KEXINO Marketing Blog

Marketing thoughts and ideas for start-ups and small businesses

  • Best Small Business Marketing Blog 2017Best Marketing blog on Apple News
 
  • marketing and sales working together
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    The Evolving Relationship Between Sales And Marketing
    The traditional roles of sales and marketing have evolved, as technology has shaped and influenced customer buying behavior. Marketing now does more, but that doesn't mean the role of sales is now irrelevant.
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  • virtual reality in marketing strategy
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    The Difference Between Strategy and Tactics
    The marketing industry has been upended over the past decade from marketing technology. The result is many businesses focus on tactics and forget about strategy - with disastrous results.
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  • The Business Strategy Of Offering Less
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    Offering LESS As A Business Strategy
    How many of us wake up and ask ourselves how we can offer LESS than our competition? Probably no one – yet that may be the most important question you can ask yourself about your small business.
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  • digital disruption does not mean digital adoption
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    Digital Disruption Isn't Digital Adoption
    Meaningful digital disruption is not about society adopting new tools or technologies. It's about society implementing new behaviors.
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  • holding attention with your small business marketing
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    The 10 Minute Rule For Keeping Audience Attention
    Businesses of every size need to create exceptional, remarkable marketing experiences for their audiences if they are to have a chance of being remembered.
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  • listening to bad marketing advice
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    Most Business Marketing Advice is Wrong
    Most advice from so-called marketing gurus aren’t worth the blogs they're written on. That’s because most of them have little basis in reality and are merely regurgitations of everyone else’s marketing articles with the same hopeless and ineffective ideas.
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  • creative connected consumer
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    Connecting With 'Consumer v2.0'
    Your brand communication isn't just being hijacked. It’s being held to ransom by the perceived quality of your customer experience. The consumer has assumed the role of Judge, Jury - and Executioner.
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  • brand marketing becoming storytelling
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    What Brands Must Know About Storytelling
    Companies of all shapes and sizes must evolve their messaging from simple one-dimensional slogans or taglines, to multi-tiered, story-based communications.
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  • small business marketing problems to look for
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    Small Business Marketing: You Don't Know What You Don't Know
    Many small businesses either fail to align their marketing with a business-related issue, or mis-diagnose the root cause of why their marketing isn't working
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  • big market small market
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    Your Market Isn't As Big As You Think
    The definition, scope, and size of a market can only be based upon current buyer understanding on what that market represents. If customers don’t understand what your product is, and how it compared to other products, the truth is that you’re in a new market.
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  • a common goal of delivering a seamless, personalized and relevant customer experience
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    Presenting A Unified Customer Experience
    To provide a unified customer experience means a new way of doing business. one where the entire organization delivers a seamless, personalized and relevant customer experience, no matter where the interaction takes place.
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  • Specialization of business processes
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    The Specialization of Business Process
    Instead of continually dividing a business into niche areas of specialization, there's an argument for the return of what we could call the "informed generalist".
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  • all products are now commodities
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    All Products Have Become Commodities
    Products, no matter how great they may be, are commodities. How much your brand is liked is the new barometer of how much advocacy it will generate.
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  • Why “Good Enough” Hurts Your Marketing
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    Why “Good Enough” Leads To Marketing Mediocrity
    "Good Enough" is no longer good enough. Today's business marketing successes are where someone refused to accept the status quo, and instead set out to change a fundamental rule of that industry.
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  • Mobile marketing is more than just for apple devices
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    Mobile Marketing Isn't Just For Apple Devices
    If you're targeting an audience who uses a mobile device that's different from the one you personally own, then you owe it to them to (at least) be familiar with that device.
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  • big data vs gut feeling
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    Today's Marketing Combines Big Data With Sound Intuition
    Today's marketers can't just simply rely on Big Data for their decisions, any more than they can rely purely on gut feeling. Today's marketing is about the combination of the two.
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  • Different strokes for different folks
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    Everyone Is Not Your Target Customer
    There are any number of reasons why your target customer doesn’t think your product is all that.
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  • tour de france competition
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    Your Competition Isn't Who You Think It Is
    You can’t really market successfully to your audience until you understand the choices that they are making, and can see the alternatives from their eyes. The more you try to unearth your "stealth competitors", the better your marketing will be.
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  • big business mentality is slow and cumbersome
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    Growing A Business: When Bigger Isn't Better
    The problem with building widgets faster and more cheaply is that you're assuming the demand for those widgets will never wane - but that day will surely come. Today the innovation opportunity lies in the ability to address more transient customer needs.
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  • too much customer choice is a bad thing
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    When Customer Choice Is A Bad Thing
    Offering too much customer choice in your business, product or services prevents your customers making any choice at all.
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  • page conversion optimization for more web traffic
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    Conversion Rate Optimization: Knowing vs. Guessing
    Conversion Rate Optimization is the combination of the objective with the subjective – making creative content decisions based upon quantitative data.
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  • mobile-friendly website
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    A Mobile-Friendly Website Now Impacts SEO
    Having a website that's optimized for mobile-devices has been growing in importance for some time. With Google's latest search algorithm changes, it's become critical.
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  • The Art Of The Start 2.0 Book Cover Image
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    Review: The Art Of The Start 2.0 by Guy Kawasaki
    2004's "The Art of the Start" ranks as one of the best book around on the subject of startups. Now Guy Kawasaki has updated it. If you are looking to read just one book on start-ups and business development, your journey has ended.
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  • legacy products preventing business growth
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    Are Legacy Products Hurting Business Growth?
    Are your organization's legacy products, features or services still pulling their weight? If you're not focused on maintaining and growing them, then you should be focused on replacing them.
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  • do your customers believe what you say
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    Your Customers Don't Believe You
    There's an alternative to spewing-out hype and rhetoric. If you choose to tell your story in a way that's more believable, then you have half a chance of your audience choosing to give you their attention.
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  • iBeacons are the next qr codes
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    iBeacons: This year's QR Codes?
    Mobile marketing is the same as any other marketing: Give an irresistible and compelling reason for your audience to allow you to contact them and they’ll come – whether it’s iBeacons, QR codes or whatever else is around the corner.
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  • dunce customer
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    Your Customers Aren't Stupid
    Being "simple" is about being understood quickly and easily by using the right words and phrases. Being "simplistic", in contrast, assumes that your audience won't understand what you're saying unless you dumb it down to death.
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  • good first impression in business
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    You Had Me At Hello: Your Customer's First Impression
    The problem with first impressions isn’t that they’re not important - because they are. But that we have no idea when that first impression is going to manifest.
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  • feel the fear, then do it anyway
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    There's No Room For Fear In Business
    Fear is never far away when starting or running any business. If you want an easy life then find another job. Fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and anxiety are part of what you signed up to.
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  • Being different means standing out
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    Stop Trying To Be Different
    Customer attention can no longer be held by things they don’t care about. Somehow businesses have come to believe that "standing out" is about "being different". The truth is that what really moves customers is emotion, not hyperbole.
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  • Time to ditch Facebook?
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    Is It Time For Your Company To Ditch Facebook?
    With the continuing changes that Facebook makes to its algorithm, Facebook Business Pages have essentially become less effective - unless Page owners are prepared to spend significant amounts of money to promote their content. It's time to evolve your company's social media tactics.
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  • why your demonstrations are costing you sales
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    Why Your Demonstrations Are Costing You Sales
    The demo is there to back-up the claims that your solution will solve the problems that you've said it will solve. It's not about features and benefits.
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  • hand-painted sneakers
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    The King's New Clothes, Or Today's Business Narrative?
    People buy from companies and individuals that they feel have similar positions, thoughts and ideals to their own. Don't be afraid to tell your story. Say it in places where your audience congregates, and your customers, fans (and evangelists) will come.
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  • herd mentality
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    Following The Herd Leads To The Slaughterhouse
    These "thought leaders" go from conference to conference giving presentations but being dead-wrong, and everyone is so terrified of being thought odd or old-fashioned that they refuse to speak up.
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  • salesman with fake watch
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    Sales Is Not A Dirty Word
    Selling has grown-up in the face of information symmetry between buyer and seller. Today's sales people are advisors and curators as much as persuaders.
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  • new ways of thinking
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    Business Innovation Isn't (Just) About Customer Benefit
    Innovation in business has less to do with economic swings, and more with the strength of a company's passion to avoid knee-jerk reactionary rhetoric and disjointed activities.
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  • marketing automation
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    Why Marketing Automation Tools Aren't Improving Your Marketing
    There are many marketing automation products available to help reduce the inertia and increase productivity. But using them means one less excuse as to why your marketing's not working.
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  • extending your brand
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    Why Are You Extending Your Brand?
    Just because you can, doesn't mean that you should. Ask yourself this one question before you extend (dilute?) your company or product brand.
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  • Mary Meeker Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers
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    The Changing Face of Marketing: Mary Meeker's Internet Trends Report
    The way that we consume, interact, and share information and content continues to change, as our media consumption tools evolve at an even faster rate. The challenge for marketers and business owners is to overlay such trends data in the context of their own value message and customer buying experience.
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  • standing out in your marketing
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    Marketing Today: Doing It Your Way
    Today's business success is driven by the ability to adapt to market conditions and customer expectations by finding and communicating in your own, authentic voice.
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  • The evolution of business and customers
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    Your Customers Are Evolving. How Are You Evolving With Them?
    Customer experiences are becoming ever more concerted and connected every day. Today's always-on, empowered consumer is out-gunning and out-marketing even the largest corporate heavyweights. What's your response?
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  • branding my business
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    Why Business Branding Takes Care Of Itself
    A business doesn't become successful because of getting its brand in shape. Get your basic business values in place first, and your branding will take care of itself.
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  • business marketing should be regular, like exercise
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    Why Marketing Is Like Exercise
    If you market today, your business is not going to suddenly be successful tomorrow or next week. But if you market every day, next year your business may be fitter, and healthier, and stronger.
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  • features vs. benefits
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    Features vs. Benefits: The Difference Between "How" and "What"
    Buyers are more interested about how your product or service addresses their problem, rather than how it works.
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  • which page is your site's homepage?
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    Which Page Is Your Website's Homepage?
    You don't get to decide on which page your visitors join your website - search engines do. Every page on your website needs to be strong enough to stand on its own, as much as being part of a wider, integrated brand experience.
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  • customers are bored with your business
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    Are Your Customers Getting Bored With You?
    Are your customers still the same eager advocates for your business that they were? Today, any business has a realtime barometer that gives them detailed information on customer opinion, sentiment and loyalty.
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  • media and marketing convergence
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    The Inevitable Convergence of Media With Marketing
    The distinction between what's media and what's marketing is eroding. The inevitable result is a convergence and integration of the two - even if the business models required to support such evolution haven't emerged in the same way.
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  • keeping prospects on the boil - lead nurturing
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    Sales Lead Nurturing: Keeping Prospects On The Boil
    Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships, reputation and trust with sales prospects in ways that are consistent, timely and relevant.
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  • ineffective social media efforts
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    Social Media #FAIL: You're Spreading Yourself Too Thinly
    If your brand has multiple social-media presences but lacks a content strategy to populate these social spaces, you're probably spreading yourself too thinly on what's achievable for your brand in social media.
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  • corporate website optimization
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    Why Your Company Website Isn't Working
    Is your company website working for you, or against you? Simplify and optimize both website content and overall design to help increase traffic and lead generation opportunities.
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  • marketing is not about the technology
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    Marketing Is Not About Technology
    Marketing technologies such as social media and online video are simply a means to an end. It's not about technology itself, but about imagination, creativity and inspiration.
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  • social media research study infographic
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    How Do Your Social Media Efforts Compare With The Biggest Brands?
    The companies that get social media interaction right aren't necessary the ones who've been doing it the longest, or the ones with the largest resources - or with the deepest pockets.
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  • Specialize Your Business To Increase Profitability
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    Specialize Your Business To Increase Profitability
    Many startups and small businesses fall into the trap of taking on whatever business opportunity comes their way. But could your business do better by saying "no" ?
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  • the importance of having a corporate blog
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    A Company Blog: Your Top Marketing Priority For 2013
    Do it right, and your company blog can be a massively valuable business asset. Do it wrong and it'll be a waste of time, money and effort. It's your choice.
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  • customer complaint
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    Why Customer Complaints Are A Good Thing
    Any business worth its salt gets complaints, but how easy is it do you make it for your customers to complain?
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  • APE: How To Publish A Book, by Guy Kawasaki
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    Review: APE by Guy Kawasaki: How to Publish A Book
    Ever felt like you could write a book? A new book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch might be just what you're looking for.
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  • drinking straws
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    Your Business Communication Sucks
    Your company's marketing sucks big time. Sorry, but it has to be said. So what are you going to do about it?
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  • field of dandelions
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    Marketing To Your Ideal Customer? Be Careful What You Wish For
    Rather than focus everything around a solution-driven proposition, try extending your marketing and lead-generation efforts around creating greater awareness to the factors that contribute to the problem.
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  • The Voice Of Customer Choice
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    The Growing Voice Of Customer Choice
    Companies don't like unpredictability. They prefer aiding, developing and strengthening predictability, rather than meeting the needs of the customer.
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  • Dr Amy Cuddy - TED Talk
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    Fake It Until You Become It
    If you can't be confident, passionate and enthusiastic about your business value proposition, then how can you reasonably expect your prospective customers to be?
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  • connected, upwardly-mobile customer
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    What Does It Mean To Do Business With Your Business?
    Today's digital lifestyle is tightly woven into the fabric of a new "networked" customer experience. How relevant is your business in this new world?
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  • customer service on social media
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    How Social Media Puts The "Service" Back Into Customer Service
    It seems inevitable that as Customer Service embraces social media, it becomes part of Marketing - which, in reality, it always has been.
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  • knowing when to shut up in sales
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    Selling Means Knowing When To Shut Up
    I don't want salespeople repeating marketing copy or technical specifications from the website. If I want a parrot, I'll buy one.
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  • self marketing your startup
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    Why DIY-Marketing Your Startup is a BAD idea
    A word of advice for anyone thinking that they can get away with starting a company without having professional marketing resources on board: don't do it. DIY-marketing a startup business is a recipe for disaster.
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  • pregnant woman
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    Business Marketing: You Can't Be Half Pregnant
    Your business marketing is struggling because your value proposition is no longer perceived as having the same relevance with its target audience.
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  • Customer Lifetime Value
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    Customer Lifetime Value: A Marathon, Not A Sprint.
    Companies must assess the real worth of their customers' business over the course of the buying relationship - and treat them accordingly.
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  • tombstones
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    Sorry, HBR. Marketing is most certainly NOT dead.
    Marketing is everything from what you sell, to how you sell it. To say that Marketing is dead is like saying that business itself is dead.
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  • Strasbourg to canberra map
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    Every Business Is A Global Business: The Illusion Of Location
    20 years ago the very fact that your business was local was enough for customers to buy from you. But that's no longer the case.
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  • social media icons
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    Being A Social Brand Doesn't Make You A Social Business
    The creation of a social brand has become commonplace. But building a social business is an investment in customer relevance for the future.
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  • woman with funny disguise
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    Marketing The Buying Experience: How Do You Make Them Feel?
    Every business today is actually marketing two distinct value propositions to its customers - and probably doesn't even know it.
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  • being-different-in-business
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    Marketing Your Business: How Different Are You Really?
    You can no longer get attention by shouting louder, like you could in the old days (i.e. anything more than about 3 years ago). Today, you get attention by sounding different.
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  • business buzzwords
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    Marketing Strategy and Sales Strategy: The Need For Integration
    "Spray and Pray" can no longer be relied upon. There's increasing importance in aligning a company's marketing strategy with sales strategy to form a single cohesive revenue capture model.
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  • winning in business is like winning in sport
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    Being The Best In Your Business
    Customers need to be sure that you're the best choice - for them, at this particular point in time, based upon their list of influencing factors. What are you doing to help them make the right choice?
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  • pole-vaulter
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    Your Business Is Competing With Apple
    Or Coca-Cola. Or McDonald’s. It doesn’t matter if you don't think you're competing with such commercial giants. You’re not the one who’s making the comparison. Your customers are.
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  • social media ROI
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    Measuring Social Media ROI With The Wrong Tape Measure
    Many companies are designing their social media strategies around "Likes" or "ReTweets". Instead, we should be designing for an action or an outcome - something that results in a transaction of some sort.
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  • businessman-superhero
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    Sales Heroes Can't Save Product Zeroes
    Today - more than ever - you better make sure that your product delivers on its promise. In today's connected-customer environment where product information is so freely available, the sales division can no longer cover-up product weaknesses in the same way that it used to.
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  • Business Change to maintain relevance
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    Business Change Is Inevitable
    If you’re not happy with the way things are going, what fundamental, radical, extra-ordinary changes are you prepared to make to your business to change things?
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  • marketing is about how we feel
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    "Fight or Flight" Business Marketing
    The vast majority of companies aren’t very good at producing marketing experiences that pass the "Fight or Flight" test. I’ll go as far as to say that I’m betting that your company is one of them.
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  • Agile marketing
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    "Agile" Business Marketing: Repeating and Refining
    Call it persistence, stubbornness or sheer bloody-mindedness, but sometimes marketing your business means doing something knowing that it will fail, simply so that you can do it over and make it a success.
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  • Einstein quote on simplicity
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    Marketing Your Business Means Simplifying Your Business
    When marketing your business value to customers it’s imperative to match your communication to their expectation level at the time.
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  • business marketing choice changes
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    Change Your Business? Change Your Perceptions
    If you’re a business owner today, the single most important thing on your mind right now should be focused on how to keep your business value remaining relevant in the minds of your customers. Change is always going to happen. What we see as novel today becomes trite and cliché tomorrow. The challenge is refining your value perception at the pace of change.
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  • Networked
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    The New Definition Of Business Marketing
    Who is responsible for your business marketing? Most would assume that it's the Marketing department. While that's still partially true, the responsibility of a company's marketing has transitioned to a wider sphere.
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  • margarita pizza close-up
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    Selling Margarita Pizza Is Boring
    Today’s commercial opportunity exists in the periphery. The product or service that’s been made to appeal to the widest possible audience already exists.
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  • trying to out-Google your customers
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    Trying To Out-Google Customers: Why You'll Lose At Web Search
    Don't try to go up against your customers when it comes to content for web search results. You won't win.
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    Dollar Shave Club: Definitely Standing Out
    You may have already seen this. It's a few weeks old already. If you haven't, then take a look at this (real) video ad for Dollar Shave Club , a subscription-based razor blade delivery service (if you can't see the video above, then click here). Not only does the ad feature the actual company CEO, Michael Dubin, as its central character. The video - which cost just $4,500 to make - was used to help secure venture capital financing from big-name companies such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Andreessen Horowitz! The results so far have been staggering. In the first ten days of launch, Dollar Shave Club signed-up 20,000 subscribers. In less than a month, their off-the-wall, built-to-be-shared video has been seen 4 million times. The company is on target to secure more than $50 million in sales in the first twelve months of trading. This is in what most people would agree is a mature industry, dominated by just 2 or 3 major players. They've done this in a commodity market space with zero marketing budget, sales staff, distributors, resellers, print or TV advertising. Regardless of how well (or otherwise) Dollar Shave Club does in the coming months and years, what would seem clear from a marketing perspective is that the big guys have been caught napping. An unknown upstart has come along and not only disrupted the established business model (i.e. sell the razors cheaply, and charge a fortune for the blades). But they've communicated their business value in a way that cannot be ignored. Dubin used to be a digital marketing director at Sports Illustrated. Clearly his experience has been put to great use. The "safe" option would have been for Dollar Shave Club to market their product along the same lines at how the other guys do it. The problem with doing that is that the audience wouldn't have noticed them. Honestly, if you covered-up the logo and tagline, could you really tell the difference between an ad from Gillette and an ad from Schick/Wilkinson Sword? That's the problem that Dollar Shave Club recognized they'd have, if they went down the road of convention. Daring To Stand Out Instead, they dared to Stand Out. They realized that playing it safe was tantamount to commercial suicide: a new business model that upsets all that gone before is innovative, but that isn't always enough. By combining a new way of looking at buying razors with a bold and risky marketing campaign, Dollar Shave Club looks poised to single-handedly change marketing thinking for an industry that's been doing the same thing over and over again for more than half a century. The Best A Man Can Get? Yeah, right. You can bet that Gillette and the rest are going to be watching very closely over the next few months. This could be the iPod vs. the Walkman all over again. Update: Seems that the success of Dollar Shave Club over the past few years has been proving to be a real fly in the ointment for the competition. Not only has Gillette introduced their own version of a subscription-based model, but they've filed a lawsuit against Dollar Shave Club for patent infringement. This movie looks set to run and run. Update (July 2016): Wow. European multination Unilever has bought Dollar Shave Club for - wait for it - $1bn. That's about five times the revenue that Dollar Shave Club is expected to realize this year. Did Unilever pay too much? Probably. But the alternative was to let someone like Gillette of (heaven forbid!) P&G acquire Dollar Shave Club instead. Moral of the story? To truly succeed in today's environment, the consumer and retail giants of the past have to accept that innovation is the path forward.
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  • woman getting splashed with water
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    If Your Business Doesn't Stand Out, it's Invisible.
    Today it's about standing out, not fitting in. It's the only way that your customers can see you. So, why do so many businesses choose to blend in, rather than stand out? One word: Fear.
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  • the connected customer
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    Marketing Is About People, Not Technology
    Business marketing today is not about the technology behind the initiatives. It is about connecting and providing value to meet customer expectations.
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  • buying in a world of selling
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    It's not what you're selling. It's what customers are buying.
    If you want to grow revenues, increase customer satisfaction and drive your brand's visibility and awareness, then you need realize that "selling" has changed. Customers don't buy what you sell; they buy what they see as your value to them.
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  • Old-time-grocery-store
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    People To People: Business Comes Full Circle
    Every business is a people business. Thanks to a newly-empowered, more demanding customer, businesses must treat their customers as individuals if they are to compete.
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  • READ MORE
    Why Small Companies Beat Big Companies
    Big companies are getting bigger. Barely a day goes by without some multinational being in the news about buying another. It's not surprising. It's what big companies do. If you're a big company, then you're under a ton of pressure to keep performing - over and over again. Sales for the quarter have to be better than this time last year. New products to be launched and new markets to be found. Stakeholders and/or shareholders demand nothing less. But big companies have had their time in the sun. Today, being a small company is where it's at. I don't mean that Apple, or Walmart, or Coca-Cola are going to go bust tomorrow. I mean that small companies are outmaneuvering big companies because (now) they can. Publishing a magazine used to be a costly, elaborate and risky venture. You needed tech staff, a bunch of Macs and expensive software. You had to produce the pages in multiples of 4, optimize the pages for the printing process (what used to be called "prepress") then get them printed, trimmed, bound and distributed. Publishing a magazine only made financial sense if you could sell lots of (physical) copies (and lots of advertising). Today, you don't need to be Time Inc., or Hachette, or Random House to be a publisher. The cost of entry is an internet connection. The problem with big companies is their size. Small companies have the flexibility to react to market changes and capitalize on opportunities without having to go through 27 levels of bureaucracy and a Board-level vote. Small companies innovate, changing the way that we think about finding a place to stay when we're away from home (Airbnb), or storing/sharing our files with others (DropBox). Why? Because they have to. Small companies focus on customer relations - in not being an anonynous, faceless corporate façade. Small companies get the business because they're good, not because they're big. Forget the multinational conglomerates with their "one size fits all" mentality. A Big Mac, or iPad, or Diet Coke is the same no matter where you buy it. And that's the problem.
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  • yesterday's marketing does not work today
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    Yesterday's Marketing Doesn’t Work Today
    Yesterday, simply shouting was enough to get results. Today, we live in a world where most people actively resist marketing messages. Close the pop-up window. Skip past the commercials when watching the show that you recorded yesterday. Check your Facebook messages when the game cuts to an ad break. We don’t care about marketing because most marketing doesn’t care about us. Most marketing is about how great the company that’s trying to push their message thinks that they are. If I’m working from home on a weekday, I never answer the home telephone. Never. Why? Because anyone who knows me knows that if they need to get hold of me they need to email me, call my cellphone, or call my home office number. If it’s a weekday and the home phone rings I pretty much know that it’s a telemarketer calling. So I never pick up the phone. Even if you get their attention, the people who are listening to you resent you for interrupting them. I don’t care if the person on the end of that telemarketing call wants to sell me a goose that lays golden eggs for $10. The very fact that I’ve had to stop what I was doing to answer the phone, only to then realize that it’s someone peddling something, means that I’m NEVER going to buy whatever it is that they're selling. So if, as a society, we’re actively filtering-out “push” marketing techniques, how does a company get their wares in front of new customers? Do we need to throw money at the problem? Usually not. Do we need to throw more people a the problem? Rarely. Do we need to employ a hip and cool marketing company? Probably not (unless it's us)./li> What we need to do is stop marketing at people. Instead, we need to create an environment where customers will market our stuff to each other. For free. Yes, you read that right. No-one believes what companies say any more. But we do believe what our friends say. More than that, we even have more faith in the views of complete strangers than we do with companies. If I read ten rave reviews on Amazon about a product that I’m thinking of buying, that most certainly influences my purchasing decision. Want more proof? Look around. Services like DropBox, or Google+, or Pinterest are growing in popularity at an alarming rate. But have you ever seen an ad for any of them? Word of mouth is nothing new. It’s just that the mechanism for getting your voice out there has changed. In addition, you can now be heard by a lot more people than you ever could before. Why is Facebook, which recently filed for an IPO, valued at $100Bn when it only made $1Bn last year and had R&D expenses alone of $114 million? One of the reasons is that Facebook is on target to have one billion users later this year. According to Pew Research, the average Facebook users reach is 648. Word-Of-Mouse beats word of mouth hands-down. Image Credit (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
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    Shouting Can't Compete With Storytelling
    Another fantastic example of the "storytelling" style of Advertising 2.0 - aka "The Continued, Slow Death of Shouting To Get Attention" - this time from Chicago-based design/ad agency Coudal Partners. Click here if you can't see the video below. This is how you sell stuff today. If you want to get your message out there and past the daily detritus of intrusive, interruptive messages that are fighting for your customers' attention, your only hope is in standing out. Everyone else is shouting at your customers with "Buy Me!" messaging. You need to do something else if you want to be seen. Creativity: The New Business Currency Today, the currency required to get customer attention and mindshare is less about shouting about how great you are, and more about attributes such as creativity and storytelling. This really scares the C-Suite brigade, who've been brought-up putting together messages that shout to get attention. For many, the closest they get to storytelling is when they're talking with shareholders. The "C" in "C-Suite" doesn't often stand for "Creative". Hey - in many organizations, it stands for something a lot ruder than "Chief"... Today's value communication is not about getting celebrity endorsements, hiring the hippest film director, or having a gazillion-dollar budget. Above all, it's not about shouting about the product or service that you're trying to sell. It doesn't matter how many times you tell me that your business value is faster / cheaper / better / whatever than everyone else. Why? Because I don't care. So, is such "new age" advertising trying to masquerade as something other than sales fodder? Is storytelling-based advertising, at the end of the day, any more sincere that the "shouting" kind? Of course not. But does that ultimately matter? Is such content inherently less valuable because it's come from a brand rather than from an individual? From my perspective, I don't really make such a distinction: good stuff is good stuff - end of. To me, what matters is how successful the communication. For it to succeed, it has to have resonated with me at an emotional level. That emotion may be joy, fear, sorrow, anger, whatever. But for content to truly connect there needs to be an emotional connection. Great advertising has always done that.
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  • The convergence of marketing skills and IT skills
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    Marketing Has Become The New IT
    Have you noticed how many of the new marketing tools for businesses have more in common with IT than Marketing? If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time (thank you, if you have) then you’ll know how I’m always banging on about how there are a raft of new tools, technologies and processes that help you get your business value message out there - better. The issue is, unless you’re reasonably adept in IT, many of the tools look about as inviting and user-friendly as North Korea. Let me give you some examples. Web 2.0 By and large, static HTML based websites don’t help grow your online presence easily. Unless you’re a web guru (or have one to hand) updating static HTML sites is a pain - which is probably why so few companies bother. A site based on a Content Management System (CMS), on the other hand, gives you control, flexibility, easier SEO optimization (for non-SEO geeks) and the ability for anyone with permission to create and publish content to it (from wherever they are). OK, that’s all well and great. But while the developers of popular CMS platforms such WordPress, Joomla and Drupal have made great efforts to make installing, administering and managing sites easier, it’s still not the sort of thing that many people weaned on using “traditional” marketing vehicles would be comfortable doing without some sort of training. Optimizing for Mobile Having a site that allows for a good experience when viewed on a mobile device is probably the biggest marketing push for 2012. Apart from understanding terms like “responsive” (which, even though it’s only February, I’m already nominating as the Buzzword Of The Year) there’s content localization, multipurposing for tablet devices, QR Codes (yuck…), Near-Field Communications, and goodness-knows what else. How many marketers understand the basic underlying technologies - what's possible and what's not? I'm betting that there's not many. Social Media Automation Twitter, Facebook, Google+, whatever - give companies the opportunity to reach new potential customers. Most companies have a presence on more than one social media channel, However, many times content is relevant to certain channels, but not to others. All of a sudden it’s a major pain-in-the-proverbial to manage content and broadcasting to the most appropriate channel - which is where social media automation tools come in. But how many marketing professionals are leveraging such automation tools, or are even aware of the benefits of using them? The IT-fication of Marketing Do you see where I’m coming from?  Marketers today need to have at least a rudimentary understanding of skills that most would more associate with IT - basic HTML (or even CSS) understanding, scripting, network administration, video production (knowing your H264 from your 720p), UX/UI design, and so on. And if your answer to the IT-fication of Marketing is to throw these responsibilities at the feet of your company’s IT department - don’t. It means the marketing team will have zero control over the important marketing assets. It means that they won’t be able to make intelligent feature requests. Or diagnose potential problems with search, conversion rates, etc. If your IT department is like most IT departments, IT staff get dumped on from great heights with work that they shouldn't even be lumbered with. The laser printer's out of toner? Call IT. Battery-operated wireless mouse not working after your 2 week trip? Call IT. No toilet paper in the washrooms? You get the idea. As a result, IT folks build fortresses around their beloved infrastructure to stop tech-newbies from hurting themselves. Once you give IT control of (for example) the company website, IT becomes the roadblock. Simple marketing-related tasks are taken away from your control to stop you breaking something and giving them extra work. As a result your requests get placed in the queue - behind every other even vaguely technology-based help call. Applications to edit website “title” metatags take three weeks. Changing page descriptions for better SEO now takes months - and even then end up being edited incorrectly. Each web landing-page is now a separate project requiring a Gantt chart, resource allocation and budget approval. The whole process becomes about as agile as continental drift. What’s the solution? There’s isn't one - apart from learning the new tools of the trade. However, that doesn't mean that you have to be 100% self-sufficient. I remember one time thinking that I was capable of editing an .htaccess file without adult supervision. A keystroke or two later and I was in a world of pain - the site was down and I hadn't a clue how to fix things. It would have been easier finding the Higgs Boson particle. Today I am clued-up (and battle-worn) enough to know where my limits are, and when I need to call in a geek. Marketing professionals have always been responsible for driving new, innovative methods of communication, awareness creation, engagement and support - that's what they do. It's just that, today, many of those methods involve technologies that were previously the remit - and control - of someone else. You don't need to understand the ins and outs of fuel injection, power steering or automatic transmissions. But you should at least be able to check the oil level, fill the windshield washer bottle, or change a flat.
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  • Screenshot of Apple website selling MacBook Air
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    The Difference Between Marketing & Selling
    You can talk about what a product or service does, or you can talk about how the product/service makes the buyer feel. Most companies talk objectively. "This is what we're selling. It does X, Y and Z. It costs this much. It comes in these sizes/colors/whatever. How many do you want?" Other companies, in contrast, talk about the feeling of owning said product or service - and they back it up in their communication. Take a look at the image below (you can click on it to make it open larger in a new window, if you like). It's a screenshot from Apple's website. It's the way that Apple want you to see their MacBook Air laptop computer. If you can't see the image below, you can click here. Now, take a look at the image below - again, you can click on it to enlarge it. Don't just compare the design of the page, but consider the tone of the text. Again, if you cannot see the image below you can click here. As a comparison, this is a screenshot from HP's website. It's how you go about configuring and purchasing an HP laptop computer from their online store. Two totally different ways of selling a laptop computer. But with Apple just posting their biggest quarter ever (Apple sold more iPads alone than HP sold PCs), it seems that marketing a product beats selling one hands-down. Are You Marketing, or Just Selling? How is your business promoting its value offering? Are you still talking about bits and bytes? About acronyms, minutiae and and techno-jargon that no-one but you and your staff care about? Or are you selling the experience?
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  • shredded paper is gibberish
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    Customer Communication: Stop Talking Gibberish
    Customers today are more demanding than ever before. They’re smarter than ever before. Because they have more knowledge - and therefore more POWER, than they have ever had. So why should they buy from you, as opposed to the company down the street, or the next town - or half way across the world?
