Free Wheelchair Mission

If you’re looking to give a “feel good” present for the holidays, consider making a donation to Free Wheel Chair Mission in someone’s name. For just $72, some needy person will get a free wheelchair in some Third World country in your giftee’s name.

Your friend or family member will get a card telling them what you donated in their name and then get to pick out the country this free wheelchair will go to (out of 82 choices). If they send in their email, they’ll even get a picture of the recipient sitting in your mutual gift! Wow…who could do better for just $72?

For more info, check out www.FreeWheelchairMission.org or listen to the interview we just did with them on OC Talk Radio’s “Critical Mass: Non Profit Show” by visiting our storage site at www.OCTalkRadio.podbean.com.

Port of Long Beach GLOBAL BIZ CONFERENCE May 3

Want to sell or market your products overseas?  Interested in the many US export initiatives, incentives and training programs? Then don’t miss the Port of Long Beach’s GLOBAL BIZ CONFERENCE May 3.

Meet Sr.Officials from Port of Long Beach, Homeland Security, Dept of Commerce and many other agencies along with numerous internatl trade attorneys.  $150 includes 3 separate panels, lunch and private tour of port facilities by boat.  Discounted tix available at www.OCTalkRadio.net.

Better Ways for Marketing People to Get Paid

As Tim Williams, author of TAKE A STAND FOR YOUR BRAND explains on this week’s episode of BRANDING BUSINESS (hosted by Ryan Rieches of OC’s biggest branding firm RiechesBaird here on www.OCTalkRadio.net), “for people who are supposedly creative, we don’t spend much time considering alternative ways to get paid beyond some hourly rate….as if creative work and manual labor were somehow both the same”.

Hear his ideas on alternative ways in which ad agencies, marketing people and other creative talent can get paid that more closely matches their corporate contribution and the true value of their work.  Definitely a conversation starter.

How to you pay for creative ideas in your company?

Southwest Assn Endorses Coffman Group Training

Here’s an nice, unsolicited endorsement of the Sandler Sales Training provided by Casey Coffman, CEO of The Coffman Group in Kansas City by one of their clients, The Southwest Association of independent hardware and farm implement/mercantile dealers , as heard on Leadership Conversations, Wed. 01-11-12 on www.OCTalkRadio.net.  If you’re fumbling around in sales or thinking about improving your sales process or training, check this out!

We’re All Marketers Now

Courtesy of McKinsey Quarterly

For the past decade, marketers have been adjusting to a new era of deep customer engagement. They’ve tacked on new functions, such as social-media management; altered processes to better integrate advertising campaigns online, on television, and in print; and added staff with Web expertise to manage the explosion of digital customer data. Yet in our experience, that’s not enough. To truly engage customers for whom “push” advertising is increasingly irrelevant, companies must do more outside the confines of the traditional marketing organization. At the end of the day, customers no longer separate marketing from the product—it is the product. They don’t separate marketing from their in-store or online experience—it is the experience. In the era of engagement, marketing is the company.

This shift presents an obvious challenge: if everyone’s responsible for marketing, who’s accountable? And what does this new reality imply for the structure and charter of the marketing organization? It’s a problem that parallels the one that emerged in the early days of the quality movement, before it became embedded in the fabric of general management. In a memorable anecdote, one of former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca’s key hires, Hal Sperlich, arrived at the automaker in 1977 as the new vice president of product planning. His first question: “Who is in charge of quality?”

“Everybody,” a confident executive replied.

“But who do you hold responsible when there are problems in quality?” Sperlich pressed.

“Nobody.”

“Oh, shoot,” Sperlich thought. “We are in for it now.”1

To avoid being “in for it,” companies of all stripes must not only recognize that everyone is responsible for marketing but also impose accountability by establishing a new set of relationships between the function and the rest of the organization. In essence, companies need to become marketing vehicles, and the marketing organization itself needs to become the customer-engagement engine, responsible for establishing priorities and stimulating dialogue throughout the enterprise as it seeks to design, build, operate, and renew cutting-edge customer-engagement approaches.

As that transformation happens, the marketing organization will look different: there will be a greater distribution of existing marketing tasks to other functions; more councils and informal alliances that coordinate marketing activities across the company; deeper partnerships with external vendors, customers, and perhaps even competitors; and a bigger role for data-driven customer insights. This article provides some real-life examples of these kinds of changes.

Marketing’s cutting edge is being redefined every day. While there’s no definitive map showing how companies can successfully navigate the era of engagement, we hope to help senior executives—not just marketers—start to draw one.

