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5 posts from January 2011

Making conversations that help

If 'markets are conversations' (, then marketers must maintain conversational skills of the highest quality. I've been meeting many new people lately, and I try to stay away from the opening line 'what do you do?' but maybe it's not so bad. As Penelope Trunk points out, "Remember that people are asking to be kind. They are trying to creat a connection so that you can talk to each other about things that matter to both of you." While I probably will not use it, I now know how to make use of the question...

Penelope Trunk: How to answer the question, What do you do? 2011-Jan-17

...the best answer to the question “What do you do?” is “Here’s what I’m passionately learning right now.”

If I had answered in a way that focused on my worries about not knowing where my career was going, then there would have been nothing to talk about. But when I answered in a way that revealed my excitement about the house and everything I was learning, then there was a lot to talk about.

I tell you this to show that everyone has trouble answering the question at some points in their life, but the more comfortable we are being lost, the faster we can get unlost, and this is a good example of why—you can tell yourself better stories about yourself.

Saddling our customers with high-maintenance relationships

When I told someone that I design loyalty programs last weekend, they replied, 'So do you do offers or newsletters?' My response is that I provide what the audience wants.

Although evidence abounds that the audience wants offers, the question remains 'How will we communicate these offers?' The only way to make the offers relevant is to ask the audience what they want and how they would like to hear about it. In order to do that you have to build a database that drives a multichannel communication platform. There's no other responsible way. Many business-to-business enterprises rely on a salesperson to maintain this information, but that puts your company is jeopardy. The corporation has to recognize the responsibility to the customer goes beyond retaining a specific person. Most companies don't let customers vote on the communication channel, forcing them to take it the way the company finds convenient. And then companies wonder why people aren't paying attention.

The most egregious examples are NOT large companies, which have databases and the funds for many communication channels, but the small companies which just do the best they can. As a customer of such a company, I chafe and fret that it's a high-maintenance relationship. How likely do you think I am to bolt at the first opportunity?

1to1 Media: Putting the “Loyalty” Back into Loyalty Programs, 2010-Dec, by Mark Friedman

Standing out in this saturated market goes back to fundamental marketing: Understanding how, where, and when customers prefer to receive your information – and delivering it based on that demand. If you fail to do that, you can forget about them buying, or even reading your information before sending it to the trash.

Loyalty without attention

I recently discovered the work of Adrian Ott (The 24-Hour Customer), who focuses on how marketers should adjust to time-starved markets. Her Fast Company blog post adds a valuable perspective to generating loyalty today. 

Information overload continues to escalate. To cope, people seek ways to minimize demands on their attention. Rather than getting louder and annoying customers, many savvy companies are reducing attention requirements of their offerings, for instance through automatic subscriptions, system defaults, or attention-free offerings (e.g. robotic vacuums, automatic bill pay). Such businesses will profit handsomely from repeat customers too busy to hassle with evaluating alternatives.

Loyalty programs fit into the lifestyle of your best customers. But first you must know who your most profitable customers are, and understand their lifestyle. It won't work to simply toss 'best practice' loyalty programs into your marketing mix.

We see declining productivity for 

  • setting up a customer community web site
  • handing out a loyalty card
  • sending emails that have 'something for everyone'
  • Facebook fan pages with informational updates. 

What works?

  • Plugging into activities which are popular with your fan base
  • Offering discounts and benefits to people who have self-identified as your fans
  • Being present where your market congregates
  • Sending very short, very focused messages based on an opt-in.

Challenge: getting employed as a customer expert

I've worked many marketing jobs over the years, but I've never had the opportunity to do what I do best, which is developing more loyal customers. 

So this morning I ran across an article by one of my favorite authors, Bill Duggan of Columbia University. He recommends making a matrix of possible solutions and sources for studying the solutions. So here's my first stab at a matrix.

Possible solution -> Source of knowledge about that possibility

Networking -> Businesses that rely heavily on networking, such as Saurage Marketing Research, Frank White Photography

Forming a group -> Spur Interactive which helped form HiMA

Being a follower -> Promoting a well-known methodology, as does ... well, ... PopLabs is very much of a leader, but I think it does it by sticking to best practices, as does DMN3

Writing a book -> Seth Godin is the role model here, and I don't think I would ever write a long book, but he often writes very short books, and self-publishes. Maybe I could write a guide... 

Publishing a magazine -> Peppers and Rogers' 1to1Media. Yes they write books, too, but the magazine is the engine of their consulting practice. 

Now that's something worthwhile to think about!