Archive for corporate messaging

Learning from others’ mistakes

Toyota’s cars accelerated accidentally. Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests. protest signApple’s phones bent, while Samsung’s exploded.

With the exception of Samsung, these debacles have all been largely forgotten, thanks to time and supplemented marketing budgets.

Stocks and sales have all recovered nicely. While we hope they’ve learned something, business at these companies has largely gone back to normal.

Joining this select group recently was United. Their invitation for the Chicago police to be their public relations representatives on an overbooked flight didn’t go unnoticed.

The video of Dr. David Dao being dragged off the flight was seen by millions around the world. The airline did give him an upgrade, though, with a free broken nose, concussion and removal of two teeth that this passenger hadn’t even requested.

What, no peanuts?

Dao was one of four customers who were “voluntold” to give up their seat after refusing an offer of $800 apiece. He obviously wanted to be on that flight and the criteria for choosing him is unclear. However, it could have legitimately included him purchasing a discounted seat or not having enough frequent flier miles.

Those four seats were given to crewmembers needed in Louisville (325 miles away) for another flight. Apparently renting a car wasn’t an option for those employees.

The airline’s since settled with Dr. Dao, rather than getting dragged into court. They’ll also now offer up to $10,000 for volunteers relinquishing their seats.

But their reputation as “The Friendly Skies” airline is shot.

Meanwhile, Southwest has stopped overbooking their flights, learning from United’s mistakes.

On April 9 United clearly broadcast that their employees matter more than paying customers do.

They simultaneously provided these lessons for the rest of us:

With video cameras everyplace, nothing is secret anymore

Your reputation can be damaged in an instant

Customers don’t care what your problems are. Anyone with a business can adopt these lessons to improve service, sales and profits by not promising more than can be delivered. If you do over-promise, handle it delicately. Finally, trying to shift your problems to customers guarantees you’ll lose business and reputation.

The immediate issue may go away, but is sure to be replaced by bigger headaches.

United has (hopefully) learned that. You should also learn from its screw-up.

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THIS is the right way to treat customers!

Event marketing on a budget

It seems every week there’s a fundraising event aimed at generating support event marketingfor a local non-profit.

Golf tournaments, soccer games, bazaars … spring is the busy fundraising season. You name it, you’ll find it.

All seek to maximize turnout and dollars raised. Most face similar challenges, including:

• Competition from other events

• Miniscule budgets

• Volunteers doing the bulk of the work

Sadly, many volunteers lack basic marketing knowledge. This inhibits effectively spreading the word about their event, helping to conspire against success.

So, as a public service, I’d like to analyze the May 7 Jewish Food Festival at Poway’s Temple Adat Shalom.

This event offers everything you’d expect: food, music, dancing, educational materials, crafts … the works.

Since December, a team of eight volunteers (including me) has implemented a marketing plan aimed at delivering solid results without many resources.

Hey, it’s a non-profit fundraiser. Of course, the marketing budget’s skimpy. Despite that they’ve worked wonders, developing:

• A snappy tagline

• A revitalized web site

• Online event calendar postings

• A twice-weekly campaign encouraging Facebook connections to share news and invite their friends

• Printed signs for placement in area store windows

• Print ads targeting specific local communities

• Publicity appearing throughout San Diego County

• Promotional postcards mailing to homes within two miles of Temple Adad Shalom.

The team also coordinated a food drive with Interfaith Community Services.

Then sales promotions were used judiciously to increase awareness, attendance and participation, with fliers placed in hotels to attract regional visitors.

A mailing campaign was also done to potential sponsors, and in-house publications maintained a steady drumbeat to the most obvious audiences.

Every marketing tool used consistent designs and language. Combining good organization, a desirable destination and comprehensive marketing, current projections show double the turnout from the last Jewish Food Festival.

Has it been perfect? Hardly. Business cards should have been made for those selling program ads and a budget for radio, billboards and TV would have tied it all together nicely.

Then again, they’d probably have had so many visitors that they’d run out of food.

