Tag : Marketing trends

Has marketing become the screw aisle?

Lisa was cutting my hair and talking about how she fixed her own toilet.

“The worst thing about hiring guys is that they talk so much about the job,” she said. “They get to your house and start talking about all the things they need to check, all the things that could go wrong, and how the project is probably doing to stretch out over a few weeks  because the distributor might not have the right parts in stock.

“In the time it takes a guy to tell me all this I was able to go Home Depot, buy the toilet kit and finish the job.”

Empowered by her success with the toilet Lisa was now building a deck in her backyard.

“The standard sized boards made the project straightforward,” she said, “but the challenge was the screws. Have you ever walked down the screw aisle? There are hundreds, maybe thousands of different sized screws. To make matters worse you need different kinds of tools for different screws. I mean, c’mon, how many different kinds of screws do we need? Why can’t I build my deck with one or two types of screws? I really resent the screw aisle. Why do people make things so complicated?”

I closed my eyes as she started cutting again.

Screws. Financial investments. Health care plans. Government legislation. Business strategies. “Expert” advice. Diet plans.   15-step proven methodologies on everything from marketing to living a better life.

Over-complicated, over-thought and so overwhelming that most of us just freeze. The paralysis numbs us and dumbs us. Making us reliant on experts, products and services that we may or may not really need. Or, like Lisa, just making us resentful, angry and suspect.

Has marketing become the screw aisle?

I fear that it has.

While choice is a wonderful thing, have we gone too far in product extensions?

Have  ‘content marketing’ emails started to sound like the guys who drive us crazy yakking about how complicated the job will be, how tough it might be to find the right parts, how they’ll have to come back again to measure and that’s going to be tough because….”

Are too many preying on people’s fear, uncertainty and doubt? Exacerbating anxiety to sell more than a person really needs?

Is our marketing building a screw aisle or making it easy — and maybe even enjoyable — for Lisa to build a beautiful deck?


Things I've been noticing

Every quarter, or change of season, I reflect on things I’ve been noticing and ponder what they may mean.   Here are some  slow trends and emerging patterns I’ve been noticing, and my thoughts on what they might mean.

2500 people sign up for a “spirituality-based” marketing teleseminar at 8 p.m. on a Wed. night

Here’s more evidence that people are hungry for meaning and purpose in their professions and business. I saw that more than 2,500 people dialed in for a conference call about how to run a spirituality-driven business. Nothing about religion. But doing work that feeds your soul. Holy cow.   This trend should send a signal to leaders in business:  is it high time to step back and refresh and reframe your organization’s purpose so people see that it matters? And what they do matters to this purpose?  I saw a recent study that showed a significant disconnect between executives saying that their company’s purpose was clear and employees saying that they had no  idea of the company’s purpose.

John Seely Brown and John Hagel recently published a Change This Manifesto where they declared: “All too often those who are passionate about their work are frustrated with their employers and bosses. They are not satisfied. Far from it. They want to do more, but they feel held back.”  Are you inadvertently holding your people back?

I’ve also talked with several corporate executives who think they should leave big companies and do something else. Maybe. But it might be that they just need to reset the context of their organizations and position to get recharged.  We need great leaders and  successful companies now more than ever.

World of Warcraft: teaching leadership and collaboration skills

Like many parents of teenagers I get crazy seeing how much time my son spends playing World of Warcraft. But over dinner with a bunch of teenagers, I started to see that this game may actually be a powerful way for people to learn collaboration and leadership skills. My son’s guild leader is a leader. In fact, he recently started footing the bill for Oovoo, a video conferencing and chat program, so that the guild members could work more closely together as a team. I listen in some nights and I hear these kids helping one another, with a shared purpose and genuine collaboration.

I believe that multi-player game applications have tremendous potential in the corporate world. Interestingly, the American Society of Training & Development recently wrote an article about the parallels between games and business team building —  solving problems together, being presented with harder and harder challenges, getting recognition, etc.  Worried about how to engage GenY, think games.

New questions: why does the world need your business now?

The people who are asking new questions — provocative but simple questions — are changing and realizing their goals faster.  Every year when I go to the BIF innovation conference, I am stunned at the powerful questions that these innovators in business, science, education and the arts ask themselves and their organizations.

I was having lunch with author and psychologist Maria Sirois recently and we got to talking about a new non-profit being organized by a major university. “Why does the world need this organization now,”  she asked.  WOW. What a question. Recently I’ve been helping clients reclaim their purpose and passion by asking them the same question. “Why does the world need your business/product now?” “Why does your corporate especially need your organization now?”  This question helps you make meaning — why you’re so relevant, why you matter.