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  • business marketing in the 21st Century
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    21st Century Sales and Marketing
    The turkey leftovers been consigned to the cat, or the bin. The Christmas tree has dropped more needles than you'll find at a Kurt Cobain tribute concert. Now it's time to dig your company's marketing out of the dark ages and into the 21st Century. Albert Einstein is quoted as once saying that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yet that's exactly what a gazillion companies are doing right now with regards to how they approach marketing, sales, lead generation, branding and communications. If you didn't make your sales / marketing goals last year, what makes you think that you're going to make them this year if your plans are to do the same things? A 21st century marketing plan isn't a "copy-paste" of what you did last year. Old-School Thinking Brings Old-World Results Dear business leader, please wake up and smell the arabica. You cannot continue to sell your company's products or services in ways that Don Draper would applaud. Today's consumer (and whether you're B2B or B2C, your customer is always a consumer) is smarter, more knowledgeable, more demanding and more attractive than ever before (OK, maybe I made that last one up). The internet has put more competitors in front of customer noses that you can wave a stick at. It also means that they already know as much about your company, products and your competitors than you do - if not more. Buyer behavior has changed beyond recognition in just a few years, yet most companies are basing their sales and marketing tactics on assumptions that are half a century old. Organizations still focus on what they're selling rather than what the customer wants to buy. 21st Century marketing applies tools, technologies, and assumptions that are audience-focussed, rather than introspective. So shouting about how great your company / product / service is has become about as effective as treating someone with the Ebola virus with a couple of Advil. Display advertising no longer works (if you're not a national or global consumer brand). Exhibiting at tradeshows doesn't work (unless you know what you're doing). Nor does blasting people with direct mail or email campaigns (unless your audience have allowed you to communicate with them). So, is it all doom and gloom? Were the prophets right about the future? Should we all just pack it in and go home and hide under the kitchen table? Not quite. 21st Century Marketing Builds Relevance And Reputation Companies need to accept that, while the reason people buy stuff today is pretty much the same as it's always been, the way that they buy things has changed. The reason companies continue to market their products and services in ways that they always have done, is because of…Fear. Fear of the unknown. The fear that changing what they're doing will negatively impact revenue. Well, guess what? Revenue is already suffering with them doing it the old way. "But we're doing OK," I hear them say. "We're keeping our heads above water which, in this commercial climate, is already an achievement." To which I'll contend that unless you're growing, you're going backwards. Unless you're increasing market share, you're owning a smaller piece of a shrinking pie. Many companies, especially B2B organizations, have become increasingly reliant on existing customers to maintain sales figures. The problem arises when the pool of existing customers begins to diminish for whatever reason. Whether they get acquired, go under, or leave to buy from someone else, there's an attrition factor with any business reliant on revenue from existing customers. Sales from new customers are meant to counteract the attrition. But while selling to new customers is hard, it's especially hard if you're trotting-out the same old blah-blah that got existing customers to buy in the first place. Since - by and large - new customer expectations are greater than those of existing ones, adapting marketing and sales processes has to happen sooner or later. Make it a point to re-evaluate every element of your organization's customer-facing value with the goal of developing a solid, sustainable revenue capture model that's crafted for the 21st century customer. 21st Century Marketing doesn't rely on shouting as its marketing premise, but one built on interaction and dialog. (And if you need any help getting there, you know who to call - right?)
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    Less Shouting, More Communicating: Advertising Grows Up
    There are many who'll say that today's TV advertising is crass, blatant and bereft of creativity. Then an ad such as this comes along (click here if you can't see the ad below): I've only just been made aware of the piece, which was launched back in October 2011. Instead of doing the usual thing of boring the viewer with hyped rhetoric about how great / affordable / whatever their holiday packages are, Thomson Holidays turn the message around to it being about you, the viewer, with a simple voiceover from a young boy: "It's time you stopped, put down your phone, and hold your loved one's hand. Nice, isn't it? Those close to you: share with them a week or two, and they'll cherish it forever." They could have shouted about how great / interesting / value for money / whatever their holidays are, as pretty much every holiday company does in their advertising. They could have packed the spot with bright colors, loud music and flashing images and shoved their message down the viewer's throat. Instead, we have calm, relaxing visuals, with a soundtrack featuring a orchestral reworking of The Pixies' 1988 track "Where Is My Mind?" (the piano solo was apparently recorded by the ad's producer, Guy Farley). Advertising That Thinks Differently By thinking differently, Thomson Holidays succeeded in raising their message above the noise. The result is a poignant, moving piece of advertising that's pretty much guaranteed to tug on the emotions of anyone who's ever felt guilty about how much time they spend at work. The advertising industry is going through a bit of an internal crisis at the moment. On the one hand clients are looking for ads that stand-out from the humdrum, while ad agency bosses are under increased pressure to deliver shareholder value based on safe, tried-and-tested thinking - the absolute opposite of what we'd regard as 'creativity'. But standing-out is increasingly the only way of gaining attention. Today, pretty much the only way to elevate your business value communication above the average is to stop being average.  No-one takes notice of the average any more. If your company isn't making waves in its advertising, its messaging, its customer service, its branding, then no one can see you. In a world dominated by shades of grey, we've taken to only notice of the blacks and the whites as a way of filtering out all of the content that's competing for our attention. Unless you are clearly demonstrating to your target markets how you're different, and (therefore) why they should be buying from you as opposed to someone else, you risk being drowned-out by the sea of mediocrity. In which case, make sure you bring a tube of sunblock with you.
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  • Merry Christmas from KEXINO
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    Happy Holidays, Everyone!
    A sincere "THANK YOU" to our clients, our partners, our supporters and our suppliers for helping make this year such a memorable one. Wishing you and your loved ones all the very best.
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  • Using Flickr to help with backlinks
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    Using Flickr To Help Generate Backlinks
    Pretty much every company is looking to increase their website's search engine ranking on Google, Bing, Yahoo and the rest, right? One way to help website ranking is through backlinks. A 'backlink' is a link on another website that points to a page on your website. Search engines use backlinks (as well as a bunch of other criteria) in their determination of where your website is going to appear in results pages. Search engines see a bunch of links from various sources pointing to your site and deduce that your content has value. Broadly speaking, the more backlinks you have the more the search engines will love you - as long as you don't try to pull the wool over their eyes. (How? Well, there are a number of charlatans and snake-oil salesmen out there that - for a price - will put backlinks onto a bunch of websites for you. When Google et al find out what you've been doing (and they ALWAYS find out eventually) you can find your site ranking in a whole help of trouble. In extreme cases your site can even get banned.) Using Online Photo Galleries For SEO Recently, when using Google Analytics to check my website's traffic, I've been seeing an increase in links to KEXINO from all sorts of websites. One growth area in my own backlink strategy has been in people taking images posted on the KEXINO Flickr stream to use on their own websites - and giving credit by putting a backlink in there. Just in the past few months, KEXINO images have been used in online slide presentations, blogs - and even tech news sites. If you're even mildly creative, photo sharing sites like Flickr can really help increase your website's Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Your images don't have to be perfect - they just need to be the sort of pictures that website admins and bloggers are looking for. As with all things on the web, in order to get noticed you need to find your niche. Pick a topic, create as much visual content for it as you can. Promote your content using your social media channels, then sit back and wait for the backlinks. A couple of tips: Most backlinks will point back to your Flickr page, so make sure that you add your web page's URL to the image description. You'd be surprised how many people click on the link.  I know I was. Choose descriptions as if you were writing for search engines (which, in effect, you are). Use keywords that you think would be used if someone was looking for your image. Post as many permutations of the image (composition, lighting, etc.) as you can, to give people as much choice as possible Images don't have to be photographs. For example, most of the images on the KEXINO Flickr account are 3D renders, created using Cinema 4D software. When posting images to your Flickr account, make sure that you edit the default copyright declaration to one of the Creative Commons licenses. This gives third-parties rights to publish your image with certain caveats (go to creativecommons.org to find out more). I'm not saying that Flickr is better than Picasa or any other photo sharing site. You may find using an alternative site gives you less competition for popular search terms. Hopefully you're about to enjoy a well-earned rest over the next few days. Instead of vegetating in front of the TV, why not go outside with your camera (or even a smartphone) and see what you can find? Image Source (including a backlink, naturally!)
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  • exit, not an entrance
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    Business Value Can Be Stating The Obvious
    It's easy for small business owners to assume their audience knows more about what's on offer than they actually do. Because you're living and breathing your business every day, it's easy to overlook that fact that everyone else doesn't necessarily see all the nuts and bolts of your value offering in the same way. Let me give you an example. In your industry, would it be common practice for suppliers to provide: Free quotes? Discounts for nurses / teachers / students? Free delivery? A 5% discount on invoices if they’re paid within 30 days? Perhaps you offer something that's part of the deal because "that's the way everyone does it". But that doesn't mean that your customers know. It's not their job to guess, speculate, or presume. By not explicitly mentioning it, your customers may think that you don't offer it. Communicating the value that your business / product / service brings to your potential customer is at the heart of corporate marketing communications. However, many startups and small businesses seem to think that they just need to focus their messaging on what they do differently from the competition, rather than what they do the same. But are you sure that the things that you take for granted, are the same things what your customers take for granted? Stating The Obvious Whatever the norm is for your business space, did you know that mentioning something that would usually be taken as read can increase the likelihood that your company will be chosen over a competitor? Just because it’s a given as far as you’re concerned, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s something that your customers know to expect. Making such an assumption can be akin to leaving money on the table. As far as your customers are concerned, your business value is far more that the product or service that you sell. It's also about the 1001 other elements to your proposition that helps create the feeling of "value" in your customers mind, that contributes to the delivery of the buying experience. It’s your product's packaging. The speed, design, and ease-of-use of your website. The 60-day returns policy, two-year warranty, and free delivery. Since these things are part of the offering, they should also be part of the value proposition that you’re marketing to your customers. They may be obvious to you, but it doesn't necessarily follow that they're obvious to your customers. However seemingly obvious, such items should feature in your company's communications efforts. Just because certain parts of a product/service are deemed to be conventional or standard, it doesn’t mean that they’re not part of the value statement. It may seem like you’re stating the obvious, but oftentimes your market needs such assurances. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s wrong to assume. Actions Speak Louder Than Words Most companies churn out the same tired old communications rhetoric - “We’re the best”, “Our product or service is better value”, and so on. Not only do your customers not believe such grandiose claims, but such talk works against you when you're trying to build trust. Instead of shouting about how good you are in such blatant terms, it’s far better to communicate it by implication. Demonstrate how good / different you are by what you do, and what you're seen to be doing - rather than by saying it. In business, just as in life, actions really do speak louder than words. Corporate chest-beating is great for user events, shareholder communications and internal staff meetings. But for everyone else the very fact that you’re the one doing the crowing raises suspicions and reduces your credibility. If you really were that great you wouldn’t need to shout about it, would you? In contrast, if your actions and communications are presented in a way that implies you’re better, then the claims of your company/product/service (even if they’re not more directly expressed) become more valid. More authentic, more believable. More accepted. Image Source
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  • The Greatest Customer Service Strategy
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    The Greatest Customer Service Strategy
    It been an absolute age since I published a guest post here, so I'm going to remedy that straight away. This week's post is from Jon Gordon, speaker and author of a number of books including The No Complaining Rule. Over to you, Jon... Smiling is important. Eye contact matters. Patience is essential. Being warm and friendly is a must. And providing a positive emotional experience for your customers is a priority. But these are not the greatest of customer service strategies. Ironically the greatest of all strategies has nothing to do with customers and everything to do with employees. The Greatest Strategy is this: Great customer service beings with being employee focused first and customer focused second. If you treat your employees well, they will treat their customers well. Too often businesses, hospitals, restaurants and organizations focus all their energy on the customer while ignoring the very employees that serve their customers. This may work in the short run but eventually employees become tired, burned out, negative and resentful. Just the other day I was speaking at a hospital and was told that they were doing patient satisfaction surveys as a way to improve nurse performance. “What about nurse satisfaction surveys,” I asked. “No we’re not doing that,” they said. The problem was clear. Measuring patient satisfaction will not make nurses more energized, positive and attentive. Patient satisfaction will go up when nurse satisfaction goes up. I have found that organizations who deliver the best service also have the best culture where employees are valued, listened to and cared for and in turn these employees value, care for and serve their customers. Best Buy, for example, started to measure the engagement of their employees and in the process saw service and profits improve. T-Mobile dramatically improved and transformed their customer service when they improved the culture in their call centers by listening to their employees. Southwest Airlines has built their success on the foundation of an employee-first culture. Of course we need to train our employees to do all the things that make for a great customer experience. There are great books on the essentials of creating a great customer experience. But most of all remember if you model great service, your people will share it. So, if you want your team to serve, serve them. If you want your people to care, care about them. If you want your team to love their work, love them. If you want your employees to be their best, give them your best. If you take care of your people they will take care of your customers.   About Jon Gordon: This post is a guest post by Jon Gordon. Jon is the Wall Street Journal and international bestselling author of a number of books including The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy, and his latest, The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work. Learn more at www.JonGordon.com. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonGordon11 or Facebook www.facebook.com/jongordonpage.
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  • next generation email marketing
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    Email Marketing: It's a Question Of Value
    In the old days of marketing, the very fact that a company had a prospect’s email address equated to having their attention. Not any more. If your email inbox is anything like mine, barely a day goes by when you don’t receive some kind of marketing circular. We’re constantly bombarded with so-called “special” offers, company or product news updates, or sales pitches - all continually fighting for our attention. As a result we’re increasingly desensitized to most of the marketing messages that companies send out. More often than not we look at the name of the email sender, perhaps read the subject headline - only to bin the email. Playing the Numbers Game Marketers look at the problem as being one of numbers. Increase the number of people receiving the communication to increase the number of take-ups of the offer. They talk about “open rates” - the number of people who view (or “open”) the email as a percentage of the number of emails that are sent out. Since we’re all getting increasingly fed up receiving with such mails, you won’t be surprised to hear that email open rates are in a state of continual decline. Today, depending on the industry, it’s getting increasingly more common to have an email open rate in single-digit percentages. Marketers would have you believe that this is “normal”. However, I’d contend that it’s a sign that corporate marketing has lost the attention of the people that they're trying to communicate with. An Abuse of Trust Why? Because many of the people on email distribution lists feel that they’ve been conned. They feel that they were forced into giving their contact details, in order to receive something of a perceived value. Now they’re receiving overly-frequent, untargeted communications which they respond to by ignoring them. Fancy graphics, killer copywriting and an ever-more compelling value offering now only goes part of the way. What’s the solution? Should we all stop offering something in return for a customer’s email address? I don’t think that’s the issue. The issue is that email lists compel us to categorize and segregate customers and prospects into nameless, faceless entities. While what we should be doing is using technologies such as email communications to recognize that there’s a person, an individual, at the end of every one of those email addresses. Sure, you need to create and show the value of your offering. But if you really want to attract and maintain a customer's attention, then they need to feel that you value them too.
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  • video adds lifetime to your content
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    Online Video: Stop Reading. Start Watching.
    Reading text is all very well and good, but video's where it's at. Here's a great video by Finland-based KLOK Creative Agency as to some of the reasons why the future of online content is video-based. More than 80% of internet users view online video from sites such as YouTube and DailyMotion in any given month. YouTube alone has the equivalent of 48 hours of new video content uploaded to it every minute. The potential for video within your company's marketing mix is just too big to ignore. Watching a video engages audiences more than reading text or listening to audio. Creating video content has never been easier, faster or cheaper. Whether you use it for lead generation, per-sales, customer service, or support, can you really afford to ignore it? Fact: When we put our QARTO explanation video online, we saw that sales leads went up by a shade under 450% - within 4 weeks. If we can do it, then so can you. And if you can't, then let us help.
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  • Solar System
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    Buyers Are From Mars, Sellers Are From Venus
    Buyers and sellers often have different opinions on the reasons of buying a particular product or service.
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  • risk vs reward see-saw
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    Risk & Assumption: Making An Ass Out Of U and Me
    "Assumption" and "risk" often go hand-in-hand. It’s like yin and yang, or whether the glass is half full or half empty. Salespeople are taught of the dangers of assuming something in business. To "assume" something, they’re told, makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me". By assuming a particular intent, outcome, situation or interaction you are creating an illusion for yourself that you regard as fact. As a result, you are ignoring the potential risks associated with such a decision. I talk with many business owners who think that they have a handle on their customers’ wants. Not from research, mind you. Not from from actually talking with customers and prospects, or from observing how changes in the industry and technology may influence buying behavioral trends. But from what they would call their "gut instinct" - and what I call "risk-prone assumption". The Risks - And Rewards - Of Making Assumptions These companies rely on assumption to build their business. "My customers liked it when I made a red version of my widget - surely they’re going to love it if I make a blue one, right?" Products or services get designed and launched. Expenditure is made - directly or indirectly - on marketing, promotion, human resources, service, support, distribution and so on. All based on assumption, on what is little more than a hunch. However "assumption" on its own isn’t necessarily a bad thing - as long as it’s mitigated with identifying, assessing, and managing the risks associated with it. You could even say that once you know the risks involved, the assumption stops being an assumption. When I talk about risks, I see them coming in three main flavors: Risk Number One: “Knowledge, Preparation, Cause and Effect” This is what many people would call “Risk Management” in the traditional sense. It’s the systematic research, definition and prioritization of known risks that have been assessed as having a detrimental impact to the project. This sort of risk is the stuff that you can prepare for - checking the likelihood of rain on the weekend that you’re planning a barbecue, for example. It’s having a Plan B - or series of Plan B’s. There’s an ISO standard (ISO 31000) that defines it as “the effect of uncertainty over objectives”, which I think is kind of cool. Risk Number Two: “Woah - What Just Happened There?” This is a risk that you couldn’t have possibly foreseen - it appeared, like a bolt from the blue, out of nowhere. It's what Donald Rumsfleld meant when he talked about ""unknown unknowns"."There’s great book called The Black Swan (which has nothing to do with that movie about ballet dancers, by the way) that’s all about these types of risks. An example of a Black Swan? It’s when you’ve spent a dumper-load of money to exhibit at a tradeshow, only to have 9/11 happen a day into it (as happened to me). Risk Number Three: “But I Didn’t Think It’d Be A Problem!” This is the one that I’m talking about. This is the risk that, actually, you did know about. However, you didn’t consider it as being a risk because you made an “assumption” along the way. "Hey, I’ve never had a flat tire in the past five years. Why should I check the spare on this 1,000 mile road trip I’m about to make?" The issue with Risk Number Three is that of underestimating the gravity and implication of a risk based upon an assumption that hasn’t been tested and researched. Why hasn’t it been tested? Because you don’t think it’s that big of a deal to be worth considering. The business world is littered with companies - and entire industries - that have been decimated by people's ignorance/assumptions: Kodak invented digital cameras, but sat on the technology for fear of losing revenue from their film-based products and services. With their dominance and understanding of the personal music player market, as well as their existing media publishing interests, Sony should have made the iPod - but didn’t. BlockBuster based their business decisions on the premise that people would always go to bricks-and-mortar stores to rent videos and games. Look at the music or publishing industries today compared to a few years ago. Not a single one of them thought the risk they all saw coming was going to be that big of a deal. Before you start building the next color fax machine, CRT television, or incandescent light bulb, draw up a list of the key assumptions you’re making.
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  • when we're all different, we are the same
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    When We're All Remarkable, We're All The Same
    At KEXINO, one of the first things that we do when engaging with a new client is to work in establishing the "remarkability" of their business. Remarkability is what we call the externally evident characteristics of a company that make it remarkable. The company being noticeable enough for customers or prospects to make a 'remark' - to express their (hopefully positive!) opinion to others. In a world of me-too companies, products and services it's essential to promote the unique characteristics of the organization to help differentiate them from the competition. Invariably, when brainstorming with clients about their remarkability, they come up with adjectives that do the exact opposite of promoting their value differentiation. Their suggestions are things like: "Our great customer service" "Our high quality / great value" "Our integrity/honesty/reliability" Now while there's nothing wrong with these traits, there's a really big problem with using them as the basis of describing your business value: Everyone else is saying the exact same thing. The problem is that when you're so deeply submerged in the quality of your company's products or services, focussed on making them the best that they can be, you subconsciously come to the conclusion that your competitors aren't trying as hard as you are. Surely they're not working as hard on as you are on making it as easy as possible for customers to buy from them, or delivering a quality product, or excellent customer service. Are they? Nobody believes that they're mediocre. Yet the Law Of Averages would have us believe that for every company subjectively rated at 90%, there needs to be a company rated at 10%, right? You have to believe that your business is delivering the best/fastest/highest quality/whatever product or service, otherwise you might as well shut up shop and go home. No-one (publicly) says "Our product is the second-best in the market." Hence the problem of using descriptions about "great customer service", "high quality" and so on when describing your organization. There's no differentiation, there's nothing "remarkable". If we all say that we're the best, then we're all the same - the customer has no point of reference. "But our customer service really IS better than XYZ company!", you protest. That may very well be the case, but in the context of differentiating your business value it's irrelevant. Your customer will say (or think) "Well, that's what the other guys say about you." What do you do then? Slag-off the competition? That's not going to get you very far, is it? A great product, high quality, etc. are certainly very important. But today's customers see them as a given. They are so obvious as to not be worth even mentioning. You don't see car manufacturers promoting their latest model's heated rear window, do you? Certain qualities about a company or product are assumed, and the fact that you're mentioning them at all can lead to confusion - or even suspicion. "Why are they talking about reliability? Did they have reliability issues in the past?" The lady doth protest too much. You cannot position your company based upon attributes that can be used by your competition. Your business value proposition needs to be something that the other guys can't claim as their own. Take a look at what makes your company unique. Push past the obvious and look deeper, to find the essence that really separates you from everyone else. Be remarkable, to be remarked upon.
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  • Trying to Please Everybody Is Pleasing Nobody
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    Trying to Please Everybody Is Pleasing Nobody
    Trying to please as many people as possible with your marketing ends-up pleasing no-one, as the message gets diluted.
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  • American Express card
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    The Price Of Value: When A Gold Card Loses Its Shine
    This morning I received a circular in the post from American Express. In it Amex are informing me that, as a customer, my American Express Gold Card will be taken away as from January 2012, to be replaced by something called the Preferred Rewards Gold Card. The new card has a few new twinkles. Complimentary airport lounge access, more points whenever I use the card to buy something, stuff like that. In return, Amex are jacking-up the cost of the customer ownership by increasing the card's annual fee by more than 30%. Yes, 30%. Businesses such as credit card companies, as well as airlines and telecommunications firms, are having to constantly reinvent themselves in the face of growing competition. At the same time the costs of acquiring - and retaining - customers has risen. The customer has more choice - and both sides know it. What Amex has chosen to do is to give their customer a sense of maintained or increased product value by adding more bang for a much-increased buck. They’ve created a ‘bundle’ of services that, they believe, result in a product of increased value that more than offsets it’s increased price. Yeah, right. That may have been the case five years ago, but it certainly isn’t the case today. Bundles are often used as part of a company’s customer acquisition strategy: Sign-up to use your smartphone on my network, and I’ll give you unlimited internet use, 5000 text messages and 200 minutes of calls. Join our cable TV plan and get 150 channels, including 50 in HD. However, as consumers we’ve become wary of the concept of the product or service bundle. We’ve learned, through experience, that the benefit of the bundle is usually heavily skewed in favor of the vendor than us. We sign-up for the cellphone plan, only to find out that the network operator has a different idea of “unlimited internet” to the one that we have. Today, capped mobile internet bandwidth has become the norm rather than the exception. We elect for the 150 channel cable TV option, yet there’s still nothing to watch on a Sunday afternoon apart from re-runs from 1978. We end up having to pay more for the channels that we want. As a result, increasingly we're preferring to make such choices ourselves. We’d rather order à la carte rather than pay for the all-you-can-eat buffet. There are two drivers that push consumers against bundled services. Yet these same drivers yield benefits that customers are often prepared to pay extra for: Best Of The Best: I want to choose what I consider to be the “best” option for my own unique and particular circumstances and needs. I want premium channels, free calls abroad, my iPad and iPhone on the same plan. Freedom of Choice: I’m fed-up of buying entire music albums that have two good tracks and ten duds - I want to buy the tracks that I want. I’m happy to pay a modest premium to a cut-price airline that gives me priority boarding. I'm happy to pay a price supplement to have my order delivered next day. Both of these choices are about value - not price. Too often the words “value” and “price” are used interchangeably while the propositions themselves are misaligned, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the customer. In the words of The Sage Of Omaha: "Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." And that says more about you than cash ever can.
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  • cricket ball and stumps
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    Howzat! Communicating Information like Twenty20
    Customer content consumption habits have evolved. Attention spans have decreased. Your marketing information needs to be shorter, sharper, and to-the-point.
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  • Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish
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    Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
    The year was 1992. I was working for a central-London based supplier of professional photographic equipment, and we'd just taken on UK distribution of an innovative high-resolution digital capture system. The scanning back attached to a Sinar large format studio camera, and could capture images at a resolution of 6000 x 7520 pixels. That equates to a digital image of 129MB. This was in 1992, don't forget. We needed a computer to tether the equipment to. The manufacturer of the camera back only had software for the Apple System 7 operating system. Our company had to buy an Apple computer. My love affair with the Mac was about to begin. Photoshop 2.5.1 The company purchased an Apple Macintosh Quadra 950 - the most powerful machine available at the time. The processor ran at 33mhz. We ordered it with 256MB of RAM - the maximum it could take. We bought Adobe Photoshop 2.5.1, a Radius 20 inch (CRT) monitor, and a Radius Thundercard accelerator that was meant to speed-up Photoshop. Running an "unsharp mask" on a 129MB file could take 2 minutes or more. Just opening the file could take 30 seconds. No-one in the company would go near the new arrival. It was down to yours-truly to unpack everything, read the manuals, and connect everything up. Up until then I had never used a computer - not even at school. Even as a total ignoramus I was able to connect the keyboard, mouse, and monitor and power-up the Mac. I heard the 'bong'. I was in love. My Love Affair With The Mac From then on, I was fascinated with the Quadra 950. I bought Mac magazines to quench my new-found thirst for knowledge. Customers would come and teach me things, and show me software such as Kai's Power Tools, Strata Studio Pro, and Castle Wolfenstein. I learned how to run Disk First Aid, how to defragment the 1GB hard drive, and how to resolve extension conflicts. I learned about SCSI connections, installing cards in NuBus ports, and the fragility of 88MB SyQuest disks. I even bought an external CD drive (an Apple PowerCD, that still works to this day) with my own money, just so that I could install the free software on the CDs that came glued on the covers of MacFormat and MacUser magazines. The Mac became my mistress. I would lavish it with gifts like new mousemats or monitor squeegees. I stayed late at the office most nights, sometimes only leaving so as to catch the last train home. Our company didn't have internet - no-one I knew did at the time. Everything I learned for the 2+ years I was at the company was from trial and error, reading whatever I could find, and tips from customers. Back To The Mac I read about Apple, the company. About Steve Jobs, Steve Wosniak, and 1 Infinite Loop. About John Sculley and Gil Amelio. I travelled up and down the UK, demonstrating the digital camera back. Sometimes with the Mac, sometimes without. I became the go-to Apple guy for anyone who needed to know how to get involved with digital photography. After a couple of years, I was headhunted and moved to another company. At first I was doing the same sorts of things, but the new company had many more products. I had the chance to play with QuarkXPress, IRIS inkjet printers, and the Quantel Paintbox. I got to use Silicon Graphics workstations and servers, and was even given my very own laptop - a PowerBook G3. I learned how to use more and more software. As well as Photoshop I learned K2, which eventually became Adobe InDesign. I learned about Live Picture, Dicomed Imaginator, and Alias Wavefront. I learned about UNIX and Linux, about the command-line interface, and about 3D modelling and animation. No matter what the capabilities of the systems and software, I would always gravitate back to the Mac. The Only Constant In My Career Since those heady days, my career path has taken many twists and turns. But Apple, its hardware, and its software has been the one constant in a sea of change. Over the years I've visited Apple's Cupertino campus, given presentations to Apple personnel, and even met Steve Jobs on two separate-albeit-fleeting occasions. My Apple hardware moved upwards through PowerBooks, PowerMacs, Mac Pros and MacBook Pros, as well as sideways through iPods and iPhones. Even today, while I no longer use an iPhone and choose not to have an iPad, the Mac is where I'm at home. I see the Mac as being a big part of the reason why I'm here, doing what I do - and love to do - today. Thanks for everything, Steve.
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  • Lucky Strike ad
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    There Are Lies, Damn Lies - And Social Media Marketing
    OK, so hopefully you’re on board with the notion that social media marketing has changed business, that the popularity of social networking sites has changed customer relationships, so that companies can no longer promote their wares in the same way that they did a few years ago. You get that the customer is now in control, and that by the time they contact you they’ve already done their homework. You understand that your marketing department, your sales team - in fact your entire organization - needs to realign itself to fit the expectations of an increasingly more-demanding, more fickle customer base. So you've read a few books, subscribed to a few blogs, maybe even forked-out your hard-earned cash to attend a social media marketing conference or three. You get back to work, itching to put into practice all that you’ve heard, with your head full of “customer engagement” this, and “remarkable content” that. You start a company blog, set-up a couple of social media accounts, and start “listening”, start “engaging” and start contributing to the “conversation”. You’ve well and truly drunk every drop of the Inbound Marketing KoolAid. Six months down the line you see that actually, contrary to what you were told - or sold - there isn’t a line of customers beating a path to your door. That your company and its business value is still as unknown to your target markets as it ever was. That you’ve burned the midnight oil for six straight months hitting social media sites, yet got precious little to show for it. Mind you, that Twitter profile background that you commissioned looks pretty damn cool… What went wrong? Simple: you were lied to. Today, internet-enabled marketing is a little like the Wild West. There are no hard-and-fast rules or processes, since social media marketing welcomes (if not positively encourages) innovation. However, like most things technology-based, there’s an element of “what’s cool today is old-hat tomorrow.” Similarly, as in the days of the Wild West, there are plenty of snake oil salespeople who are more than willing to share their ‘ social media wisdom’ with you - for a shekel or two. Here are a few outdated notions, exaggerations - or downright lies - that today’s internet marketer might encounter on their (virtual) travels: “Social Media is The Cure” But what if I’m not sick? Sure, social media marketing might be just what the doctor ordered for many organizations. However, what many so-called “Marketing 2.0 Experts” fail to acknowledge is that, right here and right now, there are certain companies in certain industries that are doing just fine thank you very much - without any of this newfangled social media stuff. If your new and existing customer base AREN’T on Facebook/Twitter/GooglePlus/Whatever, and DON’T want you in their email Inbox, then there’s nothing broke that needs fixing. “Companies Are Actively Embracing The Change” Yeah, good luck with that. Ten will get you five that the majority of people in your company aren’t going to play ball. Changing existing corporate culture is the single biggest hurdle a marketer will face in trying to create a more social media-centric organization. Change isn’t going to happen unless everyone - from CEO downwards - is on board and convinced of the merits. “Traditional Marketing Is No Longer Relevant” Another sweeping generalization. At the end of the day, the most appropriate method of reaching a particular customer base is totally dependent upon that customer base - is has nothing to do with your own wishes and preferences. That’s not to say that traditional marketing can’t learn from (and even integrate with) some of the new Marketing tools. It’s just an acknowledgement that some people still prefer to have a printed mailer in their hand rather than be forced to scan a QR code, for example. More than that, many of the concepts of “traditional” marketing remain valid today. Just because the packet’s been updated doesn’t mean the ingredients have changed. “Create Great Content And Your Customers Will Find You” Don’t hold your breath. Sure, having good content is certainly very important. But unless you’re out there pointing your customers to it, you’re going to be disappointed. Customers didn’t fall over themselves to find you before. They’re not going to suddenly start now. “The Death of { insert communication medium here }” Blogging is dead. Email is dead. Twitter is dead. Google Plus is launched and five minutes later everyone says that Facebook is dead. Or maybe it’s Google Plus that’s dead. Could it be that, perhaps, none of these things are dead, and that you’re just not using them as effectively as you could be? Perhaps the approach for Google Plus, for example, isn’t the same as for Twitter? (hint: it's not). I’m sure that you can come up with many more examples of such snake oil pitches and, if you’ve been bitten by any of them, then I feel for you. Inbound marketing techniques and social media marketing channels are, without doubt, an extremely powerful and flexible tools. But that’s all they are: tools. The fundamental principles of commerce, of marketing and of sales haven’t changed. They’ve simply had to evolve as customers themselves have evolved. Image Source
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  • Illustration from "We Are All Weird"
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    Review: "We Are All Weird" by Seth Godin
    As regular visitors to this blog will know, I'm a big fan of Seth Godin. There are a million online descriptions about Seth, so if you don't know much about him I'd suggest that you spend a few minutes on Google to find out more. Suffice to say that I find Seth's words very inspirational, poignant and philosophical. So when I heard that Seth had published a new book, We Are All Weird, it didn't take much for me to hit the 'Buy" button on Amazon. We Are All Weird expounds on Seth's premise that the age of one-size-fits-all mass marketing is dead - or dying. In the "old days", manufacturing (and therefore marketing) was more concerned with producing goods and services that the 'vast majority' could use (and buy).  No-one was concerned with the peripheral market sectors that existed around the 'sweet-spot.' Today, thanks to a number of social, technological and cultural factors, we as consumers have the luxury to think of ourselves as "different" from the norm. Special, eccentric, kooky, atypical: Weird, to use Seth's description. We like to have choice, to associate with people that have similar tastes and values that we do. Thanks to technology, it's now easy to find those people. Seth argues that, as marketers, aiming our efforts at the "masses" is a futile exercise. The incumbent players that occupy the "middle-of-the-road" are masters at their craft, own their market space, and can snap you like a twig with the vast marketing budgets at their disposal. By producing and marketing "mass" products or services, you're selling the same stuff as everyone else. There's no differentiation in the minds of your audience, so the vendor with the loudest voice wins. I had really enjoyed a previous book of his, Linchpin (and not just because there's a mugshot of me on the book's dustjacket - which there is!) As a result, I had high hopes of of his new work. Perhaps too high, as it turns out. It could be the fact that, since I am already quite familiar with his ideas, I'm not Seth's target market for the book. But I found that even at a svelte 97 pages We Are All Weird is overly long for the (nonetheless important) point that he is making. If you've read Seth's blog, read some of his other books, or watched any videos of him online, then you (like me) have probably already absorbed as much as you'd take away from reading this. Don't get me wrong: the message of the book is sound. It's important and it's argued well. It just seems to me that it could have been said in half the time. We Are All Weird feels like an expanded blog post rather than a book. I wish that I'd bought the Kindle version, priced at a respectable €5.99 / $7.99 rather than paying €18.03 / $16.50 for the hardback.
