Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, July 25, 2011

What's Your Marketing Innovation Score?

Last December, I wrote two blogs (Top 10 Marketing Challenges Part 1, Part 2) to help corporate leaders with marketing management responsibilities. In those blogs, I warned of 10 "game-changer" challenges that these executives would face in 2011, given the rise of social media and a newly empowered consumer.

Marketing Checklist

Now it's time to look at the list again ... and assess your company's progress in meeting each of these ten challenges. The resulting numerical score is your enterprise's MIQ (Marketing Innovation Quotient) score.

MARKETING INNOVATION CHALLENGE #1. Accept that the balance of power between buyer and seller has changed… forever. We have identified new ways our company can provide clearly defined, competitively differentiating value both at the point of purchase and throughout the customer's lifecycle. Mid-year assessment score: 0 (no action taken yet in 2011) to 10 (industry role model) ____

MARKETING INNOVATION CHALLENGE #2. Completely re-think how you view your customers. We have made Customer Lifetime Value an essential business metric within our organization. Mid-year assessment score: 0 (no action taken yet in 2011) to 10 (industry role model): ____

MARKETING INNOVATION CHALLENGE #3. Stop chasing the "quickie". Build relationships instead. The allocation of budget and resources has been shifted from a traditional focus on Acquisition, to a balance between Acquisition and Retention. We have changed our compensation plans from an Acquisition/new sales focus to reflect Retention and repeat customer purchases. Mid-year assessment score: 0 (no action taken yet in 2011) to 10 (industry role model): ____

Note: Additional insights are contained in Ernan's manifesto "Don't You Want to Do Real Marketing?" published by 800-CEO-Read.

MARKETING INNOVATION CHALLENGE #4. Communicate with customers and prospects through multiple channels. We emphasize the value of engaging with our company via all media and channels. Then we personalize the communications per individual opt-in preferences, so the value and relevance is obvious. Mid-year assessment score: 0 (0 (no action taken yet in 2011) to 10 (industry role model): ____

Rethink Marketing Plan

MARKETING INNOVATION CHALLENGE #5. Create uniquely powerful Opt-In preference-driven databases. Rethink your marketing so it provides unquestionable value from the consumer's point of view. We have conducted research to identify the value propositions required to engage customers to Opt-In and share their media, message, and offer preferences. We have developed an opt-in database to drive preference-based communications. Mid-year assessment score: 0 (no action taken yet in 2011) to 10 (industry role model): ____

MARKETING INNOVATION CHALLENGE #6. Re-design your web site to meet customer expectations. Given the rise of social media and the newly empowered consumer, re-think your entire website strategy. We have learned how customers and prospects define value and relevance, and we have followed their lead by connecting them with easy access to peers, subject matter experts, and the right people within our own organization. Mid-year assessment score: 0 (no action taken yet in 2011) to 10 (industry role model): ____

MARKETING INNOVATION CHALLENGE #7. Give Customer Service the respect it deserves. We have abandoned the view of Customer Service as an Operations expense line-item, repositioned it as a revenue center, and synchronized it with our marketing efforts. Mid-year assessment score: 0 (no action taken yet in 2011) to 10 (industry role model): ____

MARKETING INNOVATION CHALLENGE #8. Don't let short-term financial objectives destroy your long-term customer-focused strategies. We use quarterly financial forecasts as tools. We don't let the tools run the business. Our organization's strategies are focused on building and sustaining strong customer relationships. Mid-year assessment score: 0 (no action taken yet in 2011) to 10 (industry role model):____

MARKETING INNOVATION CHALLENGE #9: Model the behavior and the priorities. We have created an Employee Council and meet with its members at least once a quarter to hear about what is and what is not working. We model the resulting new behaviors and priorities from the top down. From the Mid-year assessment score: 0 (no action) to 10 (industry role model): ____

MARKETING INNOVATION CHALLENGE #10. Accept that ultimately, the responsibility for moving away from "business as usual" in any and all of these areas lies with senior leadership. If customer feedback dictates that a change is necessary in any area of our organization, our president, founder, or CEO is willing to make the necessary changes. Mid-year assessment score: 0 (no action) to 10 (industry role model): ____

Next Step: Share your organization's midyear MIQ score with the senior management team ... and identify specific areas for improvement in the second half of 2011.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Useless Technology; Ford’s Fall from Grace

