Help Them Buy Better

Nap @ Västra hamnen
Creative Commons License photo credit: bjaglin

A few days ago, Seth Godin asked why ethical marketers wouldn’t be “eager to have aggressive, clear and well-defined regulations” (about marketing).

He set the context by talking about the lies used to sell sunscreen, noting that lobbyists kindly helped the FDA water down proposed sunscreen regulations.

To quote Seth:

Why aren’t ethical marketers (of any product) eager to have clear and well-defined regulations, creating a set of honest definitions so that they can actually do what they set out to do–make a difference and make a living at the same time? If you’re busy competing against people willing to cut corners, I’d think you’d want the rules to be really aggressive, clear and obvious.

Yes, clear and obvious regulations would be great, but the assertion that we need more regulations to deal with them requires that I call BullSeth.

Enforcement and Influence

The enforcement of existing regulations in a fair and consistent manner is the primary issue.

Selective enforcement of these regulations is sometimes used to send a political message to some industries while others are left to their own honor or lack thereof.

At times, the agencies responsible for enforcement find themselves taking direction from elected officials who often take direction in the form of campaign contributions. At other times, these agencies do whatever they like, regardless of regulatory boundaries created to manage their work.

Before the everything-is-one-party’s-fault types weigh in, keep in mind that this ISN’T a (R) problem or a (D) problem. It’s universal regardless of the animal you represent.

A healthy business / consumer / economic environment doesn’t require oppressive business marketing/advertising regulations like Germany’s, we need those who represent us to use the existing regulations in a fair and consistent manner AND continue to improve them.

Smart businesses can’t sit around and wait for that to happen.

Don’t Wait, Educate.

Waiting for these changes isn’t going to cut it. Smart businesses educate prospects and customers about the quality choices they have.

That doesn’t mean your marketing has to be boring (far from it). It doesn’t mean your marketing can’t be compelling, entertaining, motivational and most importantly, effective – but it can be all those things without breaking existing laws, much less new ones.

In the meantime, we have to do our part to eliminate the slimeballs. Yes, I absolutely mean put them out of business, even if it means a game of Whack-a-Mole as they close one and start another.

Ethical business people don’t do enough to call out the slimy behavior of their competitors. Neither do consumers.

Buy Better

Meanwhile, people continue to take it from the cretins Seth referred to, rewarding these “businesses” for their behavior.

If folks keep buying from them and media outlets keep accepting their advertising, do you really think they are going to change?

Have you ever contacted a media outlet about the advertising they accepted from vendors advertising one thing and delivering another? Sure, it’s your word against the vendor’s. And yes, the media outlet will likely claim they have no responsibility for what appears in their paper, on their station or on their website.

I think you’re smarter than that.

The power of the customer to deal with these vendors comes simply: STOP BUYING FROM THESE IDIOTS.

It’s Just Word of Mouth

Businesses can help them do that.

Customers have lots of resources that enable them to take control, including Yelp, Urbanspoon, Angie’s List, Trip Advisor, etc. These services help people find businesses that deliver what they say and avoid the ones who don’t.

In a perfect world, we shouldn’t need any of them. Until we get there, we all have to help each other by calling BS when it’s warranted and giving kudos as well.

Too few businesses pay attention to those services. If you think no one is using them to make daily purchasing choices in your little town, you’re dead wrong – particularly if your area is frequented by tourists. You need to be monitoring them, addressing issues, “claiming” your business so people can find you, and encouraging consumers to share their thoughts there.

Encourage your customers to use tools that help them buy better. Provide them when you can. Help them stop buying from the wrong people.

Ditch Diggers and Self-Starters

As much as Seth’s oft-hypocritical blog annoys me (a no-comments blog from a guy who preaches interaction?), his post on the need for external motivation is worth pointing your way: Self-starters matter.

I’m not saying that non-self-starters don’t matter and I’d never assert that motivational tools, speakers, reading and the like aren’t of value – far from it.

What I am saying is this:

  • If you want to be the one who keeps their job while others are getting laid off, you’d better be the one motivating yourself. It’s your responsibility and no one else’s.
  • If you want your business to stick around while others are wilting around you, you should be the one leading your industry to a better place before a competitor or a government entity forces it upon you; and you’d better be the one hiring the people who don’t need someone like Lombardi or R. Lee Ermey to get them out of bed in the morning.

 

What’s your art?

havana
Creative Commons License photo credit: paul (dex)

I was finishing up Seth Godin’s Linchpin this weekend while camping in Plains for a swim meet and thought this was worthy of sharing.

Like others have said, there’s a lot in Linchpin that is common knowledge/attitude to “smart people” and while it resonates with how I feel about business and opportunity (likewise, Dan Kennedy would be nodding his head saying “I’ve been saying this for years!”), it never hurts to refresh those thoughts with words from someone who comes from another angle.

