Over the past few years, my writing has gotten tighter, more direct. Shorter sentences, less jargon, fewer uses of "leading" this or "state of the art" that. Is it a result of age and experience, my increasing involvement in bullshit-intolerant social media marketing or some combination of both? Who knows?
What I do know is that I try to make every word count. Even though I sometimes write long, I don't use too many extra adjectives or empty adverbs. Sure every now and then, one sneaks in, but for the most part, my writing is a lot crisper than it was five years ago.
In fact, one of my biggest criticisms of PR pitches is that they are wordsmithed to death in search of the perfect phrase, the most clever pun, the perfect call to action. They end up excessively wordy and take far too long to get the point. Sometimes they miss it altogether.
I was reminded of this fundamental change in my own writing this week while working on some content for a new client. A professional association, it accomplishes much of its work through volunteer committees. I had drafted a simple document for the group's launch and a few committee members had feedback. Which I welcomed and sincerely tried to incorporate in the doc. After all, it is their group and their intent was to clarify the value proposition.
But as I was doing it, I realized that many suggested changes weren't making the document any clearer or more persuasive. They were just more words to say the same thing we'd already said in fewer.
It reminded me of the anime cartoons my son watches that revolve around card game battles and duels. Shows like Yu-Gi-Oh, Bakugan Battle Brawlers and Chaotic. In every show, the combatants have to painstakingly explain what they are doing. Otherwise we would have absolutely no clue. It goes sort of like this:
I use the super monster card which has 200 more life points than your life sucking monster card to free my super duper card, says the hero. Ah ha, replies the villain, but now I play my something or other card that reduces your life points by a factor of ten and allows me to use my life sucking monster card in magna mode. [Huge sigh from the hero's friends] Oh no, says the hero, I didn't see that coming. But I can play my magna-minimizer card to remove your life sucking monster from the field.
And so on. and on. and on.
All this explanation just sucks the excitement right out of the story. Give me a simple sword battle or a good shoot 'em up any day. Where I don't need a scorecard, a narrator or a translator to understand the action.
Clarity. That's what makes a good story. As opposed to a cartoon designed to sell packs of playing cards and other merchandise to kids who will probably never actually play the game. Because it is too complicated.
It's the same for your marketing message. Strip away the adjectives and explanatory clauses. What's left? If you can't tell the story without all the extra explanation in those clauses? If your story seems blah without lots of adjectives? Then you probably don't have a good story and a few more adjectives won't make it so. They are just more empty words, taking up space and contributing nothing.
It's never been more true.
Keep It Simple.
If you've been waiting to hear all about the California trip, I posted the high, and low, lights over at Snapshot Chronicles.
Marketing moves I wish I'd made
Before I leave for BlogHer on Wednesday, I'll get back to blogger relations and share my thoughts on the recipe for a perfect pitch. In the meantime, though, I wanted to tell you about two marketing efforts that really impressed me this week.
First, Saab's sponsorship of USA Network show Burn Notice. The second season premiered Thursday night and featured just about the sweetest product placement I have ever seen in a network television show. A good friend is in charge of product placement and sponsorships for a computer manufacturer, so I notice these more now than I used to, but this one was particularly good.
Products are mentioned by name in entertainment products -- TV, radio, movies, Internet -- either because the producers and writers feel strongly that the brand is important to the story regardless of promotional consideration or because the company has negotiated a sponsorship and product placement with the entertainment vehicle.When it is a sponsorship situation, the brand name mention can often feel stilted and artificial. This wasn't.
Burn Notice has done a pretty good job overall integrating its vehicle sponsors into the storyline, but the mention of Saab was as sweet as a marketer could wish for. A full sentence describing the Saab convertible that was totally in context and character. Truly, you cannot do better than that.
