Monday, August 29, 2011

Before You Give Away Creative Advice, Check Out the "Helping Friends Manifesto."

If you have a creative talent -- writing, website development, photography, marketing, design and layout, etc. -- chances are about 100% that friends and family sometimes say, "Do you think you could 'give me a hand with/just take a look at' [fill in the blanks]… "

You're a nice person and, of course, you want to help. But before you do, you might want to hand off a copy of the Helping Friends Manifesto (HMFM). Otherwise, after you freely share, you could hear any of the following:

1. I really like what you've done here. Can I make changes?
2. This is good. Could you give me the original file so I can play with it?
3. I don't like this font. Can we try some other choices?
4. Would you mind if I ran this by another friend who's a [pick one: marketer, writer, designer, web developer]?
5. Why did you put THAT, THERE?
6. I hate that picture.

The Helping Friends Manifesto
I'm flattered that you've asked me for help. Normally, I charge (quite a bit) for this type of work, but I can definitely get you started for free. I want this to be fun for both of us, so it might help if we set some ground rules.

1. If you have a concept in mind -- style, tone, appearance, layout, color, wording, headlines, copy, tagline, headers, font -- please share your thoughts before I begin. The more detail, the better.

2. If you don't have a concept in mind -- in other words, if you are a blank slate who is simply saying "I need a brochure" -- let's agree that you have come to me for my skill and experience, upon which it makes sense to rely.

3. In this project, I am taking the lead as expert. Agreed?

4. Does the following statement sound like something you might say? "I don't know what I want. I only know what I don't want." If this is true, please provide me a point-by-point list of what you don't want. Otherwise, I won't be able to help you with this project.

5. Does the following statement sound like something you might say? "I don't like it. I don't know why. I just don't like it." Please understand that, in the hands of a professional, creative choices are driven both by talent and by reason. I will be able to tell you why I made a certain choice, so -- in turn -- please be able to tell me why you think a particular choice won't work. Otherwise, please see #3, above.

6. Typically, my work includes one round of reasonable changes/alterations as part of the fee. Beyond that, I charge "x" dollar per hour. Therefore, while I can draft something for you and make one set of reasonable changes, a wholesale "makeover" is not part of the deal. Note: Time constraints related to my paying work make it essential that I assume the role of "decider" as to what's "reasonable." Agreed?

8. We are both free to say to one another, without rancor, "Let's give this a rest."

--scrubbed by MarketingBrillo



Thursday, August 25, 2011

What Keeps Them Awake At Night?

A colleague of mine in the PR business just picked up a client well-known and highly regarded in the direct mail business.

Since I'm editor of the monthly publication of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington and my colleague is putting an ad together for my sort of readers, he asked me:
What are the things that keep direct mailers awake at night?
What challenges has the economy posed for the industry?
Is anything changing in the world of premium fulfillment or personalized acknowledgements?

Here’s what I told my friend.

What keeps them awake at night?
• missed schedules
• bad/poorly performing mailing lists
• low ROI
• missing insertions
• rising paper costs
• losing their jobs

What has the economy done to them?
• made them afraid to mail and afraid to fail
• prompted them to pull back out of fear
• raised concerns that their customers/clients think direct mail no longer performs
• promoted the perception that direct mail is "old fashioned"
• turned competitive arguments vicious ("direct mail is dead," "direct mail hurts the environment," "digital is the new and only way to go," etc.)

What is current behavior in relationship to premiums and personalized CRM?

• notion that one-time premium snatchers don't bring return orders, so finding the sweet spot is paramount.
• personalized acknowledgements never go out of style, but they do cost money; thus, concern that the "niceties" can be dispensed with in response to dollar concerns.
• an increasing shift to social media, which is cheaper and can stand-in for personalized contact.

What would YOU add to this list?

