Category Archives: Smart Business Practices

Lovers Give Diamonds. Dog Owners Give Harnesses.

My Boston Terrier, Winston, is zealous about his daily walks. Despite thousands of dollars on private training for this pup, he insists that strolls are for geriatric dogs and an Alpha like him needs to seize the path. He is an explorer, a canine Lewis and Clark. He is incapable of walking a straight line, and he pulls to lead the way, then stops abruptly to sniff some grass or inspect a tree. To get him back on track, I have to tug on the leash.

He is such a rambunctious, erratic walker, that it took a toll on my hands, and I ended up with something called “trigger thumb,” which basically meant my thumb squeaked when I bent it, and it throbbed considerably. I was able to fix the pain through the help of a doctor, but, the saga with Winston and his walks continued. My main concern was that he would break free of the harness.Thankfully, he never did, but the fear lingered.

He was running through harnesses every three months. They would stretch out and the rapid aging reminded me of the before-and-after photos of presidents at the end of their term.

I took Winston to my favorite dog store in Studio City, Maxwell Bark, and the sales lady, after taking one look at him, pointed me in the direction of some dog harnesses made by Puppia. I have not looked back since, except when I’m having to pull Winston on a walk. His Puppia harnesses, tough as they are, lasts about a year before I start feeling like it needs to be replaced.

Being a fan of Puppia, I Liked their Facebook Page, and as I scrolled down the wall, I realized something: I have never seen such passionate brand advocates on any Page. I am the primary social media person for my company, and I wish I had the raving lunatics they have.

So what is the lesson learned here? If your product solves a problem, people will love you. Sure, but why does this page have fans taking the time to upload shots of their dog, wearing Puppia clothing and harnesses, and saying things like, “I will NEVER use another brand”?

I think its the combination of solving a problem and love. Dog owners love their dogs, some of them as deeply as others love a child. I haven’t investigated any children product sites, but I wonder if there is a great brand, that solves a problem for moms and has them raving?

Being in the jewelry industry, I think of jewelers, and how many of them desire that level of brand advocate that Puppia has. You would think that a diamond ring would engender the same kind of ardent appreciation, and it comes close, but not quite. Diamonds represent love. A dog harness represents keeping a loved one safe. Maybe it’s not a stretch to say that a harness is a dog owner’s version of a diamond. It’s what we give our dogs to show love. Puppia has pulled off the ultimate sales and marketing trick and built a better mouse trap.

This reinforces a lesson taught in any Marketing 101 class, but is often overlooked: The very best marketing concepts fail when the product doesn’t live up to the hype. Let’s face it, without a great product, you’ve got one out-of-control dog with a weak harness.

Gap Returns to Old Blue Logo After Fans Gripe

The Gap is returning to their old blue logo. I blogged about this in my last post, and so naturally, I will be bragging today to all my friends how I blogged about The Gap’s new logo and forced them to change it back to the old. The power of blogging, the power of Audacious Ink. . .(cue the needle scratching abruptly across the record.)

Okay, delusions aside, seriously, wow: the power of the masses. The Gap was a trending topic because of the logo flap. No one liked it. Graphic design blogs were sounding in, marketing blogs, fan blogs, fashionistas blog, probably pet blogs even sounded in, who knows, but seriously, half the Internet was talking about this. The Gap realized the mistake they made strategically and reversed it.

Will this be a case study in future marketing classes? It’s gotta be.

In this article, there is a great, succinct quote about brands that I am going to reuse myself in the future, as it’s the best I’ve heard. “Logos are key to brands because they convey meaning and are something fans feel connected to.” Emily Fredix, the AP marketing writer who wrote the story gets credit for that one. I think she hit the nail on the head, and it explains, in part, why there was such an uproar. It’s a logo, right? Who cares?

We did, and the Gap listened and responded quickly. I’m so misty-eyed over this marriage of branding and t-shirts that I think I’m going to shop at The Gap today in Sherman Oaks. Look for my Foursquare check-in.

How Google Alerts Saved My Life

Okay, Google Alerts hasn’t saved my life. I lied. Did I just want your attention? Oh who knows, it’s me. I always want attention. The other night the grocery store clerk carded me because I was buying wine. I got teary-eyed with joy. No, that has nothing to do with Google Alerts or me wanting attention. That had to do with me wanting to brag shamelessly.

