PODCAST interview on “The Power of Data”


I was recently interviewed by ‏ @Kevin_Craine regarding The Power of Data In today’s data-driven business environment information equals power. Power to understand, power to personalize and power to make more intelligent business… Listen Now

Like OMG! Klout is not the sharpest tool in the shed…


So I periodically visit Klout to check my score (43 at press time by the way) and to see if they’ve actually changed (or fixed) anything – and today I learned that I am influential on the topic of “teens”.

I tweet, retweet, comment, Like, +1, Instagram and blog regularly about social media, marketing, leadership, customer relationships, and globalization – and since one of the articles I shared last week was the very popular “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did” from Forbes, these knuckleheads at Klout think I am influential on teens rather than “data mining”, “retail marketing”, or “predictive analytics”.

Obviously the inference engine is broken…

Now, I understand that the reason this happened is likely because this sharing on my part was amplified by my network through their retweets, comments, likes, etc – but that doesn’t make the results any less wrong.

So for you marketers weighing heavily on using Klout scores and influencer topics  as a key piece of data in your social marketing plans, here is another reason to think again.

The Problem with Flying… A Lack of Innovation?


Up, Up, and Away

As I get settled into 2012 and prepare for my first business trip of the new year, I find myself smiling on the outside, with knowledge that I now possess Platinum Medallion status on Delta Airlines.  This satisfaction quickly sours as I bite my lip until it bleeds and shed a tear when thinking back on 2011′s travel schedule.

Question: So what did 55 flights and nearly 90,000 miles teach me?

Answer: The real problem with air travel is the simple task of getting on and off of the airplane.  

Furthermore, I contend that the solutions to the issues causing so much passenger consternation are fully within the control of the airlines.  As a matter of fact, the airlines have largely created what appears to be the biggest contributor to the problem – baggage fees.

Baggage Fees

When I say that Baggage Fees are an issue, I don’t mean in the traditional, monetary sense, rather in the human behaviors it has created as a result.  By lowering prices slightly (and temporarily I might add), then adding on the “optional” baggage fees, the consumer has now been given an incentive to not check their bags.  This leads to slower TSA screening, crowded gate areas, and difficult boarding.  To exacerbate the issue, the aircraft crew most often does not actively manage the boarding process and participate in helping passengers load bags into the overhead properly, resulting in the space being woefully mismanaged.

So for those not fortunate enough to be in the front half of the line, they are left searching for a place to put their bag, most often behind them, which leads to swimming upstream like a salmon to retrieve one’s bag once the plane “has come to a complete stop”.  The fear of not securing adequate overhead space for what you know is a bag way too big, leads to cattle herding around the gate when the first boarding announcement is made.  While it is not exactly a mosh pit, it does take some diplomacy to squeeze through.  In some cases this is still better than the dreaded gate check, which most certainly adds to delayed deplaning for all parties.  I believe the ease at which a passenger can handle this gauntlet correlates directly to how often they fly, but could easily be improved if there were no bag fees and/or better load management by the flight crew.

The Infrequent Flyer

The Infrequent Flyer has the deck stacked against them from the get go, and it all starts with security screening.  The TSA will tell you the disparate and inconsistent procedures from airport to airport are part of the protocol to “keep terrorists on their toes”, but I’m not buying it.  Once successfully through security, the Infrequent Flyer is faced with a boarding pass that contains about 10 times more information than anyone needs.  I’d like to see the paper boarding passes more closely resemble the smartphone version: Destination, Flight Number, Time, Gate, Seat #, and a Bar Code.  The other 300 characters of text do nothing but confuse the Infrequent Traveler.  As pointed out above, the cattle herding at the gate will not cease  until the baggage issue is solved, so I am not expanding on that any further.  Once aboard the plane, the flight crew should take some pride in ownership of the boarding process and make sure that every bag that comes on board is stowed properly – that might mean moving up and down the aisle and physically turning suitcases around in the overheads and even removing smaller items for passengers to put under the seat in front of them.  Do you just let your kids throw the suitcases in the trunk before a road trip?  Of course not – you know they will not all fit unless you assist in loading.

Lack of Design Innovation

At the end of the day, the Baggage Fee issue will likely resolve itself when the airline realizes that the entire baggage hold on the plane is mow empty and they can install seats and market them as “steerage” or “super economy class” – now that’s innovation – better bring your mittens.  Kidding aside, we all know that innovation in the airline industry does not have a great track record.  Sure, some amenities have improved like  individual media/entertainment centers, lay down beds, satellite TV and in-flight Wi-Fi, but who are we kidding.  If you showed even the newest model Airbus or Boeing to Howard Hughes or Charles Lindbergh, they would likely shrug their shoulders and say “it’s an airplane, so what?”.