Dan and Seth both present their case on the “being indispensable” thing with a substantially different tone, so it’s helpful to hear it from a fresh angle.

Your art

One thing stuck out from Seth’s version as I got toward the end.

He started discussing your “what you do best” work as your art. I was mentally nodding “yep, yep, yep” and then he really hit the nail on the head.

He said something along the lines of “Your art is that thing you do that no one can tell you how to do”.  Why? Because it’s your passion and skill for that work is perhaps not untouchable, but highly developed when compared to almost everyone around you.

My art

For me, it’s the integration of marketing, technology and business process refinement and how they flow to the bottom line. I can talk on stage (or elsewhere) about those things all day long – even if no one is listening.

For example, the programmer and industrial engineering side of my head is what focuses me on the “bugs” in your process (such as the “patient intake” experience I described after my doctor visit last week). When you marry that to the marketing and customer service side of things, it’s easy to see ROI.

I’d like to hear what your art is and how you’re leveraging it to help others.

Free, Seth, Malcolm and Reinvention

steckschrift
Creative Commons License photo credit: wilhei55

If you haven’t gotten a free copy of Chris Anderson’s Free by now, you didn’t try hard enough.

The free ebook versions were pulled off the net recently, but a little Googling will still reward you if you look at the publisher’s site. Likewise, the free audiobook version of Free is still on iTunes (a 6 hour+ listen).

While I’m planning on commenting further about Free in future posts, reading what Seth said about the whole Free thing has provoked me to comment a little early about it.

In particular, his response to Malcolm Gladwell’s comments about Free got me going, especially given that I read it not long after posting last week’s Beacon column about the news business.

During the dustup between Malcolm, Chris and Seth, Seth says this: “People will not pay for yesterday’s news, driven to our house, delivered a day late, static, without connection or comments or relevance.”

When you describe a newspaper that way, it sure sounds quaint and outdated, if not irrelevant.

How can your business/product/service be described to make it sound like that?

While “people will not pay” might not be 100% true today, that day is rapidly approaching as my parent’s generation ages. Of course, people also might not pay for it online. Figuring out how to make it work is the premise of Free.

We’ll talk more about the strategy of Free (or not) in the coming weeks, so in the meantime, do your homework: take a listen (or read) Chris Anderson’s Free and consider how it might reinvent your business, or at least, impact it.

You may not be in the newspaper business, but the reinvention of your business is just as important to you and Free might help you figure it out.

Should you give it away?

If you have trouble with ideas on this, think about what would be most painful if your strongest competitor started giving it away. Likewise, what would pain that competitor the most if you gave it away? It’s a place to start the thought process and might even identify a new value proposition for your business.

All of this is less about free and more about finding a way to reinvent your business. Not necessarily because your business is broken, but because strategic reinvention before you need it beats the crud out of reinvention focused on survival.

Why Seth buys from Joel

Today’ s guest post is once again from Seth Godin.

I’ll warn you, the video is a tad more than an hour long.

If you don’t have an hour to “get” this stuff, you don’t really care much about your business.

Maybe you don’t need the entire hour. That’s OK (and if so, you’ll probably watch the whole thing despite that.)

Maybe you’ll get it by the end of the Seth buys Joel’s software story. I hope so.

If it takes longer, that’s OK.

For those who are not yet convinced about my repeated discussions about nurturing customer relationships, building a “cult” (in effect) around what you do in your market, maybe Seth will help you get there.

Clap in unison, in rhythm. With those who would be crazy about what you do for them.

But first, give them something to clap about.

Do you have relationships with your clientele like the ones Seth is talking about? How do your products and services create raging fans?

I’m listening.

Keeping score is important for your business

If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ll have read a few posts about the value of measurement.

Measuring marketing response is the primary thing you’ll find, but as a CFO friend of mine says, “That which is measured will be managed”.

Seth starts off talking about the green marketing but ends up making a very good point about why those things we measure are better-managed.

Bottom line: They’ve got a number.

Got something that’s important to your business? Keep score. It matters.

Is your business in the gap between passionate and mainstream?

Today’s guest post is from Seth Godin. Earlier this week Seth was talking about the choice businesses must make when deciding what market they are going to serve: a passionate group or a mainstream one.

wouldn't want to be what she just caught sight of...
photo credit: sherseydc

Are you the local cafe that serves coffee, or are you the best place to get the best, gourmet coffee anyone can find within 100 miles?

Do you sell any old religious item that can be found in any store, or do you sell only high quality items that aren’t made in China?

Do you sell mountain bikes that someone can find at Wal-Mart, or do you sell only the finest Rocky Mountain custom mountain bikes to people who wouldn’t dream of buying a bike “off the rack”?
It’s an important choice, especially given the things we talk about here.  One of those markets requires you to be a lot more personal, to have a much stronger relationship with your clientèle.

