Thursday, August 18, 2011

The New 5 C's For Successful Marketing

The 4Ps Don't Work Well Anymore

By David Miranda

For years, the 4 Ps of marketing - product, price, place, and promotion have served the discipline well, e.g. the product offered, the selling price, the place available for purchase, and the promotion (advertising, etc) to solicit consumers to purchase.

Today, the 4Ps are no longer effective. Products abound, pricing is dynamic, locations are both online and bricks and mortar, and advertising media has fragmented into many shapes and forms. Marketers, large and small, are left scratching their heads on how to effectively and efficiently reach their target audiences.

It's time to mothball the 4Ps and embrace the 5Cs - Consumers, Context, Convenience, Convergence, and Community.

Consumers - Market power has shifted from the seller to the buyer. Consumers, using the power of the Internet, can search, shop, compare, and buy from a myriad of sources located either across the street or around the world. This has meant the erosion in the power of mass marketing and the growth in sophisticated targeting.

Context - Sophisticated targeting has led to message customization providing targeted consumers with relevant content and products/services making marketing more effective, efficient and precise than ever before.

Convenience - In an A.D.D., time poverished world, consumers seek convenience - drive-thru windows, express check-out, online shopping and banking, etc.

Convergence - Consumers want to access what they want and who they want anytime, anywhere from anyplace. This convergence of media and distribution channels is upon us.

Community - Consumers are individuals, but are also social creatures who aggregate in business and social groups both formal and informal to share ideas and experiences. This social networking trait has been powerfully enabled by new technology and platforms and will continue to have a powerful impact on marketing.

An effective marketing plan must consider the 5 Cs in its research, development, and execution.

Understand the nuances of the target audience; provide relevant and contextual offerings; provide the ability for the consumer to purchase more convenient than competitors; communicate and provide offerings across appropriate channels that the target audience frequents; and finally understand that a brand needs to "communitize" itself within the business and social groups of its target audience.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Are Your Customers Having An Affair With Another Brand?

Never Let The Honeymoon End With Your Customers

By David Miranda

If you closed your eyes and listened to any marketing presentation, you would think you were listening to a dating consultant or marriage counselor referring to their brand, as in, the brand "personality", the brand "identity", the brand "relationship", brand "loyalty", and most recently, brand "engagement".

There is a great deal of similarity in marketing brands and marketing yourself, as in a social relationship.

As a single male or female wishing to meet that special someone, you typically get all properly groomed and attired and seek out places where you are most likely to find that special someone, say a popular watering hole on a Saturday night. Upon entering, you peruse the landscape filled with others with the same idea. If you are fortunate, you will connect with someone who meets your criteria. If first impressions are positive, contact info is exchanged and perhaps a date will follow. A successful date might lead to steady dating. Steady dating might lead to engagement and engagement might lead to a walk down the aisle and, presto, marriage.

Marketing brands is similar. Brands want to meet "that special someone" - their target audience. Brands get marketing groomed and attired and seek out places where they are most likely to find that special someone - store shelves, television, radio, print, online, direct mail, and out-of-home. Brands seek to enter into a dialogue with consumer and contact info is exchanged. If the consumer experience is positive; it may lead to a relationship with the brand and perhaps even moving to the ultimate committment - brand loyalty.

The similarities don't end at the altar or with brand loyalty, however. Strong marriages and strong brands with loyal customers have a great deal in common. Each requires efforts to keep the bonds strong and robust over time. The biggest challenge is apathy - taking the other for granted.

We're all familiar with "You don't understand me anymore"; "You don't appreciate me"; "We've lost that spark in our relationship"; or "We don't communicate like we used to". Normally attributed to personal relationships, they are just as applicable to brand relationships. Only problem is that customers don't bother to express these thoughts. They just move on to another brand who really cares about them and promises not to take them for granted.

Treat your customers today like you are wooing them for the first time. Never let the honeymoon with them end or they might decide to have an affair with a competitive suitor and eventually show you the door.

Save the brand marriage!

Business Prevention And Its Seven Deadly Sins

Proscrastination, Lethargy, Arrogance, Superstition, Myopia, Antipathy, Stupidity

By David Miranda

Before someone buys something, they first have to want it. That's what marketing does. It's supposed to create and sustain preference to "sell stuff". Sounds reasonable, right?

More often than not, however, marketing success is thwarted by the "business prevention department".

What is this "business prevention department"?

It does not appear on an official org chart, but it exists in almost every business, large and small. It is comprised of people in various positions within the company that do their part, either knowingly or unknowingly, in stifling or smothering potential business opportunities by being guilty of one or more of the seven deadly sins of business prevention. The irony is, however, is that these "business prevention specialists" honestly think they are doing their small part in contributing to the success of the enterprise. They are, of course, delusional.

The seven deadly sins of business prevention are as follows:

First, procrastination.
This refers to business preventionists who put off to tomorrow, things that needed to be done yesterday. These necessary, but belated actions eventually taken tend to be too little too late with opportunities lost as "competitive barbarians at the gate" threaten existing and future business.

Second, lethargy.
Great plans sluggishly executed causes frustration and eventual attrition of clients, customers, and key talent.

Third, arrogance.
Arrogance is the offspring of the marriage of ego and power. It assumes that business preventionists believe that they have all the right answers leaving no room for collaboration and dialogue with competing views.

