Marketing plans versus Operational plans

A recent reviewer of a RFP/RFQ response wrote this in the evaluation/scoring:

Plan provided is NOT a marketing plan it is a Operational plan. RFP is for Marketing not a replacement of the Administration.

People who think marketing is something separate from operations shouldn’t still be in business anymore. That myth should have gone away a long time ago.  Wisdom from Leo Burnett should be a good starting place, and he died in 1971.

  • “What helps people, helps business.”
  • “Before you can have a share of market, you must have a share of mind.”
  • “We want consumers to say, ‘That’s a hell of a product” instead of ‘That’s a hell of an ad.'”
  • “The sole purpose of business is service. The sole purpose of advertising is explaining the service which business renders.” 
  • “The greatest thing to be achieved in advertising, in my opinion, is believability, and nothing is more believable than the product itself.”

Considering the potential client runs a service business, funded with tax dollars, and is getting a failing grade on every count, (a local school district) a new operational plan and way to communicate the new way of doing business is the key to changing perception and their fortunes.

Marketing does not exist in a vacuum, it’s interrelated to everything a business does. Looking to management guru Peter Drucker, who died in 2005, we find yet another quote:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

If that doesn’t tell you that an operations plan is marketing, you should reexamine your boss credentials.

Everything a business does, reflects upon its brand. And the brand is a story that the world tells each other, based on what they think they know about it. Apple, Nike, Google, the great brands- have a story that people can share without a whole lot of prompting- and for the most part, it’s a positive one. Sure, each has its detractors, but overall, the Q-score and the buzz line up with the company vision and goals.

To me, Apple started out as a “bicycle for the mind”- a tool to exercise your further your ideas and to help you share them. Nike reached into the competitor in all of us, and gave us an uplifting mantra- “Just do it” and Google, knew long before the rest of us, that with great power, came great responsibility and stated that their goal was to “Do no evil.” It’s take over a decade for most people to understand the power that Google had harnessed.

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Great companies do great things and communicate those things often and consistently. But here’s the key- it’s not through words or ads- “actions speak louder than words” should be the mantra of every ad agency across the globe. Doing good is doing well. Talking about yourself is just talk, and often times, boorish.

Need an example of actions speaking louder than words? I was at a minor league hockey game last night. I’ve been around hockey for at least 50 years, playing and watching. In a freak instance, a players stick was flung into the stands, and a fan caught it. Granted, sticks can cost as much as $300 these days- but, the team had the nerve to send down a team official to take the stick back. The crowd booed for at least 5 minutes. Considering the home team was down 2 goals, the players had to wonder why they should be trying their hardest to win- when they were getting a steady raspberry. Would a marketing-centric company dare to ask for the stick back?

The story that the fan will tell now is “I got hit by a players stick flung out of the rink” and they came and took it away. Or, the proper response, “I got hit by a stick at a hockey game, while sitting in my seat, and they came and checked to see if I was OK- and offered to let me come down after the game and get it signed by the entire team.”

Operations is marketing.

 

 

Are “anonymous donors” a marketing strategy for Kmart?

Kmart is a brand in search of itself. It’s needed saving for a long time. I can’t recall a reason to go there, and my significant other can clearly tell you why she never will again.

The brand is troubled. It’s hurt Sears too- they became part of the same company when a financial wizard who knew nothing about retailing, but “saw value” in the real estate that came with the company.

No matter how much money Kmart could spend on advertising this holiday season, they couldn’t have bought the positive PR they’ve received in this area with “anonymous donors” paying off layaway accounts. From the Dayton Daily News:

Kmart stores across the region report that anonymous donors are paying off the remaining balances of layaway accounts of strangers in a showing of holiday generosity.

Kmart store managers in Trotwood, Fairborn, Beavercreek and Riverside said unknown visitors are acting as secret Santas and spending hundreds of dollars to cover the layaway bills of complete strangers, especially people who are late on their payments and who are in danger of having their orders canceled.

Most of the donors also look to pay off come-due or past-due layaway accounts that contain toys or gifts, hoping to prevent some area families from having an empty space beneath their Christmas trees.

“They are looking for layaways with children’s clothing in it and toys in it to try to help out families that might be in need,” said Ron Monmaney, store manager of the Kmart in Riverside. “It must be the season.”

On Saturday, two unknown individuals spent more than $1,000 at the Riverside Kmart to pay off the layaway accounts of six strangers. Monmaney said the customers were “elated” to find out their orders were paid off, and they were touched by the gesture.

