Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top 10 Marketing Highlights of 2010

As 2010 nears an end, it’s time for my top 10 marketing highlights list. What campaigns were great, and which were duds? What do YOU remember from the 2010 marketing reel? With a quick thanks to David Letterman’s top 10 concept, here’s my list:

Number 10:

Jay Leno vs. Conan O’Brien for control of NBC’s The Late Show

Number 9:

The Old Spice guy

Number 8:

The hullabaloo over the changes at the judges table on American Idol – due to the departure of Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres - and all the talk if the show would end (what would Coca-Cola do?)

Number 7:

Advances in mobile marketing due to the increase in location-based services (Foursquare and Gowalla)

Number 6:

The YMCA changed its logo and officially became known as just the “Y”

Number 5:

Facebook – due to increase in users around the world, constant changes to the user interface, and the growing concerns about user privacy

Number 4:

Google Street View – the company was under investigation in Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and the Czech Republic for possible violation of privacy laws for its data-gathering practices of its mapping service

Number 3:

The resurrection of Betty White’s career

Number 2:

The rise of Mark Zuckerberg – is he the next Bill Gates?

And, Number 1 on the 2010 Marketing Highlight List:

The Gap Logo Fiasco

Here’s to 2011 and another year of marketing highlights! Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Are You Ready for the Mesh Economy?

As a result of the social media phenomenon, a new economy is emerging. Entrepreneur and author Lisa Gansky has written a book that not only introduces us to the new connected economy where access is more important than re-inventing the production process, but she provides easy-to-follow blueprints for building successful businesses.

"The Mesh is a major trend which will shape business in the next decade." – Forbes

In the new economy, according to Lisa Gansky, companies use social media, wireless networks, and data from every possible source to access products and services without the same financial burdens as in previous generations and without adding to the carbon footprint. In Gansky’s words, “The Mesh is reshaping how we go to market, who we partner with, and how we invite participation and engage new customers…If you embrace the Mesh, you’ll discover how your business can inspire customers in a world where access trumps ownership.”

An excellent example of a successful business in the Mesh economy is Zipcar. This car rental agency is nothing like the rental car companies of years past. Instead of visiting airports or agencies in downtown urban hotels, Zipcar locations are strategically placed around cities for quick and easy access. Customers are able to make reservations via the Internet and then either use a code to unlock the cars or a smartphone App to unlock the car’s doors. The company’s founders made sure that all cars were washed, serviced, and available in just the right parking spots so that they would be accessible to the largest customer base.

Upon further analysis though, Zipcar is more of an information business that shares cars. The company collects information about who uses the cars, for what purpose, and for how long. Zipcar is then able to tweak its business model and make its offerings more customized. For example, if a customer rents cars to go skiing, perhaps, there are partnership opportunities with nearby ski resorts, restaurants en route to the ski resorts, clothing stores near the ski resort, etc. The Mesh ecosystem evolves as each new partner is added. As Gansky explained, “Good Mesh businesses are smart about combining more frequent customer contact with enhanced information sources to create and refine superior experiences, partnerships, products and offers.”

Here are the characteristics of a Mesh business:

  1. The core offering is something that can be shared, within a community, market, or value chain, including products, services, and raw materials.
  2. Advanced web and mobile data networks are used to track goods and aggregate usage, customer, and product information.
  3. The focus is on shareable physical goods, including the materials used, which makes local delivery of services and products – and their recovery – valuable and relevant.
  4. Offers, news, and recommendations are transmitted largely through word of mouth, augmented by social network services.

There is no doubt that these concepts make sense, but you may be asking yourself, “Why the Mesh, now?” There are five reasons that make the Mesh economy viable:

  1. The economic crisis has bred distrust of old companies.
  2. The crisis has also encouraged people to reconsider what’s valuable and important to them.
  3. Climate change is forcing up the cost of doing business, including the making and selling of throwaway goods.
  4. The growing population and greater urbanization create densities that favor Mesh businesses.
  5. Information networks of all kinds have matured to the point where businesses can provide better and more personalized services exactly when needed.

So, is your company ready to join the Mesh economy? Here are some action items:

  1. Identify shareable physical assets.
  2. Identify a category, or a service or product, and go to market before anyone else.
  3. Define the market and your core offering.

The Mesh economy will not be a fit for every company, but it may make sense to consider aligning your company in some manner. In the book, an abridged listing of a directory of over 1,000 Mesh ventures is included (the full list can be found online) ranging from arts and crafts to books and writing to gardening to goods swap to health/fitness to technology. Check it out – you never know when or how your company might be positioned to join the Mesh ecosystem.

