Zigging when others zag

Defy best practice, be unprofessional, and innovate in marketing

Innovation and best practice are the yin and yang of management. Too much of one and you die, too much of the other and you disappear. Loyal behavior is actually the key. If you are committed to your customers' best interest, understand your strengths and values, then you can be wild and crazy without losing your toe-hold on reality. 

Marketing Magazine (UK): Marketing Needs to Become More Unprofessional, 2016-Feb-27 by Craig Mawdsley

Professionalism is about reducing variation.  It is about creating a predictable and correct way of doing a given thing that can be repeated by anyone who has that professional qualification.  It is there to remove the individual from the process, because as long as the person providing the service has a professional qualification, then it doesn’t really matter who they are.

For the creative industries, this is a very, very bad idea.

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Cultivating good luck in your work and your life

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In a recent edition of the NY Times Sunday Review, Pagan Kennedy published a musing on the talent of using serendipity to discover both patterns, some embedded, some emerging from our lives and environment. 

NY Times: How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity, 2016-Jan-2 by Pagan Kennedy

As people dredge the unknown, they are engaging in a highly creative act. What an inventor “finds” is always an expression of him- or herself. Martin Chalfie, who won a Nobel Prize for his work connected with green fluorescent protein — the stuff that makes jellyfish glow green — told me that he and several other Nobel Prize winners benefited from a chain of accidents and chance encounters on the way to their revelations. Some scientists even embrace a kind of “free jazz” method, he said, improvising as they go along: “I’ve heard of people getting good results after accidentally dropping their experimental preparations on the floor, picking them up, and working on them nonetheless,” he added.

Kennedy doesn't seem to be aware of Glenn Llopis' book Earning Serendipity... 

This practice of earning serendipity, my father once explained, is not governed merely by corporate laws but also by universal laws like attraction, responsibility, and reciprocity. The effectiveness of earning serendipity is not measured merely by unique visitors, volume, and profits but also by influence, compassion, and impact. Its time is not bound by nine-to-five but by birth and death. My father would conclude, “¿Ahora, que ve ante usted?”— Now, what do you see before you? It is the same question I ask you now. What might your work look like if you possessed the skills to regularly see, sow, grow, and share the best opportunities before you? [Emphasis added.]

What I've discovered is that "earning serendipity" is NOT easy. Being a restless explorer like myself helps, but cultivating and sharing your discoveries takes true discipline. You don't just see patterns... you see what they can become and you work to make it happen with other people. 


New customer benefit: sharing back data

A few companies are already giving data back to their customers, such as Pandora and Waste Management. We should always be looking at the data in our order systems and CRM platform to see how it could strengthen our customer relationships. 

I believe that in the future, companies will be entitled to request the data we are collecting. Might as well get ahead of that curve. 

Venture Beat: Why smart companies will start giving back data to their users, 2015-Mar-7 by Brent Dykes of Adobe

Just like informed marketers make better decisions, so do informed customers. An automobile maker could monitor driving behaviors and share tips on how you could become a better driver (e.g., you rarely use the sixth gear when you should be, which will conserve x% more gas). A software provider such as Adobe could report on which features a user touches, how it compares to other users, and share how-to videos for those areas that aren’t being used. In both cases, the product user is enlightened and the company benefits from the positive halo effect created by proactive data sharing.


When do we get to print the marketing?

For most of us marketers, printing has become a luxury. We don't avoid printing because we think people don't enjoy it (when done properly). We don't avoid it because it isn't profitable (when done properly). We avoid it because it requires a capital outlay and a risky expense that we can avoid by putting our message out digitally.  Tq-120807-dm

NY Times: Catalogs, After Years of Decline, Are Revamped for Changing Times, 2015-Jan-25 by Rebecca R. Ruiz

Some of their catalog forays, however, barely resemble the traditional merchandise book. These days, retailers are employing devices like adventure tales and photo spreads of wildlife to catch a shopper’s eye, hoping to secure purchases online or in a store.

Luring a specific customer base seems to be part of the strategy underlying J. C. Penney’s surprise announcement this month that it would revive a home goods catalog in March, three years after the struggling company discontinued all such mailings. Its new version will focus not on recruiting new customers but on reaching existing ones, according to a spokeswoman. Whether the company will resume a regular schedule for sending out seasonal or general merchandise catalogs remains unclear. ... 