On at least five occasions in the last two weeks, unknown individuals walked up to the layaway counter at the Kmart in Beavercreek and paid for the accounts of strangers who were late on their payments or who were struggling to make them, said Jerry Campana, the store’s manager. He estimates the mysterious Good Samaritans spent at least $800.

“I think it’s truly amazing,” Campana said. “The best part of it is they are not doing it for any kind of recognition … they are just going out and doing it out of the goodness of their hearts and for people they don’t even know.”

The random acts of kindness started earlier this month at Kmarts in Michigan, but stories of the activity spread through news coverage and online, and it is now taking place all over Ohio and the country.

via Anonymous donors paying off Kmart layaway bills.

When you look at Kmart shoppers and realize that the people using layaway are at the absolute bottom of the income spectrum, the idea that put stuff on layaway with the hope that some “wealthy donor” will pay it off works the same way that buying a lottery ticket does: building an unrealistic dream. Is there any tool more used in advertising?

Supposed Kmart decided to invest between $3K and $5K per store in “anonymous donors” – compared to spending it on TV ads nationally. With 1,382 stores nationally, at $4k per store: that works out to $5.52M, which is a 2.5% of a  2009 budget of  $224M. The payback in free mentions of this “feel good” story far exceeds what paid media would achieve.

Considering Kmart has gone through upteen store prototypes and new logo launches in the last ten years, maybe it’s just time to be the hail-mary store for the poor and do it better than everyone else.

Sometimes the best advertising isn’t advertising at all.

What can you do with advertising dollars that might be better spent creating positive PR?

Why isn’t there customer service 2.0?

For every question I get about the wonders of “web 2.0” it’s rare that we hear clients ask “what can I do to make my customer happier?” Will a mobile version of your website make them feel better about the washing machine they just bought? No.

It comes down to customer service- and understanding that the best marketing is outstanding customer service- “marketing as a service.”

Amazon got it when an ad agency suggested they spend at least $30 million a year on ads- and instead they decided to give their customers free shipping (of course, once they started into their own products like the Kindle- they had to start advertising).

One has to credit Crispin Porter + Bogusky for taking on Domino’s Pizza- and not only telling them that the quality of their pizza is the problem (they probably told VW that being below average in the JD Power car quality charts wasn’t helping sales too) but getting the company to pay money to tell customers that their pizza did suck, but it’s better now:

You can spend all the money on marketing you want- just remember, if your product or service is less than stellar- good advertising will only kill your product sooner.

That’s the beauty of web 2.0, not, when you screw up, someone will tell a lot of people- either on your site, where you can respond and try to fix it- or on anyone of millions of other sites, including their own- where you may or may not be able to respond. If you haven’t set up Google Alerts on every product name, company name, key people in your business- you may be finding out the hard way when things are going wrong.

If there is one place we need customer service 2.0 it’s government. Unfortunately, most politicians and bureaucrats think they are immune from finger pointing (although they’re all aces at it). The rest of the nation already understands the value of open, honest communication, unfortunately we’re still doing government with rules from long before the information age.

If you want an in your face take on customer service, I give you Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library speaking at SXSW (parental advisory for naughty words):

As a parting thought- thanks to Gary- it also doesn’t hurt for your company to have a personality either. Try reading “Personality not included” by Rohit Bhargava- it’ll wake you up to what kind of service is possible with personality.

There is no “App for that” when it comes to customer service- it all comes from the choices leadership makes. Advertising or free shipping? Quality product or lower pricing? A warranty that customers can believe in, or a legal trap to play gotcha?

Customer service should be first on everyone’s mind, everyday, because there is an app to tell the world when you screw up- you’re looking at it now. Comment below at will.

Popularity contests for user generated content marketing = FAIL

A local newspaper does it. Puts a non-inclusive list of pizza shops online and runs a poll for “best of the city” pizza. This will grant “bragging rights” for the next year as “This cities best pizza.”

Now, pizza is a very subjective subject- some like it with thin crust, some thick, some believe in wood fired and others like deep dish. The “contest” is really not about the pizza- but about the paper driving traffic to their site and selling ads.