Fourth, superstition.
This refers to the notion that there is a direct cause and effect between certain historical behavior and the resulting consequences as in the ridiculous example " whenever I wear a blue suit on a client pitch, I get the business." or "we've always done it this way".

Fifth, myopia.
Myopia is short-sightedness. It is the "Mr. Magoo Syndrome" where business preventionists lack "strategic corrective lenses" to see the bigger picture - the one beyond today and tomorrow. Those competitors with 20/20 strategic vision have a better view of marketplace.

Sixth, antipathy
By definition, antipathy is a feeling of intense dislike. This is the case when business preventionists have an aversion to those people and ideas who are change agents. Their antipathy causes animosity both internally and externally and stifles innovation.

Seventh, stupidity.
As a wise sage once noted "ignorance means you don't know; stupidity means you'll never know". Ignorant people can learn, stupid ones cannot. When an enterprise has "stupid" people in key positions, it is a terminal condition requiring amputation to save the patient.

Business prevention thrives in an environment where one or more of theses deadly sins are practiced.

You can, however, exorcise these business prevention demons before it its too late.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Marketing Today - The Sky Is Full Of Dogs

There's A Smarter Way To "Bag" Consumers

By David Miranda

An inexperienced bird hunter bought some prized bird dogs from a breeder for, what would be, his first ever bird hunt. After several hours of futility, he returned to the breeder quite disgruntled and demanded his money back. The stunned breeder inquired what the problem was. "Didn't get one bird!", replied the hunter, "not even close." "That's impossible," responded the breeder, "those are my best performing bird dogs." "Well," said the hunter, "perhaps I wasn't tossing the dogs up high enough."

The same can be said for a great deal of the marketing done today. There are consumers everywhere and marketers futily "toss up" marketing effort after marketing effort in hopes of bagging their prey. In fact, the marketing "sky" is full of "dogs".

To "bag" consumers today, marketers must be smarter hunters. The first step is to understand the media consumption behavior of their target audience and design a campaign accordingly. The mass market has given way to many niche markets each with its own unique characteristics. The proof can be seen in the audience erosion of traditional media such as broadcast television, newspapers, magazines, and terrestial radio and the exponential growth of the internet including social networking sites, user-generated content, and mobile.

Here is some advice to smarter hunting:

  • Zero-base your marketing. The marketing landscape is morphing very fast. New channels are emerging that can be more effective and efficient. Don't be married, therefore, to the status quo.
  • Feed what works; starve what doesn't. Set performance benchmarks for marketing efforts. Have a clear R.O.M.I. (return on marketing investment) and hold people accountable.
  • Avoid I.G.T.D.T.T. (I've Got To Do That To). This is the infamous me-too approach when a marketer observes a competitor's marketing initiative and copies it irregardless whether the initiative worked or not.
  • "Do" outside the box, not to be confused with "think" outside the box. Observe consumer trends and behavior in the marketplace and adapt accordingly and quickly. Today, preference is perishable and consumers are literally only a mouse click away from a competitor's offerings.

Here's to smarter hunting!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stratactics - The Alchemy of Strategy and Tactics

Time Compression Demands A New Methodology To Attain Sustainable Competitive Advantage

By David Miranda

Today, the business environment is like a NASCAR race.

Take a NASCAR driver vying to compete at almost 200MPH. Imagine the countless split second decisions that need to be made and the physical and mental skills required during the course of a 500 mile race. The objective? Stay in one piece and cross the finish line before anyone else. The successful driver begins with a race strategy but continually must employ tactics during the race to ultimately come out on top. Call it "stratactics" - where strategy and tactics are alchemized into a powerful "alloy".

Such is the case in today's volatile marketplace. Things are moving fast, aggressive competitors are bent on "putting you out of the race" exploiting your tiniest hesitation or miscalculation.

What is needed in business today is a "stratactical" approach.

Stratactics is the morphing of strategic vision and tactical execution. Gone are the days of having the luxury of spending weeks and months in the planning process defining strategy and then developing the tactics to be employed. It is the tyranny of the urgent.

What to do?

  1. Protect the decision-making process from bureaucracy. It robs the business of time-sensitivity.

  2. Surround yourself with wise, experienced people - smart, knowledgeable, intelligent is not enough.

  3. Find out what is working and keep doing more of it.

  4. Find out what is not working and stop doing more of it.

  5. Wanting to succeed is not enough; have an attitude of "not being afraid to fail".

  6. Live in the moment but with an eye on the horizon. Carpe diem.

  7. Communicate relentlessly with both internal and external stakeholders.
Be stratactical and win the race!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trusted Brands Need To Stand Up And Be Counted In A Down Economy

Customers Will Gravitate To Brands They Admire In Tough Times

By David Miranda

When times are tough, people gravitate to safe havens and there is no greater safe haven than a trusted brand that has historically delivered excellent value. Who is more qualified to help in difficult times than a brand that has been there for me in the past and will continue to earn my trust in the future?

In challenging times, it is time for trusted brands to leverage their accumulated brand equity in the marketplace. It is called brand "capital".

Let's be clear. This is not about indiscriminate price promotions. Those are just knee jerk reactions and historically have caused unintended consequences, i.e. dilution and displacement of revenue.

In challenging economic times, available demand always searches for the best value and the best place to find the best value should be with trusted brands.

What should admired and trusted brands do in times of economic uncertainty?

  1. Show leadership - Communicate quickly and effectively with the marketplace that you understand the challenging environment and empathize with the audience, i.e. "we feel your pain".