Next, Stride Gum's sponsorship of "Where the Hell is Matt?" You just have to watch, but the short story is Matt Harding danced his way around the world, and Stride Gum paid the way. Why is this so cool? Because the videos just make you feel good, and we could all use a bit more of that. And that's why these videos have gone so very very viral. Well done to Stride for finding Matt and offering to subsidize not just one but two of these remarkable world journeys.
Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.
It's a model to which consumer companies should pay serious attention. Stride found someone doing something interesting online, decided to sponsor it, but made no demands on the creator. They got it -- association with something so infectious would be beneficial to their brand.
I'll look for the brand next time I pick up a packof gum.
Bloggers & Customer Service: Do blog complaints make a difference?
"Conventional" social media wisdom would have it that companies need to pay attention to the blogosphere, or risk their brands. For proof, out trots the example of Jeff Jarvis and Dell Hell. Jarvis' complaints about Dell customer service percolated up to mainstream media and are oft-cited as the impetus behind Dell's *big* move into social media about a year ago.
Now, you may sense a certain cynical undertone in the above paragraph, and you would be right. While I absolutely believe that companies should be listening to what bloggers -- their customers -- say, I am regularly provided with proof that either companies aren't listening or they are, and have no bloody idea what to say, or how to say it, when faced with blogosphere complaints, or compliments, about products and services.
My most recent proof:
Ike Pigott has been tracking the response, or lack thereof, to a post on his blog complimenting Blockbuster on its customer service. He also divined that Canon saw, but did not respond to positive comments about its products.
While I haven't made quite such a science of it, I have written about customer service on this blog on more than one occasion. Most recently about AAA's piss-poor performance with my flat tire before Christmas. Any word from AAA? Nope. And I've also mentioned my general, and unexepected, pleasure with Verizon's support of its cellular customers. On every occasion that I've had to call, I've been treated well. Most recently by a lovely young lady named Amy who offered a credit on something that had gone wrong before I asked. Any response from Verizon? Nope.
Not to mention my friend Mary Schmidt, whose interactions with American Airlines prove without a shadow of a doubt that the airline just doesn't get it.
This is by far a scientific survey, which is why I am so pleased that the Society for New Communications Research is working with corporate partner Nuance to understand the extent to which bloggers think their opinions are, or are not, impacting companies. Please take the survey and let us know whether you think Corporate America is listening. SNCR is offering a special discounted registration to New Comm Forum in April for those that complete the survey. Direct link to survey here.
And that, my friends, is well worth it. There's a great roster of speakers and opportunities to network with other communicators at New Comm Forum. I'm moderating the luncheon keynote on the first day, a panel of conference alumni coming back to tell how they applied what they learned at the conference at their organizations. More on that next week.
Client News: Maxwell Street Documentary is doing a T-shirt giveaway at the blog Notes of the Urban Blues. It is a very cool shirt. Just tell us about your favorite Blues artist and you can be entered to win.
And please check out the new podcast Business Forward, strategic advice for small and medium businesses, that I am producing for client GuideMark.
Customer Service: the final volley (for 2007 at least)
(warning, long post)
Earlier this month, I wrote two customer service posts. In the first post, "if customer service is the new marketing," I wondered, if this is indeed the case -- if front line interactions with customers are as or more important than any marketing campaigns we might devise, why is so much customer service still so awful. The second post featured comments from two bloggers who recently wrote about their own less than stellar customer experiences, Mir Kamin and TDavid.
Originally, I was going to wrap up the series with an "objective" analysis of the customer service problem, to see if we might be able to understand the macro factors causing it to be so bad as well as the unique micro factors in customer service excellence that perhaps we could model in our own attempts to improve.
Well, all that got thrown out the window last Saturday. Instead, I am going to share an "epiphany" I had on the whole topic after a most disastrous customer experience.