Check out the Mesh Directory:

Buy or share The Mesh (Amazon typically has the best prices) or visit your local library; also check out

Follow The Mesh on Twitter:

Follow Lisa Gansky on Twitter:

Connect on Facebook:

Watch Lisa Gansky at Web 2.0 Summit:

Watch Lisa Gansky discuss the power of the consumer:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

TIME Magazine's 2010 “Person of the Year”

Since 1927, TIME Magazine has chosen a man, woman, or entity that, in the words of the publication, “for better or worse, has most influenced events in the preceding year.” TIME has made it absolutely clear that its list is not an academic or objective study of the past but, instead, a contemporary perspective of what was important during the year just ended.

The winners list contains heroes and villains, objects, entire generations, and oddities. Starting in 1927 with aviator Charles Lindbergh, other famous individuals include Adolph Hitler (1938), Astronauts Anders/Borman/Lovell (1968), and Ayatullah Khomeini (1979). Some of the more unusual winners include:

  • U.S. Scientists (1960).
  • Twenty-Five and Under (1966).
  • American Women (1975).
  • The Computer (1982).
  • Endangered Earth (1988).
  • The Peacemakers (Mandela, De Klerk, Rabin & Arafat) (1993).
  • The Whistleblowers (Women who blew the whistle on Worldcom, Enron & the FBI) (2002).
  • You (In the words of TIME, “Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.” (2006).

Did you predict who TIME would pick for 2010? This year’s Person of the Year is Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, CEO, and face of Facebook. At 26, he is the second youngest to receive the honor. TIME explained his importance as “creating a new system of exchanging information” and “changing how we all live our lives.”

When Zuckerberg was a sophomore at Harvard University, he created Facebook for his fellow college students. Over the years, adults the world over have joined Facebook, and the company surpassed MySpace as the number one social network two years ago. Facebook users now post a billion pieces of content including photos and messages on a daily basis, according to TIME’s announcement. Facebook has maintained ad prices and also makes money from a credits program which lets people buy virtual items for online games. However, everything in the Facebook world is not golden. As Facebook has expanded, so have users’ concerns about privacy. After lawmakers and advocacy groups complained that Facebook shares too much personal data, the company introduced privacy controls in May and said it was reducing the amount of user information that is publicly available – but information security professionals do not agree.

While there is no question that Facebook has evolved, and many people have Facebook accounts for personal or business use – including this blogger – there were other candidates better suited for this recognition:

  • Consider the residents of the Gulf Coast, who despite re-building after the effects of Katrina, were forced to start over AGAIN during 2010 as a result of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Countless individuals inspired the nation and the world with their unyielding dedication and spirit.
  • Another consideration is Betty White, who, at age 88, resurrected her career and introduced herself to new generations of fans. Her activities during 2010 include an amusing commercial during the 2010 Super Bowl, a wildly successful guest-hosting of Saturday Night Live for which she received a Primetime Emmy Award, a starring role in a new television series, and a deal to write two books. In addition to her lifetime support of animals and service on the Board of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, White has proven that senior citizens can be productive members of society – as well as in Hollywood.
  • One final consideration would have to be the Chilean miners who were stuck underground for 69 days – and all survived. They represent perseverance, hope, and survival.

Oh well, only 12 months until TIME announces the Man, Women, Person, Object, or Oddity of 2011. Let the countdown begin!

To read the article from TIME Magazine:,28804,2036683_2037181,00.html

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's Your Company's Soul?

What is the soul of your business or organization? Was your answer: the products you manufacture or the services you provide? Or was your answer: your mission statement or logo’s tagline? Or did you answer: policies and procedures? If you are still thinking about the answer, here’s a hint: spend a moment or two considering what unique selling proposition or competitive advantage the following companies share in common: Nordstrom, Disney, Zappos, Southwest Airlines, USAA, Cirque du Soleil, Wendy’s, and UPS. According to Richard S. Gallagher, “one of the founding fathers of modern customer support,” corporate culture is the soul of an organization.

“Building a successful corporate culture goes beyond business processes and into being a way of life. It gives meaning and purpose to the place where most of us spend over half of our waking lives. More important, it reduces the vast complexities of the business world into a clear sense of who you are and where you are headed. It is truly the soul of your organization.”

While Gallagher’s book, “The Soul of An Organization,” was written in 2003, the case studies and company examples are just as applicable in today’s business climate. First, though, it is important to remember that in the business setting, the concept of corporate culture “extends to the core beliefs, behaviors, and actions” that employees either follow or don’t follow. Gallagher studied hundreds of companies that featured good and bad corporate cultures, and as a result, determined that seven core traits drove business culture:

  1. The Strategists: these folks create systems that drive operational excellence
  2. The Motivators: these folks succeed by creating a positive work environment that promotes respect, autonomy, and personal growth
  3. The Team Builders: these folks are devoted to creating a strong team environment – from recruiting all the way to building strong internal relationships in the workplace
  4. The Nimble: these folks embrace change as an opportunity and adapt their cultures to shifts in markets, technology, demographics, etc.
  5. The Customer Champions: these folks focus on putting the customer at the front of every business decision
  6. The Passionates: these folks view their work as a mission or way of life and infect everyone around them with their enthusiasm
  7. The Visionaries: these folks lead by setting goals that make everyone on their team part of something greater than themselves

The companies mentioned in the first paragraph are just a few that truly understand how to create and maintain a culture that allows employees to build bridges with customers, consumers, end-users, guests, etc. Employees who are lucky to work in these corporate cultures have the autonomy to settle disputes, answer questions, fix problems, and do whatever may be necessary to guarantee a satisfied and repeat customer. We only have to remember the Nordstrom story about a customer who returned a set of tires – even though Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires – with no and’s, if’s, or but’s from the Nordstrom salesperson.

