Zigging when others zag

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?”

How to build sustainable loyalty

I was talking to someone about launching a new retail business and asked him about having a loyalty program. He said, "oh, yes, it's part of the point-of-sale system we'll be using."

Unfortunately, the built-in discount for frequent purchase represents a PRICING strategy, not a loyalty system. It may well be a sound way to operate, to show that we appreciate return business, but it doesn't help us learn about our customers.


Sustainability is built of a learning cycle where we're always gathering information about our customers and they're learning about us, and we're adapting our business based on what we learned. A well-conceived loyalty program increases frequency AND deepens understanding.

Fast Company: Why building your brand is all out sharing your values, 2014-Aug-8 by Dave Hawley

As a brand manager, it is your responsibility to make people of different demographics, geographical locations, and socioeconomic statuses feel like members of one collective whole--your brand tribe.

Brands need values that hold their community together, and as a smart tribe builder, you must show these values through both words and actions.

By identifying the interests and values that your ideal customers share and demonstrating that your brand shares those values through the conversations you start, join, and share, you bring about stability and growth for your brand....

It’s up to marketers to align themselves with consumers, not the other way around. When we identify and claim values to help people distinguish themselves as a community distinct from others--when we listen and help that community strengthen its bonds--members talk to each other.

How to find a place to contribute

Whether we are are looking for an assignment or a job, we have to find a problem to solve.

By the time a job description or RFP is written, the pain point that created the need has been obscured. Many more layers of "nice to have" skills and whistles have been added. The experience required to solve the problem has been pre-supposed, often inaccurately. No questions are posed to the applicant.

How to find a place to contribute?

We have to become curious with every professional we meet. They love to talk about their work. We don't inquire about titles or responsibilities. We ask them what are they doing? And we gradually shift the discussion to their challenges.

Liz Ryan of Human Workplace has a list of questions that we could copy into our notebooks and ask during an interview.

Forbes: How to Probe for Pain in a Job Interview, 2014-Jul-5 by Liz Ryan

  1. So it sounds like you’re dealing with _________. How long has that been going on?

  2. How does it show up? How did that problem get the attention of your management team, and its current priority?

  3. What bad effect does ______ have on your business? Why is it a problem?

  4. What is _____ costing you, roughly? (If the Pain takes the form of missed opportunity, the question is “How much are you leaving on the table?”)

  5. What have you tried so far, to relieve _____? (You need to know, so you don’t suggest something that already failed.)

  6. How did it work when you tried that? (It couldn’t have worked all that well, or you’d be talking about a different Business Pain.)

  7. What is the appetite here in the organization for solving this problem? (Is this your hiring manager’s own pet project, or is there organizational support for it?)

  8. What is the ideal state, let’s say a year from now? (What does pain relief look like to your hiring manager?)

  9. Since the problem is costing you roughly $X per year (from question Four, above) what have you budgeted to relieve it? (This will help get you over the hump, “We have a forty-million dollar problem and we’re creating one sixty-thousand-dollar job to solve it.” REALLY, Jackson?)

  10. What’s your timeline for solving the problem?