But, it can have real effect to the winners and the losers. The winner get’s bragging rights- and possibly a business bump. The losers all get ticked off. Next thing you know, you’ve lost a subscriber, a reader, or respect from the pizza aficionados who really know pizza- all because the contest wasn’t really a contest, but a popularity contest- and with internet voting, for the most part- a very imperfect system that can and will be gamed. Bragging rights for pizza is one thing, but a contest for a hybrid school bus takes this to another level. This is a real prize and required the students to invest time in creating a video/work of art to compete. Now, you’ve asked for free labor (crowd sourced creative) and then left the “judging” up to whomever can rig the system best.

We will choose the top 10 finalists, then all of America will be invited to vote online for the ultimate champion. Students of any age can enter (although a parent or teacher will need to sponsor students under 13 years of age). Group or class entries are also encouraged.

via America’s Greenest Schools – Contest Overview.

There is no requirement to watch all 10 videos before voting, no way of verifying without a doubt that voters are actual voters. It’s not like the Superbowl ad meter- which is a more scientific system, although not perfect by any means.

While all the voters may actually be made aware of your new hybrid bus, the 9 losers won’t be happy. And, does the stunt of the contest really advance your brand? Or does it alienate the losers it creates?

Contests for contests sake are fine, but once you tie in user generated content and ask people to do your work for you- make sure that the user gets more benefit that you do. Considering YouTube is the second most important search engine- consider requiring key words or links to a page that you want to have at the top of search- instead of allowing it to be a popularity contest open to all- have a real panel of judges to filter the final entries- and allow all the other entrants to judge the finalists- with a random prize for those who take the time to review the top finalists.

Just like you wouldn’t bet the farm on a spot that tested well with bad methodology- why run a contest that way?

Unless you like being tagged #FAIL by those who believed in your contest in the first place.

Tweet to connect: building relationships through active listening

Advertising has always about telling your message. Maybe that’s why John Wanamaker famously said “I know half my budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half”- and he was almost half right. Instead of telling your story- listen to what customers say about your brand and make new stories. Take this story about a hotel guest who tweeted about his stay at a hotel- and their follow up and it’s results (read the whole post to get the whole story):

So a tweet, a few emails, and all of a sudden I have a hotel in Boston that feels very much “mine”. Why would I stay somewhere else when I know the people, and feel like they’re genuinely happy when I come back again?

It’s not about the discount – I’d happily pay their going rate to stay there, just for the experience. But it is about the personal connections I’ve made with people, the feeling of being a valued customer, and the sense that I’m dealing with a business that really cares about the people that support it.

via Why It’s Not About the Tools Again | Altitude Branding | Brand Elevation through Social Media.

There is a another old adage: People do business with people they know. Establishing connections, building a network, are part of building those business relationships. Twitter is just one more tool in the social media toolbox. How many tools is your brand using?

Marketing has changed: The Netflix BluRay price increase FAIL

I saw a tweet from Jason Calacanis before the e-mail hit my inbox. Netflix was raising rates for a second time in 5 months on blu-ray disc access. If you are in marketing at Netflix, please note, he has 64,188 followers. Take that- and retweets- and you see the exponential nature of Twitter- instantly.

His original tweet:

NetFlix Blu-Ray bait and switch FAIL! Jump from $1 a month to $4 a month automatically?!!? http://post.ly/CYQ

Then, follow over to a twitter search on “Netflix” and you see the effect- instantly- the twitterverse is alive- with cancellations, downgrades and unhappieness. This is an opportunity for Blockbuster- but, they probably don’t know how to take advantage of it.

Over on Engadget- it’s breaking news:

Ruh roh. In a move that will undoubtedly cause an incredibly raucous stir, only to fade away as movie renters realize that Netflix is still the best deal going, America’s most adored by-mail rental service is hiking the price of Blu-ray rentals once again.

via Netflix raising rates for Blu-ray subscribers by around 20 percent.

The comments are flowing- who knows how many people will be blogging about this, and what kind of damage will be done. The pricing increases are heavy handed to begin with- but the automatic “Opt-in” to a price increase is a brand suicide move. Never, ever, force an automatic price increase without some kind of action by the customer.

On the Netflix site – their blog has an announcement– and the feedback isn’t going so well. Might be time to reevaluate how this works. Maybe a per-disc surcharge for blu-ray?

Either way- be careful how you treat your customers these days, they have the tools to talk amongst themselves and plot your downfall. Both Netflix and Twitter are populated by opinion leaders- who are very tech savvy. Your brand is only as good as your community around it. Netflix’s brand value is totally connected to the way their customers feel about them (as well it should be).

Watch this in the news. It’s going to be brutal.