The evolution of engagement
More than two years ago, our colleagues David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder, and Ole Jørgen Vetvik unveiled the results of a research effort involving 20,000 customers across five industries and three continents.2 Their work showed how collaborative the buying process has become and how difficult it is to influence customers by relying solely on one-way, push advertising. In the words of American Express chief marketing officer John Hayes, “We went from a monologue to a dialogue. Mass media will continue to play a role. But its role has changed.”

Over the past two years, that evolution has only accelerated. More and more consumers are using digital video recorders to fast-forward through TV commercials and are consuming video content on Web sites such as YouTube and on mobile devices. Billboards alongside train lines and bus routes struggle to capture the attention of people absorbed by the screens of their smartphones. Meanwhile, today’s more empowered, critical, demanding, and price-sensitive customers are turning in ever-growing numbers to social networks, blogs, online review forums, and other channels to quench their thirst for objective advice about products and to identify brands that seem to care about forming relationships with them. Individuals even are posting their own commercials on YouTube. In short, the avenues (or touch points) customers use to interact with companies have continued to multiply.

The problem for many companies is that the very things that make push marketing effective—tight, relatively centralized operational control over a well-defined set of channels and touch points—hold it back in the era of engagement. Many touch points, such as calls to customer service centers and interactions between the sales force and customers, sit outside the traditional marketing organization, which has little or no permission to reach into other business functions or units. Companies have traditionally divided responsibility for touch points among functions. But a comprehensive strategy for engaging customers across them rarely emerges and, if one does, there’s often no system for executing it or measuring its performance.

More pervasive marketing
To engage customers whenever and wherever they interact with a company—in a store; on the phone; responding to an e-mail, a blog post, or an online review—marketing must pervade the entire organization. Companies such as Starbucks and Zappos, for which superior engagement has been a critical source of competitive advantage from the beginning, already exhibit some of these traits. But these companies aren’t our focus, which instead is the kinds of actions everyone else can take as they strive for world-class customer engagement.

The starting point is a mind-set shift around customer interaction touch points. Companies typically think of them as being “owned” by a given function: for instance, marketing owns brand management; sales owns customer relationships; merchandising or retail operations own the in-store experience. In today’s marketing environment, companies will be better off if they stop viewing customer engagement as a series of discrete interactions and instead think about it as customers do: a set of related interactions that, added together, make up the customer experience. That perspective should stimulate fresh dialogue among members of the senior team about who should design the overall system of touch points to create compelling customer engagement, and who then builds, operates, and renews each touch point consistent with that overall vision. There’s no need to worry about traditional functional or business unit ownership: whoever is best placed to tackle an activity should do so.

Design
Designing a great customer-engagement strategy and experience depends on understanding exactly how people interact with a company throughout their decision journey. That interaction could be with the product itself or with service, marketing, sales, public relations, or any other element of the business.

When the hotel group Starwood sought to enhance its engagement with customers, for example, the company pored through data about them and identified clear demographic groups staying at its more than 1,000 properties. In 2006, the company unveiled a specific new positioning for each part of its brand portfolio, ranging in affordability from Four Points by Sheraton to its Luxury Collection and St. Regis properties.

Each brand seeks to deliver a different customer experience, on dimensions ranging from how guests are greeted by staff to the kind of toiletries offered in rooms. Crucially, for each type of property, Starwood sought to design not only the desired experience but also how it would actually be delivered. It therefore had to decide what coordination would be necessary across functions, who would operationally control different touch points, and even what content customers wanted in the company’s Web site, in loyalty program mailings, and other forms of communication.

Starwood’s experience underscores the fact that, despite the growing impact of digital touch points such as social media, effective customer engagement must go beyond pure communication to include the product or service experience itself. “At the end of the day,” says Virgin Atlantic Airways chief executive Steve Ridgway, “we fly exactly the same planes as everybody else. If we get our customers off the plane happy, and they go on to talk about that and get others to come and then come back again themselves—that’s a huge marketing tool.”

Build
Once a company designs how it will engage with customers, it needs the organizational capabilities to deliver: adding staff, building a social-media network infrastructure, retooling customer care operations, or altering reporting structures. Functions far removed from marketing often have important roles to play, so one or more marketing teams at the center may have to build skills in other parts of a company. A global energy company took that approach and then largely dissolved the group when those capabilities were in place.

