Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Think In The Third Person, Communicate In The Second Person, Lead In The First Person

Getting Thinking, Communicating, And Leading In The Right Order

By David Miranda

Business is not about you or me, it's about them - those people who buy stuff, also known as consumers. More often than not, marketers get this wrong. There tends to be too much first person opinion in the boardroom as in "I like or don't like this or that".

When this happens the wrong master is served.

Frankly, it doesn't matter one iota whether a marketing executive likes or dislikes something. The true master to be served is the consumer; unless, however, the marketing executive is going to going to buy all the stuff the company wants to sell.

When a marketing executive uses his or her titled authority to impart their own first person opinions on decisions, it is ego-centric, assuming that this person speaks for consumers. This is dangerous and fatalistic, yet it happens over and over again with the same dire results.

Marketing executives should keep their personal bias in check and think in the third person, i.e "what would consumers want?" and this thinking should be supported with empirical evidence - good research with compelling and unique insights.

Although they should think in the third person, marketers should communicate calls to action in the second person, as in MacDonalds' "You Deserve A Break Today", Allstate's " You're In Good Hands With Allstate", or Nike's "Just Do It". Here the company or brand is speaking directly to the consumer in a personal one-to-one dialogue. This is preferable to marketing messages where brands speak to consumers in the first person, as in Delta Airlines old tag line "We Love To Fly And It Shows" touting themselves versus what they can offer the consumer. The Delta tag line could have been tweaked "We Love To Fly. Let Us Show You."

Thinking in the third person and communicating in the second person requires leading in the first person as in "I want our marketing to help sell more stuff to more people more often to make more money".

So next time you are in a marketing meeting - think in the third person, communicate in the second person and lead in the first person.

"They" would appreciate it. "You" would benefit from it. "I" believe it will help.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Get Out Of The Ivory Tower Every Now And Then

Experience The Customer Experience

By David Miranda

In his best seller, In Search Of Excellence, author Tom Peters talked about "management by walking around" referring to managers who got out there on the front lines to get a first hand look at what was going on in their companies - with managers, employees, and customers.

Interesting concept!

Today, it seems we could use a refresher course, particularly in the marketing arena. Let's call it "marketing by walking around". More often than not, marketers (and their agencies) are insulated and isolated from the reality of the marketplace. Marketing campaigns often create a vastly different expectation from the actual consumer experience. In addition, if more marketers got out of the office, they could experience the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the considerable sums of money they are investing in a plethora of media channels.

Marketers need to temper the second and third hand feedback they receive with first hand personal observations.

Get behind the counter, get out in the stores, walk the showroom, take some customer calls and emails, and visit the competition. Encourage your colleagues and agencies to do the same. Get out and see for yourself what's really happening - first hand knowledge that is unbiased, unspun, and unfiltered.

The personal knowledge marketers will gain from these excursions is invaluable.

Marketing by walking around - these are important steps to marketing success.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Recognition Of The Real Heroes

To Those Who Serve And Who Have Served, I Pay Homage

By David Miranda

Today is Memorial Day.

To many Americans it is a long weekend, the unofficial beginning of the summer season - the weekend of the Indianapolis 500, the Coca-Cola 600, backyard BBQ's, picnics, outdoor concerts, and a plethora of sales at everything from malls to car dealerships. It is classic Americana.

Memorial Day is really about heroes, those men and women who serve and have served in the defence of their country. Far too many never came back to enjoy the freedom we take for granted today. Today they rest in hallowed ground like Arlington National Cemetery where over 250,000 are buried from conflicts including the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, The Gulf War, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Many heroes from these and other conflicts have come back with the emotional and physical scars of their brave and selfless service. Then there are the heroic families - the fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins who will never share lives that were either ended all too soon or were forever changed by the ravages of battle.

The country can never repay these heroes for their sacrifice, but we can honor their service.

On this Memorial Day and the other 364 days of each year, we can recognize and pay homage to their legacy to the rest of us - our freedom - not just with flags and parades, but in our hearts.

