Posts Tagged communication

The schizophrenic marketer

Crazy HomerSchizophrenia – noun – a severe mental disorder characterized by some, but not necessarily all, of the following features: emotional blunting, intellectual deterioration, social isolation, disorganized speech and behavior, delusions, and hallucinations (dictionary.com) 

Sound like anyone you know? How about us marketers? Well maybe not you, specifically, but I’d argue that many of our peers seem to be showing signs of schizophrenia. See if any of these sound familiar…

Exhibit 1: Company X wants to promote a new mission or vision or product. So they hit up Twitter with some spiffy new hashtag. At first glance Company X is ready to proclaim the short endeavor a success but then realize the only ones using the hashtag are employees. Moreover, it is the same few constantly talking among themselves, or more to the point, to themselves.

Exhibit 2: So Company X decides to give LinkedIn a try. They’re a B2B firm and they know from market research that their target segment is actively involved on LinkedIn. So what do they do? Duh, start a group. Start yet ANOTHER LinkedIn group. But this one will (of course) stand out because it has THEIR brand on it. Who *wouldn’t* want to be part of a conversation sponsored by their brand. Knock knock, it’s reality. Please come on back.

Exhibit 3: My favorite still is the Facebook promotion. Company X starts promoting a Facebook page. “Like” them and earn a chance at a winning some prize, or get a 5% discount on your next order. I’m probably in the minority, but my loyalty or endorsement has to be worth more than that. And even if it’s not worth more, human nature is to assume that it is. Now as for the “like” sluts out there (you know who you are), does Company X really even want those endorsements? The “like” button has become a hyper-inflationary currency. Marketers can’t print it fast enough, and the more they print the less valuable it becomes.

So my dear marketers – I beseech you to do the following…

1) Stop talking to yourselves out loud. Frankly, it’s weird and uncomfortable.

2) Stop assuming that the conversations you start are necessarily going to be the most relevant.

3) Don’t act so desperate. It’s not becoming and certainly isn’t going to drive customer loyalty.

Instead – be sincere. Go to where the conversations are already taking place. And for goodness sake, you don’t have to do all the talking. Listening from time to time may also be helpful.

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Fundamentally Flawed

A couple weeks ago, going through my DVR lineup, it occurred to me just how much we like our heroes and heroines flawed. The characters that we rally behind are in one way or another fundamentally flawed. From Chuck to Big Bang to Grey’s Anatomy to just about any form of reality TV – the people we love have serious issues. The question is simply whether we know it up front or are waiting intently for the other shoe to drop.

This of course isn’t surprising, we all like rooting for the underdog. No one finds constant perfection entertaining. So if we want the characters of our lives flawed, what about our brands?

I would argue that there should be no difference. Obviously I don’t want to be cruising around in a mechanically flawed automobile that puts my family and other drivers at risk – but I’d also say there’s nothing wrong with an auto brand openly tackling a challenge, problem or cause that we can all get behind. Case in point, the new Chevy Volt. I am not a GM fan and I will not be an early adopter of the EV but I do admire the way GM has more or less put all its eggs in one basket on this one. If the Volt isn’t a success, there’s no way of knowing just how far GM will fall.

Chevy VoltAnd I think this new ‘pioneering’ image of GM will play out in its favor. In the case of GM, it has to. So I am, as I’m sure you are, rooting for them.

There’s also the flipside to consider – when flaws and faults are discovered, why do so many brands try to hide from them, as though ignoring the problem will make it go away. Sticking to the auto and oil theme, both BP and Toyota (anyone else find Toyota’s slogan of “Moving Forward” ironic?) have been criticized for their relatively unapologetic PR strategy – which we’d agree has not worked out well for them. People are still anxiously awaiting a heartfelt apology and/or admission of fault.

So go ahead – embrace your sub-par-ness.  People will love you for it. There’s just no other logical explanation for the longevity of gratingly annoying characters like Urkel.

