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…

Advertisements

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…

DMA webinar: Swing for the fences – 8/10


Go global with your marketing – I am speaking at this FREE DMA webinar on 8/10 http://t.co/nXHUEoK

Anyone out there suffer from Marketing Withdrawal?


It has been said that on a daily basis, American exposure rates to advertising and marketing messages in ranges from as low (low?) of 500 to several thousand and beyond depending on the source.  Most Americans have tuned out buzz and as a result most marketing messages are wasted.  However, in my case, as Marketer I pride myself on trying to be exposed to even more than the average bear so I can continue to build my body of knowledge and understanding of what is working and what is not.  I quickly, but carefully, look at each email, direct mail piece and banner ad presented to me.  I’m the kind of nerd that  likes sorting and taking inventory of my direct mail mail at home; this enables me to create an index or barometer of sorts in my mind about the state of marketing and more specifically consumer targeting and relevance in my small part of the world and for my “peeps” who share my demographic category – we typically receive multiple pieces for each category below in either CRM or prospecting efforts on a weekly basis:

  • financial services
  • automotive dealers and manufacturers
  • insurance companies
  • credit card offers
  • cable and satellite TV
  • real estate
  • travel
  • education and seminars
  • pool cleaners, landscapers
  • local restaurants and shops
  • home improvement mag-a-logs
  • mail order catalogs

You name it, we get it; the volume of mail ebbs and flows to a cadence I quickly would recognize.  I gleefully open and devour each one, thinking about the relevance, the creative and the offer presented.   Now that I have moved to a new house, our mailbox is very empty these days.   Since much of this mail is not sent First Class, it is not forwarded by the post office, and the mailer will have to wait until they process their file through the NCOA process to discover that I have moved.  The fact is, moving in to a new house costs money and advertisers are missing a key behavioral cue – when you move you need things and you are eager to spend on building the nest.  We also need to know who delivers take-out food here, where is the closest grocery, and where I will get my dry cleaning done.

You may have read on this blog the on-going saga related to my recent residential move and the customer service challenges we have faced with the various service providers for [Satellite TV] [DSL Internet] – the DSL situation was never resolved and I have since cancelled the service.  In trying to place an order for Cable Internet service there seems to be some complications there as well – more to come.  I thought we were becoming a service economy?  If so what happened to service? 

Anyway, as a result of no direct mail and no internet access at home (for nearly a month now) I must say that I am suffering from Marketing Withdrawal.  As a Marketer, I feed on marketing and rely on it to spark new ideas and thoughts.  Has anyone else suffered this condition?

If the World is Flat, why do you need a Sherpa?


Flat Earth Sherpa

By now, I am sure you all have read The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Friedman?  If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend you read it right away – it will change the way you think about the future that is already here.  With that said, the basic premise that I took away from the book in a single sentence is that technology has essentially “flattened” the  Earth by enabling real-time collaboration on a global basis. The concept of a small manufacturer in India, sourcing raw materials in China, perhaps on Alibaba, with funding via micro loan from the UK, and selling finished goods on eBay to an American consumer is now a reality.

This is where the irony enters.

This new flat Earth has been a tremendous enabler for small and medium-sized businesses, but has muddied the waters for much larger companies.  I spend a great deal of my time consulting with some of the world’s largest and most recognizable consumer brands, and for the most part these companies recognize and are actively trying to exploit this new flat Earth, but frankly they have no idea how to choose the best countries for expansion, how to maximize growth for those countries they are already in, and in either case, how to navigate the myriad of technology, data, cultural, legal and consumer privacy challenges.

Hence, the need for a Sherpa (hint: ME).

If your company or if you have a client that is facing these types of Global Expansion challenges in this new flat earth, please let me know – I can lead the way.

It has been a while since I have posted an article, and I certainly have no shortage of topics to write about; the fact remains that  I simply do not have enough time in the day.  And to add insult to injury, my travel schedule and client load keeps me flush with article ideas, but  no time to write about them.  I actually did some of the final editing for this post on my new iPhone 4 (more on that in future articles) while my son drank his milk and watched Little Einsteins from my lap!

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and keep your eyes open for a few rapid-fire posts over the next week or so – having not written in a while, they will be based on my travels and observations over the last couple of months.  Don’t forget to leave your comments and provide feedback.

