You Need a Marketing Invention Factory

A little over a year ago, I toured the Fort Myers, FL winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford two of my favorite business heroes.

Edison and Ford’s fascinating friendship is a story of mutual admiration and a story of curiosity, experimentation, persistence, inventions, failures, achievements and brand legacies.

Both had little formal education – Edison left school at age 8 and Ford had about 3 years – however, both achieved great success through radical life improving innovations that we continue to enjoy to this day.

In my business engagements, regardless of brand size, I’m discouraged by the lack of courage and innovation by most brand leaders.  And, it’s sad.

It’s sad, because innovation can be achieved when you desire, demand and plan for it.

Both Edison and Ford believed in dreaming big and visualizing the impossible and making it possible.  The had invention factories and labs (at work and at their vacation homes) and they believed in open collaboration and getting things done – acting on things – and fast failing.

So, my question is, “Where’s your invention factory?”

“What’s your process and how do you plan for it?

Are you a trailblazer, an industry leader or a simple follower?

For some time, I’ve felt that Americans have lost their innovation edge and others do agree, but brands such as Apple and Starbucks offer hope and guideposts (just wish I saw more American manufacturing innovators).

Much like Edison and Ford who believed in collaborative innovation work, Starbucks’ modern spin is its highly successful “My Starbucks Idea” which is an online crowdsourcing initiative that enables its raving fans to offer new ideas for products, brand experiences and involvement improvements.

My Starbucks Idea is celebrating its 3rd anniversary this month – and it’s Starbucks 40th anniversary too (read about their four new products)!

MSI is an awesome crowdsourced innovation tool.  To date, it has generated (as of a few minutes ago) 107,450 ideas and launched 130 new ideas.  In addition, people get to view ideas in action and see which ones are under review have been reviewed are in the works, and have been launched and demonstrates that Starbucks is a listening and caring brand.

In fact, customer input on My Starbucks Idea led to the development of the Starbucks Card Mobile App for select BlackBerry smartphones last September and the “Give a Gift” feature – the 100th MSI.

I love the MSI concept and I’ll bet there is an crowdsourcing idea here worth exploring for you.

Think about ways to create your own invention or innovation factory be it online (Starbucks uses Salesforce.Com) or offline or a combination of both.

For example, you could simply start with having bi-weekly meetings with your staff to brainstorm innovative cost saving or revenue producing ideas.

However, if you don’t plan for ‘it,’ I guarantee you ‘it’ won’t happen for you!

P.S.: For more about Edison, check out Time Magazine’s feature, The Making of America: Thomas Edison. I found it ironic that there was a Starbucks banner ad when I first clicked on the link.

P.P.S: A great source of innovative companies to research and model is provided by Fast Company Magazine every year. Check out Fast Company’s 2011 Most Innovative Companies.

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How to Improve Your Email Marketing Results

Email keeps rocking on as the killer app in online marketing (per DMA email’s ROI is over $40 to $1), and I continue to  be amazed that most brands don’t take the time to refine and improve their email marketing efforts. So many of us are far too quick to move on to the next new marketing tool without striving to flawlessly execute email marketing.

What a waste.

Forrester reported in a recent survey, that just 7% of American consumers believe the emails they get blasted with, are important or relevant.

With the ton of consumer data most brands have at their disposal, it’s a simple case of lazy marketing.

As this MarketingSherpa chart shows, there are many easy ways to improve your email marketing open and click-through rates.

For example, at a minimum brands could  testing subject lines, offers or calls to action, send time or day of week, copy and layout, landing pages and from lines, hyperlink quantity, placement and more.

The kicker is you got to do it…you got to “bring it.”

As the chart points out, over 50% of the surveyed brands have yet to take advantage of these easy ways to improve their performance.

In addition, you need to “bucket” your email addresses into databases of similar behaviors and/or event-based activities such as:

  • Life changes (e.g., new home buyer, new mother etc. )
  • Brand activities and interactions (e.g., purchase or complaint etc.)
  • Industry/environmental shifts (e.g., interest rate changes, price shifts etc.,)

Then, you move from this simple exercise to a “next best action” tactic whereby based on a customer’s previous interaction (e.g., purchase), your marketing follow-up message is related (e.g., promote service guarantee, insurance etc.,)

With any new effort, it’s wise to walk before you run with new activities you’re not accustomed to doing.

For example, one of our restaurant clients does a ton of wine tastings, so we simply started with separating our “wine enthusiasts” into a separate database and emailed wine event information only to them. Then, we only sent reminders to those who opened the initial email invitation and significantly increased open rates, click through rates, reduced opt-outs and event attendance.