In my recent book, Voice of the Customer Marketing, I praised Ford Motor Company for executing one of the great business turnarounds in recent business history. This year, however, there is disturbing evidence that Ford has gone off track. The firm slipped from fifth place in the 2010 J.D. Power survey of consumer satisfaction -- highest among non-luxury automakers -- to twenty-third in this year's survey. Something bad must have happened to the recently-solid relationship between Ford and its customers.
Lincoln InteriorI didn't have to look very far to find out what it was. After months of our own ongoing complaints, we watched in disbelief as Ford washed its hands of the problems we were having with my wife’s new Lincoln ... because “no one else had complained about these problems” and the technicians “could not replicate” them.
Neither statement was true. Ford had indulged in what I call the Useless Technology Syndrome and was not taking responsibility for the problems that resulted. (See this blog for other examples of consumer-hostile technology “advances”.) Useless Technology is what happens when new technology is developed with more emphasis on the “Wow” factor versus the “function” factor ... and adequate consumer testing is not conducted. It’s beginning to look like Ford bet the goodwill of its customers on an ill-conceived plan to get to market first with a host of new, complex, and poorly conceived technological changes to its cars.
These changes involved a wide range of high-tech design and engineering “upgrades” to the Ford fleet, notably in the navigation, music, and phone interfaces (via a new system called MyFord Touch) and the transmission and powertrain (via an option called PowerShift, meant to boost fuel economy).
As publications like the New York Times , Consumer Reports and the Detroit Free Press and many other sources have reported, mishaps and consumer complaints related to the much-hyped MyFord Touch system are legion. These include problems with:
arrow starting the car using the keyless, push-button ignition;
arrow a “voice recognition” system that quickly became notorious for its refusal to recognize human voices;
arrow a navigational system that was slow and unresponsive;
arrow a touch screen computer interface that rebooted unexpectedly and was less intuitive and far more cumbersome than the old-fashioned buttons and switches.
Lincoln ExteriorFord seems to have rushed the pre-testing process and, instead, conducted its beta testing for its new Useless Technology systems on several million live customers, including our family. To top it off, Ford customer service was not straightforward about the numerous problems consumers were having with the new technology.
Now Ford is paying the price. All of that hard-won Voice of Customer insight, guidance, and good will from 2009 and 2010 is in jeopardy because Ford insisted on being “first to market” with systems that were manifestly not ready for the marketplace ... and that many customers do not want.
The kinds of complaints Ford is now receiving are signs of a serious breach of trust in Ford's ongoing relationship with its customer base. The right next step is for the automaker to spend time listening to aggrieved consumers.... so Ford can find out what customers need to see and hear in order to restore their trust in the Ford brand. For starters, I recommend a high-profile apology.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What Marketers Should Learn from the Murdoch Mess

THE SITUATION: An epic phone-hacking scandal abruptly forced Britain's News of the World, the largest-circulation English-language newspaper on earth, to shut down. An on-line boycott of the tabloid's advertisers played a critical role in the paper's demise.
THE MARKETING TAKEAWAYS: I want to share three important Reality Checks ... and three essential Lessons that marketers should take away from this watershed moment.
Reality Check #1: Social Media Groups Form at Lightning Speed. The on-line revolt that helped to take down the News of the World slammed into the paper with the suddenness and velocity of a hurricane. The speed was a function of the empowered, interconnected nature of today's social media communities.
As this blog relates, the initial idea for the boycott was first raised by a single outraged Twitter user on a Monday evening, following revelations that reporters had hacked into the phone of a missing teen. The boycott passed from one user to another to another, one of whom happened to have Web coding skills. By Tuesday night, the new on-line movement had a Web site, a Facebook page, and 41,000 hits ... all within 24 hours!
Reality Check #2: Angry Consumers Now Think Strategically. Today's consumers aren't just savvy about the use of social media tools. They're also savvy enough to know how to target businesses at their most vulnerable points. In this case, British consumers didn't simply stop buying the News of the World. They targeted the paper's advertisers. By hitting the paper right where it lived, in its advertising base, the boycotters caught mogul Rupert Murdoch's attention. At least seventeen accounts pulled out of the paper. This brings us to...
Reality Check #3: Crossing Ethical Lines Now Means Risking Our Companies. Note why the boycott gained traction so quickly: Murdoch's crew of reporters crossed a bright red line when they hacked into the phone of a missing thirteen-year-old girl who turned out to be a murder victim. There are now credible reports that the paper's reporters may also have hacked the phones of 9/11 victims. In doing such things, they alienated not only their own audience of readers, but a global, digital audience as well.
Those reporters jeopardized their 168-year-old paper, their jobs, and the brands of their advertisers by crossing that red line. There are many ways you can cross a red line, not all as egregious as Murdoch's. You can cross a red line by shipping a product later than you promised, or being rude to a customer who calls Customer Service. Nowadays, crossing the line and getting a single customer angry means you may be dealing with a major level of consumer pushback.
Now, the three critical lessons marketers need to draw from this event.
Lesson 1: Monitor. You must closely monitor what is being said about your brand in social media forums. There is no longer any room for complacency about this issue. Even a day of ignorance about what is being said about your brand on Twitter or Facebook could literally take down your business. Remember: 24 hours is now enough time to launch a revolution!
Lesson 2: Engage and Listen to the Voice of the Customer: If you don't have real conversations -- voice-to-voice and digital -- with your customers, you will not know what constitutes a "bright red line" in their world. Simply avoiding egregiously offensive behavior is not enough!
Lesson 3: Stay On the Right Side of the Ethics Line. If it's wrong, just don't do it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our Daily Emails: Guidelines for Improving Quality and Relevance

