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February 29, 2008

Whipped Cream on Meatballs

I don’t know if it has to be all or nothing. Why can’t you have whipped cream on meatballs, Seth?

Can traditional marketing concepts live in peaceful coexistence with new marketing and the 2.0 era?

What happens if you have customers that live in both worlds? Viral videos on U-tube are viewed by a few senior citizens (my brother sends me URL’s all the time), but I also believe those same senior citizens are influenced by traditional marketing campaigns more.


OK, this is all about Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out Of Sync?, the newest from Seth Godin. It has had some pretty positive press since being released right at the turn of the year. Plus, if it was written by Seth Godin, it must to be the hottest sage advice to be followed by faithful new marketeers.

But I am not swayed all the way to abandon the sundaes yet. Meatballs are old fashioned business in the metaphorical world and the sweet appealing ice cream is representative of the new ways our internet-fueled universe has enabled marketing to be performed (especially to certain market segments). No value system driving the metaphor, just the facts mam.

Supposedly you have to revamp your old stodgy marketing function if you want to play in the new marketing sand box. That is the part I don’t swallow – I must have choked on the cherry or the nuts. Yes, of course you must embrace new marketing principles. I am beating on my clients every day of the week to build better web channel strategies. But I don’t think you have to rewrite everything else. This is a baby and bath water situation.

The web is a channel. It is a growing channel. For a few businesses it is the only channel. But the far majority of companies being run on the face of our planet rely on more than one channel, and the web strategy needs to integrate with those, not necessarily the other way around.

I believe it is fine to have a web strategy that integrates with a more traditional direct mail strategy. Two channels are better than one. Having two channels that are well integrated is even better. Go build your web strategy and connect it to how you reach your customers with standard campaigns, partners, and your field force. Think about how web impressions can enhance the other channels. But don’t feel like you are a Luddite just because you still want sales people to talk to customers live.

Hold the chocolate, I’ll take Worcestershire Sauce over my whipped cream

February 22, 2008

Hail To The Chief

We spent the Presidents’ Day holiday week nestled at the base of the Presidential Range, while the presidential race was raging in the sound bites at 11. It all seemed pretty appropriate.

On more than one occasion over the course of the week we went to top of those mountains named after our founding father figures. Most of the time we paid for the privilege to ride to the top in high-speed comfort, but we did scale one of those peaks using shoes made for snow travel.

The journey was good, and we were ready. We had the tools, we had the experience, we had a path, and we had the motivation to get to the top. At times we considered turning around and going back.

But we kept going. The driver was the reward at the end of the journey (we actually had a few reward expectations – a really nice view, a sense of accomplishment, and a strong desire to see where the path actually went). Some times I had to convince my climbing partner to keep going, using colorful reminders of the expected rewards.

The journey required effort, which we were not in complete understanding of at the beginning. Once again, we did not truly know where the path went, but we bet on the fact that it would lead to the desired rewards.

You might see where this is all going by now – CRM sure is like scaling a mountain – the ends justify the means. The preparation for the journey was significant, with a number of factors driving the success:

- get clear on the end-state and keep it clearly in mind;
- set expectations with all involved using a path or plan;
- get agreement to make the effort, even with some unknowns; and
- be ready for the journey with the right resources.

It was a very rewarding journey.


February 15, 2008

If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Paris

It was one of those trips. 12 days, 6 hotels, 5 Countries. They happen on a regular basis. Cross the big pond and visit as many clients as the sales reps can squeeze in. This was a particularly rough version of the usual excursion with irritable customs agents, 5:00 AM taxis, and food poisoning. But I catch myself whining, which is not my intention here.

The interesting part was the client visits. As it turns out, if you go to London, where a dinner costs as much as my parents’ mortgage payment, you will hear about the same thing you hear in Pittsburgh, something about needing to generate leads. Rotterdam conversations sound just like those in Boston, better ways to get management alignment. What I have heard in Chicago previously, discussions around leveraging the web for CRM, has resemblances to conversations while just in Dublin. We got the same stuff going on at each side of the Atlantic.

Customers demand the same things. We all have customers and we all have to do similar things to be successful with them. It was a hard set of travel days, especially the food poisoning (and from a client’s cafeteria, too!), but it was an affirming set of client visits. It feels like we are making progress out there

By following the best practices that have been established over the last decade and standing by the principles that have been built repeatedly from effective CRM programs, I believe we can replicate success across borders and time zones. Although, a translator can be helpful at times - some Dutch terms just don’t convert to English easily.


February 08, 2008

You Have Mail

I am amazed what an e-mail can accomplish. Back in the 80’s when e-mail became the communication medium of choice it was very easy to get into difficulties. The angry reply with too many people on the cc list was the typical culprit. I sent my share. We have all improved that skill over time.

But it also amazes me how much business is actually conducted over e-mail now, especially business development. It is mostly informal, ultra fast, amazingly efficient, but, more and more, surprisingly effective.

Recently a customer of mine moved his Rolodex into his CRM Contacts and started sending out periodic e-mail blasts with updates regarding what was going on within his company and the marketplace. No creative, no graphics, just some pertinent information that was shared in a conversational tone. About 10% of those outbound messages regularly turn into meetings, which then lead to some kind of meaningful business. Marketing execs would kill to achieve that kind of lift. I think he is a genius.

Slow and Steady

What amazes me even more is how many companies ignore the e-mail channel for reaching their prospects and customers. Yes, I understand that there is too much spam. I am not talking about e-mail blasts that offer me opportunities for appendage extension; I am talking about legitimate sharing of information and offers that connect businesses with their customers. When was the last time you sent out information that updated your customers on a better way to reach your service center or changes in market conditions that could impact their thinking? You don’t have to write a big newsletter! But you can reach a lot of people with a few key strokes in a way that could have big impact.

You do have to offer some value, however. And you also need to know the e-mail addresses of the contacts you hope to reach. This latter requirement does not have to be a big deal. Recently one of my clients declared that it would be too hard for them to gather e-mail addresses for their purchasing customers. To the contrary, and with a small bit of investigating we discovered they already had access to a significant percentage, and had daily contacts that could allow them to capture the majority of their accounts within a few months – and with no appreciable extra effort. What it (collecting e-mail addresses) does require is to make the decision that this invaluable customer data element is captured and stored as a standard component of the customer or account record. No big deal, just make the decision and make it policy. Just stop making excuses for why it can’t be done.

And another thing - if you think your customers don’t use e-mail, you are most likely wrong. They do, they like it, and they are increasingly finding that they can’t work in any other way. Stop buying envelopes and stamps since they are too expensive, too slow, and more than likely getting thrown away (please recycle!).

February 03, 2008

Keep Going

I guess the lesson from Super Sunday is that perfection is an illusive target. There are obstructions that are certain to get in the way, not the least of which is yourself. When you fall short of such an ambitious endeavor it is pretty hard to feel satisfied with coming close.

Many of my clients began CRM journeys with expectations just as outrageous. Coming up short was a bitter pill to swallow for most of them. In sports you get to take off six months and start over the next season, probably with some changes to the team. Business folks go back to work on Monday morning.

Setting goals and working toward them each month and each quarter is our business. When we don’t achieve the targets we adjust, work harder, sometimes set different goals, sometimes identify different actions. Setting reasonable expectations is part of the key to success. To not lose is probably not a great expectation.

If you don’t achieve what you are looking for within your CRM program, keep going. Look back at times, if it provides some insight. But, most of all, keep moving toward the goal. The journey is worth it.

Sheepscot Rainbow II