  2. Seek competitive advantage - Be first and bold with solutions that customers gravitate to rather than wait for the competition to dictate your strategy.

  3. Be "stratactical" - In a down market, people and businesses alike make decisions within a more compressed time frame. This means a brand needs to consider strategy concurrently with tactics, i.e. stratactical solutions that allow quick adjustments to volatile market conditions.

  4. "Don't take the bait" - There will be the impulse to react to competitive offerings. Urgency is the handmaiden of chaos.

  5. Steal share - The pie shrinks during downturns so getting a bigger piece of a smaller pie is key to success.

  6. Understand that great brands that do smart things during difficult times become greater.
Stand up and be counted.

The Other A.D.D. - Agnostic Decision Disorder

Engaging The "Any One Will Do" Consumer

By David Miranda

There is a popular buzz word found in most marketing presentation today - engagement, as in, "we need to engage consumers". It is a worthy objective, indeed, but one needs to understand the state of the marketplace today to put this into some perspective.

Consumers, today, suffer from two A.D.D. maladies - "attention deficit disorder" and "agnostic decision disorder" - the latter being the most troublesome to marketers since it implies that in many cases they are indifferent to brands that cannot differentiate.

Marketing, therefore, has two parallel objectives - getting a consumer's attention and giving them a reason to actually buy your product or service over those offered by your competitors. To do this a marketer must have a compelling "story" - a "brief" compelling story to communicate.

In marketing, everything communicates, but more often than not, marketers "bore the hell out of" consumers. Imagine Starbucks communicating to consumers "we sell coffee" or Apple communicating "we sell hardware and software" or Prada communicating "we sell clothes and accessories". Yet everyday marketers communicate boring stories and expect consumers to pay attention, get excited, and buy. Not going to happen.

Give consumers a reason to pay attention - a reason to buy and do it relentlessly by giving them more reasons to buy your product or services. Just like personal relationships, you have to relentlessly work at it.

Agnosticism is the enemy of a successful brand. Differentiate of die.

Some Pearls Of Wisdom On Getting A Better R.O.T.I - (Return On Time Invested)

Working Smart Is Doing Smart

By David Miranda

Early in my career, I had the pleasure of working for a rather unique individual. Although he had the responsibility for a large marketing enterprise, his genius was his R.O.T.I (Return On Time Invested). In short, he was a very productive individual and seemed to do it with ease. I figured I could learn a thing or two from him. I requested a meeting to pick his brain, and needless to say, what I learned was invaluable.

These are some of the pearls of wisdom he offered.
  • Seek out people smarter than yourself and do more listening than talking. Sometimes these people will be superiors, sometimes peers, sometimes subordinates, sometimes friends, sometimes competitors, sometimes complete strangers. Smart has no gender, racial, ethnic, religious, or political bias. Smart is smart.

  • If you want me to pay attention to you, tell me something I don't know but should know otherwise, I have better things to do with my time. So does everyone else.

  • If you have a point to make, make it and support it with facts. Everyone is entitled to develop their own opinion, but not their own facts.

  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and get on with things. Excuses waste time and have no value to anyone.

  • Everything within a company are costs. All revenue resides outside the business. That's where time and resources should be invested.

  • A question needs to be asked only once. If you ask the same question to the same people more than that, you have a problem that needs fixing.

  • Information means little if it does not provide insights. Insights lead to action. Information leads to the need for more information.

  • Face-to-face or voice-to-voice communication is most effective and efficient than all other forms of communication whether it be with colleagues or customers. It provides insights that is impossible to get any other way.

  • Never be too busy to speak with someone who needs to speak to you. You never know.

  • Be visible and approachable. The opposite has nothing but negative consequences.

  • Meetings are for an exchange of ideas and decision-making for the future. They are not history classes.

  • Success is the convergence of great preparation, timing, and a little luck.

In summary, from my own perspective, these pearls of wisdom have greatly influenced my perspective and behavior in the business world - including my R.O.T. I.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Avoid Taking A Haircut, First Recognize The Real Problem

Chinese Proverb: A Problem Is An Opportunity In Disquise

Too often we confuse symptoms of a problem with the real problem. The owner of a successful upscale hair salon was confronted with a new discount chain hair salon which had recently opened directly across the street. The new competitor literally barraged the surrounding business and residential locale with direct mail, newspaper advertising, and couponing promoting $9.99 haircuts. The upscale salon owner immediately experienced an impact on her business. She decided to launch a counterattack.

She called in two marketing consultants for help. She asked each to submit a proposal on what to do including budgets. She made it clear to both that she had limited funds which had to be invested prudently. Soon both consultants submitted their plans.

One consultant suggested she needed to a) reduce her prices to compete; and b) invest her entire budget in direct mail, newspapers, and couponing to counter her competitor.

The other consultant suggested something completely different. He had noticed there was a large outdoor billboard available positioned directly between the two competitors. He suggested that this billboard be leased immediately. Nothing else was required. No direct mail, no newspaper ads, no coupons, and more importantly, no reduction in prices.

Curious about the second proposal, she called the consultant in for an explanation. "How is it possible that leasing just one billboard will solve my problem?" "It's simple", related the consultant, "I have done some quick personal research on the market, your clientele, and the clientele of your competitor. You are an upscale salon in a predominantly upscale market. Your loss of business is temporary. If you reduce your prices, coupon, heavily advertise, you are playing into your competitor's hands."