Another question I recently heard that opens up thinking: “Are we giving ourselves titles that demand fearlessness and innovation?”  If you had to put your senior vice president of marketing or  director of sales title aside, what would call yourself?   Mine would probably be chief possibility officer.  John Seely Brown, former chief scientist at Xerox and visiting scholar at USC, calls himself “chief of confusion,” helping people to ask new questions.

Not for everyone: consultants rejoining corporations and agencies

Every day I see Tweets and blog posts about consultants leaving to join companies and agencies.  It’s not really surprising.  Running a consulting business, as I have for 15 years, isn’t for everyone. You have to be focused on helping your clients succeed. Period. It’s not about your big ideas or your “personal brand” (oh, puhleeze), but about passionately wanting to improve clients’ conditions.   And, of course, it’s all about execution, hard work, discipline, deepening and developing relationships, and relentless follow through.  Consulting is not for everyone. But for those of us who consciously or unconsciously practice servant leadership, it can be incredibly rewarding.

Where are the new ideas? What are we missing?

There’s a deep restlessness in business.  People want fresh ideas — new ways to market, better ways to shorten sales cycles, ideas that attract and influence prospects. This restlessness is a good thing as it drives people to innovate. The downside I see is that the relationship between companies and their agencies (advertising, PR, digital) is not what it use to be. The trust and loytalty is tenuous, and the relationships are often short lived because companies say that they’re “just not getting new ideas.”

I’ve counseled many a client recently about NOT firing its agency. Especially for this reason.  Instead  I believe clients and agencies need to spend the time doing offsite ideation and relationship retreats at least once a year, facilitated by an independent party.

I also believe managers need to do this with their employees to recharge, uncover ideas,reset purpose, and address those  burning question: What are we missing? What new ideas could make a difference to what we’re trying to achieve?

Pattern watching as business competence

How to build trend spotting and ideas into your organization? Consider  having your team hold a “Things I’m Observing” lunch every quarter.  This helps everyone on the team become more observant and bring new ideas into the organization. In addition to sharing ideas, ask people to share their  interesting sources — off the beaten track bloggers, communities, foreign films, books, niche publications, unusual friends.  Developing a competency to bring emerging trends into the organization and discuss what they might mean is becoming more important than ever for anyone in a leadership, sales or marketing position,

(NOTE: I’ll soon be sharing my plans on a new business that helps clients in many of the ideas discussed above.  Leadership, marketing and sales run on purpose and passion, but many companies need help to see possibilities among the relentless day-to-day business demands.

Marketing 2009: free eBook

The wise, warm and generous Valeria Maltoni has compiled a free eBook about 2009 marketing directions from 12 marketers, including me and my Beeline Labs partner Francois Gossieaux.  Rather than predictions or talking about general trends, all the contributors provide helpful, pragmatic ideas on where to focus and how to execute.   You can download the ebook from Valeria’s Conversation Agent blog. Here are some of the highlights:

  • “Basic metrics you can initially use to match up before, during and after sales deltas are frequency, reach, and yield” – Olivier Blanchard, The Brand Builder, @thebrandbuilder
  • “There are three imperatives for execution programs in 2009 – start with measurement, create content for the open Web and for mobility” – Matt Dickman, Techno||Marketer, @MattDickman
  • “The foundation and core of what social media is, consists of the five C’s. Conversation, community, commenting, collaboration and contribution” – Mike Fruchter, My Thoughts on Social Media, @Fruchter
  • “With social media as a platform for participation, people can behave the way they were hardwired to behave in the first place – humanly, tribally” – Fancois Gossieaux, Emergence Marketing, @fgossieaux
  • “Companies with greater social intelligence have stronger bonds with employees and customers, and that translates into revenue” – Lois Kelly, Beeline Labs, @LoisKelly
  • “Change ensures our own livelihoods – new opportunities and trends to capitalize upon, unique products and profit centers that merit development, robust innovation to leverage”- Christina Kerley, CK Epiphany, @ckepiphany
  • “Social media interaction allows us to have… well, interaction with our customers. It lets us see them as people instead of statistics and it lets us hear their voices” – Jennifer Laycock, Search Engine Guide, @JenniferLaycock
  • “A proper social media education is more than just learning new tools. The most important lesson we can impart is the necessity to think ‘humans'”- Connie Reece, Every Dot Connects, @ConnieReece
  • “Social media isn’t causing problems, but it is revealing them. And the problems aren’t new; they’ve been around for a while” – Mike Wagner, Own Your Brand!, @bigwags
  • “The secret of success in social media is a product or a service that people actually like and use” – Alan Wolk, The Toad Stool, @awolk