What would your employees have done in this situation?

More details:

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Friday, November 12, 2010

How valuable is your blog real estate?

Recently, I read an article that advised not including a blogroll on a blog. So, I started to wonder: how valuable is the space on your blog? I’m talking about the area other than where you feature your posts. This could be the top, bottom, or left or right sidebars. While you may include icons or buttons for key social media sites (such as, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube), as well as a list of categories, archives, keywords, search function, and request for email address/option to subscribe, there may still be some available space.

According to Wikipedia, a blogroll is a list of other blogs that a blogger recommends by providing titles and links usually in a sidebar list.

So, why would someone write a blog post with the recommendation to NOT include other blogs? Unless the blogger copies content on a regular basis, there is really no logical reason. Upon further consideration, I have assembled my reasons to include a blogroll:

  • Add depth to your blog
  • Promote key influencers
  • Provide different perspectives
  • Introduce new writers
  • Provide opportunity for reciprocal links

All of these reasons point to the purpose of a blog in the first place. What value does a blog create if it doesn’t force a reader to think? The addition of a blogroll adds value since it provides other blogs featuring countless posts to read and ponder. You never know when one post could lead to the next great American novel or Pullitzer Prize-winning article!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is it possible to be a good boss? Some lessons from Bob Sutton, the Boss Expert

Here’s a question for anyone who has ever supervised employees: Are you a good boss or a bad boss? How can you really tell? Stanford professor Bob Sutton doesn’t just ask the question in the follow-up to his 2007 bestseller “The No Asshole Rule,” he shares ways for bosses to inspire their employees and analyze their leadership styles in “Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…and Learn from the Worst.” So, whether you see yourself as a leader, manager, or supervisor – all are bosses because all oversee subordinates.

If you doubt the importance of a boss in an employee’s life, all you have to do is read the staggering statistics. As Bob Sutton wrote, “Whether a study was done in 1948, 1958, 1968, or 1998; in London, Baltimore, Seattle, or Honolulu; among postal workers, milk truck drivers, or school teachers; the results are pretty much identical: about 75% of the workforce reports that their immediate supervisor is the most stressful part of their job.”

So what causes the friction between employees and bosses? Why can’t bosses communicate with their employees? Why can’t employees communicate with their bosses? Don’t employees do the work that they are assigned? Don’t bosses reward their employees? Bob Sutton explained, “Even though the journey is never easy, great bosses know what goals to strive for and how the ride ought to feel along the way – and lousy bosses never seem to quite get it.”

Here are Bob Sutton’s 11 Commandments for Wise Bosses. If you strive to be a good boss, memorize these and then execute them:

  1. Have strong opinions and weakly held beliefs
  2. Do not treat others as if they are idiots
  3. Listen attentively to your people, don’t just pretend to hear what they say
  4. Ask a lot of good questions
  5. Ask others for help and gratefully accept their assistance
  6. Do not hesitate to say “I don’t know”
  7. Forgive people when they fail, remember the lessons and teach them to everyone
  8. Fight as if you are right, and listen as if you are wrong
  9. Do not hold grudges after losing an argument, but instead, help the victors implement their ideas with all your might
  10. Know your foibles and flaws, and work with people who correct and compensate for your weaknesses
  11. Express gratitude to your people

Two quotes from the book provided great inspiration:

  • “The first job of a leader is to define reality.” – Max DePree, former CEO of furniture maker Herman Miller (this creates open communication lines throughout a company)
  • “Learn how to perform every job function within a company.” Examples of this can be found by Walt Disney (founder of Disneyland) and Ray Kroc (founder of McDonald’s) (this creates an in-depth understanding of the workings of an entire company)
To learn more:

Follow Bob Sutton on Twitter:

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Watch Stanford’s YouTube Channel for Interview with Bob Sutton:

Read “12 Things Good Bosses Believe” on Harvard Business Review:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Social Media, Social Currency & Brand Marketing

According to AdAge, “Brands have a compelling need to communicate who you are as a brand and what your stand for through social media in a far more consistent, strategic and global way.” But as the Gap learned from its logo debacle, consumers rather than the Gap’s marketing team, own the brand. And thanks to the explosion of social media channels and technologies, brands are sometimes forced to play catch up with consumers. In addition, brand advocates are now forced to handle their brands with white gloves and proceed carefully to create brand equity as if they walk on a circus tightrope.