"I understand", the owner responded, "but what, then, will the billboard say?"

The consultant smiled and said, "It will say 'We Fix $9.99 Haircuts!'".

Needless to say which consultant won the business.

The moral of the story: Recognize the problem as an opportunity or risk taking a financial haircut.

Idea "Identity Theft" - Stealing "Credit" For Success

Who Really Is Responsible For The Touted Work?

By David Miranda

I've never hired a person solely on their resume' and I've never retained a company solely on "examples of their past work".

I have, however, hired talented people and retained companies with talented people.

There is a big difference.

Today's currency is ideas - big ideas from talented people. It is critical, therefore, to interview people and companies for talent. Too often, prospects are guilty of idea identify theft, e.g. taking credit for the ideas and accomplishments of others. Was the candidate for hire really responsible for his or her resume' claims? When a company presents its work done for others, are those people still with the firm and, if so, will they be working on your businesss?

Resume's are glorified bios putting the subjects who composed them in the best possible light. What do they tell you about the individual and his or her talents. The answer is very little. They don't tell you if they are likable or despicable, arrogant or collaborative; shepherds or sheep; self-motivated or heavy maintenance; ethical or amoral; or a potential asset or liabilty. Finding the right "needle in the haystack" requires face-to-face dialogue by an experienced "talent scout" asking questions like "why did you move from this job to this job?"; "would these companies hire you back or would you even want to?"; "if you get this job, what is the first thing you would do?"; "I can hire anyone, why you?"; In other words, find out what makes this person tick.

Too often, companies present and tout stuff they did for other clients as in "here are examples of our previous work". Here you need to ask questions like "how many of the people that produced this work are still with your firm?"; "will the people who are on the pitch for my business really be working on my business"; "will you take these people off my business if you get new accounts and will you advise me in advance?"; "have you lost any business lately, and if so, why?; "how successful are you at recruiting and retaining talent?".

Asking the right questions and getting the right answers will save you a great deal of time, money, and frustration up front.

Hire or retain the real talent, not those who seek to claim the credit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Accept, Adapt, Adopt, Analyze, Adjust - Repeat As Often As Necesary

A Marketing Formula For Succeeding In A Dynamic Marketplace

We are witnessing a new age for marketing. The evidence is overwhelming. Reliable mass marketing vehicles (broadcast television, terrestial radio, daily newspapers, national magazines) have seen erosion of their audiences. DVR's, iPods, the Internet, cable, and mobile are some of the new technologies and channels that have enabled consumers to dictate their own personal media consumption patterns. New insurgent brands are challenging, and sometimes, winning their battles with major incumbents as is depicted in Seth Godin's new book, "Small Is The New Big."

Whether you are an incumbent or insurgent brand, the formula for success is the same. Successful participants must be smart, agile, fearless and relentless in their marketing. In this new age, marketing is a verb.

The formula for success can be described in the following steps:
  1. Accept - The first step is to accept the reality of what is happening in your respective industry. What forces are at work? What are the implications moving forward? Bricks and mortar book retailers, for example, could not and did not accept the fact that the internet would be a viable distribution channel until it was too late.

  2. Adapt - After accepting what is happening in the marketplace, a brand must adapt to the change. This is challenging in a larger organization where the status quo creates resistance to change. Adapting means understanding the brand's core competencies and determining how they can be adapted to new thinking and methods.

  3. Adopt - Adoption is committment to change. This is the most challenging for an organization because the tendency is to gravitate back to the old status quo. Adoption means that the entire organization must walk the walk.

  4. Analyze - In a hyperactive business environment, circumstances will relentless change. It is imperative, therefore, that marketing plans be continually analyzed to ensure the desired goals are being realized.

  5. Adjust - In any dynamic situation, course corrections will be required. It is critical that these adjustments be implemented without delay.

These steps are circuitous - a continuum for success. Brands must always be accepting of what is going on in the market; adapting to change; adopting new methods; analyzing performance; and adjusting as required.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Who's Minding The Store?

You Have To See Things For Yourself

By David Miranda

Corporate America is blessed with many highly educated executives whose resumes' are filled with post-secondary degrees and certifications. A considerable number, however, lack the common sense, empathy, and practical experience to run a successful department, division, or company. They have graduated from the classroom to the meeting room without "rolling up their sleeves" or "getting their hands dirty" on the shop floor, behind the counter, on the phone bank, in the warehouse, or wherever else the business is really done. And for these businesses, it shows. Regardless of what is learned in a classroom, there is no substitute for getting on the front lines of the enterprise and seeing it for yourself.

Ray Kroc, the legendary founder of McDonald's would visit his stores, cook a few burgers, work the counter, and, yes, pick up trash in the parking lot. When asked the secret of McDonald's success, he said "We take the hamburger business more serious than anyone else".

Norman Brinker, the founder of Brinker International, would require new corporate management to work a week in a one of his restaurants washing dishes, bussing and waiting tables, prepping, cooking, and bartending as a prerequisite for a desk job. He also required them to pull a restaurant management shift visiting each and every table to thank guests and solicit first-hand feedback.

Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, the co-founders of Home Depot, were reknown for putting on the famous orange aprons and touring their stores to get "up close and personal" with their business. The company, during their tenure, was a perennial top performer as a most admired company by their customers and employees.

If you are cloistered in your office, shackled to your desk, held hostage at meetings, rely on second or third hand information on "how things are going", chances are you are out of touch and have abdicated your responsibility of "minding the business".