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  • Best of the best!
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    Fame at Last: KEXINO blog now featured on Alltop!
    I don't know about you, but I seem to be getting more and more news and information from blogs than from the more 'traditional' sources such as newspapers, magazines - and even TV. I've written about the importance of content curation before.  With so many blogs out there, and (unfortunately) so many of them being useless, services such as Alltop have become invaluable. If you don't already know it, Alltop is a blog aggregation site that aims to provide All the top web stories and content from a huge range of subjects. The site started in 2008 by that serial entrepreneur (and all-round good egg) Guy Kawasaki. Well, dear reader. I'm very proud to announce that this very blog has been selected to feature in the "Marketing" category of Alltop. Having Alltop feature this blog means a great deal. In the same way as when readers leave comments here,  reTweet content, +1 a post, or "Like" something on Facebook. It's a virtual "Attaboy" - a pat on the back that's greatly appreciated.
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  • Sri Lankan Curry
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    Cold Calling Over a Ruby Murray
    Every couple of months or so I get together with a couple of ex-colleagues for what’s become known as a “Ruby Night” “Ruby”, short for “Ruby Murray”, is Cockney rhyming-slang for “curry”. After much research we’ve now found a fantastic Indian restaurant in the centre of Strasbourg that is happy to serve us what we all agree to be the absolutely hottest Lamb Curry this side of Mumbai. It’s magma-level, mouth-numbingly, sweat and tear-inducingly hot. In other words, it’s just how we like it. No pain, no gain... At the last Ruby Night the three of us got into a particularly heated discussion. I’m not talking about the meal (even though the chef on that particular night seemed to have a mission to defeat us in terms of how hot he could make the curry. Boy, was it a scorcher). I’m talking about Cold Calling. Cold calling, for those who’ve never been in Sales, is the soul-destroying process of calling-up people that you think could be sales prospects for whatever it is that you’re selling. I suppose you could think of it as the pre-internet version of spam. Every once in a while you’d get someone who’d take the call, listen to what you had to say and - if you were very lucky - agree to see you. However, the vast majority of cold calls end in “No thank you, I’m not interested” at best - and profanity at worst. Cold callers need to have a thick skin. The Ruby discussion centered whether the definition of a “sales person” was still someone who could not only cold call, but could get to the point of meeting the prospect. It was also whether, in todays “Commerce 2.0” world, there was still a need for cold-calling at all. So, has cold-calling served it’s purpose and destined to go the way of the floppy disk, Sony Betamax, or rotary telephones? I’d say no - but with a reservation. Cold calling hasn’t died, but the cold-calling techniques of old certainly have. As I’ve mentioned before, much of the vendor-customer relationship today is based upon permission-based marketing. Today, your customers are doing their homework well before they contact you (or allow you to contact them). They know about your value offering - and the offering of your competitors. They are empowered with information like never before. If your cold calling prospect selection process still amounts to little more than sticking a pin in a page of the Yellow Pages, then don’t be surprised when you’re told where to go. Today, lead generation programs need to be an aligned and cohesive Sales and Marketing tag-team initiative. Sales calls need to support Marketing’s information-based lead nurturing efforts. The result is that the call is not so much cold as maybe ‘tepid’. Cold calling hasn’t died. It's just grown-up. Image Source
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  • mobile web visitors have different expectations
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    The Mobile Web Isn't The Web
    The world’s gone mad for mobile. It's all about the mobile web. Mobile devices - primarily smartphones and tablets - are set to become the dominant vehicles for accessing the internet. At the beginning of 2011, there were reckoned to be 500 million mobile internet users. Sony Ericsson predict that this figure will DOUBLE by the end of the year. Already today more than half of online users access the internet via their mobile devices. By 2013 more people will be accessing the internet from their mobile device than from their PC. Analysts such as Mary Meeker from Morgan Stanley predicted all of this two years ago. So, in order for your business to be visible on the mobile internet, you need to pull your finger out and have a mobile version of your current website up and running PDQ. Right? Wrong. Eh? You don’t want a mobile version of your existing website. Just as you don’t want what amounts to little more than an HTML version of your brochure - which, if we’re honest, is what 99% of company websites were up until maybe five years ago (and, as well all know, many are still stuck there). The mobile internet is a different internet Yes, you absolutely need a mobile-optimized presence on the internet. But we’re talking about a very different internet to the one that’s presented to your desktop or laptop computer. The mobile web isn't the desktop web, but smaller. If anything it's the desktop web that should be considered as a bigger version of the mobile web. Let me explain. Of course it’s one where screens are smaller than on your average PC. But it’s also one where screen size can differ between browsing devices to a far greater level - look at the difference in screen real estate between an iPhone and an iPad, for example. The simple act of turning a mobile device ninety degrees, from portrait to landscape orientation, increases browser real-estate by about 30%. It’s one where you can’t use irrelevant and outdated proprietary technology such as Flash. It’s one where you don’t want to have high-resolution, print-optimized PDF files as web downloads. Where the use of images has to be reconsidered due to bandwidth issues (I don't care if you're running 3G, 4G, or 10G - accessing the internet on a mobile device is slower than from your desktop). Web content needs to dynamically adapt to the device, so as to consistently deliver the best possible user experience. Talking of which: user experience itself totally changes in the world of the mobile internet. Content and context needs to be easier to use, to navigate (no keyboards or mice here, remember) and deliver the expected value - fast. Think mobile web first, everything else afterwards. A mobile website is not a smaller version of your existing website. The design is different, the navigation is different. Even the content is different - mobile users on your site don’t (and won’t) want to read your 2000-word blog post or white paper, for example. Mobile visitors to your site have a different intent, and different expectations, to desktop visitors. If you're a restaurant, for example, mobile visitors probably just want your phone number to make a reservation, see where you are on a map, or maybe take a look at the menu. They probably aren't interested in the 47 image picture gallery of the dining room, or the movie video documentary of how your grandfather started the restaurant from the back of his pick-up truck in the middle of the desert. Your website in the mobile world should be seen, considered and treated as something new. The mobile internet isn’t the ‘new’ internet: it’s something totally different altogether.
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  • social media killed the blog
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    Social Media Hasn't Killed Company Blogs
    Is the corporate blog dead, thanks to social media channels? With all the current hubbub and mindshare about social media, such as the current darling Google Plus, you could be forgiven for thinking that the importance of a company having an interesting, regularly-updated blog has diminished. Well, according to inbound marketing software developers HubSpot, a corporate blog still plays an important (and growing) part in an organization's online lead-generation strategy. What's perhaps the least surprising thing about their State Of Inbound Marketing report is the growth in using social media channels as part of a company's online marketing efforts. But what's interesting to note is that companies still see blogs as being a key component. You can download the report here (it's free, so you have no excuse not to read it). Here are a few interesting findings: If your company doesn't have a blog, you are now in the minority: 65% of the surveyed companies had a blog (up from 48% two years ago). Most of the companies surveyed (71%) blog at least once every week - and there's a clear reason for that: The report shows a direct relationship between frequency of blog posts and acquiring new customers. 57% of the companies have acquired customers as a direct result of sales leads generated from their blog. Companies are becoming more and more aware of the value of their blog. 85% rated their blogs as either "useful", "important" or "critical". A full 27% of the companies interviewed rated their blogs are being "critical". Paid Search (e.g. Google AdWords) has overtaken tradeshows, telemarketing and direct mail in terms of importance in the minds of most of the companies that were polled. To summarize, it seems clear that inbound marketing efforts (i.e. where you 'pull' prospects towards your business by giving them information and content that they find interesting) continue to capture a greater proportion of a company's overall marketing budget. This may be because more and more companies have seen the light with regards to social media, blogs and so on.  Or perhaps it's the lower customer acquisition costs (62% lower, according to the report) when compared to outbound marketing initiatives (where companies 'push' their message to their audiences using tradeshows, advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, and so on). Social Media In Preference To A Corporate Blog From my own experience, I would estimate that more than 80% of the companies who contact us to help them with their marketing don't have a blog, even though they may already be dabbling in other inbound marketing tactics such as social media. Often, companies have already set-up a Twitter and/or Facebook account because "everyone else is doing it" rather than as a result of any particular marketing strategy. While it's great to see that they're embracing social media, the problem is that most are using it ineffectively. From a marketing perspective, a corporate blog can be considered as your online hub. It's your digital basecamp where everything else that you do ultimately points to, allowing you to develop and self-host all of your customer engagement content. Unlike social media channels your blog is 100% yours, to design however you like and populate with whatever content you see fit. You're in total control, even if (as you should be) you're using social media channels to get people to go there. Social media, in contrast, relegates your carefully-crafted content to being little more than a subset of someone else's brand. I don't know about you, but that's not something that sits very well with me. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the corporate blog have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, social media channels are about being where your customers are. But there's nothing stopping you bringing them back to your place afterwards...
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  • Product brochures are obsolete
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    Have Product Brochures Become Obsolete?
    The role of a marketer has changed, to now include the curation of user-generated content and use the company's visibility to push this content to the their audience. So do we still need product brochures?
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  • importance of relevant content in business marketing
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    Content Isn't Everything. It's The Only Thing.
    For most businesses, where is the first contact point between the company and a prospective customer? Before they see your ad, read your postcard mailer or receive the sales cold call, the first engagement point with your company is most probably your website. So why don't more companies take their website seriously? I don't (just) mean the design and having up-to-date information on your business value offering - i.e. whatever it is that you sell. I mean having content on there that existing and prospective customers want to read. I mean having a ongoing and regular program of delivering new content that your audience will find interesting. So interesting that they'll come back again, to consume even more of it. Today, before a customer buys your product or service, they "buy" into your company. They listen to your story, why you do what you do - why you sell, as much as what you sell. I'll bet you that, just as with our company, one of the most clicked-on pages on your website is the "About Us" page. If your company's brand persona resonates with your customers, then (all things being equal) they'll be more likely to buy from you than from someone else. The way you build that rapport is by developing content. To paraphrase Henry Russell Sanders Content is not a matter of life or death. It's more important than that. Your content is actually one of the things that you're selling (even if you're giving it away). It's your first product, and should be viewed as such. Relevant Content Is Part Of The User Experience Let me give you an example. Supposing you're posting an ad, producing a lead-generation piece, or distributing a press release. Ten will get you five that you're pointing the reader to your website, right? OK, but what's the reader supposed to do when they get there? Read the press release - again? Read the contents of your product brochure, only this time in HTML form? Buyers don't buy stuff in the same way that they used to. Today, most buyers do their research themselves and only get in touch with the vendor company once they're already part way along in the buying process. They already know who you are, what you sell, and how you stack-up against the competition. As a result, they don't want to read about how great you think you are, how many employees you have, or how long you've been in business. The "introduction" phase of the customer/supplier relationship is over before (as far as you're concerned) it even began. Once you understand the reasons why customers are coming to your website today (compared to the past) you're half way to turning things around. Today, customers want to feel assured that buying from you isn't going to be something that they'll regret. They want to know about people in similar positions who've already bought from you. They want to know how easy it will be to buy from you. Finally, they want to know how you're going to treat them once you have their money. Provide Answers To Their Questions More often than not (and I'll grant you that it depends on what you're selling) customers are coming to your website for a pre-determined reason. They are already considering buying your product/service, and now have questions that they need answered. This will determine whether they'll buy from you, or from someone else. Your website needs to answer their questions - clearly, and in their own vocabulary. Moreover, your content needs to be easily accessible - two or three clicks away, at the most. If you're making it difficult, then you're currently losing sales you should be closing. Potential customers are not "buying" your content and, as a result, they're not buying whatever you're selling. In addition, maybe they're frustrated with how difficult it is to get the answers to their questions - and they're telling others about it online.
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  • changing my company logo
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    When’s The Best Time To Change My Company Logo?
    Perhaps it’s something in the air. Or sunspots. Or climate change. Something akin to how birds instinctively know when to fly South for the winter, or when hedgehogs decide to hibernate. Or maybe how baby turtles know to head towards to sea as soon as they hatch. It’s like an unconscious calling that emerges from the deepest, darkest recesses of a company owner’s psyche, usually after about 4 or 5 years: Someone thinks that it’s time to redesign the company logo. The suggestion usually comes either from the boss, or the Marketing Director - especially if the latter has recently joined the company. It’s often that case that one of the first things a new marketing person does is change/update the company logo. Maybe it’s because it’s one of the most “visible” changes that can be made and realized in a short space of time. I’m more inclined to think it’s more about personal ego. For anyone thinking about it, allow me save you the time and money: Don’t bother changing your logo. Why Bother Changing The Company Logo? Customers aren't suddenly going to take notice of your business value offering because you've now got a shiny new ID. Nor will a customer walk away from buying your product/service because they didn't like your logo (though they may well walk because of other reasons). Unless you’re Audi , or Starbucks, or Holiday Inn, changing your logo is little more than a corporate ego trip. Then there’s the backlash if you get it wrong, as was the case with Gap not so long ago. Oh, and before I forget: your logo is NOT your brand. Unless your company logo looks really amateurish (unintentionally, of course), or has people confusing you with another company that does the same thing, there’s no point in changing your logo. Why? Because your customers don’t care. Apart from the above, the only reason to change your logo is to define - or refine - your brand promise. As a result, aside from the associated expenses (reprinting business cards, letterheads, etc.) you’re forcibly on a mission of re-educating your stakeholders - staff, customers, sales channels, partners, industry-watchers (journalists and consultants) and goodness-knows who else. You have to explain the new logo, and what it signifies, and why the old one needed to go. That’s a whole bunch of time, money and effort delivered over the course of many months. In other words: for your company, at this time, it’s money that you cannot afford to waste. Keep The Logo - Update Your Marketing Instead Changing your logo won't bring you customers. Changing your marketing, however, will bring you customers: When's the last time you updated your website? Could the text and images do with a refresh? When's the last time you posted a blog article, a customer case study, or a news release? What about SEO, CRO, or some A/B testing on your contact form or landing pages? How about a Pay-Per-Click ad campaign on Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn? Or a postcard mailer? Could the sales team do with some updated collateral? Presentations, proposal templates, video demos, testimonials? An outreach program to key influencers in your industry? Bloggers, consultants, journalists? Are there any speaking opportunities at upcoming conferences, tradeshows, expos, or association meetings? I can pretty much guarantee that you're not marketing your company as well as you could be, so spend that money where it’s better served. Put the logo refresh idea on hold.
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  • Roger McNamee Presentation
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    "Google & Microsoft Are History" Video
    I like to think that I’ve watched enough video presentations given by self-proclaimed tech gurus predicting the “Next Big Thing” to be able to smell the bovine excrement from 100 paces. It’s usually the same people that crop-up over and over again, prophesising that “..the way that we do (whatever) is dead!  This new thing that’s coming along is going to sweep everything else away in a blink of an eye!” You know the sort. However, I really can’t argue with the points made in a presentation that I recently found from Roger McNamee, MD and one of the founders of venture capital company Elevation Partners (who clearly need to get someone to redesign and update their website. Not only is the footer out of date, but the site uses Flash. Flash? Really ?). McNamee’s been investing in tech companies for nearly 30 years, including names such as Facebook, Forbes and Yelp, so in my book here’s a guy who probably knows what he’s talking about in terms of the trends taking over the tech world. I would love you to watch the whole video of his presentation. However the video's been taken down, and a brief Google search (yes, I see the irony) didn't reveal a new link. It's a real shame, as I think McNamee's position is prophetic. Here are some of the key takeaways from the presentation: Microsoft’s influence on the way that companies and individuals work with technology is becoming increasingly marginalized and - dare it be said - irrelevant. This is mainly due to the continued rise of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) which has pushed companies to develop applications that either run inside web browsers, or are downloadable proprietary “apps” (such as those from Apple or Google). Microsoft’s share of internet-connected devices, has gone from 95% to under 50% in three years. Smartphones and tablets account for half of all internet-connected devices (we’re in a Post-PC era, remember) the very essence of the content that people consume must change. There is no-one out there today that does a good job of handling media experiences on devices such as the iPhone. The opportunity is to create the first media experiences that work. PCs are aggravating and expensive. For many corporate applications devices such as the iPad are better suited. Every desktop that gets eliminated saves around $1000 per year in software licensing and hardware support costs. If you’re a company with 100 or 10 000 computers, that’s a serious chunk of change that you’re saving. This notion of a monopoly's marketshare falling below 50% is a recurring theme in technology. There are certain elements of technology that are natural monopolies, but they never last for long. Google is in a very difficult place, from a strategy perspective. It’s become too successful (McNamee calls the result of their success a “pollution” of their product) and has allowed niche search engines to grow. Companies like Yelp, realtor.com. or match.com have essentially built their businesses to address search problems that were handled poorly in Google. For example, if you want to do a search on business people you might use LinkedIn; while if you’re looking for facts you’ll probably do your search on Wikipedia. Together, all of these other niche search services add-up to more than 50% of all internet searches. HTML, the programming language of the web, has essentially been static over the past few years, which has allowed Google to commoditize everybody. Today we have HTML5, the first major upgrade in a decade, which will be disruptive and enable the monetizable differentiation of content. All of the rules are re-written.  Every ad - or even every Tweet - can be an app. HTML is essentially a blank sheet of paper, and creativity rules again. Tomorrow’s war is between the open web (i.e. HTML5) and Apple’s “walled garden" approach.
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  • Middlemen Are An Endangered Species
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    Middlemen Are An Endangered Species
    Back in 1995, I landed a job at a London-based systems integrations company that sold their wares into - amongst others - the printing industry. It was a transitory time, from both a technical as well as a commercial perspective. The publishing industry was coming to terms with - for example - no longer being able to charge £70 (about $110) for printing out a “proof” of a magazine page for an advertising agency or publishing company. It was also to be the beginning of the end for the newspaper advertising “Gate Keepers.” These were a group of perhaps five premedia companies that, together, pretty much had the monopoly on preparing and sending ads to the major UK newspaper publishers. Their rationale was that preparing files for newspaper printing needed specialist knowledge - their knowledge. This was back in the day when preparing a PDF file that was fit for the printing press was a lot more complex than it is today. It was before the time of industry standards such as PDF/X-1a, for example. If your company wanted to run an ad in any of the major UK newspapers, the file could only be sent to the publisher via one of the Gate Keepers. Newspapers wouldn't accept your file submission directly. It was their way, or the highway. For many years this cartel enjoyed this market monopoly. Prices could be held at an artificially-high level. Well, where else was a advertiser going to go? The Demise Of The Middleman Of course, it was just a matter of time before the Gate Keepers lost their exclusive hold on UK newspaper advertising. Technology streamlined the file creation process, ironing-out the bumps in the road that used to befall advertisers unfamiliar with the peculiarities involved in preparing files for print. Making print-ready PDFs became easier and more predictable. The print process itself got better - faster, more accurate, more predictable and more consistent. Suddenly, advertisers realized that they had the same premedia capabilities that the Gate Keepers had. The middlemen got cut out of the equation. Not so long ago, many products or services could only be purchased through intermediaries. Real estate property. Flight tickets. Computers. Books and CDs. Today it’s easy enough for anyone to buy/sell their own home, to book a flight directly with an airline, order a new laptop - or even publish their own content - without having to go through someone else. In many industries the barriers-to-entry have been broken down, though some middlemen continue to maintain their hold on the consumer. An example today is the case of car dealerships, though even here this is being disrupted by companies such as Tesla. Today, many middlemen are having a tough time. Such “Intermediary Companies” are seen as being no more than commercial parasites. They're seen as taking a cut of the sale's proceeds after having done very little - if anything - to have earned it. So, are middlemen becoming extinct? Not at all. Just like with most businesses, the good ones are growing and the bad ones are dying. Value Chain Evolution The difference between success and failure, as with many industries, lies with adding perceived value to the transaction. Yes, I can book a flight, reserve a hotel room or renew my car insurance by directly dealing with the company concerned. Or I can go onto a price-comparison website to ensure that I’m getting the best deal. The range of tariffs, plans, exclusions and penalties for a mobile phone contract is bewildering to me. I’d much rather talk to someone to explain what I’m looking for - and am happy to pay for the privilege. Research shows that having the best price is rarely the sole reason why a consumer chooses to buy from a particular vendor. Sure, price is important - and it’s probably in my top-five list of why I buy from XYZ Company. But it’s not Number One. Not even close. What’s just as important (I’d argue it being more important) is the 360-degree customer experience that the vendor builds for me. How they see every customer touchpoint as an opportunity to instil in me their values of credibility, dependability, assurance, support, human connectivity and so on. How they're more interested in solving a customer problem than simply selling them something. Creating Added-Value If your business is reliant on an 'agency' model - you're taking something that's made by someone else and selling it on - then your customers need to see the added-value that you're bring to the equation. If that's not made obvious to them, they're not going to continue to buy from you. Take a look closer to home, and how your company's brand experience is applied to your own customers. How easy do you make it for them to buy from you?  How do they feel they are treated?  How much do they trust your advice, your brand - your promise? Each and every single time that anyone in your organization has the opportunity of interacting with a customer, they have the chance of getting it right - or wrong.
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  • Volkswagen Phaeton
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    Stop Trying To Please Everyone - Or Die Trying
    Looking to increase sales?  Then reduce the size of your potential customer base. Huh???? Depending on what you're selling, you may want to narrow your audience. Why? You're never going to make everyone happy Human beings love to pigeonhole We've all heard the phrase "You can't please all of the people all of the time." What's worse is that you can die trying. It's a commercial fact that not everyone will like what you sell. And that's OK. Pleasing All Of The People All Of The Time Trying to convert people to your way of thinking is an exercise in futility - just ask a Jehovah's Witness. Many of the world's strongest brands are the one's with the most polarizing reactions to them.  Many professional photographers love Canon cameras, but there are just as many are die-hard Nikon fans who wouldn't touch an EOS 1DS Mk IV with a bargepole. Ferrari and Porsche, Microsoft and Apple - the list is endless. Instead, spend your time talking to people who want to hear to what you have to say. Once you've defined who you are and what you do, make sure that stick to your guns regardless. Even if that means losing the odd potential customer on the way.  It's like that time when I fired a client. Here's another example: One of the services that we offer our clients is the creation, development and (if required) management of a company's social media activities. Perhaps you feel that your company should be on Facebook, have a Twitter account, or a blog - but you don't have anyone internally that can take all of that on. That's where we come in. However, maybe you don't see the value in social media. Perhaps you think that it's all a waste of time and doesn't bring any concrete benefits or ROI. Now, I may well disagree with you. But is it my job to convince you that social media is important for your business?  From my perspective, I'd say it's not. There are plenty of other companies that have already accepted that they need to do something with regards to social media. They therefore will be a lot more receptive to my value offering. My opinion is that if you haven't accepted that you have a problem, I'm not going to waste my time trying to convince you otherwise - Life's too short. The only exception I could see would be if you had hired me on a consultative basis to make recommendations, in which case I think that part of my job would be to give you my professional opinion, and try to make you see the error of your ways. Target Your Audience Narrowing your niche is becoming more and more important in order to stand out from your competition in the minds of your customers. Rather than spreading yourself thinly trying to be all things to all people, today it's about providing a specific solution to a specific problem - directed to a specific set of people. As humans we like to pigeonhole. Company X, is known for Product Y, at Price Z. In 1989 Toyota wanted to create a luxury car, but they realized that people didn't associate the Toyota brand with high-priced, premium motoring. So, instead of calling the car a Toyota, they called it a Lexus. Conversely in 2002 Volkswagen introduced the Phaeton, a $100,000 luxury executive car to complete with the best from BMW and Mercedes. Apparently the car is amazing, but no-one's buying it.  I would suggest that one of the reasons is that people don't associate spending 100 big ones on a Vee-Dub, no matter how wonderful it is.* It's sounds the wrong way around, but narrowing your niche can bring in more sales. Validate your sales niche, refine the business value offering and communication - and then steadfastly ignore everyone who doesn't share your point-of-view. Only address the prospective customers that sit in that niche (if they're not there, then your niche isn't commercially sustainable - in which case you have a different problem altogether). Speak with them, connect with them. It's easier than speaking to everyone, since your niche is already more receptive to what you have to say.  Without having prospective customers on side it's an uphill battle to close sales. Just ask VW. *Most of VW's R&D and manufacturing costs for the Phaeton haven't gone to waste. Much of its internals can be found in the Bentley Continental GT, Bentley Continental Flying Spur, and the Audi R8 - cars that in cost (even) more than the Phaeton. It's funny how people have less of a problem spending $200,000 on a VW when it's called a Bentley. Image Source: VW
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  • Beginning of QR video
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    QR Codes Aren't Just For Print
                    Scan me! You probably already know about QR codes. You can't really escape them from at the moment - they seem to be everywhere. QR Codes are those square 2D barcodes (right) that came about in 1994, and that the Japanese have been using for about the past fifteen years. However, because mobile technology in Europe and the US has only recently caught-up, QR codes seem to be enjoying something of a revival lately. Listen to most US-based marketers and you'd be forgiven for thinking that they've just invented the things. Printing companies are one of the biggest fans of QR codes - and it's no wonder. QR codes not only bridge the communications gap between ink-on-paper (or maybe that should be "toner-and-substrate") and the internet. Their current "flavor of the month" status is helping to make print relevant again in a world where marketers are increasingly spoiled for choice in finding the most relevant communication medium for their target audience. Unfortunately the vast majority of QR code-based campaigns are painfully ineffective, since it often seems to me that the the thinking behind them didn't really progress much further than "Hey, let's use a QR code to get people to our website." As with many new technologies, we have to wait until the novelty has worn off before we see some creativity or innovation, and and idea of the potential of the medium. Examples such as barcodes for buses, or the virtual supermarket. So, QR codes can be great in print. But QR codes don't have to be printed. Take a look at the video below (if you can't see it, then click here). It's an experiment combining a QR code with 3D animation, post-production motion graphics, and an eerie, dramatic soundtrack - all connected to a mobile-optimized website. Of course, to get the full effect you need to have a QR code reader app on your mobile device as, at the moment, none of them ship with one built-in (Why? Who knows). Here are some links to free QR code readers for various mobile devices: iOS (iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad 2): Scan Android: QuickMark (QuickMark is also available for iOS, but I think that Scan is a far better app) Windows Mobile: i-nigma (also available for iOS and Android)
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  • three monitors with currency signs
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    The Death of "Three Screens": Content Has No Limits
    Not so long ago, many marketers used to talk about the notion of "three screen" communication. Essentially, the concept was recognizing and adapting marketing collateral to follow the "Three Screens" of Computer, Television and Mobile. The thought processes were along the lines that, even though convergence continues to move forward, each "screen" has a unique and specific role in media consumption. More than that, the Three Screens needed to work together to help create a cohesive experience - customers have certain "consistency of message" expectations that needed to be met. When Screens Were Screens Let me give you an example. Supposing you wanted to watch a TV show, but you couldn't get in front of a television at the time it was due to be broadcast. What you used to do was set the video recorder and record the show, watching it at a time that was more convenient for you. Today, TV shows continue to be scheduled on a set day and time. However, now they can be viewed in a variety of places. Not just on the internet via YouTube or on the TV station's own "catch-up" website. But via your SlingBox, or on your cellphone or tablet. More and more content is simultaneously broadcast over the web - from sports to Royal weddings. The Three Screen rule became ubiquitous. Even Microsoft got into the act, publishing a report on how Three Screen thinking (using MS-powered tech, naturally) can help create a higher brand awareness and increase conversation rates. How Relevant Is 3-Screen Thinking Today? However, I'm not sure how relevant Three Screen Thinking is any more. Not so much because we're now living in a world with more than three screens. But because we don't count screens in the same way as we used to. Your customers are now connected to you - and each other - via an increasing array of media channels and devices. A TV, for example, used be a box in the corner of a room that relayed content from a finite and regulated list of providers - i.e. TV stations. Today's TVs have USB ports, integrated DVRs and wireless internet - they're not TVs in the same sense of the word. The same can be said for cellphones, computers - and even coffee makers. So why, as marketers, do we continue to separate the experience that we get from one screen compared to another? Do our customers make such a delineation? A screen is a screen is a screen. What's the difference between listening to a podcast and listening to the radio? Or reading my copy of The Economist as printed material that arrives in my letterbox two days after I've downloaded it on my iPhone, read it on my laptop, or listened to it on my iPod? Even the blog that you're reading right now can be read from the KEXINO website, sent to your email inbox, viewed in your RSS reader - or even downloaded to your Amazon Kindle device or application. Which Screen Is the Main Screen? All Of Them. The tools for seamlessly integrating content across "screens" are still new, and we're all still working out how best to use them in ways that will attract, engage and maintain audiences. But technologies such as HTML5 are bound to continue to blur the lines of what constitutes a particular format, for a particular device. And that's exactly how it should be. Content is content. The delivery mechanism for that content is, by and large, immaterial. The only screen that REALLY matters to me is whichever one that I happen to be looking at right now.
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  • the danger of a business being seen as average
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    Don't Be (Seen As) An Average Company
    The most dangerous marketing strategy for your business today is to be seen as being "average".
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  • non-trustworthy-looking person
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    Maintaining Credibility In The Eyes Of Your Customer
    Imagine that you’re in a sales situation with a potential client. The deal could be highly lucrative. Things are going well - you’ve done your research, they like your offering…but they also like the offering of one of your biggest competitors. From your perspective, it’s anyone’s guess as to who’s going to get the deal. Then something happens. The prospective customer shows your pricing proposal to the other company - or forwards them one of your emails, asking them for their take on it. What just happened? You lost the sale. For whatever reason your credibility, in the eyes of your customer, has been compromised. For all intents and purposes you're no longer in the running. Of course you’re never going to hear that from your customer directly: they’ll continue to go through the motions of the sales process right up until they make the purchase - with the other company. There are 1001 reasons why you may lose the credibility of your customers. Maybe it’s the overly-pushy salesperson who needs to be the center of attention, dominate the conversation, or make it abundantly clear that they’ve been there and done that and (in the words of Stevie Wonder) you would be a stronger man if you took Misstra-Know-It-All’s advice. Perhaps you took too long to get back to the customer - returning their call, sending a price proposal, or replying to their email. Maybe it’s your outward appearance. When’s the last time that you cleaned that suit, painted your premises, updated your presentation or refreshed the design of your website? The vast majority of sales are lost because you failed to maintain your credibility somewhere along the sales process. There was something that you did, or that you didn’t do, that pushed the customer into the waiting arms of your competition. Since every company loses a sale, we’re all guilty of losing credibility once in a while. Do you know the weak-points of your credibility persona?  If you do, then what are you doing to address them? If you don’t, then ask your customers - before you’re the last to know. Image Source
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  • social media content creation
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    Social Media Grows Up: Welcome To The Age of Curation
    To a 40-something (though young-at-heart) individual such as yours-truly, I’ve been very lucky to have been born at the right time to be able to witness the evolution of how we use the commercial internet over the past 20-odd years. Phase One: Big Media In the early days, the internet was something ‘over there’ that didn't really concern us. It wasn't something that you or I could ever dream of being a part of. It was dominated by the ‘big guns’ - national and global brands - that used their vast resources to create and reinforce their voices of reason and authority. The brands that were online were the same brands that had authority and reputation in the age of Big Media - radio, television, print and so on. The internet was just another medium to add to their list, and they treated it as such. Phase Two: Everyone And His Wife Then everything imploded. The Dot Bomb happened, and over-valued tech-based companies that had gone public based on a smoke-and-mirrors business plan had a sudden wake-up call. CEOs had to dump their McLaren F1s, sell their mansions, lick their wounds and get McJobs. But something else was happening. The barrier to getting online began to come down. Storage, bandwidth and hosting reduced in price to the point where it wasn’t just Big Brands that could have an online presence: The World and His Wife could have one too. It started with websites, then it went to blogs, then forums, and finally to what we have today - i.e. Facebook/Twitter/Whatever. As more and more of us (as content creators) got our online voice,  more of us (as content consumers) began to take notice. Then a funny thing happened. We began to trust Big Brands less, and trust ourselves more. We moved into the age where the dominant and trusted voice on the internet became us, as individuals. We, the customer, took control. The brands saw the writing on the wall, and now try to engage, enthral and seduce us in the places where we’re now spending our online time: Social media channels. Phase Three: Too Much Information Now, we’re about to move into a new phase of the development of the internet: the search, organization, and presentation of relevant content to the user: Curation. Why? Because there’s a problem with Everyone And His Wife having an online voice: the vast majority of the content out there is rubbish! There’s too much content and too little time to consume it. That’s without the fact that, collectively, our attention spans continue to fall - further exacerbating the situation. The average visitor spends no longer than about 15 seconds on a webpage. 60% of visitors to your site will never return. We’re living in a world of headlines. We want small, bite-sized chunks of content that we can consume with the least amount of effort possible - witness the phenomenal growth in online video, if you want proof. As a result, as (content) consumers we’ve all had enough. Most of us just want a way to sort the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the dirt. What we want, in short, is curation. Go out there and find me the stuff that I’m interested in. Technology already exists to tailor a user’s internet experience. Search engines such as Google already customize search results based upon certain criteria such as the geographic location of the user. Twitter services such as Listorious could be seen as curation. Applications such as Pulse and Flipboard are using content collection techniques to present what they think is relevant and valuable content. The next wave is the curation and therefore customization of website and blog content - in both content and context - based upon user data. However, the technology facilitating curation is still in its infancy. There are still big holes in terms of categorization, grouping (which is not the same thing), participation, tracking and so on. These holes are getting smaller all the time, and the curation dilemma is trying to be addressed by companies such as Storify, Scrible, and Curated.by. Of course content curation opens-up a can of worms in terms of social implications (the decision on what news items I get to view, for example) which we need to be mindful of in these early stages. But think of the implications to such content curation in terms of the online visibility to your business. The content distribution vehicles that you’ve relied upon for all these years - magazines, blogs, ads, whatever - will no longer have the reach that you were depending on for results. In which case, how are tomorrow’s customers going to find you? If you’re not producing content that your ideal customer wants to ingest, then who is? Who’s producing that curated content for your prospective customers? If it’s not you, then it’s your competitor. If a lone business publishes some content, in the middle of a forest with no-one around to experience it, does it still get consumed?
