Sunday, December 21, 2008

There's Always a Better Way

I found a better way today. Now, this is just a better way for me, but you may find a use for this as well.

I flip flop from IE, Flock, and Firefox for my browsers. Today I used Firefox and discovered what I've been looking for for a couple months. I've been trying to discover a way that I can write just one post but publish it to multiple blogs. Syndication via RSS feed just wasn't the same as doing the actual post. So, I stumbled across www.scribefire.com. YES!

Go ahead, check it out. It is so easy to add multiple blog accounts to the interface, then just type your post and publish the same content to all those blogs. Enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Is Social Media Marketing Just the Evolution of Word of Mouth Marketing?

Yesterday I commented on a blog post from Kyle Lacy about Controlling Word of Mouth Marketing Using Social Media. I'll share again here what I had to say:

Kyle,

I like to think that WOM and Social Media are one and the same. As I have dived into social media over the past few months I’ve come to realize that from a marketing perspective social media marketing is basically just an evolution of WOM. While there can be good old interruption “marketing” with banner ads and such on blogs, facebook, etc., what we’re seeing with users leaving reviews on Yelp!, becoming a fan of a product on Facebook, or blogging about their best or worst experiences with a brand or product is the evolution of WOM.

Now more than ever companies need to focus on WOM marketing in my opinion. This includes social media and the conversations about your brand online.

Thanks for sharing Kyle. Enjoy your day.

Mj

I'm curious if anyone else shares this opinion, and look forward to reading your thoughts.

Thanks and as always, enjoy your day.

Mj

Friday, December 12, 2008

Leading Loyalty - Marketing Professionals

Over the past few months I have noticed the activity of groups on Linkedin increase. One that has grabbed my attention is called Leading Loyalty - Marketing Professionals. I encourage you to check them out. There are a number of theories flying around for how to market in a difficult economy, and customer service and loyalty seems to be getting some good attention. I'd also like to share an article from MulthousingPro.com that touches on the subject as well. Please feel free to share you thoughts on the topic. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your day.

Mark

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How Many "Cast Members" Are Best?

Just one more Disney post and I'll let it be. I was blown away by the number of people that work at the hotels, parks, and restaurants at Disney World. There was not one moment I felt I could not turn around or turn a corner and find someone that could help me. At some points it was kind of creepy and even seemed a bit much.

After thinking about it a bit, seeing more news about layoffs, and reading a blog comment about reducing employee costs I had to write another post. So, what's your thought on over-staffing? Apparently Disney finds a way to justify it, and they don't appear to be reducing their prices anytime soon (trust me).

Is there a secret to having plenty of people? In the world of technology so many processes and people can be reduced or eliminated. Why does Disney implement the technology, but also continue to employ more than enough people? Can more people help to enhance the customer's experience, or does it just add more expenses? Is there a magic formula? Do you think your company has enough people to help create a Disneylike experience?

Thanks and enjoy your day!

Mark

The Disney Experience of Today

As I indicated about a week ago, I made a trip to the marketing mecca of Walt Disney World. Again, I was amazed at the details and the constant marketing. To the right is a photo of my daughter's hairdo courtesy of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (complete with Pixie dust, mini tiara, and Mickey ears barrette). For about $60 your little princess can be even more of a princess.

While some of these extras may be a bit much for many Disneygoers, many are sucked into these extra experiences. In general, visiting Disney World seems to be pretty straight forward. Resort hotels, amusement parks, restaurants/dining, and all the characters associated with Disney and Disney movies. That's pretty much a general overview of what to expect. I discovered on my trip that Disney World can be even more. Here's a list of extras during my trip, and this just scratches the surface.

- Dinner with 5 Princesses, Breakfast with Winnie the Pooh, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Breakfast with Chef Mickey, Dinner a Cinderella's Castle, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, Breakfast with 5 Princesses

A majority of this was great for a 4 year old, and I can't imagine missing any of these extras looking back. Disney continues to raise the bar. Each time you go back you can have a different experience because there is always something new. They are constantly redesigning, adding, and enhancing. Just before we left the Grand Floridian Hotel the bellman told me how they plan to completely redecorate and rehab the entire lobby of the hotel. And that's just one hotel.

Now I will stop and pose my questions for the post. The concept of kaizen is alive and well at Disney. That being said, if they are constantly enhancing the experience for their guests, what are you doing to enhance the experience of your guests/customers? How often are you implementing these enhancements? What is holding you back?

Thanks and enjoy your day.

Mark

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How Big of a Marketing Nerd Do You Have to Be ...


... to apply for this? http://www.squidoo.com/Alternative-MBA

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Marketing Mecca


So, I'm traveling back to Disney World soon for the 2nd time in the last year and a half. Vacationing at Disney World is like no other experience. For a marketer, all the details completely blow you away. From the moment you arrive in Orlando, there is buzz and activity encouraging purchases. As a parent you feel obligated to ensure your children truly remember Disney World being the happiest place on earth, but it doesn't take much work to accomplish that. At every turn the hotels, the parks, the rides, and the employees are always selling. They are selling you more while you are there, and they are selling you for the return visit. Everything seems so calculated and predetermined that it truly amazes me how well orchestrated the entire experience is.

As I look forward to this trip I wanted to propose some questions. If you have been to Disney World yourself, what was the most memorable part of your experience (from a marketing perspective)? Also, even if you have not been, do you have a special research project you'd like to send me on?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How Do You Prefer Your Budget Hat: Fitted or Adjustable?

As a marketing director I wear a number of hats. The one that seems to fit best is the creative, brainstorming, idea hat. However, I also get to wear a customer service hat every now and then that's pretty comfy. There are times when my personnel/HR hat gets pulled down off the shelf, and there are a number of others for development, education, and PR to name a few.