Get out, get out often and introduce yourself to your business.

See what's happening!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Marketing Perfect Storm - The Impact Of Consumer A.D.D., Time Poverty. And Clutter

No Time, Short Attention Span, And Clutter Build Case For Brand-Building

By David Miranda

Three major phenomena have converged today in a perfect storm that challenge marketers to find the best strategies for success.

First, time poverty. Time is today's most precious commodity for consumers and 24 hours never seems to be enough to get everything done. Never enough time. Consumers are constantly playing King Solomon in attempting to balance the demands of work and home. Juggling, shuffling, rushing, and rescheduling are more the norm than the exception in day to day life. To cope, consumers have to prioritize. Tending to those things that are most important. Back burner the things that can wait. Time-saving products and services have become necessities in our lives - the drive-thru window, express check-out, the ATM, the cell phone, and the Internet, for example.

Second, consumer A.D.D.. With time poverty comes less time to spend on watching, reading, listening, surfing, researching, eating, shopping, and communicating. Consumers browse through the newspaper; surf the Internet; channel surf the television; flip through magazines; sort through email, voice mail, and snail mail; get frustrated waiting and impatient with anything that wastes time - people, bureaucracy, incompetence.

Third, clutter. Depending on one's perspective, consumers are either the beneficiaries or victims of abundance - hyper-choice of products and services and hyper-solicitations for those products and services from everywhere - television, radio, print, the Internet, outdoor, direct mail, coupons, flyers, brochures, and sales people to name a few.

What are marketers to do?

Invest in branding. Here are some reasons why and suggestions for dealing with the perfect storm:

  1. To combat time poverty; clearly distinguish your brand from others. Brands save people time. They shouldn't have to guess what they're buying and why. Brands are short hand for the senses.
  2. To combat A.D.D; keep the marketing message simple. People don't have time to listen or read lengthy copy whether it be on TV, the radio, print ads, brochures, direct mail, social networks, or Internet sites. Don't say in 3o seconds what you can say in 15. Just because you bought a half-page ad, doesn't mean you have to fill it with copy. Twitterize your brand messaging.
  3. To combat clutter; seek media opportunities where your brand is not just a part of the noise integrated with a strong public relations plan. Don't be an "marketing litterbug" where your marketing is strewn across the marketplace in hopes of someone noticing it.

In summary, in developing your marketing plan, it is important that you deal with the impact of the perfect storm or your brand's "ship won't come in".

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What Is Your Job? How Someone Answers Can Be Telling

Recognition Of The Person Behind The Title Is Critical For A Marketing Organization's Success

Once I was having a late dinner meeting was with a friend who was a senior marketing executive with Fortune 500 company. We were discussing his plans to reorganize his marketing department and he wanted some feedback. He brought an existing org chart and began describing his thoughts on the new reorg. Both the old and new charts had boxes filled with many names with lofty titles like VP of Interactive Marketing, VP of Relationship Marketing, VP of Strategic Partnerships, etc. etc. Connecting these many boxes were lots of solid and dotted lines representing the various interrelationships and who reports to who. He said the old chart wasn't working and he wanted to shake things up.

I asked about the people in these boxes. As I pointed to each box, he would respond in terms of the job description as in, "That's Jack Smith. He is the VP of Advertising. This position is responsible for liasing with our ad agencies for all our broadcast, cable, radio, and print media. We recruited him from a major agency." As I pointed to each box, I got similar replies. During our meeting it seemed to me that the reorg was not really the solution. A reorg would be like having people change seats around a conference table. Same people. Different seats.

While we were exchanging ideas, our waiter came over to check on us. The service, by the way, that evening was superb. From the moment we sat down, we were in the hands of master. He was going to get a considerable tip for his performance.

Here was an opportunity to make a point.

I asked the waiter what his job was. I knew, of course, he was a waiter, but I was interested to hear his response. He looked at both of us and realized it wasn't a flippant or trick question. He smiled and said, "My job is taking personal care of all my guests. My job is to predict what they may need or want before they ask for it. My job is to make sure the kitchen prepares the food to my guests liking as soon as my guests are ready and that the bar gets your drinks out just as you requested. My job is to be your personal host during your experience and if I am successful, I want you to come back and ask for me. And if I have done my job well I hope you will recommend me and the restaurant to your friends. How's that? That's what my job is."

"Couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you." I looked over to my friend and said that is what you need to do. This restaurant doesn't need a new org chart. It needs more people like this young man to understand what their real job is which has little to do, by the way, with lofty titles.

If you asked each current member of your organization what his or her job is, what would they say? If they respond with the obvious, i.e. "I am the VP of Interactive Marketing and I am responsible for online, mobile, etc.", you have a problem. If, however, this person responds, "My job is to ensure that new media will integrate with other marketing assets of the company to insure we achieve our budgeted financial goals. My job will be to proactively work with my colleagues to ensure our mutual success." Now you are getting somewhere.

In other words, don't change org charts - change hearts and minds. The next time you meet with your colleagues, staff, friends, or perfect strangers, ask them what they do. How they answer will be enlightening. By the way, I have visited many restaurants since and in every case I ask the server the same question, "What is your job?" In each and every case, the answer has been "I am your waiter". Enough said.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Sold Experience Must Exceed The Marketed Expectation

The Customer Satisfaction Formula

By David Miranda
During a Q&A session after a marketing presentation to a university audience, I was asked what the difference was between marketing and sales since the terms were used interchangebly in business at times. The question is a good one and deserved a good answer.