In a study entitled “Social Currency, Why Brands Need to Build and Nurture Social Currency” conducted by Vivaldi Partners, “Brand social currency is not about social media, not about buzz, not about tactics. It is so much bigger. It gets to a brand’s long-term sustainability. It’s about how customers relate to one another in the context of brands and how those brands, companies, products and people relate to customers…It’s an experiential, holistic concept that we have deconstructed and reconstructed to map to brand value.”

In “the old days,” the traditional model of brand marketing focused on the principles of competitive positioning, target marketing, and consistent messaging. In today’s environment of building social currency, the focus is interaction, collaboration, conversation, and co-creation. According to Vivaldi Partners’ study, “If brands used to be built through creating mindshare, the new model of building social currency is about creating share of daily life.” As a result, the most compelling aspect and the least quantifiable aspect of social currency is that it is neither a product feature nor a public relations campaign; it is not managed by any single company; and it is much more delicate to build, nurture, and maintain.

But don’t despair. Here are four steps to build, nurture, and manage social currency:

  1. Understand buyers – how they connect, share, and chat
  2. Determine the levers of social currency – understand how buyers choose to grant permission to a brand to be part of their social life
  3. Define social currency strategy – decide which levers of social currency will create the most value for a company or brand
  4. Develop and execute social currency programs – make sure that the program integrates digital and social technologies with traditional brand-building plans

Since a myriad of brands compete for attention, it is imperative to evolve with the technology and marketing landscape. So, does your company have plans to develop its social currency in 2011?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Have You Heard of Personality Poker? It Could Dramatically Change Your Business

Stephen M. Shapiro, a business expert with international consulting experience and regular features in Newsweek, Investors Business Daily, and The New York Times, has written a book that explains his inventive card game, Personality Poker. This card game tool teaches employees how to develop, nurture, and drive teamwork and simultaneously supercharge innovation. Over 25,000 people in dozens of Fortune 500 companies have played Personality Poker, so what are you waiting for?

In order for a company to be balanced, Shapiro presents four distinct innovation styles:

  • People who prefer facts and principles (spades)
  • People who prefer ideas and experiences (diamonds)
  • People who prefer plans and actions (clubs)
  • People who prefer people and relationships (hearts)

Here’s an example of the different types as they assemble data about a company:

  • Spades want PowerPoint slides with key information in bullet point format, business cases, and cost benefit analysis
  • Clubs want process flows, data sheets, and detailed resumes of interviews and observations
  • Diamonds want all facts that were essentially sensory aspects (sound, smell, texture, taste) with illustrations, megatrends, and future scenarios
  • Hearts want quotes from interviews, customer empathy maps, images and illustrations that conveyed feelings, and a timeline with key elements in relation to the history and evolution of the company

By applying different strengths and by understanding different approaches to the project, the groups are able to maximize the contributions of each team. Other results include greater levels of innovation and employee satisfaction.

Leadership teams often wonder if the right people are strategically placed in the right roles to maximize performance. But do leadership teams apply an individual’s strengths to specific projects (play to their strong suit)? Do leadership teams have balanced teams with all styles represented (play with a full deck)? Do leadership teams regularly assemble teams to encourage collaboration (shuffle the deck)? Is work divided to maximize individual accountabilities and minimize redundancy (deal out the work)?

Personality Poker can be played by a few people or large groups, but the key is to be open-minded. The objective is to learn or reinforce your style of innovation and determine which part of the innovation pie best suits you. Personality Poker allows people to accept differences in a fun and non-threatening manner, and as a result, employees learn to better understand each other’s strengths so that everyone can work together better.

More details:

Download the first chapter:

Try out Personality Poker with the free online video version:

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two weeks make a huge difference in the life of a logo - just ask the Gap

Last week, after time and money, the Gap unveiled its new logo. Now, this week, after capturing the attention of marketers, advertisers, competitors, and most importantly, consumers, the Gap announced that it would use its original logo instead of the new one.

Do you have whiplash yet?

While this change of events resurrected memories of the New Coke fiasco, for the Gap, the logo was the issue more than the actual product. Had the new logo been amazing and inspiring, perhaps, consumers would not have demonstrated such distaste. But, the new logo lacked imagination. In fact, it actually resembled the logo of another brand - that of a social media company that shall remain nameless.

Since this blogger was unimpressed with the look and feel of the Gap's new logo, I continue to believe that this entire campaign was an orchestrated publicity stunt by the Gap to generate interest in its brand. In today's challenging economy, brands need to stand out...and you just can't pay for the kind of attention that the Gap has received these past two weeks.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why is there so much noise surrounding the Gap’s new logo?

Almost a week after the introduction of the Gap’s redesigned logo, people are STILL talking about it. While logos are important reflections of a company’s brand, the chatter seems so well orchestrated that I wonder if the Gap unveiled a new logo just to cause a stir in marketing and advertising circles.