The one I am most challenged with is the budget hat. That hat would probably be a visor or something else I don't enjoy wearing like a beanie with a propeller. Anywho, this post isn't about wearing a gazillion hats, as most of us do that and do it to the best of our abilities. What I want to talk about is the challenge of budgeting for marketing.

While a great marketing plan starts with a budget, it seems that economics, the unknown, and poor performance can all influence changes in the marketing budget. Each industry has different benchmarks for budgeting their marketing dollars. In the apartment industry the National Apartment Association actually takes a survey across the nation to measure average income and expenses. While this is an average and somewhat of a benchmark for economics in our industry, I have to ask what people are really spending and how they justify their expenses? How many of you set a marketing budget for the year and stick to it? Do you even have a budget or a plan?

We're all trying to save money, but how do you and your company wrap your arms around what is spent on marketing? I'm not asking this for my industry specific, but I'm curious what analytics marketers are using. I'd love to hear feedback for you and your industry as many are finalizing budgets for 2009 and cringing at the outlook of the economy. What drives your marketing budget decisions and sets the expectations for ROI?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Passion


This week I had an opportunity to attend the Midwest Multifamily Education Conference and Exposition. Wow, that's a mouthful. The conference is an annual event put on by the Indiana Apartment Association bringing together vendors and industry professionals to learn and share information regarding the multifamily industry.

This is the 5th year I have been able to attend, and each year I have always looked to walk away with just one idea or concept. As the title of this post suggests, my one thing from this year's convention is "Passion." As I sat through presentations from industry experts like Lisa Trosien and Lori Snider, I began to see what they had in common. They did not share the same information, they did not sound the same, and their slide shows were not cookie cutter, but they were extremely passionate about their topic. They were not hired with the intention to be motivational speakers, but that's the big piece I took away from them. They share their ideas and knowledge with conviction. Regardless of the tidbits of knowledge I extracted from their presentations, I'm so glad I was able to attend their presentations just to see the passion they put into their work.

While it should be expected for professional speakers to demonstrated great passion, they were not the only people to do so. The trade show floor was the ulitmate example to compare the passionate vs. not-so-much-so-passionate. I love walking up and down the aisles of a trade show. As a marketing director and creative type I feel obligated to critique each booth. For some reason this year as I wandered around I found myself not even giving the time of day to companies with booths that did not show me some PASSION. It's almost as if I didn't even care about a company this year unless they we're standing out from the crowd. Unfortunately there were only a handful of booths that really stood out to me. How sad is that? How many years have companies been doing trade shows? If you're not going to stand out from the crowd why bother? For those companies that did stand out I could tell they were passionate about their business. I wonder what motivates those other companies to even show up?

So, if you're still reading at this point (all 3 of you that read this regularly), the one final story on passion comes from someone that wasn't even part of the convention. He did, however, make himself a memorable part of the action. The shoe-shine guy at the Marriott (while questionably looney-tunes), had more passion for shining shoes than anyone I've ever seen. For two days straight I heard more stories about this (now semi-famous) shoe-shine guy following people into the hotel bar, following them into the convention, offering to go get someone's shoes from their room for them, and constantly harassing people that would walk by multiple times that had yet to get their shoes shined. While I'm not sure if Mr. Shoe-Shine was the best example of what a Marriott was going for with customer service, I have to give credit to the guy for his passion and dedication to shining shoes. In the end, people told the stories and seemed a bit annoyed, but they still had their shoes shined and now I'm blogging about it.

In summary, show some passion in 2009 folks. Lead some others to find their passion. Get excited about what you do, and share that excitement. There is so much negative news going on right now it can be easy to get caught up in all that. Don't do it. Be a part of a positive revolution. OK, enough now, go be passionate about something!!! Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Social Media & Music Story of the Year

Within the last year I stumbled upon a friend I knew back during my days at Indiana University. Randy Stine had lived just a few doors down from me in the dorms our freshman year and we'd chat every now and then about Dave Matthews, music, etc. Randy was quite the musician and during his freshman year at IU he joined a group of guys that formed an a cappella group naming themselves Straight No Chaser.

Straight No Chaser was a hit on campus with all the sororities, many other lovely ladies, and the student body in general. These guys had a great four year run at IU signing at many University sponsored events, parties, and their own concerts. Then in 1999 the original members passed the SNC torch to a new group of gents to carry during their years as Hoosiers.

Fast forward to 2008. I get a friend request from Randy on Facebook. I had bumped into him over five years ago when living in Chicago, but it sure had been awhile. The next message I get from Randy blew me away. He sent me the link to this:



I couldn't believe it. What an amazing YouTube story. I remembered my Mom sending me the "12 Days of Christmas" video just last year asking me if I knew any of the guys. So funny that I do, and that I am so excited to share this story.

SNC just released their first record with Atlantic titled "Holiday Spirits." Buy it HERE or on iTunes. Also, click HERE for free give-aways and tickets to upcoming shows.

I will close by saying that I share this story as I think it is one about the power of social media. While I know Randy, in no way has he influenced me to write this. I'm just really excited to see how a viral video, a passion for music, and 10 guys that just enjoy what they do can come together for an online success story. I wish the best of luck to the guys of Straight No Chaser. Great job!

Now, a question for the marketing gurus. What are you doing to be the social media story of the year in 2009?

Friday, November 7, 2008

SproutBuilder.com



OK, I just found this as shared by @bridgetZtalk on Twitter. Have I mentioned I love Twitter! Anyway, I haven't checked this out fully, but from what I have seen so far it's a free online tool. Here's what their homepage says:

Sprout is the quick and easy way for anyone to build, publish, and manage widgets, mini-sites, mashups, banners and more. Any size, any number of pages. Include video, audio, images and newsfeeds and choose from dozens of pre-built components and web services.

Check it out at www.sproutbuilder.com!

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Just Love This Stuff


I love Zappos for shoes, but the live customer service that is offered by Nordstrom is awesome. Thanks for another great experience and the reminder for why you are so successful.

What's Your Message?