Before you move on to the next new shiny tool in your marketing toolbox, make sure you can truly hammer out great email campaigns. You need to realize that you never quite arrive in this business, you got to keep striving, keep testing, keep doing – net…keep on keeping on.

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$6 Google AdWords Campaign Lands Dream Job

For anyone looking for a new job (pay attention college grads) or trying to get that next big sale and running into a roadblock because you can’t get the attention of a key decision maker, check out this brilliant job search strategy by copywriter Alec Brownstein.

  1. Brownstein used Google AdWords to target Ad Agency Creative Directors on Madison Avenue in New York
  2. He bet 15 cents per click that these Creatives were no different than the rest of  us self absorbed people who Google ourselves
  3. What the CD’s saw when they Googled themselves was a personal ad from Brownstein – BRILLIANT!
  4. Young & Rubicam offered him a job!

Note: Brownstein’s Google Job Experiment YouTube video has been viewed over 500,000 times!  Rock on Alec!

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You Take Dollars to the Bank

…not percentages.

Following yesterday’s post about testing, someone asked me about testing promotional offers and wanted to know which has more appeal, a dollar off coupon or a percent off coupon.

After saying, “Test them both,” I told him that in my experience a “dollar off” promotion typically outsells a percent off promotion. Dollar offs, BOGOs (buy one get one free, cash rebates etc.,) rock harder than a simple percent off promotion.

Why?

One big reason.

Money talks and you know the rest.

It’s far easier for busy people (aren’t we all) to understand the value of a dollar figure vs. calculating percentages.

But hey, don’t take my word for it

Check out this Marketing Sherpa article which supports my view and highlights how one brand’s test proved that its dollar off promo delivered 170% more revenue.

Test people test.  And, always remember you take dollars to the bank not percentages.
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Sampling, Freemiums and Marketing Lagniappe

We work a lot in the restaurant and hospitality and retail industry. And, I’m amazed at how many businesses lack a sampling or “Free” taste test component in their marketing operations plans.

In 2008, Arbitron  studied product sampling (Arbitron product_sampling_study_2008) and over one-third (35%) of those who tried a sample bought the product during the same shopping trip. And, nearly 60% said they would buy a product after trying it.

Sampling, which reaches 70 million consumers every quarter, “is both effective in making new customers aware of products, while also establishing a firmer identity with those consumers who have considered the product before,” said Carol Edwards, svp of sales at Arbitron’s out-of-home media department, in a statement.

The survey segmented consumers into three areas: acquisitions (those new to the product), conversions (those willing to buy it after sampling it) and retentions (those who had previously purchased the product).

Check out these sampling results:

  • 85% of retentions who sampled a product said they would purchase it again compared to 60% of conversions.
  • Almost half (47%) said they would now look to purchase it.
  • 28% of respondents received a free sample in the past three months. Of that group, 64% said they accepted the sample.
  • Nearly a quarter of those polled (24%) said they bought the product they sampled instead of the item they initially set out to purchase.

Freemiums are another terrific way to generate customer interest and involvement by offering a product or service for free (e.g., software, educational webinar etc.) while charging a premium for advanced or special feature.

For example, I offer free marketing advice through my Blog, however for more specialized marketing consulting advice I charge a fee. And, it helps drive leads.

Marketing Lagniappe occurs when a brand offers a customer something for free and unexpected when they buy something – surprise and delight occurs. Stan Phelps’ new book due this Spring (can’t wait to read it – nice helpful Web site too) will highlight 1,001 “something extras” such as Doubletree Hotels’ practice of giving warm, delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Stan’s five R.U.L.E.S. for effective lagniappe are that these free offers need to be Relevant, Unexpected, Limited, Expression, Sticky.

I couldn’t agree more and plan to take a harder look at my client’s marketing plans and bake a little sampling, freemiums and/or lagniappe that surprises and delights into them. You should too.

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Pittsburgh’s New Innovative Giant Eagle

Twenty years or so ago, I had several conversations with marketing colleagues about how supermarket chains lacked creativity. The general experience was underwhelming and one that most people dreaded.

During those years, I would take Cadillac, Oldsmobile and McDonald’s clients into Wegman’s supermarkets throughout western, New York to show them how great they were and to learn merchandising, customer service and overall retailing lessons they could take back to their car dealerships and restaurants.

They were amazed that you entered the store through the produce department instead of the typical trip past the cash registers as was the general industry practice way back then. Their merchandising strategies had no peer.

Wegman’s then and now, is one of the most innovative and well-run supermarket chains in America. It’s no surprise to me that they’re ranked #3 on FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For.” They are consistently ranked as one of the top supermarket chains in the country and have received a ton of well deserved awards.

Stew Leonard’s – the world’s largest dairy store – was a hot case study of discussion too.

And way back then, I could not understand why the innovation I saw across the country was not occurring in my own backyard.