There is a symbiotic relationship between marketing and sales. One relies on the other for ultimate success - a ying to the other's yang. Some have used the adage "everyone in marketing and sales must sing off the same song sheet", but to really understand the relationship, one must go further. Marketing and sales must "must make music".

Marketing, simply put, is getting someone to "want to buy" what you have to sell - creating the expectation. Sales is actually "getting them to buy" - selling the experience, not just the germane product or service. Starbucks, for example, doesn't sell coffee, it sells the Starbucks experience. Altoids doesn't sell mints, they sell prevention. And so on.

When the experience exceeds the expectation, there is strong customer satisfaction and positive word of mouth. When the expectation, on the other hand, exceeds the experience, customers are not happy and this creates negative word of mouth. When the experience meets expectation, customer get what they expect, but "just okay" does not generate word of mouth.

So the relentless goal should be to exceed customer expectations. This is the characteristic of all great brands.

Remember, before someone buys something (sales), they have to want it (marketing).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Brand+Content+Frequency+Recency+Distribution=Digital Success

All Elements Are Keys To Digital Brand Success

By David Miranda


A brand is not a logo, URL, or name. It is short hand for communicating your entity's personality to your target audience.. Think what comes to mind when you consider Starbucks, Coke, YouTube, Apple, etc. What is your brand identity? Ask others and see if it matches your definition.


Whether you are an aggregator of the content of others or create your own, it must be relevant to an audience other than yourself and it must be updated regularly to keep people's interest.


How often does your audience interact with your digital properties? The more frequently, of course, the better. Frequency shows you are doing something right.


Recency measures the time between interactions. Someone, for example, may interact with you 12 times digitally, it is better to have this interaction over a week rather than over a year.


Unless you have a pile of money, distribution is the key to generating, sustaining and growing traffic. This is a complex undertaking that requires a clear strategy, measurable tactics, and relentless experimentation. Organic search optimization, paid keywords, affiliate marketing, social media, link sharing, etc. requires the guidance and expertise of specialists in the field. It is not for novices.

In summary a successful digital brand strategy demands relentless oversight. Success goes to the the vigilant.

Make Every Customer Experience Special - A Restaurant Mini-Case Study

Nothing Can Help You If You Don't Recognize The Consumer POV

By David Miranda

The following mini-case study is a good example of how recognition marketing can help a business. Recognize the root problem. Recognize the appropriate solution.

A friend of mine who was in the restaurant business asked me for advice regarding a new casual dining restaurant which had been open for about a year. He said the restaurant was located in a highly competitive area, but was not performing up to expectations. He thought the concept was appropriate; his prices were competitive; no history of negative customer comments and the management and staff were capable, yet his restaurant was underperforming the competition. What could be the problem? Did he need to spend more on local marketing? Have more promotions? Change the menu?

I agreed to pay the restaurant a visit as a mystery shopper. Here is a synopsis of my experience.

I called the restaurant around 3PM for a dinner reservation later that evening. The phone rang, and rang and rang. Finally a recorded message came on. "Thank you for calling O'Malley's (not the real name). Our hours of operation are lunch, Monday through Saturday, from noon until 2. Dinner is served Monday through Friday from 5PM to 11PM and Saturday from 5PM to midnight. Thank you for calling." I decided to call back. This time I got a real person. I related that I wanted to make a dinner reservation for that evening. I was told the restaurant did not take reservations. I asked whether there would be a wait if I arrived around 7PM? "Yes. Around that time there might be up to an hour wait." was the reply.

I arrived at the restaurant at around 7PM. The interior lobby was filled with patrons waiting for their table. I worked my way through the crowd to the reception desk where I found myself in front of two hostesses who seemed busy filling out charts and lists. When they were ready, one looked up and said, "How many in your party, sir?" "Two", I replied, "How long is the wait?" "About an hour. Can I have your last name?" I gave her my name and she gave me a pager.

During my wait (of over an hour), I watched as more new people entered the lobby, while some jumped up as their pager went off. I thought is was very Pavlovian. During my wait, I visited the restroom. It was untidy - paper towels on the floor because the waste basket was overflowing. No hand soap in the dispenser. Soon my pager went off and I approached the reception desk and turned in my pager. A hostess with an armful of menus asked me and my guest to follow her to my table. She not only got to the table and deposited the menus before we were seated, she passed us on her way back to reception commenting that Sue would be our server.

Sue arrived. The first words out of her mouth was "Can I get you something from the bar?" After our drink orders, she told us to look over the menus and she would be back with our drinks. Sue returned with our drinks and said "Are you ready to order?" We said no and she quickly disappeared. A little while later, we were indeed ready to order. No Sue to be found. We did see her flitting around other tables, but could not get her attention. Finally, Sue was ready. "Are you ready to order?". We placed our order and it later arrived. As the empty plates were being taken away, Sue asked us would we like anything else. We said no, and, she immediately pulled out our prepared check and said "I will take that when you are ready".

We paid the bill and made our way out of the restaurant. No comments from Sue or the hostesses when we departed. During our dinner, we also did not have any contact with a member of restaurant management.

The next day I called my restaurant owner friend. "So how was dinner? Did you come up with any ideas? Do I need to change menus, pricing, do more advertising?" I said no to all, but I did give him the following advice.

