Welcome to the new age of marketing

Has anyone noticed that the world is changing right before our eyes?  If you took someone from the 1970’s to 2010 they would probably think they were on a different planet because the things that we have at our disposal today were only seen in science fiction movies back then.  In the 1970’s we didn’t watch cable T.V. (even though it did exist very few had it and it was very limited) we used an antennae on the roof and we had 9 channels, and cartoons came on for an hour in the morning, the afternoon and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, not 24 hours a day, and if you wanted to change the channel it required getting your ass off the couch and walking across the room and changing the channel.  And hanging out with your friends meant playing baseball in the street, hide n go seek, climbing a tree or someone other outside activity.  If you were really lucky you parents bought you a transistor radio that had a single earplug so you could have a mobile radio.  Office’s used filing cabinets, type writers and White Out.  Advertising consisted of Television, Radio, print and billboards, and it worked.

Today we have cable television with 800 channels, cartoons are on 24/7 on multiple channels, we have remotes for just about everything, you can even get one for your refrigerator now.  Hanging out with your friends means piling 10 teenagers into a room to play Xbox, and most of them are busy “texting” with someone that isn’t in that room, and they do play baseball still it’s called “MLB 2010 The Show” and its available on Xbox and Playstation, and of course we all have an IPOD which holds thousands of songs and videos and we can listen and watch anywhere anytime and is available in High Def.  Offices utilize a server, spell check and a flat screen monitor. Advertising still consists of T.V., radio, print and billboards, but they also use the Internet and you can watch T.V. on the Internet, on your Iphone and Blackberry, and billboards are now an interactive digital medium that rotates through several advertisers every few minutes.  So yes the world has changed, but there is more to it than just the obvious technological advantages, new technology has changed not just how consumers view advertising but how they use the information that is so readily available to them.

In 1985 if you were in the market to buy a new car, you would go down to the dealer and when you got there a salesman would help you look at the various cars you might be considering, take you out for a test drive, much like today, but he would do more than that, he would also give you information about the car, how many miles per gallon it got, how good the engine was, how well it performed, etc, etc.  The only information that got you to that dealer was the advertising that you saw on T.V., heard on the Radio, maybe you saw a billboard or an ad in the local newspaper.

Today technology is not just used by the advertiser to get their message out to the public; it is also used by the consumer.  Today if you were in the market to purchase a car, you would still see those same advertisements on television, heard them on the radio, and maybe saw a billboard, whether it be traditional or digital, but there is something else you would also do.  You would go on line and research the car that you were looking for, you would go to a site like Edmunds.com  that is a site that’s function is to provide the consumer with stats and info about various vehicles, this type of site is known as a Decision Support System (DSS) and allows you the consumer to research the car that you are considering buying, learn about its performance and how it fares against other models of the same class by other car manufacturers and it allows you to see what current drivers of the car you are considering purchasing are saying. When you walk into the dealership you are informed you don’t need the salesman to tell you about the car, because you already know as much as he or she does, if not more.  You just need them to let you test drive the car, and to discuss financing, assuming you didn’t already go online and get prequalified for an auto loan.

Technology has changed not only how businesses advertise and do business but it has changed consumers as well and has given them a wealth of information that previously wasn’t available to them before.  Marketing used to use a push strategy meaning you pushed information out to the potential consumer, information that they may not have known about, you went out and pushed your product or service to them, where conversely today we are in a pull marketing environment meaning the consumer pulls your information to themselves, they research than seek you out armed with information. So as a business it is vitally important that you not only utilize technology to market your brand but that you also use technology to create a positive image of your company and that you use tools like relationship marketing to create relationships, not quotas so that the consumer is pulling you towards them instead of pushing you out of the way to do business with your competitor.

The one about the Email Marketing campaign that failed

Imagine that you were out jogging one morning before work and you twisted your ankle, you managed to hobble home, and after sitting on the couch icing your ankle you knew that you were going to have to go to the doctor because your ankle was now the size of a tennis ball and you could not walk on it without feeling intense pain.  So you call in to the office and let them know what’s going on, and you get your significant other to drive you to the doctor’s office.