How to serve mail order coffee while wearing your e-commerce marketing hat

I ordered some coffee beans online the other day and received the box on Saturday. Or maybe Friday – dunno since I didn’t check the mail on Friday.

The box arrived in good condition and the beans were packed in their airtight bag with a nice spring-y colored tissue paper. So much nicer than those annoying statically charged packing peanuts that stick to everything.

Buddha dog
photo credit: SuperFantastic

Included in the box was a hand-written card from one of the owners of the coffee shop (no photo of the owner or the shop), and a business card (no photo). Nicely done, I thought, but what would make the purchase really memorable?

What would provoke me to tell a dozen friends about this package, and even to show it to them before tossing or reusing the packaging?

  • What can they do to make doing business with them unbelievable?
  • How can they truly make it an coffee shop experience – even by mail?
  • If Seth Godin ordered coffee beans from your shop – what would you have done differently, or what would you hope you would have done differently?

Here are a few ideas:

Tell me how fresh it is and why I should care: Include the roasted date on the package so I know that they put my coffee in the box on the same day it was roasted (or maybe the day before). When telling me the roasting date, remind me that coffee beans lose 25% of their flavor within 14 days – or whatever the number is – and note that store-bought coffee is often months old (and Starbucks is as well). Make it clear to me that their efforts to get me the freshest roast possible is so I and my friends and family have the best coffee we can buy – without spending 2 or 3 times what the grocery store charges.

Tell me how special it is: I know of one shop that includes a birth certificate with their Christmas-time Hawaiian Kona coffee package. A nice touch over the holidays, but it could easily be continued throughout the year. If it’s French Roast, tell me where the beans came from. Tell me where the farm is. If it’s Fair Trade coffee, make sure I know about it.

Show me what else I might like if I like French Roast: Next time I order coffee, I might be in an experimental mood. Or I might want something stronger, or different. Let me know what I might enjoy if I liked this one. Help me shop more wisely.

Show me what else I might do if I am “into coffee”: Perhaps I’m using bleached coffee filters. Maybe my water isn’t filtered. Maybe I toss the half-full bag in the fridge or in the freezer. Shouldn’t I get an owner’s manual for this bag of beans?

I mean, if I’m going to really enjoy them and get the same experience I would get if I was drinking my Joe in your shop, what would I do at home?

Help me find the things I’ll need if I really am a coffee geek, or want to be. After all, there is a reason why the coffee is so good at your shop – shouldn’t you help me make my coffee just as good at home with your beans?

Help me reorder: Until I establish a purchase history, this coffee place has to make a guess about how long it’ll take me to use this bag of beans. I’m guessing they can tell me to the cup how many cups of espresso I’ll get (give or take a couple) from a bag of beans ( I have no idea ).

If they guess that two people are drinking java in my house (an accurate guess) each day, then they’ll need to follow up in a certain number of days so that I never run out of their coffee. How many days should they wait before following up?

Roughly speaking, that’s (cups per bag) divided by (cups per day) minus a few days for shipping so that they have time to get me another bag before I run out and establish motivation to buy someone else’s coffee at the local grocery or coffee shop.

Rhode Island Cinnamon Latte
photo credit: Chris Owens

Adding to that reorder thing – help me get it automatically: If I like their coffee, give me a code or a special URL or phone number or an order form or email address or *something* to make it drop dead simple to order another bag, and include an option to start having them send me a bag so that fresh beans or ground coffee automatically arrive every X days or weeks.

Help me tell a friend about this great coffee and the package and so on: Include a card, something with a bonus-for-a-friend URL, some other doohickey, or a 1 pot sample bag of ground coffee (just in case they don’t have a grinder) or something to give to a friend. If I’m a coffee geek, chances are that I know other coffee geeks – the same kind of people who appreciate the same kinds of things.

Remind me to reorder: Follow up with me in a week or two and make sure the beans are as good as I expected. Remind me how I can get them again and make it as easy as possible. Don’t make me work to get another bag.

Make me feel like I’m part of your gang and do it in a way that’s viral: Include a cleverly logo’d coffee cup in the package for their first order. Remember, it isn’t about getting the order, it’s about gaining a new client. You want people to ask your client about that cup they’re using, so be sure it’s cool enough that they can’t help but use it. Make sure they know that the first order ships free if they mention they saw the cup.

Of course, this discussion could easily be modified for imported bamboo plants, boudin, motivational CDs, workout DVDs, t-shirts, barbeque sauce, gourmet chocolates or anything you are selling online and over the phone.

For more ideas and motivation for your mail order business, order a CD from CDBaby.com and see how they make every aspect of the purchase interesting and fun, even the order confirmation emails.

The Pope and Seth Godin

Rome
photo credit: keela84

Today’s guest post is from Seth Godin, who as usual, hits the nail on the head about how to deliver quality to your clients – while talking about the Pope’s visit to your place of business. Or not.
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/04/the-pope-is-com.html