Friday, February 26, 2010

Internal Communications and the Olympics

In 1996, I worked at a large international accounting firm’s Atlanta office in the Marketing Department, where we produced the internal communications newsletter.   We developed some pretty original and impressive content in those days.  One of my favorites was this co-authored article about all employees who had participated in the Olympics—or were training to do so. 

My colleague and I interviewed employees all over the world to share their stories.  Here’s a screenshot of the final result:

aa-newsletter-olympics (Note: We had a team of awesome designers as you can see, and I don’t think the word “budget” was mentioned. Ah, the good old days!)

The point here really is  . . . Any event that draws people together, such as The Olympics, makes for excellent reporting at the micro-level in any organization.  Did your employees attend or participate?  Capture their stories, even in a small profile section.  Hold a contest for the best photo.  Ask employees to submit recommendations for a top 10 list.  The possibilities for employee engagement in content creation are endless. 

Although I can’t take credit for the original topic idea, it’s a great example of how a company can make its communications meaningful and personal—thereby creating interest and connection in the workplace.  That energy, excitement, and involvement is what’s missing in a lot of company newsletters--and corporate communications.  If you don’t believe me, ask Steve Crescenzo.  That guy is the Jack Bauer of employee engagement w/ internal communications.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lean Services Marketing

Just a quick post here for small businesses in B-to-B services.  Regardless of your knowledge of (or initial interest in) Lean, you can use some key questions to tighten up your service delivery. Why is this important? On-target marketing and delivery of services translates to less costs, increased revenue via more focus on the customer, and more fulfilled employees.  That’s what I’ll help you with here.

First, a brief intro to the concept of waste.  Waste is defined as “any activity that uses resources, but creates no value for the customer” by Natalie J. Sayer and Bruce Williams* in Lean for Dummies.  There are 7 ways that waste manifests in manufacturing companies: transportation, waiting, overproduction, defects, inventory, movement, and extra processing.  Here, we’ll just look at preventing the types of waste that relate to marketing and delivering  services, primarily overproduction, extra processing, and inventory.

To deliver and market B-to-B services efficiently, the small business owner should ask the following questions to reduce waste:

1. Am I producing more (volume) or more options than my clients want? (Even at the proposal stage.)

2. Am I producing deliverables sooner than they need them?

3. What quality levels are required by the clients/customers?

4. What quantity of deliverables/materials do they require? 

5. What materials/deliverables can be re-purposed into something that clients value?

6. Is there anything that needs packaging/promoting to create value in the clients’ minds? 

With the answers to these questions, you can begin to plan with greater efficiency and make better use of your time and resources while ensuring you are meeting client needs.   That, after all, is the benefit and goal of eliminating waste.   


*Bruce spoke last month at an ABPMP-Phoenix event.  This link contains his bio and information about Business Transformation Through IT, co-sponsored by ASU’s WP Carey School of Business’ MSIM Department.  To learn more about our local chapter of the Association for Business Process Management Professionals, visit our website.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Will My Blog Get More Hits if I Write About Tiger Tonight?

I’m just curious.  In all seriousness, Peter Shankman has a post tonight about Tiger and his pseudo-press conference tomorrow.  It says all the things about Tiger that I’ve been hearing from other, albeit less famous people, all week.  And the post does a great job of getting a helluva lot of “Tigers” into one, er, den. 

What I really like about the post is the comments—to hear what an awfully lot of PR, crisis communications, journalists, and all-around (mostly) bright people are saying.  Even if they are link junkies.  (That’s not a slam. I am writing about Tiger and I’m not a journalist,  sports media person, or avid golf-watcher, although I like the sport and my mom is a Tiger fan).  

So that you don’t have to sift through the comments (and I wonder sometimes if anyone reads them or they are just there for the main post), here are my favorite good/original ones:

1.  Jonathan Bernstein tells his crisis management clients:  “ . . . no ‘spin’ in the world will save their reputation if they don’t stop doing the things that got them criticized in the first place.” I love this.  I tell friends, family, colleagues, anyone who will listen that companies who spend a boatload on marketing and then turn around and treat their employees poorly might as well light that money on fire. (Maybe that’s a non-sequitur but at least it’s in the spirit of spirited advice-giving?)

2. “America loves reformed celebrity addicts,” says Jenna Petroff.  So well said, and good for you for linking your comment to your Twitter profile, Jenna.  I’m following you now. I like good burgers too.

3. Sheila Sheley and her marketing cohorts offered this formula: “Tiger wins golf tournaments + Tiger gets airtime = sponsors want Tiger.”

Any I missed? What do you think of these comments?  Wanna talk about Tiger? Weigh in!