I received an email blast from an "industry expert" yesterday. While she is an acquaintance of mine and I have attended a few of her seminars, the email felt so generic and blah. Now, this post is not a means to bash her, as she is very well respected in apartment marketing and presents great information & ideas at her seminars. This post is about improving your message and deciding that maybe email blasts are not a good idea.

Let me summarize what her message included.

Subject Line: Still Undecided? Vote for [her name]!
Email Letter Content: Large picture of her, letter summarizing why you should hire her to present her latest seminar and a summary of new website features and a link to her website. She also mentions a $500 discount coupon at the bottom of the email.
Additional Info: a brief history about her, quick summaries of the 4 seminars she is currently presenting, and, of course, the coupon.

At first glance I was curious to open up the email and peruse, but after doing so I realized there wasn't anything really there. Nothing grabbed me, nothing was newsworthy, and her picture (while very nice) was actually a distraction. A lot of copy and very generic.

Below is my response to her with some recommendations on how to improve her message.

“Don’t send me an email just telling me who you are why you are so cool with some generic descriptions of your seminars and your background. I’ll be honest, it’s not interesting as I already know you (as most people do that get these emails). What would be interesting is if you shared pieces of your seminars with me. Give me a taste of the good stuff! Here’s an analogy. Let’s say you’ve just emailed me a picture of McDonald’s French fries. I’m a sucker for McDonald’s French fries, but a picture doesn’t really motivate me to actually go buy some. What if you just gave me 1, just to try it, just to get that taste. If you did that, then I’d probably want the whole box. So, maybe ask yourself the next time you send out a SPAM email, are you sending out just a picture or are you giving us a taste. Send me one of your PodCasts, or your latest blog post (which doesn’t appear to be working), or maybe one or two graphs or slides that have some of your great statistics. And one final note, you don’t need a coupon!!! Coupons are for commodities. You are not a commodity!"

I share this with you because I know that she knows all this. But if she knows, then why does she do it? Here's her response back.

"I agree with your marketing thoughts. That was a blanket email that went to over 12,000 people and I need to introduce myself. The next emails we have planned have content in them that will be valuable to the reader. This is what I have been doing for some other marketing and I know those emails get read. With my new Web site, we are set up to put a lot of free content there and that will link in my
emails.

As for the spam, I got a call to work on a project in Atlanta as well as two managers retreats where I will keynote. Not too bad."

The excuse for a bad email is because it went to 12,000 people that she needed to introduce herself to??? In my opinion it was a very boring introduction, and while I didn't ask her if the jobs she booked from it were from previous customers my gut is telling me that is the case.

So, what's my point? My point is that you're only as good as your last email, or last podcast, or last blog post. The content you put into these represents you and what you do best. If what you do best is make excuses for average work and justify it with a couple success stories fine, but I can tell you that things are getting more and more competitive and average will only get you so far. Just because someone has opted-in shouldn't give you an excuse to send an average message. Provide compelling content as your last message is what you will be remembered for.

Until the next. Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Zazzle Me This


In searching for my funny Halloween t-shirt (as I'm not much of a costume guy), I stumbled upon an interesting website. www.Zazzle.com

Have you ever wanted to create, on demand, any shirt? Always wanted that shirt with the name of your favorite obscure polka band? Ever want to customize a skateboard, coffee mug, tie, or sticker and just order 1? You can do all that on Zazzle. Whether you have a logo, or just want to create something using their design tools it's all at your fingertips right online. How great! No longer do you have to order a minimum of 10 or have a company of people that can justify 10+ shirts or hats. Order just 1 of whatever you want.

So, wow, that's pretty cool. Zazzle takes it to the next level in that if you create your own designs you now have your own store page. It's interactive!!! It's social! Create a cool shirt and share it with your friends on Facebook. Guess what, they don't even have to recreate it they can just buy the same one. And get this, if you're the creator you get a percentage of the profits off your design! You set the rate. Ten, fifteen, twenty percent or more, it's your call.

I really love what Zazzle has done here. What a great tool to open up the creativity of small groups and friends. Create that custom t-shirt for your family reunion or bachelor party. If you have a small company you can create a logo store front with your brand that you would have never done before. It will be interesting to see if this concept catches on, and what Zazzle does to help promote it.

I just created my own fun brand of t-shirts What?Wear. Check them out at the bottom of the blog, and if you like one help support the marketing nerd. ;-) Until next time. Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dear FedEx, . . . and All the Other Mudslingers

This is a message to Fedex and the recent mudslinging advertisers (you know who you are) and those thinking it might be a good idea.
-------------------------------

Dear FedEx,

I want to thank you for letting me know that I should be concerned about, your competitor, DHL's reduced capabilities. While I had not seen the published reports, I now have a better understanding and know that with you I will have reliability for peace of mind.

Sincerely, ;-)

Mark Juleen

-------------------------------------

So, is this email I received (as I am a registered FedEx customer) SPAM, or a quality opt-in message? At the bottom of the email I have the ability to unsubscribe, and I think after this mudslinging message I may just do that. FedEx just got put on the naughty list this Christmas.

While the recent I'm a Mac & I'm a PC ads are somewhat humorous, I think they are a bit off base as well. How many people, like me, are a Mac and a PC? Is it even necessary to bash your competition? When a company gets down in the mud and starts bad mouthing its competition I think it does more harm than good. Yes, for the Mac lovers of the world the ads might be hilarious, but how do these ads help sell more computers. I somewhat question Mac's integrity. Why stoop so low? I can see it now, some guy looking at his Dell laptop thinking, "That Apple, ha, their commercial is so clever I think I'm going to go get a MacBook."

I think it's an adult version of the blame game. Like when you were a kid and nothing was your fault. It was all your little brother's doing, or the dog's, or you heard that "word" from your Dad, or you even blamed your best friend just so you wouldn't get into trouble. Now we're doing it on a adult level! Ridiculous! Grow up, be more creative, show me why you are more innovative or interesting.