But, since this is not the case, I wonder why the Gap created a new logo in the first place. According to Wikipedia, “a logo is a graphic mark or emblem commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations and even individuals to aid and promote instant recognition. Logos are either purely graphic (symbols/icons) or are composed of the name of the organization (a logotype or wordmark).” Well-known examples include Coca-Cola’s red script, Google’s colorful letters, McDonald’s yellow arches in the shape of an “M,” and the script in Walt Disney’s name combined with the drawing of Mickey Mouse that together form the logo for The Walt Disney Company.

According to David Aaker, brand marketing expert, “An extended identity can help a brand break out of the box…consider the strategic role of the Wells Fargo stagecoach in the brand’s awareness level and associations of reliability and innovation.” The stagecoach image immediately tells a story for the Wells Fargo brand – and the story is an integral part of that brand. Aaker explained in his book, Brand Leadership, that there are several advantages to developing a rich brand identity:

  • a richer brand identity more accurately reflects the brand
  • the point of the brand identity is to provide guidance to decision-makers about what a brand stands for
  • a brand identity should capture the values and culture of a company
  • the extended identity helps the brand move beyond core attributes

So, here are my questions for the Gap’s new logo design team:

  • What is the new logo telling consumers?
  • How is the new logo’s story different from the old logo’s story?
  • How does the new logo fit with the company’s culture?

I think the Gap’s new logo resembles Facebook’s logo – note that it appeared soon after the release of the movie “The Social Network.” Maybe, the question we should be asking is, how else will Facebook redesign our lives? What do you think?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Do your employees like your company or do they dream of moving on? A Review of “Lead Employees to Success, Not Out the Door”

Businesswoman and employee satisfaction researcher Wendy Duncan has written a book for everyone that has been touched by poor management in the workplace: supervisors, leaders, managers, and subordinates (employees). According to Duncan, studies show that the number one reason that employees leave companies is “the failure to connect with their boss or leader. People leave managers not companies.” That statement proves that too many people in supervisory roles just don’t understand the power they wield.

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we;” they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit.” ~ Peter Drucker

In her book, Duncan adds names and descriptions to familiar workplace characters. Supervisors, leaders, and managers who embody these characteristics are the reason that employees don’t give 110%, aren’t totally engaged, and dream of moving on. You may recognize some or all of these characters in your workplace:

  • The bull (aka, bull in a China shop)
  • The intimidator/bully
  • Every man for himself
  • The credit taker
  • The assumer
  • See employee as a customer
  • Bad mouth, loud mouth
  • Discriminating Dick
  • Introvert Ernie
  • Promising Pete
  • Lack of interpersonal skills
  • Condescending Curt
  • Micro-Mary
  • Moody Marge
  • The extreme macro-Mac/ghost manager
  • Brown nose Betty
  • The corporate climber
  • Chatty Patty
  • Executive Romeo
  • The corporate sniper (aka, the black widow)

So, how can employees change their perspectives from dreaming of leaving to, instead, remaining and re-engaging? According to Duncan’s research, studies show that employees need trust in and respect for their direct supervisor as well as for their company’s leadership team. So, in order to create an environment where trust and respect can exist, Duncan provides 24 excellent questions that leaders and managers can ask themselves. While all provide areas where a leader or manager can improve his or her supervisory style, the following are my favorites:

  • Do you bring value to your employees? If yes, what?
  • Do you support your employees whether it is for completing daily job responsibilities or furthering their knowledge or career?
  • Do you give credit where (and when) credit is due?

So, the next time an employee gives notice, consider what you, as the supervisor, could have done differently to make that employee feel more empowered, work harder, or be more motivated. Duncan’s book is a great tool to assist you with your evaluation.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

What’s up with “About Us” pages on websites?

During the last few weeks, I have witnessed a great deal of chatter regarding “About Us” pages on websites. When I say that I witnessed a lot of chatter, allow me to clarify. I have received several e-zines in my email box, read several tweets on Twitter, and read several blog posts on this topic. As a result, I presume that one of three things is happening:

[1] companies are redesigning their websites and eliminating their About pages

[2] companies are focusing their Internet dollars on social media and eliminating their websites

[3] companies are moving the content from their About pages to different pages on their websites

When I consider these three possibilities, I have to shake my head and wonder. The implementation of any of these options will not help a company turn prospects into customers, nor will any of the options lead to increased sales. So I have to wonder, what’s up with About Us pages on websites?