Thank you for reading and Happy Hunting!

What’s worse? ‘Kids Today’ or Client Expectations?


 

Little Rock Arkansas

Image compliments of Little Rock Beautiful Comission

 

I know I have not posted lately, but I have been traveling a lot.  As a matter of fact, I just returned home from Little Rock, Arkansas and my trip, as well as a brief conversation with some strangers on the last night, were the catalysts I needed to write this! 

My last night in town it was raining, and as I made way back to The Peabody,  I was ducking (no pun intended) under storefront awnings and doorways to avoid getting drenched.  I was half way to the hotel and as I popped into a doorway, there were a couple of “dudes” in their early twenties standing there.   Small talk ensued, mostly with the shorter one.  They appeared to be a gang of two; the shorter one did all of the talking and the other always looked at the leader before speaking when he did.  The leader asked me what I did for a living.  At the risk of confusing them (sometimes it is not crystal clear even to me), I simply said ‘I’m a consultant”.  He followed with “What’s that?” and I told him “I give people my opinion”.   Now the quiet one pipes up and asks “You can get paid for that?!” with his eyes wide open.  Now the simple conversation turned into more of a Magic 8 Ball session – they asked me about all of the secrets of the universe, as if I were the Dhali Lamba himself.  The last question came – “How much money can you make buying stocks?” he asks.  I tried to explain it was a matter of the amount invested, the stock, and the time period – but mostly luck.  The short one said “How much can I make if I buy $1,000 in stock?” – “It depends” I say, “But it wouldn’t be hard to get 10% in return over some time period”.  He then asks “How much is that?”. 

As I dash into the rain, running from the fear that I would get dumber if I stood there any longer, I was thinking to myself what every generation before me has thought, “What is it with kids today?”.  

This brings me to wondering what’s worse – “kids today” or client expectations?  Let me explain. 

Stethoscope

Image compliments of the Fordham University Blog

 

On a regular basis, I work with many of the most sophisticated and successful companies in the world, and I am amazed at how often they come to my company with a sincere desire to improve what they’re doing, yet when we ask them direct questions about their business challenges and other details that are variables that will dramatically affect our ability to help them, not to mention our price, they refuse to answer.  They just keep asking us “When can you provide a solution and how much will it cost?”  That’s like going to a doctor and telling her you that don’t feel well, but then not answering any of her questions about your symptoms or letting her examine you.

How can we prescribe a solution if you don’t describe the symptom?

Not sure which is worse – what do you think?

With the sprouting of gray hairs…


With the sprouting of gray hairs comes the realization that life is changing. First it was the reading glasses and now the gray hairs in my beard. This got me thinking about how my life today is different from a year ago not to mention 5, 10, or 15 years ago, and how much it will continue to change in the future. Fast forward through the sentimental and philosophical and you end up with the simple notion that:

“People need stuff and that stuff changes depending on their Lifestage”.

It Doesn’t Take a Genius
Marketers have known this for years and I take no credit for pointing this out. Many have gone to great lengths to create tools and methodologies to capture new clients whose journey through life is punctuated with events that ultimately define their needs (“needs” are very subjective and a whole ‘nother story). Life events include things like getting married, buying a home, having children, getting divorced (for more than 50% of U.S. society), becoming an empty-nester, and finally becoming a senior whose only interest seems to be spoiling the grandchildren and driving with a turn signal on. Let’s just say that my neighbor and I are both buying diapers but for different reasons – talk about cradle to grave, right?

Successfully reaching these consumers and getting them to buy your product or service depends on your ability to deliver a relevant, timely and compelling message in the appropriate and desired channel, which might include direct mail, email, mobile, social, search, or display.

Lifestage + Channel
This is a topic with increasing interest as of late – just this past week I read a MediaPost article that talks specifically about marketing to new parents in the mobile space. Apparently new parents are the group most likely to be responsive to mobile marketing. Some could guess that the lifestyle of those with young children is chaotic and thus making this group more receptive to “marketing on the go” since they are no longer spending a lot of time surfing the web, sifting through their inbox, social network, or even their direct mail as diligently as they did before children. When it comes to proximity or geo-location type of mobile marketing, again, the segment of those with children under 6 was most positive about the idea, as opposed to the “gotta have the new technology young male” as many would assume.

