Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What If There WERE No New Customers? Dance With the One That Brung Ya.

Marketing legend Roger Craver opened last Thursday’s Fundraising Success Virtual Conference with this question: What If There Were No New Donors? Roger figured the solution would be to start loving the donors you have.

His longer message (found here) advised marketers to focus on retention and other strategies to make current customers/donors feel special. In other words, Dance With the One That Brung Ya.

Roger’s point adds up to the second time today that CUSTOMER SERVICE has blared across the marketing radar.

This morning I tweeted a terrific little article titled “Twenty customer care actions that build sales.” None of the recommended behaviors is new or surprising. Yet, how many of these “must-dos” actually get done?

Marketers can do better.

Maybe you believe the economy will recover or maybe you don’t. Whichever: You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose by shifting resources to the folks who already do business with you.

More thoughts on shifting marketing attention to customers:

• On June 2, 1to1 Media is offering a free webinar, Using Customer Intelligence as a Strategic Weapon. Note: This is about customer intelligence, not acquisition.

Marketing Vox reports that -- if Facebook advertisers revolt against privacy intrusions of their customers -- the money drain could cripple Facebook. Maybe Facebook will walk away with a slight limp, but if a monster this big can be brought down, well... what does that say about the rest of us?

Harvard Business Review has advice for online communities. All deal with customer initiatives.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Can We Ignore Somebody on Social Media and Get Away With It?

Many months ago I started following a popular blogger. It was back in the early days of Twitter and, like me at the time, he didn’t have many followers. We struck up a sort of collegial online relationship. Some time later, he told me I was one of the first people to ever leave a comment on his blog. Over the months, I’ve retweeted him many times and I’ve watched my “friend’s” following grow … really grow. He has over 10,000 followers now.

This week he blogged on a topic that interested me so I retweeted him and also left a comment on his blog post. But a funny thing happened.

Though my colleague thanked a slew of people for RT-ing him, he left me off the thank-you list. And, although I wrote a thoughtful comment, he reached out to the commenters above and below me, but never mentioned my contribution. That’s two “oversights,” which is one too many.

I still think this guy has interesting stuff to say and his tweets are great. I’ll probably continue to follow him (probably), but now – when I see him across the room – I won’t see a friend. I’ll see somebody on a business mission. Through my social media glasses he looked like a colleague I knew personally, but I was wrong.

All this got me to thinking about social media generally, and corporate social media in particular. Are we raising our customers' expectations too high? Are we promising something that Dunbar's Number will never allow us to deliver?

Marketers have been groomed to expect something different (more personal) from social media than from other business transactions. The experts keep telling us that social media is a “conversation,” that it’s about “feedback” and “commentary” and “interaction.”

If that’s the expectation we’re raising with customers and “fans," we’d better live up to it, because – on social media -- I've learned that it only takes a missed heartbeat for people to see us differently.

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Writers, take heart. Business needs you.

Arianna had a great post on April 26 "Huffington Post" titled "Not All Jobs Are Created Equal: Why Wall Street's Gain Has Been America's Lost."

It’s little consolation to be reminded that the middle class has disproportionately lost jobs in this recession -- or to realize that among the hardest hit are professionals associated with the publishing industry, particularly writers and editors. This highly competitive marketplace is squeezing everybody and writers are in a frontline ringer.

However …

… the same economy that has dumped print publications wholesale also is scrambling for solid "content" on an explosion of websites, blogs, social media like Twitter, and online newsletters. Business needs you now, more than ever. If you’re freelance, all the better. Cash strapped organizations need help from creatives equipped to work part-time and off-site.

The trend to contract work opens opportunities for not only writers, but also editors (superb at content aggregation), designers (to make all the social media “look good”), and – especially – folks who know their way around a camera and video editing software.

To find work, you’ll need to do three things: a) help businesses pinpoint their need b) demonstrate how you can be of service c) get the pricing right.

New, but not new, right?