-- scrubbed by MarketingBrillo

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tips for Marketing to the Uber Rich

Somehow I got on the mailing list of Bluefish.com, which kindly sent me an announcement of the new "Bluefish Concierge service" (a partnership with Citibank Bahrain). From this unlikely excursion, I landed at "Fish Food," the Bluefish blog. Swimming in this sea carries a hefty price.

What did I sample at Fish Food? The Buggatti family sedan, retailing for $1.42 million at the time of its release in fall 2012 .. a peek at the outside of several of the most expensive hotels in the world ... a gawk at a pair of $18,000 flip flops.

What the heck is going on here? Who needs this stuff and why? Maybe -- if you're a marketer -- you do. So I figured "Why not?" I, too, can blog about toys for the dripping rich.

Here are the pitch points I picked up at Fish Food.

Just A Few Left
Your prospect may want the Buggatti family sedan, but might not get one. Make sure he/she knows that "time is of the essence." Buggatti (owned by VW ... who knew?) expects to sell no more than 1,500 of the "Galibier" model. No, not just next year ... ever. So if you want one, hurry up.

Justifiable Extravagance
Your teenager isn't the only one wearing flip-flops. You gotta have 'em ... but $18,000 a pair? Well, sure, (I guess) if you can show customers how to simultaneously flaunt their bank accounts and save the Costa Rican rainforest. That's right, flop manufacturer Chipkos not only sells you the sandal, but throws in two-nights at the eco-friendly Beverly Hills Montage Hotel, a "meet and greet" with the flip-flop designer, and a guarantee to protect 100 square feet of rainforest. (How do they make any money on this utterly fab deal?)

Who's Who Becomes You
The Dorchester Collection is a group of 5-star luxury hotels in London, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Milan, and Paris. Only nine of these unique properties exist and you'd better duck because the names are dropping from every vaulted chandelier. Architect, designer and rumored cold fish Thierry W. Despont joins the more accessible friendlier food master, Wolfgang Puck, as notables responsible for the good life at 45 Park Lane, Dorchester's latest addition. Contributors to the other Dorchester hotels are no less renown.

Everybody Who's Anybody
World Cup 2014 is gonna be a blow-out. The Brazilians are building a 500-mile bullet-train railway from Sao Paul to Rio. Five-star hotels are sprouting like weeds, and even the famous Favela slums are getting a spiff. Bottom line: IF you're somebody, you will be there. End of pitch.

Because You Have Taste, Dammit
Ernest Shackleton trekked 25 cases of whiskey to Antarctica, some of which froze solid in the minus-22-degrees-Fahrenheit tundra. The Scottish whiskey is believed to have been bottled in 1896 and collectors crave it. If the cache goes on the open market -- like whiskey lovers believe it should -- the price could vault to hundreds of thousands dollars per bottle, not much for a swig of the real deal.

Because You Can
The iPhone 4 Lady Blanche made by Gresso costs $30,000. C'mon... this gadget is crystal encrusted (What!? You expected diamonds?) and tells time in New York, London, and Moscow. And, Gresso says it takes "several hundred hours of labor-intensive process" to make the Lady Blanche. (How do they make any money on this utterly fab deal?)

I'm sorry. Tummy hurting. Must be all that rich food, whisky, and 300 hours of minimum-wage intensive labor. I sincerely hope you have top drawer luck marketing to the rich. After all, they've earned it.

Haven't they?

-- scrubbed by MarketingBrillo

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Near Field Communications Are Near

NFC is the acronym for Near Field Communications. So what?

Put simply, near field communications (NFC) let devices (like cell phones) that are close to one another (like 4 inches apart) exchange information (like credit card numbers).

For those who find that too simple, here’s the real deal from Wikipedia: "Near field communication, or NFC, allows for simplified transactions, data exchange, and connections with a touch. Co-invented by NXP Semiconductors and Sony in 2002, NFC technology is being added to a growing number of mobile handsets to enable mobile payments, as well as many other applications."