Google Alerts: set them for your brand or your clients. Set them for key executives, your products, your competitors, even your blog. Use a variety of keywords to ensure that you get the alerts you need. It seems obvious, but I’m surprised at how many companies still fail to do this. I have an alert set for one particular client and recently, someone in a blog mentioned this client negatively. The client was able to respond, address the situation directly and turn it around; more so, they responded in a pro-active manner and ended up looking like the class act that they are.

Alerts don’t make bad publicity go away–but they help you to address possible issues before they explode and are still simply taking shape. On the up side, alerts give you material for your social media networks when you get a positive mention or glowing review. When my clients get nice placement in a blog or website, we often will post it. Yep. We brag. Did I mention that I got carded the other night?

Silence is Golden on Your Website

I have said this before right here in this blog: do not greet people on your website with a person talking. It is not a great marketing strategy and it serves one purpose: it pisses off your visitors.

Nobody likes it. Nobody wants it. Most of us have traveled to your website not wishing to share our business to anyone sitting in the room with us. Social networking may be social, but in general, when we surf the net, we want a level of privacy. Not that we are downloading porn or doing anything illicit. We just don’t want to be greeted with a blasting voice going, “HI!!!! WELCOME TO OUR WEBSITE!!!!!”

Here’s what I do when it happens to me: I exit the website quickly and I never go back. Is that what you wanted? Then mission accomplished.

Loud noise should never come from dogs, children, women (or men) with high-pitched voices, or a website.

Turn off the noise.

Beyond the Expertise

During a visit yesterday with my pal Robert, our conversation drifted toward a subject he is passionate about: the art of acting. Robert, an actor and acting coach, related an incident about an acting student of his. The student was nervous about going into an audition, and was very focused on what the casting director was looking for.

“Don’t focus on what the casting director wants or needs,” Robert told him. “Focus on what qualities that you have that you know this role needs.”

As someone who is obsessed with marketing, I, of course, instantly translated this idea to my field. Robert’s sage advice on acing an audition is really no different what any of us do if we do our jobs well, be it acting or marketing, or dog-walking.

As a consultant, I look at my clients’ projects and consider what I can bring to each one beyond my expertise. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating that I do not focus on their needs–I wouldn’t be doing my job, and as someone who spent much of her career in-house, it always bugged me when consultants we hired weren’t really listening to our needs and goals.

People hire you for your expertise, but what more can you bring to the table? What qualities do you possess that can add extra value? Your client has goals, but can you look at problems they have that may need solving, and see where you can contribute added value? Maybe it’s a project with moving parts and you happen to be a stickler for deadlines, or you have an eagle eye for detail. How can what you do well naturally, beyond your skill set, help them even more in the project?

To give a real-life example of this, look at sales people. If you are not a charming person who genuinely likes people, you are probably not an effective salesperson. It may be hard for you to put clients at ease or connect with them, for example. That would hinder closing a sale. Or social media: of late, I’ve heard an increasing number of speakers and social media experts say you might want to delegate social media if you are not a social person becuase it won’t come naturally to you. Conversely, if you have a client who is struggling with their program, and you are a good communicator, offer up some tips or even suggest some content. These kind of things don’t take a lot of time and help further enrich your relationship with your client. It’s what my grandma used to call establishing good faith, and it goes a long way.

When we do a good job, we’re bringing to the table more than our skills. We’re bringing pieces of our character.

If Sinatra Used Facebook

Blame it on the late night pizza, or blame it on too much Facebooking, but the other night I dreamt Sinatra was still alive and was a Facebook friend of mine. He posted on his wall, “Who’s up for a gas? Party at my place this weekend in Palm Springs. Lots of dames, but no booze. Who am I kidding? There will be booze. The faucet will flow. Bring your bird.” If you are a big Sinatra fan, you know the translation for that Frankenspeak, and when he says “Birds,” he’s not talking canaries.

I’ve read a lot of bios on Sinatra in my day, and right now, my boyfriend is currently going through a Sinatra phase. No, he hasn’t resorted to referring to me as his “dame,” or “broad,” but he is heavy into the music and the lore of Sinatra. The crooner is the epitome of Old School. He was a sociable guy who liked to do his socializing face-to-face. These days, I hear the term “Facebook friend” more than I do the term “Friend.” Sinatra, I think, would laugh at Facebook, calling all of us users “Big Galoots,” and “Clydes.”

