Marketing News Roundup - April 29, 2011

What's new in marketing this week?

Is there a group buying bubble? Huddlebuy, another new group buying site, this time for small businesses, launches in the UK. 

Speaking of bubble, don't forget Facebook, which launched Facebook Deals in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego, and San Francisco this week. 

Fingers tired? German site is ultimate search shortcut. (FastCompany)

Musical comedy star Dorothy Brunton reading Sid Nicholl's Fashion-plate Fanny in the children's section of The Sun newspaper with a small boy at St. Margaret's Hospital, Sydney, January 1925 / Sam Hoodphoto © 2009 State Library of New South Wales | more info (via: Wylio)

In data security news, Sony's PlayStation network was breached, possibly including credit card data, prompting a class action lawsuit alleging that Sony was negligent in protecting customer data. (USA Today GameHunters blog)

In response to customer fears that Apple is tracking iPhones (and their users) everywhere they go without consent, Apple now claims that it doesn’t track the physical locations of iPhones - only the wi-fi hotspots and cell towers to which these devices connect. Would have been nice if they just told people that in the first place. Two customers in Florida are suing Apple anyway. (The Escapist)

And finally, this is kind of obscure, but I thought readers might want to know that Prince William of England married a woman named Kate Middleton today. Maybe they will post a video on YouTube, in case anyone would like to watch the Royal Wedding.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Setting Your Price Without Screwing Yourself

How much should you charge?

This is a hugely important question. How much you charge for your product or service affects everything - how much you profit, how much you're able to pay your employees and vendors, how much you can spend on supplies, marketing, and everything else.

So how do you decide?

First, it's time for some competitive analysis. Once you determine who your major competitors are, do a thorough check of all of their pricing. What do they charge online? Is it different if you call or go into a store?

What does their pricing really include? What should your pricing include?

Tons of moneyphoto © 2008 Paul Falardeau | more info (via: Wylio)

Some of your competitors probably charge a little more and include some extras. Some charge a little less and use a more a-la-carte plan. These extras should make for happier customers with more loyalty to your brand. This is what's behind L.L. Bean's recent decision to include free shipping on every order. Watch out, though -  if you include too many extras, you can't stay in business.

By the same token, price yourself too cheap, and you just can't generate the cashflow to stay solvent (like former apparel retailer Steve and  Barry's).

So now what?

Say you do  decide to go the L.L. Bean route and include free shipping on every order. Can you really do this? If you're not sure, ask your financial analyst (or hire a financial analyst - it's worth it) to do a full rundown on how much including shipping in every order would really cost you. If you find you can't afford to include shipping on every order, are there certain orders where it's better to include free shipping?

Like maybe for first-time customers, or customers referred by other customers? Or your most loyal customers? Or customers who spend a certain amount? Or even customers ordering your clearance items?

You can do (or have someone do) a financial analysis on each of these scenarios, according to your current order pattern. Then, you'll see what each might cost you.

What about pricing on everything else?

Run the numbers. What can you afford to charge? You'll want to leave room in your regular pricing for a sale, should you need to discount items later to move them. If you're charging far more or far less than the average price, you should have a good idea as to why. Is your product better than others like it and that's why it costs more? Is it handmade? Made in the USA? Environmentally friendly?

When you charge less, customers want to know what that is too.

Oh yes they do. I promise. So why are you charging less? Do you negotiate the best prices from your suppliers? Use super-efficient manufacturing methods? Buy from a variety of vendors so you're always getting the best price? Concentrate on really low overhead?

Finally, always be willing to change.

If your current pricing strategy isn't working, change it. You might find you're not charging enough for some things and too much for others. Keep analyzing and testing until you get to where it works.

Does the thought of a pricing strategy give you the shakes? Let me know, I can help.

Take Note: My Bank Wowed Me!

That's right, I must be one of the 0.00001% of Americans who were actually wowed by their bank's customer service. Yes, this actually happened to me last week.