NFC also has potential applications for instant file exchange, electronic business cards, mobile gaming , friend-to-friend connections, and, of course, electronic money. In fact, The New York Times reported yesterday that some states (California, Massachussets, Iowa, and District of Columbia) may be turning to online gambling to build revenues),

In January 2011, the tech blogs got all hot and sweaty about a rumor that the Apple iPad2 and iPhone5 would have NFC. By March, we knew that wasn’t going to happen, but when it does, some observes say it’s going to be huge. For example, MG Sigler at TechCrunch says, “If Apple can nail Near-Field Communication (NFC) and tie it directly into their already-established iTunes payment system, it could change everything. It could transform Apple from the biggest technology company in the world, to the biggest company in the world, period. By far.”

Also “coming soon,” Google Wallet (a mobile app that will “make your phone your wallet"), which, in partnership with Citibank, will let consumers “tap, pay, and save.”

NFC: What’s in your wallet?

Friday, August 12, 2011

What Can Home Invasion News Teach Us About Content Marketing? These Eight Realities.

Three months ago I conceived homeinvasionnews.com. The content strategy was three-fold:
1) demonstrate my ability to create content for any topic, including one with which I had no experience;
2) demonstrate the added value of content displayed in a dynamic format;
3) demonstrate the various formats in which content can be presented.

I was able to take Home Invasion News from concept to launch in 30 days. Since launch, I have been maintaining the site, adding new content daily. I will launch a PR push in the next few weeks, but the site is already ranking on page one of Google in a variety of home invasion related topics: news, statistics, safeguards, laws, etc.

Here's are eight realities that confirm the validity of the original three-point strategy:

1. Content development is about intelligent content curation. If you have a body of knowledge at your disposal, content will come. If you don't -- but if you know how to research on the Internet -- you will find all the content you need: statistics, expertise, opinion, case studies, definitions, and controversy for any topic, any project.

2. The best content adds something extra: A viewpoint, a sense of humor, a different take, an unusual way of presenting. In short, the best content starts with dry information and adds YOU.

3. How you present content makes all the difference. Give the reader/browser something extra to look at, chew on, think about. At Home Invasion News, this something extra would be the active layout of the homepage and the editorial point of view.

4. Specialized infographics can play a key role. The top menu bar of the site features "Faces of Home Invasion." That link jumps to an interactive graphic used to publicize the site through press releases.

5. Video has a place. In the case of HIN, limitless video is free for the asking and we embed it everywhere. Most any topic you can think of has related video somewhere on the Internet. Most of it is free and easy. Figure out how to use it and do so.

6. RSS feeds are good -- both for content curation and for readers' viewing pleasure. HIN features a feed based on the term "home invasion." The feed is continuous and it creates great fodder for daily consumption, as well as background for the "top story" weekly blog post.

7. Content curation sites like Scoop-It help track national stories. For some sites (like HIN), linking to your Scoop-It site on a separate page makes for solid, in-the-moment content. [Tip: You can set up Scoop-It to make sure your own site is first on this feed.]

8. Understanding the various e-media possibilities -- video, slideshows, webinars. etc. -- helps guide content development. For example, we recognize that -- as resources grow -- interviews and podcasts are a natural progression in the Home Invasion News effort.

A final thought: Sites like WriterAccess aggregate a pool of writers looking for content development projects. The last time I checked, WriterAccess had 3,800 writers signed on. Perhaps this model creates work for journalists closed out in the newspaper shrinkage. I certainly hope so. In any event, WriterAccess is a huge step up from content sweatshops I wrote about awhile back. On the other hand, lining up with 3,800 other writers feels a bit like trying to land a job -- or locate a Chief Marketing Officer -- on MONSTER (not that there's anything wrong with that :-)

-- scrubbed by MarketingBrillo

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Caving In" and Seven Sub-Trends for the Middle Class

In the process of writing a post about demographic trends among seniors, I came across this article that appeared in Psychology Today about a year ago. The writer describes "The Villages," a middle-of-nowhere place in Florida that now houses some 80,000 baby-boomer escapists who have left everything behind: children, traffic, government interference, taxes, and noise.