I’m just old enough to realize that for the majority of my life, I socialized the Sinatra way; well, minus the dames and much of the booze. I now socialize the online way: I update Facebook on a daily basis, multiple times a day—for my clients. On a much less frequent basis, I will update it for me, and when I do, I keep it to cocktail party talk. I know some people who share deep and meaningful revelations on their profile page, and I cringe. Not because I’m embarrassed for them (though I sometimes am. Here’s a tip guys: Never refer to how much the bail for last night’s drunken brawl cost you). I cringe because I have a hard time posting something intimate and personal to an audience that I actually know. It’s easier to confess when you are unsure of who the audience will be, or if there will even be an audience.

Sinatra, on the other hand, was one who shrugged off deep personal confessions. If he wanted to let you know how he felt (so I’ve read, it’s not like I knew him) he’d give you a look. You can’t give a look on Facebook.

Sinatra is probably a good example of why social media is not for everyone. No doubt, his management team would have an official page for him. They would hire someone like me to do the updates. If it were me, I’d probably post something cheery and upbeat like this:

“Name that tune! ”I’d sacrifice anything come what might
For the sake of having you near
In spite of a warning voice that comes in the night
And repeats, repeats in my ear.’ Okay fans, what song is that? Hint: He recorded this song while at Capital Records!”

Then, fans would write in, and because they are fans, would know it’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Someone would invariably get the song wrong, “No, no, no. It’s Angel Eyes.” Then someone else would comment under their comment, “Moron. Get off this Page.”

And so on.

Now, compare this to Sinatra, the real Sinatra, and what he might post. At first glance, his fan page would be cluttered with thousands of wall posts from fans, saying, “Your music is the soundtrack to my life, sir,” and stuff like that. Or they would post a line from his repertoire. “A summer wind, came blowing in, from across the sea . . ..”

At the bottom of the wall, there would be one lonesome post from Ol’ Blue Eyes. “Every one tells me I should be on this thing called The Face Book. So here I am. Now what do I do? Seems like a waste of time. I’m getting my bird outta here. It’s cocktail time. Where’s my Gentleman’s Jack? Someone call Sammy. Tell him to get over here.”

Social media is not for everyone. It’s probably not for really cool crooners who want to party face-to-face with the Rat Pack and who, in their own playful way, scorn the masses. If Sinatra were alive, Facebook would probably not be for him. That’s okay. And that is the first thing you should ask yourself if you are thinking about launching a Page. “Is it for me?” “Do I have the patience and enthusiasm to stay with this?” “If not, do I have the resources to outsource this or delegate to a team member?” If the answer is “No” to all the above, hold off. Social Media is here to stay, and while it’s better to get in earlier than later, as you are all that much more ahead, it’s disastrous to jump in when you are not fully on-board.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for a party with some crazy cats in Palm Springs. It will be a gas.

“All Marketers Are Liars” is a Lie: Ask Seth

I need to get this off my chest. Marketing is not lying. Lying is lying and marketing is, in its simplest form, promoting a real event, product or service. There is a lot more that goes into that promotion, like blood, sweat and tears, but lying is not part of the mix. In fact, just ask any college marketing professor to name the entire marketing mix for you. Lying is not part of it.

Why am I ranting about this? Over time, I have deleted a few people from my Facebook profile page due to a simple little fact: they are telling lies, especially lies about their career all in the name of marketing and PR, to make them seem more successful. I love a good lie, don’t get me wrong. Tell me I look 21 and I will a) think you are lying and b) love you. No, I will worship you. Anyway, I noticed that as social media grew, so did the unfortunate side-effect of some people lying, and, worse, it was done under the guise of marketing. Normally, I would let sleeping dogs lie, literally, but when people start lying and then justify it by saying, “It’s just marketing,” then I have an issue, people. I’m a marketer, not a liar (unless you are going to bust me on age issues again).

Don’t believe me? Fine. Ask Seth Godin, who as any marketer knows (but liars may not) wrote “All Marketers are Liars.” See, he didn’t really mean it, because of this quote from the book: “When you are busy telling stories to people who want to hear them, you’ll be tempted to tell stories that just don’t hold up. Lies. Deceptions.”

I was reminded of this quote when I recently saw a friend who asked about a mutual friend. “It seems like things are going well, judging by the Facebook updates,” he said. Before I could even answer, he added, “Of course, if you can believe all that.” I told him that based on what I knew, he was right; this friend was doing a little fabricating. “How’s that working out?” he asked dryly, waiting a beat, then said, “Oh, I guess it’s not.”