Send me an email about how amazing your holiday shipping reliability will be this year because of a new system or historical data that proves it. Show me a commercial that exhibits to me why Leopard is so amazing and easy to use, and why the quality of a Mac and service that goes along with it are the best in the business. Better yet, don't advertise with some clever commercial. Instead, share with me real stories, from real people, about really great experiences with your product or service. It may not seem as glamorous as the 30 sec. spot featuring a B rated actor, but if the stories are compelling I will share them with others. And that lasts a lot longer than 30 seconds.

OK, enough ranting. Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why I Didn't Go To Morellis

This morning I had to take in the dry cleaning.  It's one of those chores I don't look forward to as it is somewhat of a luxury and costs money.  However, the experience I have at Premier Cleaners helps soften the blow when I go to pick it up a couple days later.  I'm somewhat of a raving fan or evangelist I suppose when it comes to things I like, and if dry cleaning ever comes up in conversation (rarely) I alway rave about Premier.  Premier does a couple things right.  

1. While I only go in when my basket of laundry is overflowing (about every other month) they always remember my name when I come in.  I think that's pretty impressive.  Wouldn't it be cool if the guy at the burrito joint I frequent on a weekly basis could do that?

2. They give advice and educate me on the best way to clean or dry clean my clothes.  Now, they don't have to tell me how they are going to wash and press my shirts, but with this simple education in dry cleaning I now respect that they take their job very seriously.  

To some, dry cleaning is a commodity.  Coupons can be found anywhere and everywhere.  Premier always just gives everyone 30% off dry cleaning and $1.59 per shirt.  No more coupons for them, they just focus on their service efforts.  I was recently mailed two $5 gift certificates from a local competitor, Morellis.  My wife had taken a comforter there awhile back as that is where her Mom recommended to take it.  Apparently my Premier dry cleaning stories have not been significant enough for her to listen, or she's just tuned me out at this point in our relationship.  At any rate, Morellis hadn't seen us for awhile and sent us the gift certificates.  I thought it was a nice touch, but it just wasn't compelling enough for me to make the switch.  

Wow, I complain about the luxury cost of dry cleaning, but $10 wasn't enough to overcome remarkable service!  That's saying something.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Enjoy Your Living Experience

About a month ago I joined the other members of our executive team at the J.C. Hart Company for a retreat to discuss the "brand" of the company.  These "meetings of the minds" are always a great way to take a step back and really look to see if we are delivering on our purpose, vision, and goal as a company.  Since joining the company back in 2003, we've had 3 of these "executive retreats" and we've always come away with an improved vision for the company.

As I said, at this most recent retreat we wanted to review our "brand."  After going through a few exercises discussing our "touch points," watching the Fish! Philosophy video (the 5th time for me), sharing some good and bad customer service stories, and reviewing our company Core Values, we came to the conclusion we really like the direction we've taken the business.  However, we also concluded that the message or "brand statement" we share at our "touch points" just wasn't sticky enough.  While our Purpose is "We make your Home and enjoyable living experience," this doesn't just roll off the tongue in everyday conversation.  So we've taken our first step in improving the way this message is sent.  First, for marketing purposes we shortened our Purpose into a "brand statement":  Enjoy Your Living Experience.  It's a start, and our associates are excited about the message.  We've always been a management company that is known for customer service, but our goal is to take it to the next level.

But none of this is really why I'm writing this post.  Since rolling out "Enjoy Your Living Experience" I feel like customer service has become a hot topic for many others in the marketing world.  For Jay Ehret it's something he does everyday, but for Jeremiah Owyang it's not his usual expertise.  This is why I love following these guys and others on Twitter.  Not only do they share great blog posts, but they also make great observations and share them with the Twitter community.  Before Twitter and blogs we'd make business decisions and hope they took us in the right direction, now we can just do a Twitter or Google search and find out if another company has already tried our idea.  Better yet, we can write a blog post or tweet and get feedback on our idea from a plethora of experts.  By using these tools we can all make better business decisions and ideally become better businesses.  I certainly am enjoying my living experience since branching out into social media and I thank all of you that share with us your ideas, knowledge, and expertise.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's the Lifespan of Social Media/Web 2.0?

video

Friday, September 26, 2008

Do You List or Advertise

On a number of occasions I have had discussions with my peers, vendors, and colleagues in regards to what is considered an advertisement. In my industry a majority of marketing dollars are spent on "listings". "Listings," by my definition, are marketing dollars spent to post your product or company on a website, guide, or book that puts you right along side your competition. A "listing" also provides essentially the same information and format to display your information as your competitors. I do not consider "listings" advertising or advertisements. They are a necessary evil that unfortunately eat up a majority of my marketing budget in the apartment industry. Advertisements in my opinion are a marketing choice that allows your company or product to be creative, develop a brand, or have unique placement.

I feel in my industry we have allowed the "listing" companies to disguise themselves as advertisements and we pay too high of premiums to utilize these glorified yellowpage ads. And it doesn't seem to stop. A new online "listing" service comes on board all the time. As an industry why do we accept this? How do these listings help to separate you from your competition? All these listing services do is treat our communities and apartments as a commodity. We're not commodities, and we need to stop marketing like we are.

Develop great websites for your properties/companies, blog about them, provide outstanding customer service, build unique and distinctive communities/products/services, find your branding niche and exploit it, don't settle for listings as your main form of marketing. Everyone's in the yellowpages, but your company message needs to be more than just a phone number as that's what everyone else is doing. Dare to be different! Listing are a necessary evil while advertisements are a marketing choice.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Search Engine Optimization

So I am completely overwhelmed by the whole SEO thing. Wow, who knew how much really went into this. It really takes experts to manage, optimize, and monitor SEO, or does it? Today I had a conference call with HubSpot.com. They advertise themselves as an Internet Marketing company. I Googled "Internet Marketing" and they did come up on the 1st page, but not as the 1st listing.