I walked into my bank branch to close one account and add the money in that account to another account that we have. Simplifying our finances is one of our goals this year.*

Piggy Bankphoto © 2009 Alan Cleaver | more info (via: Wylio)

Not only was the bank manager happy to make the change, he invited me into his office to sit comfortably while he was doing that for me. On top of that, he noticed that we had a pretty low-interest savings account and asked me if I wanted one with better terms, but no additional service fees.

Of course I did!

 I was delighted that he was willing to proactively make a change for me, and within minutes, I not only had gotten what I came for, I'd also gotten more than I expected.

Where do I bank? Do you want to know? Should I name companies who provide me with great service, like I did in my Discover card post the other week, or leave them anonymous? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

* If you want help clarifying goals, one way to get there is to try Sonja Lyubomirsky's "Best Possible Selves" exercise.

What companies have wowed you lately?

Marketing News Roundup - April 22, 2011

What's new in marketing this week?

Visa launches new mobile deal service for its retail clients, to compete with FourSquare, Groupon, and eBay. (AdAge)

Gimmicky or brilliant? What do you think of Sprint’s new ad strategy – to wish a Missouri woman happy 100th birthday using calls, text messages, and e-mails, preferably via Sprint’s unlimited data plans. (GeekWire)

Kitten. Photo: Arthur L. via LOLcats.
President Obama holds town-hall meeting on Facebook with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, where he discussed the economy, immigration, education, and other issues. (Event video from Livestream) 

Good Read: Great advice from Design*Sponge blogger Grace Bonney for building your brand on twitter. How are you reaching out to customers on a one-on-one basis?

Food for Thought: Are tablet computer users favoring their tablets over TV and PCs for entertainment purposes? (Phandroid)

Bonus item: Ever heard of IceRocket? It's a real-time search engine to help you watch trends. Someone found my blog that way this week. How are people finding you online?

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading, everyone!

Why People Who Take Their Jobs Seriously are Great

Every day, the woman who works at the security desk in the office building where I have my 9 to 5 (which actually starts at 7:30) says the same thing to me when I leave at the end of the day:

I say: "Have a good night."

and she says: "You have a good night, too, darlin'. You be safe now."

Then I say: "Thanks, you too!"

The best tended gardens bear the best fruit.
That's right. The security guard wants me to be safe even after I leave work. She takes her job seriously enough that she sees her job as not just keeping people safe during the workday, but making sure we stay safe all the time.

So what on earth does this have to do with marketing?

This is a great reminder to me that whatever I'm doing, I should be trying to do my best. From a marketing standpoint, it's important to deliver quality campaigns and the best product possible. It's a reminder to care about my customers from a human standpoint. They aren't just folks with a checkbook, they're people with dreams, goals, needs, and wants. The more I care about my customers, the more I take my job seriously, the more quality I deliver.

What are you doing to make the quality of your work even better this year?

Three Ways to Find Out what Your Customers Want

Actually, the best way to find out what your customers want is to simply ask them.

That's right - just ask them. Stop hiding behind generic e-mail addresses,  automated receptionists, and your PO Box.

Get out there! Here's three easy ways to get customer feedback now.

Click to rate this clock from
Uncommon Goods.
Try a little Twitter. Twitter is a great way to ask questions. Red or blue? Cherry or grape? This one or that one? Your followers will provide instant feedback.

Put your face on Facebook.  Facebook is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to connect with your customers, especially if you're a consumer brand. You can easily post surveys, questions, videos, links, and anything you want customers to see and comment on. If your customers are other businesses, you can do the same on LinkedIn.

Make your e-blasts interactive. Do you send a weekly or monthly email blast to your customer list? You probably tell them all about your new products and your latest sales. Here's another opportunity to ask them what they want - can they vote on what products you carry? Rate your newest items? Recommend something you should sell?

Who's doing this now?

If you want to see this in action, there are two brands who really excel in this space (not the only ones, just the first ones I thought of). The first is retro indie brand ModCloth, with their Be the Buyer program, and the other is green artisan brand Uncommon Goods, where you can simply vote on product to similar effect.