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  • crushed cans of Spam
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    Stop Spamming Your Customers
    You may not be trying to sell me little blue pills, a sure-fire way to get my website on the first page of Google search results, or the opportunity to 'rest' $15m in my bank account. But you're as bad. I define spam as unsolicited messages. Communication that is forced onto me, that I haven't asked for. Spam exists in various forms. Apart from all those email messages that we all receive, there are spam messages that come into the comments section of this blog. There are spam SMS messages that I receive from my cellphone provider. I even get spam messages to my Twitter account. You probably hate spammers too. In which case why do you choose to adopt similar techniques when communicating with your customers? Why do you automatically add every customer and sales prospect that you've ever known to receive your online communication? Why do you send your email communication from a "no-reply" email address? Why do you blast the same message - verbatim - across all of your social media channels?  Don't you realize that your intended audience ends-up getting the exact same message - but from 20 different places? Why are you mixing personal messages with professional ones?  Learning about a new promotion from your Facebook page may be interesting. But seeing your recently-posted photos of last weekend's drunken BBQ (usually) isn't. Why do you make it so difficult for people to unsubscribe from your mailings?  Click here, then here, then enter my email address, then give a reason why I'm unsubscribing. Are you serious? Blanket message distribution rarely accomplishes more than creating a distrust and dislike of your brand.  Today, we've moved into the realm of permission marketing - obtaining customer consent prior to delivering your message. The tools of marketing engagement have been refined to the point that messages can be tailored to groups of prospects - or even to individuals.  Engagement channels continue to grow - blogs, social media, variable data, QR codes.  Subscribing - and unsubscribing - to mailing lists is now a painless, 'one-click' process. Customers are smart. When they see your spam-type messages - and message delivery mechanisms - they make a judgement about your company and your business value offering. Suffice to say that it's not a positive one. Image Source
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  • lazy public relations
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    No-one Reads Your Press Release: Why PR Became Lazy
    Have PR agencies become lazy and complacent in how they represent their clients?
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  • How Safe Is Cloud Computing
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    How Safe Is Cloud Computing? As Safe As Air Travel
    Today it seems that everyone's talking about computing in "The Cloud." The concept is simple: Rather than buy a load of hardware and/or software and have it all sitting in your offices waiting to go wrong, blow up or become obsolete, you work and store your files with an online service that handles all that icky technical stuff for you. Our own Qarto translation management portal is an example of a cloud-based system - also known as Software As A Service which, of course, inevitably gets abbreviated to "SaaS."  Other examples are email systems such as Google Mail and Hotmail, online storage services such as Dropbox and Box, or office applications such as SugarCRM or Zoho. Even Microsoft have jumped on the cloud computing bandwagon, which isn't such as surprise since cloud-based services generated over $68 billion last year and is forecast to hit around $150 billion by 2014. However, just lately cloud-based services have been taking a bit of a beating. Sony's PlayStation Network got hacked and was offline for the best part of six weeks. On April 21st Amazon's EC2 cloud-based platform fell over which, since many tech sites use EC2, had the knock-on effect of taking down services such as Reddit, FourSquare and Quora. Ever since, the press has been full of "I told you so" articles casting doubt over the usefulness of cloud computing, how it's unsafe and unreliable and not ready to be trusted with our precious data. Which, to me, is a bit like saying that all automobiles are dangerous because your great-grandfather was once run over by a Model T Ford. Yes, cloud computing-based systems are fallible - in the same way that any computing system is regardless of where it's based. Cloud computing outages such as Amazon's, or security snafus such as the Sony story, are the tales that we get to hear about. But what about the thousands of computing failures that occur on a daily basis in companies of all sizes? In any given year, a lot more people die in car accidents than in aircraft crashes. But it's the plane crash that makes the headlines. Of course it's news when Amazon - the world's biggest provider of web-based services - has one of their data centers go offline. But I'll bet you that your own company's systems have fallen down far more often.
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  • Video production services
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    Using Video To Help Launch Your Product / Service
    Adding video to your website not only attracts more visitors, but it can help keep them on your site for longer.
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  • It's not what you sell, it's why
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    It's not WHAT you sell, it's WHY you sell
    Do your clients ‘get’ what you do? I don’t mean if they know what you sell. I’m guessing that they know that already. If they didn't they wouldn’t be customers, right? I'm not talking about whatever product or service your business sells. I'm talking about the reasons why they should buy from you, as opposed to the hundreds or thousands of others who, in their eyes, offer something similar to what you do. What I mean is: do your customers know your story? The reason why you’re in business? Oh, and by the way the reason as to why you're in business is not to make a profit. Making a profit is simply a result of why you're in business (well, hopefully at least). When I say 'why', I mean the passion, cause or belief that caused the creation of your organization in the first place. Let me give you an example. We launched KEXINO because we feel that companies and organizations of all sizes - from “mumpreneurs” to SMEs - should have access to next-generation marketing resources in the same way that the big guns do. Why? Because, increasingly, customers expect a certain experience when they interact with a company, and if you don’t meet that expectation it’s unlikely that the customer relationship will go much farther. The rules of that game are being controlled by behemoths like Apple, Starbucks, Nike, BMW, Coca Cola et al, meaning that “Liz and Saskia's Organic Coffee Shop” needs to play along - while adding their own twist along the way. In a nutshell, that's why we do what we do. We're waving the flag for startups and small businesses. In the same vein we created Qarto because we’ve seen that while (thanks to the internet) any business is now a global business, communicating business value in languages other than your own is often a long, slow, tedious, drawn-out process - when it no longer has to be. The why of Qarto is to give companies of all sizes a way to better and more affordably communicate with their audience. See what I mean? I’m not talking about what you sell. I’m talking about why. Customers Buy (Into) What They Believe In The world’s major brands all have that compelling story that’s invisibly woven into everything that they do. Apple is about user experience, design, and not letting the hardware/software get in the way of whatever you need to do. Starbucks wants to raise the quality of the ‘average’ cup of hot brown water that’s billed as being coffee to something special and consistent. Nike’s passion is to create products that help athletes (or would-be athletes) to achieve their potential. Customers today have a wider choice of where to buy products and services than ever before - that’s a given. The luxury of all of this choice has resulted in an environment of commerce where it's no longer enough for customers to simply buy whatever it is that you have. They now need to buy-in to what you believe. It's as much to do with what you stand for, as what you actually sell. Maybe more. Image Credit (CC BY-NC 2.0)
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  • Aside Magazine
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    The Future Of Magazines - and it's not (just) the iPad
    The future of publishing is in developing content on an open platform that's compatible with a variety of devices - and that means HTML5, not iOS, Android Windows Phone or any other proprietary system.
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  • "Enchantment" business book by Guy Kawasaki
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    Review: "Enchantment" by Guy Kawasaki
    Spend any time on the web looking into business, marketing, leadership or sales and ten will get you five that you’ll run into Guy Kawasaki. Most people associate Guy with his time as Chief Evangelist at Apple. However, Guy’s time there was more than 20 years ago, when Apple was a very different company to the behemoth that it is today. Nowadays, Guy’s involved in a variety of projects such as founding a venture capital fund and the Alltop content aggregation site. In between all of that Guy speaks at various events, blogs and writes books. It’s a wonder how the man finds time to sleep. Today, most industries - and many companies - have become commoditized in the minds of their clientele. To build mindshare - and market share - organizations need to find honest and genuine ways to delight, seduce, to enchant their customer base to gain recognition, reputation and (above all) TRUST. This is the premise of Guy’s latest book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, a preview copy of which I received not so long ago. The premise of the book is a ‘how-to’ guide on increasing your company’s influence on new and existing customers by being “enchanting.” There are many ways to enchant - the quality of your product or service, the level of your customer service, the ways that you choose to communicate your business value differentiation. Going through the book, I experienced the odd touch of déjà vu. There were certain parts that reminded me of the seminal work by Robert Caldini Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. However, for me Enchantment scores over Caldini due to the approachable and pragmatic tone that Guy adopts throughout much of the book. There are numerous easy-to-digest tips and pointers on how to align your business to better resonate with your customer. Everything from dress codes, to how to smile (!) to the use of social media channels gets a look in. But at the end of the day, Guy’s book is about passion. About how and where to ignite change within your organization (or even, dare I say it, within your life) to generate delight in the minds of your customers. It’s about finding ways for you, your partners and your staff to communicate the “why” of your business, not the ‘how.” Recommended reading. P.S. A short story. As I mentioned, I only received my preview copy of Enchantment quite recently, even though the book has been out for a couple of months. The reason? Since Guy’s team had my French address, they decided to send me a French copy of the book (probably because they thought it would enchant me). While I could certainly have read the book in French, it would have taken me much longer to get through it - plus I would rather read Guy’s original words as opposed to someone’s French translation of them. Within a couple of days of mentioning this to Guy, I had an English copy of the book in my hands. I’d say that Guy’s certainly practicing what he’s preaching.
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  • media companies wrestling with the change in reader behavior
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    Media Companies: Stop Trying To Save The Past
    A great post by John Einar Sandvand ( find him on Twitter as @JohnEi ) about a word that should be banned from the vocabulary of all media companies. What's the word? "Cannibalization." Many media companies today are happy to develop the digital side to their business, but only as long as it doesn't negatively impact the revenues they generate from their traditional sales. As John points out, "What Can Become Digital, Will Become Digital."  As consumers, the immediacy and convenience that digital content delivery provides - whether that content is music, movies, newspapers, books, or whatever - is a compelling and attractive proposition to us. More importantly, even if the analog equivalent is 'better', it doesn't mean that it has a given right to co-exist. The market will decide - whether or not we like the results. Take the music industry as an example. Why did the CD all but kill off vinyl? Because with a CD you don't have the hassle of a turntable and stylus, and you don't have to get-up to flip the record over when you want to hear "side two." Similarly, MP3 files replaced CDs for many people because their reduced sound quality from an MP3 files is mitigated by convenience and immediacy of purchase: you don't have to go to the record store to buy your music. Today, streaming services such as Spotify, Google Play Music, and Apple Music are taking over the mantle once held by MP3 files. Streaming services give you the ability to listen to nearly any song or album ever produced, on any of your digital devices, in return for a small monthly fee. It's About The Media - Not The Channel It's the same with publishing. It's true that you doesn't have to be a bibliophile to be able to relate and appreciate the pleasure of touching, opening, reading (and even smelling) a freshly-printed book - or even an old tome. There's an emotional connection that bears little relation to the content contained therein. However most of us don't buy books purely to admire the bindery work, or the quality of the printing. It's about the content. Tablet devices and eBook readers allow us to access that content faster and more conveniently. Personally, if I bought a Kindle or iPad I'd buy many more books than I would otherwise. But I'll also be buying far less hard-copy books. Case in point: I currently have around 500 books in my Google Books account. I can read any of those books on my laptop, desktop computer, phone, or tablet pretty much whenever I want. In addition to those 500 books taking up zero physical space, I have the convenience of being able to read them whenever I may be in the world. It's the same with magazines: I recently changed my subscription to The Economist to the digital-only version. Not only is it more convenient for me to read the magazine on my tablet or computer, but the content is searchable - impossible to do with print-based media. In the same way as vinyl records vs CDs today, books and newspapers may well continue to co-exist with their digital brethren for the foreseeable future. However -  also as with vinyl LPs - publishers will have to console themselves with smaller sales figures than they've enjoyed in the past, as well as selling into more niche market areas. Circulation continues to grow, for example, for those free newspapers you often find given away at train and metro stations. However, such newspapers adopt a very different business model to their paid-for competition (i.e. advertising sales alone need to cover the cost of content creation, printing, distribution - as well as profit). Any content publisher today that believes digital-based offerings can be sold without negatively impacting sales of print-based content is living in a dreamworld: Their business models need to evolve in one of two ways: The building of digital-based revenues, with all that implies in terms of investments in technology, resources, process, etc. Developing the existing print-based model in new, compelling ways - which may imply a smaller, leaner organization to the one that exists today. The Evolution Of Publishing Both models are as valid as each other. But make no mistake: the publishing industry has changed and is never going to be the same again. Companies involved in its ecosystem need to find a new sustainable business value offering model in order to maintain their relevance.
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  • Questions
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    Why Didn’t I Think Of That?
    We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” Asking a question means that you’re listening, absorbing, trying to understand. Religions are born. Regimes are created (and overthrown). Companies, products and services are conceived because someone asked a question. Too many times, at the end of a report or presentation, we ask the audience if there are questions with regards to the subject matter that was just delivered. Usually the reply is a pregnant, awkward silence. Does that mean that no-one in the room needs some clarification on whatever’s been proposed to them?  Usually not.  It usually means that no-one has the fortitude to start the ball rolling and ask the first question. More often than not if two or three questions get asked - and answered - quickly, more questions will follow. We should question the absence of questions. Asking questions is how we learn, how we understand. Questions are the beginning of how we effect change. So why do so many organizations effectively neuter their own innovation and development potential by instilling an aura of fear for asking questions? A lot of people in business behave in the same way that they did in school - i.e. the way to the top of the class is to give everyone the impression that you’re cleverer than the rest. Being cleverer means not only refraining from asking questions yourself. It also means deriding people that do ask questions. Maybe the reason that kids ask fewer and fewer questions as they grow-up because school - and society - rewards for having the answer, not the question. In school, you can get away with it. Verbatim regurgitation is still far too prevalent within formal education. In business, if no-one asks questions then the status quo is maintained. The boat never gets rocked. Yet companies need creative blood in their veins - more now than ever - if they are to thrive. Brainstorming sessions, suggestion boxes and “town hall” meetings are of little use if there isn’t an inherent culture already in place of embracing questions. You can’t force innovation. It happens when it happens. Asking the wrong question may well be dangerous. But not asking the right question can be fatal. Image Credit
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  • keeping your social media fans happy
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    Keeping Your Fans Happy With New Content
    So, you blog regularly. Maybe you tweet as well. Perhaps you have a company Facebook fan page too. Good for you. Well done. By now you may have seen tangible results from your efforts. More and more people are reading your content. Maybe you've converted interest into leads, and into sales. Hopefully you've taken my advice and have a content strategy in place that helps you and your colleagues keep that social media ship on course. You've got followers, fans and evangelists and they like what you do. They're on your side. But there's a problem. Your most devout followers have been reading your stuff all of these months and, by now, they pretty much have a handle on what you're saying. The problem is, that you're saying the same thing again and again. Your most loyal of followers are being done a disservice since they feel that they're reading the same message - even if it is being regurgitated and rewritten 101 different ways. They're not being pushed, challenged, educated or informed any more. You've made your point to them - and they've got it. The only question now is how long they'll continue to hang around reading your stuff before pragmatism overtakes loyalty - and they're gone. Don't get me wrong:  your content may still be invaluable for all of the people that have just found your social media channels and are enchanted by what you're saying.  But unless you can bring something new to the table every once in a while, these new fans will be off as well. Content strategy, like any strategy, is a constantly evolving process.  Every now and again it's important to stick your head above the wall to see if whether your social media ship needs a course check. Image Credit
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  • translation management portal video screenshot
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    Translation Management with QARTO - Video Presentation
    I'd like to ask a small favor from you, if I may. Please take a look at the following video. (if you can't see the video, then please go here). It's designed to be a 36,000ft overview of our Qarto translation management portal. The aim of the video is to give an idea of what Qarto is about, and (if your company does a lot of translation work) whether the information would make you to look at Qarto in more depth. The reason that I'm asking for your help is that I'd like your opinion on how to improve the video. Here are my thoughts: 1.  At a shade over three-and-a-half minutes long, I may be asking a LOT for an online viewer to watch the whole video. When we produce such material for our clients, we generally advise that the final video should be no longer than two-and-a-half to three minutes maximum - and that's only if we all agree that the video content is compelling enough for the target audience to want to sit through. Clearly, I'm breaking my own rule here. However, everyone that I've shown the video to all say that it doesn't feel that long when you're watching it. Maybe they're just being nice. What do you think? 2.  The voiceover narrative (thanks so much for your help, Dawn!) is delivered in a light-hearted style so as to be more conversational. I didn't want to appear that we're taking ourselves too seriously (none of that "global leader", "innovative, disruptive technology" corporate mumbo-jumbo that so many companies revert to). However, the business of translating content - whether words, artwork files, websites, slide presentations or what-have-you - is a serious business. One localization slip-up could mean disaster. So should I give the video a more serious tone? 3. I deliberately kept the pace of the piece fast, but not too fast that you couldn't get the message. The graphics are meant to be a combination of informative and humorous - and designed so as to make you want to keep watching until the end. One person I asked said that the graphics were too fast-paced and made him feel dizzy (!). What's your opinion? At the end of the day, I've tried to put into practice some of the thoughts and ideas that I advise KEXINO's clients to think about for their next marketing piece. Collateral doesn't have to be liked by you, since you're not the one buying the product/service. It has to be liked by your ideal customer. Adopt a tone where you're talking with your audience, rather than to you audience. It's about providing a solution to your customers problem. It's not about what you have to sell - but what the customer wants to buy.
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  • kexino test with vid.ly
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    Vid.ly: The Biggest Development In Online Video?
    As regular readers to this blog (hello Mum) will know all too well, I've been banging-on about the importance of video within a company's sales, support and marketing strategy for years. Hopefully, we all know now that video is too powerful a medium to be ignored. That if a visitor clicks on a video they are more likely to watch it until its end, then read a swathe of text. That producing and distributing video has never been easier or more affordable. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Today, we're living in what some people are calling a Post-PC age. We no longer need PCs or laptops to do most of what we used to use computers to do. Emailing, surfing the web and (of course) watching video - whether that's dogs on skateboards on YouTube, or any of the various TV channel catch-up services such as the BBC's iPlayer. As I wrote in a previous article, today there are a plethora of video formats for all types of devices.  Different web browsers like different types of video format, as do various smartphones, not-so-smartphones (dumbphones?), tablets - even video games consoles. Well, I recently saw the future of online video for businesses. And it's nothing short of amazing. vid.ly is an online service from encoding.com that takes away all the hassle of using the right format, codec, HTML coding and the rest. Whether you're sharing a link or embedding a video into your website, vid.ly handles it all. Simply point vid.ly to where your video is (or upload it directly) and after a few minutes you get a vid.ly shortlink as well as the HTML5 code to embed into your website. And that's all there is to it. From then on, whatever connects to your website vid.ly presents a version of your video in a way that the device can understand. What's more, as new devices enter the market vid.ly will update the range of videos that it offers so that your visitors are never left staring a a blank screen. Genius. I've been playing around with vid.ly for the past few days, and I have to say that it does everything that it claims to.  Video quality is stunning, playback is fast and smooth, and the process of producing vid.ly videos couldn't be easier from its well-designed web interface. Make no mistake, what vid.ly has done here is nothing short of remarkable. Taking away the headache of format, delivery and so on with the assurance that your video will play on whatever device. That's huge. I'm sure that YouTube, DailyMotion and the rest are working on a vid.ly-like service (they'd be mad not to). But that's irrelevant. The technology is finally here - and accessible to even total novices - to give online video the push that it's needed. And that's great news for everyone.
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  • broken-lens
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    Mainstream Media Is Broken: The Growth Of Online
    In the same way as publishers, newspapers & music companies before them, film studios must change to a customer-centric model in order to survive.
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  • Welcome Back
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    What Do You Do For An Encore?
    SEO is all well and good, but all that does is get someone to your site that first time. When a visitor comes to your website for the first time, they need to find something that's sufficiently engaging for them to bother to read what's there. However, what's just as important (and maybe even more important) is giving your visitors a reason to come back. Because if the first-time visitors to your website don't come back again, then you need to have some sort of plan where you achieve a constant flow of first-time visitors. The problem with people who visit your website for the first time is that, depending on your business, it's unlikely that you'll get much from them. First-timers rarely sign-up for your newsletter, or contact you for more information, because they don't know you. You haven't had the chance thus far to win over their confidence, trust or respect. Generally-speaking, customers become customers because they have been back to your site many times before they ever decided to buy anything from you. They know your site, the layout, where the interesting (and not-so-interesting) content is. They have spent time digesting the content, and grew to trust your business value communication before they were happy to give you their contact details or credit-card number. Unless you're in a commoditized industry, you need to get your visitors to keep coming back. And while I'll be the first to admit that there are many exceptions to this rule, I'm betting that your business - and your industry - isn't one of them. What do you have that'll keep them coming back for more? Image credit
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  • the breakdown of old-style selling
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    Stop Selling
    There’s one common trait that the best sales and marketing people all seem to possess: Passion.
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  • brain with question marks
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    Don't Be An Expert
    Are you an 'expert'? As consumers, none of us want to make the wrong purchasing decision. None of us want to be the one that bought a Zune. We like the assurance that a third-party confirmation gives as part of the buying process. Maybe we seek out reviews from trusted sources such as specialist magazines or websites. Or perhaps we'd let untrusted opinion guide us. What do I mean by "Untrusted opinion"? In recent years buyers have grown to trust the phenomenon of the "Customer Review", essentially a word-of-mouth recommendation from someone that we don't know. We often can't confirm that the submitted information is accurate, or unbiased, yet we allow it to influence our purchasing decision. Word-Of Mouth has been supplemented by Word Of Mouse. In the world of business -  in sales, marketing, communication, HR, and so on - what we're looking for, consciously or otherwise, is an 'expert'. Someone who can give us advice based upon what the Merriam-Webster dictionary describes as their "…having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience." But in today's constantly-evolving commercial landscape, how can anyone be an "expert"? How can anyone know a subject so intimately, when the subject itself and its place within our decision-making process ebbs and flows with the vagaries of taste and opinion? If Everyone's An "Expert", Then No-One Is The way that businesses interact with customers thanks to technology-enabled channels such as social media (and whatever else is around the corner) can often mean that what we thought was right today can turn out to be wrong tomorrow. When I think of someone who calls themselves an 'expert', I'm thinking of someone who's' "been there and done that", and can give me advice as a result. But today, "there" and "that" are in a constant state of flux. What's right today can be wrong tomorrow. How can you call yourself a master of the game if the rules of the game are constantly changing? To me, today's expert is the one who knows - and readily admits - that they don't have all the answers. They're on a journey, observing and learning as technology-enabled commerce continues to wax and wane. But they're humble and pragmatic enough to acknowledge that they're taking that journey along with the rest of us. Being Afraid To Admit Ignorance Does that inherently make their advice and opinion less relevant? Not necessarily. By admitting that they don't have all the answers, and being open to adapting their existing knowledge and experience with whatever the internet has in store for all of us, maintains their credibility as far as I'm concerned. So, do I consider myself an expert? No, not at all. But I'm working on it.
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  • ring love shadow
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    Show Your Customers Some Love
    Happy belated Valentine's Day. Reading Tim Sanders' blog recently, I noticed that his book Love Is The Killer App is nine years old already. If I had to mention one book that had the single biggest influence on my business life, it would be this one - and I discovered it by accident. I just happened to be at a conference in the USA where Tim was speaking, and was blown away by what he was saying. I bought the book soon afterwards. What Tim was saying in his keynote presentation, and that the book explains in greater detail, was a way of interacting with people that I was unconsciously doing already. I'd never even considered that I was doing something that others were not. Tim's presentation opened my eyes to how I was approaching people in business, and that more of us should be doing the same thing. Love Is Part Of Building Trust - And Building Business If you've never read the book, it's message is basically to give without expecting to receive. To go out of your way to help others in business, your employees, your customers, like you would treat family. Nine years ago such talk would have had you dismissed as some sort of pot-smoking hippie.  Today, with all the talk about "social media" this, and "client engagement" that, it seems that Tim's message was prophetic. Yet, based upon the actions of many business people I meet, you would think that they live by the tenet of "Treat Them Mean To Keep Them Keen." Too many business people disrespect colleagues, employees and clients with actions at work that many would see as being no more than simple common courtesy. What do I mean? If we have an existing business relationship and I send you an email, then I expect a response back from you. It doesn't have to be the same day, or even the same week, but I do expect you to get back to me. If it's to say 'no', then say it. If it's to say "not yet", then say it. If you don't have any news to give me at all, then give me the 30 seconds that it takes to let me know. Show Me The Love. Say What You'll Do. Do What You Say If I'm your customer and you've promised something to me, then you better live up to the deal. If you promise me that the feature that I've requested is coming in the next version of your product, then make sure that it's there. If I have a problem, don't recite some "read the small print" nonsense to get out of your obligation. And if I'm in the wrong, use the opportunity to show me that you care. Show Me The Love. Reading your emails every time your Crackberry / iPhone / whatever goes-off during a meeting is being rude and disrespectful. It doesn't matter whether I'm your employee, supplier, customer or business contact. If you're more interested in what has been emailed to you then what we're saying face-to-face, then maybe I should leave right now and send you an email (that's assuming that you'll reply, of course). Show Me The Love. "But I'm not like that," you say. "I value your business, your contribution, your value. I was busy. I was having a bad day. I forgot." Perhaps that's true.  But to quote Longfellow "We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done." Image Credit
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  • Customer Relationship
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    Building Real Customer Relations
    How far does your business go in building relationships with your customers? Today, many companies have realized that they need to do more than hang a "We're Open" sign on the door to get customers to buy from them. They may even have heard that "People don't buy from companies, people buy from people." As a result, they schmooze, they cajole, they inform, they educate, they interact. To use the current parlance: They engage. If it all goes according to plan, then perhaps the customer makes the purchase. At which time, more often than not, they're shown the door and we're off playing the game all over again with someone else. But couldn't - or shouldn't - the customer relationship be more than just a way to get the sale? In some cases there is a relationship after the sale: Perhaps the customer has to pay for some kind of assistance or service following the purchase.  Or maybe there's some ongoing training/induction type sessions that last an amount of time, that maintains the client/supplier relationship. But if a business - any business - sincerely exists to offer some kind of help or solution to their customers, then shouldn't they view every single purchase as the beginning of a long-term relationship? A relationship where they are committed to offering the best customer service that they can - just because they want to? Supposing that you knew, with absolute 100% certainty, that the customer that just bought something from you today was never ever going to buy anything from you ever again. Now suppose that the very same customer came back to you to ask you for help with something or another - something that you knew would never result in a sale. Be honest for a second: How much help would you give them? Some companies get it. Unfortunately it's often the same names that we hear about again and again - such as Apple with their "Genius Bar." The Genius Bar is an area within every Apple Store staffed by trained employees to answer questions, to give advice, to offer technical and application assistance, to perform on-the-spot repairs, and so on. The Genius Bar is an opportunity for Apple to say that they want are happy customers, even if those customers never buy anything from Apple ever again. Your relationship with your customer should not end at the point of you securing the sale. In fact, perhaps the relationship you have with your customer should never end at all. Image Credit
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  • short attention span
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    The Attention Span Of A Goldfish
    One of the challenges in communicating online – websites, email, whatever – is how to get to your audience before they click off to somewhere else. The internet may be vast, but with the consequence that your online audience has a vast choice – and a tiny attention span. So how do you get your complex point across, in a world where your target market has a shorter attention span than Granny’s pet goldfish? The impact of the Internet has meant that many content creators feel that they can write at extravagant length, not only waffling on about their key idea but adding all the fine detail they think is important. After all, it's not like it has to be squeezed into a magazine page or brochure, right? Scanning Rather Than Reading The problem is that the recipient is making a snap, two-second decision about what to look at and what to ignore, based on viewing maybe 20 words of that content. If they do look at it, they’re actually 'scanning' rather than reading. Even worse, they may ‘save’ the email to go back to later – which realistically means that they’re never going to view it again. End result? You think you’ve written a short snappy piece - they think it’s ‘War and Peace’. You're writing 1000 words, they're reading 10. And that’s on a good day. In the world of Wi-Fi this and iPhone that, there’s no time to linger over email: People just want to empty their Inbox and get on with their lives. Take the “Corporate Email Newsletter”as an example. A few years ago, customers considered email newsletters in the same way as the printed newsletters that they received in the post. They felt valued, because it came to their own personal email account. It increased loyalty, value and built on the ‘relationship’ that they felt they had with your company. Websites, in contrast, were impersonal and somewhere where you went to get something done or find something out. Short & Sweet To Maintain Attention Today, everyone knows that adding another recipient to an email list takes less time than thinking. Most people use spam filters of some type to get rid of unwanted emails before they even see them (with the occasional "innocent" email getting lost as collateral damage in the process). In short, people are concentrating more on email that helps them get something done. Anything that they get that doesn’t fulfil that brief – in the three seconds of scanning over it that your message warrants – is likely to get binned. If you’re looking to use email/web-based tools to either prospect new clients or maintain existing ones (and if you’re not, then you might as well go home now as you're going to be out of business any day now), then you need to play their game.  In fact, anyone tasked with writing messages from organizations to individuals should wake up and smell the Arabica. Basically, that the vast majority of people are throwing away the vast majority of what you’re sending them. One of the only ways to maintain their interest – and avoid the delete key – is to play the game. If customers are only going to give you three seconds of their time to decide whether you warrant disk space, then make those three seconds count. Image Credit (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
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  • winning in business
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    Playing To Win In Business
    Imagine that you're playing Blackjack at a swanky casino in Monte Carlo, Macau, or maybe Las Vegas. The cards are dealt out. Your hand adds up to 16, while the dealer is showing a ten. What do you do? Statistically, the chances that taking another card doesn't push you over 21 is less than 40% (depending on how many decks of cards are in play). The odds that your card gives you a total of 18 or greater is around 25%.  Not great odds, I think you'll agree. Based upon the chances of busting, maybe you decide to stick with what you've got. However, if you describe the above situation to any experienced Blackjack player, they would all advise you to take another card. Why? Because they will remind you that the aim of playing Blackjack is not to avoid going over 21. The aim of Blackjack is to win - and the chances that you're going to win with a hand of 16 is slim at best. The aim of Blackjack - and Business - is to win It's the same in business. When we're presented with a business opportunity, we make an assessment as to the likely probability that the decision that we make will yield a favorable result. If we deduce that the chances of us "winning" are less than, maybe, 50% (or whatever number that gets our attention), then we choose to stay with what we've been dealt. But, just as in Blackjack, the aim of business is not to avoid losing: It's to win - to succeed. There are numerous examples of companies who "took another card" at 16. Gillette decide to see their safety razors at a very low price, gambling that customers would keep buying the disposable razor blades.  While at Pepsi, John Sculley demonstrated that Coca-Cola drinkers were loyal to the brand - rather than the taste - through the hugely-successful "Pepsi Challenge Taste Test" campaign. Apple chose to invest in bricks-and-mortar retail stores just when everyone else thought that the future was online-only. It's about playing to win, rather than to "not lose".
