Archive for November, 2009

There is a Direct Marketing hook to this piece…

Friday, November 20th, 2009

… I promise. Just hang with me.

No matter what deity you subscribe to, we can probably agree that I’ve been dealt a raw hand being born into the Cleveland sports family.  Since moving to the Twin Cities, the average Minnesotan loves to recite the litany of Cleveland sports tragedies with glee on their lips and a mischievous sparkle in their eyes – there is little empathy in sports.  Generally, this elicits an angry retort, although on a few occasions I wander away from the conversation like a sad dejected Charlie Brown.  The Indians, Cavs and Browns have all caused me heartache and pain in my thirty-five years.

The mind-numbing futility of the Browns offense this year has really sapped any enjoyment I get on Sunday.  As the president of the Twin Cities Browns Backers, I take my lifeless, dull eyes and crushed soul down to the local watering hole dutifully every week to spend three hours of ineffective therapy with other displaced Clevelanders. It’s become a chore to watch football.  This morning however, I awoke with a spring in my step and a small flash of light in my darkened heart. Today, I was reborn like a character from a television show that just won’t die.

So get to the point already!

Growing up in Cleveland also trains you to root for THE Ohio State University Buckeyes, and it is Michigan week.  As I write this post, it is 7:46 in the morning and Michigan still stinks.  But you already knew that!  In full disclosure, I went to a small Ohio College known for its football failures and I also attended UMaine.  Go Black Bear Hockey!  But my college football loyalties will always be attached to OSU.  I’ve often referred to them as the best professional football team in Ohio. I hold dear more jokes bashing Michigan than any other comedy.  I brought my Buckeye Gnome with me to work today.  On Saturday, if you cut me open, I’ll bleed scarlet.  Wait!  I don’t think that metaphor works very well.  I think you get the point.

True story. A few years back the wife was attending law school at Iowa and she scored tickets to the Buckeye game in Iowa City.  Our seats were in the end zone area and located in a section populated with crusty, old, weathered codgers. The type which comes to mind when you think retired farmer. I’ll wait while you create that image in your head because it adds to the flavor. One of those respected gentleman asked me through gritted teeth (gritted because of the piece of straw in his mouth – stay with the image people), “why do you guys want to fire John Cooper so bad?  He wins ten games every year.”

My response was surprisingly brief.  “Because he doesn’t beat Michigan.”

A quick Cleveland/UMaine tale of woe before I call it quits today – just to make my office mates happy.  The year I moved back to Cleveland, I might have been the only person in Northeast Ohio to care about the Frozen Four.  After, I was able to convince my regular Irish Pub in Cleveland Heights to show the game for me, I threw on my Black Bear hockey jersey, drew myself up to the bar alone, and grabbed a Guinness.  The bar was reasonably packed and my solitary screaming at the TV received snickers and laughter from the other patrons. With minutes left in the game, it looked like UMaine was going to bring home another title. I was elated. My bartender bought me a beer and I was all smiles. Who doesn’t like free beer?  In seconds that changed. The Minnesota Gophers scored with seconds left and an empty net to tie the game and scratched out an overtime victory. I was devastated. I realized after a few seconds that crickets were chirping in the bar and everyone was staring at me. I took a deep breath, looked around and with a smirk I said, “Its okay everyone, I’m from Cleveland. I am used to this.” My new friends laughed knowingly, but seconds later reflectively looked at their drinks like a sad adult Charlie Brown.

But like the t-shirt says, “Cleveland, You Gotta Be Tough.”

So here’s the Direct Marketing hook. I think this is a great example of how to use a blog to connect with your customers on a level deeper than just pushing product.  So if any of you folks live in the Twin Cities, and are long-suffering fans of the Cleveland Browns, you can meet us at Mackenzie’s in downtown Minneapolis. If you want to watch OSU beat up Michigan with fellow Buckeyes you can head to Majors Sports Cafe in Bloomington.

Have a great rivalry weekend no matter the team you root for, but if you hear Hang On Sloopy let out a little O-H-I-O for me.

Share

A Clean Database is a Happy Customer

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Regardless of how you are contacting your customers, you have to have a clean database!  Huzzah!  It feels good to get that off my chest.  Today, a lot of legacy systems (and their legacy data) are interconnected in a loosely fit collective of databases and the customer/donor /constituent/friend information is probably incomplete or out of date.  I want to share a story that illustrates the importance of updating your customer information.

My large car insurance company scared the absolute dickens out of me about a month ago.  You see I had a three month period, after the (now) wife got me to capitulate and move from the “Best Location in the Nation”* to the Twin Cities, where I didn’t have a real home.  My apartment lease was up, but it wasn’t time to flee the Cleve.  I crashed with some friends, and changed my billing address to my parent’s house before I forwarded it to Minnesota.  Since I pay my bills online, this seemed like the easiest solution while I was living a Boxcar Willie lifestyle.