What they showed me today in a webex conference call was pretty good. They have software that measures your website optimization vs. up to 20 other competitors based on keywords. That alone was pretty sweet. Then they utilize this data to make recommendations for improving your website and helping to promote or create all the other links and online posts you need to improve your SEO. In 45 minutes I was impressed, and they really just scratched the surface I felt. This is the 1st SEO tool I've seen that really seems to measure and help.

If you have used HubSpot.com or know anything about them please feel free to comment. I'll also share this link to another blog with some comments so you can see what others are saying.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Comments

So I haven't written my own post in awhile, but I've been commenting on Mike's blog more regularly. While I tend to play the devil's advocate in a number of my comments and posts I hope those comments don't get interpreted the wrong way. I think in the world of blogging, email, and writing in general many things can be misinterpreted and appear negative. For me, taking the other side of a conversation can help spur conversations or drill down into the heart of the issues being discussed. Unfortunately for some, I plan to continue challenging ideas. This may be annoying, but I hope together we can discover something new and innovative to help our businesses or lives. Don't take me too seriously and feel free to challenge me back.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Testimonials - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Part 2

After recently reading a post by a fellow blogger and apartment marketeer, Mike Brewer, about Trust Marketing I thought back to a post I did back in June about testimonials. I like what Mike says in his post about gaining customers trust. We are in a world where our friends, family, acquaintences, and online sources are the driving forces for what we buy. While clever advertising is still fun to watch on TV, it seems to me that more and more people are just entertained by the ads but not influenced by them. There are a few exceptions to the rule, but this is the trend and is reviewed thoroughly by Seth Godin in his most recent book Meatball Sundae. To me, people buy from people and brands they trust.

So, as I said, I reflected back on my "Testimonials - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" post from June and I was curious how many of you are helping to control the online conversation about You? How are you helping to build trust for your brand online? As we read on blogs, Amazon.com, apartmentratings.com, yelp.com, and many others, customers are writing reviews. Unfortunately for your company, brand, community, etc. the majority of people that typically write these reviews are ones that are not happy. All this said, I'm writing this follow-up post today to pose three questions that I would love your responses to.

1. What are you doing already to control the online conversation about your brand?

2. Does getting involved in the online conversation about your brand help to build "trust" in your brand or should you just let the cards fall as they may?

3. Is it ethical to solicit feedback from your customers (survey them) and then post that information online while filtering out the bad (as most likely that bad is already being posted)?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Twitter Etiquette

Recently, someone that I follow on Twitter posed the question, "Wondering if its worth it to follow people who only Tweet with personal things that hold no interest for me?" She followed it up by asking, "And, what of, those people you know who you stop following because their Tweets aren't worth reading? Will it hurt their feelings?"

I think these are great questions, and made me think about etiquette that is lost among new technology. Growing up most of us were taught manners. I know that can be a foreign term to some, but most folks know to say please, thank you, excuse me, etc. Unfortunately, Miss Manners, cotillions, and parents have not been able to keep up with today's technology. While you can find some guidelines/opinions for cell phones, cubicles, & email etiquette at sites like Rudebusters.com, I also did a Google Search for Twitter Etiquette and found some great blog posts.



The general consensus out there is that you can do whatever you want on Twitter. To each their own. Follow 1000 or follow 20 it's your choice. You can also choose to block people you don't know or care to know. I guess the only risk you take is offending someone with pointless tweets, or by following someone for no reason other than to build your "following" count. That said, my response to her questions without much thought or hesitation was, "not worth it. too many good tweets get lost among the gunk." I still hold that opinion, and have found myself being more conscientious about who follows me and who I follow. I think Twitter can be a great forum for exchanging ideas and posting thoughts for business purposes. I also think a few personal anecdotes can be appropriate, but must not take over your updates. As someone else mentioned in a tweet, maybe it's best to have 2 or more Twitter accounts so people can choose which one to follow and you can choose what content is appropriate for each.

Would love to hear others thoughts so I can create a top 10 rules of Twitter etiquette post in the near future. Oh, and by the way, what is up with people's obsession with tweeting what your eating???!!! I know I'm guilty, but why do we do it? Maybe that's an entire post itself.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Are Company Awards a Positive or a Negative?

After another successful event (I think???), I like to reflect on how the evening went.  My company, like many others, recognizes outstanding individuals for great performance.  We reward "Shining Stars," as we call them, in categories for managers, leasers, techs, supervisors, construction, and administrative.  We recognize these associates with quarterly awards, and then at the end of the year we also have an "Of the Year" award for these categories.  We do two events that get the entire company together once in Aug. for the 1st and 2nd qtr. awards, and then again in Feb. for the 3rd and 4th qtrs. along with the "Of the Year" winners.  The events are always a great time and people enjoy being able to socialize with others in the company that they might rarely see.

Generally this is how the evening goes.  The president of the company gives some speeches, talks about the industry, and just gives some words of wisdom.  Then other V.P.'s/Execs may have some other words of wisdom or speeches before we begin the award presentations.  The V.P.'s/Execs share in presenting the awards and we generally sum it up by saying everyone is a winner, but we could only choose one.

This is where the "I think???" comes into play.  Are we creating a positive with these awards or a negative.  While the winners and maybe their co-workers are excited and happy, many others "I think???" feel they got the shaft.  Because these awards are somewhat subjective I can see why some would feel slighted, and in a world of people motivated by rewards I wonder if we are actually doing more harm than helping.  It's not just a situation of someone feeling they are being slighted, but a situation in which people might feel unappreciated or ignored.  Is this a risk we are taking by continuing to do these awards, or is this an opportunity for us to help motivate those "Shining Stars" that really help make a difference in the company.  Should I/we be worrying about the people that think they got the shaft?  Are we missing something?  Is there still value to "awards," or do we just need to make some changes in the way we give/present them?
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Monday, July 28, 2008

What's Your Walkscore?