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  • Apple Inc Think Different campaign
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    Think Different
    Perhaps the singularly most over-used word in the history of marketing is the word “New.” ‘New’ gets attention and provokes a variety of reactions. New means good, more advanced, more original, more unusual. New means better. New means cooler - more fashionable. Most of all, new implies that the object of our attention is something that we haven’t seen before. However, more often than not, it isn't. The vast majority of products or services that are branded ‘new’ are anything but. Or rather, that they may well be ‘new’, but they are far from being 'different'. Most ‘new’ things are simply revisited versions of what has existed before. New combinations of the familiar - or “mash-ups”, to use today’s vernacular - with a liberal sprinkling of marketing pixie-dust to help it on its way. Once you pare away the fancy packaging, the jargon and the glitter, you’re left with something that isn’t very dissimilar to what has existed before. Today, we have become desensitized to the 'new'. Instead, we crave the 'different'. The different is the new New. Examples of the different abound. The iPhone. The Herman Miller Aeron Chair. The Dyson Vacuum Cleaner. Even after they are - inevitably - copied, the different are remembered. In a world full of me-too products and services, the only hope of standing out today is by being different. Perhaps a different product specification, service offering, or price point. A different distribution model, or maybe a different approach to customer service (for the better, I would hope). Different isn’t the easy option. Nor is it the safe option. But it may well end up being your only option. Image Source
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    It's Not Voodoo. It's Marketing
    Perhaps, like many business owners, you're looking at this year as being an opportune time to pin your business on the social media map. A social media presence is no longer the bleeding-edge of a company's communication, awareness-building, and engagement strategy. If you are about to venture into building a social media presence for your business, may I give you a few words of warning. Many companies spread themselves too thinly when it comes to social media. There are so many sites to choose from. Where should one start? "Traditional" sites such as Facebook or Twitter? Business-related sites such as LinkedIn, XING or Viadeo? Location-aware sites such as FourSquare? It's tempting to think that you need to be on all of them.  After all, you may be missing out on attracting possible customers, right? Technically you're right.  But I'd say that your business should already know where your customers are, when they are there, and what your business should be communicating when they are listening. It's not voodoo, it's simply marketing. Social media vehicles are simply other ways of getting in front of potential - and existing - customers. The process of finding, attracting, engaging, selling to and following-up with them is the same: you're just using different tools. Thinking that you need to be on every social media website is the same as thinking that you need to put an ad on every TV channel, or in every newspaper, just because there may be a customer out there who'll see it. There are not many single malt scotch distilleries that take out full page ads in "Mother and Baby" magazine, are there? Don't fall into the trap of thinking that social media is cheap. If you're serious about using a particular social channel for your business you need to create and distribute content on a regular basis. You need to optimize content and messaging for each social media channel individually. You need to monitor reach, and engage accordingly. You need to participate in your audience's online conversations, contributing relevant and useful information along the way. As social media strategy consultant Jay Baer is fond of saying: "Social media isn’t inexpensive, it’s different expensive."
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    Saying What You Mean
    It is easy to confuse your target market by using what they might consider to be strange or unusual vocabulary.
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    Change, or Die
    There's plenty of management-speak out there about how business leaders need to embrace change. How business, and commerce in general, has its foundations on shifting sands.  The only way to ride the wave is to accept and relish the concept of change within your company. However, the truth is very different.  Most company managers that I know are more about creating and maintaining a consistent and stable workplace for employees, in order to create an air of security and reassurance and help keep staff morale high. The problem with building all of this structure is that it prevents you acting - or reacting - when an external force is applied.  Take the music industry as an example.  For decades, music companies held control as to how and what music was consumed, and record stores controlled distribution.  When the internet threatened to upset that control, their immediate reaction was to fight it. To keep things as they are. Guess what?  They lost. Today, anyone can release a piece of music  - or any other piece of intellectual property - and get it in front of a big-enough audience to generate attention.  The biggest seller of music in the USA today is a company that, less than a decade ago, sold computers. Not only is change inevitable, but resisting change is often suicidal.  The benefits of a stable workplace are useless if the price paid is complacency.  Just ask Woolworths, or Lehman Brothers, or BlockBuster. Yet most companies foster an internal culture that actively discourages or prevents change.  New ideas, if they are seen to break the status-quo, are dismissed.  Managers need to be able to break through the levels of bureaucracy that seek to obscure or kill them.  The reason why most ideas never make prime time is that there's too much organization in the organization. There's an old joke from Robert C. Gallagher: "Change is inevitable.  Unless it's from a vending machine." Image Credit
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    Do you have Followers, Fans or Evangelists?
    Brands have three types of loyal customers:  Followers, Fans and Evangelists. “Followers” are the ones who buy your product or service no matter what.  Times can be good, times can be bad, but they’re going to stick with what they know - and they know you. You get to a point where you’re forced to raise your prices.  Perhaps the raw material costs have gone up, or maybe you can’t absorb spiraling distribution costs any longer.  “Fans” are the customers that continue to buy from you even when you’ve increased your price.  Fans see ‘value’ in your business offering, over and above the raw cost in producing it.  They buy into your company stance, your brand, whatever it is that (they think) you stand for. Finally, there are the “Evangelists”.  These are the people who will go out of their way to recommend your product or service to their friends, family - and even to their social media networks.  They are your ambassadors. Your brand has connected with them on an emotional level to the point that they are happy to put their reputation on the line by pushing your wares. However, not all customers are created equal.  Most of your customers aren’t Evangelists, Fans - or even Followers.  They’re simply customers who bought whatever it is that you sell. So where do you go to get Followers, Fans and Evangelists?  Nowhere, because you can’t buy them. True Followers, Fans and Evangelists can’t be purchased, hired, sponsored or commissioned. They support you because they believe in you, your company, your product, your staff.  The 360 degree customer value space. Today, every company needs Followers, Fans and Evangelists.  Without them, you’re simply selling a commodity without any intrinsic value and you’re doomed to compete solely upon price. So how do you get Followers, Fans and Evangelists?  You already know the answer to that one. Image Credit
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    The Fragility Of A Business Model
    Whether consciously developed or not, every company has a business model.  It’s the fabric of how the organization has been set up to generate sales, revenue and - hopefully - profit. Wikipedia defines a “business model” as being a description of “...the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value.” But business models change. And they change for a variety of reasons. Competition - No-one is doing what you’re doing. Or, perhaps, everyone else is doing what you’re doing.  Whichever way around, it results in a change in your business model. Or should do. Commoditization - The product or service that you’re selling can no longer be differentiated in the minds of your customers from similar value offerings from others.  As a result, you compete purely on price.  Time to change that business model, since there’s always - ALWAYS - someone who’ll sell it cheaper that you will. Technology - No matter how entrenched your company is within your markets, there’s the danger that a disruptive technology may enter your industry and displace the existing, established status quo.  Look at how a combination of the internet and mobile devices are killing-off printed newspapers.  Or how internet downloads and streaming media services are displacing video rental stores such as BlockBuster. The Importance Of Adapting Your Business Model Today, companies may need to change their business model many times. For example, Apple used to sell computers, software, and the odd peripheral or two. Today, while computers are still the mainstay of the company, Apple have diversified into music players, mobile devices, and content downloads. Apple make more revenue from the sum total of iPods, iPhones, iPads and iTunes than they do from Macintosh sales. If your business doesn’t create the marketspace or technology, and doesn’t have bottomless resources and expenditure, then your business is influenced by the three factors I’ve outlined. You need to continually re-evaluate your model to review its relevance.
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  • friendship is the new partnership in business
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    Friendship Is The New Partnership
    We don't have customers - at least, we don't see them as such. Instead, we have friends that we do business with.
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  • pocketwatch on a map
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    Where's the Center of Your World? You're Already There
    Twenty years ago, various industries each had their own epicenters.  The place where you could find the best of the best in that particular field. Milan as the fashion center of the world. Madison Avenue for the advertising industry, Hollywood for motion pictures, and so on. Today, the hottest place for fashion might be Madrid, or Hong Kong, or Miami. Advertising? How about London, or Sao Paulo, or Johannesburg?  The movie industry might look towards India, where Bollywood produces double the number of feature films compared to Hollywood. Why the change? Three reasons: Talent: If you’re great at what you do, you no longer have to make the pilgrimage to some old industry stomping-ground to get noticed. If you’re good enough, you can be based wherever you want. Technology: This is linked to the one above:  Technology now connects people in amazing ways, no matter where they’re physically located. Just taking our own example, we couldn’t do what we do now if it wasn’t for enablers such as VoIP, Skype, smartphones, WebEx and the rest. Power: The days of autocratic individuals or groups that decided who could be part of the party and who couldn’t are over. The old methodology of “industry gatekeepers” has either gone or is on its way out. It used to be the case that a tech start-up had to be based in Silicon Valley. Today, it can just as easily be based in Mumbai, or Guangzhou, or Lima. It’s not so much that the world’s getting smaller, though that’s certainly the case: Less than a lifetime ago a trip across the Atlantic would take weeks, rather than hours. No, it’s more about the fact that we’re all connected. It’s not like I’m "over here", and you’re "over there". It’s that I’m in the middle, and so are you.  And so is everyone else.
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  • price vs value
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    The Price Of Everything, The Value Of Nothing.
    Relying on price as being your main selling point positions your value offering as a commodity - and a race to the bottom.
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  • Slow learners need more time to get to the same level of expertise as fast learners
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    How Long Did It Take You To Learn How To Ride A Bike?
    There are people who just “get” mathematics, and then there’s people like me. And maybe you. I always struggled with maths. As a kid, I vividly remember my parents losing their tempers on more than one occasion while spending long evenings helping me learn my multiplications tables. For whatever reason, that sort of information just never made a connection inside of me. Maths and I just don’t get along. I’m pretty sure that Sir Clive Sinclair invented the world’s first pocket calculator for people like me. However, maths was the only school subject that I couldn't get my head around: I pretty much aced most other subjects. I have a very visual memory - my party trick used to be to memorize a shuffled pack of playing cards in under 3 minutes - so I’m not what I would call a particularly slow learner. Or maybe, like many people, I'm a slow-learner in subjects that don’t interest me. Slow learners need more time to get to the same level of expertise as fast learners, that much is obvious. But is slow - or fast - learning a good indicator of a person’s intelligence? I’m not so sure. Apart from party tricks with playing cards, being a fast learner isn’t very easy to demonstrate to someone. You can demonstrate how well you play the piano by playing the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 3 - widely regarded as one of the world’s most difficult pieces of music to play. Or you could show how good your project management skills are by managing many or complex projects. Skills such as these work on the basis that “if you’ve done it before, then you can do it again.” But that’s not a demonstration of fast learning. Maybe it took you twenty years to learn that piano piece. Or maybe you were fired from three companies before you learned how to be such a great manager. Furthermore, just because it only took you a month to learn how to code in php doesn’t mean that in 4 weeks you can appoint and co-ordinate a management team to work on that special project. Image Credit (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
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  • Buying the old way
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    Old Way vs. New Way
    I've just discovered Kathy Sierra's blog, which is where this illustration comes from. How I've missed Kathy's blog for all of these years is beyond me. The blog's called Creating Passionate Users, which pretty much sums-up what she writes about. Take a look and let me know what you think.
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  • bell push
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    Start With "Employee Service" and "Customer Service" Will Follow
    There's an interesting article on The Harvard Business Review about how management at Ritz-Carlton hotels look at their employees. We all expect a certain level of customer service when staying at all but the most modest of hotels. As a result, you would think that it would be difficult to excel at service if you're in an industry that's all about customer experience. Time after time, year after year, Ritz Carlton are one of the few companies that "get it." Just about any company you care to mention will talk about how much they value the importance of customer service. However, there are precious few that talk about how they value their employees in the same way. Here's just one example: "Every employee of every Ritz hotel has the right to spend up to $2,000 a day per guest to resolve any problem that arises. It's a powerful expression of trust in employees, as well as a gift of empowerment and autonomy. It's also vastly better for guests. How many times have you been told over the years, "I'll have to go to my manager about that"? For too long and for too often businesses have underestimated their most valuable asset: their employees. Creating a corporate culture where everyone feels their worth, embraces the company's values and has a genuine, proactive commitment and passion to improving the entire experience (for customers and colleagues alike) isn't easy. But then if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Right? Image Credit
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  • Microsoft "Blue Screen Of Death"
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    Bad Marketing Is Worse Than No Marketing
    Question: When is email spam not email spam? Answer: When it has my name and company name in the copy. Well, that's what I'm guessing, since I had a piece of unsolicited email hit my Inbox this morning. Somehow it had managed to circumvent my spam blocking filter. I wanted to share it with you, so here’s the text in its entirety. Certain parts have been censored to protect the not-so-innocent, but the spelling/grammar errors have been left untouched: Dear Gee, Hope you are doing fine. I am writing to check if “Kexino“ has any Enterprise Architecture Initiatives where XXXX could help. We are helping many companies like yours with Enterprise Architecture approach in managing risks amp; innovation during turbulent times. In our pursuit to bring advance Enterprise Architecture program to France, we are glad to announce the up coming one day conference in Paris XX Oct by XXXXX XXXXXX - Father of XXXXXX XXXXXXXX. As you know, XXXXX XXXXXXXXX is world's most proven model for aligning IT Investments amp; Business Goals. It has been applied for managing change amp; complexity in several Global 2000 organizations. This conference is focused on how to create value for your organization by systematically recording assets,processes, connectivity, people, timing and motivation, through a simple framework. Please find details about the program (attached below) amp; for more in-depth details: (URL HERE) Do let me know if you would like to attend/nominate someone for the program. Looking forward to hear from you. After reading this literary masterpiece, my first reaction was to simply delete it. My second reaction was to reply to it, to ask to be removed from their distribution list. But something in the email got me thinking. The tone, style and attitude of the email embodies everything that I hate about ill-conceived marketing. Yes, I was annoyed. But I was more annoyed that someone, somewhere had thought that crafting and mailing this out to all and sundry was a good idea. In the end, I decided to reply: Hello XXXXXX, KEXINO is a marketing services company. We don't sell, consult or integrate IT infrastructure. Nor do any of our competitors. So you're not actually "helping many companies" like mine, are you? Spending 30 seconds on Google could have given you this information, saving you from sending an unsolicited mail to me. However, you've caught me in a good mood, XXXXXX. So I'm going to give you a bit of free advice. Why? Because I am genuinely appalled by the average level of corporate marketing - one of the reasons why I founded KEXINO - and I really want to help. I don't want to see you guys wasting any more of your time, effort and money. Your pitch mail is riddled with doublespeak and hyperbole - and doesn't actually say what the conference's business value offering is. "...how to create value for your organization by systematically recording assets, processes, connectivity, people, timing and motivation, through a simple framework" means absolutely nothing to anyone - including those in the IT industry. If you're based in France - as your contact details suggest - then you'll know all too well that describing someone as "a living legend", which may be OK in the USA (though I very much doubt it), is never going to get butts on seats over here. (there was a "living legend" reference in the bumf accompanying the text.) Interruptive, badly-constructed and poorly-targeted communications such as this only serve to alienate prospective customers as well as innocent bystanders like me, a victim of collateral damage. I suggest that you guys fire whoever's doing your marketing, because they're no good at their job and they're costing you money. But before you do that, please remove me from your distribution list ASAP. Many thanks, and have a great rest-of-the day. Gee Ranasinha Why did I bother? To be honest, I really don't know. It's not like I wasn't busy enough with other things. Did it do any good? Well, funnily enough, I haven’t received a reply. My email probably got caught in their spam filter. Image Credit
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  • Sculptor making a sculpture
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    How Do You Make A Sculpture Of A Duck?
    Question: How do you make a sculpture of a duck? Answer: Take a lump of stone. Get a hammer and chisel. In your mind, imagine an image of a duck. Remove everything from the stone that’s not part of the duck. Certainly, the form of a duck exists within the stone. However, the form of a horse is also in there. As well as a tree, dolphin or 1001 other possibilities. Theoretically, a sculptor could exhibit a bunch of untouched stones and say that each one is a sculpture in beta form, though I doubt that they’d be around very long... Removing The Unnecessary Sculpting is less about creation and more about removal. The removal of the unnecessary. Of course for non-sculptors like me (and probably you) that’s easier said than done. It’s difficult to see where the sculpture ends and the detritus begins. Yet the process of removing every element of the unnecessary is absolutely crucial in order for everyone else to be able to understand the meaning. Less is most definitely more. Just as a sculptor chips away at removing all that gets in the way of communicating her message (i.e. the duck), so must your marketing chip away at all the non-essential information that prevents your audience consuming and ingesting your content as quickly and as easily as possible. Do you embellishing your brochures, website, manuals or presentations with superfluous content that serves to bolster your ego, rather than effectively communicate with your audience? Do you ‘pad out’ your email newsletters, eBooks, blogs or articles with meandering sections containing little relevance, to somehow justify all the hours that you spent writing the piece in the first place? Do you add nonsensical features or options to your product or service, without consideration to how it will actually be used, because you’re focused more on the process rather than the end-result? Sculptors spend countless hours/days/months/years deliberating, tweaking and honing to get to the essence of what they want to communicate. As Picasso once said, “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary”. And so is effective marketing. Image Credit (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
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    Online Video: Much More Than Just YouTube
    If you have a spare 19 mins, take a look at this fantastic presentation from TED's Chris Anderson on why video, in conjunction with the mass distribution model of the internet, is changing the way that we learn, develop and evolve our knowledge. He calls the process "Crowd-Accelerated Innovation", something that he says may end up being as significant as the advent of the printed word. If you don't have 19 mins to spare, then fast-forward the talk to about the 9 min mark. Chris makes interesting observations on why video is so much more compelling that the text in a number of levels. As human beings, we're innately drawn to face-to-face communication. While information can often be absorbed faster through the written word, the non-verbal element of the communication is missing which can significantly contribute to the level of both comprehension and retention. As he says "What Gutenberg did for writing, online video can now do for face-to-face communication."
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  • game of chess
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    Today's Game Is About Changing The Game
      Yesterday, the game was simply about making something that someone else would pay to have. If your product or service wasn't great, wasn't the best, it didn't really matter. There was enough of the cake to go around so that everyone got a taste of it. Today, the game is about changing the game. The rules, as they say, are there to be broken. Just because something has always been done a certain way, doesn't mean that you can't come along and change it. Take a look at your own industry. Supposing the established business model for your industry was turned on its head. What would happen if your competitor came along and changed the rules? What if, for example, the thing that your customers pay for today was available for free, and the revenue for your product/service was made in another way? Most companies are unwilling to look at how they could change the game, since they're spending all their time trying to get better at the way the game is played today. Image Credit
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    Why Video Speaks Louder Than Text
    Loic LeMeur is a San Francisco-based entrepreneur behind the popular Seesmic application for monitoring your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn social media profiles. Loic has recently started to publish a series of 30 short video tutorials called How To Build Your Brand Online. He made the videos as an aid for anyone who wants to know more about social media, what to do to get involved, and how to do it. A noble cause, no doubt, and I'm sure it will be very successful. But that's not what I find interesting. What impresses me is the the fact that he chose to make the program as a series of videos. It would have been far easier, faster and cheaper to write it all down. Stick a bunch of screenshots here and there, offer the whole thing as a downloadable eBook, and he'd be good to go. Instead, Loic chose to take the time and trouble to express his ideas using video. Today's online visitor is more likely to watch a well-crafted video than read a lengthy piece of text. Initiatives such as Loic's acknowledge this trend, as well as reinforce it. Your text-only website was fine five years ago. But today, customers expect more.
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    Designs On Commerce
    How important is “Design” in your business? Design is much more than simply another way to imagine a lemon squeezer, personal music player, or a vacuum cleaner. But I’m not talking about the design of your product, or the look of your website. I’m talking about the design of your actual business, not what it makes. I’m talking about the flow, the presentation and the content order of the training seminar that you’re about to deliver. The choice of words that are used on a customer invoice. The way you describe what you do - i.e. your job title - to a customer. How an email enquiry is followed-up by your sales people. Design is in the multitude of business processes that we create. It’s the conversations that we have with our colleagues, suppliers, partners and customers. Good design invokes a positive and emotional response. Perhaps it’s how the switchgear ‘feels’ in a BMW automobile, or how the airline upgraded you to Business Class when they overbooked the flight. We have all been at the receiving end of bad design: Trying to reset the clock on the microwave oven, or talking with a salesperson who has no idea why this TV is better than that one. Anything and everything that we create must, by default, have a set of stimuli that contribute, regardless in what level of capacity, to how the “object” is perceived. Design is in everything that your organization does. Don’t underestimate it. Image Credit
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    Less Public and More Relations
    There's a great article over at Mashable about how web technologies such as social media have impacted the Public Relations business. It seems that, slowly but surely, companies are realizing that the "spray and pray" approach to distributing information - par for the course for most PR companies until very recently - is finally on its way out. And about time too. With so much digital noise competing for our attention, it could be said that media releases are more important now than ever before. But for the vast majority of press announcements to remain valid forms of "content distribution" (for that's what we're talking about) we need to get away from the days where "Big Company #1" blasts out a release a day (or more) simply for the sake of it, expecting everyone to drop everything and take notice. Judging by the content of many that I see, most press releases today have little 'meat' to them, and seem to be sent out as much for the backlink value as anything else. Today's PR company needs to look deeper into who actually needs, cares and benefits from your news, and have the courage to educate their clients that more is not always better. Surely we've moved on from the days where we would just blast announcements to all and sundry, hoping that something will stick? Just as with social media, PR is no longer about talking to your audience. It's about talking with your audience.
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    Your Company Isn't Perfect
    Regardless of how many - or how few - individuals make up your organization, your company is not a faceless automaton. It’s not a perfect machine. Which means that, every now and again, something goes wrong. Take your pick - airlines, home appliances, cars, computers - just about everyone has their own personal horror story about how they put their faith in a product or service, and how the company behind it let them down. Since we all know that bad news travels faster than good news, a company’s reputation can be hit pretty hard in a short space of time - especially with today’s far-reaching communication tools such as social media, blogs and so on. No organization is perfect. There’s a human component, which means (now and again) your company makes mistakes. And that’s OK. Because, as I see it, it’s not about the fact that your company, your representatives, your employees (hey - even you) have made a mistake. It’s a fact of life - we all screw-up now and again. What’s important is what happens next. Passengers need to be told why there’s a delay, and what’s being done about it. If there’s a hiccup in production scheduling or shipping, then your customer needs to know. Now. Your customer should be made aware of anything within their buying experience that could detrimentally alter their perception of your company. Once you’ve told your customer, then they need to be kept informed on what you’re doing to make the problem go away. And they need to be kept informed frequently. If they have to contact you to get an update, then you’ve blown it and you’re on your way to becoming a new horror story that they’ll pass on. Generally, as consumers we're all a pretty forgiving bunch. We realize that, sometimes, things go awry. Stuff Happens. However, we don't like uncertainty. We like to know what's going to happen, even if it's not when/how we would prefer it. Tell us that it's gone wrong, why, and what you're doing about it, and we can live with it. Keep us in the dark, however, and be prepared to become the next YouTube viral sensation. It’s not about the mistake. It’s about how you deal with the mistake.
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    Simple Is Complicated
    Most times, simple is hard. Ask any regular user of Twitter, and they’ll tell you that it’s often tough to get one's point across in 140 characters or less. During the phase of creating content - collateral, manuals, advertising, whatever - it’s too easy to succumb to the temptation of making our communication sound grander, more important, or somehow more “intellectual” than it really is. Too often, we want to show off. We want to revel in the thought that we know something about a subject that the reader does not. As a result, we gild the lily. We embellish, extrapolate and elaborate when - most often - what’s required is something simple. Most successful organizations in the world are able to distill their communicating down in a way that just about anyone can understand. Think of Apple, Nike, Disney or Ben & Jerry’s and most people know what they do and what they’re about. So, why do most companies continue to overly complicate their messaging? Because it’s easy. It’s far easier to make things complicated than to make things simple, no matter what the task. Whether it’s writing text for your website or designing a commercial aircraft, the problem with making things simple is that takes a lot more work. Take a fresh look at every facet of communication that leaves your company. How easy is it for someone who doesn’t know you, to get who you are? Image Credit
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    Asking For Permission
    Everyone hates Advertising. If you’re like me, the instant that the TV show you’re watching goes to a commercial break, you’re reaching for the remote control to change the channel. We buy TiVo, CanalPlus or Sky+ set-top boxes that allow us to record the TV that we want, while at the same type removing the advertising that we don’t want. We are even willing to pay certain websites for the sole purpose of removing the advertising from our viewing experience. So, what’s the advertising industry’s response to get their product in front of our faces? They try to remove the choice. They force us to watch ads at the beginning of web videos and DVD films that we can’t skip past. When we enabled pop-up window blockers in our browsers, they put the ads INSIDE the web pages themselves. But it wasn’t always like this. I remember when ad campaigns - both print and TV - were more creative, interesting and entertaining than many of the articles or shows that they served to punctuate. However, I'll admit that there are still some great - though too rare - ads being made today (such as those from Guinness, Old Spice and of course this one). But how did we get here? How did we get to the stage where we hate most advertising? It’s because today, as consumers, we’ve realized that it’s us who are now in control. As a result, we expect more that just being talked at by advertisers. Today, we prefer to be asked for our permission before being sold to. Coined by marketing guru Seth Godin, the term "Permission Marketing" argues that most advertising fails today because it is “interruptive.” Your audience were happy enough doing whatever they were doing before - BAM! - you've got in their way. The very act of interrupting your audience from whatever they were - watching a TV show, reading a website, etc. - has automatically put them into a defensive position. You're really going to have to struggle to win them over. In contrast, Permission Marketing argues that to get someone’s attention, you need to first get their permission. How? Maybe by giving them a free sample/trial of your product or service. Or having them subscribe to your eNewsletter or blog containing informative and valuable content, rather than the same old tired sales spiel. Once you have their permission - and therefore their attention - you are on the way to establishing a relationship with your customer, and making the sale. Advertising needs to evolve - in the same way as its target audience has evolved - if it is to remain relevant. Image Credit
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    Do As I Say, Not As I Do
    Have you heard of the phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” ? Many business leaders have the right intentions, the right thoughts or the right motives to effect change, yet exclude themselves from the application of the directive. Yet, more often than not, change is only truly embraced when applied from the top downwards. Perhaps it’s implementing better interdepartmental communication. Or maybe a more consistent, strategized corporate or product message designed to permeate throughout the organization. Except the CEO - or the Sales Director, or the Customer Services Manager, or whoever - doesn’t think that this new thinking applies to them. They carry on improvising their sales presentations - or describing the product their own way, or emailing a distributor without cc'ing the appropriate territory manager - the way that they have always done. In other words, dutifully ignoring the carefully-crafted initiatives that, often, they were an integral part of devising in the first place. The result? Well, if my boss doesn’t bother to make the effort, why should I? Subordinates see that their bosses aren’t taking the new initiatives on board. Within a short space of time the best-laid plans of mice and men have collapsed. Everyone in the company, bar a few, have reverted to type. Sure, the organization has wasted time, money and effort. But what's worse is that the credibility of individuals or groups to effect an initiative has been undermined - and from within, of all places. It’s the start of the slippery slope. If you want your service department to get back to customers faster, don’t take five days to answer your own emails. If you expect better forward planning and budget-control from your marketing department, don’t continually indulge yourself in spur-of-the-moment expenditures that serve no strategic purpose other than to boost your own ego and undermine the authority of your managers. If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for everyone. And that includes you. Image Credit
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    Customers Are Lazy
    Regardless of the size of your company, customers are expecting it to be as easy to do business with you as with some of the biggest companies in the world.
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    Taking The Initiative
    Here's an old joke for you. An employee is having an annual salary review discussion with his boss. Unfortunately, the boss is not so pleased with the employee's performance over the past twelve months. " I was hoping for better things from you," the boss explains. "What, exactly, should I have been doing?" answers the employee. "I would have hoped that you would have shown more initiative," answers the boss. "Well," replies the employee, "I would have - if only you had told me." I was talking to senior executive from a local advertising agency this week, and was asking him about what his company was doing about educating clients about the changes in marketing and advertising - social media, content strategy and so on. His answer was that the company has been doing nothing - since his clients haven't been asking him for that sort of information. Many organizations prefer to be reactive rather than proactive. Let someone else blaze the trail and get the bumps and bruises. Wait until your customers ask for something before putting things in place in order to provide it to them. But just because your customers aren't asking you about something, doesn't mean that they not curious. Maybe they're not asking you because they don't feel comfortable mentioning it (after all, if you're the expert, maybe they think that's part of your job). Or perhaps they don't connect their inquiry with what your company does, for whatever reason. Or maybe, just maybe, someone else is already educating them. Image Credit
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    Social Media - 7 Harsh Realities
    Great presentation by Bart De Waele, about how applying social media channels in your business isn't as simple and straightforward as some people would have you believe. 7 harsh realities in Social Media from Bart De Waele
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    The Right Person For The Job
    A graphic designer is not a marketing person. A communications person is not a marketing person. A marketing person is a marketing person. Graphic design, marketing, and communications are three totally different disciplines. However, far too often the job descriptions are exchanged and intermixed. If you want your collateral presented in a way that’s appealing to your target audience, employ a graphic designer. If you want well-written prose, research, client liaison, perhaps some project management, then take on a communications person. If you’re looking for help articulating your organization’s strategy and business value; looking for the most appropriate ways to deliver your message, develop content strategies, brand differentiation, social media, advertising and/or PR campaigns… Well, you get the idea. Image courtesy of KEXINO
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    Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail
    If you fail to plan your business activities, outlook, and marketing, you shouldn't be too surprised when you don't get the results you had hoped for. As you'd expect from a marketing services company, we get a lot of inquiries - often more than 50 per week - from business owners looking for help with their marketing. While the first question most people ask is usually "how much is this going to cost me?", my first priority is to understand the entire business position - why it exists at all. I need to be convinced that the business in question can not only stand on its own two feet, but can grow. If I can't be convinced of that, then the conversation stops there. If we can't get on board with a client's business idea and associated business plan, we cannot get enthusiastic about the business - and that affects the quality of work that we do. What's just as important is how the business owner in question views the subject of marketing their start-up or small business. How a marketing budget is decided, how it's divided over a twelve-month calendar, and what business goals the marketing plan is meant to address. In recent weeks I have met with seven potential clients who all admitted to me that they don’t have - and have never had - a defined marketing budget for their company. Instead, the owner/CEO tends to take a look at each marketing opportunity individually, as it comes up, and makes a gut decision whether to go for it or not. It’s a bit like Julius Caesar giving the ‘thumbs-up’ or ‘thumbs-down’ at the end (well, almost the end) of a to-the-death gladiator fight. During each of my meetings, the CEO proceeded to inform me that they are aware and convinced of the importance of marketing within their respective companies (a good start, you'd think). Yet, to me, the lack of any long-term marketing budget consideration reveals the real truth: consciously or unconsciously, they see marketing as a cost rather than an inevitable part of conducting business. They fail to plan their marketing in a way that they would never do for sales, customer service, equipment investment, or tax. Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail It doesn't matter if you’re a one-person organization or a stockmarket-listed multinational, the basic premise is the same. You need to allocate an amount of money to be your company’s marketing fund and plan how you’re going to spend it. A plan puts a stick in the ground and points out direction. The budget allows you to make decisions as to what you’re going to do, when, and where. Failing to plan over the short or medium-term means your shooting in the dark and hoping to hit the target. Without having both of these elements in place, your company’s marketing cannot be anything else than disjointed, inefficient, ineffective, wasteful - and even damaging to your company’s business value. You have no way of knowing whether your marketing is succeeding, since you haven’t decided on how you're going to measure it. Waving a wet finger in the air and going with your gut doesn't cut it. Moreover, you can bet that your competitors aren't adopting such a inefficient method of measuring marketing ROI. But that doesn't mean you're bound by the numbers. Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean that you’re bound to blindly execute it, lemming-like. Nothing’s written in stone. But it’s a lot easier to change a plan when you already have a plan to change.
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    It’s Not (Just) About Content
    Read the latest marketing books and blogs and you’ll be told that producing relevant, engaging content for your target markets is the way to get your brand noticed. But what if you’re producing top-drawer stuff, but no-one’s getting to see it? Content Only Gets You So Far It can't just be about content. If it was, we’d just have to product amazing stuff and people would find it. If we Build It, They Will Come, and all that. Content is important - of course it is. But content on its own only gets you so far. "Context" (sorting the wheat from the chaff - or ‘curation’ in today’s parlance), on the other hand, is certainly as important if not more important, than content. But there’s a bigger one: "Delivery." We all know that the printed newspaper publishing industry is suffering a readership decline that few doubt will ever be reversed. Is that because newspapers are suddenly producing poor content? Not at all (well, apart from a few exceptions). Newspapers are suffering due to a combination of delivery method and cost. Why do I need to go and buy a printed newspaper - to read yesterday's news - when I can read today's news from my laptop (usually) for free? I can even get my news delivered directly to my cellphone, to an eBook reader like the Kindle, or a tablet device such as the iPad. CD music sales continue to tumble, while (legal) online download sites such as iTunes and Amazon continue to thrive. Is the “content” of the online version of an album any better than its CD counterpart? Actually, in terms of audio quality, it’s worse. Nevertheless, consumers opt for the more convenient delivery method. Content may be a Duke, a Baronet, or even a Prince. But it certainly isn’t king.