Top 10 marketing topics

What are marketers most interested in? Buzz Marketing for Technology’s top 10 posts over the past year:

# 1 – 5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO)

#2 – Harnessing User-Generated Content for B2B Marketing

#3 – Exclusive Interview: Malcolm Gladwell discusses Web 2.0

#4 – A Podcast with Robert Scoble on Communities, Social Media, Twitter and More

# 5 – Want more sales? Give sales something to talk about. A podcast with Lois Kelly of Foghound

#6 – How to Start a B2B Community

#7 – 150-Person Work Teams Are Dead

#8 – Calculating ROI on Web 2.0 tools

#9 – What’s Working in Lead Generation?

#10 – Marketing in a Wikinomics World, a podcast with Don Tapscott

2007 Marketing Predictions; 2006 Scorecard

Here are our observations on marketing trends to watch — and experiment with — in 2007, as well as a scorecard on how well our 2006 predictions fared. Let us know what we’ve missed!

  1. Virtual worlds explode and get branded. While Second Life continues to boom, companies will offer more manageable and intimate virtual worlds, like CokeStudios. Private branded virtual worlds not only appeal to people who are overwhelmed by Second Life expanse, but give marketers a new way to connect directly with customers and capture new types of customer data and insights.
  2. More “Jon Stewartizing” of marketing and PR: Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” has changed how people consume TV news, getting more from smart comedians on the Comedy Central than the establishment networks’ news broadcasters. Look for more companies to “Jon Stewartize” their Web content, sales meetings, PR programs, similar to what IBM did when it released its hilarious fake mainframe sales training videos on YouTube.
  3. More marketing mash-ups: Look for more companies to create interesting mash-ups, combining content from multiple sources to create new types of experiences and services. See Business Week’s article, “Mix, Match and Mutate,” for a quick overview, and check out the Sun Labs Snapp Radio mash-up of Radio Paradise, last.fm and Flickr.
  4. Service innovation trumps product innovation: While innovation has focused on product innovation, more and more companies will begin looking at how to innovate services because service has such an influence on customer preference and loyalty. Service innovation firms, like Peer Insight, will become more influential than product innovation specialists.
  5. Business intelligence shakes loose its shackles: Business intelligence, while valuable, has been confined to analyzing structured data. New technologies that can analyze unstructured data – like call center notes, blog postings, email exchanges – opens up valuable new insights, making it easier to pinpoint opinion leaders, categorize emerging issues and assess attitudes and sentiments towards brands and companies. Keep an eye on this new breed of BI companies like ClaraBridge.
  6. Blogger fatigue escalates: More people will tire of reading so many blogs, and will narrow down their daily reading and posting. In fact, The Gallup Poll recently signaled the turn, reporting that blog readership slowed down in 2006 after five years of strong growth.
  7. Marketing geeks get more respect: The science side marketers get more respect – and become much more in demand, filling the underserved market need for professionals steeped both in business strategy and business modeling, predictive technologies and analytics.
  8. Web 2.0 over-hypes: mania over digital marketing and communications goes into over-drive with shades of dot.com hype all over again, including the good, the bad and the ugly. Social networking, blogs, communities become more relevant and valuable, but beware that they’re not for every business.
  9. Face-to-face meetings back in style: While more people meet up in virtual words and connect via blogs, even more people will opt for face-to-face conversations, meetings and conferences. According to the National Business Travel Association, 67.7 percent of corporate travel managers expect business travel to be up in 2007.
  10. Interactive” departments go away, folding into mainstream marketing, as marketers now see “e” as core to marketing and not “new media and marketing.”