The contents of a website’s About Us page should include the following:

  • company name
  • company address and/or contact information (at a minimum, phone and email)
  • company purpose, i.e., what it does or sells (this can be done with a few sentences, a tagline and logo, a mission statement, a vision statement, a values statement, a brief overview of a strategic plan/company initiatives, or a positioning statement/competitive advantage statement)
  • Optional but recommended: company milestones – if company has 25, 50, or more years of history
  • Optional but recommended: CEO’s, president’s, or founder’s welcome (with the person’s photo)
  • Optional but recommended: video of how to use the product
  • Optional but recommended: link to a press room page or another page with a corporate backgrounder, company fact sheet, or press kit
  • Optional but recommended: link to FAQ page
  • Optional but recommended: link to privacy policy

Unless your company has several websites with different URL’s, a main corporate website has to be a “one-size-fits-all” marketing tool. It has to satisfy many requirements and welcome different audiences simultaneously. Therefore, a website welcomes visitors with no knowledge of your company while also welcoming existing customers. It has to welcome members of the media as well as competitors, investors, and job seekers. As a result, your About Us page must contain information that you may consider repetitive, unimportant, or a waste of space.

But the simple truth is, your About page may be the most important page of your entire website.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Review of “Leaders Without Borders: 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders”

Leadership expert Doug Dickerson has compiled an excellent anthology of inspiring anecdotes and guidelines designed for leaders at every level within an organization to develop their leadership skills.

As a leader, how often do you ask yourself these questions? Doug answers them with memorable examples as he breaks down the borders that surround leaders.

¨ How can I energize my employees?

¨ How can I teach my employees to embrace priorities?

¨ How can I share optimism?

¨ How can I establish and motivate a team?

¨ How can I exhibit a positive attitude?

¨ How can I demonstrate authenticity in my actions?

¨ How can I create loyalty?

¨ How can I express kindness?

¨ How can I develop my legacy?

The simple truth is that leaders with borders become insulated from their followers, or in other words, from their employees. This can, and often does, result in disillusioned employees, lackluster work product, stifling office politics, incompetent teams, dissatisfied customers, and decreasing sales. However, when leaders remove the borders around them, they become empowered and able to make a positive long-lasting impact on their employees and companies.

The common theme of all of Doug’s anecdotes was people, and my favorite lines were:

¨ Simplifying the mission is about people in your organizational structure being able to connect the dots because leadership made sure they saw the big picture and knew where the ship was headed.

¨ A leader expanding his borders understands that his success is tied to the success of others around him.

¨ If you are going to leave a strong legacy as a leader, people must be your priority.

In the words of Doug Dickerson, “keep expanding your borders,” and you may be amazed at the results.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The “Other” Social Media Policy – the One in the Personnel Manual

Much has been written by social media and marketing experts (this blogger included) advising companies to “look before they leap,” or in other words, “create a social media plan before jumping into social media.” While some companies follow this recommendation, some do not. The results for not following this recommendation can be dismal: few followers on Twitter, few fans on Facebook, few subscribers on YouTube, and few followers on LinkedIn. However, when a company’s marketing team or senior management team write a detailed social media plan and adapt it to its customers and prospects, the results can be impressive: increasing number of followers and fans on all social media sites and excellent conversations with customers and prospects - all leading to increased sales.

However, there is another social media policy that doesn’t get as much attention. This “other” policy defines “social media” for a company. Does it only refer to family photos on Facebook? Does it only refer to videos on YouTube? Does it only refer to business connections on LinkedIn? Does it only refer to 140-character quips on “The Twitter,” as Betty White calls it? Employees need to know.

Employees also need to know if any social networking sites can be accessed during office hours. If access is allowed, employees need to know the amount of time they may spend and on which sites as well as from which equipment access is allowed. Due to security concerns, it may not be wise for a company’s IT department to allow access from laptops and mobile devices.

Employees also need to know if the company owns their social networking accounts. For instance, if employees use LinkedIn strictly for sales leads, the question arises if the company owns those contacts or the employee owns the contacts. To address this issue, an employee might create two accounts (one personal and one for the company) or use a personal email address instead of a business email address to access his or her account.

Since specific employees may be involved with social media as part of their job for your company, as social media managers, they need training as to the company’s “official voice.” How do you want your tweets to sound, your Facebook posts to read, etc.? Do you want to use an informal manner of speech, lots of abbreviations, lots of contractions, etc.? Training is critical so that there is a consistent voice for your company – and consistency helps your brand. Some Twitter examples include @Best Buy and @StaplesTweets and @ComcastCares.

And what are the ramifications for employees if they do not follow the social media policy? The details must be written out and explained to new employees and existing employees as social media marketing and social networking evolve. So, does your company have a social media policy in its personnel manual?

Note: If you would like to read some good policies, here is a link to 150+ policies.

Note: I wrote a related post in 2009: Before you jump into social media, ask who speaks for you.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

When Do You Send Emails to Customers?

Does your company follow the industry standard approach when it comes to sending emails to customers, whether your company is B2B or B2C? This means that on Tuesday or Wednesdays, you finalize your email message, your distribution software or vendor, and click send. But do mid-week, late morning, and early afternoon emails generate the highest read rates, click-thru’s, and responses?