First the story. Saturday morning, December 21, my son and I were driving from our home in Mass. to our vacation home in Vermont. My husband had a few things to do at home so he was following later. We had a carful of stuff, including three of the family dogs. Just after we got on Route 89 -- the one the runs the whole "width" of NH to Vermont, we got a flat and pulled off the highway. Not the breakdown lane, I got off the highway all together hoping to find a gas station. This was around noontime. I called my husband, who was still at home and then called AAA once I determined from my GPS that the nearest service station was more than three miles away.
And the comedy of errors began.
Call Number 1: Service Rep says that Southern NE AAA cannot help me so transfers me to Northern NE AAA. Except he doesn't. He disconnects me.
Call Number 2 (immediately after): I connect with another rep, who really does try to help. I explain the problem and where I am -- on the Hopkinton/Route 103 exit off 89 West in NH. Remember this part, it is important. She gives me a case number and promises to rush a crew out. I assume (yeah I know) that she knew how to do something that the first rep did not.
10-15 minutes after we hang up, inbound call: AAA trying to understand where we are. So I tell them, again. We hang up.
Then it dawns on me. They think we are in Hopkinton Massachusetts. Even though I was pretty clear.
So I call back. This is my Call Number 3 to AAA. It's probably around 12:45, 1 pm by this time. New service rep. Finds the file. Confirms my suspicion that they are sending the crew to the wrong place. Connects me to AAA Northern NE, who cannot figure out where I am. Umm. Aren't they supposed to know the roads? Anyway, a very long call later, we *think* someone is on the way.
Around quarter to two, though, I get a little nervous so I call back. Call Number 4 if you are still counting. Unfortunately, I still have to call Southern NE AAA because that's the number on my card, and I neglected to ask for the Northern NE number when I was on the phone with them. Rep manages to transfer me, and I get the information that a wrecker is on the way from Manchester. For those of you who don't know the area, that's not far from where I broke down. Maybe 20 minutes. She also gives me the direct number to call, which comes in handy a little while later.
So we wait. And finally around 2:15... my husband and a local cop show up at the same time. Yes, you read that right. My husband made it from Hudson Mass. BEFORE AAA from Manchester NH. The police officer calls AAA to see what the scoop is, and while he is on his phone with them, AAA calls my phone. The wrecker is lost. This is probably about 2:30 or so.
WIth directions from the officer, the wrecker finally finds us, and the mechanic quickly fixes the flat. We're on our way shortly after 3pm, with another 90 minutes to drive to reach the house. It was a brutal day, but that's not why I share the story.
Here's the epiphany. The people weren't the customer service problem. Or at least not the worst of it. The process was the problem.
Each person was trying to help, but the system is set up so poorly that they just couldn't provide a good customer experience. For whatever reason, Southern NE AAA can't enter a problem in NH and have Northern NE AAA then pick up the call. And of course the whole mess was compounded by the fact that either the rep or the system made the initial faulty assumption that our Hopkinton was in Mass. I was also thrown by the fact that the reps -- even the Northern NE AAA reps -- we spoke to couldn't figure out where we were. Don't they publish maps??
The people sincerely wanted to help. But they couldn't because the system got in the way. As a result, AAA failed miserably to efficiently deliver the roadside assistance service that is the reason I (and most people) joined AAA in the first place. And my son and I were stuck by the side of the road for three hours on a cold but clear December day.
So when we experience truly excellent customer service, either the system is set up to allow such great service -- think Nordstrom or Zappos. Or an individual rises above the inadequacies of the process.
Shouldn't we be aiming for the former? Systems and processes that allow customer facing employees --whether service, sales or marketing -- to deliver the positive experiences we all want. I don't tend to do big end-of-the-year posts, but if I were to wish for one thing for us as customers and marketers, it would be that: systems and processes that let us satisfy, not frustrate, the customer.
As for AAA, I do intend to contact the organization and share my concerns. I still think it is a great organization that delivers a valuable service.
I just wish it had done so a little better last Saturday.
