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Friday, January 13, 2012

How To Make Your Business Recyclable Instead Of Green

Despite how it might seem, this is not another post about how you can create a more “green” business. Being green is a great business practice, and has the side benefit of helping your small business to make a positive difference in the world. When we think of recycling, it is no surprise that most people would immediately think of collecting newspapers and plastic bottles.

What if instead you considered recyclability as a principle that you could apply to many different aspects of your business? Here are just a few examples of how this could work:

  1. Integrate recyclability into your process – Think back to when you first learned to drive. Depending on when that was and where you grew up, a part of your experience might have been going to a driving school. Most driving schools have the same format – an instructor rides along with you in a car with a silly looking “student driver” sign on top of it. And where do you drive to? Usually from your house to the house of the next student and then back.  As a result, you get your driving lesson and the instructor gets to pick up his or her next student. That’s recyclability.
  2. Sell your products multiple times – The most common example of this is the traditional “day old bagels” bag at your local bakery which sells the remainder of yesterday’s product at a discount. A more pioneering example is recently launched a grape juice called First Blush, which is made from Chardonnay or Cabernet wine grapes that are picked early in their cycles when they are still sweet and before they are used for wines.
  3. Turn a special order into a “service.” Sometimes you have a client who pays for a special order which you can turn into a product to sell to other customers.  Restaurants are the best example of this, where often a customer may order a special cocktail – and the restaurant may try out putting it on the menu for some time to see if it works. The point is, sometimes going “off menu” can be the best way to generate new ideas for offerings that your business can sell which you aren’t selling today.
  4. Incentivize your customers to “resell” pieces of your business. Known in many marketing circles as the affiliate model of selling, this principle involves essentially incentivizing your customers to resell your business. Instead of just doing the obvious and offering a credit or discount if a customer refers your business … what if you take it one step further? Krispy Kreme is one brand that does this particularly well, by selling boxes with dozens of donuts at a discount to charity groups so they can take them and resell them as a fundraiser.  As a result, when you see kids raising money for their school or other groups, it is always Krispy Kreme that they are selling.

As each of these examples share, there are ways that you can make your business more recyclable just by paying more attention to the moments where you have an opportunity you could take advantage of.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

5 Reasons All The Hype About .anything Domain Names Is Like Y2K

IMB_RealityCheckAheadThe land grab is officially starting. For the first time since the popularization of the Internet, the big news today is that ICANN is opening up the ability for the creation of new suffixes that come after the dot, such as .com or .org. The open application process lets any organization apply to be the manager of a new top level domain (TLD) and applications are expected for everything from categories and industries like .ngo (for charities and nonprofits) or .city (for cities). In addition, of the over 2000 applications expected (despite the $185,000 application fee), more than 2/3rds will expected to be brands who are registering their own brand out of fear of cybersquatting.

This may not matter as much as many marketers and brands think it will. In fact, here are five big reasons why as of right now this is an overhyped development in technology:

1. History hasn't been kind to TLDs.

Wouldn't it be great if you were in the travel industry to be able to signify your site with a .travel domain name? Or for career sites to use .jobs?  Or museums to use .museum?  Well, all of those top level domains already exist. How often have you navigated to a site that uses any of them? New TLDs don't matter until people's behaviour starts to change for using them.

2. Any changes are years away.

The application process will be open for the next three months, and then will close. From that point, experts are predicting that it will be at least another year or two before ICANN is able to decide which of the TLDs are approved. The most obvious proof that this process will take years? There are a bunch of new consulting companies popping up as experts who can smell money to be made in the interim.

3. Categories will require a shakeout.

When tags started becoming popular to describe content online, it was seen as great news. Now you could describe content in a way that would index it automatically. The only problem is that people use different words. Some people call a retail place a shop and some call it a store. Will more people use .shop or .store?  How about .bazaar or .boutique? Until there is a single word, a TLD for a category really won't matter.

4. Google is still the kingmaker.

What most people are forgetting in all the hype is that a TLD really won't matter at all unless almight Google decides to list it in search results. So which TLDs get approved matter less than which ones Google chooses to index as part of their regular search results.

5. The web is now global.

In the early days of the web, .com (short for communications) was ok because the vast majority of sites were in English. Today the web is a different place. So TLDs that are in English may not see wide adoption globally. And different countries may use different TLDs. So the truly global TLDs like .com or .org may be few and far between ... and they may not be in English at all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How To Manage 1.4 Million People - 5 Questions with YUM! Brands CEO David Novak

IMB_DavidNovakNo one writes a business book about leadership to help hungry children. Leadership, we usually read, is about having a grand vision. It is about the touchdown pass. No one wants to hear about the months you spent in the summer working out in the weight room. In our quarterly culture, fast results are the only thing that matters, and we expect our CEOs to be larger than life. So when David Novak, the CEO of YUM! Brands -- which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell and employs over 1.4 million people worldwide -- first wrote a leadership book, I expected it to be about having a big vision.