Last week during a marketing presentation at the Realpage User Conference, Lisa Trosien mentioned a cool website www.walkscore.com. Obviously in more urban areas this is great, but in the world of housing and rising gas prices this can really help or hurt you. It's not that you can go in and really change or improve your score, but I suggest every business, apartment community, realtor, etc. at least know what their scores are.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Death of the Printed Newsletter

I am killing the printed newsletter this week (at least at my company). It's exciting, I've never really "killed" anything before. In marketing most of my ideas involve creating something, but not killing anything. I guess in this case I'm not just killing printed newsletters I am also creating blog newsletters to replace them. I feel super "green" by saving paper, and I'm saving approximately $12,000 in printing and service costs for the monthly newsletters we currently use. That doesn't suck!

Anyone else going to join in?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Microsoft Cool?

Can Hotshot Ad Guy Alex Bogusky Make Microsoft Cool?
"Life conspires to beat the rebel out of you," says Bogusky, with partners, from left, Jeff Steinhour, Chuck Porter, and Jeff Hicks | photograph by Peter Yang

In conversation with my friend Duncan, an article from the June issue of Fast Company came up.

We both agreed that this is one daunting task, but when I made my point I just said NO. Honestly, how can one person or even a team (ad agency) make a product cool? While Microsoft is trying to be something for everyone I think they need to be realistic and just be who they are. They are a business machine that doesn't need to be cool. Their products just need to work and work right all the time because a majority of people already use them. I'm trying to remember an ad campaign that influenced me to the point where it changed my opinion about a product. For me it's always been the experience with the product or the experience a close friend has with the product that is the key influencer.

At this point in the life cycle of Microsoft I can't wait to see what these guys think will make them cool. What makes a company cool is their brand, product, and service. Not a campaign. Did somewhere along the line Microsoft forget these principles. They have great strengths and they just need to lead with them. I hope that when this all-mighty campaign is launched that Mr. Bogusky leads with Microsoft's strengths. It would be a shame if they strayed from what is the core of Microsoft's business, and that is business.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Who's Calling the Shots???

Last night I watched Nightline on ABC.  I know, I know, what is a 31 year old guy doing watching Nightline.  Well, it's between the sports report on the local news and Jimmy Kimmel, so I think it's OK.  Usually I'm reading a golf magazine or something while it's on so it takes something special to catch my attention.  Last night I was torn away from an article about mallet putters with a great report about Zappos.com.

After watching the report I thought, wow, these guys have the right idea about corporate culture.  I hear these stories all the time about companies that have extensive training programs, a teamwork culture, and an all around fun working environment.  So, why do these stories make the headlines while the rest of corporate America just keeps doing things the way they have always done it?  Why aren't other businesses following suit?  I have come to some conclusions and these conclusions have led me to a potential experiment.

While the Baby Boomer generation has started or taken over many of the core businesses we see today, they have done so with principles that worked just fine back in the 1900s.  Hard work, respect your superiors, work harder, cut expenses, raise prices, stay late, print advertising is awesome, etc., etc.  While many of these values still have merit and a place in business today (maybe not the print ads) I think the X and Y generation leaders are focusing more on people and less these "old" business ideals.  Now, there may be a few exceptions to the rule, but my gut is telling me that young people of the X and Y generation are pushing the buttons in these businesses that are "doing it right".  Whether they are calling the shots themselves or just persuading their Baby Boomer superiors to agree with the strategy, Gen X and Y are making an impact on businesses in a great way that creates exciting corporate cultures.

So, why don't more business follow suit?  1. CEO or President is old and doesn't want to listen ("That's the way we've always done it.")  2. The business is large and so established that a culture shift will take decades to implement (therefore too overwhelming a task to tackle).  So this leads me to my potential experiment.  Here goes . . . give your young associates some empowerment.  I've read countless articles now on the difficulty of working with Gen Y and how they feel under-appreciated, working below themselves, or not climbing the corp. ladder quick enough.  Well, let's stop complaining about them and get them involved.  Experience is extremely helpful, but the best ideas come from fresh eyes.  Let's challenge these young minds and help them to create new corporate culture from the bottom up.  They are the masses in most companies, but with a top down approach they may never be heard until it's too late and they are tainted by "the way we've always done it".
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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Last Lecture

Before the holiday weekend a colleague passed on a book to me called, The Last Lecture.  For those of you that haven't read this yet I do recommend it as it gives you a life check that I think sometimes we all need.  I won't get into details of the book as you can go to the link above to learn more, however, I would like to share what I got out of it so you might be more convinced to read it yourself.

It was a quick read, which was good for me and my self-diagnosed A.D.D.  So, right off the bat they had me hooked as I knew I would get through it in less than a month.  While the story can be interpreted as a sad one, after reading it I think my lighthearted take on it is appropriate.  My interpretation of the message may be different than some, but I like to summarize things into simple values or points.  If I were to sum up what Randy Pausch has done it is show spirit.

Too often in this world we allow ourselves to be influenced negatively by others.  I feel that what Randy shares in his book is that each individual makes choices everyday in everything they do.  The question is what type of spirit do you bring with you?  His message is simple, make sure it is positive.  He shares a number of specific life lessons in his book, but I think it's all summed up by just having a good attitude.  The lecture, the book, the legacy he has left behind is all for his kids, and some might say it was self serving.  But when you read it you will see that Randy has been a selfless person with a great spirit about life.

- Mark
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Friday, July 4, 2008

Websites: Features and??? Benefits

After a meeting last week with The Juleen Team (F.C. Tucker Realtors), and Firebelly Marketing it had me thinking about the content of my company's website as well as other websites in general.  Does your website just sell the steak, or does it also sell the sizzle?  When I think of websites in general I think of pictures of a product, some bullet point features, and some general specs and pricing.  All the stuff that helps someone to do research, but nothing really to help convince them the product or service is a better choice than another.