The only disappointment: Someone being reluctant to co-sponsor light pole banners out of fear of associating his company’s name with the word “Jewish” due to rising societal anti-Semitism.

Despite such setbacks, food festival organizers anticipate great results, setting an excellent example for other non-profit fundraisers.

Get more information about this great event at http://www.sdjewishfoodfest.com

You’re calling it WHAT?

Driving through CoPerformanceUtilitySupply_Underground-Utilities-Home1rona I spotted a roadside sign reading PUS.

Having a twisted sense of humor, I wondered who would want to buy the stuff.

The sign was attached to a company named Performance Utility Supply. They sell hardware to the power and lighting industries.

I’m guessing most of their customers are “manly” men in construction. Their website photo of an unshaven guy wearing his PUS gear reinforces my suspicion.

The company also has a sexually suggestive line emblazoned on their trucks. And if this strategy works for them, who am I to argue?

Still, one has to wonder about the long-term wisdom of this type of gender-based marketing. While today women only make up 9% of construction workers, change is inevitable.

Over the past 50 years, women have achieved parity in one industry after another. In the current political climate, their numbers can only be expected to increase.

All suggesting the eventuality of more women buyers in one of the last bastions of male domination: construction.

It’s no surprise that women oftentimes view the world differently than men. Historically, professional women are less likely to engage in sophomoric hijinks than their male counterparts.

Which all points to women buyers in construction and related trades who will want to be taken seriously and/or be offended by the PUS name and marketing strategy.

Naming a business can be tricky, easily going down the wrong path. Things to consider when you’re naming your business include:

  • How will your audience receive it?
  • How will your acronym read?
  • Is the name exciting, or a compromise reached to satisfy a committee?
  • Does the name say something, or is it just feeding someone’s ego?
  • Are you just mashing words together in hopes of being clever?
  • Do you stand out of the crowd in a good way?
  • Are you merely naming the business after the town you live in?
  • Are you using clichés or obscure words?
  • Is your spelling funky?
  • Can you get a domain to match your company name?
  • Are you budgeting enough to brand your name to customers?
  • Can you admit if the company name is just wrong?

Company names should bring value to the table. The last thing you want is for customers to be offended when they see your business’ name.

Delivering Savings Until Closing Time Today

A man walks into the post office…WONDERUSPS2

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, doesn’t it?

But there I was waiting to buy postage and I discovered a coupon jointly issued by Hallmark and the U.S. Postal Service.

In truth I shouldn’t have been surprised. For the past few years the Postal Service has been getting increasingly commercial in an effort to overcome an annual $5 billion deficit. And because the USPS is a quasi-governmental agency receiving zero tax dollars, that money obviously has to come from someplace.

So, a few years back they started selling ancillary items like packing supplies and greeting cards.

Then they struck deals to feature animated characters on postage stamps, including Bambi, Big Bird and Daffy Duck.

Today, stamps featuring Wonder Woman can be affixed to Snoopy greeting cards, both purchased at the postal counter.

The tie-in between postage stamps and Hallmark greeting cards is a logical one.

Post offices have a built-in customer traffic flow. Most cards get mailed and need stamps.

What better place to tie the stamps, card, and customers together than there?

Furthermore, free email graphics have been the source of headaches for Hallmark executives for a long time.

If they can sell more cards and pay the USPS a sales commission, everyone wins, right?

Their plan is obvious;

  • Customer chooses a card from the multiple displays in the postal store lobby;
  • Coupon offers $1 off 3 cards if purchased before Feb. 17, 2017 (That’s TODAY, in case you hadn’t noticed!);
  • Customer buys two additional cards and stamps for mailing them

The promotion’s demise date screams “Valentine’s Day,” though any cards sold there qualify for the discount.

Now let’s examine your business. Odds are good there’s a potential partner for you, regardless of what you sell.

Car dealerships can join forces with area gas stations. Bakeries can work with exercise studios, which, in turn, can partner with beverage companies.