Since mobile marketing is still relatively new and untapped, only later will we later find out if mobile marketing receptiveness is less about the lifestage (having children under 6) and more about the generation of those who presently have children under 6? Only time (and science) will tell.

Image compliments of webcomic XKCD - http://xkcd.com/


Science is Fun!
There’s that word science again. The science behind marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. As a matter of fact, there are many solutions in the marketplace today that let you benefit from the science of others. Examples of this from Acxiom include things like “Life Event Triggers” which enable one to choose a prospect list based specifically on a recent life event like graduation, marriage, or child-birth. If your product or service is specifically relevant to people experiencing these events you can simply “subscribe” to receive lists of prospects in your area that recently “triggered” an event. Combine that with some technology and you can automate direct mail programs to effectively go “door-to-door” for you.

If your product or service does not have a clear tie to a specific life event, this is when you might use a Lifestage Segmentation system to uncover commonality in your current customer base to target new customers. Acxiom has a Lifestage Segmentation solution called PersonicX – if you follow the link you can see an interactive introduction to PersonicX. This solution segments U.S. households into 30 Lifestages that are then assigned to one of 70 Clusters. The Lifestages have cool names like “GenX Parents”, “Boomer Barons” and “Active Elders”, while the Clusters are sub-categories like “Cartoons and Carpools” or “Apple Pie Families”. Each Lifestage and Cluster is defined by a specific set of demographic variables combined with geographic and behavioral factors and represent a modern take on “birds of feather flock together”. Consumers move from one Lifestage/Cluster to another over time.

Using these types of solutions can be a very beneficial and simple way to inject some “science” into your marketing. With a simple list of your current customers you can identify the Lifestage of each with PersonicX, and chances are you will see the old 80/20 rule highlighted in a previous post come to life. There will likely be a concentration of your best customers in only a handful of Lifestages & Clusters. Based on this insight, you would be ahead of the curve if you were to then obtain a list of prospects in your trade area that are in the same Lifestages and Clusters as your best customers.

I look forward to your thoughts and feedback on using Lifestages to improve your targeting and increase response…

Vampires, Werewolves, and Targeting Consumers


No, I’m not that obvious. I can hear you thinking now, “Duh – Everyone knows that Vampires and Werewolves have been pursing people (read: target consumers) for centuries!” While true, that is not where I was going. I am referring more to the phenomenonal resurgence of these monster movie legends in pop culture today. Not only is it mainstream in the form of the Twilight saga, but with TrueBlood and scores of similiar shows. This is way bigger than Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Boris Karloff, or Tom Cruise could have ever imagined!

Then this past year, Werewolves were suddenly in the mix. Seemed like a “twist” to me, but for those that follow the ways of these creatures, apparently they often coexist and crosss paths; huh, who’da thunk it? All it took was one of the current reigning Vampire franchises to take the lead and everyone followed. So now you're asking yourself "So what?" and "What does this have to do with marketing and targeting consumers?”. The fact is that all of the movie companies, book publishers, toy manufacturers, you-name-it suppliers of whatever recognized a behavior and interest trend in the marketplace and are now riding the wave made up simply of like minded consumers. Just yesterday I was flipping though my 3 ba-zillion channels (and nothing is on) and ran across that movie from 1991 called “Silver Bullet” with Corey Haim and Gary Busey (it was a much better life for those 2 back then!) – it’s about a wheelchair bound kid who confronts the town Werewolf. Even old “products” get a boost when you have identifed the right audience.

So am I saying you should try to recognize the next cattle herd moment for marketing success? No – I am suggesting that you closely examine the behaviors and characteristics of your current clients. That could mean using Google Analytics on your website to capture browsing habits and click-through patterns. Or as previously discussed, it could mean looking at your clents purchase history and habits with you in terms of RFM (Recency Frequency Monetary) or even by enhancing your customer data with demographics or proprietary lifestage and lifestyle segmentation systems.

I look forward to your comments. If you would like to discuss any of these methods and how they can improve your marketing performance please contact me directly.

