Category Archives: Marketing

Customer service as downturn advantage

A few thoughts about customer service and its role during a downturn. In short, customer service becomes marketing. Or rather, its absence becomes an opening for your competitors’ marketing.

Customer service seems like an obvious area to cut when times are hard. But that’s a myth (and the second one I explored in my Bellevue Chamber talk). What companies should do, if they’re cutting marketing aimed at customer acquisition – and as I noted earlier, they should re-balance before they reduce – is protect the money spent on customer service.

Why? Because customers with money in a downturn expect to be treated better.

Hertz logoAn excellent piece in BusinessWeek earlier this year cited the cautionary tale of Hertz. In January, Hertz laid off 4,000 people, many of them front-line workers. The result? Customers in Hertz’ loyalty program didn’t have cars waiting for them as arranged, or couldn’t quickly return cars before catching flights. Continue reading Customer service as downturn advantage

Re-balance the marketing portfolio

In a down economy, myths proliferate. And one is to immediately reduce marketing spending to conserve cash. Because, the myth goes, in a down economy customers know you’ll market less.

Now, you might expect someone who designs marketing strategies to call this a “myth” (as, I suspect, did the audience at the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce Business Lunch). But no business should automatically reduce — not unless it thinks about re-balancing, first.

The reality is businesses have to keep on marketing. During a downturn, if customers stop hearing from you they start to wonder if you’re in trouble financially … or if you still exist. Your company or product name needs to remain visible.

Re-balancing your marketing portfolio is the first step. By that, I mean review all of your spending and determine which of your marketing expenditures reach your target audience the most cost effectively. Then focus on stuff that’s either extremely targeted. Or extremely cheap. Continue reading Re-balance the marketing portfolio

Newspapers’ self-inflicted wounds

You might also title this, “How bad customer service kills good newspapers.” For while newspapers across the country are in the fight of their lives to attract advertisers and subscribers, they have frequently been their own worst enemies when it comes to keeping the very customers they’ve worked hard to obtain.

Admittedly, I’m a focus group of one. But I also am predisposed to like newspapers (as a former alternative weekly newspaper columnist), which apparently puts me in the minority. Yet, despite my high newsprint-stupidity threshold, these customer prevention policies stun even me:

Continue reading Newspapers’ self-inflicted wounds

My new books I didn’t write

The downside of book contracts comes when you lose control of your self. And that’s the case now that my name is attached to two “new” Dummies books that I had no direct involvement in writing … and didn’t even know existed until I read about them in a blog.digitalmarketingfordummies31

Let me say upfront this doesn’t mean they’re not good books. But my advice and image — state of the art nearly a decade ago — have been repackaged and represented as current. It’s marketing at its most automatic.

Background: In 2000, Bud Smith and I wrote Internet Marketing for Dummies, a successor to 1998’s Marketing Online for Dummies. The contract I signed allowed for non-U.S. editions, a good idea. IMFD was translated into languages and alphabets I don’t read, or in some cases, recognize. All in all, IMFD was in print for seven years, a good run.

But last year,  I noticed blog posts referencing Frank Catalano’s book, Digital Marketing for Dummies. Continue reading My new books I didn’t write

How not to win awards

I have just wrapped up my reponsibilities as a first-round judge in one of the longest-running, most prestigious award competitions in technology and education. And what entered companies go through in their efforts to avoid winning amaze me.

In the interests of protecting the clueless (or perhaps in this economy, resourceless), I won’t name the companies. Or even the competition. But if you’d like to waste your award entry money, you do so can very efficiently by following these three easy steps: Continue reading How not to win awards

Strategy’s role in a downturn

(The following first appeared in the Just Enough Strategy series of technology marketing essays in 2003. It seems eerily appropriate today.)

The panic doesn’t usually creep into their voices until we’re nearly done with the coffee.

“I know strategy is important,” the colleague will say to me as we wrap up. “But I can’t spend a lot of time or effort on marketing strategy. I need to do stuff that will generate sales today.”

I’ll nod sagely. And hope he doesn’t waste too much money on misdirected marketing tactics, confusing any motion with forward motion. Continue reading Strategy’s role in a downturn

Five marketer resolutions

(This essay originated in early 2004 on an earlier Frank Catalano blog. But, unfortunately, still is timely.)

As someone who loves words and language (and indeed is a writer when he’s not a marketer), I’m amazed at how some marketers abuse their biggest tool for communication. Now that 2003 is becoming a memory, there are words and phrases that should be banished from marketers’ and PR practitioners’ lexicons. Not just in technology marketing, but in all marketing.

Why? Because they’re overused, meaningless or lazy. Indeed, I suspect when most prospects or customers see these words and phrases, they reflexively treat them as one treats long names in a classic Russian novel: their brains glaze over and they skip to the next word or phrase.

Allow me to suggest five words or phrases for banishment: Continue reading Five marketer resolutions

Auction mentality

Ever go to a charity auction and think, “Hey, this is a lot like eBay — why don’t they just put it all online?”

Because odds are it wouldn’t work nearly as well or raise as much money for the cause. It’s a matter of individual and group psychology.

This past spring, as a favor to a colleague, I dipped back into the world of charity auction emceeing for a night at Villa Academy in Seattle. In 2003 and 2004 I regularly emceed charity auctions as a feel-good sideline through Stokes Auction Group (which provides auctioneers and auction services exclusively for charities). This gave me insight into auctions for organizations including the American Heart Association, YouthCare, Boys and Girls Clubs, Young Life, Skiforall, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which does the delightfully named “Tennis Ball.” I gave it up when my travel schedule and new position made committing to an auction schedule impossible.

There’s a lot of planning and psychology that goes into a charity auction, from the smallest private school to the largest non-profit. Continue reading Auction mentality

Business cards: consulting years

For a dozen years, I was a marketing consultant and tech industry analyst. I worked with a variety of clients. Sometimes, a short-term project would extend into a long-term interim executive assignment … and with that, would come a business card for a year or so. This is the third of three parts (including media and tech) of how business cards and contact info evolved over 30 years, this one covering the consulting years 1992 to 2004. Continue reading Business cards: consulting years

Business cards: tech years

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, saying you worked in “personal computers” was akin to saying you work in genetics today. It sounded cool, but few folks completely understood it. Personal computers and their software were still not affordable for the masses; these were the days when a copy of PowerPoint, by itself, was $400.

Still, from 1987 through 1992, I moved from covering technology as a broadcaster to promoting it at two different companies. And I was doing so in a field — consumer technology marketing — for which there was no formal training and, in reality, no template as to what worked and what didn’t. It was pretty damned exciting.

This is the second of three parts of a look at how business cards evolved, starting with the media years and continuing through the consulting years — three decades’ worth. Continue reading Business cards: tech years