How did they scare me?  I received a call from my dad, “your insurance company just sent you some mail to our house with a time sensitive stamp on the front, and we’ll send it out to you now.”  I handle everything on line, so I was a little concerned.  I have a squeaky clean driving record, until this post goes live and that is jinxed, so I wondered what in the world they wanted and why it didn’t come to my current address.

Two days later, I opened the letter.  “WHY DID YOU CANCEL YOUR POLICY, YOU ARE AN IGNORANT FOOL TO GO TO ANOTHER INSURANCE COMPANY!”  Okay, that’s probably not what was written, but it is what I read.  I thought, “Holy Crow! They canceled my policy, or I forgot to pay my bill, or someone used my personal information in an accident and I am being booted and may have to defend myself from a life in jail when the police catch me.”  I was just a hair frantic.  I ran to my computer, which was off because I just got home from work.  Fifteen minutes later, after every company who had a hand in making a component to my PC and some companies who even just thought about it, had announced they were in working order, I launched Firefox and logged into my account.  Everything was fine.  My policy had not been canceled.  Whew!

After my outrage had subsided, I thought about what just happened.  Clearly my insurance friends had a database of lapsed customers that did not properly communicate with their current policy holders list.  Apparently, my few months of getting mail at the parent’s house ended up getting me on the lapse list and nearly put me on another lapsed list again when I expired from the stress.  This company has my name, date of birth, vehicle registration number, knows if my eyes change color on a Thursday, my social security number, what pants I am wearing and a myriad of other personal information that would allow them to match my Cleveland residence with my Minnesota residence.  But they could not pull that off.  My guess is they have multiple databases but no way to tie the pertinent information together to really know and understand who their customers are.

It is rare that I am going to directly hustle our services on the Lorton Data Blog.  The Social [Media] contract tells us it isn’t really appropriate, but in this instance to disguise my pitch as a marketing help or discussion would feel a tad false.  So here it goes:

While, this was specifically a direct mail experience, the problem isn’t unique to direct mail.  If you want to contact your customers in any way, it is essential to have a clean list before you contact them.  Phone, email, address, really anything you want to use when you talk to them should be scrubbed.  Be prepared to know your customers.  They like that kind of thing.  This doesn’t just mean bouncing your file against the National Change of Address Database.  This means pulling the data from your CRM, and your invoicing tool, your leads spreadsheet that is still in Excel 95 and getting them matched, consolidated and processed for updated information.  I can absolutely help you with that.  In full disclosure, it won’t be me personally, but we have some people that are absolute experts at this stuff.  Email me and we’ll get you sorted out before you begin your campaign.  You can save money, increase revenue, or if you play your cards right, you’ll do both!

I’ve run a little long today, so in the near future I’ll talk about another campaign where marketing from a transaction database gave up the ghost and how the program failed to generate the level of revenue expected.

*Cleveland, Ohio!

Share

Patriotism is alive and well where I stand this Veterans Day.

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I just returned to my desk from the cafeteria in our office building where more than 100 people from multiple companies spent 45 minutes in recognition of this Veterans Day. We gathered to pledge allegiance to our flag, sing our national anthem, spend time in silence for those who have fallen in service to our country, recognize the veterans in the room and those actively serving today, hear from a Major assigned to The 34th Red Bull Infantry Division of the Minnesota National Guard (http://www.theredbulls.org/), and close the ceremony singing God Bless America.

The event was sponsored by Country Financial, the owner and major tenant of our office building. This is a practice they’ve had for years, but new to me since we just relocated our offices here. I haven’t experienced or felt that concentration of intentional patriotism for far too long. It feels good. Hats off to Country Financial, and to all who have served, or are currently serving, in our military forces.

Share

Let Me Tweet This PowerPoint To You On Facebook

Monday, November 9th, 2009

I’ve been advised not to tweet about Twitter.  I get annoyed at invites to join Facebook groups about Facebook.  I understand the retribution if you Fark your own link.  But PowerPoint presentations about PowerPoint?  Hilarious!  You might be asking yourself right now, what the heck does PowerPoint have to do with various social media outlets?  With the advent of useful tools like Webex and GotoMeeting, PowerPoint can have the same immediate effects of Social Media tools when used correctly.  A good PowerPoint presentation can enhance your marketing arguments and call your audience to action.  However, the only action most .PPT presentations call us to is the desire for a solid afternoon nap.

As a former public speaking instructor, and someone who has had the pleasure of sitting through hundreds of “white paper” style marketing PowerPoints from one of the world’s largest and most respected Information Technology companies, I have one simple request.  Stop hurting my brain with your presentations.  PowerPoint is really a magnification tool—it can make a good presentation better, or more often, make a bad presentation worse.

All is not lost, even if you slept through my Public Communication class when you were an undergrad.  Here are a few useful tips for making your PowerPoint better:

Have a thesis.

I know this sounds like a painful school exercise, but if you can’t boil the point of your presentation down to one sentence then you aren’t ready to create it.  You will be mired in a Florida swampland of ideas and concepts with no focus for you or your audience.  This sentence should be brief and to the point.