I don’t know if I read it somewhere in the past or what (I would hate to take credit), but someone needs to ask Disney or NASA how they would design an aircraft that could load passengers and carry-on bags more efficiently.  The problem is that it is almost too late now – all airports are being designed to accommodate what has become  a “standard” aircraft configuration - “single tiny door (maybe 2) connected to the airport terminal via retractable jet bridge, loaded in a single file fashion”.  Makes me cringe reading back what I just wrote.  Imagine if we loaded trains that way.  What if airplanes opened up with gull wings, and passengers could be loaded in multiple queues – even if not an opening for each seat, what if there was a door every 10 rows?  Think about how quickly you can get off and on a roller coaster!

What if all passenger loading and securing of carry-ons happened inside of the terminal in a “pod” that was then lifted and placed inside of the awaiting airplane through doors like those on the Space Shuttle cargo bay or sliding it into the plane through an open nose cone?

Certainly we can design a plane with enough structural rigidity to pull this off and maintain cabin pressure and comfort?  Treat me like cargo please.

Come on man.

Tell me what you think – is innovation in commercial aircraft design the answer?

Upcoming Blog Topics – Brazil, Negotiation, and Air Travel


As we start a new year, I resolve to write more frequently – but make no promises!  I am literally brimming with ideas but no time to turn them into written words.   Over the Christmas break I was able to reflect a bit on some things experienced during my travels in the first part of December – keep an eye out for upcoming articles on the following topics:

  • Brazil Observations
    • Christmas in Sao Paulo
    • Sushi, Pizza, and Hot Wings
    • Orange Juice Prices
    • Expansion of consumer credit
  • Negotiating in a foreign country
    • Pick your battles
    • Recognize when you have no leverage
    • Be willing to barter
    • In most cases, A deal is better than NO deal
  •  The REAL problems with air travel - BOARDING
    • Carry-Ons vs Baggage Fees
    • Infrequent Flyers
    • Lack of Design Innovation

Thanks for you support – and keep on reading!

Be sure to Like, +1, Tweet, or Share my blog with others who care about the same things you do…

marketing+technology blog – 2011 Annual Report


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Case for Customer Lifetime Value…


Just when things were going great…

Not long ago, I praised a certain  Big Satellite Company  for the outstanding customer experience I had when moving across town (despite some other shortcomings – full article here).  This past month, with a single billing related event, Big Satellite Company almost destroyed our relationship forever.  Let me tell you a story.

Thirteen years ago

As cable TV was riding high and the internet was still a baby, I placed a bet on who I wanted to deliver television content to my home.  Primarily due to the exclusive availability of a certain sports programming package, my bet was placed on (what is now) Big Satellite Company.  For over a decade, through four moves in two states, my chosen television delivery partner provided a fantastic experience in all facets of our relationship, to include my most recent move (full article here).

This year, as a result of some uncertainty with the professional sports league featured in the programming package, Big Satellite Company made a wise move (in my opinion) by not automatically renewing customer subscriptions for this package until the leagues disputes were settled.  However, once resolved, subscribers like myself were forced to contact Big Satellite Company and re-subscribe to the package.  This was not the end of the world assuming I was able to simply renew the subscription, at the previously established renewal rate.

Herein lies the rub

As I prepared to renew the programming package, the pricing I was offered via the website was approximately $85.00 more than what I had paid for previous seasons.  I contacted the customer service center via telephone and was offered a statement credit of $5.00 per month for the next 12 months.  That still left us $25.00 apart from what I felt was fair.  As I was on the telephone, I looked into my account billing history, and proceeded to inform the service agent that as a 13-year subscriber, my customer lifetime value to date exceeded $23,000 and I asked her if she was prepared to let me walk over $25.00?  She responded with a counter offer of additional free services and content, and ultimately got us to where we were only $5.00 apart.  I asked again, are you ready to let me walk over $5.00?  She was.  At this point, I decided to perform an experiment by NOT asking for a supervisor and simply saying “no thank you”.

Everyone who heard this story said “you should have asked for a supervisor, you would have gotten what you wanted” – to this I say, the companies to which we send our hard-earned money in exchange for services, need to have more respect for their customers. The protocol for solving a customer problem should never end with the customer leaving.  I argue that the customer service agent should have proactively escalated me to a supervisor with more authority as opposed to letting me walk.  Most consumer technology services companies (i.e. phone, TV, internet) seem to be in a customer acquisition arms race, as opposed to focusing on serving the customers they already have.

So how does the story end?