P.S. Please don’t make me continue poaching comments about stuff that’s trending for blog posts.  It’s really not as fun as (although it is a bit easier than) developing original content.  I guess I am the hyena feasting on the scraps of the tiger’s kill. :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Firing Customers: Why and How

Those of us in professional services or B-to-B services have no doubt encountered less-than-desirable customers.  Many articles and books have been written about firing those clients. (I came up with 1,540,000 results for Google with the keywords “firing clients.”)  Here is just a sampling of results worth mentioning:

  1. 1. Inside CRM: Top 10 Ways to Fire the Client From Hell.  Despite the irreverent title, this article plainly describes the type of situations a B-to-B and/or services company might encounter, from “penny-pinchers” to “unreliable” to “abusive” clients.  Sad but true, they do exist.
  2. Duct Tape Marketing: What’s the Best Way to Fire a Client.  Although the article is more about tactical execution, and I’m not a fan of raising fees as a tactic, this post acknowledges that “sometimes the best thing you can do is let a client go.”
  3. U.S. News & World Reports: You Don't Need the Aggravation: When to Fire a Client.  Many of the same points above made but backed  by national media and with a succinct summary of results: “bad clients may lead to all kinds of trouble, like low employee morale and the inability to adequately service good clients and find more profitable accounts.”
  4. Fire Your Bad Clients.  Again, national media backing the concept, this time invoking the 80/20 rule. 
  5. Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails. This is a book by Scott McKain and although I haven’t read it, he has published an informative article on Why You Should Fire (Some of) Your Customers.  Herein, he recommends who to keep and who to discard by category (very helpful!) and  smartly states: “We spend more time than we really have to give pleasing a customer we never should have solicited in the first place.”

A future post will highlight alternatives to firing clients for B-to-B service providers. Stay tuned or sign up to get feeds.

P.S. For independent PR people, I just found this excellent industry-specific post on SoloPR from guest blogger Heather Whaling of Geben Communication.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Superbowl 2010 Ads: Part 1

Once again, the Superbowl ads were not (overall) as effective and entertaining as they have been historically.  (See last year’s post.)Therefore, many of my picks are really just the best of the mediocre. 

Caveat: I’m only considering ones I saw and could hear well  for products and services we buy directly (not TV shows, movie trailers, nonprofit organizations, causes, public service announcements, government activities, etc.).  I also don’t include products that are bad ideas and ads with overly flawed logic (to be discussed in a Part Two on this topic).

Here are my picks:

  1. Mars’ Snickers ad was both relevant and hard-hitting (pun intended) with the tagline “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”  You as Betty White playing football=good call.  The Snickers candy bar is doing a good job of competing with the other categories for solving hunger and energy issues for active Americans: granola bars, PowerBars, and energy drinks.  Nice positioning.
  2. Monster has developed a brand as the cool job search website for the underdog.  At a time when unemployment rates are ridiculous, companies can pick and choose from pools of over-qualified applicants, and recent grads struggle to get jobs, it’s a weird to advertise such an empowered, er, workforce via a furry woodland creature aspiring to greatness and escaping his habitat.   The ad itself (Beaver turned Violinist) makes the list for creativity and consistency with branding efforts, although I’m conflicted about the message.
  3. Doritos: I do like that they held a contest and let the people make the commercials.  Great way to involve your brand advocates and attract more like them.  There were 3 that I saw, but my pick is “Doritos Kid Slaps Mom’s Date.”   Who doesn’t like the idea of kids being protective of their moms?  This kind of role reversal bodes well for women who do the grocery shopping. 
  4. E-trade babies, of course, make the list.  They’ve got the formula down with their two ads: “Girlfriend” (aka Milk-a-holic) and “Tears” (aka He’s Eating the Lobster Too). We’ll see how long the formula will last, but I predict we’ll have only one more year of babies.  I imagine their market is 95% men based on their ads.  A savvy competitor need only go for the women.  Who will step up? 
  5. BudLight delivers a consistent message with their ads’ tagline “Here We Go.” With synth voices, a house of beer, and a spoof on Lost, it’s clear that where there’s BudLight, there’s a party.  Priorities (and privacy) be damned.

For Part Two of Superbowl Ads 2010 covering what didn’t work and why . . . see the comments to this post.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gorillas, Guns, & Tumors, or Do You Need an Industry Expert?

Occasionally I meet the small business owner who wants to hire an industry expert, or someone who specializes in their industry, to do their marketing.   While I won’t go into all the strongly held positions on both sides here, I heard this program on NPR yesterday that seemed to make a good case for “fresh perspective.” 

The program is called Guns, Tumors And The Limits Of The Human Eye by Alix Spiegel. It is about how human ability to detect certain things (i.e., weapons in luggage and tumor in breast tissue) is decreased over time when the sought-after things are not found frequently.

One of the most eye-opening (pardon the pun) tidbits for me was from Kyle Cave, a cognitive researcher at Amherst University.  The program states “Cave says there's not yet a definitive answer [to whether well-trained, full-time experts in non-lab-environments will miss what they seek often], but he points to a famous research study from the 1970s. In that study, people were trained for weeks on end to look for certain letters in the alphabet among a garble of letters. Eventually, says Cave, they came to be incredibly good at it.”

The pr0gram goes on to explain that it even became hard for those subjects to ignore the letters they were trained to find when they were simply reading.  (Read the full article or listen to NPR’s program for the details.)  Lots of implications here for training and for diversification of work.  For me, if I don’t continuously seek out new interactions and possibilities, I risk providing the same solutions because I am prone to seeing the same problems. Essentially, any client would become Everyclient.  And I don’t want that!

Another consideration: If you’ve ever seen a video where you were told to count the number of times a basketball is passed, only to be asked at the end a strange question about what you saw, you know that focusing on one thing might result in missing something.  (That video was produced by the University of Illinois Visual Cognition Lab.) The same might be said for the industry expert. 

This is the reason I don’t specialize in an industry. I’d rather stay sharp by looking at small businesses individually.  Then, from working with small businesses’ varied challenges, I can leverage solutions from other disciplines to help my marketing clients differentiate and innovate. 

I’m interested in hearing others’ opinions on these matters. Please share your experiences and scientific knowledge or your take on the value of industry expertise.