Church of the Customer: Marketing archives
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.
March 23, 2010
The DEVO method to creating a WOM-worthy panel
That's what some of the record 13,000 attendees have been saying about the 2010 techfest. I heard it from many people I talked with at the conference, too.
But one panel really stood out: "DEVO, The Internet and You." Despite being late in the afternoon on the last day of the conference, it was the best panel I saw this year.
DEVO, the 80's avante-garde band, is releasing its first album in 20 years. The ironically brilliant marketing campaign for the album is to paint DEVO, which has always espoused the idea of "de-evolution," as a corporation. DEVO, Inc. plans to use "corporate" marketing strategies to promote itself, including focus groups, hiring an ad agency, crowdsourcing, Twitter, YouTube and even Chatroulette.
Here's DEVO member Gerald Casale explaining why DEVO needs to "rebrand" itself:
Then the panel turned into a brilliant piece of performance art. First, DEVO, Inc.'s COO Greg Scholl (hint: he's not real) shared a recorded communique with the audience.
Next, Bill Moulton, from DEVO's ad agency Mother Los Angeles, delivered a funny, deadpan PowerPoint presentation about the marketing campaign, illustrating the "power of the Internet!" and how DEVO will use it. Here's a snippet:
(Here's a pre-recorded version of the entire PowerPoint.)
Then Moulton showed how the band is using online focus groups for a "color study" to get data on what color people like, as well as in-person focus groups, poking fun at the typical corporate process of gathering feedback.
Finally, Jacob, a "research consultant" to Mother LA with an amorphous European accent, conducted a live focus group with the audience to gather even more data for its study, demonstrating the banality of focus groups.
The audience got the joke. One of the first questions from the crowd was: "You've leveraged a lot of synergies. Are there any synergies you haven't been able to leverage?"
The videos illustrate why this session was a lesson in making a panel interesting and fun. Here are the hints:
- A panel is a performance.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare.
- Involve the audience.
- Don't take yourself too seriously.
Think about the next panel you are organizing. Are you going to invite some experts and just wing it? Or will you think hard about sharing the same information as a performance that gets people thinking and talking?UPDATE: DEVO Inc. COO Greg Scholl (again, not real) just sent the DEVO fan club email list a SXSW follow-up memo. And the performance continues...
February 23, 2010
Loyalty lessons from Lady Gaga
UPDATE [12/15/12]: My upcoming book called Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers Into Fanaticsa, based on some of the concepts outlined in this post, will be released in May 2013. Click here to get more information.
There's a lot marketers can learn from artist and musician Lady Gaga.
At age 23, Lady Gaga has rocketed to global fame in less than two years. Playing piano at age 4 and New York nightclubs at 14, she recently broke Billboard's record as the first artist to have her first five six singles reach number one. She's won two Grammys, and has sold 8 million albums and 15 million singles digitally worldwide. While her performance art-style stage shows and bizarre outfits have garnered much buzz, it's her loyalty marketing that may sustain her for years. Gaga is dedicated to her fans and clearly knows the elements of cultivating a community of evangelistic fans.
With that, here are my 5 lessons about building brand loyalty, Lady Gaga-style:
1. Give fans a name. Gaga doesn't like the word "fan" so she calls them her "Little Monsters," named after her album "The Fame Monster." She even tattooed "Little Monsters" on her arm and tweeted the pic to fans professing love for them. Now fans are getting their own Little Monster tattoos. By giving the group a formal name, it gives fans a way to refer to each other. Fans feel like they are joining a special club. (Related business examples: Maker's Mark Ambassadors and Fiskar's Fiskateers.)
2. Make it about something bigger than you. During her concert tour, Gaga recites a "Manifesto of Little Monsters" (text) (video). Although a bit cryptic, most Little Monsters see it as a dedication to them, that her fans have the power to make or break her. (Related business examples: Smoque BBQ (pdf).)
3. Develop shared symbols. The official Little Monster greeting is the outstretched "monster claw" hand. As all Little Monsters know, the clawed hand is part of the choreography in the video of her song "Bad Romance." Gaga tells the story of watching a fan in Boston greet another fan with the claw hand and that's when she knew this was the Little Monster symbol. Even Oprah knows the Little Monster greeting. Shared symbols allow fans to identify each other and connect. (Related business example: LIVESTRONG yellow wristbands.)
4. Make your customers feel like rock stars. One staple of Gaga's "Monster Ball" tour is to call a fan in the audience during the show. She dials the number onstage, the fan screams out, is located and they are put up on a big screen. While the rest of audience goes bananas, she invites the fan to have a drink with her after the show. (Related business example: eBay Live Conference where attendees walk through a gauntlet of applauding eBay staff as they enter the closing gala)
5. Leverage social media. Gaga has the requisite Facebook fan page (over 5 million fans) and Twitter ID (almost 3 million followers) but it's how she uses them that drives loyalty. On Twitter, she tells fans what she is doing, such as tweeting them before she opened the Grammy Awards. She also tweeted to fans that she was buying them pizza for waiting overnight at an album signing.