The doctor x-rays your ankle and tells you that you sprained your ankle and also have a hair line fracture, he says that the pain and the swelling will subside in about a week to week and a half, but the fracture will take around four weeks to heal and that you need to stay off of it during this time, even if there is no pain because you could cause more serious damage to your ankle which could result in having to have surgery and it could cause you life time issues with your ankle.  So he gives you a pair of crutches an ace bandage and sends you on your way.

So a week goes by, and just like the doctor predicted the pain in your ankle has gone away, it feels totally normal, you feel as if you could jog again.  So you suit up, put your running shoes on, your IPod is strapped to your arm, you are anticipating a run, the sun beating on you, a light wind in your face, ah yeah, but then  your significant other comes into the room and asks you if you are out of your mind, did you not hear what the doctor had said, that you need to stay off of your ankle for at least 4 weeks because you have a hairline fracture and putting any pressure on it whatsoever is very risky and could have serious implications.  You wave her off; whatever, what does the doctor know?  So he spent eight years in school,  and another two years as an intern, pfff,  he doesn’t know my body like you do right? Screw him and everyone else, you know what you are doing, and what you need is a run and that is exactly what you are going to do.

So you head out the door when you get to the end of the driveway you put your earphones in and push play and with the sound of Three Doors Down vibrating through your head you start your jog.  Ah yes, this is exactly what you needed, the sun is shining, it is a beautiful day, you feel the energy start to pulsate through your body with each step and as you find your pace BAM, CRUNCH! Your ankle gives out and you are laying on the ground in the most excruciating pain you have ever known, a neighbor that was gardening comes running over to you, an ambulance is called and you are rushed to the emergency room.

The doctor is shaking his head at you in wonder, as he tells you that the fracture in your ankle split up the bone and you are going to need surgery.  He looks at you like and asked you what you were thinking, after he explicitly told you that this is what was going to happen.

This is how we feel in the email marketing industry everyday when clients insist that they are going to put in “MAKE MONEY $$$ FAST, ASK US HOW!!!”  in their subject, or insist that they want their entire email ad to be a jpeg pic, or when they have a page and a half of text in their ad and we tell them that it is too much information, nobody is going to read all of that and that it needs to be short and sweet and to the point, and that just enough information to get them to click through to their website is what is needed.  We explain that a lot of graphics and colors are not necessary, that email advertising works different than the print advertising that they have been doing for years, those rules don’t apply here.

I often wonder why someone comes to us, hire us because we are experts in this field and then do the opposite of what we tell them to do. We have years of experience in the industry and we know what works and what doesn’t work,  and you pay us good money to create an email campaign for you, wouldn’t it make sense to take the advice of those that know what they are doing?  Isn’t that why you came to us in the first place?  I wish I that I could say that this was a rare experience but it’s not, it happens all of the time, and more often than not it happens with smaller businesses that have less experience, which is all the more reason to follow the advice of the professionals.   We are always telling people, it doesn’t matter what you think looks good,  what you think is irrelevant, the only opinion that matters is the receiver of the email, those that you are trying to drive to your site.

The point of this article is if you are going to hire a professional marketing company with years of experience it makes sense to follow their advice and listen to what they are telling you and let them help you create a results driven campaign.

FaceBook I’m just not that into you

With all the information we have been hearing about and I have been writing about Social Media lately I thought you might like to hear someone else’s perspective Karen Post of Oddpodz was kind enough to share an article she recently wrote about Facebook. Karen is an international speaker, consultant and business authority. Her expertise focuses on branding, entrepreneurial, social media and women’s business issues.

(An honest break up after almost 4 years)

Dear Facebook,

I know we’ve known each other since 2006. Believe me, this is not an easy conversation to have. We’ve both been through a lot. I raised $750,000, you raised over $400,000,000, I have a small team of mostly volunteers, you have over 1200 employees worldwide. We both have made  our share of brilliant and stupid decisions. The spotlight and our 15 plus minutes of fame have been good. You’ve gotten a few more national, network shows than I have. That’s OK, I’ll be catching up soon.

I have to admit, I started my relationship with you because of intense peer pressure and the media hype. Everyone was doing you. And yes, I wanted to feel that connection too.

In the beginning you were a fairly low maintenance hook up. It was casual fun, a few applications and goofy ways to gift and entertain others. Then you got kind of way too social and now have hundreds of millions of others that you connect with too.  Some are respectable citizens, some are monkeys on the run from the St Pete police and some are pure creepy pedophiles. Maybe it’s my conservative values, but it’s feeling sleazy to me.

