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4 posts from November 2008

How to Free your Customers

081125a A truly loyal customer will send you referrals long after they quit being a customer, provided you have made them feel free. Right now Micro Center and Hewlett Packard have spent 60 days implementing an insured repair on my son's laptop computer. I never want to be chained to them again. In our rush to become social, we run the danger of forgetting that we need to maintain one-to-one respect for each customer. Doc Searls, frequently credited with writing the line "markets are conversations," riffs powerfully on this topic. VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management, which he hopes will replace "customer relationship management" one day.
Project VRM: VRM is personal. 2008-Nov-20, by Doc Searls:

“Social” is a bubble. Trust me on this. I urge all consultants on “social ______” (fill in the blank) to make hay while the sun shines. ... Meanwhile, here’s the challenge: make the Net personal. Make relationships personal. Equip individuals with tools of independence and engagement.  ...

One more thing, and this is personal too. I am not anybody’s “capital”. You or your company may call me an “asset” or think you have “acquired” me, or “own” me as a customer. But I am and wish to remain a free, sovereign and independent agent of my own soul. ... Free customers are more valuable than captive ones. That’s the point of VRM. Proving it is our challenge.

How to Become a Publicity System

081117b Having an awareness and respect from the news media (all sizes, all kinds) is a worthy goal for any business. If your business does something newsworthy, it's a very efficient way to reach your audiences. Some people can even get good press by being newsworthy themselves, even if what they do is a little mundane. On the other hand, courting publicity can also be dangerous. The media has no vested interest in the good health of your business. Once you realize that, you can bootstrap your program as Jason Calacanis describes in great detail. You don't need to be as self-involved as he is, but you do need to be something of an angel. Startup advisor Dharmesh Shah has a good summary of Jason's story. If this program sounds like something you could do, you may never have to pay an agency.

On Startups: Startup PR, 2008-Aug-22, by Dharmesh Shah (summarizing Jason Calacanis of Silicon Valley Insider)

5. “Your job is to transfer the enthusiasm you feel for your brand to everyone you meet.”

6. “Always pick up the check — always … everyone remembers who picked up the check”.

7. “Set a goal of creating deep relationships with a small number of folks as opposed to running around trying to trade business cards with as many folks as possible.”

8. “Be a human being.  The best way to get PR is not to sell someone on your company or product — it’s by being a human being. Journalists hate being pitched … journalists and bloggers are, in fact, humans.”

9. “Before meeting with a journalist, it is your job (as CEO) to read their last five articles in full …”

10. “Your job as the CEO/founder is to create direct, honest and personal relationships with journalists.”

How to Design Better Solutions

081112a The recent surge in popularity of 'design thinking' really just reflects a elevation of standards in business. Some people are native design thinkers, instinctively seeing issues from the users' angle and anticipating consequences of their design choices. Sadly, most of us have to learn the discipline, and design thinking is a step-up from strategic thinking. Strategic thinking emphasized planning in light of obstacles. Design thinking emphasizes double-checking to make sure you're solving the real problem, then iterating through a process of creating and testing possible solutions. When marketing and selling problems are solved with design thinking, solutions are attached to identified outcomes for the customer, not some vague commitment to 'doing the right thing.'

BusinessWeek: IBM Reshapes Its Sales Meetings, 2008-Nov-10, by Reena Jana

At IBM's briefing center, staff members now have extremely detailed guidelines of what to show and tell at a given time. Before, the company had no standardized model of how to pitch clients. Instead, sales staff had to rely on their own intuition, with varying degrees of success. In fact, Green likes to tell a story of a sales meeting gone wrong to explain why he came up with the new strategy to redesign the client briefings. "One set of clients was picked up by an outside driver, who was hired to bring them from the airport to an IBM briefing center in the rain. But the driver couldn't find IBM," he recalls.

How to Expand your Brand

081111d According to Arun Sinha, head of marketing at Zurich Financial, fewer than 15% of consumers trust any insurance brand. Whew! I didn't realize it had gotten that bad. That must be Europe ... wonder what percentage it would be in the U.S.?

So now Zurich is taking action to strengthen their image as a company that will be there for you when you're in a bind. The real question is, can they maintain this as a marketing system, or is it just a stunt? American Express has made many travel services free to their customers for years and years. Maybe Zurich should study how American Express has been able to fund their services. Advertising - Like a Billboard, but, Oh, So Sleek, 2008-Nov-4, by Eric Pfanner

... for travelers rushing through the London Heathrow or Frankfurt airports this week with a dead mobile phone or a missing hotel reservation, there may be a place to turn. Look for booths marked with a big blue “Z” in the international departures areas. The stands are help points set up by Zurich Financial Services. They will offer free Internet access, cellphone and laptop charge-ups and other assistance for travelers, including cleaning materials to deal with spilled coffee and information about travel destinations, the company says. One thing they will not offer is insurance, Zurich’s usual line of business.