Last week, approximately 3 weeks after the incident described above, I was contacted by a “manager” from Big Satellite Company who proceeded to offer me the desired programming package renewal, discounted beyond what I paid in the previous years, plus the additional services and content from the previous negotiation.  Apparently he is one guy who knows it is cheaper to keep a customer than acquire a new one – it’s a shame it took 3 weeks to escalate through the CRM system.  This could have easily been avoided if Big Satellite Company had a robust customer segmentation system and armed the customer service agents with a well thought out “next best offer” strategy for retention of key accounts – maybe even immediately pushing my call to a more senior or experienced agent given my tenure and status.

Have you had a similar experience?  Or is your company losing customers faster than you can acquire them?

Tell me about it.

Did you know that I have now posted more than 30 articles on this blog?  If you read and enjoy the content, please don’t be afraid to Comment, Share, Like, Tweet, +1, or whatever you do.  I would greatly appreciate the feedback.

Will the REAL Trent Dilfer please stand up?


For many years, a common nickname for me during football season has been “Dilfer”.  This began when Trent Dilfer burst onto the NFL scene in the early nineties with the Tampa Bay Bucs, and continues today as he is seemingly on ESPN 24×7 talking football.  True Story – in my mid-twenties, I made my way through a night club red rope or 2 in the Tampa area as a result of this resemblance.  “Welcome Mr. Dilfer, right this way…” 

Not all look-a-likes are created equal

When it comes to acquiring new customers, I often advise my clients to build RFM analytic models that examine their existing clients across many dimensions, resulting in a segmentation that quickly identifies their “best” customers.  From this point, the statistical factors that define the top performing customers can be applied to databases of consumers (or businesses), looking for prospects that most resemble the best customers.

While this provides great results and should be part of any serious marketer’s arsenal of approaches, the ongoing explosion of data worldwide is changing the game a bit.

MJD vs. Dilfer - Tale of the Tape

It’s the differences, dummy

Data points related to sentiment and intent are harder to identify, but are proving that the differences in our customers are sometimes more important than the similarities.

Do you agree?  Let’s discuss at #DMA2011 in Boston next week – DMA 2011

What’s in your Marketing Kitchen?


Bakers, Chefs, or Cooks?  

I think we can all agree that each of these descriptions invoke a different image, expectation of skills,  and a perception of the experience they will deliver.  My wife is clearly a Baker, based on her use of recipes, measuring spoons, and timers, sprinkled with creativity [and powdered sugar].  Chefs are the people we see on TV, with all of their fancy schoolin’ and gastronomic techniques, but ironically, as they gain notoriety, most seem to spend less time in actual kitchens.  Generally speaking, Chefs and Bakers might both be considered the same, but working in different mediums.  Now, as a self-described Cook, I admit I may review several recipes (or pictures), see something on TV, or scan the pantry shelves and refrigerator taking a silent inventory.  But when the moment strikes, I just start start cooking, making adjustments along the way.

A dash of this, a pinch of that – VOILA – dinner is served!

The Marketing Kitchen

When it comes to working on the line in a Marketing Kitchen, the Bakers, Chefs, and Cooks are often at odds when it comes to deciding how to create an award-winning dish.  The Bakers want to plan for every scenario, test and re-test, and generally have 100% certainty of success before actually beginning.  The Chefs are a little more pragmatic, but tend to focus on the technical tasks of the project, resulting in an over-engineered solution.  The Chef often uses too many ingredients, too many techniques, and is over-ambitious as it relates to time lines [ever seen someone on TV try to make Risotto in 10 mins?].

While Cooks may not possess the exacting standards of a Baker, or the training and techniques of a Chef, we are often the x-factor in the Kitchen’s success.  The Cook’s ability to combine disparate ingredients, improvise kitchen tools and techniques, keep an eye on the clock, and take calculated risks, more often leads to a successful dish (and a happy diner).

This leads me to the conclusion that in today’s ever-evolving Marketing + Technology marketplace, we need more Cooks than Chefs or Bakers – except when it’s time for dessert.

Sweet.

Yeah Dad, But They’re From Akron…


In my adolescent years, a fan favorite amongst my friends was the series of “Vacation” movies with Chevy Chase for all of the subtle , sophomoric one-liners, laced with double-entendre. Being from the Akron area made the European Vacation movie especially fun – if you can write to me and tell me about the scene I quote in the title above, I have a special prize (HINT: the prize is an invite that starts with a “G” and ends in “+”).

What does Where we are from, say about Who we are?

For centuries, the difference between friend and foe was often as simple as geographic boundaries. There was no thought given to the trials and tribulations, aspirations and dreams, or the wants and desires of “the others” only the belief that they must be conquered. Sad to say, many of today’s leading consumer brands still feel this way. These brands have been extremely succesful at conquering the U.S. and maybe a few other “mature” markets, but when it comes to global expansion, they are learning that a one-size fits all approach will not work.