About 10 years ago, I got some some luncheon meat from the deli at my hometown Giant Eagle supermarket and was ecstatic to receive it in a plastic bag instead of paper! I mentioned my discovery to a colleague of mine whose spouse worked for the company and told me that the store received the bags as part of some deal and they were simply testing to get some use out of them. Amazing – it was a huge boost to my satisfaction.  This little simple new touch was so well received that it quickly spread throughout their stores and became a permanent part of their system.

Well, something must be a bit different in the water these days in Pittsburgh’s three rivers (especially the Allegheny River) because Giant Eagle has been on a tear of remarkably innovative new product launches such as its:

And now, Giant Eagle is testing in four concept stores it’s latest innovation for HBW (health/beauty/wellness) which could become a huge profit center by linking its supermarket pharmacies with its HBW departments. What a stroke of innovative genius.

I’m happy the new Giant Eagle has finally landed in “innovation land.” Their story should demonstrate to older established brands that it’s never too late to innovate.

To profitably increase your market share you need to establish an innovation plan and follow it. Don’t wait for competitors to come into your neighborhood to force you to do it. Self inflicted innovation is the preferred route to take.

P.S.: Not all innovations have to be big and expensive – think deli meat plastic bags.

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Show And Tell Marketing

 Life's a Pitch and Then You Buy!

BILLY MAYS

I enjoyed reading this article in the LA Times about Billy Mays whose loud, enthusiastic, direct response pitches for brands such as OxiClean, Kaboom and more have made this Pittsburgh native a millionaire and "the most successful direct-response
salesman in TV history."

As a marketer, I've followed guys like Mays and Ron Popiel (even read his book) and I've admired how they can sell! Mays' deliver is always interesting to me, although his loud voice upsets my wife – I know what he does works because of the number of products he represents – net, he'd not be on the air if he wasn't moving products. And, now Mays' is starring in a realith show called "Pitchmen" which debuts April 15th on the Discovery Channel.

The lesson Mays, Popiel and others like them have mastered is something you can too.  It's something you learned way back in Kindergarten and that's the skill of "Show and Tell."

Successful pitchmen like Mays knows that if you can repeatedly demonstrate clearly and consistently (hears wears the same outfit in every pitch) why your product or service works better than others you will win more sales – simple as that.

The next time you go on a sales call, make sure you're prepared to Show and Tell Well!

I guarantee you'll close more business than if you simply "Telled Well!"

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Product Sampling Builds Sales

Sampling

Product sampling reaches 70 million consumers every quarter, and
one-third of customers who try a sample will buy the sampled product in
the same shopping trip, according to the “Product Sampling Study” by Arbitron and Edison Media Research, reports MediaBuyerPlanner.

According to Arbitron, sampling also drives huge gains in brand awareness
and loyalty. In fact, 58% of those
surveyed report that they would buy the product again.

Consumers were grouped into three categories:

  1. Acquisitions, or those
    who were new to the sampled product;
  2. Conversions, or those who had
    heard of the product but had never bought it;
  3. Retentions, or those
    who had previously purchased the product.

Fully 85% of the Retentions and 60% of the Conversions said they
would in the future purchase the sampled product; samples encouraged
nearly half (47%) of the Acquisitions to purchase the product in the
future.

“This is exciting news for marketers and advertisers who are looking
for alternative ways to make an immediate as well as long-reaching
impact on consumers with a high return-on-investment,” said Carol
Edwards, SVP of sales, Out-of-Home Media for Arbitron.

“This study enforced that the sampling approach is both effective in
making new customers aware of products, while also establishing a
firmer identity with those consumers who have considered the product
before.”

The study also found as follows:

  • 28% reported that they have been offered product samples within the past three months.
  • 64% claimed that they had accepted product samples: 66% of
    Acquisitions accepted samples, as did 63% of Conversions and 63% of
    Retentions.
  • 35% claimed they purchased the sampled product on the same day: 26%
    of Acquisitions bought the product right away, as did 19% of
    Conversions and 31% of Retentions.
  • 24% of those surveyed claimed that a sampled product had
    specifically replaced an item that they had planned to buy: 20% of
    Acquisitions were planning to make the switch, as were 33% of
    Conversions and 18% of Retentions.

About the study:
Arbitron and Edison Media Research conducted a national telephone
survey from January 18 to February 15, 2008. 1,857 respondents, ages 12
and older, were selected at random from Arbitron’s 2007 fall
diarykeepers. In geographic areas where Arbitron diarykeepers were not
available (representing 8% of the population), a supplemental sample
was interviewed through random selection.

P.S.: This chart from eMarketer shows that College Students thinks Product Sampling rocks their world!

Sampling for College Students

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