IMB_TakingPeopleWithYouInstead, Novak's newly released book Taking People With You is a surprisingly practical step by step guide on how to be a daily leader instead of an annual visionary. This week I had the chance to speak with him about the book and about why he felt it was so important to share his message with the world. His surprising answer for the first motivation to write his book is that all the proceeds from the book go to the United Nations World Food Programme (a CSR partner of YUM! Brands), so it may hopefully help feed some children. His second reason was because he felt it was time to share lessons from a management training program and philosophy he had already been using for 15 years to train over 4000 restaurant managers with huge success within YUM! Brands.

Here were five questions I asked him and his responses:

Q: How important is social media and digital tools to the way that you communicate and take people with you?

A: Even if you are in a huge company, you have to do everything you can to make the company smaller. I do a blog on my travels in the first person. Tell people what I see in each of our markets. I personalize it. I think relationships and having people feel like you are engaged and care is absolutely critical. If you are an "ivory tower leader" and never get out of your office, then you aren't going to get work environment and culture you need.

Q: In the quick service restaurant industry, there is high turnover. How important is what you do to helping address that issue?

A: Great people leave for two reasons. Money is not one of the reasons. The first real reason why people leave is because they don't get along with their boss. Second reason is where people don't feel appreciated. It may be more true in the services business, but it is true in any business.

Q: How important is likeability to leadership and taking people with you?

A: It is hard to like somebody who doesn't like you. You have to be a person that people want to be around. I don't think people follow people they don't like. They don't buy brands they don't like. But doesn't mean you need to run a popularity contest. Your aim should be to get a point where people want to be around you.

Q: What is the biggest mistake that you see other leaders and CEOs of organizations making?

A: Leaders don't tend to be self aware. They don't know how what people really think of them. Leaders are often in a cocoon, seeing themselves in a way which may not be true.  Also, a lot of times leaders will assume that people will just do their job. People want to be part of something bigger. Just because someone works for you, doesn't mean they will just do what you want them to do. That's niave. The real trick to getting results is involvement.  You need to get your people involved.

Q: One day when you one day retire or leave YUM!, how will you want people to remember you?

A: I would like them to remember me as a leader who believes in them and cared enough to pass on the learnings that I was privileged enough to gain. That I was genuinely a leader.

Disclaimer: Ogilvy, my employer, does some marketing and communications work for YUM! Brands. This interview was not solicited or granted as part of our work for them or compensated in any way. Novak's publisher (Portfolio Penguin) came to me directly to review the book, and I accepted.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

I Like You, But Not That Way: How Retailers Lose & Win Back Customers

IMB_BordersClosing"3D Catalog" is a phrase you will see in a few articles about the retail industry these days. Unfortunately, it's not a cool new interactive augmented reality thing. This is a term that describes the fears of many real life retailers who are afraid of becoming a place where consumers just go to touch and feel products that they will eventually buy from Amazon or another discounted online store. There are plenty of reasons why this is an understandable fear.

Right now the most viewed and popular blog post on Forbes.com is titled "Why Best Buy Is Going Out Of Business, Gradually." In it, author Larry Downes argues that Best Buy is managing to deliver on none of the things like knowledgeable staff or better showrooms which could make them a destination worth visiting. Instead, he argues, it is a retailer of last resort or a place where you just go to see products that you will eventually buy elsewhere.

Borders Books went into bankruptcy over the past year, and one of the contributing factors was they had more browsers than buyers walking through their stores. This past Black Friday retail season, online sales were a higher overall percentage of consumer spending than ever before - and this has been the trend for the last several years.

The whole situation might remind you of a mismatched relationship, where one person just wants to be friends while the other wants more than that.  Those situations never end well. Best Buy wants to marry your wallet, but instead they are getting dumped after a one night stand. It is a sad story, with some fairly clear reasons for why it happens over and over:

  1. There is better interactive product information online - with all of the online product demos, 3D product shots and direct information from manufacturers - you can often get the best information about particular products and the ability to comparison shop online.
  2. Online reviews are highly influential - there is a reason that more than 80% of all consumers read online reviews before making purchase decisions. We trust in the opinions of others, even if we don't know them personally - and these online reviews are a huge factor in closing a sale, or losing a customer.
  3. Retailers can't match lower prices available online - the most logical and common argument is that you can just get any product for cheaper online because the online retailers have much lower overhead to cover because of not having a physical store.