Allocating responsibility for building touch points is increasingly important because of the degree to which Web-based engagement is requiring companies to create “broadcast” media.3 Some have built publishing divisions to feed the ever-increasing demand for content required by company Web sites, social media, internal and external publications, multimedia sites, and coupons and other promotions. Many luxury-goods companies, for example, have built editorial teams to “socialize” their brands: they are transforming the customer relationship by producing blogs, digital magazines, and other content that can dramatically intensify both the frequency and depth of interactions.

Last year, LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton, for example, launched an online magazine, NOWNESS, that offers what the company calls “information reference” about its luxury brands. The site presents a daily multimedia story with little pure advertising and (in conjunction with LVMH’s efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) seeks to deepen the engagement customers have with the company’s brands. British luxury brand Burberry has undertaken a similar venture with its Art of the Trench site. France’s Chanel has for years used its own creative and artistic directors to develop content, without any need for help from external agencies.

Content-oriented strategies like these require creative employees who can feed the customer’s ever-increasing need for timely, relevant, and compelling content across a variety of media. They also provide an opportunity for productive dialogue within companies about the role of marketing versus other functions in building critical touch points that drive engagement.

Operate and renew
For companies in industries as diverse as consumer packaged goods and financial services, digital technology has upended the engagement expectations of customers, who, for example, want one Web site to visit and a relationship seamlessly integrated across touch points. Meeting such expectations requires extraordinary operational coordination and responsiveness in activities ranging from providing on-the-ground service delivery to generating online content to staying on top of a customer care issue blowing up on YouTube.

Behind the scenes, that new reality creates a need for coordination and conflict resolution mechanisms within and across functions, as well as budget procedures that allow flexibility and rapid action should the need arise. PepsiCo, for example, has sought to provide a single point of contact for its digital-marketing efforts by creating the role of chief digital officer: an executive without line responsibility who drives the application of best practices across the beverage group’s global digital efforts.

Companies also need a clear approach for monitoring touch points and renewing them as needed. At one major hotel chain, for example, a single group circumnavigates the globe acting as a “monitor and fix” SWAT team. It meets with hotel licensees, educates them about the company’s customer-engagement approach and management of key touch points, demonstrates new behavior, and trains the staff in new operational processes. Given the speed of information sharing today, constant monitoring and adaptation—indeed, continuous improvement of the sort that came to the operations world long ago—is bound to infiltrate marketing and grow in importance.

The marketing organization’s new look
As the chief marketing officer collaborates with the chief executive and other senior-team members to nail down a shared approach for designing, building, operating, and renewing customer touch points, he or she also will require a new kind of marketing organization. For marketing to truly become the customer-engagement engine that orchestrates the delivery of the end-to-end customer experience, it must evolve along four critical dimensions.

Distribute more activities
As marketing becomes more pervasive, the marketing organization will increasingly be defined by a core set of tightly held responsibilities, such as branding and agency relationships, and a set of responsibilities distributed among the functions and groups best placed to manage and use the information generated by customer interactions. Procter & Gamble, for instance, has created a group within the purchasing function to buy digital-media advertising space. The group spans geographic boundaries, reflecting the global nature of the medium, and while it sits within purchasing, it is staffed by people with marketing experience.

At companies where the marketing organization’s responsibilities will be split between core and distributed activities, CMOs will increasingly be held accountable for the performance of groups that don’t report solely to them. When CEOs ask for the marketing-org chart, they will see a complex web of solid- and dotted-line relationships showing the roles that marketing plays in designing, building, or operating touch points across the whole organization.

The chart will also show where marketing activities have been embedded in other functions. One major logistics company, for example, puts marketing resources within each sales district to adapt corporate-level marketing initiatives to local circumstances. This approach mutes complaints from sales reps who feel bombarded with marketing pushes from the head office by giving them simple, customized ideas for driving sales within their regions.

More councils and partnerships
While leading companies have long used marketing councils to boost management coordination, the new marketing organization will require many more of them, with greater representation from other functions. One global financial institution, for example, has created a digital-governance council with representatives from all customer-facing business units. The company’s goal was to ensure that data and analytics are shared, that customers receive the same experience regardless of channel (such as Web sites, branches, call centers, or automated teller machines), and that IT systems meet the customer’s digital-engagement needs.

More robust formal and informal external partnerships will be critical too. Customer forums, such as the one Virgin Atlantic Airways used to create a taxi-sharing app for smartphones, are one example. More structured relationships with distribution partners also can enhance engagement. The consumer-packaged-goods company Nestlé, for example, manages its relationship with retailer Wal-Mart Stores via what it calls the Nestlé–Wal-Mart Team. This unified cross-business, cross-functional group is responsible for everything from in-store activity to promotion, logistics, innovation, and product design. As a result, Wal-Mart has a single point of contact with one of its largest suppliers, Nestlé enjoys a stronger relationship with the retailer, and, critically, both companies gain a better understanding of, and engagement with, packaged-goods consumers.

