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 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

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.

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