In previous blogs, I’ve provided recommendations for improving the quality and relevance of communications with customers and prospects.

Today I would like to address improvements to the emails we send each other in the course of daily business. We have all endured countless emails which waste our time because they are not relevant. Emails that "CC" people as "CYA", or recount inane workplace behavior, or circulate urban legends, etc.

I ran across some valuable email guidelines.

In his recent blog, David Pogue, the New York Times technology writer, wrote about Chris Anderson, who runs the influential TED conference. Chris put together his advice on the biggest dos and don'ts to consider before hitting "send."

This "Email Charter" makes perfect sense as a set of easy-to-follow ground rules for all of us who use email. Anderson's ten points for respectful email behavior are a long-overdue online Magna Carta, setting out the fundamental rights, responsibilities, and boundaries of grownup communication via email. For your convenience, it appears below, at the end of this blog. Or, find it at: http://emailcharter.org/.

I have signed the Email Charter, and hope you will, too.

In his blog, David Pogue shares a desire, as do I, to offer a slight amendment to Anderson's ninth principle. Like Pogue, I believe that people should extend the courtesy of sending a brief confirming message (such as “Got it") upon receipt of an email, to let the sender know their email has been received.

In the spirit of contributing to the value of this important thread, I propose adding two more commandments:

11. Drop the exclamation points. Messages in which many sentences end in exclamation points, (or, even worse, in multiple exclamation points), do not call out the importance of each sentence. The reverse occurs: they emphasize that the author did not think their words could stand on their own without the crutches of the exclamation points.

12. Rampant Ongoing CC’s as CYA. Do not keep CC’ing folks just to have a paper trail that you “kept everyone in the loop" about some insight or action item. Having established that proof with the first message, which included the appropriate people, there is generally no need to keep CC’ing every single one of the original recipients on the subsequent (often mind-numbing and always mailbox-clogging) two- or three-party discussions that usually follow. Be kind and delete those who don’t have to be included in the on-going threads.

Those are my additions to Anderson's fine list of e-mail communication guidelines.

What would you add? Please share your ideas below.

10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral

by Chris Anderson

1. Respect Recipients' Time

This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email will take to process. Even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.

2. Short or Slow is not Rude

Let's mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we're all facing, it's OK if replies take a while coming and if they don't give detailed responses to all your questions. No one wants to come over as brusque, so please don't take it personally. We just want our lives back!

3. Celebrate Clarity

Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic, and maybe includes a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens] [Low Priority]. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. Avoid strange fonts and colors.

4. Quash Open-Ended Questions

It is asking a lot to send someone an email with four long paragraphs of turgid text followed by "Thoughts?". Even well-intended-but-open questions like "How can I help?" may not be that helpful. Email generosity requires simplifying, easy-to-answer questions. "Can I help best by a) calling b) visiting or c) staying right out of it?!"

5. Slash Surplus cc's

cc's are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don't default to 'Reply All'. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.

6. Tighten the Thread

Some emails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it's usually right to include the thread being responded to. But it's rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut what's not relevant. Or consider making a phone call instead.

7. Attack Attachments
Don't use graphics files as logos or signatures that appear as attachments. Time is wasted trying to see if there's something to open. Even worse is sending text as an attachment when it could have been included in the body of the email.

8. Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR

If your email message can be expressed in half a dozen words, just put it in the subject line, followed by EOM (= End of Message). This saves the recipient having to actually open the message. Ending a note with "No need to respond" or NNTR, is a wonderful act of generosity. Many acronyms confuse as much as help, but these two are golden and deserve wide adoption.

9. Cut Contentless Responses

You don't need to reply to every email, especially not those that are themselves clear responses. An email saying "Thanks for your note. I'm in." does not need you to reply "Great." That just cost someone another 30 seconds.

10. Disconnect!

If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we'd all get less email! Consider calendaring half-days at work where you can't go online. Or a commitment to email-free weekends. Or an 'auto-response' that references this charter. And don't forget to smell the roses.