Selling to Consumers with Marketing Automation


Previously I used Las Vegas as the backdrop for what I deemed to be sure signs of the coming economic recovery – call it my own “Vegas Consumer Confidence Index”. Closer to home I am witnessing yet another sign that, despite all other indicators, there is compelling evidence that Home Services companies should continue actively marketing to consumers.

The value of Route Density to SMBs who provide Home Services
On most weekday mornings (and some weekends), shortly after 7:00 AM, I am greeted by the hum and thrashing of lawn mowers as one of five (5), yes five, different landscaping crews descend on my neighborhood to cut, edge, and trim every living plant in sight. I do not live in a gated community or otherwise “affluent” neighborhood, which brings these questions to mind:

Question: As American savings rates are off the charts and middle class consumers have cut back on most discretionary spending, what makes Home Services businesses like lawn care or pool cleaning continue to be viable?

Answer: I think this can be summed up by saying that “consumers, regardless of the economy, will continue to pay for work that needs done if the work is either difficult, undesirable, or requires special tools and skilled labor”. I know I fall into this category.

Question: Why are there 5 different companies serving my small corner of the world, when “owning a neighborhood” or having “route density” is not only more profitable for these businesses, but the green thing to do as well?

Answer: Imagine the reduction in fuel costs and transportation time if a crew could work in a single area all day. Way back when I worked for a budding lawn service (I passed on “investing” and now the guy is in early retirement with 25 crews in a 2 county area, but that’s another story) we typically spent our morning in one neighborhood and our afternoons in another. We were able to mow twice as many yards if we could stay put in a single area.

These principles hold true for companies providing any type of service delivered at or in a consumer’s home, whether one-time like decorating, home improvement, or closet systems or recurring like pool cleaning, lawn care, pest control, and housekeeping.

SMBs selling to Consumers can Generate New Business with Automation
In the past, many Home Services crews have been known to put a sign in the yard, blanket the neighborhood with door hangers, or even resort to dropping a clear plastic baggie with a business card and some gravel at the end of my driveway (now that’s bootstappin’). These approaches are all attempting to accomplish the same thing – enter the Utopia of multiple clients in the same neighborhood, and in some cases do a decent job. The rub with these methods are:

1.) With Yard Signs, exposure is limited to only those that pass the house, and is not specifically targeted or personalized. And there is a limited life span – the sign will not be there very long.

2.) While door hangers can be personalized and targeted if a data source is put in the mix, most don;t put forth the effort and door hangers do require some additional effort or costs to have the hangers distributed. A third party can distribute them for a fee likely bundled in the overall cost of printing, or the business can have workers perform this task, but aren’t they better used actually serving customers?

3.) At first glance, the clear plastic baggie with a business card and stones seems like a clever solution since the crew can just drive around and drop the bags on driveways as they pass through the neighborhood, but I would argue that the cost of the bag, fuel, time, business card, and the labor to assemble these “kits” combined with the lack of personalization and targeting and the poor brand image that might result, make this an unattractive option for entrepeneurs with their sights set on growth.

Set it and Forget it
Made famous by Ron Popeil, this direct response anthem for his Showtime Rotisserie Grill has a place in consumer marketing through the use of high quality data and automated marketing solutions. Imagine if each and every single-family homeowner in a neighborhood were to receive a full color, personalized postcard with a compelling offer, within a 2 days of a Home Services crew being in the neighborhood, then several more times over the next few months, long after the crew has left – AUTOMATICALLY. As you know in marketing, with frequency, recall and ultimately response, improves. The mechanisms that support this would be the Home Services business providing the addresses of their customers on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, from which a mailing list of the neighbors would be produced and queued for automated mailing.

An extension of this concept can be deployed using what we call Trigger Data, such as New Homeowners or New Movers. These segments of the population are ripe for services as they settle in to their new digs. In the case of New Homeowners, they are credit worthy and ready to decorate, fix up, and furnish their new home. I have even seen the use the birth month of a consumer to trigger an automated offer mailing in the month prior. The possibilities are endless!

My favorite is a “have you seen this car” postcard featuring an image of the same make, model and color of a vehicle recently purchased by a neighbor. The card goes on to talk about the low prices, incentives, and the great deal my “neighbor” got at the dealership. Good stuff.

Here is a great video featuring my colleague, MySalesHero, as he helps a contractor apply these principles…

I look forward to your comments or questions.

%d bloggers like this: