December 3, 2019

Seven terms they didn’t teach you in budgeting school.

budgeting meme from elfIt’s budget season, y’all.  This means many of you are armed – or are scrambling to get armed – with that pristine, oh-so-buttoned-up spreadsheet that will guide your marketing spend choices for 2020.  And while it may be pretty and precise enough for your mom to put on her refrigerator, there’s only one thing that should matter to you:  is it sound and will it work?

Here’s how you can ensure that it is and it does:  be aware of the silent – but often deadly – influences that shaped the foundation for your choices.  Here are seven vital budgeting terms that will help you evaluate your budget’s potential for success with a realistic eye:

The Plus Ones.  Marketing plans and budgets have history, and the longer the business has been operating, the more opportunity for a budget to be sabotaged by plus ones.  These are things invited to be on the budget by someone else – perhaps someone who was in your shoes years ago, or perhaps YOU years ago, when you had different priorities or goals.  They are not relevant to the current marketing party you’re planning, but it’s the path of least resistance to keep them…and maybe even bend your plan a bit to accommodate them, even if that’s not really the best move for your goals?  Tip:  identify your plus ones and if they aren’t a good fit, show ‘em the door.

Shiny New Toy Syndrome.  Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I watched a tactic, initiative, or direction get added to a plan/budget because someone in charge (of marketing or of the company) read an article or attended a workshop at a conference on a hot new “thing” emerging in marketing.  “THIS IS THE COOLEST THING EVER AND WILL SOLVE ALL OUR PROBLEMS!” Er, no.  It won’t.  Because Shiny New Toy Syndrome is cousin to Get Rich Quick Syndrome and Lose Weight Fast Syndrome, and we all know how THOSE work out.   There is a place for adding shiny new toys to your efforts, but unless you integrate them properly into your overall plan and – in many cases – adapt your entire culture to make them a success, they’ll just throw your money and time out the window.  Shiny new toys just don’t work when you dabble.

The Invisible Sledgehammer.  There’s no line item called “time” on your spreadsheet, but it’s an invisible force best not overlooked.  Lack of time to do things properly has destroyed the effectiveness of many immaculate budgets.  For each line item on your budget, do you have enough staff/time/bandwidth to perform research, decision-making, planning, setup, execution, follow-through, evaluation, and evolution?  Because if not, you should reduce the number of tactics you’re planning, and redirect those funds into the remaining ones.  You’ll see a greater ROI both short- and long-term with this choice.

Half-Pregnant.  A spreadsheet of tactics and costs is only half the picture, and yet I can’t tell you how often I ask new clients – sometimes multimillion-dollar businesses – for their marketing plan and get handed a spreadsheet, full stop.  Folks, this is “half-pregnant” … it ain’t gonna give you that ROI baby you so deeply desire.  You need marketing goals (aligned with your business goals), and a thoughtful strategy to achieve them, carefully selected for the purpose, and integrated to produce results.  A spreadsheet just details how you’re going to pay for it all.

Approval Purgatory This one’s not easy to combat because its origins vary dramatically by business (too many cooks, indecisive owner, cumbersome process, etc.), but there’s a good chance that several tactics within your plan/budget won’t move forward because no final decision will be made…and you probably know this in your heart from the get-go. Approval purgatory is the bane of a plan/budget’s existence because 1) you waste an absurd amount of time talking about things with no resolution, 2) stuff sits on your budget/plan falsely creating an expectation of results, and 3) these items weigh you down by injecting negativity into the mix AND distracting you from focusing on the good stuff.  Tip:  scratch items likely doomed to approval purgatory off your list.  When they’re ready for baking, I guarantee they’ll resurface on their own.

JOMO.  You’ve heard of FOMO?  How about you embrace JOMO, the Joy of Missing Out?  You can’t do it all… truly, you can’t.  Your budget probably isn’t unlimited.*  So if you try to cram too many things into your plan/budget, you’ll end up scattering all your resources for little ROI.  Tip:  deliberately choose to NOT do certain things, until you can devote the labor and financial bandwidth to do them properly.  You will not go out of business by doing fewer things well, and you will be pretty giddy at the success that comes from deeply harnessing the power of the tactics you choose to deploy. Choose wisely, for sure, but I hereby bless you to strike a bunch of stuff from your plan AND FEEL GREAT ABOUT IT.

Initiative Envy (healthy & unhealthy).  It’s healthy – and smart – to look at what your competitors and colleagues are doing in marketing, and to evaluate if such things could benefit your business as well.  It’s not that you identically copy their effort, but rather, you see how well an initiative is performing for them and you explore the use of that tool for your own purposes.  What’s UNHEALTHY – and yet happens sooooo often – is adding an initiative or tactic to your mix (summarily and without strategic thought) just because a competitor is doing it…and you don’t want them to have an edge on you.  If your competitor is getting tons of press (for example), that’s not your must-do cue to go out and hire a PR firm.  Your business culture and operation may not be currently well-suited to handle a PR effort, and therefore, without adaptation, you’ll be disappointed in the results.  So, be thoughtful:  get ideas from what others are doing, but don’t automatically assume those things will work well for you too.

Lastly… a bonus tip, pulled from our way-back blog archives, but still as true as ever today.  The scrumptious dumplings at Buddakan taught us that you can’t find love on a spreadsheet.  And love – the hospitable magic that endears us to guests – is essential in travel and hospitality marketing.  Make sure your plan/budget isn’t so tight that there’s no room to give love to guests.

* PS – if your budget IS unlimited, here’s my email: miranda@redpointspeaks.com. Have I got a marketing agency for you. 😉

November 5, 2019

Here’s what “living the brand” really means.

There’s a store in Brooklyn called The Superhero Supply Co, which sells – among other things – a fine selection of capes, cans of antimatter (sizes: large and small), and sidekick utility belts (assorted colors).  It’s not a party/costume store, where you’d go to buy a signature Captain America shield or Wonder Woman golden lasso.  It’s where a REAL superhero would shop for his/her OWN gear.  Quite literally… a supply store for superheroes.

Until you get to the shelving on the left side of the back wall.

Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co hidden doorOne section of the fully-stocked shelves actually swings out (if you know the trick) as a secret door.  What’s behind the secret door?  A classroom, where kids can experience workshops to foster their creative writing and imaginative thinking skills.  There are evening and weekend sessions for kids aged 6 – 18, and they also offer after-school programs, host school field trips, and more.

Think about this:  the entire purpose of this business is to inspire kids to release and cultivate their imagination.  Would this be possible in an ordinary classroom?  Sure.  Is it 10,000 times more effective in a hidden classroom that’s the secret identity of a store that sells supplies to superheroes?  Duh.  Their imagination is sparked before that hidden door even finishes swinging open.

THAT is what “living the brand” really means.

It’s not about having a carefully-crafted mission statement and/or brand positioning written down on paper…it’s about how that mission and positioning come to life at all touchpoints of interaction with your audience.  It’s not saying you’re something.  It’s being that something.  As the ol’ saying goes… walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

Let this magical place inspire you to evaluate your OWN state of “living the brand.”

We see brand-disconnects all the time in the tourism industry, such as…

  • Hotels that say they’re gracious, yet nickel and dime guests with fees at every turn.
  • Destinations that say they’re artsy, yet feature boring, standard wayfinding tools onsite and online.
  • Ski resorts that say they’re edgy and epic, yet offer typical F&B options and vanilla interior design.
  • Attractions that say they’re fun, yet make ticket-purchasing and parking acutely painful.

Listen…I get it, it’s hard to live the brand.  Who wants to give up fees?  Or convince owners to invest in renovations?  Or fight town councils on signage regulations?  Or – WTF, Chris? – figure out a way to make parking fun?

But “living the brand” makes marketing’s job less expensive and more effective.  Your marketing dollars will have to work less hard to keep guests tethered, and – even better – transforms them into ambassadors, inspired to share your story with the world.

You may think it’s no big deal if you’re not living the brand at every single turn, but each off-brand touchpoint is sabotaging your trust with guests.  And an erosion of trust sabotages loyalty.  And a lack of loyalty ultimately means…buh-bye.

So, even if the step-by-step impact is intangible to measure and impossible to trace, living the brand is vital to your business goals.  Strap on your own cape and find a way.  The ROI is worth it.

For more information about the creative engine behind the Superhero Supply Co, click here.  Superheroes in Brooklyn, big foot hunters in Boston, secret agents in Chicago, time travelers in LA, and many more…the business concept is just pure magic.

 

October 23, 2019

Why I love Weed.

Last week, as I was leaving Weed Orchards & Winery in NY’s Hudson Valley after a day of apple picking, I uttered the words that every attraction, hotel, restaurant, and destination longs to hear:

We just HAVE to come back here again.

And I wasn’t alone.  A bunch of Redpointers and their families were with me, and they all felt the same way.  Future outings were planned before we even walked to the parking lot.

How did Weed accomplish that?  How did they seduce a bunch of been-there-done-that marketers into a loyal romance with just one visit?  With three smart moves:  energy, experience investment, and onsite marketing.

Energy:  Except for the peacefulness found among the sprawling orchards, that joint was JUMPING.  An emcee/DJ playing music in the front courtyard area and acting like a cross between a circus barker and welcoming committee.  A live band in the back patio and picnic area (near the outdoor bar, how convenient), creating a distinctly different entertainment space from the front courtyard area.  Wagon rides over here.  Wine tastings over there.  At every point, people directing you…guiding you…suggesting something for you to do/try/see.  Impression left on guest:  vibrancy, life, texture… “I would never get bored here.”

Experience Investment: The typical apple-picking attraction playbook is… orchards + farm store/bakery.  You wouldn’t think of spending an entire day there, nor would you think “I could come hang out here every weekend.”  Not so with Weed.  In a well-organized guest experience area, they offer four dining outlets (each serving completely different menu items, one exclusively devoted to cider donuts), two music/entertainment areas, several bar areas, a bakery, face painting, a playground, wagon rides, corn maze, petting zoo, a winery, produce for purchase, and a shocking array of indoor and outdoor seating areas.  And that’s not even counting the pick-your-own orchards, gardens, and pumpkin patches.  Impression left on guest: “I could come here every weekend and have a completely different experience…with my grandma, my neighbors, my besties, or my toddler.”

weed orchard mapOnsite Marketing:  The moment you arrive, you’re handed a map of the whole place (see pic), and then this happens in your brain:  Whoa.  What’s this?  I can pick peaches?  Nectarines?  Vegetables?  When?  Not now?  So, when?  I’ll come back.  Wait… is that a corn maze on the other side?  Where’s the winery?  Oh, there…not too far from the donuts.  And so on.  Supplementing that are the helpful signs around the place, and ohhhhhh… that emcee/barker.  She delivered the perfect blend of fun commentary (“there’s  no donut line right now!”), promo teasers (“don’t miss our pumpkin festival next weekend”), and smooth marketing lines (“tag us on social media @weedorchards”… “bring home a bottle of our crisp Seyval Blanc”… “it’s hot out!…try a wine slushie at the winery…um, not you, kids… adults only”).  Impression left on guest:  I need to come back…there’s so much to do here.

What’s my point?  THEY DON’T SKIMP AND THEY DON’T FUMBLE AT THE GUEST EXPERIENCE GOAL LINE.

I can just hear the objections that would typically occur in the executive planning and finance meetings of such a business:  Why do we need a band when we have a DJ?  Why have different foods at each outlet?  We can’t just hand out a plain old photocopied black-and-white map… it would have to be designed and printed and we don’t have the money for that.  And on…and on…and on.

Kudos to the team at Weed for – in my opinion – making all the right choices.

And if you think they spent too much money unnecessarily?  Well, ask yourself this:  how much are the words “we just HAVE to come back here again” worth to YOUR business?

August 14, 2019

An Instagram lesson from “The Dress.”

Recently, I learned about a dress available at fashion retailer Zara that has its own Instagram account.  At the time of this writing, The Dress had 21,000 followers.

Zara The Dress

The Dress (credit: Zara)

Not being a fashionista myself – whatever the opposite of a shopaholic is (shopaslothic?), I’m it – I figured that following The Dress on Instagram wouldn’t interest me… except as a marketer.  Because the thought of a dress having more followers than some of our clients is mind blowing, and just a teeny bit depressing.  I needed to know its secret.

Before I looked at the account, I tried to imagine what kind of content The Dress could offer to keep an audience engaged and growing (because when I first learned about it a month ago, there were only 13,000 followers).  Pics of The Dress in different locations?  Suggestions for jewelry, shoes, or other accessories that best complement The Dress?  Fan photos sent in wearing The Dress?  It’s true I’m no fashionista… but why on earth would anyone care enough about THE SAME DRESS to see pictures of it repeatedly and voluntarily?

So I looked.  And then I knew:  it’s not The Dress.  It’s The Voice.

OH, THAT VOICE.  The woman who created and manages the account, stylist Faye Oakenfull, sees the world through a clever lens…and that bit of brilliant, humorous cheek comes through with each post.  If she’s even half as good a stylist as she is a content creator, her fashion services should be in demand for eternity.  I scrolled through so many posts, and was smiling the entire time… and even though I’m not into fashion, and I was only looking at this account as a marketer doing research…in the end, I found myself clicking “follow.”

Because if this account brings me a shot of joy every time I see a post, then I’ll make room for it in my Instagram feed.

The Dress – and The Voice of The Dress – offers a valuable lesson for anyone managing an Instagram account in a lifestyle industry like travel, tourism, and hospitality:  you need to EARN your place in a person’s feed.  How?  Here are two useful suggestions:

Be entertaining:  That doesn’t necessarily mean funny… it means ENTERTAIN them.  Bring joy to their day.  Inspire them.  Make them think.  Surprise them.  And yes, make them laugh sometimes. Stop thinking about what you want (or need) to sell, and stop doing obligatory posts (with no thought, and at the last minute) just to check a box and keep to a posting schedule.

Be relevant:  Never ever forget that your audience is made up of individual people… and they are all doing different things and leading different lives at the time they see your post.  Why should they care that you’re having a happy hour special today when they live 1,000 miles away?  Talk to them as humans having a conversation (“This cocktail at today’s happy hour is so delicious, we won’t judge when you lick the glass after it’s gone”… pic of the cocktail, then swipe for pic of person hilariously actually licking the glass), not as a brand doing marketing (“Two for one happy hour specials on the patio today!”).  The former gives them a relevant sensory connection…the latter just pushes a transactional sale.

The Voice of The Dress does both – entertainment and relevance – beautifully.  And when my mother hears that I’m following a dress on Instagram – me!…who grew up as the tommiest-of-tomboys and tried to wrestle myself out of every dress she put me in – she’s going to laugh her head off.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if she buys me the damn thing for Christmas. (New idea for an Instagram account:  Mom Gets the Last Laugh).

Learn more about the story of The Dress here.

February 20, 2019

You can’t say no to bunnies.

Here’s the problem with the cards in hotel rooms that encourage guests to “save the environment” by reusing their towels and sheets each night:  consumer skepticism.

The bubble over our heads:  Really, hotel? You think we don’t see through this? You’re just saving laundry costs by making people feel guilty about selfishly destroying the planet. We all know that some marketing shyster came up with this angle to trick guests into doing it…and damn it, it burns us that you’re racking up the profit on the backs of our guilt.

The irony is…we really ARE conserving the planet by washing things fewer times.  But that’s a massive, fuzzy, intangible outcome, which relies on everyone around the world doing it too…because my ONE little towel is pretty impotent in that crusade all by itself. This makes it hard for folks to embrace, and so – of course – our skepticism kicks in. We might reuse the towels (it’s not a tough ask), but it doesn’t bring us the satisfied, warm glow those cards were meant to inspire.

Enter:  bunnies.

During my recent stay at Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, I quickly noticed the subtle presence of rabbit art around my room. Then I saw this and it all clicked:

The gist: We invite you to help us conserve. Savings from our linen program support the Inn’s “Rabitat,” a habitat restoration project with the Department of Conservation for Maine’s endangered New England Cottontail Bunnies, preservation of open space locally, and migration routes for butterflies.

Cue warm glow. I’M HELPING SAVE THE BUNNIES!  And not just ANY bunnies… THOSE BUNNIES. PROBABLY RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW. Hopping around IN THEIR “RABITAT.”  They even have an adorable name:  New England Cottontail Bunnies.

Dude, if you don’t choose to reuse your towel to save a New England Cottontail Bunny, you’re just going straight to hell.

Bravo, Inn by the Sea. You nailed this for several reasons:

  • It’s tangible, so guests can visualize and embrace the reason behind linen reuse.
  • It’s meaningful…both to them and to you. It gives you something to rally around together in a shared way, which deepens your connection and fosters good feeling.
  • It’s different and specific, so it stands out and makes an impression in the sea of vague “help us save the planet” white noise.
  • It doesn’t hide the fact that you’re saving money…rather, it shows what you’re doing with the rediscovered funds, which REALLY makes guests trust you and want to help.

Lastly…it’s authentic, genuine, and credible. It smacks down that natural human instinct we all (sadly) have for skepticism about marketing.

And, let’s call a spade a spade:  it’s fun and it makes people smile.  That…AND it saves the bunnies?  #winningatmarketing

September 19, 2018

Even accountants can have fun with marketing.

“I was so inspired by all the fun examples you shared, but I work for accountants and we could never do anything like that.”

So said the woman who came up to me after my recent speech about inspiration at the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.  The speech highlighted the ways in which businesses can transform everyday customer interactions into inspirational, engaging encounters.  And as part of that, I shared dozens of examples from around the world…businesses using everything from tip jar signs to colorful portable toilets in order to make memories for customers.

My inspired-but-dejected accountant friend scooted away too quickly for me to show her a different point of view.  I mean…she hugged me, so she wasn’t THAT dejected.  But there was clearly a boundary in her mind:  other businesses like hotels and restaurants can have fun…accountants cannot.

Every scrap of my marketing DNA rebelled against that philosophy.  So in my mind on the drive home, I reviewed all the examples I shared in the speech, and this one leaped out… the hours of operation sign at Hot Dog Tommy’s in Cape May, NJ:

Hot Dog Tommy's Hours Sign

Wouldn’t it be marvelous for an accounting firm to have office hours from 8:57am to 5:02pm, with the tag line “we’re accountants…we’re precise?”

Their hours and that tag line could be shared in their email signatures, on their website, business cards, advertisements, and more.

And what does that get them?  A conversation starter.  A point of difference.  A personality.  A smile from a potential customer.

A way to be memorable.

And doesn’t EVERY business want to be memorable to its audiences?  Even you, accountants.  You want people to think of you over OTHER accountants.  So…without that tag line, your business card is ordinary.  With it?  You make an impression.

Any business can use nearly ANY touch point to make customers care about them.  No business has to be boring…that’s a choice you make, and you can simply choose to be interesting.  You just have to do it with care and thought to what makes sense for your brand and industry.  Accountants with hyper-precise hours?  YES.  Accountants with colorful portable toilets in the reception area?  Well…that will certainly make you memorable, but perhaps not in the way you want.

PS:  In 90 seconds, see how I prepared for this speech, and I’d be the biggest hypocrite in the world if this video were boring. Watch here.

 

August 7, 2018

A valuable sales lesson from a homeless gent.

fruits of relationship building - food left as a gift!

If you’ve ever been a client of Redpoint, you’ve heard our (constant, loving, unwavering) counsel on balancing “the hard sell” with “relationship building” in your marketing messages.

We get it.  When you have rooms/seats to fill, budgets to hit, expenses to pay…the urge to repeatedly reach for the hard sell is super strong.  But this is doing your marketing a huge disservice because you’re developing a one-sided relationship with your audiences:  you only (or too often) talk to them solely when you want them to buy something from you.  That’s quite selfish, and who likes to be in a relationship with someone selfish?  They’ll quickly tune you out.

But it requires a patient leap of faith for a brand to favor relationship-building messages over sales messages.  The conversion runway is longer and less trackable…so how do you know/prove the ROI is worth it?

Here’s the proof you need, delivered from an unlikely source:  a homeless gentleman who sits out on William Street in NYC every evening.

From around 4pm until after rush hour, he sits in the same spot and says nice things to folks passing by, such as:

  • “Have a lovely evening!” (all the time)
  • “Stay cool tonight!” (summer)
  • “Stay warm tonight!” (winter)
  • “Stay dry tonight!” (raining)
  • “Be careful of the ice just there!” (snowing)
  •  Etc.

He pets dogs, smiles at everyone, and waves at children.  He’s SUCH a nice man.  He never tells a down-on-my-luck story.  Never plays the guilt card.  Never shakes a cup full of coins.

And he never – EVER – asks for money.  Or food.  Or clothes.  Or anything.

But he gets them…in spades.

Every morning when I walk by his spot, there is a small collection of stuff left there by people overnight and in the morning prior to his arrival.  Most often it’s food, but sometimes it’s a hat, shoes, or clothing.

Think about this, folks.  People…busy, desensitized New Yorkers…think about him WHEN HE’S NOT EVEN THERE, and leave him things he needs but never requests.

THAT is master-class-level relationship building.  He brings them repeated, consistent joy and kindness and ultimately, they give it back…freely and thoughtfully and often.

Take a page from this guy’s book.  Find ways to be memorable to your audiences.  Engage them.  Treat them with affection.  Ensure that you matter to them.  Because when you matter to them, selling requires very little “ask” on your part.

May 29, 2018

This “Blind Date” concept wins at marketing.

This idea – Blind Date with a Book – is so brilliant, I just stood there admiring it for several minutes while my marketing brain lit up with joy.

At Book Culture on Columbus, a reader’s paradise on the Upper West Side of NYC, there’s a center table piled with books wrapped completely so you can’t see their titles.  A label on each one gives you clues to the book’s content, like so:

Blind Date with a Book

Trying not to look like a creepy stalker, I hovered around the table for a long while…just to observe the reactions of people who stumbled upon the table for the first time.

Here’s the big headline:  every single person HAD a reaction.  Some thought it was the coolest idea in the universe, some said they’d never buy a book sight unseen, some wanted to rip off the wrapping and see if they guessed correctly, some thought it was a unique gift for bookworms.

But…  Everyone.  Had.  A.  Reaction.

Do you know how hard that is to achieve?  Breaking through the cluttered awareness of busy shoppers, amidst a sea of tables and shelves and displays and gifts and noise?  Nearly impossible.

But Blind Date with a Book achieves it, because it’s rich with multi-faceted marketing power:

  • It’s the bricks-n-mortar answer to the online suggestion algorithms (“If you like this, you’ll ALSO like…”) that the Amazons and Spotifys of the world have trained us to crave.
  • The power of secrets and surprises…people can’t resist the mischief.
  • It addresses a business need with grace, whimsy, and a consumer-facing benefit:  the titles are all picked by staff because they’re worth a read, but for whatever reason don’t get as much purchasing love as they should.
  • It connects with people…engages them, and definitely makes them smile.
  • No question it gives shape to the store’s personality…anything unexpected and fun like this ignites a positive feeling for the brand.  Even if you’re not the type to purchase a wrapped book, you still think they’re cool for doing it.

What’s the moral here?  Stop reaching for the same old sales and marketing tools.  If Book Culture had wanted to push slow-moving titles, they could have done a sale or marked them as “Staff Picks” or whatever.  All usual tricks for bookstores, and all standing a 50/50 chance of getting people to care.

But wrap up a book in brown paper and call it a Blind Date?  Winner.  Hands down.

May 17, 2018

What makes you ding-worthy?

So…I feel a bit like a soulless drug pusher on this one, but hear me out, ok?

A growing issue is causing serious angst in today’s society:  people are addicted to their phones and they know it…and they don’t like it. There’s a movement afoot for these addicts to “resist the ding” and wean themselves from craving the need to keep checking their phone. And the psychological battle cry of “how to take back control” is a hot topic at business conferences, therapy sessions, family dinner tables, relationship counseling, and in mainstream media.  If this is news to you, here are two useful articles on the subject from NPR and Psychology Today.

But it’s a marketer’s mission to cut through clutter and get attention. And so we ruthlessly hunt for standout ways to infiltrate their phones: emails, text messaging, location-based promotions, social media (organic and paid), social media direct messaging, and <insert shiny marketing-tool-du-jour here>.

We WANT to be the ding that gets their attention. We WANT them to stop what they’re doing and embrace our message.

But think of the psychology:  more and more people are taking control of their own “ding dial,” fiercely curating which dings (if any) get their immediate attention, and – whoa – even turning off the dings completely in order to neutralize messages that masquerade as urgent.

Worse (for us)…in an effort to reduce the overwhelming daily assault of information through intrusive dings and silent accumulation, they are more discriminating in scrubbing their access points.  This means YOU (soulless, message-pushing marketer) are being judged continuously, and you are always just one frivolous ding away from getting banished.

So here’s what you need to ask yourself, marketers:  what makes you ding-worthy?  And you can’t do this effectively by looking at a single message’s value (i.e. this post, this email). You need to respect your role in the relationship with people’s phones and your value in their overall information landscape.  What earns you the right to continued access?  How do your dings foster Pavlovian-level satisfaction?

I’ll tell you the answer:  always-relevant content, and choosing frequency wisely.  Quite simply…don’t waste their time (or mental bandwidth) and make every ding meaningful.

Is this harder for you?  Yep. Does this mean you have to care more about THEIR needs than YOUR sales goals?  Yep.  Is this annoying because now you have to think more, and sometimes resist sending messages you REALLY REALLY want to send?  Yep.

But here’s the alternative:  would you rather be banished?  Because that’s what’s at stake now more than ever.

Marketing was never effective when it was too frequent or too frivolous. Desensitization and annoyance have always been at risk. But back in the day, those risks just wasted your money and time. People may have gotten annoyed, but they hadn’t yet – en masse – felt empowered to do anything about it.

But these days, technological assault has made people feel like victims and addicts, so when you annoy them, they not only feel empowered to banish you…they do it with a sense of righteous justice. Kicking you out of their phone grants them a joyous feeling of liberation.

And so yay for you, marketer!  You created a positive encounter with your target. The downside is that it came from them slamming the door in your face…and locking it.

So what’s the moral of this story?  Don’t ignore this growing social phenomenon, and adapt your approach accordingly.

In short:  Please ding responsibly. 

May 2, 2018

One small question can lead to BIG ideas.

Thinking visual

So…you know “those” marketing people?  The ones who seem to have a dozen (or 100) spectacular ideas every day?  Chances are, this question plays in a continuous loop in their brains:

What could we do with this?

“Idea people” get inspiration from everything they encounter, every single day.

While browsing social media: Oh, an underwater filmmaker/choreographer performs a jaw-dropping dance in the world’s deepest pool?  What could we do with this?

While reading an online newspaper: Oh, a restaurant in Maine is only accepting reservation requests by postcard?  What could we do with this?

While subtly eavesdropping on a nearby subway conversation and trying not to be creepy about it: Oh, Jennifer Garner is doing an (adorable and oh-so-fabulous) pretend cooking show on Instagram?  What could we do with this?

Every new bit of sensory input is an opportunity to spark a new idea.  Maybe we don’t need an actual DANCE underwater… but could one of our clients benefit from cool underwater filming?  Or is there something we can do with the world’s deepest pool?  And POSTCARDS.  That’s an unusual way to use postcards.  Is there ANOTHER way we can use postcards in an unexpected fashion?  Or can one of our clients accept reservations in an unusual way?  We’re about to plan a big conference… can postcards play a role in the attendee experience?

And Jennifer Garner.  Can we just hug her?  Or partner with her?  Or can one of our clients send her a recipe to try?  Or can they do their own cooking show?  Wait… she tried to make bagels and it was REALLY hard.  Is that true?  If it’s hard… can we do a bagel-making class at one of our restaurants?  Are bagels a thing?  Do they pair well with prosecco (doesn’t everything)?  What about bagels for dinner?  Or Bagel Turndown Service at a hotel?  Is there a National Bagel Day?

<must…turn…off…brain…>

The point is…it’s not about copying ideas.  It’s about using a germ of one thing to springboard into a new idea.  Maybe related…maybe not.  It’s kind of a long stretch to get from Jennifer Garner’s cooking show to launching Bagel Turndown Service at a hotel.  But it all starts with… what could we do with this?

If you are ever stuck for an idea, make this your magic phrase.  Open a magazine, surf the web, take a spin on social media, go to a shopping mall… pay attention to the things that grab you and think what could we do with this?

Yesterday on the subway, I saw a woman carrying a Yorkshire Terrier in an Easter basket, and the dog was wearing tiny little bunny ears and a tiny little bowtie shaped like a bone.  RANDOM.  Believe me.  You don’t even want to know how long my “what could we do with this?” list was.