Monday, January 13, 2014

Everything but the kitchen sink (and a call to action)

Let's face it. Everyone's a "marketer." I'm sure you've heard this before. And like typical fashion for many supposed "marketers," their formula for content success is excess (can you say that ten times?).

I happen to be a Star One Credit Union member (they have great mortgage rates) and noticed they included an insert in one of my monthly statements.

Statement Insert* Analysis - It's so copy heavy that Star One should have included the kitchen sink. And where's the call to action?

Excessive copy. Missing call to action.

Both misses, but the biggest miss of all? Star One took the time to produce and print a statement insert! I've tracked open and read rates on statement inserts and the results have always been short of abysmal and pathetic (true, I noticed it and read it, but I don't count).

Definitely not worth the paper it's printed on. Sending a smoke signal will pull a better response. Do make sure you send out clean smoke, however. This guarantees a low carbon footprint, plus higher click-through and read rates.

I do want to be glass half full. If you have metrics that shed better light on statement insert results, do share. 

*Also known as a buck slip; but there's something about those words that rub me the wrong way, so I don't like to use them.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Where's the green shoelaces?!

Look closely and you'll notice green laces on the shoe. See 'em? 

How can green shoelaces be that important? Well, that's just the point. Seemingly trivial, but because they're just shoelaces is what makes them so terribly important. Let me explain.

Companies need to understand that every facet of their business is open game, however big or small they think it might be. Everything can be unearthed and dissected, as your customer will have a very wide range of wants, needs and gripes. 

I recently picked up a pair of wingtip brogues (pictured on the left, but with the left shoe also included) from Kenneth Cole. To be honest, I hesitated to buy anything from Kenneth Cole's website at first. That's because the company doesn't offer (as of this writing) free shipping (unless there's a special promo going on) and returns. To get free shipping both ways (a la Zappos), you have to sign up for ShopRunner, where you'll be required to "add payment" (which probably means providing your credit card number). Simply lame, Kenneth Cole. Get with the program like all the other online retailers!

I first checked out the shoes on their website as the Kenneth Cole store at my local mall closed down (not to mention that going to the mall takes too much time and effort).

I placed my order, received the shoes and they fit perfect (thank goodness or I'd have to fork out some dough to ship 'em back). But I did notice that they didn't include the green shoelaces featured on the website. True, I got the black ones (and seeing the green laces is not why I purchased the shoes); but where's the green shoelaces?! 

To my initial point in my post, they're just shoelaces, so why didn't they just include them? So naturally I'm going to bring this up to customer service. Which I did. Below is a copy and paste of my communication with Kenneth Cole's Client Services Team if you're interested.

Have you had similar experiences? If so, please do share. Or you can just tell me I'm nuts or nit-picky.


Hi there. I received my shoes and really like them! However, I noticed that the laces they come with are black; which is fine, but I did notice on your website that the shoes are featured with green laces. Is there any way to get a pair of the green laces?


Client Services:

Dear Giovanni

We understand that website shows the shoes with green laces and we have submitted an inquiry to see if we can send you a pair. Your reference number for this inquiry is 12167022. We will contact you through email within 3-5 business days with a response. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

If you have additional questions, please visit our online Client Services section. Again, thank you for contacting us.

Best Regards,
Melissa F.
The Client Services Team

Client Services:

Dear Giovanni,
We appreciate your order 3045753086. We apologize, but upon double checking our inventory, we have found that the Rig Wall oxfords do, in fact, come with black laces, not the green laces as pictured online. As the embellishments on our merchandise are manufactured specifically for the item, we do not have the green laces and are unable to provide laces to you. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you.

We are very happy that you like the shoes, but we will certainly assist you with a pre-paid return label should you wish to return them due to the incorrect laces. Please let us know and we will process your label within 1-2 business days.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. We value each one of our clients and look forward to assisting you again soon.

If you have additional questions, please visit our online Client Services section. Again, thank you for contacting us.
Best Regards,
Marci C.
The Client Services Team

Thanks. I'll keep the shoes. Is there another shoe lace color you can send me? 

Client Services:
Dear Giovanni,

Thank you for contacting us regarding the laces from order 3045753086 and we have resubmitted your inquiry. We assure you we are doing everything in our power to provide you with a timely resolution. Once this inquiry is completed, we will contact you through email at with a response. Please refer to reference number 12167022 for this inquiry. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

If you have additional questions, please visit our online Client Services section. Again, thank you for contacting us.
Best Regards,

Karen W.
The Client Services Team

Client Services:

Dear Giovanni,
Thank you for contacting us regarding additional shoe laces for the Rig Wall Oxford. As a fashion brand, the majority of our styles are seasonal and made in limited quantities. At this time, we unable to provide replacement parts and we do not maintain inventory of additional parts that can be mailed to you. These parts include, but are not limited to: buttons, zippers, wheels, hardware, snaps, shoe laces, etc. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

If you have additional questions, please visit our online Client Services section. Again, thank you for contacting us.
Best Regards,

Virginia S.
The Client Services Team

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Typos as a pet peeve and my quest to rid the world of them

It has to be some sort of sickness. There's probably a medical term for it. Or perhaps it's simply madness on my part? That constant need to look for and find typos. And that surge of excitement and energy that overcomes me when I find them. I'll call it Typo- Finder's High. As a runner, I can attest that Runner's High is something completely different.

