Is this a blog from a professional marketer, or a thinly disguised rant from a miffed customer? I don't know, but after a visit to my local coffee shop this morning, I felt compelled to share a few thoughts on the subject of... smiling.
I've read no end of marketing books over the years and always taken some great advice from each one, in addition to some cracking statements that I use when training small businesses in the art of marketing on a shoestring. Most recently, the line: "the process is as important as the outcome" about the delivery of a product or service, really stuck out. And this morning, it was in at the front of my mind when being served by the owner of the coffee shop. She did the right things, albeit in an efficient manner that was bordering on brusque. However, she didn't make eye contact with me and she failed to smile even though I gave her a big beam. What made it worse was that she became animated and smiling when talking to her colleague.
It got me thinking that in our zeal to find the big marketing miracle at the end of the rainbow, we can often overlook the fact that the smallest things make the biggest difference. It's not simply what we actually deliver - whether we sell cakes and coffee or build websites, it is how we actually deliver and whether we make our customers feel fabulous. In my experience, many small businesses can get caught up in searching high and low for their unique selling point when in fact what makes them unique in a sea of "me too" products and services is how they interact with their customers.
So, a warm and genuine smile can go a long way, especially if we deliver products and services face to face. But, if we are not within an arm's-length of our customers, the words we use to describe what we deliver should communicate passion, warmth and enthusiasm. I believe that relevance, simplicity and humanity will define the successful brands of the future and not just the clever use of technology. Now will someone put the kettle on!
I’ve spent the week at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival Like many delegates this year, I wasn’t there to party or pick up an award, but to learn about how marketing is evolving and how brands of all size need to adapt in today’s fast changing and fragile economy. An impressive list of media, agencies and brands were there to spread words of wisdom through more than 50 seminars, workshops and masterclasses. Here are my top line takeaways from Cannes 2009 – of importance not just to big brands, but all the millions of small businesses out there, too. Digital creativity: Without doubt the key theme running throughout the week was the rising importance of digital as the primary means of engaging consumers. There was general agreement that the recession had accelerated migration of spend to digital, as consumers seek value when making purchases. It seemed clear that traditional advertising is unlikely to return to the heady heights of 2007. This is partly because consumers can no longer be talked at, interrupted, annoyed or even tricked into watching adverts – including banner ads online and heavily-branded websites. Central to digital creativity is the need to think less in terms of linear campaign planning and more as an ongoing ‘on-demand’ marketing strategy, reacting to consumers’ conversations in real-time. Small businesses are some of the most prolific users of Twitter, suggesting that they may well be ahead of the curve on this trend. Brands as publishers: In his book, Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky claims that content is not king, but conversation is. Consumers are absolutely leading this trend through their own social media and networks, requiring brands to follow. There was a key message running through the week that brands must build useful content in order to be part of consumers’ conversations in their own habitats. iPhone applications have become highly successful for this very reason – they provide some form of utility to consumers’ daily lives. In such an environment, the brand is becoming a publisher. Video, audio, social tools like blogs or widgets, images and, of course, text are all key tools in the information era. Because production is cheap and accessible, small companies can use these tools as profitably as large businesses. Embracing the cloud: If content creation is on the rise, where will it all live? A number of speakers pointed to the ‘cloud’ - key areas on the web where content lives and consumers hang out. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, FlickR – they are all cloud-based services, so the chances are your business is already in the cloud to some extent. But the rise of the ‘social web’ is making these platforms more and more important, not just as a place to share content but to communicate. Businesses of all sizes have a chance to participate in this cloud ecosystem. Arguably, smaller brands have a bigger chance of success since building a small following may be easier than the masses larger brands will need to reach. The future is undeniably going to be digital for brands across the board. As 2009 unfolds, budgets may continue to shrink, but in this digital landscape, the ‘long tail’ of businesses stand a greater chance of flourishing. There they have a much richer set of tools and opportunities to market their brands. Perhaps that is worth celebrating.