A recent AOL survey reported that 62% of respondents checked their work email over the weekend, which raises the question, “Are Saturdays or Sundays better days to send business emails?” While this is an interesting idea for marketers, many Americans wish to better manage their work-life balance, but with gadget overload, this is becoming more and more difficult. If businesses add more emails to the mix, there will be no “off switch,” and employers will expect all employees to be available 24/7/365.

Here’s a sample of for-profit and non-profit email arrival (all are Pacific time):
• Ford’s emails arrive on Wednesdays at 7:30am
• Staples’ emails arrive on Wednesdays at 2:30am
• The Daily Grill’s emails arrive on Thursdays at 9:05am
• PF Changs China Bistro’s emails arrive on Thursdays at 10:15am
• Cheesecake Factory’s emails arrive on Wednesdays at 6:30am
• Brandweek’s emails arrive daily at 7am
• Harvard Business Review’s emails arrive daily at 5am
• Disney’s emails arrive on Fridays at 12:15 am
• Starwood Hotel’s emails arrive Wednesdays at 8:30am
• Kimpton Hotels’ emails arrive on Wednesdays at 6:45 am
• Joe de Vivre Hotels emails arrive on Wednesdays at 7:15am
• Canine Companions for Independence’s emails arrive on Wednesdays at 10am
• World Wildlife Fund’s emails arrive on Fridays at 3am

While the majority of this email sampling arrive mid-week, would I prefer to read 100-200 emails over the weekend as opposed to during the week? Here’s a better idea, would I just prefer to decrease the number of emails that I receive by 100-200 a week? Since that option is not realistically possible (unless I change email addresses), email messages will continue to arrive at a myriad of times on every day of the week – with the hope of standing out so I take notice and take action.

What about you? Are you reconsidering when to send your company’s emails?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Are your marketing and sales teams at odds?

Savvy business experts describe marketing and sales teams as two ends of the same book, but that doesn’t mean that they know how to work together effectively. More often than not, neither the marketing team nor the sales team understands what the other is doing, and what’s worse, why.

So that we are all on the same page, here are the basic definitions:

MARKETING = the business function responsible for messaging and strategy by which companies create interest (or buzz) in products or services – the marketing umbrella can and often includes brand strategies, competitive positioning strategies, collateral (newsletters, annual reports, flyers, etc.), email marketing, direct marketing, advertising, public relations and media outreach, market research, special events and tradeshows, partnerships, websites and webinars, and social media

SALES = the activity of selling products or services in return for money

According to Wikipedia, “Marketing and sales differ greatly, but have the same goal. Marketing improves the selling environment and plays a very important role in sales. If the marketing department generates a list of potential customers, that can benefit sales. A marketing department in an organization has the goal increasing the number of interactions between potential customers and the organization.”

Due to the advent and continuing evolution of social media combined with effective brand marketing, customers have assumed more power in the buying process and often direct the conversation. But sales and marketing teams must be in alignment for products and services to sell. Here are some useful resources.

Creating Customer Evangelists
How Loyal Customers Become A Volunteer Sales Force
By Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba
c. 2007

The Referral Engine
Training Your Business to Market Itself
By John Jantsch
c. 2010

The Profit Maximization Paradox
Cracking the Marketing/Sales Alignment Code
By Glen Peterson
c. 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing
By Andy Sernovitz
c. 2009

Sales and Marketing the Six Sigma Way
By Michael Webb and Tom Gorman
c. 2006

Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance
By Paul W. Farris, Neil T. Bendle, Phillip E. Pfeifer, and David J. Reibstein
c. 2010

Marketing ROI: The Path to Campaign, Customer, and Corporate Profitability
By James D. Lenskold
c. 2003

Measuring Marketing
103 Key Metrics Every Marketer Needs
By John Davis
c. 2006

Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web
By Brian Solis
c. 2010

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
By Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
c. 2008

Six Pixels of Separation
Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone.
By Mitch Joel
c. 2009

What secrets does your business use to align your marketing and sales teams or departments?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is it too early to think about your December holiday cards?

It’s late summer, which means that vacations are over and kids have returned to school. It also means that most companies are creating their 2011 budgets and planning for large expenditures, such as, new hires, tradeshows, event sponsorships, social media, etc. But, before 2011 begins, what about thanking your existing customers for their business as well as wishing your potential and existing customers a happy holiday season?

Due to the current economy, there are probably few companies that will invest in large-scale print projects including fancy cards, calendars, and other unique gifts. But, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to send holiday greetings. All that is necessary is a good plan, a sense of philanthropy, and some basic technology.

If you wish to contribute to a charity, make a donation. Many charities have lost significant amounts of funding due to the economy, so any and all donations will be welcome. Once you make a donation, send either a printed card or an e-card to your customers with a message along the lines of: We appreciate your business, and in your honor, we made a donation to XYZ Charity. We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Of course, you may also wish to send customized e-greetings via email. You can segment your database by prospective customers, current customers, and repeat customers. You may also wish to segment the e-greetings by industry, customer size, revenue size, etc. The sky’s the limit in terms of how you customize your e-holiday greetings, but remember that segmentation is the name of the game.