I received an email from Shoebacca, an online shoe, clothing and apparel retailer and as luck would have it, their email contained a typo. Yeah!

Geez. I'm sure this email was blasted to many of there customers. Don't get me wrong, I like Shoebacca because of their underdog status. There's a lot to be said about not being one of those mega-retailers like Amazon and Walmart. And interestingly enough, Shoebacca's got some pretty cool kicks at kick-ass prices (no pun intended).

But I just can't forgive Shoebacca for there typo. Simply inexcusable. Shame on you. Come on now! You already have the flipped "E" in your logo and tagline. We'll give you that (for creative license).

If you need help proofing, don't hesitate to ask me. I mean it.

But don't worry, despite you're error, I'm still a fan.

How many typos did you find in my post? Tell me how many. And did you get Typo-Finder's High?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

An important note from Squidoo

If you're not familiar with Squidoo, it's essentially a user-generated website where users can create pages (called lenses) for subjects that interest them. These pages can then be used to sell products for profit or charitable donation. Topics run the gamut including food, books, travel, arts and many others. And, oh yeah, it was started by that dude named Seth Godin.

I visited the site in hopes of finally participating in the dialogue when a very interesting notification window popped up. Being a content guy myself, I was quite impressed by the notice, as it provided some guidelines on how content should be created on the Squidoo site. Creating engaging, digestible content isn't about trying to game the system; rather, it should be about real, authentic and personal content.

I repeat, it should be about real, authentic and personal content.

So kudos to you, Squidoo for taking this approach with your community. Many other content creators (myself included) should take heed and follow your mantra!

I've copied and pasted the word-for-word text from the pop-up notice below... 

An important note from Squidoo to all of our members!

We have a challenge and we need your help...

Thanks to you and the millions of Squids who have embraced The Scroll of Originality, Squidoo has reached records amount of traffic, charitable donations and user revenue. We stand (we always have) for passionate, original content. Squidoo is about storytelling, first hand reviews and recommendations.

Our site is only as good as the pages our users build, and lately, too many people are taking a short-term view and building pages that don't work, pages the search engines don't like, and pages that are cookie-cutter instead of personal.

We need all of our users to reconfirm that they're committed to our approach to content. The important rules are still the same: share your passions, tell stories and be personal.
Starting in March, 2013, we'll be running scans on all of our featured lenses to more aggressively detect spun content, junk and keyword stuffing. If your lens gets flagged it will get locked (and eventually deleted without notice) but you have the opportunity to fix these lenses and make them better. And you can start right now.

Check out this lens which explains how you can fix some of the widespread problems we're seeing before you get flagged. It's entirely possible that your lenses need no improvement at all, but if you've actively swapped ratings, added countless affiliate links and focused on the short-term, we need you to take action now.

It's simple: go through your lenses, make them personal, delete extraneous affiliate links and ugly buttons. Make them the sort of thing you'd like to see, not the product of gaming the system and industrialized linkbaiting.

98.4% of Squidoo is amazing. If we work together, we take all of our pages where they need to go.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Part Two: Everything's negotiable. How much do you want to make a bet?

A few months ago I posted a piece entitled, Everything's negotiable. How much do you want to make a bet? I think the title was fairly self-explanatory. The eBay case study below further supports the claim in my post.

I won't apologize to eBay (okay, maybe just a tad bit) for constantly using them as a test ground, but what can I say? I'm a marketer and testing is in my DNA. But I love eBay and they're still making money from me. Thanks, eBay for enabling me to find unique stuff, sprinkled with the added excitement of negotiating.  

Below is a real-life communication thread between me (buyer) and the seller. The item I negotiated for was a brand-new pair of J.Crew Union Shorts.Consequently, when I originally saw these shorts at the retail store they were selling (as I recall) for $68.00. At that price, I should get the entire pant.

A few things to note...
  • The seller is from the U.S. and originally listed the shorts with a buy-it-now price of $29.99, plus $6.99 shipping. 
  • My negotiation with the seller transpired over a 24-hour period.
  • I left the communication as it was and didn't edit for spelling, punctuation, grammar, case, etc.  
eBay: A Case Study On Negotiating

Me: Will you take $25 with shipping to California already included?

Seller: Can u do the buy it now and ill do free shipping for 29.99?

