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.