With “so much clutter and information overload,” said Rohit Deshpande, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, “just getting attention is the hardest thing to do right now for brands. It’s conceivable that trying catalogs again is a way to do it.”

Mr. Deshpande said research showed that frequency helped consumers process marketing messages, but some studies suggested diminishing returns after three advertisements.

“The issue has always been: What do we have to do in order to get mind-share and not bore people?” Mr. Deshpande said. “Or, worse, turn them off?”


More on leadership authenticity: pick your followers

The announcement that the NY Times is discontinuing the "You're the Boss" column now that it's originator, Loren Feldman, is leaving... sent me into a little panic. So I went careening through recent posts to get what inspiration I could before it fades from memory.  Tq131219fd

Tech company founder Rebekah Campbell talked about wanting to hire a talented guy despite his exhibiting sexist behavior during the interview. That story led me to think about my own leadership challenges. 

As the co-founder of the non-profit alumni association Columbia Club of South Texas, I urged the other founders that we set up a 'self-sustaining' board where board members vote in new and replacement directors, rather than relying on members to vote. One of the side benefits of this strategy is that the board learns to evaluate new members as potential teammates. 

My challenge is the same as Rebekah's which is to admit that I can't always lead a contributor to success. Sometimes I have to recognize a mis-match between my leadership style and how the volunteer wants to contribute. As the leader of a tech startup struggling to find its sustainability, she cites the importance of authority, but even if people admire your leadership, they can drain all your energy with well-meaning misunderstanding. We have to be careful and recruit for diversity but with an eye for compatibility. 

NY Times: Following Up on the Job Candidate Who Was 'Checking Out the Waitress', 2014-Nov-3 by Rebekah Campbell

“It’s your business, and if someone isn’t respecting you then let them go. Don’t try to lead from the shadows.”

You’re right! I wonder if women find this approach more challenging than men do – I know I do. I want people to be happy and I adjust myself to make relationships work. It takes confidence to hold your ground, but I suspect that’s the only way to establish authority.


How to measure loyalty

Does your CRM system have a mechanism for capturing exceptional acts of loyalty?

  • A customer who picks up the phone and argues for your value with a referral?
  • An ex-customer who publishes an article about their positive experience with your company? 
  • Someone who skips a big discount to stay with you?

Sometimes we can't even know an act of loyalty has happened. So we have to handle our customer records as if they represent real people we know. We have to give them ratings and rankings and make notes. We make those records accessible to everyone in the company so they can add information. 

Our dashboards should include a number represented our "most loyal" customers as marked by a consensus of the people who touch the account. In business-to-business environments, the dashboard should count both companies and people. 

Colloquy: Loyalty is an Emotion, 2014-Sep-15 by Steven Dennis

Luxury brands are defined by scarcity and intangible benefits. As such, they present an example for non-luxury merchants to understand the emotional connections between a brand and its core consumers and dial up those elements in all of the marketing mix, regardless of whether a loyalty program is a core element or not. Ultimately, the loyalty that matters is that which compels customers to advocate proactively for a brand within their tribes, without a special incentive. The loyalty that matters occurs when customers choose one brand over the cheaper or more convenient competitor. The loyalty that matters occurs when customers willingly and generously invest their time to collaborate with and improve a brand’s customer experience.


To profit from your data, share it with an expert

Analyzing our marketing data takes a very different skill than helpling customers or managing our sales force. When I want a break from difficult decisions and demanding co-workers, I drop down a relaxing data hole. Does sorting, editing and analyzing customer records NOT sound relaxing to you? Then you need to work with someone like me.

MindEcology: You Don't Have to Be a Data Rock Star to Be In Our Show, 2014-Sep-25

Marketing research types like us are all kinds of crazy about data. But even though we’re unabashed data nerds, we know that not everyone’s idea of a good time is sitting around and talking about analytics intelligence, predictive modeling, and best customer profiling —even if they work in marketing or advertising.

Some marketing pros or business owners just don’t find that stuff very interesting (no matter how much we try to convince them that this stuff is in fact fascinating.) These types clients tend to be unconcerned with the “why”, the behind-the-scenes of data collection and analysis —because they just want to know the “how”, as in “how is this going to help my business?”