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The expectations of giving

GivingLately I’ve been feeling cynical. Several people I know have jumped on the bandwagon blogging, tweeting, attending digital events, etc all in the name of personal/professional growth. I think to myself, are these guys really interested in growing and putting ideas out there? Or are they just trying to get a piece of the action to promote themselves.

Then I wonder, is there a difference? At the end of the day aren’t we all here to promote ourselves? A business or consultant isn’t blogging in the interests of free information and the greater good. Would these people still give without the get?

I know that without you, the few and faithful readers, I’d have stopped writing a long time ago. If no one read my blog, I’d just be writing to a void. And yet, that’s what I see happening. People writing into a void, and while they hope people will talk to them – they don’t act like it. They don’t give expectantly.

Now let me say there’s a fine line to this argument. I don’t look at social media as some divine strategy to promote myself or business because it’s not. But the days of one way communication are over so there must be a corresponding change in mindset.

Put another way, the significance of social media is not in who follows you. It’s not how many people like your product or service. It’s the connection that’s made… And the number of followers or likes, which increases the probability of making a real connection, is not the metric that should matter to you.

It comes down to a very subtle change in expectations. If you expect to be hailed as a thought leader, if you expect a sale, if you expect a raise, if you expect world supremacy – you will fail. BUT if you give with the expectation that you will make a difference in someone’s day, with the expectation that you will connect with someone you wouldn’t have otherwise connected with – THAT’S SOMETHING!

If you’re putting something out there – it’s OK to expect something back. Just know what it is you’re expecting.

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Your customer service sucks

According to Ben Affleck in the 90’s classic, Mallrats, “the customer is always an asshole”. I think we’d all agree this is probably not the best outlook on customers, but its funny to see how many businesses act like they believe it even though its not explicitly posted on the front door.

My wife and I recently dined at a moderately upscale Tapas restaurant. If you haven’t had tapas, the idea is that you order several smaller dishes (2 to 3 /person) so that everyone gets to try a little of everything. Since I spent several years living in Hong Kong, I equate it to Spanish Dim Sum.  I’m not a yelper or reviewer so I’ll refrain from publishing this resaturant’s name, but I will say the overall experience left a lot to be desired. I was particularly disappointed not because the service was especially slow (which it was) or that the wait staff were not personable (which they weren’t) but because they broke every other expectation I have as a diner.

1) Don’t charge for things customers are accustomed to getting for free. This restaurant took it upon themselves to charge $5 for bread with a small assortment of spreads. To make matters worse, if you wanted more bread it was $1 for another small loaf. I’m all for profit maximizing firms, but if I’m used to getting something at no charge, I probably value that item less than its actually worth.  The appropriate customer centered offering would have been complimentary bread, and $5 for the spreads. Chances are I would have paid for the spreads to get the most out of my dining experience, and it would have gotten the meal off to a much more positive start. 

2. Be the product expert. If I ask a question as basic as “which of these items would you recommend”, the appropriate response is NOT “I don’t know, I haven’t tried those”. Our server’s excuse was that the restaurant regularly updated the menu. Frequently changing/updating your product offering does not excuse a lack of product knowledge.  If you’re in a customer facing role, you are the perceived sales person, as such I expect you to be a product expert (or at least somewhat knowledgable).

3) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. A twenty minute wait can feel much longer than that, especially in a restaurant where you can see other people eat while you wait.  That said I’ll never knock a restaurant for slow service. Variation happens. What I will knock is the inaction that occurs when customers wait uninformed. A good example of handling this the right way is Tesla motors. Their $100,000 electric car has a very long waitlist. To keep customers engaged during the waiting process, Tesla has exclusive online communities for “owners” with exclusive access to videos, webisodes and other content. This creates heightened anticipation which justifies the wait. In my experience customers are generally forgiving. If I’m waiting, just recognize that I’m waiting.

…And for crying out loud, give me some complimentary bread.

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