What the article doesn't say is that, in a harsher reality, these runaway grey panthers are actually trying to hang on to what they've got (and think they are about to lose) in a crashing economy. In short, these folks have "caved in."

I think there's a clue in here for the psychology of the middle class in the post-housing/debt ceiling fiasco. "Caving In" means playing it safe, controlling your environment, keeping what you have, hunkering down, being watchful, and "holding it close." "Caving in" incorporates seven lifestyle sub-trends that also reflect new economic realities.

1. Trend To the Familiar
Family, Family, Family
Community Support Systems
Family Live-Togethers
Neighborhoods

2. Trend To Cheap
Coupons
Rent the Runway et al
Recycling
Refurbishing

3. Trend To Unplanned, Close-by, and Contained
Parks and Free Events
Road Trips
Neighborhoods
Spontaneous community events
lastminute.com
Local, Local, Local

4. Trend Away from Technology
Nature
Food
Quiet
Soothing
Intimate
Art and Design
Crafts

5. Trend to Animals
Pets as Companions and Family Members
Animal Charities
Vegetarian lifestyles

6. Trend to Social Anonymity
What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas
Cruise Ships

7. Trend to Distrust
Angie's List
Customer Reviews (Yelp)
Facebook and Friend Referrals

There is, of course, a counterpoint to "caving in." That would be "busting out." For more about that, check out this great post on the London riots.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Can Technology Kill Direct Marketing?

Yesterday, I spotted a question on LinkedIn's Direct Mail Group from Mark Zazeela, mailing and shipping consultant in the Greater New York City area.

Marc was pondering what the rest of us are almost afraid to think about: Technology Overload.

Marc said, "I have been reading and hearing a lot of people talking about how difficult it is becoming to keep up with everything. You've got a million emails in your inbox, about half are SPAM, you've got your Twitter stream to manage, Facebook keeps popping up on your screen, and then there's LinkedIn, and now Google +. How do you think this will affect the direct marketing industry in the months and years to come?"

Well, Marc, as I commented, that's a good question. And, unfortunately, I think the issue goes much deeper than many of us want to acknowledge; in short, can technology, in general, kill direct marketing as we know it.

For starters, I think the bludgeoning of technology is a lot bigger than a crammed email inbox (as if that weren't enough). And small businesses -- the presumed economic backbone of a troubled economy -- are getting hit the hardest. For example:

• Apple's new "Lion" operating system reportedly won't work with QuickBooks 2010, a mainstay of many small business operations.
• And then there's Adobe's brutal restyling of FinalCutPro, which has left the majority of small business video and independent film makers in the lurch.
• I also hear that some apps for the iPad are going out of operation almost as fast as iPad OS upgrades are released.
• And then there is the sky-rocketing cost of hi-speed Internet. Our failing Congress may not recognize it as such, but to a small business, Internet is akin to electricity and water.

I wish it were possible to predict how this will affect the direct marketing industry. Up to now, technology has actually enabled many small business enterprises to compete in an increasingly fused economy. As the fusion is strained by technology evolution, how will small print shops, list brokers, design companies, copywriters, website developers, and all the small business support systems for direct marketing cope? Who will care?

One Verizon customer who found a $4.19 charge on her bill and asked Verizon for an itemization of the charges. They said they wouldn't do that and told her, essentially, to shut up and go away. She took them to court, where the judge agreed the Verizon practice of billing without explanation was outrageous. Either give the customer her itemization of charges or face a $1,000 fine, the judge said.

Sadly, as satisfying as that example of Customer v. Big Technology is, those stories are a drop in the bucket. In the meantime, we keep up as best we can, understanding that -- for the most part -- small businesses are all in this mess together. Maybe there's some way we can help one another. Thoughts?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo