Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Back to the Future(ish)

When I read 1984, it was about the future. And it was still in the future.

It might be more confusing now. A book called "1941" would probably be about Pearl Harbor, right? But 1984 is still about the future. It's still science fiction, in the same way Asimov and Bradbury and Vonnegut are, but they're more than that of course.

I remember what Orwell describes looking like the Soviet Union. No one is making that analogy these days, but 1984 is still an important book. Why? Well, if you don't know you should read it. It's $3.99 on your Kindle (or borrow it on paper at that government building where they have all the free video rentals, what's it called again?).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blackberry Marketing and Cash Value

Remember S&H and other store stamps that had a value other than cash, like "mills?"

Today companies still substitute benefits or free accessories that have some specific proprietary value, but little or no cash value. As long as the two are distinct, there's no problem. But intentionally or otherwise confusing some dollar value other than the real one for cash value is a big marketing mistake.

Blackberry has responded to its latest high-profile service outages by offering a consolation to their subscribers: for their inconvenience, they get $100 in free apps like poker and "Bejeweled." But wait, there's more. RIM also throws in free technical maintenance for a month, which is a value of, well, let's say it's not immediately obvious on their web site. (And just how much do Blackberry owners expect to call technical support next month in the event of a problem, say, another outage?)

The lesson to learn here, as RIM flounders in their marketing efforts, is that marketing is not a standalone entity. It needs to be integrated with the business. When the purposes of the marketing and accounting or other departments collide, you often get a solution that does badly for both.

In this situation, if RIM offered a second option for a discount on next month's phone bill for example, the dollar value would certainly be lower than the one for free apps and support. What would the value of a third option for getting a check in the mail from RIM be? My guess is about $10. That's the real value.

Does RIM really want to address the legitimate concern and inconvenience of their subscribers resulting from significant outages, even down to the phone's daily alarms and reminders not working, with a consolation that has a real value of $10? Of course not. But there's a left-hand, right-hand conflict going on between the business execs and the ones carrying on the dialog with the customer (marketing) that is deeper than this one incident. As the iPhone 4S and steady developments by Android encroach even further on Blackberry's base, RIM is pouring gasoline on the fire.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Making the law accessible on the Web

Everyone needs access to the law eventually.

At some point, you're going to incorporate your business, write your will or get a copyright or patent. Ten years ago, a couple clever lawyers put their heads together and hatched the idea of making some standard things related to the law available on the internet. Today LegalZoom has been able to provide those services to over a million people, not eliminating all the paperwork and hassle, but a good part of it.

LegalZoom's CIO Tracy Terrill talked with me about his job combining technology and the law for an article in CBS Interactive this week. He brings a tech background from some other notable companies, including Universal Studios, Warner Brothers and Gartner.

One of the most interesting things going on with LegalZoom these days is their Facebook page, where attorney Joe Escalante masquerades as "Free Joe Friday," and has gained the page more than 50,000 followers with his gratis advice.

On social media marketing Tracy says:

"We're still in the early days of our social media presence, but things are starting to come together... Free Joe Friday is an example of that... We actually have about 10 times more followers on Facebook than on Twitter right now."

You can find the free PDF download of the entire interview here.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Making logical steps in your presentation - and your data management

When he's making a presentation, ZL Technologies' founder and CEO Kon Leong believes in the power of making a logical segue before changing the slide.

"One thing I try to do that I believe makes a huge difference for any presenter is to build a verbal segue before changing the slide. It's more effective to set up the mind of the listener to anticipate the next slide, or even what they think it might be. The logical flow is important to maintain, and presenters sometimes overlook that when they cut to the next slide and then read. The thought process should transition into the next visual rather than the other way around."

But when it comes to the stages in managing your data, it's not the transitions but the elimination of the document that Kon believes is the most important, and the most challenging, part of the process.

For the complete interview with this data management expert about his views on how to scale that mountain of records at your company, see today's CBS Interactive article here.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Bending the failed expectations curve - 10 Questions with Jay Gardner of NetIQ

After 30 years in IT, Jay Gardner has landed as the GM and VP at NetIQ, a recent acquisition of Attachmate, privately held company that seeks to "bridge the divide between open source and proprietary source software.

Jay talked with me about getting IT value and bending the "failed expectations curve" when it comes to technology adoption.

"The failed expectations curve is really a financial picture of the business case where the Y-axis is value and the X-axis is time... There is going to be a certain amount of deterioration in the value, or at least a diminishing gain, as the adoption curve levels off and you go from the value of implementing to the value of maintaining and improving... it often comes down to the talent in the organization that makes things happen..."

Once we had covered ten questions on this topic, I also asked Jay to draw on his experience for his best recommendation on making a remarkable business presentation.

"My best recommendation is to tell a story. Always try to relate an example of what you're talking about, either a business process or a customer story. Make it memorable and credible, and unique. That's the way to get people's attention and keep it. Data can support it, but people have to be able to relate to what you're talking about in an illustration rather than bullets. When you can tell a good story, being persuasive is a natural outcome."

You can read the complete interview with Jay on the CBS Interactive site.


(* Did you already read my interviews on cloud computing with Jimmy Harris and virtualization with Mark Egan?)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Trying hard to be real (Cathy Thomas' insight)

How much do you pick up on the red flags in marketing that announce something less than real (often a .gov or a .org strategy with little or no free-market competition)?

- Over the top repetition: if repeating the phone number or web site six times is good, ten is better.
- Urgency: "you must respond within the next 24 hours," every time you see or hear it. It means nothing really.
- Struggling sincerity: talking a lot about being real, in genuine words that contradict actions.

Rather than being a panacea, technology becomes a megaphone to amplify bad behavior. An e-mail came to me recently from a marketing author/speaker and self-described "relationship master" with a lengthy apology about how his outsourced e-mail campaign didn't maintain the genuineness he truly believes in. Here's an excerpt:

"So let’s talk about how a guy who believes in authenticity, candor, and generosity above all ends up sending out a bunch of crazy-Eddie "act now or else" give away-style emails to his fans and clients. I think the details will just feel like excuses and are frankly not that important for the purposes of passing on what I’ve learned. But basically, we hired outside experts who have made a science of how to hit the numbers in email campaigns. And our team, new and under pressure to succeed right out of the box in the online consumer space, thought we could control and customize their techniques to avoid messaging that wasn’t in line with my identity. The campaign was a financial success and at the same time we utterly failed. And I am sorry."

That sounded like a refreshing epiphany, so I replied to him directly the same day.

Three weeks later I received a fairly generic reply from his assistant. End of story.

Cathy Thomas is a computer technician with over fifteen years of experience in technology who has created a site with a colleague called computertechnician.net where aspiring tech students can get free information on national programs. Here's a list of her three top recommendations on intrusions, promises and social media.

Three Best Practices for using Technology as a Marketing Tool

It’s not an exaggeration to say the world revolves around technology today. If some higher power were to eliminate technology for good from our lives, the world would come to a standstill. There would be chaos all around, and we would forget how to function. However, even though technology has its advantages and is almost impossible to live without, it does have a host of cons as well.

Consider the field of marketing. Technology has now moved to the forefront of all operations; marketers and advertisers have woken up the power and potential of technology, and are tapping it to push their advantage with customers, both old and new. However, in their eagerness and enthusiasm to maximize the utilization of technology, marketers fail to use it judiciously and to their advantage. In short, they fail to adopt the best marketing practices when using technology as a marketing tool. Marketers must still remember some fundamentals:

· Avoid intrusive marketing practices: Telemarketing, text message marketing, and spam email may be easy ways to market your product or service, but you can bet your last dollar these practices are bound to get on the nerves of your customers. No one wants their schedules disturbed by pesky marketing calls, especially for products and services they no longer want. Avoid intruding, especially if you know you’re doing it. One call should be enough to take a hint, and if you persist in calling over and over again or hanging on the line even after the customer has made their displeasure evident, it amounts to badgering.

· Fulfill the promises they make: Many marketers are guilty of this mistake; it’s like they have short term amnesia and completely forget the promises they make when trying to market their products and services once the customer has been won over and signed up for a sizeable package. Soon customers discover that no one answers their calls and emails, and even if they do, they’re given the runaround and redirected to the “fine print.” Fine print may seem to be a good marketing technique to scam unsuspecting customers, but remember, in this age of technology one disgruntled customer is enough to spread the word of your unscrupulous practices and lose more customers rather than gain any significant profit.

· Know how to use social media wisely: Social media is all the rage in the marketing world today, and if you have an online presence in the most popular ones, you’re well on your way to tapping your target market. However, if you fail to follow the unwritten rules of social media, you could be blacklisted and kicked out, virtually if not physically. In short, social media marketing must be used with discretion, taking care not to offend customers with unsolicited messages and unsavory tricks that lure them to your pages with false promises.

It all boils down to being ethical in your business practices, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because customers today won’t come back if they perceive or know you use underhand tactics to get what you want. I recently received an e-mail from a reader pointing out that spammers are successful if even one percent of the people they spam respond, considering the ease and cost of sending out huge volumes of email. My response to this is that Internet users are getting more savvy every day. They have spam filters in place, they don’t click on unverified links, and they’re aware that deals that sound too good to be true are likely just that. They read the fine print, they don’t read spam and they blacklist you if you keep badgering them. So while a spam strategy may work for some time, it certainly is not sustainable in the long run. Unless you’re a fly-by-night operator on the lookout for a quick buck, it’s time to take the high road in your marketing practices.

This guest post is contributed by Cathy Thomas. She writes on the topic of online computer technician training, and welcomes your comments at cathy83.thomas@gmail.com.

Thanks Cathy!