So how can retailers survive this pressure and avoid becoming nothing more than a real life catalogs fueling the sales of their online rivals? It comes down to understanding the three areas where a real life presence still matters, and trying to sit at the intersection of all three. When I think about the real life stores that I have gone to in order to buy a product that I could have purchased online, it was for one of three reasons:

  1. IMB_3WaysForRetailersToWinEase - the store was close to me, or the product was large (like a snow blower) and therefore the online channel was too risky or inconvenient and I went to my local store instead.
  2. Relationship - I had a personal relationship with a person at my local store and therefore had built up trust in them and the experience that they offered me.  As a result, I continued to go there despite having other options to purchase online.
  3. Expertise - In some cases, you just need to speak to someone who knows what they are talking about. Earlier this year when I went to buy a new tent and sleeping bag for a camping trip with my son, I went into the local store to speak to someone who knew our area and could provide useful advice on what to get.

Until retailers are able to find the right way to focus on combining these three together into an experience worth having and sharing, they will continue to lose out to the speedier and always available retailers online.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

2012 Edition: 15 Marketing and Business Trends That Matter

Let me tell you a little secret.  I look forward to putting together an annual trend report the same way that some people look forward to having Turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. I realize that may sound a bit strange, but ever since I did my first trend recap last year I was hooked.  This year, the process of collecting the trends took all year.  I have a folder on my desk labelled "Trends 2012" and throughout the year I would rip out articles from magazines or printout webpages to save. Last November I started actually writing my trend presentation and finally released it on Slideshare yesterday. 

 
A few things surprised me about the trends this year. Here are a few of the most unexpected things:
  1. Only 2 out of 15 trends are based on innovative technology (Trends #10 and #13). Given the prominence of technology in our lives and more and more digital tools, I expected that more of the trends for 2012 would be based entirely on technology innovation. That ended up not being the case as most of the trends focused more on either behaviours or the use of sites and technology that already exist and don't really require much innovation in order to keep growing.
  2. Creativity and design are more important than ever. While it would have been too obvious to point this out as a trend on its own, many of the trends that were included in the presentation were highly dependent on encouraging more creativity and delivering great design. Measuring Life, for example, has taken off in part thanks to great product and interface designs. Pointillist Filmmaking or Social Artivism are clearly based on creativity and design. Even Retail Theater, Tagging Reality and Charitable Engagement are all trends that require creative thinking and  strong ability to use design to engage people.
  3. People actively seek opportunities to participate, collaborate or experience something. Doing something together came up as a big motivator for many of the trends this year, as Social Loneliness led people to look for more opportunities to have great experiences or be part of something worthwhile. Pointillist Filmmaking, Civic Engagement 2.0 and Retail Theater are all examples where people are seeking the chance to participate in something. Charitable Engagement ChangeSourcing and Co-Curation are other trends where people offer their time and passions to collaborate together on something.

Let me know what you think about these trends with a comment here or on Facebook, or feel free to send me an email at influentialmarketing@gmail.com.  Next week I'll be starting my trend folder to gather stories for 2013 ...

If you would like to get a downloadable version of this presentation, you can find it on my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/rohitmarketingauthor.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Why Caves Are Better Than Holes: A Personal Story To Start 2012

IStock_000018731881XSmallBefore I ever wrote my first book, I had always heard a few things about the process of writing.  The most common was that the experience is kind of like digging yourself into a hole. You "hide" in there while you are writing and finally at the end of the process, you emerge. You deliver the book and start talking about it to try and get people to buy and read it.

For long time readers of my blog, you've probably noticed some drop off in how often I have been writing posts over the past few months. Knowing that I have been working on Likeonomics, most of you probably assumed that I was in "the hole" trying to finish the book. It is nearly done - but I've been thinking that this analogy doesn't seem quite right for me.

Instead, it feels like I've been in a cave.

A hole is something you dig yourself into and then find it tough to get out.  A hole is lonely.  A cave, in contrast, is a place to explore.  People go in there together.  They find things they didn't expect.  They emerge somehow better than when they went in.

FB_15Trends_2012For my part, the cave has helped me to focus on writing the book.  It has also let me spend a lot of time thinking about what is in store for marketing and business in 2012. To that end, I have just shared an exclusive download of my 2012 Trends report on my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/rohitmarketingauthor. Later this afternoon the presentation will go live on Slideshare. 

It's just one of the interesting pieces of content and thinking that I will be working on to share this year as I reemerge from the cave to start blogging more often and rejoining the online community above ground. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the trend report and happy new year!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Captive Audience

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We spend a lot of time in marketing thinking about how we might engage our customers to pay attention to what we have to share. In the best cases, we are not just interrupting them, but instead offering a message and content that solves a real problem. Nearly every time you might imagine this situation, though, your consumers are probably in the midst of living their daily lives. How might you change your strategy if your consumers were stuck in the same place and completely captive?