This being said, I began to question if this is a terrible approach to the design of a website.  When we train our leasing staff to sell, we teach feature, benefit, close.  Why aren't websites designed the same way.  Are we not trying to sell our products online?  With the internet and websites becoming more and more the first touch point we have with our customers why are we not selling to them?  We're just giving them the features, and hoping they figure out the benefits, while our close is just giving them a price.  This doesn't seem to make much sense to me.

Even as a consumer I am no longer impressed by fancy websites just loaded with content and pictures.  I want more.  I usually find myself looking for customer testimonials or expert reviews of products before I buy them.  If I don't find the need to search for those it's most likely because I have already seen or used a product, or a friend has recommended it.  I then go on a website just to confirm my decision or make the purchase. 

So, my next goal will be to make our website more benefit friendly.  I'd like to see others follow suit as I think the consumers demand it.  If they don't find everything they need to know at your website doesn't it scare you to think about where they are going to find out more information?  It scares me, and we're going to make some changes.

-Mark
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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Testimonials - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

What's the power of a testimonial? Does it depend on the product? Does it depend on who it comes from? Does it depend on where you find it? Does it depend on how it is delivered? These are all things I have been pondering as we decide to solicit testimonials from our residents. The testimonials we use need to be as powerful as possible and must be genuine.

In the apartment business the largest forum of testimonials is www.apartmentratings.com
. At this website anyone can create a post that rates a particular community in different categories and then allows for an open essay to praise or bash the property. After surveying our residents about what websites they use as resources when searching for a new apartment home, apartmentratings.com was one that seemed to pop up frequently as a write in for the "Other" option. After seeing that I dove back into apartmentratings.com to see what all the fuss is about. What I found is that people have a lot of passion about where they live. Whether they love it or hate it, they want to write about it, defend it, slam it, or just be heard. The only concern I have with this site is how honest and genuine it really is. It's easy to see when a property manager or leasing associate tries to post something positive or as a defense post against someone that has slammed the property. From the other side, I also can see how negative posts can be taken way out of context and can be exaggerated to the point where they are not very credible either. While many of the resident's surveyed indicated this website was a resource they used, my next question for them would be how much weight they gave to what they found.

This being said, I think what we are seeing on Amazon.com and many other online stores is that customers are sharing their opinion about products and this will continue to be the trend. People have a lot of passion about the products they own/rent and we can't ignore it. The way I see it, is that it's the responsibility of the marketers to insure there are more positive posts and testimonials out there than negatives. It's also our responsibility to make sure that our customers are more likely to find positive posts. Things can turn very ugly online if you make mistakes and don't make an effort to fix them. Before the Internet it was much easier to ignore bad word of mouth, but now that bad review lasts a lifetime. What are you doing to insure your product, brand, etc. has a positive position online?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Perseverance

For those of you reading that are not golf fans (or even know who Tiger Woods is), let me just simply explain that he is one of the most influential and incredible sports figures today. Last weekend and in a playoff on Monday with Rocco Mediate Tiger showed us again why he one of the most amazing talents in sports. Not only was he coming off of knee surgery, but during the 5 day/91 holes of golf he played he reinjured his knee and created two stress fractures in his leg. Oh, by the way, he won his 14th major championship even while going through these physical struggles. If that's not determination and perseverance I don't know what is. Unfortunately, these injuries now are season ending for Tiger as he will be having reconstructive knee surgery and will miss the British Open, PGA Championship, & Ryder Cup, in addition to other tournaments he scheduled to play in.

That all being said, I think there is a lesson to be learned from this icon of sports as I'd like to make this story relevant to marketing of course. The question I ask is, "When do perseverance and determination actually hurt your brand?" Due to the season ending injury that perseverance caused in this situation I think, Nike, Gatorade, Buick, Accenture, EA Sports, Gillette, and the PGA Tour are going to lose out a bit. The "Tiger" brand will still be strong and make a come back, but without his face appearing in highlights on ESPN how will this effect these brands that rely on his image in more than just advertisements. As the number 1 player in the world Tiger not only helps increase attendance at tournaments, but also helps to increase television viewers.

With no Tiger for at least 6 months it will be interesting to see if these advertisers and sponsors see an impact on their business. This could be a true marketing analyst's dream. Take away your premium spokesperson for 6 months and see how it impacts sales. Think of the millions of dollars each one of these companies spends to have Tiger help promote their products. I see two scenarios. 1. There is little to no impact at all because Tiger is such a recognizable icon that even a picture or advertisement continues to help these brands. or 2. Consumers begin to lose the connection they have with Tiger and the brands he represents and these brands suffer for at least 6 months. I'd like to see what these companies plan to do over the next 6 months to help sustain their brand recognition with Tiger. If I were them I would be afraid that he will somewhat disappear during this period, and the excitement that surrounds his golf play will not help to support these brands the way it does when he is out amazing us with his greatness.

-Mark
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

$4.00 Gas & Some Other Thoughts from the Nerd

So, gasoline is hovering around $4.00/gal. and it had me thinking how marketeers can somehow make a positive out of this negative. Not in a stupid way like the way car dealers are advertising the obvious, like mpg/fuel economy on compact cars and hybrids or by trying to give away free gas when you buy a car. These are all basic or gimmicky and are short term solutions. What I'm asking is how can we take a product like, ohh ... let's say apartments for example, and help market them as a positive for fuel consumption.

For example, maybe an apartment community could have signs or something that say, "If you lived here you'd save at least $80/month instead of driving 15 miles further to get home." Just one pretty cheesy example, but that $80 is another tank of gas in your gas guzzling SUV brotha.

That has me thinking again about housing (as that is my biz). I recently was interviewed for an upcoming article in a local free publication called House & Home. The article is about housing development in the downtown Indianapolis area. One question I was asked is if we thought that having the Super Bowl come to Indy would make a positive impact or change the way we look at our business. Although my response was that we currently have not had a rush on our apartment community, The Waverley at 151, we're optimistic the game will have some type of influence on our community that's just a few blocks away.