A final postscript: The local police officer only found us because a fellow cop coming off duty called it in. It never occured to me (or apparently any of the many other cars that passed us) to call the police. He told me that you should always call the local police in an emergency, even something as simple as a flat tire. They often can get AAA or a wrecker out faster, and certainly we felt safer on the side of the road once we had the cruiser there.
Customer Service (Part Two)
(warning, long post)
As I wrote in my previous post, it seems we have a serious disconnect when it comes to customer service. At the same time we champion the "conversation" with the customer, the general level of customer service is decreasing. Sure, there are exceptions, but stories like Mir's recent internet service "dis-service" and Mary's lovely experience on American Airlines seem to be the norm.
I've been wondering, why? Do products just "suck more?" Are the occasional wonderful customer service stories really that WONDERFUL or is it that they just exceed our now much lower expectations?
What is customer service excellence?
First, let's hear from two of the bloggers I used in my examples: Mir Kamin and TDavid.They both replied to my questions in email so I'll let them speak for themselves. In part three, I'll share some of my thoughts on the subject.
"I think the norm of shoddy customer service,and yes, in a lot of ways I do think it's become the norm) is yet another symptom of our "fast food society." Look, I've said it over at Cornered Office (and somewhat more obliquely, at Woulda Coulda Shoulda), but I'll spell it out right here: I was on a plan that only cost $6.95/month. I'm not saying I necessarily DESERVED to get screwed, but honestly, what did I expect for that amount of money? We want it faster and cheaper and as a consumer body, THAT is what we demand, rather than quality and courtesy, sadly.
That said, lesson learned over here, bigtime. I can make all the excuses I want -- they promised me service, I bought that plan when I was first starting out and was worried I couldn't afford more, whatever. I'm paying a lot more for my new service, and at least this has taught me that it's worth every penny.
The businesses that triumph in America right now are the ones that can do it the cheapest and the most conveniently. That's why the Walmarts continue to thrive while the heart-and-soul community mom-and-pop stores struggle. You can't be cheap, convenient AND personal. It just doesn't add up. And most of us simply cannot afford to go top-shelf for most things.
Until we as a consumer body start making a lot of noise and putting our dollars where our mouths are, it's not going to change.
Think about the best customer service you've heard lately. I'll bet it was the Zappos story of the woman who not only ended up having them basically white-glove a return for her, but sent her flowers in condolence because when she was talking to the rep she mentioned that her mother had died. Zappos is committed to customer service and they do it better than almost anybody out there, right now. They are also INCREDIBLY expensive. They have to be.
Now. All of that said, I think a VAST IMPROVEMENT in customer service is possible without spending billions of dollars, and that's to encourage CSRs to act like they care. In my situation, a lot of my ire could've been circumvented had the CSRs involved simply apologized and/or seemed less apathetic. That doesn't take that much time and it would've made a world of difference. Maybe in today's "GIMME" society "the customer is always right" is an impractical goal, but when did we just plain stop being NICE to the customer?"
Do products just "suck more?"
"Either it's very coincidental or there is a direct correlation between more ad-supported software and services and negative customer experiences.
Somewhere along the line beta and release software and, as in the Xbox 360 case, hardware have merged. This has noticeably lowered the overall quality of products and services on a wider scale. In some cases these days customers are being expected to become unwilling beta testers and sometimes even paying for the privilege like the Xbox 360.
It's one thing to not be charged in a beta test, it's another to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars and be told the only solution is out of warranty repair or buying more of the same faulty hardware.
Microsoft in their much publicized Red Rings of Death warranty extension didn't cover another common problem: game/DVD disc read errors. So if you have a machine that's older than one year and doesn't read discs any more, they'll expect you to pay to get that fixed or you'll need a third party warranty.
On the software side, the amount of time new/upgrade versions are being turned around seems to be shortening so that just when you start to get to an acceptable level of usefulness and value, you're being asked to pay for a new version and rinse, repeat."
Are the good stories really wonderful or do they just exceed our now much lower expectations?