God bless them and their families and God bless America!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Consumer Privacy - The Elephant In The Room

How A Consumer Backlash Could Change The Landscape

By David Miranda

Both the public and private sectors have an insatiable appetite for intelligence. Insightful intelligence provides the owner of the intelligence with a strategic (and tactical) competitive advantage, i.e. the better the intelligence, the lower the risks, the better the plan, and the better chance for positive outcomes.

Here lies the ongoing dilemma. At what point does collecting intelligence step over the line - the line of invading someone's privacy? At what point is the end not justified by the means?

We are witnessing this conflict today, both in the public and private sectors.

After 9/11, the government passed The Patriot Act that has expanded the power of government agencies to initiate wiretaps, peruse emails, and analyze internet behavior with the cooperation of telecommunications companies, search engines, and social networking sites. All in the name of national security. The debate over privacy and the government's right to know to protect the country continues.

In the private sector, companies collect intimate personal information on their customers for their own purposes as well as for renting and selling to third parties. Some companies like Equifax and Hyperion collect consumer information from many sources and sell this information to third parties like credit card and mortgage companies. There are numerous web sites that collect consumer information for sale to other consumers as well.

Most, if not all, web sites collect and aggregate information on visitors and can track their visits and navigation using what is known as "cookies" which are loaded onto the visitor's computer indefinitely unless removed or blocked by the user. Google, among others, collects information on the searches people conduct; the web sites they visit and targets paid advertising based on a consumer's imputed keywords. Google is not a search engine or a media company - it is an intelligence-gathering company and it is attracting the attention of regulatory groups.

Those in the marketing arena need to take heed. A consumer backlash could dramatically alter the business landscape. They are already beginning to "techno-barricade" themselves from unsolicited commercial messages. Over 150 million people, for example, have registered with the government's "Do Not Call List". They are rebuking spam, both on their computers and mobile devices. They are concerned about the ever-growing problem of ID theft. There have been countless cases in both the public and private sectors of lost computers and hacking into supposedly secure consumer databases containing sensitive data on millions of consumers.

All this has caused a ground swell of consumer concern over privacy protection. A consumer backlash means the potential for government intervention and the federal government is already dealing with the scope of The Patriot Act.

What is a responsble company to do in these circumstances?

The answer is be pre-emptive. Proactively communicate with both potential and existing customers that their privacy is your top priority - and mean it. Do not wait until there is a fiduciary breach and it makes the evening news or 60 Minutes.

The consumer privacy elephant is in the room and it's time to offer it a seat at the table.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"Hark, I Hear The Cannon Roar!"

On Today's Marketing "Stage", Surprises Can Happen - And Will!

By David Miranda

Marketing today is full of surprises and the great marketers will adapt and succeed.

It reminds me of a joke I heard recently.

"Five-year-old Johnny came home from school one day with a note pinned to his shirt. His mother removed the note, which was from his teacher, informing her that Johnny had been chosen to be in the school's upcoming holiday play just one month away. The note said that Johnny would have one spoken line in the play and encouraged his mother to have him memorize the line. Johnny's line was 'Hark, I hear the cannon roar'. Johnny's mom was, of course, delighted and began immediately to rehearse the line with her son. Each day after school, Johnny's mom would have him repeat the line over and over again until it became second nature to him. She was confident Johnny would do brilliantly. On the night of the play, Johnny's parents and family were in the filled auditorium. Finally the moment came and the cannon on stage fired with a huge bang. Johnny shouted, 'What the hell was that?' "

There are a lot of marketing "Johnnies" (and "JoAnnes") out there. They prepare and plan for performances on the marketing "stage", confident that their preparation and planning will lead to success - and then the "cannon roars" - and it's dramatically different than they expected, i.e. "what the hell was that?" The "that" is the unexpected - the market shifted this way; competitors did this instead of that; the budget was cut; etc. etc.

Marketers today must be agile and resourceful to succeed in a marketplace with rapid shifts and turns. Surprises happen and the distinction between strategy and tactics has blurred. We live in a new world of "stratactical marketing". This is a world where strategy and tactics must be developed and executed simultaneously.

Don't be surprised - be prepared.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Don't Be An Idea Elitist!

Great Ideas Can Come From Anyone, From Anywhere, At Anytime

By David Miranda

Two brothers named Wright who had a small bicycle shop in the American Midwest had an idea that man could soar the skies in powered flight. Sheer madness!