  1. You are not selling food and beverages. You are selling experiences. The experience starts and ends with first and last human contact a consumer has with your establishment whether that contact be in person or over the phone.
  2. Answer your phone during all hours of operation and make sure the person answering the phone is a trained people person, not just the person who heard the phone ring. If the person calling took the time to call for a reservation - take it and say thank you, we look forward to seeing you tonight, Mr. Smith.
  3. Hire and train professional hosts and hostesses. These are your first impression ambassadors for your clientele. Demand that every new guest be greeted and once they know the customer's name- use it, as in, Mr. Smith, welcome to O'Malley's. Your table will be ready shortly. Ban the host or hostess from yelling out a patron's name to advise their table's ready. Have the host or hostess go find the customer. When customers are escorted to their table, make sure they are comfortable before departing the scene. And ditch the pagers.
  4. Pay constant attention to the cleanliness and tidiness of the public areas. It is a direct reflection on the cleanliness and tidiness in other areas of the restaurant.
  5. Hire and train professional people-friendly service staff including wait staff, bus staff, and bartenders that can engage customers. Opening statements like "Would you like something from the bar?" is not as engaging as "Welcome to O'Malley's, my name is Sue and it is my pleasure to serve you this evening." Shoving a check at customers while their dinner plates are being removed is a signal "to pay the bill, we have more people we have to seat." Suggestive selling will improve the average check and profit, such as "Do you have room for some of our great desserts. Our Key Lime Pie is to die for? or "May I suggest a latte or cappucino?"
  6. Restaurant management should visit every table every meal period to introduce themselves and ask how their experience was. Here is where a restaurant can gain immediate insights on the clientele, what they liked, suggestions regarding the menu, is this their first time, how they heard about the restaurant, i.e. word-of-mouth, advertising, drove by. A daily management diary with these comments is better than any focus group and serves as a body of information to assist in running the business.
  7. When customers leave a restaurant, everyone (wait staff, bartenders, bus people, host and hostesses, and management) should take a moment to say thank you and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

My friend shared my experience with his team and he has implemented a recognition marketing program to put his customer experiences first. I returned some time later and recognized the difference.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Is There Anybody There? - The Techno-Barricading Of America

Answer Your Phone (and emails) - It's Could Be Opportunity Calling

Once upon a time, in a time not so far away, real people answered their phones; read and personally responded to their mail and were sincerely apologetic for not responding in a prompt manner. Those days are gone. Today, we have techno-barricaded ourselves from the world. We let voice mail and email inboxes act as filing cabinets of communication to be dealt with when we have a moment or when they have been filled to capacity. In that time far away, businesses used to answer their own phones. Yes, real people on the other end who would take our calls without going through a "Press 1 for this or press 2 for that". Those were the days.

There is a point here. Actually more than a point, an opportunity. In this ADD, impatient world we live in, businesses that actually have real people responding to real people in a timely manner would create a strategic competitive advantage. What a unique selling point! Call us and you will speak with a real person. We promise. It is a story worthy of media coverage.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. Perhaps you can relate.

I dial the mobile number of Jane Doe, VP of Marketing for the Acme Group, who gave me her card at an industry luncheon and said to call her.

"This is Jane Doe. I am sorry I cannot take your call. At the tone, leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as I can." BEEP

I leave a message.

I dial the corporate number for the Acme Group from her card.

"Thank you for calling the Acme Group. If you know your party's extension, please dial it now or press "1" to access the company directory."

After listening to the choices, I enter the extension of Jane Doe.

"This is Jane Doe, Vice President of Marketing. I am sorry I cannot take your call. At the tone, please leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as I can. If you need immediate assistance, dial extension 549 and ask for my assistant, Mary." BEEP

I leave a message and dial 549.

"This is Mary Brown. I am sorry I cannot take your call. At the tone, please leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as I can." BEEP

I leave a message.

I send an email to Jane Doe.

I get an instant reply.

"This in an auto-reply. I am out of the office until next week and do not have access to email. If you need immediate assistance, call my assistant, Mary, at 404-555-6000 EXT 549."

Time passes.

I follow up both by phone and email to Jane and her assistant, Mary.

More time passes.

Of course, this is a fictitious example, but it could represent one of any number of real examples in today's world of business to business communications. Are Jane and Mary too busy or am I just not important enough to get a timely response?

By the way, it happens to consumers as well.

I recently called an airline to book a flight.

"Thank your for calling Sky Airlines (not the real name). For English, press 1. For Spanish, press 2." I press 1.

"If you know your frequent flier number, enter it now. If not, press 3" I press 3.

If you are traveling within the next 24 hours, press 4. If not, press 5" I press 5.

If you are using frequent flyer miles , press 6. If not, press 7" I press 7.

If you are confirming a reservation, press 8. If not, press 9" I press 9.

"Please hold for the next available operator."


"Thank you for holding. All our operators are busy serving other customers. Your business is important to us. Please continue holding."

More music. I hung up.

Is anybody home? Does anyone want my business?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Afraid To Admit You're Wrong? It May Not Totally Be Your Fault

Cognitive Dissonance Is The Enabler For Self-Delusion

By David Miranda

Social psychologist, Leon Festinger, coined the term "cognitive dissonance" about half a century ago. It refers to "the state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two cognitions (ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions) that are psychologically inconsistent."