"Expectation levels are lower now, but there are still some positive stories out there. Harder to find, but they're out there.
These days if a company ships something that runs on the computer without causing installation migraines or turning our computing experience into slow-mo that's cause for joy, where that should be expected. Demanded.
We're putting up with more negative customer experiences in web 2.0 than we should. Sites, services and mashups being engineered poorly that if they become popular won't meet demand without major restructuring. Some services have come to the rescue like Amazon S3 to address these needs and that's a good thing, but I see a lot of web 2.0 headstones over the next couple years that couldn't make a viable business plan out of being ad-supported. VCs are already pulling life support systems, flatline imminent.
But it's not just Web 2.0.
Marvel came out with a paid product: their comics online for $9.99/month and they couldn't even scale up to demand. Spider-man is on the phone looking for help.
How funny is that? If we paid to access comics -- and couldn't because the site was down -- would we receive some proportional refund of the time we couldn't access?"
What is customer service excellence?
"For web services: fast response time, good, reliable uptime (at least 99.5%). Essential for paid services.
For all services/products: Minimum amount of time and hassle solving issues and problems. Being treated like an important asset of the business rather than a nuisance. In the case of faulty workmanship on a product, fixing it with as minimal hassle as possible. Companies that recognize and reward loyalty through better deals on future business being conducted, sharing income from referral sales and creative promotions are providing a valuable service.
And good customer service includes having an easy to find telephone number on the company website with an operator on the other side -- preferably without having to navigate through a machine -- that speaks clearly and doesn't resort to some canned script to answer questions.
Bad customer service is forcing customers to email their responses, fill out a form or navigate through some confusing knowledge base and wait who knows how long only to be sent a scripted response. Or being told you have to pay $$$ just to talk to a human being about the problem installing the software or hardware you just purchased."
Thanks, Mir and TDavid for giving us such meaty food for thought. Tomorrow, I'll share some of mine.
Update 12/10: Just a couple of links apropos of the customer service conversation. Geoff Livingston tells us about the Comcast must die blog and Lauren Vargas shares a piss-poor email response from a craft supplies company.
Tags: customer service
If customer service is the new marketing (Part One)
(warning, long post)
If customer service is the new marketing, why do so many companies have such crappy marketing?
In recent posts, Brian Solis and Kami Huyse both argued, with slightly different but generally similar perspectives, that customer service is the new marketing. In simple terms [and without any of the great nuances they shared, so read their posts :-) ] what they are getting at is that the customer's experience with the company, with the product/brand, is what forms his decision to purchase, or not. And that experience is created by much more than exposure to a few marketing campaigns or the occasional customer service call. Blogs, online forums, word of mouth are all becoming part of this experience, and companies need to understand and respond appropriately.
Companies also have to understand that now more than ever, it is ALL about the customer. No matter how great the product, how wonderful the blog, without a customer, there is no business. Everyone in the company is in customer service. This was of course true before as well, but it is so much more obvious now. Simple things like an ill-placed blog comment or "astroturfing" positive anonymous comments on posts negative about a product create far more complications for a company than a rude customer service rep could in the "old days." We've got the proof, you see, in the email and RSS trail.
I agree with them on pretty much all counts. I have always believed in placing the customer at the center of our marketing activity. This is not an equivalent to saying "the customer is always right." She isn't. We aren't. But there are positive ways of handling negative situations, whether the company's fault or the ubiquitous "operator error." It is possible to say "no, you can't have it for free" or "not under warranty" or whatever it may be in a way that doesn't leave the customer feeling cheated.
Why is it then, that there seem to be so many instances of bad, awful, terrible, nasty customer service? Here are just some of the more recent stories I've heard or read.
Popular mom blogger Mir Kamin's websites went down in November. Her Internet provider WiredHub was unresponsive (and that's putting it mildly) even after multiple days of outage. Yes, you read that right: no information, no response. And when the response did come, it wasn't terribly comforting. Read her post for the details.
