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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Inside marketing: the 10 questions

If James Lipton, host of "Inside the Actor's Studio" BRAVO television program, were to interview a marketing person , here's how he'd probably adapt his famous 10 questions that he asks at the end of the show. How would you answer them? At next week's Corante/Columbia Marketing Innovation conference I plan to pose this questions to a number of outspoken people and share what they have to say.

In the meantime, here are my responses.

What’s your favorite marketing word?
Love. (Passion and emotion drive all decisions)

What is your least favorite marketing word?

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally about marketing?
Finding point-of-views that spark conversations – especially when a company or its products are kind of boring.

What turns you off about marketing?
Alpha fraidy cats. Aggressive, persuasive, and scared to try new approaches.

What’s your favorite curse word when you see really bad marketing?
F…k. What are they thinking?

What sound or noise do marketers make that you love?
Absolute silence as they really listen to customers.

What sound or noise do marketers make that you hate?
Sucking up to the CEO even though they think he/she is diluting good ideas.

What profession other than marketing should marketers attempt to become better at marketing?
Teaching middle school kids or running a customer service department.

What profession should marketers never try?
Neurosurgery. Because most of us have ADD and don’t focus enough on details.

If marketing heaven exists, what would God say when a marketer arrives at the Pearly Gates?
Relax. We don’t measure anything up here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Talking marketing in Estonia

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the annual Parnu Marketing Conference where 550 of Estonia’s marketing professionals get together to learn and talk about new marketing ideas. The theme of the conference: “Marketing Without Advertising.”

See the blog postings by fellow presenters David Phillips and Robin Gurney of the Estonian internet marketing firm Altex for more.

Marketing Estonia
During a word of mouth marketing workshop 50 people came up with more than 300 ideas in 45 minutes about how to talk about Estonia to attract tourists and businesses to this Baltic country. A great testament to what can happen when you bring smart people together and remove all the traditional “branding” rules. Some of the ideas:

For toursim:

Estonia is like a fantasy land – beautiful old medieval architecture, Hansel & Gretel-like countryside, pristine beaches and forests with bears, wolves, wild mushrooms; and it’s safe, inexpensive, and almost everyone speaks English.

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is the largest and best preserved medieval capital in Europe. More beautiful than Prague.

The White Night winters in Estonia are magical, where you can really chill: pure silence amid the snow and ice; walking from island to island on the ice; barrel saunas.

And for the high testosterone crowd, Estonia is a great hunting spot – wolves, bears, wild boar; or you can tour former top-secret Soviet Union military bases.

Now here’s a sport you don’t find everywhere: While the Estonians did win Olympic medals for cross country skiing this year, they also took the gold medal in the world wife-carrying championship last summer.

For economic development:

Estonia is the Silicon Valley of the Baltic – totally E, and far less expensive than other European cities.

Estonia is the safe, friendly gateway for companies that want to do business with Russia, --- but be based in Europe and not Russia.

Estonia offers all the benefits of Scandinavia for businesses – educated population, high quality of life, great technology infrastructure -- with a MUCH lower flat tax rate.

Having spent two days as a tourist in Estonia, I can tell you that it is a gem of a country. Despite Soviet occupation until 1991, the country has preserved its national identity and the beauty of its environment and rich architectural history.

Aitäh Estonia!

Monday, May 08, 2006

New study on customer communities

Are online customer communities an undervalued marketing approach?

A new research study released today by Communispace, “What Companies Gain from Listening: The Effect of Community Membership on Members’ Attitudes and Behavior in Relation to the Sponsoring Company,” found that:
  • 82 percent of the surveyed community members said they were more likely to recommend a company’s products since joining its community.
  • 76 percent felt more positively about the company.
  • 75 percent felt more respect for the company.
  • 63 percent said that membership had increased their trust of the company.
  • 52 percent were more inclined to purchase products from the company.

Why do communities affect people so much? One reason may be that it provides a way for people to talk with a company and feel heard: 91 percent said they felt that their community allowed them to give candid feedback and suggestions to the company.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Marketing marginalizing marketing

Are marketers cannabalizing marketing? Finding and keeping customers is marketing's purpose. But a new study by the CMO Council shows that marketers are disconnected from customers.

More than half of the marketers surveyed rely on sales for customer conversations. Nearly 75% lack a customer advisory board.

Then how do marketers connect with customers? They don't, really. Approximately one third of the survey respondents rely on CRM systems as their primary customer information source -- and 40 percent said their CRM systems were weak or very weak. Mmmm....

“Marketers face the danger of rapidly marginalizing their own operations. They rely on sales to engage the customer and they rely on customer support to satisfy the customer," according to Christopher Kenton, senior vice president of the CMO Council .

It seems to me that marketing still has too much of a manufacuring mentality -- producing ads, Web sites, press releases and other stuff. Maybe it's time to make customer conversations as important a marketing responsibility as creating marketing materials.

As my friend Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace, says, "Marketers need to learn how to shut up and listen."

Innovation conferences

Interested in getting some fresh perspectives and practical know-how about innovation? Two upcoming conferences promise to be out of the box while also providing ideas to use when we have to get back in the box.

The 2006 Marketing Innovation Conference: Building a New Marketing To Meet a Changing Market will be held June 8-9 at Columbia Business School in New York City. Corante and The Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia are sponsoring the event.

BIF2, sponsored by the Business Innovation Factory, will be held on October 4-5 in Providence, RI. The 30 speakers are really eclectic, from big company executives, successful entrepreneurs and university presidents and professors to scientists, entertainment executives, writers and journalists. (Each speaker gets just 15 minutes to tell a personal story.)

What I like about these conferences is that there won’t be any talking heads going through PowerPoint decks promoting their companies. Both are about provoking thinking and providing a forum for talking with interesting people we don’t meet in our usual business circles.

Hope to see you in NY or Providence…