No one knows when it might happen again but one thing is certain, the first Twitter Conference hosted by Marketing Donut, under the #mydonut hashtag, was a fantastic event and great success on many levels. On Tuesday, 30 June at 0930 GMT the event kicked off with a flurry of activity. Overall it could be said that the conference was a piece of organised chaos where ideas were exchanged, views were shared and conversations were had. The event was organised with help from Twitter for business expert – Mark Shaw – who shares the Marketing Donut goal of helping small businesses get the best from their marketing activities. Early estimates made by expert Twitter analyser, Andrew Fielden, indicate that the conference saw over 1,800 tweets exchanged in the 90 minute marathon session. Andrew said: “Wow, it was manic wasn't it and just goes to show how popular something like that can be. Well done to you guys for the effort being put in.” The biggest result, in Twitter terms, was the 4th place positioning in the trending topics chart for a sustained period of time. The best part of the conference was the real reach that the event had and saw small business owners exchanging ideas, questions and views in one place with experts. As you can imagine, Marketing Donut site traffic was on the up and the overall reach of Twitter users who could have seen any one of the tweets was 67,562. The range of topics covered was vast and we hope that it was a gainful experience for all involved – as a trial event we did not know what might happen; but there is a definite working idea, which can be adapted for another time, in order to help small businesses maximise their marketing activity, and to get them connected with experts in one place for free! Thank you to everyone who took part. A selection of tweets by experts, small businesses and the Marketing Donut during the event:
yBCmels RT @simon_editor: Phew! Thanks for you question and comments, everyone. Good event! #mydonut// Solid effort! Tuesday 30th of June 2009 Signposter Great conference #mydonut people. Have a fantastic time. Now back to work ;-( Tuesday 30th of June 2009 MarkPocock Are you building your list on your web site? No, don't offer your damn newsletter.Offer something of value. #mydonut Tuesday 30th of June 2009 ThePodCompany RT @Firzzy: Do facebook pages really work? #mydonut Tuesday 30th of June 2009 MarketingDonut Today a twitter conference-tomorrow..some kind of Glastonbury for Twitter? #mydonut Tuesday 30th of June
Local press has been having a torrid time of it lately. It seems that scarcely a week goes by without reports of more problems for titles and groups within the medium. It's also a tough time for small businesses, which are seeing their profits squeezed by the downturn, while knowing full well that there has never been a more important time to shout louder than others in their field. Given these circumstances it might seem like a very frightening time to commit precious promotional budget to a struggling medium. But there are alternatives, and now is a great time to explore them. A service such as Signposter.com, an online service helping UK businesses buy and manage outdoor advertising, offers a viable, effective, low-cost and risk-free way to build up promotional collateral free from any potential surrounding editorial negativity. There is no denying that local press has a role to play in the promotional mix for small businesses. It's a proven way of reaching consumers in a local area. But now is surely the time for local businesses to do some research and be more adventurous, and gain stand-out by doing so. Outdoor advertising is now within the reach of small business managers.
On Tuesday, 30 June at 0930 GMT, this will be the day that Marketing Donut, more pertinently @marketingdonut, will make use of the power of Twitter in all its real-time networking glory. We’ve decided to host a “conversation conference” on Twitter so that small businesses, entrepreneurs, marketing experts and anyone who wants to be a part of this online event can chat about all things marketing. There will be a concentrated burst of activity between 0930 GMT and 1100 GMT. To get things going, we will be discussing topics and articles from the Marketing Donut. There will also be opportunities for small businesses to raise their issues or queries with our marketing experts. We also want to connect small businesses with fellow small businesses. It will be a simple conversation about your marketing activities in an online forum full of those who want to help you. This is not an exclusive invitation only event; we welcome the insight of anyone with a Twitter account. There are a number of ways to get involved:
Tweet comments about something you have seen on Marketing Donut Ask a marketing related question. You could be the one person who starts off a great debate or pose that marketing question you always wanted to ask. Engage in a one-on-one conversation. It could be with one of our experts, a fellow entrepreneur, or a complete stranger. You could Retweet a tweet that appears as part of the flow of ideas that you find useful, funny or of interest to your followers.
Following the event Following the event is easy too, it may be that you don’t want to jump right in and that monitoring the event is all you want to take from the online conversation conference. If you use desktop Twitter applications, such as Tweetdeck or Seesmic, it is possible to set up search windows which will feed the whole flow of the conversations in real-time. Simply search for the hashtag topic of “#mydonut” This will be a great opportunity to get involved with small businesses and marketing experts alike. Look out for #mydonut come Tuesday 30th June and be a part of what is hoped to be a fun and worthwhile Twitter event hosted by Marketing Donut. Join in, use the #mydonut Hashtag, and let’s have some fun!
You can argue that the aim of marketing is to build momentum. You need to raise awareness and establish how people perceive your brand. Traditionally this worked well, but I have news for you -- attempting to set perceptions is becoming an increasingly dangerous strategy. You may recall a marketing campaign that had the sole intention of altering your perception of a brand. A soft drinks manufacturer who specialised in blackcurrant-based drinks had complaints about the sugar content and related tooth decay. This caused it to launch a low sugar version. It even had the cojones to sell it as “Toothkind”. The rebranding promoted health benefits and claimed four times the vitamin C levels of rivals. The inconvenient truth proved the product wasn’t good for your teeth and one drink in the range had negligible vitamin C! This little oversight cost the company significant sums of money. But the real stinker was the “corrective advertisements” it was forced to run on national television. It’s always been dangerous to try to build a false perception. Now the rise of social networking has upped the ante. There has been a seismic shift in our abilities to interact and talk to each other, and to build or rubbish brands that annoy us. We are the mob, and the mob is now all seeing. If you are bluffing, it won’t take long for people to find you out. It’s simple; the quality of your offering builds the perceptions. These will be based on fact and customer experience, not marketing spin. Ignore this at your peril.