Grading the ‘hounds’ 2006 predictions

  • New market concepts vs. new products: A Just look at the wild successes of YouTube and Second Life.
  • Consumer insights vs. market research: B- Even the big global market research associations started focusing more of their research and conferences on consumer insights. This year ESOMAR gave its inaugural award for best conference paper to three Australians who likened the marketing industry’s preoccupation with brands to a worn out, struggling heart, and suggested that a new customer-centric vision for business is the equivalent of a heart transplant.
  • Communities as big as blogs: B Social network communities like MySpace boomed, as did the growth of private communities, developed by companies like Communispace. You know it’s a trend when mainstream media write about it, as Business Week and Ad Age did on communities.
  • Meaning making vs. promoting, point of views vs. messaging, teach me vs. tell me: B More companies are changing their style – talking more about ideas and less about themselves — and getting thumbs up from customers. Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz’s blog, with approximately 20,000 readers a day, is a great example, as is HP’s Change Artists executive interview series.
  • Salons vs. conferences: C+ Still a lot of talking heads, in giant conference rooms. Two great examples of more salon style events: the Business Innovation Factory’s BIF2 Collaborative Innovation Summit in Providence, hosted by The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, and the Innovative Marketing Conference at Columbia University, held by Columbia’s Center on Global Brand Leadership and Corante.
  • Podcasts vs. Webinars: A+ Podcasts exploded, providing a better way to download a broadcast or listen to it on your PC when you want vs. when the sponsor wants you to listen. Approximately 55% say they’re more likely to consume thought leadership via a podcast, according to KnowledgeStorm research.
  • Behavioral vs. demographic targeting: B Online behavioral targeting strategies and analytic tools went mainstream. According to a Forrester study cited in ClickZNews, 73% of marketers now employ or plan on employing behavioral targeting.
  • Voices of the customer vs. voice of the company: C Consumer generated media exploded, and analysis services from companies like Cymfony, and Nielsen/BuzzCompanies grew considerably, indicating that companies are investing more around listening to customer conversations. Yet in talking with many big name companies we found that there’s more monitoring on what’s being said than real “listening.”

Inside marketing: the 10 questions

If James Lipton, host of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” BRAVO television program, were to interview a marketing person, here’s how he’d probably adapt his famous 10 questions that he asks at the end of the show. How would you answer them? At next week’s Corante/Columbia Marketing Innovation conference I plan to pose this questions to a number of outspoken people and share what they have to say.

In the meantime, here are my responses.

What’s your favorite marketing word?

Love. (Passion and emotion drive all decisions)

What is your least favorite marketing word?


What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally about marketing?

Finding point-of-views that spark conversations – especially when a company or its products are kind of boring.

What turns you off about marketing?

Alpha fraidy cats. Aggressive, persuasive, and scared to try new approaches.

What’s your favorite curse word when you see really bad marketing?

F…k. What are they thinking?

What sound or noise do marketers make that you love?

Absolute silence as they really listen to customers.

What sound or noise do marketers make that you hate?

Sucking up to the CEO rather than advocating for the right thing to do.

What profession other than marketing should marketers attempt to become better at marketing?

Teaching middle school kids or running a customer service department.

What profession should marketers never try?

Neurosurgery. Because most of us have ADD and don’t focus enough on details.

If marketing heaven exists, what would God say when a marketer arrives at the Pearly Gates?

Relax. We don’t measure anything up here.

2006 Predictions

Here are marketing trends likely to heat up and cool down in 2006.

  1. Insourcing vs. Outsourcing
  2. Voice of the customer vs. Voice of the company
  3. Point-of-views vs. Messages
  4. Consumer insights vs. Market research
  5. Behavioral targeting vs. 18-45
  6. Communications as a service vs. Publicity
  7. Analytics vs. Metrics
  8. Communities vs. Blogs
  9. Podcasts vs. Webinars
  10. Teach me vs. Tell me
  11. Salons vs. Conferences
  12. New market concepts vs. New products
  13. Influence vs. Power

U2 Marketing Lessons

David Carr has a great column in today’s New York Times, “Media Business Tips From U2.” Some of the lessons on how to connect with customers are relevant to all businesses today. Here’s an editorialized summary:

Meet the consumers where they live

Know how to “feed the tribe” so they feel part of you. Five years ago U2 replaced it s fanzine Propaganda with a fan site that’s constantly updated.

It’s called show business for a reason

Engage fans in the experience.

Seize the moment, but don’t steal it

Adopt new ideas, but know when to kill them.

Aim high

Make your fans think they’re part of something bigger.

Apologize, then move on

When there was a ticket problem this year with customers and scalpers,
the band immediately recognized the problem and apologized.

Don’t embarrass your fans

The product needs to be great, not re-hashed product releases – or
product extensions to those in the consumer products business. “Don’t
embarrass your fans,” Bono said to the N.Y. Times last year. “They’ve
given you a good life.”

Embrace technology:

U2 didn’t fight downloading, it produced one of the first downloadable boxed sets of its music. Because that’s what fans want.

Be careful how you sell out

The Apple partnership made sense for U2’s brand. Too many other performers sell out for the money.

Embrace politicians, not politics

That’s how to get things done, regardless of the political party label.