How do you get customer feedback and engagement? Share in the comments. 

Need help? Let me know.

Marketing News Roundup - April 15, 2011

What's new in marketing this week?

Canberra, Australia newsagent.
Photo: Tim Malone,
Daily deal site LivingSocial has started an Instant Deals product, delivered right to your iPhone or Android. There's $1 lunch on April 15th here in DC.

US search marketing spending expected to grow 15% in 2011 (DM News).

Twitter has reached 155 million daily tweets (The Realtime Report). Here's a shameless plug for my twitter feed.

Twitter has also launched an indigenous tweets site, which collects tweets from more than 70 uncommon languages like Haitian Creole, Basque, and Gaelic (FastCompany).

Campaign results are in - 32% of online adults got most of their campaign news from online sources (Pew Internet).

Hint of the Week:

Thanks to the generous folks from HubSpot, some great insight  - 41% of small businesses surveyed  now have a Facebook page, plus, some great hints on how to drive engagement on Facebook.

What are you working on? Please share.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Profiting from Off-Label Uses for Your Product

Are there off-label uses for your products?
You know, like the use of hormone injections for weight loss or coffee to relieve headaches?

Now is a great time to think about other ways your own customers might be using your product.

Tito has some great alternative uses for your extra tuna.
Photo: J. Ibraheem
Do your socks make great potholders?

Are people reheating their leftover pizza with your waffle irons?

Are they using your spreadsheet software to plan their weddings?

Or using your kitty litter to prevent odors in the fridge?

There are huge opportunities to sell, keep, save, and serve your customers if you can figure out other purposes for your products:

Sell – people might not need your product for its primary use, but they badly need a solution for one of its alternative uses. Are you letting them know about other uses in your promotions?

Keep and Save – your current customers might no longer have the problem your product was originally meant to solve. No worries- they can still use it. Just make sure to let them know how.

Serve – Customers who love your product for its original use will be delighted to find out it’s so versatile. Make sure to let them know how useful it is!

Not sure how your product is being used by your customers?

Ask them! On your blog, your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, in your stores, in your e-blasts, on your web site. Your customers are your best source of information. Ask them all kinds of questions, and ask frequently!
Not sure if your product can protect your hands, reheat pizza, prevent fridge odors, or help with wedding plans? Send me a note and I’ll be happy to help.

How are people using your product off-label? Please share.

What Were Your Marketing New Year's Resolutions?

House with snow. Photo: L. Ibraheem
Back when the temps were low and the snow was blowing, we were all making New Year's resolutions. Four months later, how's it going?

Have you:

Lost Weight? It's a great time to get rid of vendors you don't need, products you shouldn't offer, and relationships that aren't working.

Made the Most of What You Have? Your marketing channels should  be synched up so that they work together and support one another. Invest in efficiency and you make the most of what you've already got.

Tried New Things? It's always a good exercise to explore a new marketing channel or enhance one where your presence is minimal. Does Twitter now make sense for you when it didn't before? Is it time to beef up your Facebook presence? Or are all your customers hanging out on LinkedIn?

One thing I've been working on this year is SEO marketing. I've been learning how to edit web copy and keywords to be more search engine friendly. It's tricky, but very interesting, to see how people actually use search engines to find the information they want. It's also helping to drive more traffic to the web sites I work on and informing how we write e-blast, web, blog, press release, and facebook copy.

How have you enhanced your operations this year? I'd love to hear from you. If you need help getting it all done, just let me know.

A Tale of Two Credit Cards - Why Customer Service is Marketing, Too

These guys were totally frightened by my credit card rates.
Photo: Leah Ibraheem
I have two credit cards - one I use several times a year for making travel arrangements, and a second one that's a backup.

Earlier tonight, I called my main credit card company to ask them to lower my rate. I'd read a number of scripts for this conversation and planned to tell them all about how I had received better offers from other companies, that my rate was too high, that I have excellent credit, and they should help me out.