Will “What plays in Peoria“, play in Singapore?

The motivations and aspirations of the consumer sector vary greatly from region to region, and again from country to country, and yet again when comparing urban and rural consumers within a single country. We all know this is true and inherently understand it by being a part of it – in the U.S. that means red states, blue states, and even “green” states, but diving deeper exposes distinct groups even within the states, counties, cities, and even neighborhoods. So how do you know how various population groups will respond to your call-to-action? It seems obvious to most of us the differences between New Jersey, Manhattan, and Long Island – but given the close geographic proximity to each other this could be difficult for a non-American (or non-East Coaster) to understand that the three groups of consumers in these areas couldn’t be more different. The same could be said for a wider geography – say we compared the attitudes and aspirations of consumers in the major metropolitan areas of New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston – talk about three different worlds; and this doesn’t account for the Bible Belt, the Rust Belt, or much less anyone not in the hustle bustle of the northeast. A product launch in NYC will (and should) look very different than one in Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, or L.A. And what about the population segments in the suburbs of those cities – surely you can see how complex and challenging it is to identify the right consumer audience in a country where you’ve never lived.

Don’t forget – I have Google+ invites for those that tell me about the scene I quote in the title above…

Living in a Windowless Home (almost)…


No, this is not my house.

Have you ever imagined living in a Windowless home? I have always had windows in my house, in my office and even my pocket. By now you may have guessed that I am not referring to the framed glass that allows light into our lives. I am referring to the much-maligned operating system marketed by Microsoft since the 1980s.

Professionally, I have worked with versions ranging from 3.0 to Vista, on PCs, Servers, and Mobile devices in every imaginable use case. I have owned a Windows PC, well, since there have been Windows PCs. I used to joke with my wife that there were only 2 remnants of my single life – that damn dog and the Dell desktop PC that had run faithfully, almost uninterrupted, for nearly 10 years.

Sure, I upgraded the disk drive, added RAM, and had to regularly herd the dust bunnies from its deepest regions – but that’s like changing oil and brake pads on your car. This past week, that dusty, loud, vibrating PC has been put out to pasture. Before the tree-huggers out there lynch me for not properly recycling, I have to tell you that I took the time to reformat the machine, and reload with Windows XP (with service packs) and Office Pro 2003, before donating the machine to a coworker for his kids to hammer on it.

How did this come to be? I guess it all started with a 1st Generation iPod Nano, although I never really got on the iPod train since I was a heavy user of Windows Mobile and had my “thousand songs in your pocket” that way. I only used the Nano at the gym and when cutting the grass or anywhere else I didn’t want to risk losing or breaking my phone. When I last changed jobs, Blackberry was the corporate standard so I made the switch, and my wife got an iPhone 3G in the transaction (it involved a carrier change to AT&T from Verizon, but thats another story). My wife was very happy with her device, but still felt no urge to go “all in”. That is, until the iPhone 4. Once my company deemed the iPhone 4 secure enough, my wife and I went out and made the trade up. This opened up the flood gates, and now our home boasts a total of two iPhone 4s, an iPad2, and lastly, our new MacBook Pro. We are now living in a Windowless Home – almost – I still have a laptop from work running windows.

Now that I am at this point, I feel the duty to warn others that despite what the media says, life without Windows is not all its cracked up to be. Maybe its 25 years of Windows, but the OS X user interface is not very intuitive, and I am still struggling without an easy way to right click on the MacBook touch pad. Be prepared for file format issues, driver issues if you choose to retain your Windows peripherals, and just wait until you try to keep a terabyte of music and pictures on 2 iPhones/Apple IDs, an iPad, and a MacBook synchronized. I assume iCloud fixes this?

I will say that I seem to spend less time on the MacBook (vs the Windows PC), but I reckon that is because of my iPhone and iPad. Warming up a baby bottle? Pay the American Express bill with 3 clicks on an app. Notice a cool landscape scene that doesn’t look so cool in the picture you just snapped? Just add the “1977″ filter with the instagram app – instant high quality and artistic photography. I think of it as the same dominance Microsoft garnered when there was an army of developers creating “apps” back when they were called applications. Overall, “computing” seems to be fading from my everyday life, blending in almost unnoticed. But, I will say that the den is now a guest room with the arrival of my daughter this past month, meaning I no longer have to “go get on the computer”, and besides, with a 3 week old, who has the time anyway?

If this is Steve Jobs vision, kudos. Although, as a former tech guy, I almost miss tinkering around. Jailbreak anyone?

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