On her way back from Europe, marketing blogger Mary Schmidit got tagged with an overweight baggage charge from American Airlines. Even though the bag was an acceptable weight for international travel, because she switched carriers and had to recheck her bags, the domestic carrier AA charged her the overweight tariff. She describes the tremendous sympathy of the airline employees here.
Shel Holtz learned that the motto of bank Washington Mutual didn't extend all the way to actual practice when he tried to send money to his son, a soldier about to deploy to Iraq. The bank had closed his son's account for being overdrawn $0.98, without any notification, and refused to reactivate it so Shel could deposit funds. He could open a new account, but that would mean a new ATM card, which would not reach his son before he left for Iraq. In other words, SOL. The good news: another financial insitution came through. [Kami Huyse also posted about this.]
Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang wrote about brands that didn't respect his time. So far the only one mentioned in his post that hasn't responded to him in some fashion is Delta Airlines. Jeneane Sessum wrote about Google inexplicably losing email messages.
These are just a few examples from the blogs I read from the month of November. Imagine what I might find if I really started to dig. No, in fact, don't imagine that. It is too depressing.
I also had my own little customer service contre-temps in early November with a small specialty goods catalog company. I didn't blog about it then, and am not naming the company here because it eventually was resolved satisfactorily, but it illustrates how the intermediation effect of email escalates situations.
The details: I had ordered something more than a year ago. Manufacturer delay upon delay, they could not deliver the products. They had charged my credit card upon the order (not really good policy BTW), and when the product could not be delivered, instead of refunding the money, they issued a store credit with an expiration date.
Now, as we all know, this in itself is not legal, on two counts, but they are a small company, so I was willing to let it go and use the credit. Until I placed an order on the website, and couldn't use the credit.
So I emailed them, and learned that I had to call with my credit card number in order for the credit to be applied. They could not get the information from the web order. This seemed odd although I am certain the answer to that lies somewhere in the shopping cart they use. So I tried to call. And there was NEVER any answer.
I finally followed up with yet another email asking them to resolve the situation, and was met with amazing email hostility from one of the business owners. Rude and disrespectful doesn't even begin to cover it. It was apparently up to me to keep calling until I could reach someone, and I could not cancel the new order either. It was sounding more and more like they just didn't want to give the credit.[ Twitter friends may recall this because one Sunday morning, I asked for opinions on whether to blog about it. ]
In the end, I didn't over-react, sanity prevailed, and I got the credit. And the new merchandise I had ordered. But, just think about it -- the vendor felt perfectly justified being downright rude to a customer. How can that happen? Sure, it is easier to be rude in bits and bytes than face-to-face or even on the phone, and that certainly creates some of the negative customer service that happens these days. But not all. Mary Schmidt was at the airport. So was Jeremiah. Shel Holtz went to the bank.
If we can't get this most basic thing right, how can we possibly expect to have a mutually beneficial "conversation" with our customer? Why is courtesy so uncommon in so many customer service situations?
I haven't even touched on the issue of shoddy products. They are even more central to our experience. And just as much of a problem as poor customer service. Here's just one example. Technology blogger TDavid has had five Xboxes in the past year. All but one returned under warranty. This can't be helping the bottom line, yet wouldn't we all say that a bottom line mentality is what causes the shoddy products in the first place?
Now, of course, there are exceptions. Who hasn't heard the wonderful story of Zappos sending flowers to the woman whose mother had just died? That's exceptional customer service. In fact it is more than that. It is exceptional humanity.
But most positive customer service stories are much more mundane. Do we call them great because our expectations are so much lower, or is it truly great? For example, on two separate occasions, I had some problems with my Blackberry. Both times, Verizon call reps did a great job solving the problem, and following up with me to make sure the problem really was resolved. Do I call it great simply because cell phone providers usually get bad marks for customer support and my previous company (rhymes with singular) did a horrible job? Or was it really great?
