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15 posts from November 2004

Visit the Race

Over at Fast Company, today is the last day to enter this year's Fast 50, but even if you're not planning to enter, you ought to visit the web site, browse the entries, rate them and enter comments. The competition was made a little less structured this year, and the diversity of entries is very stimiulating and fun to read.

Try this to see a random entry. You can also search for entries from your area. You may have to be a registered user of the site to get these links to work, but it's free.

Post-Conference Dilemmas

Following up with people you met at a conference is always going to be challenging. Surely the whole point of beginning a personal relationship is negated by sending out a one-size-fits-all followup email and/or package.

In her column at ClickZ, Karen Gedney discusses a followup model developed by 2Value Consulting and its principal Ranan Lachman. (I'm not linking 2Value because they are a biotech consulting firm, not a marketing firm. Their agency is Impact2. What's with 2?) They created an email newsletter that was easily customized to different segments and included a section at the top for a personal message.

The response rate to this personalized newsletter is usually 10%, and that's apparently without time-consuming followup phone calls. What a wonderful way to 'activate' your new contacts after a conference!

An opt-in device for permanent subscription to the newsletter should be included.

Kissing Up to the New Values

Keep an eye out for a new fashion clothing boutique called American Apparel. It's SO cool because there are no labels on the clothing, and the stores look like art galleries, and the owner tauts his commitment to American immigrant-made clothing for which he pays a living wage (although he not too welcoming of the union.)

I'm probably being too hard on this entrepreneur who's working hard to provide a high-value product. As quoted in the NY Times (free, registration required):

This is a new generation of young adults, They want what their parents wanted at that age, what kids always want: to have a beer, to smoke a joint, to go to a good movie, to party…. At the same time it doesn't feel good when their happiness is based on exploitation.

Numbers let your Compare Apples to Oranges--or Windows

Marketing results data is often proprietary, but Apple Computer is proud to share the results of designing its new Apple Stores for a better customer experience. Thanks to Tim Manners of Reveries Cool News of the Day for spotting this story and to USA Today's Jefferson Graham for such a thorough analysis. Not surprisingly, this story appeared in the "Tech Investor" section of the paper.

Faced with stalled performance in the 1990's, Apple hired away from Target the executive who had helped bring Michael Graves work to redefine mainstream shopping. At Apple, this executive, Ron Johnson, studied the Ritz hotels for lessons, finding welcoming inspiration in the hotel bar for the phenomenally popular Genius Bar at Apple Stores.

The Geniuses — tech support staffers clad in black, offering free advice from behind a sleek, barlike counter — were an afterthought when Apple expanded into retailing in 2001, another non-traditional tool to bring in shoppers and draw attention that Apple computers were not getting at traditional computer retailers. The concept has become so successful that 100,000 people visit the Geniuses every week. And the stores represent nearly 50% of Apple's retail sales.

Read this entire free-to-access article. It's full of the type of numbers and context that help people learn best practices in marketing.

Sharing the Marketing with your Customers

At the Advertising Technology conference in New York last week, the theme was "Marketing in the Age of Consumer Control." We learned many useful new concepts to help us in sharing marketing tasks with our now more sophisticated customer base:

1) The best brands will be those whose customers tell the best stories.

2) CGM: Consumer Generated Media includes blogs, discussion groups,and chats about brands.

3) Help your audience create their own content.

Gray Issues in the Green Space

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had a front page article (subscription required) about environmental activists who've gone to work for corporations they formerly fought, in hopes of steering those companies from within to a more consistent and effective approach to protecting the environment. At the Net Impact conference, we heard from an environmental activist who now works for Intel and is currently focused on the "greening of the supply chain," or making sure Intel's suppliers follow sound environmental practices.

Tom Chappell, founder of Tom's of Maine, also spoke at the Net Impact conference and is featured in the December issue of Business 2.0 in an article called Tom's of Mainstream (subscription required to read entire article). It explains how Chappell is convincing retailers to support his high-margin products because it helps them look good to their customers, and because

Going forward, the privately held company says it plans to deliver annual growth of 20 to 25 percent while increasing its U.S. household penetration from 2 percent today to 13 percent -- the segment of the population that shares Tom's socially conscious values, according to the firm's research.

Tom's of Maine is also sold in WalMart now. So are these 'socially conscious' people selling out, or are they simply acting on the recognition their values are becoming 'mainstream'?

Are You Building Bridges?

At the Net Impact conference last week in New York, one of the speakers was Harriet Fulbright, widow of the Senator William Fulbright for whom the well-known Fulbright Fellowships are named.

Ms. Fulbright pointed out that social capital comes in two types: 1)  Bonding – the social capital arising from connected or like-minded people who share common history and interests, 2)  Bridging – the social capital arising when people make the effort to understand people who are unlike or separated from them by time and other differences.

Bonding requires much less effort and management than bridging, but the real possibility for advancing society is in the bridging. Bridging is, of course, what the Fulbright Fellowships attempt to achieve by sending U.S.scholars out to learn and teach at foreign institutions.

As we build our relationships, we may need to pay attention to when we’re bonding and when we’re bridging, recognizing the different challenges we may face and commit to do more bridging.