Some artists are very protective of their image and prohibit recording devices during performances. Gaga doesn't allow professional photographers into her concerts but is ok with fans recording and putting videos on YouTube.
Whether Gaga will have staying power remains to be seen. But she is making waves in the music business and teaching plenty of people the power of fandom.
Wouldn't you like to have fans like these?
UPDATE: To further illustrate Gaga loyalty, watch this fan-created created video card montage of Little Monsters from around the world for Gaga's 24th birthday. Many of the fans get emotional talking about how Gaga has inspired them to be themselves, and not care about what others think.
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 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 email@example.com.)
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.
December 15, 2009
Create a 1-page strategic plan
A strategic plan has a better chance of being successful when it's easy to understand, easy to find, and easy to share.
That's why after we create longer-form strategy documents for social media or customer evangelism planning, we convert them into 1-page infographics. The word-driven complexity of a strategic plan is easier to comprehend when it's displayed graphically. We've found the one-pager to be a convenient way to keep everyone in a group or a team on the same page -- literally and figuratively.
One-page strategic plans like this can be printed on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, tacked to a wall, put in the front pocket of a binder or sent easily via email. Each component is color-coded into a group, and every component has a parent component to guard against orphan tactics or strategies.
The plan above is for a fictitious company. Click on the graphic to see a larger version.
(For an explanation of how we define objectives, goals, strategies and tactics in a strategic plan, see my last blog post.)
December 11, 2009
Objectives, goals, strategies and tactics
It's that time: time to create strategic plans for next year.
Most people use some form of objectives, goals, strategies and tactics for their plans, but get a group of 10 people into a room and you might have 10 different definitions of what those terms mean? That's why agreeing on their meaning is vital to your plan. Term agreement is a lubricant to productivity.
With that in mind, here's how we define the intention, purpose and usage of "objectives, goals, strategies and tactics" when assembling a strategic plan.
An objective is a high-level achievement. The simpler the better, like "Improve customer loyalty" or "Grow our market share." They can also be mountain-tops of company success: "Make our brand a word of mouth success story." They could be trying to solve a nagging, systemic problem or doing something big, like entering a new market. Objectives are a rally point for leaders who manage day-to-day efforts: "Will the idea being pitched to me help us reduce our churn?" or "Will this project help us develop a new market?" For us, objectives sit at the top of the strategic plan, and an ideal plan has no more than a handful of them. Anything more can be overload -- for leaders and the people who work for them.
In our framework, a goal is anything that's measured. Goals can be revenue, profit margin, members in a community, certifications delivered, a Net Promoter Score number, etc. Goals determine how you fulfill an objective. Multiple goals can, and should, support a single objective. A goal of "Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 59" can support multiple objectives like "become a word of mouth success story" and "deliver best-in-class service." Just like in sports, a goal is based on numbers.
A strategy is a way to describe a series of tactics, or very specific actions. In sports or war, strategy is often described as an action: Increase troop levels in a region. Do man-to-man coverage. The commonality is action performed by a team or group of people. Each strategy description begins with a verb to signify that something is being done. Example verbs include: create, hire, develop, launch, etc. Each strategy is supported, typically, by a series of specific tactics that may or may not be linear in execution or time. Every item in our strategic planning framework begins with a verb.
A tactic is a very specific action, like creating a new program or improving an existing one. In our framework, a tactic might be "Launch a online listening program" or "Form a customer advisory board for the manufacturing group." Each tactic has an owner who may rely on the work of multiple people in direct or dotted-line reporting relationships to make the tactic work. Each tactic typically has its own plan, too, whether laid out in a spreadsheet or a Gantt chart. Tactics are best, too, when they are preceded with a verb. Specificity is the driver to improvement.
Later: Afterward, Beth Harte raised this point: Who should own the definition of terms like objectives, goals, strategies and tactics? If you believe language is a reflection of culture, and that culture is largely driven from the top, then I would suggest definitions come from office of the CEO and/or COO. It's from there that planning terminology, and even the planning process, should be taught clearly, succinctly and repeatedly. Beth thinks definitions could be owned by an outside association. If you have an opinion, hop into the comments.
November 18, 2009
New company, new history
When Jackie Huba and I decided eight years ago to start a company, we envisioned it as a consulting firm that would help clients create customer evangelists.