Part Two will try to answer some of these questions, with some input from Mir and TDavid who were kind enough to share their thoughts with me.
Thanks-meme for Thanksgiving
Kami Huyse tagged me in her Thanksgiving meme: "Who had a big influence on you and how did that affect the direction of your life or career?"
Like some of my fellow "taggees," a few of the major influences on my career weren't terribly positive. Rather, it was my response to a negative or messy situation that moved me forward or helped me make an important decision.
Let's get these out of the way first, shall we. No names. If you are reading this and think it might be you, it probably is.
Thanks to the editor in my first job out of college who told me I couldn't write. Gave me the kick in the pants to evaluate what I really wanted to do. I got a new job and embarked on a career in marketing. And here I am writing. Nearly every day. Hmmm.
Thanks to the various managers in various corporate jobs who suffered from varying degrees of sexism and found it hard to promote me to the next level. No matter how good the performance or results. Especially the one who hired a super-duper idiot to take over a job I had been doing for years. Each and every time, I moved on to something better.
Now for the positive influences.
First and foremost my family, and most especially my mom Sandra Getgood. From her, I learned that there was nothing I couldn't do if I set my mind to it.
I had lots of wonderful teachers in high school, college and my MBA program, but three stand out: Jean St. Pierre (Andover), Jill Morawski (Wesleyan) and Cornelia Eschborn (Rivier).
Thanks to all the printers, advertising, marketing and PR folk who shared their expertise with me as I learned on the job, especially in the early years of my career.
Thanks to everyone who has ever worked for me for the privilege of working with you, learning from you and hopefully teaching you a few things as well.
Thanks to Gene Mehr, now a client, who years ago recognized that I had some talent and treated me like an equal when I was just a twenty-something who thought she knew more than she did. I still have the four-star "marketing general" helmet.
Thanks to Scott Murray, former CFO at The Learning Company, for re-assigning me to the Cyber Patrol unit in January 1999. And thanks to Greg Bestick, who worked with me to sell the Cyber Patrol business in 2000 for nearly 10x what TLC had paid for it in 1997. Managing the business unit and my involvement in the whole sales process, from road show to due diligence, was one of the highlights of my career. Maybe I'll do it again someday.
And finally, thanks to you, the readers of Marketing Roadmaps, for reading, for commenting, for making me part of your online conversation. You inspire me to be better.
David Wescott writes about campaigning for Steven Tolman for state rep nearly 20 years ago and how that influenced the way he approaches his work.
Julie Marsh says she "learned the most from those who played the part of supporters when times were good, but were nowhere to be found when times were bad."
Katie Paine, back from Thanksgiving in Islamabad, writes about how she became a "genetically unemployable serial entrepreneur."
Kelly (Mocha Momma) tells us what led her down the path to becoming a high school dean.
Christina (A Mommy Story) tells about women who have been positive role models for her: her aunts, mother and grandmother.
The Discipline of Social Media Marketing
Over the past few weeks, a number of people have posted about where social marketing "fits" in the organizational structure of a company, what sort of outside service agency is best positioned to help companies with their social media marketing efforts and how do we define expertise in this new field. Among them, and apologies if I leave anyone off: Todd Defren, Dave Fleet, Susan Getgood (that's me), Josh Hallet, Kami Huyse, Geoff Livingston, and Jeremy Pepper.
Is PR the rightful functional "owner" of social media? Or should it be marketing or advertising that gets the ball? Perhaps social media marketing is just a subset of word-of-mouth marketing? With everybody and his brother now hanging out their shingles as blogging experts and social media gurus, how does a company determine who has the expertise and experience to help it navigate these waters?
The functional lines between our marketing disciplines of PR, direct marketing and advertising are blurring. Social media marketing requires a blending of marketing and PR/communications skills. BTW, this line is blurring everywhere but it is more readily and immediately apparent in the social media world than offline. But it is offline too. Remember that online social networks are reflections of the interests and affiliations we have "in real life." Computer networks simply speed up the effect.