We have all been guilty of self-delusion at one time or another in our lives. Some more than others. Examples - While eating junk food on the couch watching TV, "I know I should eat healthier and exercise, but I'm too busy and, furthermore, I'm having a Diet Coke with these Cheetos."

Cognitive dissonance is pervasive, as well, in the business world. Businesses are, sometimes, self-delusional in justifying their performance, as in, "we outsource job overseas to help the economy" or "importing more and more goods from overseas helps keep the price of goods to American consumers affordable".

Elliot Aronson, a social psychologist and professor emeritus of psychology at UC Santa Cruz is co-author of a new book, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me). He says our brains work hard to make us think we are doing the right thing, even in the face of sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Here's an excerpt from the book:

Half a century ago, a young social psychologist named Leon Festinger and two associates infiltrated a group of people who believed the world would end on December 21.

They wanted to know what would happen to the group when (they hoped!) the prophecy failed. The group's leader, whom the researchers called Marian Keech, promised that the faithful would be picked up by a flying saucer and elevated to safety at midnight on December 20.

Many of her followers quit their jobs, gave away their homes, and dispersed their savings, waiting for the end. Who needs money in outer space? Others waited in fear or resignation in their homes. (Mrs. Keech's own husband, a nonbeliever, went to bed early and slept soundly through the night as his wife and her followers prayed in the living room.)

Festinger made his own prediction: The believers who had not made a strong commitment to the prophecy—who awaited the end of the world by themselves at home, hoping they weren't going to die at midnight—would quietly lose their faith in Mrs. Keech. But those who had given away their possessions and were waiting with the others for the spaceship would increase their belief in her mystical abilities. In fact, they would now do everything they could to get others to join them.

At midnight, with no sign of a spaceship in the yard, the group felt a little nervous. By 2 a.m., they were getting seriously worried. At 4:45 a.m., Mrs. Keech had a new vision: The world had been spared, she said, because of the impressive faith of her little band. "And mighty is the word of God," she told her followers, "and by his word have ye been saved—for from the mouth of death have ye been delivered and at no time has there been such a force loosed upon the Earth. Not since the beginning of time upon this Earth has there been such a force of Good and light as now floods this room."

The group's mood shifted from despair to exhilaration. Many of the group's members, who had not felt the need to proselytize before December 21, began calling the press to report the miracle, and soon they were out on the streets, buttonholing passersby, trying to convert them.

What's the lesson here?

We're human, not sheep. Cognitive dissonance may explain the phenomenon, but doesn't justify self-delusion. It's called free will and conscience.

With proper attribution to Abraham Lincoln, "You can delude some of the people some of the time, but you can't delude all of the people all of the time.

Franchising - Being In Business For Yourself, Not By Yourself

Advice On How To Get The Best From The Great American Business Model

By David Miranda

I was asked recently by a friend, who had recently purchased a new franchise, to provide some insights and advice on franchising. In a previous life, I had the privilege of being the VP of Brand Marketing for Holiday Inn Worldwide, considered a pioneer in franchising. My friend wanted advice on how to maximize his relationship with his franchisor. The following is a synopsis of my advice which I would offer to any franchisee (and franchisor, for that matter)

Franchising is the great American business model. It blends the best of entrepreneurship and brand power. The relationship between the franchisor and the franchisee is unique in the world of business. It can best be described by its derivation. The word, "franchise" comes from the old French and means privilege and freedom - the privilege of franchise ownership and the freedom to build a business supported by a strong partner. It is a relationship premised on mutual respect and responsibilities.

Mike Leven, my former boss at Holiday Inn and a member of the Hospitality Hall Of Fame provided me with the best definition of franchising I have heard to date. Prior to one of our annual franchisee conferences, we were going over agendas. Mike looked it over and asked, "How much input have the franchisees had in the agendas? Remember franchising is being in business for yourself, but not by yourself. We need their input." From that moment on, I embraced a totally different perspective on my role. I was there to support our franchisees and to do that effectively, I needed to get them involved and I also learned they needed to get me involved since that is what I was there for.

So this is the advice I gave my friend, the new franchisee.

  1. You are the custodian of the brand. As a franchisee, your customers; your staff; your vendors; and your community will see you as the personification of the brand. You must never take this lightly or risk becoming a weak link in the franchise chain and eroding the value of your business.

  2. Create, maintain, and nurture open communications with the franchisor. Good communications strengthens the business relationship. As a franchisee, you are on the front lines of the business and this information is vital, not only to you, but to the franchisor. It is the most powerful form of market intelligence particularly when coupled with the franchisor's macro view of the world. It is called a "GLOCAL" perspective, i.e. thinking globally, but acting locally.

  3. Speaking of communications, the best ideas in franchising have come from franchisee partners. Not only share new ideas with the franchisor, but also provide feedback on anything that could be improved.
  4. Exploit the power of the brand as a competitive advantage in the local marketplace. Take advantage of the portfolio of marketing and technology resources and expertise of the franchisor. Today, marketing is more complex than ever. From traditional media to the Internet and mobile and the relentless introduction of new technology solutions makes for a challenging environment. Seek the counsel and guidance of those in the franchisor organization that can ably assist.

  5. Proactively participate in franchisee meetings and conferences. These provide an invaluable opportunity, not only to share thoughts with your fellow franchisees, but, even more importantly, an opportunity to meet face-to-face with key members of the franchisor organization.

In summary, the franchisor/franchisee relationship only works when both parties work in unison for the common good. Remember it is about being in business for yourself, but not by yourself.