The USPS isn’t collecting buyers’ contact information, but there’s no reason you can’t. A list of buyers is incredibly valuable, since:

  • They like what you and your partner sell
  • You have an established relationship
  • They’re likely to buy from you again

Partnerships must be carefully thought out and planned, but can be very successful if done right. Learn from the USPS and develop one today.

Right this way, Mr. Squinty

In September I found myself at a branch of my bank awaiting a receipt. My sd-sdreyer-1485458125-snap-phototime was spent perusing brochures, people-watching, and staring into space. Then the monitor behind the counter caught my eye.

As a marketing professional I’m naturally curious about every company’s messaging. So I watched their video presentation. Twice.

Finally I realized the problem. “The picture’s fuzzy,” I told the teller, who smiled noncommittally.

Last week I visited another branch of the same bank and determined the problem wasn’t my eyes, but the presentation itself.

This time the teller acknowledged the issue. “We said something to headquarters weeks ago and they promised they’d fix it,” she said.

Yet here we are, months later, and the problem persists.

When I started in business, my father advised me to be sensitive to customers’ needs. “People’s eyes start playing tricks on them around age 40,” he warned.

Truer words were never spoken! Shortly after I hit 40 my eyes started acting up, and they’ve only gotten worse with age.

So here I was observing a marketing presentation that was unfocused and giving me a headache.

And the bank’s marketing department apparently wasn’t very concerned about it.

Meaning the message meant to reinforce my warm fuzzy feelings for this bank instead irritated me.

Counter-productive? You bet!

Even if the bank eventually gets its act together, it’ll be quite a while before I’m watching that video again.

Translation: beyond the annoyance factor, they’ve lost a very visible, very cost-effective tool for communicating with me.

And a measure of good will has also been lost because they didn’t pay attention to my needs.

Now let’s consider your business. Do you:

• Know your customer’s profile and their preferred ways of being communicated with?

• Understand their needs to ensure they receive your message?

• Listen to your staff when they tell you there’s a marketing issue requiring attention?

Admittedly I’m not so annoyed that I’m moving my business elsewhere…yet.

Still, I’m now wondering which other concerns of mine they’re ignoring.

And should the competition hit me with the right offer, benefits, and messaging on the right day, I might be persuaded to switch.

All because some faceless person didn’t take the time to ensure quality control at the point of sale.

A Vision For Tomorrow

trump-clinton-1-620x412In September, 2001, my family and I were buying a house north of Boston. Then 9/11 hit, scrambling everyone’s plans.

Our initial reaction was to stop the transaction and hide until things settled down. But with a $15,000 deposit at risk, we saw little choice but to proceed with the purchase.

Having consummated the deal, everything eventually sorted itself out. We picked up our lives and made a future we were happy with, including moving to RB a year later.

Flip forward to Mr. Trump’s stunning upset in the presidential election. Millions of voters unhappily watched the nation choose its new leader.

In quick succession I heard people I respect talk seriously about fleeing the country or halting major new initiatives.

Panic of the unknown and riots in the streets ensued. This was combined with wild gyrations in financial markets and comparisons to an American Brexit from sanity.

If you’re one of these people, remember how much you have invested in your lives, communities, and businesses. You can’t just go blindly running off into the night, screaming.

Because whether or not you’re pleased with the presidential election results, we all must deal with this new reality.

Furthermore, because of America’s reach and impact on virtually everything worldwide, there’s really no place to hide as the next four years unfold.

Want the silver lining? It’s nine weeks until the new administration is seated. This provides you adequate time to revisit your marketing plan to reflect the prospect of a Trump administration.

Reconsider your media choices, sales offerings, and audiences. If you truly believe your business will soon go downhill, plan to invest more in your marketing to counter that potential scenario.

And what if you got the election results you wanted? You’d best quickly move beyond gloating and singing “Dong Dong, The Witch Is Dead,” lest you offend customers who don’t see the world the same way you do.

