cases, if the online piece gets a lot of views, the magazine will run something in the print edition months after the book’s release, which will keep the sales alive well into the campaign.
- Bloggers are jumpstarting many successful media campaigns. For this to work, authors must be willing to become active participants – offering relevant content, contributing comments and connecting directly with bloggers themselves. It’s still the publicist’s job to do the legwork to guide authors through the vast landscape of bloggers, identifying a target group whose readership matches most closely with the book’s intended audience, but the author’s direct participation is required to make this outreach successful.
- Relationships will remain at the heart of good book promotion, but forming them will be more difficult than ever, particularly with the blog world. The best approach is good strategy – taking stories and ideas to a journalist only after very careful consideration of whether that book or message truly meets their needs. Repeatedly delivering only relevant material is the biggest relationship builder of all.
The landscape is different, the challenges new, but as always, big ideas and great books will will always find their way. As someone who cherishes her Kindle for its portability, must have the Sunday New York Times in its reassuringly weighty bundle, reads daily news online and cherishes her big glossy copy of Vogue, I know the industry will figure out how to integrate these formats into a successful mix.
Right now, it’s in flux.