Me: $25 is my budget :) Let me know if you change your mind.

Seller: Ok deal.

Me: cool...can you go ahead and update your listing and I will purchase? thanks!

Seller: offer 25 and ill accept and ill change shipping on the invoice.

Me: actually I found another pair of shorts that's a bit less. is $25 your absolute best price?

Seller: Yes. They in excellent condition and a steal at this price I think

Me: okay. I realize you say $25, but I'm going to throw an offer of $22 out there anyway. there's another pair of shorts I'm looking at. if you change your mind, let me know by noon tomorrow (Monday) pacific time; otherwise, I'll purchase the other ones although I'd prefer to pick up the one you have. thanks again!

Seller: We sort of agreed to 25. I would say honestly the 3 dollars wouldn't make a difference to me so ill agree to it but I truly won't go lower than that. Offer 22 and I will accept. If you decide u don't want the shorts no problem. 22 is my last agreement. Thanks!

Me: okay I appreciate that. so that's $22 with shipping to california already included, correct?

Seller: Yes!

There you have it. I closed the transaction at 59.49% off and saved $14.98. Do you have a "negotiation" story you'd like to share?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Successful selling is a result of constant drips

In Julien Smith's blog post, Waterfall he writes that the majesty and sense of wonder in our natural environment is made by erosion; one drop at a time over a long period, instead of one big waterfall. The same really holds true of anything, including sales. The more time and effort you put into it, the greater your successes.

Over the last few months, I've been talking to a client (a marketing agency) about some potential freelance work. The project would entail helping them with their social media strategy.

As a side note, if you've worked for an advertising/marketing agency like me, you'll likely be able to attest to this. They really do a great job at marketing their clients, but an absolutely horrible job at marketing themselves (of course, there are exceptions to the rule).

During some conversations with my client, they mentioned wanting to create one piece of content that can be used as their showcase piece; but as Mr. Smith's post suggests, a "constant drip" is a more sound strategy, instead of one big waterfall. Successful social selling requires a longer-term perspective. I think creating occasional pieces of content here and there is rather short-sighted and will miss the mark (and this has been corroborated by experts many times over).

Instead of focusing so much energy on one "be all, end all" piece of content, for this client to be perceived as a key player, content needs to proliferate. Not that they want to be ubiquitous, but they'll want to be more involved in the process. For example, joining the social conversation around various key areas of focus for them (like Big Data, since they're also a data company) can help with their search strategy (link building). Also, creating relevant, digestible content for their blog can help drive traffic organically to their site. Successful social selling is not a do-one-thing and that's it exercise. It needs to be more fluid and companies need to go along for the whole ride, as this is how it will pay dividends.

I really believe my client has a pretty compelling story to tell. Their suite of services is a solid value proposition for both existing clients and prospects. It will also help to build brand clarity and remove the stigma that they're just a "marketing" company. And unfortunately, the longer they wait, the further behind they'll get.

I've noticed that there are more content-specific roles out in the job marketplace. This has been confirmed by some discussions I've had with folks from various companies across different verticals. 

I'm curious to know if anybody else can shed some light around this. Are you hearing the same thing in your dealings with contacts, colleagues or clients? Please do share.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

When brand advocates turn into haters and naysayers

As soon as the public caught wind that Ben Affleck had been cast as the next Batman in the Warner Bros. Man of Steel sequel, loyal fans were quick to cry foul and turned into crowds of haters and naysayers. Some petitions have even popped up requesting that Mr. Affleck be barred from portraying one of DC's most popular superheroes.

The way I see it, what's really at stake here (for Batman brand advocates) is the possible deterioration of the brand. Fans simply won't stand for it. After having seen Christian Bale play the quintessential Caped Crusader in likely the best superhero trilogy in movie history, can you really blame 'em? Moreover, it's taken years for the Batman franchise to build its brand to what it is today, only to see it take a turn for the worse.

There likely will never be another Bruce Wayne like Christian Bale, and anyone you stack up against him will pale (likely) in comparison. But Mr. Bale already passed on the role of Batman, so let's not go there. Like it or not, it appears that Ben Affleck will be the next Batman.

You can be certain that Mr. Affleck is well aware of the shoes (and big they will be) he'll need to fill. His last lackluster portrayal of a superhero (Daredevil) in red tights is all in the past (thank goodness). Mr. Affleck has since directed and co-starred in some fairly solid movies, Gone Baby Gone and The Town. He's even become an Oscar-winning director with Argo.

Suffice it to say, Ben Affleck has grown up and even sharpened his acting skills. I read that he's now hitting the gym two hours a day so he can transform his physique. As my wife says, Mr. Affleck will make up in physique what he lacks in mojo.

I say let's cut the dude some slack. Who knows? He may just pull off the role. 

What's your take in all of this hullabaloo? Who's your Batman of choice and why?