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Machine generated content Is Here. Big Whoop. Real writers are safe.

A provocative little article appeared in the April 29 issue of Businessweek. The magazine was reporting on Narrative Science, a five-month-old company in Evanston, IL, that specializes in “machine-generated content.” Businessweek challenged readers to decide which of three sentences was written by the Narrative Science computer, and which were written by a human being.

At first glance I couldn’t tell whether I was reading man or machine. The pertinent information and facts appeared in all three versions. Even the verbs were snappy, like the copy a sports writer might produce (sports writers are some of the most brilliant practitioners of the art). Still, I felt confident that -- if I thought about the content of what I was reading -- I could make the right pick. I did.

The giveaway? This machine can write competently, but it can't pull in the little "extras" that characterize what a writer brings to the story. Sports Hal doesn't understand that Iowa "dropped the finale." He has no idea that Ray Fisher Stadium is "historic." In short, Sports Hal can string facts together, but he has no idea how to contribute thoughtful observations or place facts into a larger context (at least not yet). Narrative Science is "just the facts, ma'am."

Don't misunderstand, please. I admire, applaud, and pay due respect to Narrative Science. In fact, this company surely is amazing. But as a writer, I came away from the test relieved and reminded once again what real writers do, namely: think, entertain, clarify, provoke, and link us into something larger.

Alexander A. Pyles, sports writer, points to the perfect example in his reaction to sports-by-computer when he says, “Ever read Hunter S. Thompson’s account of the 1970 Kentucky Derby? It’s widely considered some of the best sports writing in American history and includes nary a mention of the race itself. Think a computer could do something like that?”

Surprisingly, I found precious little on the Internet about Narrative Science. Their website lands on a “contact” page and only a few references to the company show up on Google.

Chris Biondi, manager of newsroom development at GateHouse News Service, uncovered a bit more in his post, most particularly a peek at the “full story, not bylined, but “Powered by Narrative Science.” Biondi concurs with Pyle in saying, “You can read a lot into a story like this and imagine how it may affect our industry. But the answer to Businessweek's compelling headline - "Are Sportswriters Really Necessary?" - is clearly, yes, as are writers who cover crime, health and business.”

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Four Practical Reasons Your Business Needs A Facebook Fan Page

I’m not a not a heavy Facebook user. In fact, I both dislike and worry about Facebook as a personal communication choice. Still…I did set up a fan page for Marketing Brillo over a year ago.

At the time, I didn't know what I was doing or even why I was doing it. But -- as a marketing professional -- I did understand that I would be able to learn certain things about social media only in the doing.

Very recently I found myself seeking out corporate Facebook pages during research. That helped me understand the important differences – and advantages – that characterize Facebook in the social media arena.

1. Pretty much everybody knows what Facebook is and how to use it – no instructions required. Facebook says 400 million active users spend 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/press/info.php?statistics

2. People are accustomed to talking to one another on Facebook, so they’ll talk to you, too. They chat, leave little comments, get friendly with strangers, feel right at home. There’s no other stopping place where exchange happens in quite the same way or to the same degree. Not your website; not Twitter; not email; not LinkedIn, not anything. For chitter-chattering, Facebook beats ‘em all.

3. Facebook adds a personality to your corporate name and a “who” to your brand. Advertising does that, too… but advertising costs a lot. Lil olFacebook offers no better way – at least not yet -- to communicate corporate culture. Who’s stopping by, what sorts of comments are people making, how are you responding? Do you have a sense of humor, are you genuine and open, are you approachable, are you sincere? Only Facebook knows (and shows) for sure.

4. Increasingly, Facebook fan pages are where people go to sniff you out. Websites may contain much of the same “information” as a fan page, but – for millions of daily users -- no other spot has the same familiar "look" as Facebook. Everybody feels comfortable checking you out -- your employees, their families and friends, prospective employees, past and retired employees – plus all of the above in the customer category.

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