More than an admonishment on lying, my message here is that the lies don’t hold up if you don’t have proof of the product, or the business, or the experience. People see through it, or worse, they believe you, then ask an innocent question following up on your Facebook update, and realize, “Huh, that was a lie.” People don’t like to be duped. A sucker is born every minute; a person scorned is reborn every second. And scorned consumers are the ones spending money on the competitor’s product or service. Not the liars.

Brunch with Guy Kawasaki

I had brunch today with Guy Kawasaki. Okay, it was more coffee, and frankly, Guy wasn’t there. Well, he was on my computer to be exact. Thanks to Cisco, there was a webinar, a FREE webinar with Mr. Kawasaki, and being fond of things that are free, I signed up.

It was fun to see him chatting live on my computer, even if he couldn’t see me; and thank God he couldn’t. I was in my jammies and hadn’t yet washed my hair; though I did have on a tad bit of makeup. I don’t want to scare Winston, my Boston Terrier, who is also my office mate helping me run my business out of my home office. The fact that my VP is a dog explains a lot about the state of my business, by the way. Jokes aside, Guy was great. I got the feeling the whole webinar was a plug for Alltop, his mega media-stop which pulls together the best newsfeeds, but I still learned a few good things. First of all, Guy thinks Facebook Fan Pages are good tools if you have compelling content to pull people in. Otherwise, if you are using a push method, Twitter is a more effective marketing “Weapon.”

He gave us a great example of Twitter’s search capabilities and suggested we use it for monitoring not only our brand but the competition. He used Nikon and Canon as examples. Evidently, the two camera power-houses use Twitter often to see what people are not only saying about them, but the competition. They make good use of retweets, and shape their own tweets accordingly.

He likes using Twitter’s search function, “because you are searching the world’s sentiment in real time for free.” Why couldn’t I have said that? I guess because I’m not Guy Kawasaki.

For finding great examples of engaging content, he suggested we all follow @cleveraccounts, which tweets about the latest clever Twitter strategies brands are employing.

For selling, he used Dell Outlets and Kogi BBQ as Tweeple who get it right. Kogi BBQ is an LA food truck that makes certain stops. People in this city line up for their BBQ, which is evidently out of this world. They tweet their locations, menus, deals, etc. As for Dell Outlet, they are always tweeting specials and giving away coupon codes for discounts. Both brands are very effective in getting out the word on special events, and that is the key to their sales-power.

Guy had some great quotes, “It’s not the number of followers; it’s the number who are engaged to what you have to say.” Wow. As one tweeple said, “I’m trying Guy, I’m trying.”

He also said something I say to my clients so often I should put it on my monthly invoice. “Myth: Social Media is Easy.” It’s not rocket science, but it sure ain’t “Shake-n-Bake,” either. It’s not easy coming up with content that is compelling, but Guy won’t settle for that: he says that if you want followers you need content that is fascinating. Fascinating. His words. Not mine. I’m content with compelling, but I trust Guy.

I was also relieved to hear him say that Social Media is still so new, and still so fluid that no one is a social media expert. Some of us do it better than others, and the early users are the folks who got in quickly and have learned the most–so far.

Guy also said something else interesting. Work on tactics before strategy when it comes to social media. I always advise clients to develop a strategy first, and I stand by that, but I get what he’s saying: you have to jump in. We’re not building a house here. You can’t because Social Media is too fluid. “We’re not even building a tent,” Guy said. “A tent is too static. All we’ve got is a sleeping bag. Plop the sleeping bag down here, and if it doesn’t work, move it over there.” In other words, experiment with your tweets, with your fan page. Try different topics and tones until you find one that ignites the interests of your audience.

Another great point: “Oprah can tweet about her cat rolling over. She can be boring. We can’t.” When celebs are boring, we are enchanted. When we’re boring, we lose followers.

Guy’s advice for gaining followers: become a subject matter expert, and follow like-minded individuals. Then retweet their content (“It’s the highest form of flattery”) link to blogs, stories, videos, etc. Give them content that they wouldn’t be able to find on their own. Of course, he advocates using Alltop for that, or Stumbleupon.

His final parting words were that social media is fast, free and ubiquitous. Why wouldn’t you want to be on it?