Elevate the role of customer insights
Generating rich customer insights, always central to effective marketing efforts, is more challenging and important in today’s environment. Companies must listen constantly to consumers across all touch points, analyze and deduce patterns from their behavior, and respond quickly to signs of changing needs.

One implication is that the types of talent required to derive such insights will change. A premium will be placed on problem-solving and strategic-marketing skills, rather than on traditional market research capabilities such as designing surveys and commissioning focus groups. Some organizations also may need help from external partners, a pattern that’s already apparent at several insurers and health care payers that have neither the time nor the budgets to build the necessary data-gathering and -analysis capabilities in-house and at scale.

The insights group’s position in a company could even change. At one high-end hospitality business, for example, responsibility for generating customer insights has moved out of the marketing function entirely. The group now reports directly to the head of strategy, who uses information from it to redesign core business elements such as pricing, sales targeting, and the selection of properties for development.

More data rich and analytically intense
Reinforcing the importance of all these changes is an exponential increase in the volume of customer data and the intensity of the analysis required to process and act on it effectively. Without cross-functional collaboration and a clear delineation of roles, it will be impossible to gather, collate, gain insights from, and disseminate data that streams in from every customer interaction. The sheer volume of data is extraordinary: social-media gaming company Zynga, for example, generates five terabytes (the equivalent of about 1.5 million song files) of data on customer clicks every day.4 What’s more, “Marketing is going to become a much more science-driven activity,” says Duncan Watts of Yahoo! Research. In the trenches, this change suggests a shift toward sophisticated data analytics similar to the revolution that has already taken place in industries such as financial services, as well as in airlines and other industries where yield management is important. Some marketing organizations are already making their moves: to send targeted e-mails to customers, retailer Williams-Sonoma, for example, analyzes an integrated database that tracks some 60 million households on metrics including income, housing values, and number of children. These e-mails obtain response rates 10 to 18 times as high as those sent randomly.5 Such capabilities don’t necessarily have to be built in-house: many companies will enter into creative arrangements with outside parties to exchange data and run joint tests of alternative marketing tactics.

The major barrier to engagement is organizational rather than conceptual: given the growing number of touch points where customers now interact with companies, marketing often can’t do what’s needed all on its own. CMOs and their C-suite colleagues must collaborate intensively to adapt their organizations to the way customers now behave and, in the process, redefine the traditional marketing organization. If companies don’t make the transition, they run the risk of being overtaken by competitors that have mastered the new era of engagement

Bare Naked Brand Names

Courtesy of Internet Business Law Journal  by Naseem Javed

Last century business names were colorfully dressed with uniquely stylized lettering, colorful logos, slogans and contextual support. This century, such ‘stylized dependency’ has been pushed over the cliff by neo-socio-mobile-media-lingo. They’re stripped and typed in black and white text as soundbite-sized ‘bare naked words’, blending into chat lines alongside abbreviations and numbing-mumbo-jumbo. The majority of big name brands are losing their luster. Powerful imagery from the old newspaper era of double sized full page ads are replaced by typed words on small portable devices.

Can you identify the high maintenance big brand names on the following social media chats?

…just checked the wind at the mall, grand service but tag too high…

…I have no option but united, they would know where my real goodies are…

… no matter what, for me prime is the way to go before I try orange or wave…

…and then she gave me a rolex…

Highly distinct brand names like ‘Rolex’ or Panasonic are identifiable in any typed conversation while diluted names like ‘United’ ‘Premier’ ‘Orange’, ‘Wave’ ‘Wind’ disappear in the bursts of text making no sense, causing confusion and least building any distinct name identity. Camouflaged brand names are only going to end up invisible.

Today, the socio-mobile-lingo-depository is the fastest growing and the largest communication pool in the world. Tweeting, Facebooking, MySpacing, YouSmiling, MeWatching, YouListening or Linkedining, alike have transformed name brands into ‘typed lingo’.

The largest majority of the last century names do not fit the next generation digital platforms. If global socio-mobile marketing is mandatory for high level results, names must pass a ‘nudity-test': a name must be inserted into an everyday social media conversation and checked to see if it’s still identifiable or lost within the text. If it doesn’t, it provides instant proof why cash registers aren’t ringing and what’s killing all the potential sales.