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    Spoilt for Choice
    One of our current clients originally came to us because they had run out of ideas on how they could be the best at what they did. They wanted our take on what we thought they needed to do to be the ‘only’ choice for their customers. The problem is, in just about any industry you care to name, there is always a choice for your customers. Being (in your opinion) better than everyone else isn’t enough nowadays. For example, I prefer Firefox as my web browser of choice. However, I’m happy enough to use Safari on the (admittedly) rare occasions when a particular website doesn’t play so nicely with Firefox. Changing over to Safari is not a big deal to me. In the same way while I prefer Evian bottled water, if the restaurant only has Volvic it’s not a deal-breaker. You see where I’m going with this? It doesn’t matter that what you’re selling is ‘the best’, since there are other choices out there which, by and large, are just as good in the eyes of your customer. Maybe they’re not as good, but they’re good enough. Today, customers are surrounded with a array of choices that - by and large - all meet their buying criteria. So how are you going to stand out? By not trying to be just the best choice, but by aiming to be the only choice. You need to become a market of one. You need to aim to radically differentiate your business offering in such as way so that you stand out in the minds of your target market. In the case of the client I mentioned earlier, we've been working with them in defining their business value in new ways. Firstly, we re-defined and prioritized the markets that they occupy. Then we looked at what, exactly, were the results that their customers were expecting to realize by buying their product. Finally, we worked on developing collateral and tools that allowed prospective customers to see the value of the result; not the product. As a result, our client’s offering is now more about being invaluable, or indispensable, in the eyes of their customers. They don't talk about being "the best" any more. Today, there's rarely a "best" in anything these days, so communicating your business value in such terms is always going to be a tough gig. Now, it's about standing out from the crowd, based upon whatever criteria makes sense with your company, with your product/service, and in your market space. It’s no longer about what you’re selling. It’s about what your customer is buying. Image Source
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  • If We Build It, They Will Come
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    If We Build It, They Will Come
    Whether it’s tradeshows, PR, social media or whatever else: today you need to be in the minds of your target market before the show starts.
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    The Future Of Mobile Video
    Take a look at this info video from wireless technology services provider Qualcomm giving some pretty amazing statistics on the pace of growth for mobile data - that's accessing internet services using a cellphone, or tablet-type device. For example, they contend that there will be a total of 2.4 billion subscribers of 3G broadband within the next five years. That's twice the amount of people accessing the internet from a mobile device in 2015, when compared to the span style="font-style: italic;"total/span number of internet users in the world today. The way that people consume content continues to evolve. How does your website or blog looks on the web browser of a cellphone? Could your business benefit from having an iPhone, Android or Ovi app? (if so, then get in touch with us). The ways in which your customers can reach you is increasing. Make sure that you are where they expect you to be.
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    Simply The Best
    How believable are you? How many unfounded claims, over-reaching superlatives and "change the world" rhetoric infests your corporate messaging and business value communication? You know the sort of thing that I mean: “We are the global leader in….” “we produce the best {whatever} in the world” “…changing the way that you work forever.” Do you really think that, in this day and age, that anyone out there believes this sort of thing? You're Not The Best - And Your Customers Know It Back in the day, pretty much every company was guilty of making such outlandish and unsubstantiated boasts. Buyers didn't believe it then, any more than they believe it now. Larger-than-life claims no longer command a customer’s attention - they've become desensitized to such hyperbole. More than that, making outlandish statements - about your company, your product, your staff or your service - actively work against your brand credibility. Today, saying that you're "the best" places doubt in your customers minds about the validity of your value offering. You’re not the best in the world. If you were, you wouldn’t need to shout about it.
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    Are you Persuading, Informing, or Re-affirming?
    Customers will resist marketing sales and messages that do not resonate with their own way of thinking.
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    The Social Media Revolution
    Are your colleagues, your boss or your clients still trying to understand the importance of social media? Point them to this recently-updated video presentation by Erik Qualman:
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    A New Machine Needs New Tools
    It doesn’t matter what product or service that you’re selling. Today, every company worth its salt is now also a publisher. Say what? There’s a great article by Tom Foremski on how the future of marketing to your customers now begins with publishing content, using various media channels such as blogs and social media. For the last five years, Tom has been spearheading a re-think of marketing approach that he calls EC=MC, or “Every Company Is A Media Company.” New Business Challenges Need New Tools Traditional marketing practices haven’t gone away, and maybe they never will. However, they have been supplemented with a range of new channels to help you reach (and reach out) to your customers. Today you have a much greater choice in the distribution vehicles appropriate for your content than ever before. The problem is that, since everyone's a publisher, your customers are now bombarded by more content than they know what to do with. The challenge is how to get your company noticed above all that noise. Image Credit
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    Keeping Your Business Communications Simple
    Study after study shows that people prefer simplicity. Less really is more.
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    Too Close To The Problem: Effective Communication
    Sometimes even experienced sales or marketing people are too close to the problem to see the solution. As I mentioned to you a while back, we’ve recently launched Qarto, a service that helps organizations streamline and automate the production process of localizing content. I recently had an opportunity to place a Qarto press ad in a well-read local business journal, and so was required to supply the publication with artwork. Since marketing is what we do, you would think that it would be the easiest thing in the world for us to come up with a concept that clearly communicates Qarto’s business value, in the vocabulary of the customer. Except that it wasn’t. For some reason, we was having a tough time distilling the messaging. First versions of the ad were far too wordy, or were assuming that the reader had knowledge of the intricacies of producing translations. The problem that we were having is the problem that you may be having: You’re too close to your business. Can't See The Wood For The Trees If you’re anything like me, then you live and breathe your business. You know all the ins and outs of your market and industry, and could be called an expert in your field. And that’s the problem. Then something happens when you have to describe your business, product, or service to someone who hasn't been living and breathing your brand 24/7: You stumble. Effectively, you can't see the wood for the trees. Because you’re so intimately connected with every facet that effects your business and your industry, it becomes difficult to see yourself in the eyes of your customer. You know too much. Fortunately, there is a cure: A fresh set of eyes. For me, that meant a call to a friend of mine in the UK who understood the concept of Qarto, but without knowing all the bells and whistles of the service. Over the course of a few days, my friend and I brainstormed and fleshed-out the concept of an ad and, before we knew it, the artwork was ready and sent over to the publisher. Don't Try To Market Yourself (Even If You're In Marketing) Creating messaging, positioning, and communications around your own product is almost certainly going to fail you. Even if your business is marketing - as ours is - it's too easy to fall into the very same traps that we warn our clients to avoid. Knowledge is a blessing, as well as a curse. Regardless of how well you know your business, your industry and your market, you should call upon a third-party to question the assumptions that you’re making - probably unconsciously - in your strategy, your messaging and your execution. So, how was my ad received? Well, the publication comes out at the end of the month. I’ll keep you posted.
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    Blending Into The Crowd
    "CHEAPEST FLIGHTS!" "THE LOWEST HOTEL ROOM RATES!" "WE COMPARE, SO YOU DON'T NEED TO." Price comparison websites are all the rage. From airline flights, to car insurance, to getting the best on your savings, there's sure to be a website that aggregates the prices of various products and services to allowing you to compare them. But is it a fair comparison? The problem with price comparison websites is that they reduce your business value offering to a commodity. Comparing your product purely on price and features ignores all the value differentiation that you're trying to get across. Your marketing, positioning, branding and uniqueness is stripped away. Comparison websites aim to anonymize you, while you're doing everything you can possibly do to stand out. Image Credit
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    Your Business Is Doomed
    If you sell a product or service, then your business is doomed. How are you standing out in the minds of everyone else that sells, more or less, the same stuff as you do? If your company's messaging and communications focus on the fact that you sell bathroom fittings, or IT consultancy, or ice cream, then you've positioned yourself as a commodity. If you're a commodity, then the only reason that a customer is going to buy your product or service is down to the price that you charge. And there's always someone, somewhere, who sells what you sell - but cheaper.
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    The Last Advertising Agency On Earth
    A great point, well executed, about how the advertising business needs to evolve and change their methods to reflect the change in consumer habits. But the point that the video makes can be extrapolated to your industry, too. Are you ignoring the signs of change that are all around you, instead clinging-on to the things that you know?
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    Reducing Barriers For Better Customer Engagement
    Reducing barriers to entry is not the same as raising the desire to enter.
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  • NO!
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    Saying No to 'No'
    A call to all managers out there: Why is “No” your favorite word? Do you really think that by saying that you won’t do it, and that you won’t support it, means that the project won’t happen? Well, let me let you into a secret: a manager's ability to stop a project just by saying ‘no’ went out with Netscape Navigator. Saying No Doesn't Mean It Won't Happen When you say no, you don’t stop the project. You just lose your chance to make sure that your department's priorities get considered. By saying an (ineffective) ‘no’, you’re maximizing the cost of the fix and looking like an obstructionist - both at the same time. If you want to leave the project’s cost and effort in other departments' hands, that’s fine. But participate enough to keep the project from fallout raining down on your department in the future. Of course it would better if you got involved in the project yourself; but at least this way you’ll have a say in how things go. You’ll know more about what may go wrong. Perhaps you’ll have one less mess to deal with this time next year. Assuming that you haven’t already been fired by then, for being part of the problem.
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    The Importance Of Content Strategy
    OK, so you get that developing an online presence for your businesses is important. You know that there are tools out there that allow you to develop conversations and relationships with both existing and potential customers. You know that social media is not going away any time soon, and that eBooks, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and web content can become key content distribution vehicles to help your organization communicate, engage and inform. So what do you do now? What’s your brand message, it’s story, it’s voice? More importantly: What are the informational requirements of your customers, and what's your plan to address them? In order to maintain their relevance and develop a valuable online experience for their customers, any organization developing an online marketing presence (or arguably any marketing presence) needs to have what is called a content strategy. Key to developing your brand’s online reputation lies in the ability for your company to produce relevant and valuable content. Without interesting content, why should your target audience keep coming back for more? Content Strategy: A Way Of Thinking There’s a great article by PR and social media observer Brian Solis on the Mashable website called Why Brands Are Becoming Media. Brian talks about companies developing publishing calendars, performance analyses and so on as part of their content strategy planning. “New media necessitates a collaboration between all teams involved in creating and distributing content, including advertising, interactive, communications, brand, and marketing — with an editorial role connecting the dots. We are competing for attention and our success is dependent on our ability to not compete against each other. Producing content and lobbing it over the firewall to an “audience” will only confuse communities. Therefore, we are obligated to build pipelines that carry strategic communications, each with calculated intents, targets and outcomes.” In its most basic terms, content strategy is about a way of thinking. It’s about developing a clear, company-wide plan on how to create, deliver, manage and govern content. Today, content has become one of a company’s most valuable assets. Don't underestimate it.
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  • Experience
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    What Does Your Company Sell?
    Some companies sell products...while some companies sell services. Some other companies sell neither of these. They sell an experience. The majority of the things that we buy, we buy because we want them - rather than need them. We buy them because of how we think they will make us feel. Our buying decisions are initially based on an emotion, with the pragmatic argument following behind to allow ourselves to justify the purchase. Stop selling the product, or the service. Sell the experience.
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    Lingua Franca
    If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll know that it's rare for me to blatantly promote my company’s services. However, today I’m making an exception, so if you choose to stop reading right now then I’ll totally understand. We’ve just launched Qarto, an online transcreation portal for businesses and organizations that need a quick and easy way to localize documents or artwork. So, what’s "transcreation"? Well, a good explanation can be found here. Fundamentally, it's taking a document’s content from one language and totally re-creating it in another, in such as way so that the reader isn’t even aware that the text actually originated from another language. Transcreation is not simply translating text from one language to another. It’s about creativity and originality, not a 'word-for-word' transcription, employing the destination language’s cultural and linguistic nuances. Qarto takes the concept of transcreation even further, in two clever ways. Firstly, the system is an online service that effectively streamlines the whole localization process. If you have ever had to translate a document, you’ll know that the production process is often a nightmare. Appointing and then sending documents to translators, chasing people with phonecalls and emails, getting the translated text approved, making sure that the right version of the right text gets sent to the right person, etc. It's a major pain and a logistical headache. Instead, Qarto is a simple online interface where you can submit, track, edit and approve every element of a project - from anywhere. This cuts down on production times, reduces human error and makes the entire process less stressful. The second Qarto feature lies in the document format itself. If you’re translating something that’s intended to be printed - like a brochure, report or catalog - then once you’ve finally got your translated text, someone then needs to create a new layout file in the new language, using software such as Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress before it gets to be printed. Qarto, on the other hand, doesn’t just work with MS Office or text files, but allows you to submit artwork file formats as the source files. Throw a QuarkXPress file up there, and get a QuarkXPress file back. A quick once-over to check everything’s OK and the file’s ready for printing. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Qarto’s not for everyone, mind you. For example, it's not for 'one-off' transcreation requirements - not yet, anyway. However, the system makes a great commercial argument for any organization that needs to produce localized content from documents or artwork on a regular basis. Does Qarto sound like something that you - or someone you know - could use? If so, I'd really appreciate it if you'd get in touch with me and I’ll give you more details. Image credit (CC BY-NC 2.0)
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    Don’t Blame The Tools
    Spend time searching online for how to create better corporate or product presentations, and very quickly you’ll learn that slide presentation software, particularly  Microsoft PowerPoint, seems to be reviled around the world. Why? Because we’ve all be subjected to those ‘death by bullet-point’ presentations where the speaker packs in too much information - both in terms of each individual slide as well as in the entire presentation. Where the speaker seems to be in a supporting role to the presentation, rather than the other way around. But is that PowerPoint’s fault? The reason why many business presentations are so painful to sit through is that they are not thought-out. Presentations are slapped together the day before they are needed, from content mined from various disparate sources. Images or illustrations are repurposed from other media, with the inevitable result that they are inappropriate from a communicative point-of-view. Clip art, or its 21st Century Bastard Son in the form of stock photography, is used to break up the monotony of too much text - rather than for better communicating the value message. Finally, the speaker has not had the time (or the forethought) to rehearse the presentation. They end up trying to convey too much, resulting in confusion, complication and frustration for all concerned. None of the above is the fault of slide presentation software. PowerPoint and its ilk is simply a vehicle for delivering content. No more, no less. Yes, I agree that software that compels the novice presenter to “Click Here To Add Text” can be seen as being instrumental to the problem of generally poor presentations. However, one should not apportion blame to a communications tool when the core of any presentation - its message - is the author's responsibility. You can create as many good presentations using PowerPoint or Keynote, as you can bad ones. Just as you can using Acrobat,  Word,  QuickTime or any of 101 other software applications. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Don’t blame the tools, blame the workman. Image Courtesy of KEXINO
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  • Please buy - begging vs selling
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    Are Your Salespeople Selling?
    Are your salespeople selling, or begging? By that, I’m not asking you if your sales team are hitting their sales targets. What I mean is do your salespeople actually ’sell’, or are they simply asking their prospects whether they are interested in buying? On the (thankfully rare) occasions when I have no choice but to visit a fast food restaurant, the person behind the counter simply takes my order. Is that selling? Clearly it’s not: it’s simply taking my order and fulfilling it. Are You Selling To Me, Or Just Taking My Order? Now and again, I may get asked if I want large fries instead of regular. Is that selling? Again, I’m guessing that most people would say that it’s not. However, supposing that I’m in a restaurant and my waitress recommends a choice of wines based upon what I’ve ordered as a main course; or suggests a light refreshing sorbet for desert because she noticed that I didn’t want dressing on my salad, or a cream-based sauce on my chicken. Is that selling? Yes, I’d say that it was. Selling Is More Than "Order Taking" I often hear stories from underperforming, so-called salespeople. When asked why their prospective customer didn't buy, they reply something along the lines of “I asked them if they wanted to buy my product/service, but they said no.” If your sales pitch is simply to ask “Do you want to buy this?”, then I’ll bet that you’re used to disappointments. If you’re doing little more than simply asking people to buy, then you’re not selling: You’re begging. You’re not interested in helping your customer. In solving their problem. In making their lives easier. You’re only interested in trying to close a sale. And it shows. Image Credit
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    Energizing Your Digital Revenues
    A great article over at Accenture about media and entertainment companies creating better and more unique customers experiences using digital media. Most companies today still rely on outdated marketing techniques that fail to engage their customers and develop customer loyalties. The secret to online success for these companies - and maybe also for your company - lies in developing ways to present more individual and compelling content (both editorial and advertising) based upon a much deeper, metrics-driven understanding of customer likes and dislikes.
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    The Problem Is Never The Problem
    Here's a great 2 min video by management guru Tom Peters. "The problem is never the problem. The response to the problem is almost always the real problem."
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  • dead flowers
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    Is Conventional Marketing Dead?
    Spend some time on the internet and within a very short while you'll run into a common thread running through the various marketing-focused blogs and websites. There's increasing popularity in the notion that 'conventional marketing' is dying out, and is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Today, all the talk is about social media, customer engagement and so forth. The theory is that so-called 'conventional' marketing techniques and assumptions are outmoded within today's 'empowered customers' who have changed the way that they evaluate products and brands. Proponents of the theory point to how the new-generation media channels are challenging conventional marketing ideas on targeting and reach. A Greater Choice In Content Delivery Publishers and broadcasters are suffering with regards to revenue generation because many advertisers feel that such content distribution vehicles are no longer as efficient as other communications media. Companies now have a greater choice in how to deliver their content. Outlets such as social media allow organizations to target audiences with far higher level of granularity than was previously possible with mainstream media channels such as newspapers, magazines or radio. So, is 'conventional marketing' as we've come to know it on it's way out? Yes, and no. Conventional marketing has always been dead. Why? Because there is no such thing as 'conventional' marketing, just as there's no such thing as 'new-age' marketing. Marketing has always been about using the most applicable strategies, tactics, communications and media channels of the day. Whether that's a sandwich board, newspaper ad, cable TV informercial or social media campaign. Marketing evolves, just as we as consumers evolve. Sure, there's no doubt that the growth in "word of mouse" - social media, blogs, forums and suchlike - has played its part with regards to existing media channels. However, that's all they are: channels. Advertising and communications may well be part of marketing; but marketing isn't (just) advertising and communications. Marketing Has Evolved Marketing's fundamental concepts haven't changed with the advent of new communication channels. They've evolved. If anything, the opportunities that internet-based channels provide have made marketing activities even more relevant in terms of communicating a business value proposition. The way we communicate - and who's doing the communicating - is changing. Of that there is not doubt. Marketing continues to evolve, as it's been doing for decades. As a result, marketing strategies that we've taken as read for years may - over time - become less applicable in some instances. But that's how it's always been. If 'conventional' marketing is dead, then it was already buried a long time ago. Image Credit
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  • Flash versus QuickTime
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    "One Size Fits All" Format Coming For Online Video
    One of the challenges in using video content as part of your online marketing strategy has been with regards to what video format to use. Today, it ultimately comes down to two choices: Adobe’s Flash format, or Apple’s QuickTime. Both have their pros and cons, but the main ‘con’ for both formats is that the PC that you’re using needs to have a bit of software installed, otherwise you won’t be able to watch the video. Any modern PC that you buy today already has both Flash and QuickTime installed. If you’re unsure, it’s easy to find out if your machine is online video-ready. If you can watch a  YouTube video, then Flash is already in there. If you use iTunes, then since QuickTime is part of the install, you’re good to go as well. But what about mobile devices? I’ve written about the phenomenal growth in the use of mobile devices to access online content before. Based on the growth numbers, it would seem that any video-based online campaign simply has to take into account mobile device access. While optimizing content for mobile devices is a little different than for PCs, by far the biggest issue is support for Flash. Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch cannot display Flash content at all (YouTube videos only work because Apple convinced them to re-render their entire repository into an Apple device-friendly format, but any Flash objects in a website won’t display.) The new Palm devices (Pre and Pixi) and the various Android devices are set to get Flash later this year, while Windows Mobile and Symbian users have a cut-down version of Flash available right now. So, do you go for QuickTime to satisfy the Apple users, or use Flash to cover just about everyone else but exclude Apple users? Thankfully, we may just be on the brink of not having to make that decision. Last week video site Vimeo announced that they have finished implementing what may be the perfect solution for online video accessed from mobile devices. When you upload your content to the site, you have an option for Vimeo to simultaneously create mobile device-friendly versions. From then on, Vimeo automatically offers up the best version of your content depending on the nature of the device requesting access. Brilliant! Vimeo is a place to share creative work, and is definitely not a place where you would upload videos that are commercial in nature (you risk getting banned from the site if you do). But you can bet that the other video platforms such as YouTube and DailyMotion will soon follow suit, meaning that the goal of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ format for online video may finally be within reach.
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  • marketing personalization is dead
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    Personalization Is Dead
    A few years ago some technology came about that allowed marketers to personalize their mailings to you. All of a sudden we were all deluged with mailings with our name in them. Maybe your name was written in roses, part of a pretty photo of a flowerbed. Or your company name appeared in fluffy white clouds as part of a beautiful landscape. The marketing, printing, transpromo, and direct mail industries all jumped for joy. Companies could create a personalized message to each of their customers and produce more engaging and relevant content. Except for the fact that, as consumers, we all got very bored very quickly. Was it because of the cheesy ideas, expressed with even cheesier images? Well, partly. But I think that its because marketers - and therefore companies, by inference - don’t know the difference between personalization and individualization. Consumers no longer get excited about seeing a mailing with their name on it. They want you to know them as people, not as a name. Why? Because they’ve come to expect it. For example, when I log into Amazon I’m not impressed that I can see my name on the homepage. I’m impressed that I can see a list of everything that I’ve bought, everything that I’ve browsed, and can view a list of Amazon-recommended items that I might like to purchase based upon purchases from other people who’ve bought similar items. I have bought a lot of stuff on Amazon because of this, and I bet that you have too. You see? It’s not about having my name on a piece of paper. It’s about the communication being relevant to me and only me. Knowing my name, where I work and what I do is no longer enough. I want you to know me. I want individualization, not personalization.
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    Slide Presentation Rules, by Nancy Duarte
    Duarte Design has just posted a fantastic YouTube video outlining five ways to improve your slide presentations. Using just MS PowerPoint 2010 (and nothing else) this presentation gives you some great ground rules for the next time you have to make a presentation. Sure, it shows off the new builds and transitions in PowerPoint 2010, which is probably why Microsoft asked Duarte to put something together in the first place. But for me what it really shows is that you can add such eye-candy without detriment to clearly conveying your message - if you know what you're doing. I've mentioned Nancy on this blog before. Nancy's company is one of the reasons why I started KEXINO. Duarte Design is probably more responsible than anyone else in making us all aware that slide presentations - for the presenter as well as for the audience - don't have to be "death by bullet-point."
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  • using video to get your message across
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    2010: The Year Of The Video
    Your company can no longer afford to ignore the potential that online video offers for your business value messaging.
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  • 2010
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    New Thinking For A New Decade
    It’s the end of the year. It’s the end of the decade. It’s also the end of the way that your prospects have purchased your products or services up until now. In the old days, your marketing department devised programs based on old-school methodology that generated leads that fed the sales team. Today, thanks to the internet, your prospects know more about your business value offering - and that of your competition - than you do. Your customers are trying to pigeonhole you, to commoditize you, to make their buying decisions easier. What’s your plan to differentiate your company and its value offering in the minds of your prospective customers? They don’t care that you’ve been in business for twenty years, have four offices and 200 staff. None of that matters to them - and why should it? It’s great that you’ve been in business for all that time. But, just as they say on all those financial services ads, past performance is no guarantee to future gain. How are you ensuring that your messaging is communicating what they want to hear, and not what you want to say? All they want to know is whether your product or service meets with their requirements for purchase. They are coming to you because they have a problem, and they want to know whether your value offering addresses that problem - communicated to them in words that they understand. How are you broadcasting that value offering today? Could you do it better tomorrow? Your customers are organized into groups of influence, or tribes. They meet and discuss their problems, give their opinions and make recommendations. They hold word-of-mouth (or maybe that should be word-of-mouse) in a higher regard than any of the messaging that you’re delivering. Are you exploiting the communication channels and mechanisms - websites, industry forums, online video, social media, whatever - and delivering them to where your prospects are? The old rules of attracting - and retaining - customers are as dead as the old decade. The new rules are based on an organization’s ability to instill REPUTATION, RESPECT and TRUST within its client base, using whatever toolsets - new or old - that best help achieve that goal. Happy New Year everyone. Image courtesy of KEXINO
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    There's No Such Thing As Social Media
    The New Raw Materials and Data Chemistry from Chris Thorpe Thank you Chris Thorpe. Chris has a presentation over at SlideShare that contends that maybe it's time that we stopped calling it all "social media." Why? because we're falling into the trap of naming any new-fangled technology, process or application as being "social media" just for the sake of simplification. The technology and application is changing so rapidly that maybe we're doing it a disservice by grouping it all together. He's right. Social media isn't Twitter, Facebook,  LinkedIn, or any of the other 1001 web services out there. All of these sites are merely vehicles for the distribution, sharing and collaboration of thoughts and ideas in (albeit) new ways. Content - or rather "context" - is what it's really about. And there's no technology that's going to replace that basic premise any time soon.
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    Happy Holidays
    Nothing really to say today. Just a sincere thank you for your help and support over this past year. I hope that, wherever you are, you have a happy, peaceful and safe time. Merry Christmas Everyone!
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  • Seth Godin eBook free download
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    Seth Godin eBook: What Matters Now
    For those of you who haven't heard of him, Seth Godin has become one of the most important voices with regards to marketing in today's online environment. I strongly urge to to subscribe to his blog. It constantly amazes me how Seth can continually come up with so much top-drawer material day in, day out. OK, that's enough of smoke-blowing. I wanted to point you to a free eBook that Seth has made available on his site called What Matters Now. The book features short articles by more than 70 top minds from a wide variety of industries, each one sharing a single idea with you to think about as we all head into the New Year. Download it here, that's a direct download link to the book. You don't need to fill in a form, give your email address, or anything else. Download it now, while you remember. You'll be glad that you did.
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  • growing your small business with video
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    Using Video To Grow Your Business
    For every business leader that still believes that online video cannot enhance their business value communication, I've just been pointed to a great blog post by Jimm Fox of OneMarket Media, where he lists 42 Ways to Use Video To Grow Your Business.
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    Time to Rebrand Branding
    What is your brand? Where is your brand? Your brand is an ephemeral quantity that exists in the minds of your customers, created based upon their direct and indirect experiences with your company, product or service. Your brand is one of the reasons why your customers choose your business value offering over that of your competitors’. It’s one of your differentiators. Branding isn’t something that gets created in your marketing department. Every single person in your organization directly or indirectly contributes to shaping and defining your brand. More than that, unless every single person within your organization understands and actively engages in your branding strategy, your branding initiative will fail. Your brand has a personality, communicates a fundamental promise and has a position in relation to your competition. Branding isn’t a function of marketing. It’s a function of an organization’s entire strategy. Your brand isn’t your product, your logo or your trademark. It’s all of that, and yet so much more. Yet most people don't get it. Perhaps it’s time for branding to get a rebrand. Image courtesy of KEXINO
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  • Video SEO
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    SEO Just Got A Whole Lot More Interesting
    A nice reminder by James Pitaro, VP Media at Yahoo!, about The Do's And Don'ts Of Creating Original Video. James makes some great points about what companies need to look out for when implementing video-based content into their marketing strategies. I recently read that Google has added automatic captioning to YouTube videos, using the clever speech-recognition magic that they also use in their Google Voice service. As well as making YouTube videos more accessible for hearing-impaired viewers (in any one of 51 languages with Google's newly-enhanced Translate service) this also means that videos will now rank a lot faster on Google's Video Search. While this will probably mean more targeted advertising from Google based upon a video's soundtrack rather than just words and images on the web, it also means that your online video content will get referenced and indexed in a similar way to your other online content such as your website, blog, social media streams and whatever else. SEO just got a whole lot more interesting. Image credit
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  • Social Media Network
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    It's Not What You Know...It's Who You Know
    Not so long ago, a big part of doing business locally involved you getting to know people of influence through organizations such as alumni associations, business organizations, religious groups, the golf club - and of course the Freemasons. But aren't these old-style networks threatened by social media? By online networks such as LinkedIn, Viadeo and XING? The issue with the various old-style networks is that they generally want new members to be of the same class and cultural background as the existing constituency, thereby discriminating against race, sex, age, religion and goodness-knows what else. Online networks, in contrast, have no such membership restrictions. Conversely, while old-style networks are notoriously difficult to break in to, online networks are open to everyone. That should be a good thing. However, it also permits abuse - as anyone who's had a flood of email invitations from virtual strangers can relate to. Whether accessed by a web browser or a pitching-wedge, both types of network are invaluable for finding, securing and referring business. As Groucho Marx once said "I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member." However, business culture is as much about who you know as what you know. It always has been. Image courtesy of KEXINO
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  • screenshot from "Do The Right Thing" Motion Picture
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    Do the Right Thing
    I fired a customer today. The project wasn't particularly well-paid, or creatively stimulating. But that's not why we turned it down. In fact it was for a large organization that may have paved the way for more lucrative work further down the road. So, why did we walk away from the project? Here's the story: The company came to us with a problem. We proposed a solution to that problem which everyone around the table agreed would address the company's issue. However, for whatever reason they then came back to us a week later asking us to fix the problem another way. We pointed out to them that, while their way would address their problem in the short term, in the long term the problem would still be there. Their solution was, in essence, a stop-gap. A patch. A workaround. Furthermore, it didn't make sense financially since the difference in cost between the two solutions was virtually the same, and that sooner or later they'd end up having to implement our proposed solution anyway. They would end up spending almost double what they needed to, for no reason. They nevertheless wanted us to solve their problem their way. So that's when I pulled the plug. Have you heard of Marvin Bower? Bower was MD of McKinsey from 1950-1967 and is credited as pioneering a business culture based upon integrity and respect above all else, and laid down the four keys of business values that McKinsey still hold to this day: Clients come first; Active partners should own the firm; Members of the firm should be professionals with the training and motivation to do outstanding career work; Engagements should only be taken when the value to the the client exceeds the fee to the firm. That last tenet struck a chord with me. I could not let us take the project as we knew that the proposed solution was not in the best longer-term interests of the client. So I explained our position, re-stated where we thought the client was mistaken, and walked away - wishing them well and letting them know that we would love to help them if they changed their minds. Did I do the right thing? I really can't say. All I know is that it didn't feel right to proceed.
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    The Passion Of The Small Business Owner
    Please do me a favor. Invest the next thirteen minutes of your day in watching this video. John Nese is the owner of a store in LA that only sells carbonated soft drinks. Interviewed for food website Chowhound, John talks about the Coke vs Pepsi wars, why soda tastes better from a bottle made of glass rather than plastic, and other soda-related minutiae. But listen past the differences in how root beer is made, or his views on manufacturers using corn syrup instead of sugar. Listen to his passion. Hear him when he says that, to him, it's not work - he just plays all day long. When asked to describe in one word the products that he sells, he first chooses the word 'happy', before giving a second option - 'smile.' Is he an obsessive? Perhaps. But his obsession is infectious. He loves what he does, and does what he loves. And his customers love him for it, as they keeping coming back. Watching the video you can't help but feel the vibe in his shop, even if you've never been there. You started in business with a passion. Do everything that you can to keep that passion. Do everything that you can to install that passion in your partners, your staff and your customers. Because the day that you lose the passion, then so will everyone else.
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  • outsourced marketing
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    Is "Outsourcing" Obsolete?
    There's a great article over at Accenture.com about how outsourcing has changed the way that companies of all sizes operate and deliver their business value. Today, there are few companies they don't outsource at least some of their infrastructural or organizational processes. Today's market for outsourcing is estimated at more than $300Bn and projected to top $400Bn in 2010. Today, outsourcing is everywhere. Not just in 'traditional' outsourcing tasks such as back-office operations, customer-service centers and IT, but in key business processes marketing or managing a company's software investment. If you think about it, all of these new cloud-based services from companies such as Google, Apple, Salesforce.com, and even Microsoft are really outsourcing models. Your company already outsources services, even if you may not think of it as outsourcing. Maybe it's by employing consultants, public relations firms, accounting auditors or design and print services. Maybe you have a company that looks after your website, your vehicle fleet, or your temporary personnel. So if outsourcing is everywhere, how much longer can it get away with having its own name which, by inference, segregates it from 'mainstream' business processes? Perhaps the very word "Outsourcing" is now obsolete, simply because of its ubiquity.
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  • Mary Meeker Presentation
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    Small Business Marketing: The Future's Mobile
    The mobile internet is coming fast. How does your company plan to take advantage of the opportunity that online mobile devices will provide?
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  • video cameraman
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    What's Your Excuse For Not Using Video In Your Marketing?
    If any more evidence was needed as to the revolution in video communication currently taking place, take a look at The New Dial Tone, a short film shot at the recent BlogWorld Expo conference in Las Vegas. What's remarkable to me about the documentary is not so much its message of how blogging, podcasts, social media and video have changed the media landscape forever - regular readers of this and many other blogs have been aware of this for some time. For me, the interesting thing was that the whole production was put together using very inexpensive equipment - the Kodak Zi8 and Flip Ultra HD pocket camcorders - costing less than $200 a piece. Yes, the final result is a bit raw around the edges and pushes the capabilities of those cameras to their limits, but it shows just how far the technology has come to make such a project even possible. Well done to the producers, Marc Ostrick and a Michael Sean Wright, who could have used much more expensive and capable equipment; but chose not to. The entry point to using video for you, your organization or your business has never been lower. Creating, editing and uploading video-based content to get your message across has never been easier, faster or cheaper. The excuse that it costs too much to include video as part of your communications mix is no longer valid. So what excuse will you use from now on?