The first person I talked to said that I already had the best rate and that she would not be making any changes. I said, "I guess you'll just need to cancel my card, then."

I'd read in all the scripts that you should do that.

She said, "OK."


So I was transferred to a supervisor and she couldn't lower my rate either. After several minutes of negotiations, she offered me two months of interest payments back, which was nice. I was not happy that they wouldn't lower my rate, but this was better than nothing. Feeling empowered, I called my other credit card company, which happens to be Discover.

The woman at Discover was the nicest woman ever. She even told me where she was located (Portland, Oregon) and thanked me for my eleven-year, six-month relationship with Discover. She asked me how she could help, and was interested and enthusiastic.

Well, let me tell you this -

Not only had Discover recently evaluated my situation and taken the initiative to lower my existing rate by five points (which I didn't know since this happened after my last statement), they readily agreed to offer me a 6-month promotional rate that was another eight (eight!) points lower than the new rate they'd already extended to me. That's 13 points!

After that, my customer service rep let me know about some additional discounts I could get for travel and a special cash-back bonus on home improvement items that begins this month. She never rushed me and she kept thinking of more and more ways she could help me.

Her goal: to make sure that my Discover card was my primary card, which it hasn't been - I hardly ever use it.

But that's about to change. Why? Because Discover's marketing, sales, and customer service are integrated to effectively save, keep, sell, and serve me, all at the same time. How does that work?
  • They were actually working proactively to save me by assessing my account and lowering my rate before I even called.
  • They were ready to keep me with an additional offer to make their card even more of a value.
  • They had several product suggestions ready to sell me - products that would save me further on things I'm already buying, deals which are useful to me specifically.
  • They emphasized how much they wanted to serve me by identifying the length of our relationship, thanking me for it, and offering numerous ways to help.
What can we learn from this?

Maybe it's time to take another look at your customer service operation - does it work to save, keep, sell, and serve your customers? How can your marketing department help your customer service reps with the right things to say, great offers, and the power to use tools like special promotions, savings clubs, and new products to keep your customers happy?

I'd love to hear about what you're doing to save, keep, sell, and serve. Please tell me in the comments, or send me a note.

So, which credit card just moved from my desk drawer to my wallet? Three guesses, and the first two don't count.

Kicking Your Customer in the Pants

That's right -  The customer always has a choice not to buy anything at all. To close their browser (or leave your store) without buying any shoes, pie, restaurant coupons, or concert tickets. To just leave empty-handed.

Store with things you need today.
Rhodes, Greece
Photo: L. Ibraheem
This is called customer inertia, and we all dread it.
Last week, in my post about competitive analysis, I mentioned that your biggest competition is the customer's choice not to buy anything at all. I received a few questions about this concept, so let's examine it:

How do you break customer inertia and get your customer to buy something right away? We can't literally kick your customer in the pants - that would be wrong (oh well). But here are a few things you can do to speed things up:

1. Talk about your product in a way that's relevant. How is your product relevant to your customers' needs today? Don't make people figure this out, tell them!

2.  Make the decision easy. Simplify how customers find your product on your web site and in your store. Make buying easy - can you cut down the number of clicks? Provide an incentive like free shipping for a minimum purchase amount? Also make it easy to find customer reviews, industry reviews and coverage, and anything else your customer might need to decide now.

 3. Make your content sharable. Can you customer send a link to a spouse or other person who might have input on the decision? Make this easy and fast.

4. Give the customer a compelling reason to act now - like a limited time special. Don't forget to ask them to opt in for an e-mail reminder so they are notified before the sale's over, and about future promotions. Also consider some kind of offer for people who don't complete their online purchases.

5. Retail store? Greet customers and ask them what they are looking for when they visit you. Then help them find it. Sometimes the customer only has a hazy idea of what they need (like an outfit for a job interview or something pretty for spring) and sometimes they know exactly what they need (a blue sweater, some black pants). Either way, find them what they need and you've got a loyal customer on your hands.

What are you doing to give your customers a kick in the pants? I'd love to hear it.