OK that lack of real intimacy was attractive at first. You never asked for more than my headshot and my hip cellulite was never exposed. And I enjoyed our time together.

But recently things have changed. You look different. Our goals are miles apart. I need to focus on things that move my business dial. You are all over the place. I’m a design snob and your environment is so yellow pages looking. And all those time sucking, useless apps are really starting to get on my last nerve.

I need a break. At least six months of no checking in, no dialogue, no meeting new friends or small talk with old ones. No wall talk, no pics posting and absolutely no video, unless 60 Minutes calls.

I’m leading a start up, with a clear business mission. I’ve got limited resources and need to get solid ROI on every investment of time. I’ve got to stay laser focused on growing a sustainable venture, not share beer shots with a bunch of people I hardly know.

Don’t take this wrong. You are great, for millions others out there. This is all about me. They are my issues.

So who am I seeing? Well it’s complicated. There are few. Linkedin seems to really meet my needs. And Twittergives me instant gratification. And there’s a few blogs too, that I really value. I’m not committed to any one thing. You know that’s not my style. But this thing with you has got to take a serious break. It’s going nowhere. Call me selfish, but you do not bring me any traffic for time involved. It’s just freaking frustrating. In the past I’ve been on the down low about all of this, but I feel it’s my responsibility to tell my other friends, especially other startups and entrepreneurs. No one  or business person should ever feel guilt about not being immersed or active in Facebook. When you are running a business, you must spend your time on things that matter and make a difference.

I’ve thought long and hard about this. I believe this is the best for me and my future.

And one more important thing. I’ve respected your privacy. I’ve not shared your personal data or where you buy your underwear. I trust you will do the same.

It’s been fun, but I’ve had enough. I’m officially taking a Facebook break for at least 6 full months. If you need me, you’ve got my Twitter handle and my phone number. Do you still use a phone?

Anyhow, ciao for now!

Karen Post

President of Oddpodz

P.S., I’m serious as a heart attack. Social media is a wonderful thing, but every tool is not right for every business. (For a simple, straight forward  starter guide to social media, check out this Social media Ta-Do list.) If your time is limited, like mine, leverage what brings you leads and helps build your brand. Save Facebook for when you’ve made lots of money and you just want to kill some time.

Is The Customer Always Right?

A couple of days ago I wrote an article discussing customer service and the lack thereof in many companies todayCustomer Service, Where has it gone?) and based on many comments and emails that I received from this article I think that it is safe to say that many of you agree that customer service is extremely important for every company and is something that should be a top priority for us all.  So while we all agree on the importance of customer service does this mean that we should cave in to an unreasonable customer all in the name of customer relations?

For years many companies have adopted the saying “The customer is always right” and I have always questioned if this is really an appropriate attitude to take.  As you know I am a firm believer in good customer service, but does that mean that every customer is always right regardless of the issue at hand? According to author Alexander Kjerulf  “the customer is always right” mentality was originally created by Harry Gordon Selfridge the founder of Selfridge department store in London in 1909 with the purpose of convincing customers that they will get good service and to convince employees to give good service, but according to an article that Kjerulf wrote (positivesharing.com) this actually may lead to bad customer service.

As I keep saying I believe in good customer service but I have never believed that the customer is always right philosophy, because what if they are not right? Let’s face it any of us that deal with customers on a regular basis know that there are all kinds of customers, just as there are all kinds of people; there are those that are easy going and even when something goes wrong they are more than willing to give you the opportunity to correct the mistake that has been made, then there are those that start off the conversation in a combatant tone and you know right away that this is not going to be an easy customer to please.

Every company makes mistakes at one time or another and if you are a high volume business you are going to be dealing with these issues probably on a daily basis, because regardless of how good of a company you are and how good of a product or service you are providing, mistakes will be made, and that’s okay as long as it’s not too high of a percentage and so long as you do whatever it takes to correct these mistakes and make your customer happy.  But there are those that are never happy, I remember my father telling me “You can make some of the people happy all of the time, and you can make all of the people happy some of the time, but you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time” and this is true.