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  • Publishing
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    The New Publishers
    A great article posted recently over on Social Media Today - How Marketers Must Become The New Publishers." Too many companies still focus their marketing programs around operational initiatives - a great-looking website, or an expensively-produced brochure. However, the strategic element of the program is often overlooked. It doesn't matter how great your supporting collateral looks if the content fails to resonate with your target market. Effective content informs, educates and - crucially - helps lead prospects towards the buying process. To make your content more effective, you need to align its communication to be more relevant to the sort of person that you're aiming to capture. It's a very similar process to the publishing industry. Publishers identify their target audience, develop an understanding for that audience, and then seek to deliver relevant content to maintain and grow that audience. Read all about it. Image Credit
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  • comparing apples to apples in business
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    Apples To Apples
    I frequently advise clients to be as honest and truthful as possible about describing their business value offering. None of the usual "We are the best at what we do...", "industry-leading innovation...", "we are global leaders in..." nonsense. The reasoning is simple: Prospective clients are smart. Prospects know what's what. Today's business climate means that your future customers have the ability to access information about just about anything, simply and quickly. You can't hoodwink prospects, as they'll find out the truth sooner or later. Yes, being honest means showing vulnerability, showing your company warts'n'all. But it also means that you're being honest about what makes you better and different when compared to your competition. It's part of the relationship that you're trying to build with your customer. If your product or service really is better than the other guy's, then prove it. Show a fair and balanced comparison of your offering against that of your competition. Trust the reader to make an educated decision based on the information that you've given. Why? Because they'll do it anyway. If you don't help make that comparison for your prospects, then don't be surprised when that make that comparison on their own - probably with information that doesn't show your offering in as good a light as it could.
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  • irony
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    Isn't "IT" Ironic
    Some time ago, when personal email started getting popular, many companies blocked their employees from checking their Hotmail, Yahoo or AOL accounts from the office. Today, I read that 54% of surveyed companies block their employees from accessing social network sites at work. Taking this to its next logical step, these same companies will prevent employees accessing webmail, FaceBook, Twitter and the rest from their own smartphones during office hours. At the same time, these very same companies are trying to jump on the social media bandwagon and engage with their customers. "Follow Us On Twitter!" "We're On FaceBook! Become a Fan." Anyone else see the irony? Image Credit (CC BY-NC 2.0)
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  • chasing each other
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    The Thrill Of The Chase
    Every business needs customers, and every business owner loves finding new customers. The first meeting, the sales pitch, the demonstration, submission of proposal, negotiation, the close, the transaction and, finally, the payment. But what happens next? Are you moving on to the next prospective customer and ignoring your existing ones? Are you more interested in the thrill of chasing after prospective customers than in retaining existing client business? Selling to existing customers should be 100 times easier than selling to new ones. Existing customers already know you, and trusted you enough to invest in your value offering. What are you doing to keep your existing customers yours? Image Credit
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  • telephone sales cold calling tricks
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    Hanging On The Telephone
    Why do companies still try to con us when they cold-call? Perhaps we'd be more receptive (and polite) when receiving sales calls if the person on the other end of the phone wasn't trying to hoodwink us to listen to what they have to say. We've all been on the receiving end. The telephone rings: "Hello, my name's John and I'm calling from the International Research Institute. We're putting together a survey on (insert subject name here) and I was wondering whether you had a few minutes to answer some questions?" Being Taken For A Ride It's tempting, isn't it? John hasn't given you the impression that he's trying to get you to part with any money. John's is only preparing a survey. He's asking you, ever so politely, if you wouldn't mind taking some time out of your busy day to help him. You're a good person, so when someone asks you for help you want to oblige. Right? Which is exactly what John's betting on. Of course, in reality there is no survey. It's an elaborate lie. John isn't calling about you answering questions to help him prepare some survey - he's trying to sell you something. He's using the 'survey' ruse in the hope that you won't hang up. He doesn't care about your answers to his questions. In fact, his name probably isn't even John. After a while helping out John with his survey questions, you suddenly realize what the call is really about. You feel tricked - which is understandable, since that's exactly what's happened. Your defenses go up. Perhaps you would have been interested in the product or service John was selling if he had been honest with you at the beginning. But now that you've seen through John's façade, you're angry. Whatever the deal, whatever the offer, you don't want to know. You just want to get John off the telephone as fast as possible. So what are we left with? Clearly John's lost any chance of a sale - that's a given. You're angry that John had the audacity to think that he could fool you into parting with your money, and that he had you for a while. Not only that, you're so furious about the whole episode that it's more likely for your grandmother to win a triathlon on her first attempt than you ever buying anything from the company that John represents. From 'Suspect' To 'Prospect' Whenever a prospective customer is on the receiving end of a sales pitch, they are testing you. They are looking for an opportunity to say 'no'. They are looking for reasons not to buy - whether those reasons are based upon quality, features, price, looks, size, color or 101 other criteria. Your job, in the time they're on the phone, is to build enough credibility and trust to move them to a position where they're receptive to the idea of buying from you. In sales parlance, you're moving them from a "suspect" to a "prospect". I totally understand that telephone sales is a hard job, and that it's getting harder. Today, we have less of an issue telling telesales reps where to go when we're the recipient of a cold call. The success rates of the average telesales campaign must be along the lines of getting struck by lightning every day for a month. As a result, call centers have to come up with ever more 'creative' ways to keep punters on the line. I empathize with all of this: cold-calling is a tough gig. But regardless of how great your product or service is, I would say that blatant dishonesty scores highly as a reason not to buy. Wouldn't you? Image Credit
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  • shotgun shells
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    Russian Roulette
    Ever heard of "The Shotgun Approach" ? As you may know, a shotgun doesn't usually use a bullet as its ammunition. Rather it uses a shell that contains hundreds of small pellets, or "shot". Since the shot sprays out when fired, the user doesn't have to aim too precisely. The idea is that, when fired, enough of the pellets will find their target. Most don't, but it doesn't matter since at least some do. In marketing communications The Shotgun Approach can be translated as coming up with as many reasons to buy, as many product/services features and benefits, as many compelling arguments as possible in order that something that you say will resonate within your target market's psyche and move them into the buying phase. In effect you're blasting them with everything that you've got, in the hope that something sticks. However - clay pigeon shooting aside - The Shotgun Approach doesn't work. Perhaps it used to, though I'm not even sure about that. We've all been subject to the sort of marketing messaging that I'm talking about. Overly-wordy email blasts, confusing advertising, hopelessly-jumbled slide presentations. The end result is an impersonal, confusing mish-mash of corporate rhetoric and buzzwords that only succeeds in generating negative credibility for your company. But worst of all, it's lazy. It shows that you have no idea of who your idea client is, what their wishes and aspirations are. It gives the impression - rightly or wrongly - that you don't care about whether they are aware of the true cost and scope of the problems that your offering can address. The content doesn't inform, doesn't educate, and doesn't generate sustained prospect interest. It doesn't talk to them - it talks at them.
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  • READ MORE
    Who's Damaging Your Brand?
    A special thank-you to Gary George, the first (but hopefully not the last) guest blogger for Business Value Matters. Gary is one of the smartest technologists I know, a consultant for premedia business process analysis company Tunicca, a new father - and a good friend. It's a strange thing writing a guest blog, a proud feeling to be asked, but this one comes from an idea I had and thought this was the best place for the content, I never imagined that I would actually be asked to write it myself, so I won't even try an mimic the writing style, you get me as I am when I write on my own blog. I'm keeping this short as it's based on the frustration of driving nearly every time I get behind the wheel of my car, a frustration or experience I don't have when I have driven in different countries, although I am sure this happens there. This frustration got me thinking about the companies the drivers and their vehicles represented, have you worked it out yet? Everyday on the streets of the UK we see companies advertising their brand on their company vehicles, these vehicles and their drivers in theory represent those brands, everything from your large multi national service industry like the mail companies or phone companies, to the more independent companies, one man bands. Yet everyday the drivers and vehicles that represent the companies brand terrorize other motorist on the streets, whether that is sitting at 100mph at your bumper on the M25, maybe cutting you up, how about driving like a maniac on a residential street, or even falling out of a pub or bar and climbing into the company van (who's to know if they have had a drink or not) either way these acts by driver and vehicle are being performed with your brand. The visual message is associated with your brand, represented by the person handling your brand asset. I sometimes want to phone my telephone company to close my account on the strength of a driver who is using the company van to force me out of the way on the motorway, I've wanted to phone a lift company and tell them that unless they deal with the driver of their van registration mark XXXX XXX then I will pull their contract (even when I don't have one with them) but my point here, is if I feel this way about companies that I have my business with and even companies that don't, what damage is being done to your brand when your brand is being advertised irresponsibly and out of your control? We saw a rise in lorries with "How's My Driving? Call this number 0800 000 000" did you ever call it? I did, and I hoped that the driver paid the price for his irresponsible use of that company’s brand. So when you provide a vehicle that promotes, advertises and sells your brand, your company, your livelihood, make sure that the person you are giving that responsibility to understands what it means to the company in current sales and future sales as your brand makes you money so be sure who you trust with it.
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  • Now What Do You Do?
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    Now What Do You Do?
    Congratulations, you've made the sale. Your customer is happy with their purchase and has paid in full. The product or service that they have bought from you meets or (hopefully) exceeds their expectations. Maybe they're even happy to recommend you. Well done. So, what do you do now? Most organizations understand that, in today's business environment, regular customer communication is vital for ongoing visibility, helping them remember you rather than your competition. However, many companies, while aware that they should keep in touch with their customers after that initial transaction, don't know how or what to say to them. They end up sticking the customer name into the company's standard database, to be blasted with promotional info no different to what a prospective customer receives. Then they wonder why their existing customers are no longer buying from them. Customers that have bought from you don't need to drink the KoolAid. They don't need sales pitches, aggressive advertising or discounted offers. Just as you've become a known quantity to them, they should be one to you. Structure your "existing customer" communication differently from your "prospective customer" messaging. Communicate to your existing customers with information and messaging that adds value to them, not you. Think of it as the selfless sharing of information that you - truly - feel would benefit them. If you hear about a sale at an office stationary suppliers, let your business customers know. If a new crèche has opened in your neighborhood, drop a quick circular to your family-orientated customers. Why? Because you're differentiating yourself from everyone else. Because you're grateful for your customer's business, and you want them to know it. Because you genuinely care about your customer. You do, don't you?
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  • brand 'me'
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    Branding Help or Branding Hindrance?
    Corporate branding helps you deliver your business value message, confirms your marketplace credibility, helps build customer loyalty and reduces entry barriers during the sales cycle for qualified prospects. But is your brand helping the sales process, or hindering it? Imagine that you received a phonecall from a salesperson at Apple Inc, who wanted to know whether you would be interested in their value offering. What mental image would you have? As an Apple salesperson, they could be selling laptops, workstations, back-up storage, iPods, cellphones, software, support contracts or even wireless network connectivity. Because Apple is such a successful company with a broad range of products and services, they could be trying to sell you any of these things. And therein lies the issue: Brand marketing can often hinder a salesperson's ability to effectively communicate the company's business value offering. The very essence of most brand marketing programs is to instil a strong and evocative image into the target market's mind. However, this also forces prospects to make conclusions about why a salesperson is calling them. If your company is known for one thing - and ONLY one thing - then this isn't a problem (in fact, it could be an asset). However, most companies attempt to expand their product or service offerings to grow their business. These new offerings may not closely relate to existing products/services, confusing prospects due to pre-established branding. So, is the answer to create a generic, all-encompassing brand value message? Usually not. Today, many potential customers prefer to seek out specialists rather than generalists. A wide-ranging brand message isn't going to help salespeople sell specifically-targeted products or services to a pre-qualified prospect. Instead, create a number of focussed messages on the specific products or services. Above all, position the message based on the results that your product/service will achieve, rather than what it actually does, and communicate the business value gain from your customer's perspective.
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  • newspaper business model
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    Read All About It
    Newspapers are floundering not just because the world’s moved on leaving them with an unsustainable business model. They are in trouble because they cannot separate newspapers from journalism.
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  • Crowd
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    Your Customers Don't Care
    You've been reading all the latest business books and website articles, and you notice that your competitors and peers are embracing various social media applications as a way to get closer to their customers. The natural knee-jerk reaction? Get on the bandwagon and have your company start its own blog. Or Facebook page. Or Twitter stream. Or whatever. After a certain time, you step back and analyze how effective your 'social media strategy' has been. Guess what? It's been a flop. Why? Because your customers don't care. The reason why your campaign's a failure is because you're not saying anything that your customers haven't already heard before, from 101 other sources, who've been in the social mediasphere a lot longer than you have. So why should your customers bother? Many companies are frightened of humanizing their organization, yet that's exactly what successful blogs and social media are about: removing the anonymity. People like to interact with people, not entities. Social media allows them to do that. However, if all you do is tell your audience what you want them to hear, rather than what they want to know, you've lost the game. Social media is about your customers driving the conversation, not you. While you can control your corporate persona by double-checking every press release or direct mail communication that leaves the building; your company shouldn't (and can't) control its social media output. Today, the companies that are generally acknowledged as winning the social media game are the ones that let their staff get on with it. You need to be comfortable with letting as wide a group of people as possible from within your organization be seen as a face or voice for it. Without your control, or your approval. Just with your trust. And if you're not happy with that, then you've got a problem with your staff. Or your management. Or both. In which case, social media should be the last of your worries.
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  • external business influences out of control
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    External Influences
    Every industry has their unique set of external influences that govern the validity of your business value. Make you that you know the factors that influence your business - and keep an eye on where they're heading.
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  • standing in your own queue
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    A Taste Of Your Own Medicine
    Of course you think that you understand what makes your customers tick. You believe that you understand why they buy your product or service. But have you ever, personally, gone through the buying process that your customers go through? Depending on your business, there may be a number of external influences that are not directly under your control, that may have a fundamental effect on how your business value is perceived by your customers. A series of hoops that your prospective customers have to jump through to get to your value offering. Perhaps your product is sold via distributors, integrators or VARs. Perhaps your food is 'sold' by your serving staff. Perhaps your service is promoted by direct sales personnel. Last year the Marketing Leadership Council conducted a study and found that 53% of customer loyalty was attributable to experiences related to the purchasing experience. Not how your product/service met their expectations, not pricing, and not company branding/positioning. Simply, how the process of buying your value offering made them feel. Have you ever stood in your own queue? Have you ever actually bought your product? Have you ever bought the product of your competitor? How do the experiences compare?
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  • Incorporating video into emails
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    Email Becomes "Me-Mail"
    Integrating video into your sales and marketing messaging, collateral and customer engagement activities is taking on ever-greater importance. Video captivates audience attention far better than text and/or images alone, and also helps differentiate your company.
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  • reusing old templates in business marketing
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    Trash The Template
    Are you re-using the same old sales proposal that you’ve used for the past three years? Copying and pasting the content and simply changing some details to fit? It's important to break your business out of its routine now and again.
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  • changing the business game
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    If You Want To Change The Game, Change the Rules
    There are hundreds of ways of changing the game. Most established companies can’t – or won’t – do it, because they see it as upsetting the status quo and destabilizing their own business model.
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  • problems vs solutions
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    "I don't want to hear about problems! Only Solutions!"
    Ignoring the facts that are staring you in the face is tantamount to a wilful dereliction of duty.
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  • eye chart
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    Seeing Through Your Customer's Eyes
    Customers don't buy products or services. Customers buy a solution to a particular problem that they have, in order to achieve a desired outcome. The challenge is to understand the gap between where your customer is at the moment, and where they plan to be after their purchase. Why are they looking to buy? What's their motive? what's their reward for buying - and the consequence for not buying? You're not selling a vacuum cleaner. You're selling the solution to a dusty house or apartment. You're not selling insurance. You're selling peace-of-mind. Get closer to your customers. Understand what they think they are buying, rather than what you're selling. What's the reason that they are looking at your business value offering? Only once you can see the world from your customer's perspective can you properly position, communicate and deliver your product or service; and align your company's sales processes with your customers' buying processes. After all, it's not about what you're selling. It's about what they're buying. Image Credit
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  • desirable product
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    Don't Listen To Your Customers
    If you keep giving your customers what they want, they'll keep buying your product or service. Wrong. To find out what new product / service your company should be offering in the future, your first point of call should be your existing customers. After all, they bought from you in the first place, right? Wrong. Most customers don't know what they want. Or rather, they don't know what they want until it's too late - for you to offer it to them, that is. Ask a customer what their pain-point is today, and you'll more than likely get a different answer tomorrow. As a result, by the time you can offer it they will want something else. They are too concerned with what's on their plate right now to really think about the future. To ensure that your business value offering maintains its relevance, you need to find out what your customer needs are tomorrow, not today. And asking them is rarely the best way to find that out.
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  • Flash in the pan
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    Flash? In The Pan
    I've written about my dislike for Flash-driven websites before, but in the last few months I have noticed a definite shift in the way companies of all sizes are creating and distributing their web content. In light of the new-found strategy of communicating with your customers instead of at them, Flash-driven websites are losing ground in favor of websites where content is again the paramount criterion. And thank goodness for that. There's No Place For Flash In Websites Any Longer Regardless of company size, many organizations seem to have realized that 'it's all about the content' and, as a result, are moving away from Flash to sites driven by content-management-systems such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. Add some so-called "Web 2.0" features - dissolves, fades, animations, etc - that can now be integrated into a standard website using JavaScript-based tools such as jQuery, and even the most media-hungry marketing director can be persuaded to ditch that old Flash-driven website. Flash-based websites take more effort to update regularly, often force the user to sit through "loading" progress bars (even more annoying when you've just clicked on the wrong menu item) and make it virtually impossible to bookmark an interesting item of content. Conventional websites are more user-friendly (menus are where you'd expect them to be, and work the way that you'd expect them to work), can be updated virtually instantly, and offer better tie-ins with social media platforms such as Twitter. Are Flash-based websites losing some of their popularity due to the particular company's wish to get closer to their customers, update their content more often, and simplify the whole web experience? Or is it that a non-Flash site is cheaper to create? Form Over Function Companies have realized that a Flash website that resembles a John Woo or Joel Schumacher movie just doesn't provide the results that they're expecting. In fact, creating a overly-complex Flash-based website is, in my opinion, cheaper than doing it the old-fashioned way. To create a Flash website you just need a few weeks, some good ideas, a competent designer and a half-decent Flash developer. To create a lasting, engaging website you need a defined strategy, an execution plan, an understanding of your target audience and (last but not least) plenty of well-written and frequently-updated content. Content isn't just king, it's priceless.
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  • Elevator buttons
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    Gilded Cage
    The higher up that you progress on the corporate ladder, the more insulated you become from your business - and, by association, your customers. By the time you make it to the upper echelons, you're almost encased in a corporate-created bubble. Your calls and letters are screened. You only accept meeting invitations from senior management. Only outsiders with pre-approved appointments make it into your inner sanctum. You have lunch with the same people, socialize with the same group of friends. The flip-side to getting the key to the executive bathroom is that you lose touch. The problem with business today isn't too much information, or too many meetings. It's too much insulation. When's the last time you picked up the phone and called one of your distributors, resellers, or customers? What would happen if you went and visited an end-user of your product or service? It's important that you retain that personal identification with your target market. Know them. Understand them. After all, it's what got you to the top floor in the first place. Image Credit
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  • video marketing options on YouTube
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    What's Your Company's Video Strategy?
    Research company Nielsen has recently published their Three Screen Report (you can download a PDF of it here). Even though the report just focuses on US viewer habits, it paints a very interesting picture on how we're changing the way that we view video content. According to the report, the average American watches 153 hours of television per month, compared to 3 hours watching online video. Now, ignoring the fact that an average of 4.7 hours of a day is a huge amount of TV in anyone's book, the interesting finding is that the 'online' figure has increased by a massive 53.2% over just a twelve month period. Moreover, that figure is continuing to grow. Just over 131 million Americans watch video on the internet every month - 15 million more than last year. In addition, the growth in watching online video on internet-enabled devices (such as smartphones) is up by over 52% to over 13 million, with each viewer watching on average 3.5 hours of video each month. I have written about the imminent explosion in online video before, and these figures certainly seem to support the industry's predictions. Admittedly, much of the growth in online video can be attributed to viewers watching content that was previously broadcast on TV - using services such as Hulu in the US. Much of the growth in US online viewing in the first quarter of this year was driven by large events such as President Obama's inauguration, and the SuperBowl. However, user-generated content on sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, Viddler and the like are still drawing in more than 130 million unique viewers worldwide, every month. Whatever business you're in, a percentage of that number represent prospective customers. If your business is not visible in the market spaces that your customers frequent, you're missing out on huge potential commercial opportunities.
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  • old cash register
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    The Price Of Free
    Unless you have a truly unique product, it's difficult to compete with 'free.' Internet consumers today have grown up with the ability to access content without cost - be it news, music, films, TV or whatever. As a consequence, content providers such as film studios, record companies and newspaper and magazine publishers have suddenly found that their business model needs some serious work if they're to make money in the internet economy. It's as though the web has forced through a 'no cost' expectation before anyone has had the chance to develop a way to sustain a business from it. The publishing industry is hurting more than most. Since you can read most magazines and newspapers online for free, why should you purchase one from a newstand? Publishers have been trying for years to find a way of making money from the internet. First they tried using it as a loss-leader for their printed editions. Then they tried making certain content available to subscribers only. However, today most of them have made all their content freely available for all, and hoping that they can still make the advertising numbers that they need to survive. The problem is that they're not. Last week, News Corporation took the bit between the teeth. The head of News Corp, Rupert Murdoch, announced that his publishing titles would soon be charging for their material to address what he called a "malfunctioning" business model. The question is, are enough consumers ready to pay for something that they've enjoyed all this time for free? It's very difficult start charging for something that you have been giving away up until now. Are you a loyal-enough online reader of, say, The Times, or The Wall Street Journal to stump-up the cash? Or are you more likely to get your information elsewhere, from a source that pushes out content without any cost to you? And if you choose the 'free' route, how assured are you of the impartiality or validity of the content? Newspapers, and to a lesser extent magazines, are currently in a dead-end business model - and they all know it.Free access to content on the web will always be around - consumers have grown to expect it. The challenge for companies such as News Corp is to communicate and promote their business value in a way that their market can acknowledge in monetary terms. And their business value lies in the quality of their content, not its delivery method. After all, it's not the newspaper that contains the value. It's the journalism.
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  • value of creativity
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    What Value Do You Put On Creativity?
    Most people think of creativity as being something to do with art, literature or music. But without creativity, business today wouldn't exist. You can call it innovation, ingenuity, talent or even vision. Regardless, one of the most prized traits in business is an individual's creativity. Think of any successful business entrepreneur and you'd be hard pushed to find one without personal characteristics that, collectively, would be interpreted as creativity. Creativity means coming up with a new idea, or a new approach to an old idea. It's having the guts to "think different." Many individuals that we associate with being creative were not seen as such: Einstein was four years old before he could speak and seven before he could read. Walt Disney was fired from his job at a newspaper because he had "no good ideas." Louis Pasteur was rated 'mediocre' in chemistry when he attended the Royal College. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed, Michael Dell dropped out of University of Texas, and Larry Ellison dropped out of University of Chicago. So if creativity is held in such high regard today, then why do the world's education systems place such low importance on it? Sir Ken Robinson is a former university professor who now speaks on the value of creativity within education. His latest book, The Element, argues that the education system in its current form actually exorcises creativity from children and ill-prepares our kids for the reality of today's business world. I'm a big fan of Sir Ken. Not only due to the fact I agree with his thoughts on education, but also because I think that he one of the most impressive live presenters I have ever seen. Here's a link to his talk a few years ago at the TED conference. It's about 15 minutes long, but I strongly urge you to take the time to watch a master at work. Whether you agree with him or not, you cannot but failed to be impressed at his presenting skills. No PowerPoint, no Keynote. Just Sir Ken. Here's someone who understands how to communicate his business value more than most. Sit back and watch a master at work.
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  • Business Innovation “Ora ilLegale” clock design
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    The Second Mouse Gets The Cheese
    I saw this fantastic idea and piece of design on the Yanko Design website recently. It's a clock that you simply tilt on order to change to - or from - Daylight Savings time. No need to fiddle with a tiny wheel at the back, or buy one of those ugly-looking clocks that automatically adjust their time from a radio signal. It's a great application of adding a new twist to everyday object. Or should that be 'tilt' instead of 'twist'... The Second Mouse Gets The Cheese Innovation in business can be seen as the ultimate goal, or the road to failure. There's a saying in business: "The early bird may catch the worm, but it's the second mouse that gets the cheese." Taking someone else's idea and refining it is the mainstay of business. There's often little profit in being first. Being first means creating a market for something that currently doesn't have one. It requires the audience be educated as to the problem the innovation is designed to address. A problem that, quite often, the audience doesn't even know they had. Only once your audience has been educated to the existence of the problem, and that your product/service addresses that problem, will they contemplate buying from you. Not only is that a tough gig, but there's no guarantee that you'll recoup the money you've spent educating the market. There's not even a guarantee that you'll still be in business once the audience has woken-up to your idea, and is prepared to beat a path to your door. So if being first-to-market is fraught with danger, is business innovation today about doing what someone else is doing, but somehow 'better'? Business Innovation Is More Than "Me-Too" Personally, I don't think so. Today, however, prospective customers want more than just your version of someone else's idea. There's little room for "me-too". To build a creditable business value offering means innovating. The audience needs to know - and feel - that you're providing something special. Something that they know, but done in a different way. Your way. Maybe that business innovation is taking someone else's idea and moving it to the next level - as was the case with the Apple iPad, LED lightbulbs or bread that comes pre-sliced. Or maybe it's introducing a disruptive technology or product. Or maybe it's producing a clock that you tilt to change the time by an hour. What's your innovation? Why should your customers buy from you and no-one else?
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  • "Mother and Son" Microsoft Commercial
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    Hidden Message
    The advertising battle between Microsoft and Apple moved up a gear recently, with Redmond's latest campaign to encourage consumers to buy Windows. In the ads, that you can see here, various 'real people' are filmed documentary-style going through the process of buying a PC. The subjects are shown weighing up the pros and cons of Windows-driven hardware against Macs. In the end the subject walks away with a Windows machine, and explains their purchasing decision to the camera based upon the price of the machine when compared to a Mac. Doesn't this seem a little weird? Microsoft is a software company. OK, they make hardware in the form of computer peripherals and the XBOX, but they don't make computers. Third-party hardware manufacturers buy and install their software and resell the result. Apple is a software company that, in order to sell their software, have chosen to also manufacture the supporting hardware in order to better control the user experience. So, from a business value communication standpoint, we have a software company basing their campaign on how cheap the third-party host hardware is. There is no messaging about Windows versus the Mac OS X operating system. It's just a straight features vs. price comparison. The rationale is that it's all about the hardware, and that the choice of OS doesn't matter. In which case, why not go the whole hog and buy a PC running Linux? Linux is free, reliable (90% of the web's servers run Linux) and, with distributions such as Ubuntu, very user-friendly. Microsoft's message seems to be to buy a Sony Vaio, or buy an HP HDX16. Yes, these PCs have Windows on them, but they could just as well have something else. And if they did, the validity of the ad's argument would still hold true. Even more in fact, since the machine would be even cheaper. So where's the value message?
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  • Red Dice
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    The Biggest Risk That You Can Take During This Recession
    What is your company doing during this current global recession? Are you looking into new ways to streamline your business practices? Are you searching for new or additional added-value services to offer your clients? Are you actively seeking out new prospects, even more so than in the past? Or are you "battening down the hatches" until the storm has passed? If you're doing #4 and none of the other three, your business could be missing out on a raft of opportunities. Worse, as a result of not looking at points one, two and three your business could be less able to survive the economic downturn. Doing nothing could be the biggest risk that you could take right now. Image Credit
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  • better presentations by using Post-It notes
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    A Simple Tip For Better Business Presentations
    Delivering business presentations - perhaps to prospects, colleagues, partners, or investors - has become a critical aspect of business value communication. You can be a start-up or small business, or a billion-dollar multinational. Business presentations can be used as a sales tool, for training/education, or to motivate, inspire, or take action. So why are the majority of corporate presentations boring, too long and badly presented? It doesn't matter if your company/product/service/message is fantastic. If you cannot fire-up your audience through great content and delivery, then you're probably better off not using presentation software at all. While there are certainly individuals who shouldn't be getting up and speaking in public under any circumstances, I'm still firmly of the belief that the vast majority of people can carry off a stunning business presentation. It may not end up being TED Talk quality, but it'll be good enough to maintain audience interest and effectively convey the particular message. I'm going to reveal to you the single biggest improvement that you can make when planning your next business presentation: Don't use your computer. At least, not yet. Start Your Business Presentation On Paper When you need to create a presentation, the first thing that most people do is fire up their slide presentation software of choice - PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, whatever. This is probably the very worst thing you can do, since it imposes a format and layout for an idea that's usually still being formed and refined in your head. What's far more important at the very beginning is creating the structure of what the presentation will become. Define the goal of the presentation: what's the take-away that you want your audience to remember once you've finished? Where are they currently in terms of their knowledge of the subject? The best presentations are stories - they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Write your story out, as an essay or even just as outline notes. Define the introduction, the main content, the summary. The Secret Of Success: Post-It™ Notes The next time that you need to put a presentation together, don't start by going to your computer and opening-up a blank slide template. Instead, take out a couple of pens, some paper - and some Post-It notes. Storyboard your presentation as if you were writing a play, or a movie. Try to craft the presentation to have a natural flow, leading the presenter and the audience to the conclusion and summary. Write or draw on the Post-Its as to how you want the message to come across. Not literally - don't write down slide titles, or bullet-points. Just the information that you want your audience to remember once the presentation is over. Taking It To Your Computer Refine and edit the Post-Its. Stick them to the wall, edit them, change their order. Refine, iterate and tweak until you have a basic skeleton of how the story needs to be told. Once you've got the basic outline to your story, only then is it time to sit in front of your computer. PowerPoint, Keynote or whatever isn't the presentation. The content is the presentation. Refining your message using analog tools keeps you focused on designing the optimal delivery of the content, rather than if the next slide should have a fade-out transition rather than a wipe right-to-left. The next time you have to deliver a message using business presentation software, try reaching for the Sharpie and Post-Its before powering-up the laptop.Ten will get you five that your presentations will be all the better for it.
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  • Sinar F1
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    Why You?
    From 1987 to 1992 I founded and ran a media production company. We mainly did press and billboard ads, calendars, annual reports and a bit of TV commercial stuff. We worked with big-name clients such as Nestlé, BAT, P&G and Ford. The company was pretty successful - the last year that I was involved we turned over more than $1m in sales. And there was just four of us. The thing was, I was never great as a photographer. I certainly wasn't bad, but there were people around who were better. Much better. My stuff was always approved by client, in focus (when it needed to be) technically well lit, and was correctly exposed, (remember that we're talking about a time when everyone was shooting with film). But I always knew that I wasn't that good. So how did I get so much business, even when (during the early 90s) the world fell into recession? I didn't realize it at the time, but it was because I made it as easy as I could for my clients to do business with me. Not just easy, but they actually looked forward to it. I'd schedule fashion photo shoots to begin at 9.00pm, while my contemporaries would force the models to turn up and look their best at eight o'clock in the morning. I would work with junior art directors for free, helping them to realize ad layouts or TV storyboards. I would even present ad pitches to a client on behalf of the ad agency. I didn't do all of this hoping that the individuals concerned would feel like they 'owed' me something and so give me more commissions. I did it selflessly, purely for the pleasure of doing it. As a result my professional reputation grew, and the company blossomed. What are YOU doing to make it easier for your customers to do business with you? Image Credit
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  • Asus Eee PC
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    Judging A (Note)Book By Its Cover
    Netbooks are small devices primarily designed for wireless communication and access to the internet. The computers are small, offer a modest range of features and are attractively-priced - costing in the region of $250. And they've been selling in droves. Sales of Netbooks such as the EeePC (pictured) and the Acer Aspire One have been one of the few PC sales successes during the global economic downturn - especially in Europe and Asia. But are these machines selling because just because they're cheap? I'm not so sure. Netbooks are the embodiment of the realization that the vast majority of computer users don't actually need anything more. As more and more of the software that we use moves away from the desktop and is offered as so-called 'cloud' services over the internet, why bother spending any more? With a fast wireless internet connection, one can use Google Docs, Photoshop Express, Flickr, YouTube, and 1001 other services, available for free or very cheaply, over the web. Many consumers find that a Netbook is more than sufficient for their needs. So, are conventional computers destined to become niche products only required for processor-intensive applications such as video-editing and 3D rendering? I very much doubt it. Netbooks are not designed as replacements for more expensive, more powerful computers. Rather, they sacrifice computational horsepower and the ability to run complex software in order to reach their low pricepoint. Moreover, many people buy Netbooks because they don't see the devices as being laptop computers at all. Rather, Netbooks seem to be fulfilling a demand for a device that can access the internet, offer a better email experience and utilize web-based applications easier and faster than with a mobile phone. The Netbook is actually filling a new market demand: a convergence of some features shared between laptop and cellphone. However, most Netbook manufacturers haven't realized this. Branding and positioning such devices along the same lines as laptop devices helps reinforce the confusion as to what the devices actually are. Most consumers who buy a Netbook and expect comparable performance to even the most modestly-configured laptop computer are likely to be greatly disappointed with their purchase. Yes, a Netbook has a screen and keyboard. But that doesn't make it a laptop.