It was March 2001. We'd both just left the web development company we had worked at for three years. Online advertising was king then, but we wanted to explore why some brands experienced strong word of mouth while others didn't. We wanted to understand what fueled the evangelism, how it happened, and how could we help others do the same.
We started with a website and an email newsletter in an era that could only be described as Before Blogs. A few months later, Fast Company did a short write-up on us, which led to a call from a publisher, which led to a book contract, which led to a year's worth of work, which led to the book "Creating Customer Evangelists" and a regular schedule of speaking engagements and workshops. Instead of focusing on building a company, we focused on spreading a philosophy.
Eight years later, there's a wide range of belief systems to choose from: evangelists, influencers, agents, advocates, mavens or sneezers. Social media fuels all of them at remarkable speed; some companies have adapted well while many others do nothing -- not because they're resistant to change, but because they're unsure of what to do. We think it's a good time to help with that.
So today we're announcing that Ant's Eye View, a management consulting company led by our friends Sean O'Driscoll and Jake McKee, is acquiring us and our company that's home to all of our work. We're very excited to be part of a group that helps business get smart about being social. We'll keep blogging here, and we'll continue to speak at conferences like we have for years, but we'll do that while helping grow a management consulting firm.
Ant's Eye View isn't even a year old yet, but it's already growing like some freaky kid prodigy. Sean was the guy behind Microsoft's MVP program, a community that brings knowledgeable Microsoft product users together with others who have questions or problems to solve. Jake was the guy at LEGO who changed the way that company thought about and engaged with loyal fans and customers through community relations (the subject of a Wired cover story in 2006).
Sean and Jake joined forces early in 2009 to launch Ant's Eye View. After that, they brought in Sean McDonald; he'd led the social media efforts at Dell to rebuild the company's image after "Dell Hell" scorched it. That included the company’s first corporate blog and pioneering efforts like Ideastorm.com.
We like Ant's Eye View because its people have led complex, customer-driven projects at big brands. They understand and believe in customer participation -- the fifth P of marketing -- our core marketing philosophy. They're focused, too; in less time than it takes some companies to decide on a name and a logo, Ant's Eye View has built an impressive roster of clients like Cisco, Apple, Intuit and a bunch of others. Word is just beginning to spread.
It's fitting that our announcement happens on the first day of the 2009 WOMMA Summit in Las Vegas. Five years ago, myself, Jackie and a handful of others met with Pete Blackshaw, Dave Balter and Jonathan Carson to hear their idea for an association focused on word of mouth. We're glad they eventually founded the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, which promotes the importance of word of mouth among all industries; Jackie was even named a founding board member. A bit rocky at times in its early years, WOMMA has filled its shoes well lately, especially by partnering with smarties like John Moore.
In fact, tonight at 7:30 pm (Wednesday), Ant's Eye View is throwing a celebration party at WOMMA. We'll be at the Risque club inside the Paris hotel, and the drinks are on us.
November 12, 2009
Advertising without advertising
October 19, 2009
Fees are penalties. Always.
It's a wonder why some businesses can't grasp this. Consider the U.S. airlines last month:
- Southwest reported an 8.8% increase in revenue passenger miles. Its load factor, the percentage of seats that were filled, increased 11% from a year ago, to 74.7% — a big increase for a month in which schools reopen and summer vacation travels stop.
- JetBlue saw a 9.8% jump in passenger miles. Its load factor rose about 1% from the prior year, to 77.6%.
Compare those numbers to other airlines.
- Delta: Down 5% on its mainline operation. It also cut capacity by 5%.
- American: Down 2.6% domestically. It cut capacity by 6.9%.
- US Airways: Down 6.8% domestically. It cut capacity by 5.9%.
- United: Down 6.1% domestically. It cut capacity by 8%.
What's a key difference between Southwest and JetBlue vs. the others? No bag fee charges.
Before you say, "You can't correlate those two things, Jackie!" let it be noted that Southwest has commissioned several studies that show the traveling public hates bag fees.
Southwest seems to be doing pretty well as angry passengers migrate away from the bag-fee chargers. Southwest is even running an ad campaign with this message, called "Why do they hate your bags?"
Those nickle and dime fees add up, the airlines will say, but really, they do little more than penalize customers with complexity and disguise the end price. It's no different when a phone or cable company charges activation fees. May as well call them aggravation fees, as in "It's aggravating to have a new customer."
Little wonder passenger satisfaction with the airline industry has declined for a third consecutive year to a four-year low.
Wall Street analysts don't like Southwest's position on bag fees. They say the company is potentially losing $500 million per year in revenue. That's OK. No one likes greedy, short-sighted Wall Street analysts, either.
Kevin Krone, Southwest's VP of marketing, said it best : "If we're trying to get people to travel, we should probably let people take their suitcase."
Gotta love any company that keeps the obvious in perspective.