Prepare your speech before you open PowerPoint.

Open Word, or Excel if you are a geek like me, and create an outline before you even think about touching PowerPoint.  PowerPoint’s strong suit is not helping you organize a presentation.  It’s not designed to do that.  So don’t.  If I am in your audience, I might even give you a hug for doing it.

Think about your audience

Even with my shoes and socks off, I can’t count the number of PowerPoint presentations where the speaker grabbed 5-10 canned marketing slides, 10-15 technical slides, 5 more sales slides and then added a couple of IDC surveys to some slides.  This doesn’t make sense for anyone.  Think about the people you are presenting to and meet that audience’s expectation.  You’ll find you generate more meaning than if you create one presentation and try to fit that to the audience.

If it can stand on it’s own in an email, don’t present it.

“Oh, you missed the presentation?  I’ll just forward it to you and it will make sense.”  This is bad.  BAD!  If you don’t need to present and engage your audience aloud, you’ve marginalized your usefulness.  Mailing out a PowerPoint after the fact is fine, if it’s meant to remind audience members of what you had to say.

36-24-18

36 is the header.  24 is the sub header. 18 are the points.  Shrinking the font means there is too much on the slide.  Any smaller than 18 and your audience either won’t be able to read it on a projector screen, or worse, they are reading it on their computer and not listening to you.

If you think it is nifty, it probably isn’t.

Sound effects, animated gifs and the like might seem amusing at your desk, but in presentations they come off as silly or distracting.  If I want to hear applause at the end of your presentation, I’ll clap.  Animations or sound effects also need to be properly timed and if you are violating this tip it’s likely you aren’t practicing enough to have them work for you.

Have a real outline to your presentation.

Most presenters claim they won’t read their slides, and yet they all do.  It’s like that New Year’s resolution that is broken by January 3rd.  Reading the slides is boring.  Think about all the PowerPoints you’ve been through in your life. Now think of how many of them were dull because the presenter read, then examine how many times you’ve read a PPT to others.

Have an introduction and conclusion.

“My presentation is about” is not compelling.  Really it’s not.  Seriously.  I am not joking.  Find a way to relate to your audience and get them interested in what they have to say.  The wife once began a presentation with, “I tried to find something funny about this topic to start my presentation, but honestly there’s nothing funny about it at all.”  You know what?  Everyone laughed at her joke, the audience perked up and she relaxed.  All with a silly little joke.  It’s amazing how much a little effort to connect with the audience can go a long way to improving a presentation.  The conclusion gives a final chance to remind the audience of what they need to do, to really drive home your thesis (did you notice what I did just there?).

We are not going to have better PowerPoint presentations overnight.  However, a few simple things can go a long way to create better communication between you and your audience and improve your chances of getting your message across, and not just making them wish for cookies, milk and a blue mat on the floor.

Share

I recently broke up with Canada!

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

I recently broke up with Canada.  While breaking up with a country sounds awfully dramatic, this really is not.  My wife and many of her friends are from Canada and when the country showed up under “people you may know” on Facebook, I didn’t think twice about friending Canada.  I’ve had great experiences with all my Canadian friends and the multiple business trips and vacations up north have all been enjoyable.  I figured there would be no harm in showing my support for the Maple Leaf.  Instead, I was immediately inundated with posts, notes and articles about Canada.  With so many posts about Canada in my news feed, I found it challenging to keep up with my actual friends.  While some of the articles were interesting, the overexposure quickly moved Canada to my ignore list.

There is a fine line between presenting a lot of useful information and spam.  We tend to associate spam with the flood of requests in an inbox to help with international banking transactions or to purchase questionable medications online.  In reality, spam can be any type of bulk communication sent electronically.  I am sure the marketing folks managing the Canada Facebook page did not see their communication as spam, but I saw it that way when its’ posts took up a third of my news feed.

For a small business looking to increase sales or leads through Web 2.0 marketing, desensitizing your audience through too much information can really hinder your efforts.  Here are a few basic communication tips to help with your online campaign:

1. Aggregate your information – Small businesses should communicate daily or weekly to stay in the minds of their customers, but you should not inundate them with information.  If you have multiple newsworthy items in one day, consolidate them into a few emails, forum posts, or Facebook notes.

2. Relate to your audience – Simply posting a link to an article does not make it inherently interesting.  Make sure you explain why the article is useful for your audience and how it relates to your business.

3. Understand the medium – Twitter and Facebook are integrated and blog posts can be easily shared with multiple information aggregators.  That does not mean people use Twitter, Facebook and blogs for the same purpose.  While content can be shared, it is important to understand how your users interface with each application and be flexible in each marketing approach.

4. Read the feedback – Possibly the most useful function of Web 2.0 technologies is the ability to receive instant feedback.  This is incredibly helpful for any company to evaluate the effectiveness of a marketing campaign beyond sales numbers.  Instantaneous feedback allows you to change your business strategies on the fly and tailor your message to the people you most want to reach.

Share