Above all, remember that the recipients of your greetings will appreciate whatever you send. They will not miss the $50 gift basket of stale cookies or rotten fruit. The bottom line is that, during the holiday season, people just want to be remembered and thanked for their business.

So, have you started your planning yet? If not, time to get started.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What Is the Most Overlooked Element of Your Company's Brand Marketing Strategy?

How often do you think about all elements of your corporate marketing? Can you list them? Your list may include many or all of the following elements: annual marketing plans, brand identity including logo/tagline and letterhead, annual reports, newsletters, all collateral especially direct mail and print ads, radio and/or television ads depending on the size of your company and budget, email marketing, blog posts, social media (at a minimum, a presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube), brochures, event sponsorships, tradeshows, seminars, webinars, videos, strategic partnerships, promotional goodies, proposal templates, presentation templates, mailing lists, website design and maintenance, professional association dues, public relations/media outreach/advertorials, strategic partnerships, co-branding initiatives, and software renewal fees. But, there is something clearly missing, and it touches every employee, every vendor, and every customer everyday. Still stumped? The answer is the universal email signature.

Think back to your first day on the job. On an employee’s first day, he/she receives an employee manual and a tour of the company, and is assigned a desk, computer, and phone. Then the role of human resources is done for 90 days. But, shouldn’t there be a discussion about corporate marketing, which is actually a discussion about brand consistency and the role of every employee as a brand advocate? You can be sure that all Apple employees receive some form of what I call “brand advocate training.”

There should be a discussion presented by the HR Department about the corporate mission and brand consistency. Of course, the ideal situation would be for the Marketing Department to hold a one-hour brand marketing overview for all new employees, but depending on the size of your company and the size of your marketing team, this may not be feasible, but all of us in the marketing arena can dream. Back to the issue at hand, the discussion should focus on the need for brand consistency, which means that emails sent from all departments should look the same.

There should be no flowers as wallpaper, no rock musicians plastered behind the email message, and no size 4 font. The consistency will ensure that all emails sent by the company look the same, which reinforces brand identity or the company. A good universal email signature contains the following information in the same font and the same font size:

Employee’s Name

Employee’s Title

Name of Company – include tagline if appropriate

Address for Company

Telephone (Direct)

Telephone (Main)



Website URL

Social Media Links – if applicable

Promotion for Company Event – if applicable

Testimonial for Company – if applicable

There are some final considerations. A logo image may not be recommended since it may not appear as intended due to email servers. In today’s electronic age, some companies do not include their mailing address in email signatures, based on the URL to the corporate website. Some social media links may be more appropriate than others, so carefully consider which should be included as part of the company’s email signature. Do not use link shorteners because some may be considered spam, and your customized URL may be part of your brand marketing. If a large tradeshow or other event is coming up, it might be beneficial to include on all employees’ emails, however, it is essential to remove it from the email signature immediately following the event.

So, what do you include in your universal email signature, and is it consistent with your brand marketing strategy?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

YouTube Is Not Just for Funny Videos – It Can Grow Your Business

Of course, you’re well aware that people post all kinds of videos on YouTube – from funny animal videos to other crazy stuff. But, have you thought about how creating a YouTube channel (the term for a YouTube page) can help your business? According to industry experts, people send more videos than emails, so you should consider adding YouTube videos to your marketing mix.

Let’s take Coca-Cola, one of the world’s best-known brands. On its YouTube channel, Coca-Cola provides basic company history, a list of its many brands, and links to other social media sites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Bebo). But most importantly, Coke’s YouTube page represents another online location for its consumers to come together and share content and feedback. When Coke sponsors a major event, such as the Olympics or the World Cup, its TV commercials appear on its YouTube channel. Consumers comment, and the audience grows. And, those same consumers share the videos on Facebook, Twitter, via email, etc., and in the process, continue the conversation about the brand. What beverage will these consumers remember when at the supermarket or ball park?

Now, let’s take Apple, another well-known brand. On its YouTube channel, it provides company and product updates. Due to the recent “antennae-gate” issue with the newly-launched iPhone 4, this past week’s press conference appears as the featured video. While there are many other video ads on the page, oddly, Apple disabled the ability to add comments to its videos.

According to YouTube’s “most viewed channels” this month, other companies who place a high value on their YouTube channels include Geico, Verizon Wireless, BMW, Blackberry, Universal Pictures, Adidas, Chevrolet, Ford Fiesta, Nike, Xbox, and Disney.

So, as you evaluate the “must-have” components of your marketing plan for the rest of 2010 and beyond, consider the basic tenets of social media and how you can best showcase your product or service to create more conversations with your customers. A YouTube channel may be a cost-effective option.

My YouTube channel is a marketing resource. Check it out here.