You can’t argue with that.

It’s Simply Delicious

I am a big fan of Delicious. I have it on my bookmark bar, and every time I read a marketing article of any sort, whether it’s advertising related, PR, social media, branding—whatever—if I think it’s a keeper, I hit my Delicious icon, then tag it and, voila! It’s bookmarked for easy access from any computer once I log in. Not only is it handy for me to refer back to these articles if I’m on the road, but I can refer other people to my bookmarks.

If you are attending The Smart Show this weekend, we’ll be talking a lot about social media. Please check out My Delicious, and you can then include those helpful articles listed their to your own social media library.

From Y2K to Are We Okay

At the end of 1999, I worked for a large, global asset manager in the marketing and communications department. Our biggest fear at the time was Y2K, and would we get laid off. Now, in that same company, they are still, a decade later wondering if they will get laid off, but the Y2K fear seems quint and downright cute.

Our biggest marketing concern was our brochures and print ads. Of course we had a website, and we printed the URL on all printed material in hopes that people would actually go to the site to the see the wealth of info we had stored there, but, a familiar mantra around our department was, “They still don’t use the web,” referring to our end users.

I have not touched base with anyone in that department in a while, mainly because they have all moved on (the laid off fears came true for many), but I have to believe that more and more of their marketing presence is online. These days, brochures and print ads almost now seem as quant and cute as Y2K. Almost.

If I could get in a tele-transport Star Trekkie machine and send myself back to 1999, how would I advise the group I managed back then as they faced not only a new year, but a new decade. Knowing what I know now, if I could have helped form the strategy for a large financial institution, what would my advice have been?

Well, first off, look out for November 2008, and have a crisis plan in place. Not to mention curbing bonuses and CEO salaries. Jokes aside, here’s some thoughts about lessons we learned from the past ten years in marketing:

1. Watch technology and get in early on the ideas that seem like winners. Imagine if you started a Fan Page when Facebook first launched the concept. It takes time to grow a base and you would be all that much further along. The key is to not jump on the bandwagon of everything that comes to market, of course, but the ones that seem to really make sense and fit into your strategy.

2. Write more press releases. Too many companies miss the boat on this one and only put one out when there is huge news. They overlook the fact that magazines need content, and if your CEO or CMO is speaking at a conference on a particular topic, they might need that, or that might want to know that your once marketing assistant is now a manager. The caveat is to send the right information to the right magazine. Trades want to know about promotions and important events as much as they want to know about new products or mergers. A press release is an easy way to keep your brand visible and thriving.

3. Don’t sell, build a community. “Hug Your Client,” “Be a Brand Rock Star,” “Emotion Marketing,” these book titles and phrases were all developed in the last ten years and mean, more or less, the same thing: connect with your target market. Or maybe to think of it in writer’s terms: show don’t tell. Don’t you hate it when you walk into a store and you are given the hard sell? Isn’t it nicer to walk in, be greeted with a smile and maybe even learn some useful information about items on sale? It’s the same way on Twitter or on fan pages. Don’t always push your product. Educate us, inform us, entertain us and hey, ask us what we think. We will like your product all the more.

4. Take a hard look at your product and hit the reload button. Do you feel that on the back of your neck? That hot, sticky sensation? It’s your competition. They are breathing down your neck, nipping at your heels, clipping your wings as they try to edge their way by you. The mobile wars between Google and iPhone are a great example. Actually the iPhone and pretty much all the competition is a great example. You do something great and the competition scrambles to top you. It is ceaseless, never-ending, like your Aunt Martha’s marshmallow-topped desserts at holiday dinners, they just don’t stop. Be your own product’s harshest critic (privately, of course).

5. Make sure the CEO understand SEO and get going already. Don’t let Fred in IT be your search engine guy, unless he’s a true search engine genius with experience and training. Hire a qualified firm to do this for you, and watch your brand grow leaps and bounds. I can’t think of a faster way to grown brand recognition than by putting your efforts into search engine marketing. Educate yourself in this area. Lynda offers a course in it, or just do a google search.

6. Always do one more thing. In marketing, you are never done. Have you updated the website? Tweaked your marketing material? Scrubbed your data list? Reached out to tier three prospects? For that matter, have you been in touch with tier one? Are you reading the latest on trends? Do you know what the competition is doing?

It’s exhausting, I know. A marketer’s job is never done.