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  • Pepsi Sign
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    Companies don't control their brands. Customers do.
    A pitch for changing the Pepsi logo, entitled "The Pepsi Gravitational Field", has made its way onto the internet. It's supposedly been produced by The Arnell Group, who won a $1.5m contract to redesign Pepsi's brand. Turning The BS Dial to 11 The PDF document that's been leaked is full of unbelievable hyperbole. Not standard ad agency hyperbole, mind you. This is hyperbole taken to the next level. This is turning the "BS Dial" to 11. The document talks about light rays being subjected to the gravitational pull of Pepsi, of "The Pepsi Globe", "Authentic Geometry" and "...the dynamic of perimeter oscillations." Yeah, I'm not any the wiser either. But then if you're getting one-and-a-half big ones for a branding gig, you need to come up with something that the other guys wouldn't have thought of, right? So could this be just another example why so many business owners distrust the marketing industry? 27 pages of bovine excrement, dressed up to impress/coerce/paralyze a client into handing over their money? Personally, I think that it's neither. I think that it's a well-orchestrated spoof. A viral marketing piece of galactic proportions. Or maybe that's what I want it to be. Your Brand Is Created By Your Customer Brand management is either an art or a science, depending on which side of town you're from. Creating and building a brand helps your customers in their decision-making process, and is a crucial part of developing any startup or small business. However the thing about branding is - even if you don't realize it - your company/product/service already has a brand. No matter how much (or how little) you sell, your business value offering has already been partly or completely formed in the minds of your customers. They have made up their minds as to what you stand for. They've pigeonholed you. Companies don't control their brands. Customers do. Image Credit
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  • Skittles Twitter Website
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    "All marketing has already been outsourced to the consumer."
    I read an interview some time ago where the NY Times head of digital strategy was quoted as saying something like "All marketing has already been outsourced to the consumer." Skittles seem to be set in proving the point. The company has replaced their entire web presence with links to social media sites. At the moment, going to the Skittles website takes you to a Twitter stream of Skittles-related comments. However, the social media thread doesn't stop there. Clicking on the various links in the site's navigator 'widget' takes you to the Skittles pages of YouTube, Facebook and Flickr. This is not the first time that a brand has embraced web services and social media. The Boston-based advertising agency Modernista! pioneered the idea, by directing all website inquiries to entries in search engines and social media sites. The sole concession is a tiny navigation bar, directing the visitor to the agency's offerings. So is this done "...to better represent the interest of its users, whose lives [revolve] around social and user-generated media", as per the Skittles publicity blurb? Is it a brave, new(ish) direction in embracing the crowd-sourcing power of social media? Or is it pretty much just another take (albeit fresh and fun) on established viral marketing methods? I have my doubts that the whole thing is anything more than a (well executed) publicity stunt, and that the 'old' website will be back with us soon. Whatever the truth, it's certainly getting them talked about. Well done!
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  • Online Search
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    How Do Your Customers Find You?
    How do you find stuff nowadays? Whether you're looking for where to buy the best digital camera for under $500, or the best toaster for under $50, where do you look? I'm guessing that, if you're like me, you're searching online. According to Nielsen Media, 82% of consumers and small businesses use internet search engines to find out about local companies. Hardly surprising, in today's digitally-connected world. But the research goes on to say that a mere 44% of small businesses have a website. Most of the companies surveyed directed less than 10% of their marketing budget towards online activities - search engines, optimization, blogs, email marketing and the like. If your buying habits have changed, it's an odds-on bet that your customers' habits have changed too. Yet your company has little-to-no online visibility and you're doing nothing to change it. It's no wonder that you feel your business is losing out to the competition. Because it probably is.
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  • Business Process Outsourcing
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    Time To Outsource Your Marketing?
    An interesting overview over at Channel Champion about the current global economic climate being the right time for businesses to consider outsourcing their marketing. Many people assume that outsourcing business processes such as marketing are only for medium to large-scale organizations: Not so. The same reasons that big companies outsource apply just as well to small businesses. Even one-person businesses. There's a section on the KEXINO website about why organizations should consider outsourcing, but basically what we're talking about is the ability for your company to have access to additional competence resources on a needs basis. You're still driving the initiatives, it's just that someone else is behind the wheel.
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  • personalized video services
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    Getting Personal with Video
    Whatever product or service that your company sells, revenue generation is heavily dependent on the story that you promote to your customers. The story, or message, is fundamentally your business value proposition. It's the clear and concise description of what your value offering does for your intended client base. Today, that message can be delivered in a number of ways - website text, sales literature (which is NOT the same thing), presentations, blogs and, of course, video. Video on the web has been growing at a phenomenal rate. 28% of all Google searches in December 2008 were for video. With the amount of searches Google does, that's a HUGE number. The new kid on the block is personalized video. Basically, it's a video that's delivered in realtime but one that is tailored to the end-user, built up from a number of existing video clips, perhaps adding text or graphics, and assembled on-the-fly. We've just started offering personalized video to our list of marketing services, and the feedback has been huge. Is personalized video set to be the Next Big Marketing Thing?
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  • Game Over Pacman
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    The game is probably already over
    Seth Godin's blog nearly always has some useful nuggets of wisdom, and today is no exception. As Seth points out, marketing is not advertising. I define Marketing as the creation and ongoing administration of an environment that is conducive to Sales. In other words, marketers create the playground that the sales people play in. Advertising, branding, communications and so on are component elements of Marketing's bigger picture. Many companies first create their product or service, and only then look for Marketing to bring it to life. That's the wrong way round.
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    The Changing Nature of Advertising
    According to Accenture's 2008 Digital Advertising Study, global internet advertising revenue now exceeds $45billion and is on course to reach 21% of the worldwide market for advertising by 2012. However, companies need to understand that internet advertising isn't just a case of reformulating your press or flyer campaign for the web. The Study cites three key findings from Accenture's research: Attract and Keep Good Staff Your company needs the skills and experience to innovate and define what makes best sense. Analytics Are Crucial Develop effective monitoring and analysis procedures and apply the findings to your value messages. Business Development Companies can no longer exist as islands. Develop strategic partnerships and alliances that reflect the new, dynamic nature of your business environment. You cannot look at old-world solutions to solve new-age problems. Businesses today are facing rapid and disruptive changes to their established commercial models. What's required is the realization, and implementing change and performance management processes that fit into the new environment. As Albert Einstein said, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.
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  • Polaroid SX-70
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    Keeping Relevant
    Can the market space that you occupy be replicated by your customers? Could your customers do what you do cheaper, even if it wasn't done as well? Even now and again, it's important to take a look at technologies and systems that are appearing in your commercial environment - as well in other commercial environments - to see whether your business value proposition still makes sense. No company is immune to discovering that their - once lucrative - offering can no longer find a market. Founded by Dr. Edwin Land in 1937, Polaroid cameras and film seemed to be at just about every party or social gathering during the 1970s and early 1980s. While the film wasn't cheap, people loved its immediacy: 60 seconds after taking a photograph it was there in front of your eyes. However it wasn't long before affordable, consumer-priced digital cameras came along, which ultimately sealed the fate of Polaroid instant photography . The company stopped making the film early last year, and filed its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection just last month. In the end, Polaroid were too slow to react to the viability of their instant image product line with consumers. Rather than buy their cameras and film, their customers would rather do it themselves. If your company occupies a space that could conceivably be embraced by your current customer base, then why should they continue to buy from you? As a side note I see that there is something called The Impossible Project, looking to revive the production of Polaroid instant film. I have always had a soft spot for Polaroid film - it saved my career many a time back in my days as an advertising photographer. I wish the project the very best of luck. Image Source
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    Non-optional extras
    Why do we have car ads quoting prices that exclude the costs of registration, tax, delivery and so on? Why can't Amazon show you all-inclusive prices on the things that you're browsing, since they know who you are and where you live? Why, when you're buying a flight ticket online, do they show you one price but you end up paying another with the additional taxes, surcharges, and so forth? Does it really matter that the flight is cheap, when the extras make the total purchase a larger number than I had in my mind? A number that YOU had put there in the first place. These hidden, non-optional extras drive customers crazy. Yes, you've got their attention (and maybe even their initial business) but hiding these things until close to the end of the transaction leaves a bad taste in the mouth. When you charge $500 delivery on a $30,000 automobile purchase, the only thing that the customer remembers is the insult of having to pay the hidden extra. Why not quote the price that the customer will pay, and explain why it looks like your price is more than the next guy? Customers aren't dumb. Customers get it. They will thank you for it by coming back. It's not about dropping your margin, or thinking that you'll lose share to the competition. It's about the customer leaving with a smile on their face.
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    Too wordy
    The blog that you wrote yesterday.  The product / service description on your website.  The full-page ad that you placed in a trade publication. Ten will get you five that they all have too much text. People don't read marketing text in the same way that they used to. Email, web pages and pop-TV type soundbites have reduced all of our attention spans. Instead, people scan your text to decide whether your message is actually worth reading. You've got a few seconds of their attention, so make it count. Pull your prospects in with something that gets their attention. Keep it short, keep it sharp, keep it Fisher Price simple. Something that makes them want to find out more. Learn more. Do more. Something that makes them want to hand over the most precious thing a prospect can give you - their time.
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    Another Viral
    This video went on the email rounds yesterday. In it, a guy on the Beijing subway has an unfortunate accident while playing a bowling game on his iPhone. However, the video is actually a viral marketing piece for the new Sony Ericsson F305 gaming phone. Depending on your company, your product and your target market, video-based viral marketing gives you the opportunity to get literally millions of eyeballs focused on you in a very short space of time.
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  • Things can only get better!
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    Making Lemonade From Lemons
    Even once the economy bounces back, we’re not going back to ‘the good old days’. The climate will be different. Customers will be different, so business will need to be different.
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  • Simon Aspinall, MD, Internet Business Solutions Group, Cisco
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    Moving Pictures
    Over at the Telco 2.0 blog there's a fascinating interview with Simon Aspinall, MD of Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group. The essence of the interview, and the excerpt from a white paper by Cisco about their "medianet" strategy, is that the web is moving to video. Not just consumers uploading clips to sites like YouTube or Vimeo, but actually watching TV over the internet. According to Cisco, by 2012 nearly 90% of all consumer IP traffic will be video. Think about that for a second. They also say that, globally, they anticipate that the amount of data exchanged over the internet in 2012 will reach 44 Exabytes (that's 44 billion Gigabytes) - per month! That's six times greater than in 2007, and the main reason for this huge increase lies with the expected growth in video. High-speed internet connections continue to get ever more affordable. As a result of all this available bandwidth, web visitors are increasingly demanding a richer, higher-quality internet experience. Today, that means video. Not just the YouTube phenomenon, but what companies like Cisco like to call "TV over Telecom". Have you noticed how more and more TV companies now have websites where you can watch TV shows that you may have missed the first time around? That's an example of TV over Telecom. However, the future of internet TV is a lot more than catching up on last night's episode of CSI. Cisco is talking about a future of video interactivity allowing users to choose any type of content, from anywhere, and view it pre-optimized for whatever device that they happen to be in front of at the time - TV, computer, mobile phone, whatever. Depending on your business, leveraging the additional power of video messaging can help increase your market reach, differentiate your value offering, educate your target market, train your channel partners, grow your website visitor rate, and generate more leads. Video is no longer the reserve of large organizations with vast marketing departments and bottomless budgets.
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    Do You Know Who You Are?
    Or rather, do your customers know what your business actually does? A company's Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, is probably the single most important benefit that you offer to your customers. It distills down the unique characteristics of your company's product or service into what it is that you're offering to your customers, and why they should buy from you rather than from someone else. In short, it's your organization's DNA. But a USP isn't some abstract term that you create along with a marketing plan, that gets filed away and is never looked at again. Your USP needs to be used. Management and staff alike should be able to quote it, understand it, believe in it, Too many businesses today focus on their company's features, without communicating the benefit to the customer. Computers are advertised by their processor speed or hard disk size. Televisions on their screen size or if they're LCD or Plasma. Digital cameras by the number of megapixels. Now, while feature differentiation allows potential customers to distinguish one product from another, it's rarely enough to compel someone to buy. Why? Because features are nothing unless they're translated into benefits - and customers need both in order for them to buy. Because people don't buy computers, or TVs, or cars, or digital cameras. They buy a solution to their problem that invokes an emotion. They don't buy features or advantages. They buy benefits. They buy based on how that product or service makes them feel, and justify their purchase with logic.
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    Taking it Personally With Printed Cards
    With the holiday season almost upon us, I'm guessing that your company will have already sent out cards - and maybe even a gift - to your customers and most-important prospects. The popularity of internet cards, so called "eCards", continues to rise as both consumers and businesses abandon the traditional greetings card to help save money - and the environment. Many prominent companies and organizations have gone the eCard route - notably the Royal Opera House, the Shell Foundation and Cancer Research UK. eCard sales are growing in excess of 250 % per year, as sales of paper cards continue to fall. The newest generation of eCards allow the sender to embed sound and video, making the final product ever more compelling. People choose to send eCards rather than paper cards based upon practical reasons. The savings in time, in postage, in paper and in printing. It's also seen as being more environmentally-friendly. But sending someone seasonal good wishes has nothing to do with practicality. If practicality was all it was about, you'd send the recipient an email. Or phone them. Or text them. Or post a message on their Facebook Wall. Sending someone a card - a real, printed card with a personal handwritten message - shows that you care. That you, your company, your organization is not a faceless giant (or minnow) but a group of individuals. It shows that your organization realizes that people don't deal with companies; but that people deal with people. It's not the act of sending out a seasonal message that's the important bit. It's that someone has cared enough to do it. An eCard, by comparison, is an impersonal, bulk-emailed piece of communication that holds no emotional value with the recipient. It's little more than (turkey-flavored) spam. Yes, it's an easy way to save money. But so is flying economy class for that business meeting. Or getting a Chromebook instead of a MacBook Pro. Or walking to the diner around the corner instead of ordering room service. Or maybe your company sends out eCards because it's less of an effort? In which case: Guess what? It's not about you.
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    Making a Mint on YouTube
    There's an interesting article on The New York Times' site about how people are making a living out of posting their YouTube videos. The article cites an example of one video producer in California who claims to be earning $17,000 to $20,000 per month - just from YouTube. Acquired by Google - the kings of making money from online ads - in October 2006, YouTube offers something called a partner program. Once you've qualified for partner status, YouTube places advertising in and around the partner-submitted videos and splits the revenue with the video creators. So is the one-person media company now a reality? Depending on your business, YouTube and similar video-streaming sites could play an important role in your marketing strategy. It's certainly not for everyone, and you need to think carefully on how you plan your campaign (corporate-speak promos are a definite no-no, for example). But in the right circumstance and with the right approach, sites such as YouTube can become an innovative and cost-effective messaging vehicle. You may even be able to make a couple of bucks at the same time.
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  • standing out with your small business marketing
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    Standing Out From The Crowd
    Your business needs to stand out. It needs to shout about how great it is. If it doesn’t, don’t expect anyone else to.
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  • setting up at a tradeshow
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    Tradeshow Trauma
    I had a discussion with a client today who wanted to know more about how we could help her company with their presence at an industry tradeshow planned for early next year. In common with many organizations, she was deliberating whether the enormous costs and resources would be worth it. My first question to her was why she wanted to exhibit at the tradeshow. However, rather than give me tangibles, her answers seemed to be based on emotion - fear, primarily - rather than any concrete strategic or financial reason. Reasons like "the industry will think that we've disappeared if we're not there", or "the trade media will think that we're not a serious market player". Are you planning your tradeshow strategy because you feel that you have to be there, rather than because it makes commercial sense to your company? The Continuing Decline In The Importance Of Tradeshows In the 80s and 90s, exhibiting at tradeshows was one of the most popular - and successful - ways to capture business. Then along came the internet and many of the reasons for a potential client to visit an exhibition disappeared. Regardless of whether you believe that industry tradeshows still play a valid part in your marketing planning or not, it's clear that the number of companies choosing to exhibit at many industry tradeshows continues to decline. Today, there are many other ways of marketing your business value. Prospects go to tradeshows for different reasons, yet the way that tradeshows are organized is pretty much the same as it's been for the last fifty years. Lower show attendences means you need a higher lead conversion rate to make sense of the whole thing. That may or may not be a realistic proposition for your particular business. Don't misunderstand me: depending on where your market lies, tradeshows may still be the best way of maintaining and attracting new business. But blindly signing up to exhibiting at a tradeshow every year because "we've always done it that way", without logically evaluating whether it's the best use of resources, seems to me to be a bit myopic. I spoke to a company recently that had exhibited at a tradeshow earlier this year. They told me that they had got about sixty "A Class" sales leads at the show, but less than 15% of those leads were from companies that they were not already in talks with. I don't know exactly how much it cost them to be at that tradeshow, but after having organized my previous company's tradeshow presence for the past seven years I can hazard a pretty good guess. I estimate that each one of those new leads has cost that company about $16,000. The best way of spending your marketing budget? Image Credit
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    The Pomegranate Phone
    When is a phone not a phone? When it's an ad for why it's great to live in Nova Scotia. Take a look at this spoof viral marketing piece from the Nova Scotia Government Department of Tourism "Nova Scotia Come To Life". The premise is the introduction of a new smartphone that does much more than an iPhone or Android phone. The "Pomegranate Phone" apparently shaves your legs, makes coffee and even turns into a harmonica (though in an eerie twist, the iPhone actually does something similar right now - fantasy meets reality?). However, it's all a ruse to get you to click on "Release Date" where you get the tourist/relocation bumf about how great Nova Scotia is. There's a bit of a hubbub about all of this at the moment. Apparently some are not best pleased that this project has cost the Canadian taxpayer over CAN$300,000 and think that the site's too cool and slick for its own good and won't generate an ROI. Regardless of all the furore that's being generated, the current publicity that this is getting (and I'm clearly as guilty of this as everyone else by mentioning it here) leads me to think that this is three hundred grand VERY well spent.
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  • blog wordle
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    The Writing's On The Wall For Blogs
    It's a little weird writing a blog about how blogs may have peaked in their popularity. Anyway... Remember Filofaxes? While "Filofax" the company are still in business, I haven't met anyone who uses a Filofax in at least the last decade. Essentially not much more than an expensive mini arch-lever file, these once must-have personal accessories of the 1980s were, for most people, a combination of address book, diary, calendar and notebook. Then, as with most things analogue-based, Filofaxes all but slipped into oblivion, replaced with digital-based equivalents. First it was the Personal Digital Assistant, or PDA, in the form of Palm Pilots and the like. Today, most people that I know keep all their stuff together on their mobile phone. The "PDA" as we used to know it has embedded itself in common culture by infusing itself into the common denominator of personal items, the cellphone. So, are blogs set to go the same way as Filofaxes or PDAs? Blogging, once revolutionary and even subversive, billed as a disruptive technology to traditional media, has entered the mainstream. Around the world, two new blogs are created every second of every day. However, I don't need to tell you that the vast majority of blogs out there exist only because they can. Blogging has been made so easy that everyone's doing it, including people who clearly shouldn't be... Blogging is also fragmenting in terms of its form. The FaceBook / MySpace generation increasingly simply update their social network page rather than create a blog. Other technologies are competing for attention, such as a Twitter, which could be described as a sort of real-time micro-blog. But the bigger indicator, in my view, that the writing's on the wall for blogs is that many of the biggest-read blogs out there today are created by media organisations. You'd be hard-pressed to find a newspaper, radio or TV channel today that doesn't run a blog - and update it faster than any individual blogger ever could. No-one can argue that the form and function of a blog has merit. However, the way that blogs are distributed to their audience is diversifying.
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    Who won? Obama, or Gotham?
    Great article in today's New York Times about Barack Obama's campaign 'electing' to use the Gotham typeface for all their graphic material. They contend that the use of the typeface has helped amplify Brand Obama. Don't underestimate the power of typography within your branding materials. Obama's campaign didn't.
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  • missing the point in copywriting
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    Missing The Point in Sales Copywriting?
    Nearly everything produced by your marketing department involves some level of copywriting. Along with visual media, the text that you choose to add to your collateral, messaging and positioning pieces is absolutely crucial to your customer understanding your business value proposition. So why is so much corporate copywriting so weak? The most frequent mistake we see when assessing clients' existing customer-facing value is that the material is written from the vendor's point-of-view, rather than the prospective customer. To produce copy that resonates with your markets you need to put yourself in their shoes: Regardless of what you sell, and to whom, positioning your messaging from the customer's perspective will allow you to produce more targeted copy that is focused on what your customer wants to hear - and not what you want to say to them. The goal of most copywriting is not to swell your corporate ego; it is to sell your product or service. Yet writing copy from a customer perspective is very difficult (which is, or course, where we come in!). Your thought processes have been conditioned to produce 'company-friendly' words and phrases which, by and large, your customers are less familiar with than you are. Thinking like your customer (or maybe even your customer's customer), adopting a customer vocabulary, simplifying your grammar and sentence structure, etc. may seem like an obvious starting-point for writing copy. So why do so few companies do it?
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  • Nancy Duarte, Duarte Design
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    Are Your Presentations Letting You Down?
    Part of our work here at KEXINO is taken up with reformulating a company's client-facing value, of which a key component part is the quality of their presentations. It's amazing that, in a business world where the efficient visual creation and dissemination of ideas continues to grow in importance, so few business professionals are any good at presenting. Anyone who has ever been at a conference or seminar knows exactly what I mean: Overly-long, boring presentations using stock presentation templates, too much text on each slide and presenters reading the slide's content out loud. Part of what we do at KEXINO is re-engineer a company's corporate or product presentation to allow the message to speak more clearly by the use of design, imagery, motion graphics, video and type. One of the most well-known presentation architects has to be Nancy Duarte from Duarte Design, a consultancy that is probably most famous for working on Al Gore's slide presentation that ultimately became the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth. There's an interesting Nancy Duarte interview on the Six Minutes website, where she describes how to avoid some of the pitfalls in making presentations.
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    Software Crash
    I found an interesting article on Accenture about how enterprise software developers are finding it increasingly more difficult to grow their business in the age of robust, feature-rich online applications. To summarize, the article contends that in order to survive software manufacturers need to think about offering a broader set of "on demand" applications, rather than developing ever-more 'niche-application' offerings. In tandem, they need to reconsider the way that they set pricing. The days of charging mega-bucks for software applications, whether packaged off-the-shelf-type products or more enterprise-deployed systems, have peaked. Even at the desktop level, whether we're talking about SMEs or even consumers, there are ever-more applications that offer the features that people need, but at a radically-different pricing structure. The applications are either available as a free-to-download package to install on your computer (such as Open Office) or as hosted applications that are either free (such as Google Apps) or charge you in a similar way to how you pay for your mobile phone calls (e.g. Salesforce.com or SunGard). Software houses need to break with the traditional approach to pricing and usage if they are to tap into new growth opportunities. If not, it's just a matter of time before their businesses become as niche as their products. Image Credit (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
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    Singing From The Same Hymn Sheet
    Many companies fail to align themselves to their own corporate-wide objectives. Huh? Let's put it another way. Are the processes, tools and technologies that are used throughout your company helping you to reach your business objectives? Are your company departments - sales, marketing, service, support, administration - all working with a common business goal in mind? If they're not - as is the case with most organisations - then a large percentage of your staff's time, effort and money are going towards helping your competitors. Missing The Point In Your Brand Communications Organizations spend hours - and dollars - brainstorming Mission Statements, Vision Statements, and brand promises. They spitball ideas to help distill their brand to its most raw and fundamental. They spend fortunes crafting campaigns to spread the word to their audiences. But in the midst of all this self-congratulatory posturing and idea-chasing, they've forgotten their most important audience: the employees. The result - if you're lucky - is a bunch of well-meaning individuals doing the best they can. What's more likely is that you've got a bunch of disorganized, frustrated, and demotivated people who feel left out of the process - and the endgame. These are the individuals who are at the coalface, dealing with prospects, existing customers, partners, suppliers. People who can help make - or break - your brand in a heartbeat. And you haven't even bothered to include them? They want to be directed. To be inspired, and feel part of a larger goal, cause, and purpose. Instead you think their prime motivation is based on objectives like salary, or how many vacation days they take. Too many companies think that communication and branding starts with prospects and customers. The truth is that your value statement starts with the first customer awareness touchpoint. That may be a Tweet, Like, or a +1. That may be the tone of voice in the text of your website, the way your receptionist speaks with the delivery driver, or how your Accounts person writes an email. Everyone in the organization has to be pulling in the same direction. By "everyone" I mean everyone - from the CEO to the janitor, and everyone in between. If just one person isn't on board, your audience will smell a fake and the business brand promise will be seen as inauthentic. And once you've lost it, it's the devil's own job to get it back. Your Customers AND Employees Singing From The Same Hymn Sheet Without focusing your company around its 'reason for being' - its core objectives - you are allowing your competition to deliver to your customers better and faster than you can. I'm not talking about your sales department, or your sales process, or your reseller channel, or your marketing collateral. I'm not referring to how your accounts department handles cashflow, or how your receptionist answers the telephone. I'm talking about all of them. And more.
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    Flying Blind: The Importance of website metrics
    Just about every business that needs a website has a website, right? But how many businesses monitor their web presence using website metrics tools? Web analytics tools give you realtime intelligence in how your website is being used. Information such as where your web visitors are geographically located, whether they came to your website directly or from another web link, how long they spent on each page, etc. can easily be mined and filtered. Analytics tools help refine your website's content. For example, if you know that it takes 30 secs to read a certain page of your website, but it turns out that most users click away from that page after 15 secs, then you're either boring them with the content, or they've decided that what you're saying is not for them. Web metrics services can also be a lead generation tools, as you can often trace back visitor details to corporate web servers. There are many web analytics services out there, and the best bit is that many of them are free. The KEXINO website uses Google Analytics, but there are many others such as Clicky and Mixpanel. Don't let your website be a glorified brochure. Get it to work for you. Image Credit
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    How Sociable Are You?
    Did you know that 7 out of the top 10 websites in the world are social media sites? The top 25 social media sites, including names such as MySpace or FaceBook, deliver in excess of 155 million users each month, according to WebProNews. That's a seriously large audience. But are social media networks just the current flavour-of-the-month, or is there something here that a business such as yours can leverage commercial opportunity? The growth of social media sites seems to be a natural response to the way that consumers have changed the way that they use the web. A few years ago web users were happy to be a passive audience, sitting back and watching web content suppliers 'push' information to them. Today, consumers increasingly want to take that control themselves. They want to decide how, what and where they access their content; and create, compile and customise their experiences to deliver them to their friends, colleagues - or even complete strangers. Social applications give consumers the ability to choose. To choose what they want to spend their time with, who they want to interact with and how they would like to communicate. Advertising - or even developing applications - within social media networks offers numerous commercial opportunities. The level of user profiling within social media sites allows a company to reach unique audiences, not only based upon traditional criteria such as demography (age, gender, etc.) or geography (country, state, city); but new targeting groups such as appography (social media groups) and sociography (based upon friend data). If your potential customers use a social media network - which, with the number of networks out there, must be the case - then what are you doing to reach them?
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    Increase Sales Leads From Your Website
    Is your website little more than a glorified brochure? Even worse, are you using pretty much the same text on your website that features in your printed materials? If your company has a website because you would like to generate sales leads from it, then there are a number of factors to consider. Firstly, that few companies can reasonably expect to compete in today's business world without exploiting internet-based marketing tools. Secondly, that unless you can appeal directly to your target prospects, you run the risk of them visiting your website and not realising how your business offering relates to them. The way that the internet is used has changed dramatically over the past few years. With the wealth of information now at hand, prospective customers are more aware, more informed and more demanding of their suppliers than ever before. The days of painstakingly researching every scrap of information contained in a company website have long gone. Just as TV ads have been getting shorter in duration, your website needs to hit HARD, and hit ACCURATELY, since your competitor is just a mouse-click away. Studies show you have EIGHT SECONDS to build a website visitor relationship before you lose them, maybe forever. If the visitor doesn't feel they can relate to your company, if they're overwhelmed, confused, annoyed, frustrated - or just plain bored - then they will leave. Image Credit
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    Embrace Video - Before Your Competitors Do
    There's a great article on The Street about why businesses should look at the forth dimension - time - when planning their marketing mix. Basically, the article outlines that using video is no longer reserved for huge multinationals - small and medium-sized firms can (and should) look at embracing video as another string to their communications bow. Just like glossy brochures, a web presence or a sales presentation; video has a place in your marketing arsenal. A few years ago, using video for presentations, case studies, tradeshow graphics or in websites was a company differentiator. Today, it's becoming commonplace with companies (such as ours) offering high-quality imagery that leaves a lasting impression. However, the piece warns about cutting corners and trying to do the project yourself. As the author says, just because you can go to the shops and buy the same ingredients it doesn't follow that you can cook like a Michelin-starred chef. Image courtesy of Sony
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    Flashterbation
    Flash-driven websites, unless constructed well, are rarely the best medium for communication.
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    DRUPA 2008: The Last "Mega" Tradeshow?
    Most of the last couple of weeks saw KEXINO in the German city of Düsseldorf attending DRUPA, the world's largest tradeshow for the printing industry. Talking to exhibitors, it's clear that most had the feeling that attendee numbers were significantly down compared to DRUPA 2004. Of course, the exhibition organisers tell a different story. We've been saying this for some time now, but we firmly believe that the writing's on the wall for the 'traditional' tradeshow exhibition format. The truth is that the profile of show attendee has drastically changed over the past few years. Manufacturers no longer need to wait until a tradeshow to launch their new products or services when the web can give them instant exposure to their targetted demographic. Tradeshow visitors are more clued-up on what to see - and what's not worth seeing - and do their booth visit plans well in advance of ever setting foot in the exhibition centre. In short, most tradeshow organisers provide much less value to both exhibitors and visitors than before, because they're running the show in the same way that they've done for the last thirty years. Unless they radically change the way they organise tradeshows, many manufacturers may end up spending their marketing cash elsewhere. Not the big players, of course, who need to spend their marketing budget allocations in fear of not getting sufficient funds in next years business plan. However, the small, often innovative niche companies that we were used to seeing in 'pipe-and-drape' booths peppered around the show floor periphery are increasingly finding it harder to justify investment in such tradeshows, preferring to look at more targetted means of attracting prospects and channel partners. The days of building a booth and adopting a "If We Build It, They Will Come" attitude is as dead as the floppy disk. If your company doesn't plan your tradeshow presence with pre- and post-show programmes, communications, public relations and a lead-generation and closing strategy, then your tradeshow booth is nothing more than an expensive advertisement.
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    Taking the 'P' Out Of PDF
    As you might have seen, Adobe is now shipping Acrobat 9, after announcing it at DRUPA. Apart from the fact that the "Standard" and "Pro Extended" versions are available for Windows-only, some noteworthy features are: The ability to embed video (FLV or H.264) into PDF, including mark-up features Content management via PDF Portfolio feature 256 bit encryption Content-only softproofing, including online collaboration on acrobat.com Ability to check PDF standards compliance. I was invited to a pre-release conference call and demo a couple of weeks before the announcement, and I must say that the demonstrations of the new "PDF Portfolio" features, integrating websites, Flash and QuickTime content, etc. were impressive. Impressive, that is, if the PDF file is the final destination for the file's content. But what about PDFs destined for the print industry? PDF, as we all know, stands for "Portable Document Format". By including the ability to embed movies and Flash animations, hasn't PDF suddenly become a lot less portable? OK, virtually any Mac and PC out there today can handle Flash, but what about other OS's, such as Linux, where (going on past performance) Adobe's Flash support has been pretty flaky? Furthermore, what happens with all those handhelds - Blackberry's, SideKicks, Treo's and the like - that have no problem rendering static PDF files but start to choke when rendering video? The Apple iPhone doesn't have Flash support at all - even with its soon-to-be-released v2.0 software upgrade. Then there's the real doozy: What happens when you throw this PDF, now full of bloated non-printable content, into a RIP? Just when you thought that you were OK to render live text, or transparent objects, or PDF layers, now you've got FLVs, MOVs and goodness-knows-what-else shoved in there. If a client sends you a PDF with, for example, an embedded Flash object (even if it's a static object) and the animation doesn't appear in print, who's to blame? I have often heard it said that Adobe aren't really interested in the print industry and are commercially focussed on "the pink hair brigade" - the much larger market of designers, illustrators, photographers and web designers. Regardless of whether this is true, Adobe's re-positioning of PDF as the "one size fits all" container for multimedia content must surely stick in the throats of PDF stalwarts throughout the print, publishing and packaging industries.
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