Tuesday, May 23, 2006

When Talk is Really Cheap

It has for some time been technically possible to talk over the Internet for “free” as marketers might say or for “no additional cost” as students of marketing might observe. This so called IP telephony used to come with many restrictions and inconveniences, ranging from poor sound quality to the need to call from one computer to another. These barriers have fallen dramatically.

Recently Skype, www.skype.com, the Internet telephony company now owned by eBay, has changed the game by offering free calls to regular phones throughout the US and Canada. You can also use Skype for international calls, but they might set you back $0.02 a minute. The quality of the call has also improved – in our experience it’s usually better than a calling on a mobile phone.

The technology aside, what does it mean to your business when talk is as cheap as email?

To us it makes it that much easier to do what marketing should be about – having a conversation with customers. This does mean yakking because you can. With cost no longer a factor even for the smallest business.

A) Manage your contacts
B) Establishing trust: remember why there is a do not call list
C) Keep it touch
D) View conversations as opportunities to get closer to your customers not just expenses avoid or reasons to move your call center to India.
E) Refining your message – what are you going to say after you say hello?
F) KISS (keep it simple stupid, as well as short) As with email, post, or any other medium; don’t try to bore your customers into submission.
G) Be available – how many businesses go to great lengths to hide phone numbers from customers.

When’s the last time you had a real conversation with a customer?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Close But No, I Don't Want To Shave My Cigar

Philips, maker of many things electric, wants men to shave where no shaver has before by buying its new bodygroom shaver.

They're trying not only to revive a moribund product group (electric shavers) but to create a new category of product. A long shot for any marketer, Philips has created news-worthy if not ad-worthy a campaign. Rather than spending heavily for TV, philips has created a long-form web video. You can find it at http://www.shaveeverywhere.com.

The video itself has become news and the source of word of mouth/word of email buzz. Thus it has received vastly more traffic than could be expected. Such great exposure seems a marketers dream - Great exposure for a low expenditure.

Its lack of taste notwithstanding, I find the commercial quite weak; a solution looking for a problem and not a convincing remedy for any of problems it hopes it can convince the viewer he ought to worry about.

If this is so, the the very buzz and exposure will stall the product before it can get started. High exposure is not what you want before you have your marketing message and programs debuged. If on the other hand, Philips wants an inexpensive way to test marketing a concept and a cheap way to see if buzz = no sale; they have pulled off a very smooth move.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Who Let These Dogs Out?

An early truism of the web – “On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog” remains essentially true. I was painfully reminded of this after booking a hotel room online recently.

In e-business this translates to: there are plenty of bad deals on the web and potential customers know this. What are you doing about it?

The problem is not new, but the conventional solutions are more convention than solution. Let’s review some of the common ones.

  • Web authentication – does the site indeed represent the business or organization it claims as opposed to being a fraudulent front end. E.g. VeriSign, Thawte.

  • Certification bodies, e.g. BBBOnline

  • Review sites, e.g. Bizrate, igougo

  • Privacy guarantees - trustE

  • Network sponsor (Amazon marketplace, eBay)

  • Your own guarantee

Implicitly and often explicitly you’re just saying trust me. All of these have some merit, though for some customers they do not have much currency and fail to reassure. Indeed too many logos on the page can evoke the resistance they’re trying to overcome (as well as making you look like a NASCAR wanabee).

Trust is a key component of your brand. A trusted brand like LLBean had a ready transition to ebusiness. But what if your brand is little known? Realize that you are part of the product. Service, support, or whatever else is key to the value you add is clear, explicit, and up front. Not buried, hidden in small type and legalese, or missing. Yes, you will get some “buyers”, who will inappropriately and unreasonably demand a refund. Far more importantly, you will create some long term repeat purchase customers and build a your brand.

The iconic cartoon can be seen at