Now, you might be asking, "What the hell does that have to do with $4.00 gas?" It actually has me thinking that the bigger impact for a property such as The Waverley could be the increasing prices in gas and not something that will come and go like a Super Bowl. A convenient location of a home or business could become a critical selling point, if not a main feature or amenity. Do real estate developers and businesses consider fuel consumption in a proforma or a business plan? Will it over the next few years become something that is a key component to starting a business, getting a loan, or just conducting business in general. As a society will the majority of businesses just ignore the issue and continue to raise prices or add fuel surcharges, or will we actually take a step as marketeers to help companies develop a marketing/business strategy that effectively promotes fuel conservation in order to maintain favorable pricing to the masses? What is your company doing?

- Mark





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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Flock & Pownce

OK, I just discovered two new Internet nerd things I have quickly fallen for. Flock and Pownce.com are great social media hub tools to put all my favorite sites all in one place easy to access and view. With all the logging in and browsing and blah, and twittering, and blah, and did I say blah, I was starting to get tired. I think with these new tools I'll be more dialed into all these different sites, maybe blog more consistently, and start to Digg???

Anywho, Flock is a great new browser built on Mozilla's Firefox codebase. Unlike any other browser, Flock is designed to connect users with their favorite friends, feeds, sites and media putting them at their own epicenter of interests and activity. If you have multiple accounts you log into on a regular basis for blogs, social media, photos, etc. then Flock is for you.

Pownce.com is like Twitter on steroids. Not only can I post updates on my status so all my friends can see, I have also added an application that automatically sends that same update to my Facebook profile. If I could get it to send to Twitter as well I would have no need for Twitter as Pownce also has other apps that link to blogs and more. In addition to some really nice apps I can also place quick links on my Pownce homepage to all my other social media pages. Oh, and did I mention that I can not only just send updates on Pounce to all my friends, but I can send links, Files!!!, and Event notices/invites!

- Mark
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Monday, May 19, 2008

Do you survey your customers?

Have you been to SurveyMonkey.com? It's not the only survey website out there (check out Zoomerang.com or PollDaddy.com among others), but it is one that I use for our company that is extremely simple to use and does what I need. You can't beat the price either. $200 gets you unlimited surveys with unlimited responses. That's pretty incredible. You can even try it out for free if you have a small survey that would have limited responses.

Now this post is not a plug for SurveyMonkey.com, but more of a question on why more small companies don't survey their customers if a tool like this is available at such a cheap price. Surveying is not just for the large corporations doing billions of dollars in business, it is an important measure for anyone to have when doing business. In marketing we throw money at new strategies, new designs, and new ideas when maybe we should just be asking what people want. We're all guilty of chasing after the next new hot idea, campaign, or media, but maybe the answers are there with our current customers.

Recently we surveyed the residents at our communities and I will say that by doing so online I had better results than ever. Previously we would deliver paper surveys to our residents and we would get back approx 25% of the surveys. We felt that was a pretty good response rate, but by sending out surveys online and having the ability to send reminders responses increased to 45%!!! This type of response rate really gives us the chance to analyze the data and make decisions to improve our business or change up our marketing strategy. One change we have already made is re-listing our properties at Rent.com as 41.5% of respondents indicated using their site as a resource for an apartment search. They ranked first for Internet resources used, and last year we dropped most of our listing with them to help reduce some expenses. While we have had a good year, we feel the cost is not as prohibitive as losing the exposure this popular site provides.

There are many other examples of how surveys can impact your business or influence changes. I know from our experience the survey we recently sent out has identified a few areas we need to make changes. Although it's sometimes tough to see where we are going wrong it's also a nice wake-up call. While I think it's important to recognize our faults and where changes are necessary, it gives us a great opportunity to see what we are doing well and exploit our best qualities also.

-Mark

Monday, May 12, 2008

Facebook and Social Media

So, on a whim I decided to join FB (facebook) after they opened it up to anyone and set up an account for business purposes. Not knowing how I would end up using the profile I just let it sit there for nearly a year. Randomly an old college friend stumbled across this work profile and the next thing I knew I was creating a personal account as well. For someone on the cusp of Gen X/Gen Y this was a bold step about a year ago. What has blown me away is the number of adopters in my age bracket and older over the that year. While my cirlcle of friends doesn't grow as expodentially as my cousin in college, it does continue to grow.

So, the question I have now is how to get others in the Gen X and older generations to adopt FB and/or other social media. I think the first step is via LinkedIn, which seems to be friendly in the business world and does not reek of that's for my kids. However, I feel that as FB and MS (MySpace) evolve even more they will need to in a way that strives to capture the 30+ crowd. FB seems to me the one that could prevail for the 30+ crowd in that it is extremely user friendly and the variety and ease of applications keep it interesting. I still ask the question how do we convice the non-adopters to jump in the game?

Now that I've said all this it brings be to a thought that I had when meeting with my marketing agency. We were discussing an individual that presented during a seminar for Apartment Internet Marketing I recently attended. We agreed he had a great perspective on the evolution of the Internet. His point was that people are social beings. This is why social media sites such as FB, MS, and YouTube have grown so quickly. In thinking about that I concluded that these sites are essentially an evolution of email. The difference now is that people have a choice. While email is universal, social media is unique to the choice of the user. It will be fun to see if one will prevail like VHS over Beta or Blu-Ray over HD-DVD.

I think it's important in our world of communication that people adopt social media just as we have cell phones, email, and text messaging. The challenge is the overwhelming options of sites all doing roughly the same thing and most people not wanting or having the time to use them all. Hopefully applications on these sites will give people the ability to log into one spot and control all their accounts from the same place, or maybe that will be the next big player all togeter. I'm sure Google's working on it right now.

-Mark