Last century, when names with special styles of lettering appeared in full page ads, there was no need to clarify the meaning or connection of the name with the subject. ‘United Furniture’ with furniture arranged in shape of the letters, ‘United Logistics’ stylized with a large cargo ship or ‘United Bank’ with a monetary symbol and logo to create distinction. Everybody understood what was what.

Today, with some 250,000 different businesses around the world already using ‘United’ as a name brand, the typed word has to appear lost in the depths of the English dictionary. The name values and visibility for such style dependent names are dying on upstream and downstream social media.

In this socio-mobile-marketplace only the very small percentage of highly distinct names has a clear competitive advantage. Microsoft, Rolex and Panasonic are easily identifiable in any sentence, in any format without question.

Corporations are shy to face the nakedness of their own names. When the management of ‘United Logistics’ sees their name brand, they are so conditioned to first see the stylized logo, the slogan and the whole package, with a globe replacing the ‘o’ in the ‘logistics’, a tiny plane forming a circular line arching over the name and bold italic letters telling the fast dynamics of the logistic trade. Now try searching ‘united’ as an example on social media; it will demonstrate the instant erosion of a branded name identity.

Currently, studies show that the largest majority of business names are based on dictionary or geographic words followed by surnames and acronyms or initials. Less than 1% of business names are distinct and unique. While global ad expenditures are touching $700 Billion, why is this aspect of global naming complexity not on any syllabus at any of the MBA programs in the world? The question remains; what is the reason for this waste, and more importantly, who benefits from it?

After the massive success of social media, new domain name management platforms will further kindle huge fires up the major global branding and marketing services. A new stage is being set by ICANN the International Corporation of Assigned names & Numbers and their gTLD global top level domain name program, where name-centricity will drive the digital branding explosion. What should the brand owners do? Strip their business name clean of every support, attachment, and gimmick and assess the risk of them being lost in the crowd of common language. Without a professional name evaluation report the entire marketing and branding budget may be questionable.
A distinct name identity is what separates a name from a word; the stripped down identity test will prove this.

Naseem Javed, founder of ABC Namebank, is a globally recognized authority on corporate nomenclature and related issues of global naming complexities and especially market domination via name identity. He is a lecturer, syndicated columnist, and the author of Naming for Power.  www.abcnamebank.com

Use Storytelling Skills to Transform Your Web Content

Courtesy of PR NEWS.

By Stephen Terlizzi

Traditional PR approaches relied mostly on a well-defined network of contacts to whom you pitched news or an idea and some facts, and the reporter created a story. However, like that famous book about the moving cheese, many PR professionals are asking lately, “Who moved my reporter?”

As the economics of the information age have taken their full toll on the publishing industry, the “well-defined network of contacts” is looking more like a ghost town than a thriving metropolis. What’s key to remember is that these folks didn’t just disappear into thin air. Instead, many of the old school journalists have shifted and are now independent consultants who are writing for their own blogs and the Web sites of others.

The tables also have turned on traditional publications during the past 10 years, and they are now syndicating more content from major online sites. In today’s new ecosystem, a well-placed story in TechCrunch or GigaOM can have significantly more impact than any single article in a major local paper.

This means that if your company isn’t a major industry player, you shouldn’t expect to get much share of mind in a fast-paced digital world where everyone is competing for eyeballs—unless you have an exceptional story to tell.

Becoming the person who knows how to mesh “what will be published” with “writing what will be published” puts you in the perfect position to develop ready-to-go stories that will stand out from the digital noise bombarding online reporters, editors and bloggers. Let’s examine what makes a compelling story and how it translates to digital public relations.

Meet Both Needs
Regardless of the type of story, there are always two people in every story: the author and the reader. The author, or client, has a point to make while the reader wants to learn, be informed, entertained, amused, etc. An effective story meets the desires of both parties, whether it is written for an online audience or traditional media.

In the book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell, the author talks about three types of people that are critical to the success of any word-of-mouth initiative: connectors, mavens and salesmen. As you can image, the connectors connect, the mavens inform and the salesmen convince. I think it is an excellent analogy for the purpose of writing a PR story for a client—a story to promote, a story to envision or a story to validate.

Note the use of the word “or” in the last paragraph. You must write stories that have a single, simple objective and have simple elements, as online writing must be more direct and shorter. So focus on doing one of the three points well as opposed to doing none of them well. In today’s time crunched society, deliver the point succinctly and close the story. We are not writing Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

Stephen Terlizzi is the managing partner and head of the social media practice for Tanis Communications.

This article was adapted from PR News’ Digital PR Guidebook, Volume 4. This and other guidebooks can be ordered at the PR News Press online store.