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7 posts from October 2007

How to Tell a Better Story

071001y Marketers are always being told to tell more stories these days. The audience will remember a story, stories attract attention, etc., but if you're going to make a systematic use of stories, you need to have some criteria for which stories to tell and how to tell them.

Peter Gruber, founder of Mandaly Entertainment, recently spoke at the NACCM conference, and he shared some tips for creating stories that inspire people to become more involved with an enterprise. His first three tips were

  1. Truth to yourself
  2. Truth to your audience
  3. Truth to the moment

And I've excerpted the final truth here. I highly recommend the entire article.

1to1 Weekly Inside Access: Reporter's Notebook. by Ginger Conlon 2007-Oct-29

Truth to your mission: A story is a call to action. It should capture the mission and everything about it should be subservient to that mission, he said. "Storytellers must render an experience to their audience," Gruber said, emphasizing that stories must be action oriented and have an ending that is unexpected as well as emotionally fulfilling. A good story well told, he said, will leave listeners saying, "Aha!"

For marketers, that "aha" moment should be: Now I know what to do next. When your audience says that to themselves, you've got them involved.

How to Create a Listening Lab

071003wKeeping your ears open in hard work. We tend to put our nose to the grindstone and let our ears flop down. So companies have to put a listening system in place. Recently these systems have moved away from customer surveys and into "labs" where the target audience can experience a product or service and the marketers can observe them, or even ask questions. Such labs are, of course, very expensive.

Proctor & Gamble has been using what's called "pop-up retail" to run labs where people can actually take samples or even, in this case, make a purchase. Swash is a new test store across the street from Ohio State University where P&G is testing new laundry concepts. (The Columbus Dispatch: Procter & Gamble's new spin on laundry. 2007-Oct-24, by Amy Saunders)

How can you integrate listening and observing customers into your business? Is it as simple as sending executives to serve every now and then? Is your challenge more collecting and tracking data? Maybe your partners just need to set aside and analyze what they've learned recently. Are you using what you've heard to keep your business on the leading edge?

How to Wear Out your Target Audience

071013z_2 I have finally figured out why I have to look at those ugly "fix your face" adds for Botox and Botox alternatives at my Yahoo mail account (which I have to check six times a day). I told Yahoo how old I am. So because they have limited inventory of ads, they keep serving these ugly pictures over and over. If you use any of these wonderful new forms of online ad targeting, you better make sure that you cap the average frequency before 10 exposures. (Photo by Gonzalo Haro.) Otherwise your audience will start to feel aged!

WSJ: Firm Mines Offline Data To Target Online Ads. 2007-Oct-17, by Kevin J. Delaney and Emily Steel:

Acxiom can read cluster codes embedded in the cookies and use them to pick which ads to show. The company doesn't disclose the sites that carry such targeted ads, but says they reach 60% of U.S. Internet users. That allows a company selling an expensive antiwrinkle cream, for example, to contract with Acxiom to display its ads to affluent women 40 years or older in the "Skyboxes and Suburbans" or "Summit Estates" clusters.

How to Bill with Interest

071015x Do not let your invoices go out the door unadorned with marketing messages. The cost of printing these messages has gone through the floor, but if your small business doesn't have the resources to merge-print marketing messages on the bill, consider adding a personal message or a clipping of a new item or offer to the invoice. To the big ones, anyway.

Wall St. Journal: Bills Make Room for Advertising, 2007-Oct-16, by Christopher Lawton

Humana Inc., a health-benefits company in Louisville, Ky., began using transpromotional marketing last year by including specific messages in the health and benefits statements it sends out to its 4.5 million Medicare members. In the past year, the company's customer retention rate has jumped 17% thanks to its new statements, says Chris Nicholson, Humana's strategic communications director.

How to Advertise with Actions


The "Honda Helpful" campaign is still unproven, so I can't recommend is as a marketing system, but it does have some very intriguing features. Instead of just advertising and describing themselves as helpful, some Honda dealerships are demonstrating their helpfulness by 1) providing traffic updates to people who register on the web site, 2) running a contest to give a Honda automobile to the person in the community voted "most helpful," and 3) sending teams of people out to help the community with the "random acts of kindness" approach. (Contagious has a terrific interview with the agency that created the campaign.)

Please note that the marketers hope that their audience will reach the conclusion that if Honda marketing is helpful and selfless, then Honda car salesmen must be the same way....Hmm....What I'm wondering is how much of this will 'stick' and still be done by the dealership in two years? If they succeed in changing the perception of the car salesman, will they be able to stop the 'helpful marketing'? Because passing out free bottled water isn't integral to selling cars the way having a Nordstrom sales person scour the shoe department for the right shoes to go with your new formal attire is integral to the department store purchase. Actions speak louder than words, but integrity speaks loudest, and that's means doing what you are supposed to do--and for a Honda car salesperson that's matching people to cars. If so, the Honda Helpful Awards would be the most sustainable part of the campaign. They could make the awards quarterly and get the community involved on a regular basis.

How to Track Your Reputation

071024xCommunications can only take you so far. At some point the "user experience" of your product and service will catch up to your brand image. So how can you measure "customer satisfaction"? A few years ago, Harvard professor Fred Reichheld suggested a magic bullet, the Net Promoter Score. All you have to do is ask your customers "Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague?", then add up the number of your "promoters", subtract the number of "detractors" and Voila!--you have a number to track from month to month. As long as that number stays steady or moves upward, your reputation is okay.

Real life, of course, is seldom so simple. To review the advantages and disadvantages, read NPS - Valid or Not? - Think customers: The 1to1 Blog, 2007-Aug-22, by Don Peppers: NPS costs very little to deploy as a metric, and can easily be handled in-house, without the intervention of a professional survey research firm. And in my opinion one of the biggest benefits of NPS is that it is educating business people to the very important fact that customer dissatisfaction almost certainly drives more defection than customer satisfaction drives loyalty.

How to Ask Questions

071028y Good conversationalists know how to ask questions that people enjoy answering. (Bill Cosby used to have a routine about what NOT to ask your children, "who made this mess?" being a prime example. In my inbox, "when do you plan to purchase?" makes me feel the same way.) Marketing Sherpa recently shared some tips for asking questions in emails. You can quiz your customers in separate survey emails or in a question added to the newsletter, but always:

  • Make it easy and fun.
  • Don't be pushy or nosy.
  • Show you care.
  • Don't use embedded forms in email.
  • Let them unsubscribe.
  • Test different formats.
  • Place more faith in trends than raw results.

Marketing Sherpa: Special Report: How to Conduct Email Surveys - Tips to Lift Response & Write Subject Lines, 2007-Oct-2 (subscription required).