Bottom line: The election’s done. It’s time to focus once again on growing our businesses. The distraction caused by candidates sucking all the oxygen from the room with every utterance is rapidly being replaced with the minutiae associated with actually governing.

As for me, I’m just grateful that Indecision 2016 is behind us, and look forward to a better tomorrow.

About that Walking Billboard…

jack-o-smashMoving to California in 2002, I immediately heard about the region’s famous “green flash” at sunset.

Over the past 14 years I’ve seen it exactly never, though I remain ever hopeful.

To compensate I drink lots of Green Flash beer. The only green I see through my bloodshot eyes is the stuff leaving my wallet to pay the barkeep.

So it was with a certain amount of relief that I saw a green flash at Tuesday morning’s Rotary meeting in Rancho Bernardo.

What I initially thought to be a hallucination, though, turned out to be whirlwind Realtor Sue Herndon. Her screaming green T-shirt was touting this Sunday’s Jack-O-Smash fundraiser at Poway’s SportsPlex.

As she talked about the fun times ahead and the charities being supported, I took a moment to notice the dozens of company logos represented on her shirt.

Their support of the PoVa therapeutic riding program, the Abraxas High School Transitions Program and PUSD’s special education foundation told me these are good corporate citizens, deserving of my respect and patronage.

Which, by one of those strange coincidences of life, was EXACTLY what they wanted me to take away from the experience.

Okay, I confess … when I put on a T-shirt I don’t necessarily think much about whose name or logo is on it.

Yet I recognize that my wearing that shirt has two implications. First there’s the obvious marketing message.

But there’s a second layer that subliminally ties my reputation to the organization and sponsors represented on the shirt.

In effect, my wearing that T-shirt is an endorsement of everything said on it.

Whoa! When did getting dressed become so complicated?

Here’s the thing: there are dozens of organizations worthy of your business’ support within a stone’s throw of where you’re sitting right now.

Beyond finding a cause you believe in to contribute to, you’ll also benefit by finding one where your contribution buys you space on their T-shirts.

For a few dollars you may be able to arrange to have hundreds of people using their own credibility, reputation, and network to market for you.

As you develop your 2017 marketing plan, set some money aside to help the community while helping yourself.

Admittedly this isn’t a fancy or high-tech communications strategy. But people DO pay attention to these things, and it can be effective.

Hey…Where’d You Go?

column-movedSometimes my dog gets lonely. He’s 12 and set in his ways.

This is challenging on days when I’m out for the entire day.

Enter doggy daycare (yes, there is such a thing), where he spends his time with a pack of 80 furry knuckleheads.

He’s happy and safe there, meaning I can tend to business.

So imagine my surprise when I drove up last week to find the daycare facility had vanished. A crew was overhauling the building for a new tenant. A small sign directed me to a location two miles away where the daycare providers had moved to.

The new location was buried at the far end of a long parking lot. Though I eventually found it, my unanticipated detour forced a 15-minute delay for a client meeting.

The facility no doubt updated their Facebook page with their new address…only I rarely visit that page.

So how was I to know they’d moved? And how difficult would it have been for the daycare staff to send me an email with this news?

A bizarre concept, right? You’re changing location and tell people where to find you so they can continue doing business with you.

Failing to tell anyone (with the possible exception of those on-site the week of the move) guarantees these guys will lose business.

At some point that new tenant will move into the old location and the signage pointing to the new daycare facility will disappear.

When that happens, anyone visiting the old location will probably assume the daycare facility is defunct and find a new service provider.

Every business has a house list of current, past, and prospective customers. Over 30 years I’ve learned the most profitable organizations regularly communicate with everyone on that list.

Communications (newsletters, promotions, emails, texts, calls, postcards, etc.) should vary by audience.

Because whether you’re sharing buying opportunities, factoids, stories, or case histories, customers must be reminded why they need to have you in their lives.

Recognizing that out of sight is out of mind, regular customer outreach ensures customers think of you often and remember to buy from you.

Regular customer contact will grow your business over time, as well as helping you to weather disruptions like moving the business to a new location.