Two college dropouts, a Mr. Gates and a Mr. Allen, thought that personal computers might be popular one day and maybe they would need an operating system. Ridiculous!

A young man in the San Francisco area wanted to find some Pez dispensers from other enthusiasts to complete his collection. He created eBay because he thought there may be others who felt the same way. Poppycock!

Where do great ideas come from? From anywhere, anyone, anytime.

Unfortunately in the marketing arena, we forget this. Marketers become idea elitists, i.e. thinking that great ideas come from ad agencies, marketing gurus, people with Ivy League credentials, high I.Q's, people with experience in the field, people with track records, and the like. Balderdash!

Great ideas come from people who recognize a better solution and possess the passion, fortitude, and conviction to shepherd their ideas to fruition. Marketing executives must be able to encourage, recognize, and nuture creative thinking both in their own organization and from agencies and consultants. The next great idea could come from the most unlikely source - a receptionist, intern, customer, client, mother-in-law, etc.

Don't be an idea elitist. Keep your eyes and ears open. Observe, listen, and query.

Who knows, the next person you meet, could be a future Orville Wright or Bill Gates.

Friday, May 11, 2007

"Stay The Course" Has Given "Stay The Course" A Bad Name

It Used To Be A Rallying Cry, Now It's Become A Cry For Help

By David Miranda

The declarative statement "stay the course" has always been associated with a forceful and confident leader - a rallying cry to the "troops". Today, however, the phrase has become a sound bite by executives who use it as a substitute for a relevant strategy. In this case "stay the course" translates into arrogance, stupidity or a little of both. Arrogance and stupidity, the offspring of ego, are the enemies of positive outcomes.

Historical and current examples abound, including two of significance.

The Captain of the ill-fated Titanic was well aware of the threat of icebergs in the North Atlantic. Yet, in attempting to set a speed record on the ship's maiden voyage, he ordered the ship to "stay the course" and proceed at full speed on a moonless night.

Today, "stay the course" is associated with the Administration's Iraq strategy. Despite the fact that the majority of Americans are demanding a different course of action; despite that fact that the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group recommended a different course of action; despite the fact that the Democrat-controlled Congress want a different course of action - the President's mantra was "stay the course". The President has since "retired" the phrase.

The lessons here are clear. Different and changing circumstances demand a different course of action to achieve a positive outcome. Leaders cannot simply "will" success and hope is not a strategy.

Such is the case in marketing. If something is not working, find a better solution and find it fast.

Oh yeah, for those of you that are using "stay the course" as a rallying cry in lieu of a better solution, cease and desist.

You are giving the term a bad name.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Marketing "Tango" - Good Dancers Make Their Partner Look Good

The Difference Between Seller-Centric And Buyer-Centric Marketing

By David Miranda

In order to for someone to buy something, they first have to want it. That's what marketing does - getting someone to want what you are selling. That said, why do marketers continue to get it wrong more often than not? They are seller-centric rather than buyer-centric.

Here's a recent example.

I was invited to attend a series of marketing presentations by a company that had put out an RFP (Request For Proposal) to a short list of five ad agencies. Each was given 30 minutes to present their case for getting the business. Only one agency had it right.

Four of the agencies took most of their allotted 30 minutes talking about themselves, i.e. "we've been in business for X number of years"; "this is a list of our clients"; "these are samples of some of our work", "this is how we work" etc. etc. etc. What each of these firms failed to understand is that the company wanted to hire an agency that helped them sell stuff, i.e. "enough about yourself, what are you going to do for me?" Their presentations were "seller-centric" not "buyer-centric".

The successful agency spent the majority of its time talking about the company and communicating how and why hiring them would help them "sell more stuff". This agency was buyer-centric. Buyer-centric means putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer. Buyers don't care about you, they care about themselves and whether you can help them achieve their own objectives - plain and simple. If you think that an impressive presentation of your credentials will do it, you are dead wrong. Your credentials may have gotten you "an invitation to the dance", but when the music starts, it's time to dance not just telling people you are a good dancer.

When the music started, the four unsuccessful agencies sat this one out.

Remember it's not about you. It's takes two to do the marketing "tango". Let the client lead.