The other line that is blurring beyond recognition is the line between seller and buyer, journalist and audience. Now more than ever, we have multiple roles, sometimes almost simultaneously. A mommy blogger is a customer of a consumer products company, but at the same time, she might be a mompreneur with her own small or medium sized business. Journalists are bloggers; bloggers are journalists. Again, a reflection of similar real-world shifts, amplified by the Internet. We all gets lots of spam.
Whether social media marketing is a new marketing discipline, or simply a tectonic shift in Marketing with a capital M, I do not know. What I do know is that in order for it to thrive, for companies to be able to detect the real experts from the sham, for individuals to develop their skills to meet the new imperatives, we need to understand that it is a discipline. Not a project. Not an extension of PR or advertising or web marketing. Not something you can learn in a week from reading Naked Conversations and Boing-Boing.
You need a solid grounding in marketing and public relations. The social media component isn't separable from the marketing plan. Everything still needs to track back to the plan, the objectives, the business goals. It isn't enough to know HOW to do something. You need to know WHY. Real experience in the field helps. Extensive coursework or an undergraduate degree in psychology or sociology is very useful. Some philosophy too. A soupcon of "renaissance person" such as a second language and familiarity with great literature doesn't hurt.
Most of all, we need credibility for this new discipline. Provided in part surely by our ongoing practice. The good examples. But that alone isn't enough.
We need the supporting academic research. That is what gives any discipline its "legs." Without it, social media marketing is tactics. Campaigns. Maybe strategies. But not a legitimate discipline or profession in the long term.
As practitioners, we need the information and insights from the research that will be presented at the Symposium, and that is reason enough to attend. More importantly, we need to support research organizations like SNCR because they provide part of the academic base. Can't attend, but wish you could? Send someone in your stead -- a junior colleague, a friend. No one to send? Make a supplemental donation to SNCR in support of the Symposium.
It can't happen without you.
Into the Fantastic Four, plus Good is getting better and upcoming attractions
Busy week, but I didn't feel I could let the third birthday of Marketing Roadmaps go unremarked. Thanks for sticking with me.
A quick update on the ongoing get.good.com saga. Thanks to the good offices of a Twitter friend who works for Good Technology's PR agency, I finally connected with someone. A real live person. Not sure there's a real solution, but at least we are talking.
Upcoming on the blog: a report on the Intuit Just Start campaign (thumbs up), some comments of the state of customer service in the US (thumbs go the opposite direction), details on the HP Photographic Memories project and more case studies on good blogger relations practice.
Here's to Year Four!
UPDATE 11/15/07: Too busy tonight to write a whole new post, but it looks like the people at Good Technology took some action and worked out something with Google to insert the Good Technology results on the first page of a search on "Getgood." Getgood.com still comes up first,as it should because it is the closest match, followed by a British ad campaign that also uses a "Get Good" theme, but then they insert the results for Goodlink before returning all the pages from my blog and mentions of me and other Getgoods on blogs and websites. Amen. I will be so happy to not get these calls anymore. And I am sure the people trying to get customer service for their phones will be much happier too.
Intuit Just Start pulls into South Station Tuesday November 13th
Intuit, the publisher of the popular QuickBooks software, has taken its show on the road for the past month, holding two day events in NY, Chicago and Seattle to encourage entrepereneurs to just get started.
The campaign pulls into Boston's South Station next Tuesday and Wednesday.
At the events, entrepreneurs can get business, software and marketing advice from experts. There's also a contest which will award $50K in cash and resources to a lucky business owner; visit IWillJustStart.com for contest details.
I'll be there on Tuesday November 13th from 11am-6pm to provide online marketing advice. Drop by if you are in the area.
You can also get a free copy of QuickBooks Simple Start financial software, if the opportunity to see me in person isn't enough of a draw :-)