Risky marketing

Retail trends toward non-retail experiences

Retail experiences have been a trend for quite awhile. Stores from Hershey, Apple, and Anthropologie all broke new ground, but they always filled the store with things to buy. Now, the latest retail experience is to have less merchandise, more something else...  IStock_000018963885XSmall

NY Times: For Brands Like Toms, It’s All About the Experience, 2015-Nov-13 by Steven Kurutz

“Getting people into stores has become a huge challenge because the e-commerce experience gets better and better,” said Kim Vernon, a fashion brand consultant and industry veteran. “The smartest thing you can do is to get people in your store.”

The ways brands are doing that vary. Some, like Toms, are turning to coffee and events. Kit & Ace, a new streetwear brand with retail outlets in Canada, England, Australia and the United States, holds quarterly “Sunday Suppers,” catered by a local chef and promoted by word of mouth.

Nina Garduno, who founded the retail outlet and artist commune Free City Supershop in Los Angeles, is teaming with Light in the Attic, a record label, to open a pop-up record store in January. The concept is the latest in an annual reimagining of her retail space in which Ms. Garduno and her team develop a theme, asking artists to help create products, décor, art installations and events around it.

Why we will always lose customers unless we have a strategy to retain them.

Two of my Facebook friends are deceased now, but they are still in my Friends Count. Of course, I appreciate seeing their names although I don't visit their profiles. I do remember them fondly when I see their names in the list. 

IStock_000019653085XSmallDeceased customer names in a marketing database? Not such a good idea. Unfortunately most marketing databases are cluttered with the names of people who moved away or aged out of our market or just rearranged us out of their lives. 

We compete not only with chance events but with competitors who are stealing our customers. If we don't have a strategy for retaining customers... checking in with them, ranking them, scoring them and wooing them back, we'll have no idea where they went. Having no strategy to retain customers means that we don't care when they leave. And that means our operating expenses will be higher than our competitors who do care. 

Canalside View: Marketing Crack: Kicking the Habit, 2015-May-13 by Martin Weigel

Laurence Freedman (also a military historian) too, makes the same point in his magnum opus Strategy: A History:

Strategy is required when others might frustrate one’s plans because they have different and possibly opposing interests and concerns… The inherent unpredictability of human affairs, due to the chance events as well as the efforts of opponents and the missteps of friends, provides strategy with its challenge and drama… ”

Because they can distinguish between plans and strategy, they’re able to focus on the long-term game, and be able to respond to events and circumstances at the same time.

Make your resume a customer experience

We usually write a resume that makes us feel good. Unfortunately we are not the target audience. Asking our business associates for feedback may make us uncomfortable, but it is vital. The more like our targeted hiring managers they are, the better. 

Career Marketing Coach: A Little Resume Tough Love, 2015-Mar-25 by Debra Rosenfeld

…because a resume is a very personal document, and it feels uncomfortable to have qualified people tell you that you need to change your very personal document. It feels much less threatening to ask for advice from people who are not qualified to give it.

So, if you’re not getting interviews, I encourage you to have your resume reviewed by people who are qualified to give you valuable feedback:

* Direct hiring managers in the field in which you work
* Your previous managers
* Senior colleagues or other managers with whom you worked

In building a relationship with email, go to your customers' space in your head

Maintaining an email-based relationship with a prospect can be very grueling. "Checking-in" emails just don't work. News from our own companies are usually too self-serving. To engage someone by email, we should first sit and think ourselves into their office... even if we've never been there. What's going on in their world? It used to drive me crazy that I didn't know specifics, but news about their city, their industry, their culture works just as well. Of course, sales people have used sports team connections for years... not gonna work for me, but restaurant news can! Tq140115fd

Chicago Creative Space: How a Travel Magazine Helped Build a Company Culture, 2015-Jan-19 by Lou Barreiro

I started to go through each [travel magazine] issue to find articles on places where Performics had offices in. The next time I would reach out to each individual, I would share with them some cool places near them that were being featured. Response times immediately improved, as did turnaround times for the info I needed. Crazier yet, I started to form relationships with these global contacts. I went from being the nagging minion to someone that these people actually looked forward to connecting with.

Defining a value proposition with meaningful differentiation

After earning an MBA, after spending 30 years reading about business strategy, after dozens of seminars and webinars and coaching sessions, business educators find it hard to stump me. 

In my struggle to market Steady CRM, my value proposition is an approximation, nothing that's providing any traction yet. Potential customers nod, but they do not buy. Harvard B-School teacher Frank Cespedes has great advice for honing our value propositions (see below). 

His "invisible differentiation" may not be the only problem I have, but it's the only problem I can address immediately... I'm confident that better customer relationship management reduces marketing expenses... I just don't have all my stories lined up, YET.  Tq130528sf

Harvard Business Review: Any Value Proposition Hinges on the Answer to One Question, 2014-Jan-13 by Frank V. Cespedes

[If you plan to sell it for a premium, make sure] ...your product or service provides better performance on attributes that are important to target customers and for which they are willing to pay a premium. This approach must continually avoid the following pitfalls:

  • Meaningless or false differentiation: the points of superiority are unimportant to customers or based on a false presumption of superiority.
  • Uneconomic or invisible differentiation: customers are unwilling to pay for additional performance or are unaware of the difference.
  • Unsustainable differentiation: the product or service features are imitated over time.

The essence of a fine relationship

Quinn Norton has written an amazing article about navigating social relationships for people who lack social awareness or empathy. For those of us who have been more successful in our relationships, it opens an amazing view into what we could be missing... how the world might look if we were blind to expressions and social norms. 

Even more importantly, she makes explicit what many of us take for granted. If you believe, as I do, that good relationships are the rock-solid foundation of a sustainable business, then we will find it's good to review the basics every now and then. Maybe even spot the areas where we've been sloppy and could fine-tune our behavior. Please read the whole thing.  Tq-120806-mg

Medium's The Message: How to be Polite... for Geeks, 2014-Aug-25 by Quinn Norton

Whether a relationship lasts as long as an elevator conversation or a 46-year-long marriage, it has no winners or losers, only participants. Trying to get an upper hand destroys the essence of any relationship, which is communication. It dehumanizes the other person, and becomes a grab for resources. Many people enter into conversations to get what they want, which is fine, but in contemporary life that’s usually achieved by cooperation rather than competition. Being polite, being flexible and willing to change your tone or even your mind creates the possibility of change and cooperation over time. We’ve all been somebody we’d rather not have been, and we’re all hoping to look back from the future and think we’ve learned a lot since what we think right now. We should give that to each other, over time, space, and even Twitter.

When we listen to our customers, we have to consider why and how

Listening to one's customers is not a simple thing. The questions, the context, the objectives we have color the entire process. The article below by Steve Blank does a great job differentiating the Lean Startup approach from Design Thinking. Both approaches can lead to strong and productive customer ties, if we are aware of our objectives.

However, every listening initiative has to recognize its own agenda, which could be hidden by corporate double-talk or biases on the part of the people running the show. If we approach our customers with an open heart and view them as collaborators, we have a better chance of overcoming our biases and avoiding miscommunication.

Xconomy: Driving Corporate Innovation: Design Thinking vs. Customer Development, 2014-Jul-30 by Steve Blank

  • Customer Development and Design Thinking are both customer discovery processes
  • Customer Development starts with, “I have a technology/product, now who do I sell it to?”
  • Design Thinking starts with, “I need to understand customer needs and iterate prototypes until I find a technology and product that satisfies this need”
  • Customer Development is optimized for speed and “good enough” decision making with limited time and resources
  • Design Thinking is optimized for getting it right before we make big bets