When hiring people to serve as customer service agents, it is important to hire people that are not too thin skinned because they are going to occasionally have to deal with people that are rude, and sometimes even abusive to the person on the other end of the line that is representing the company that they just happen to be pissed off at. The question that a company needs to ask is how much abuse is too much, and they also need to realize that while it is true they are nothing without the customer, the same could be said for their customer service reps as well and don’t we have a responsibility towards the employees that work for us?  I believe that we absolutely do, and I for one have never believed that the customer is always right,  at my company you will not hear those words, what you will hear is “The customer is not always right, but the customer is always the customer” and what that means is we strive to provide the best service that we can to our customers and if we screw up, we will attempt to fix the problem to the best of our ability, but at the same time we aren’t going to give refunds and free stuff away just because someone calls and complains.  Many companies have a policy of terminating the call if the customer becomes irate and uses foul language and I think that is ok, because no one should have to put up with being harassed like this, including an employee.

It is important to create excellence in customer service, but it is equally important to not allow a customer to take advantage of you.  The customer is not always right and it’s okay to gently and diplomatically let them know that they are not right.

Working with family and friends; a recipe for disaster

A few years back my brother and his then girlfriend (now his wife) came up with an idea to start an online clothing company, he approached both myself and our father, and the idea seemed pretty solid and this was at a time that the Internet was just starting to roll and so the concept of being an online clothing retailer was exciting.  We approached someone with our idea and convinced him to invest in our idea and off we went and started the creation of our website which was to look like an actual fashion magazine, we hired models and held a photo shoot, and once our state of the art website was completed, we went to an online marketing and hosting company and placed our site in an online mall, which at the time was the thing to do. My brother and his girlfriend were in charge of fashion and buying, I was in charge of marketing, my father was the CEO and we had a CFO and this was the makeup of the executive management of our new company.

I come from a 100% old fashioned Italian family and for those of you who don’t know what that means; we are loud people, we yell and scream at each other, we call each other names in both Italian and English, and we eat a lot of bread and macaroni, for you non Italians, that’s pasta.  I tell you this simply to set the background of the atmosphere that we worked in on a daily basis, my brother yelling at me, “You can’t go to a sales meeting with a potential client wearing that stupid tie, its ugly and thin and went out of fashion in 1983!” and me yelling back at him “You don’t know anything about marketing, your young and dumb and think fashion is letting your ass hang out of your pants!” and my father yelling at us both, “Will you two shut the F@%$*&%$ up!”.

After a few months of this I decided that this was not working out and I resigned and decided that I would stick to doing my own thing.  A few months later the company folded which to be fair to my family full disclosure is warranted here, it would have folded whether or not I stayed or not, our ideas were light years ahead of where the Internet was going and our timing was just too soon, people were not ready yet.  Not too long after I hired my brother to work at my new company, and a short time after that I hired his girlfriend, both who worked for me for a little over a year, and it did not end well, the details are not really important, but they disagreed on what I should be paying them, what time they should be at work, what they should be doing while at work, well to make a long story short, I “dismissed” my future sister-in- law, yeah that’s right I did the unthinkable I fired a family member. She was not happy, my brother was not happy, and we had multiple arguments going on, there was an issue of some files that she deleted off her personal computer because she figured she didn’t need them anymore, I threatened not to pay her, she complained to my brother, who complained to my father, who called me and told me I needed to pay her.  In the Italian culture full grown men still get their parents involved in their sibling disputes.  Anyway I paid her, and had planned to all along, I was just pissed off.

Since then I have had the opportunity to work with two different friends who are no longer friends, without going into these stories, suffice just to say that when you work with someone every day, all day long, you learn things about them you didn’t know before, and you just don’t see them in the same way as you used too.

Based on these past experiences I do not do business with family or friends in any circumstances nor will I ever again.  I have had relatives ask me for a job because they were laid off or wanted a better job, and I always decline, because in the end it always end the same way, ugly.   I do employ my teenage son as a part time techie and occasional researcher,  and that is different, and we do argue on occasion, for some reason it is in his nature to be argumentative, I can’t imagine where this comes from.   But other than that as a general rule I do not do business with friends and family, because I want to keep the relationship in a positive status.  For the record it has been several years since I have worked with my brother and his wife and we all get along quite well, and I for one want to keep it that way.  Business decisions need to be made based on logic and intelligence, and the needs of the business, and I for one find that hard to do when you are dealing with family and friends.