Last week as I sat on a United flight about to take off, I started thinking about the idea of a captive audience. You don't get much more captive (in every sense of the word), than when you are sitting in your seat waiting for a flight to take off. Standing in line for a necessary evil like mailing a package is another situation where a similar thought comes to mind. Yet if you paid attention to your daily movements, chances are you would find many other situations where you are a similarly captive audience - from checking your email to waiting in morning rush hour traffic. 

These captive audience moments are usually seen as a bad thing. We are conditioned to dread them. But what if you could transform that moment? The usual video from the CEO of United on every flight, for example, shares the same faceless greeting and message of thanks for choosing to fly.  What if they changed it every month, or every week or even every day? Frequent travelers (those presumably most important to United) would be welcomed with a revolving message, like a changing headline at the top of the NY Times each morning.

A similar principle drove some Ogilvy colleagues to work with Coca-Cola to create “Rush Hour Cinema” in Bogota, Colombia – where they invited drivers stuck in rush hour to watch a short film on a big screen while handing out popcorn and cokes to drivers:

The bottom line is that we may be creatures of habit, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't welcome something to liven up that habitual behaviour.  If you can find a way to do that, you might transform a captive experience into one where you can build a deeper connection with your business.

Friday, December 09, 2011

4 Easy Ways To Lose Money Partnering With Groupon

IStock_000011826621XSmallGroupon has quickly become a lighting rod of debate among many small business owners. On the two sides of the issue about whether the service is good or bad for small business – the disagreement usually comes over the philosophy of deep discounting. Are you killing your profit margin in exchange for a short burst of fickle customers who will never come back to your business unless they get a similar discount? Or are you using a smart discounting method to bring new customers in the door, who you might convert into loyal customers paying at close to full price?

The answer, it turns out, relates as much on how you choose to use Groupon as anything else. A few weeks ago at the Corporate Social Media summit, some presenters from popular website analytics firm WebTrends shared some survey results that raised the possibility that the biggest success factor might be what products or services you choose to discount. This led me to the topic for this post – which spotlights some common strategies that lead to failure on Groupon – and how you might avoid them:

  1. Groupon Money Losing Strategy #1: Discount your core product/service. There are likely products and services from your business which many of your current consumers depend on coming into get. Discounting them simply offers your existing customer the same thng at a lower price … a sure recipe to fail. Instead, find products and services that have a higher margin where you can afford to lose some money initially, but will make it back if a customer gets hooked on that product. 
  2. Groupon Money Losing Strategy #2: Sell a longer term product or service. If yours is the kind of business or service that the average consumer might do only a couple of times a year (such as hair coloring) – that may not be the ideal thing to offer a deep discount on because you will have effectively lost your one chance to interact with that consumer for months.
  3. Groupon Money Losing Strategy #3: Offer a forgettable discount. While the simplest thing to do may be to offer a coupon where a consumer spends $10 to get $20 of spending power with your business … the reality of a promotion like this is that it is completely forgettable.  Instead, if you can tie a promotion to a part of your business – such as offering 3 rounds of Golf for $81 as a course recently did in my area – it can be much more memorable for consumers who choose to take advantage of it.
  4. Groupon Money Losing Strategy #4: Focus offer on the item and not your brand.  When writing up the offer that you will present for consumers, a common mistake is to only focus on describing your offer without doing a good job of selling your brand along with it. This misses a golden opportunity for building brand recognition among local consumers (presumably a major goal of why you would do the Groupon in the first place).  Instead, make sure you try to use a real photo instead of a stock image, include links to positive online reviews, include links in the body of the description of your business and generally do a better job of talking about why your business would be a great one for the consumer to choose not only for this promotion, but in the future as well.

Friday, December 02, 2011

3 Ways To Inspire Your Employees With Social Media

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As the full swing of the summer is starting up, if you are in any sort of retail business – chances are you have had to hire or release some of your employees to manage the seasonal flow of business. In other industries, keeping your employees motivated through the summer vacation and daydreaming season will likely become a new priority (if it hasn’t already). 

While the summer might bring these thoughts to the forefront of a small business owner’s mind, the real question of how to continually inspire your employees to show up for work happy and committed to the job you are asking them to do is one that you should be asking yourself every day.  Though there is plenty of conversation on using social media as a sales tool to help you bring in new customers – how effectively are you using it to inspire the employees that you already have?

Here are a few ideas for how you might effectively use social media to inspire your employees on a more consistent basis – to get the best effort, thinking and performance from them, even during the season of distraction :

  1. Share inspiring content. Whether you find a great article or a powerful video online, creating a culture of sharing content which inspires you can help to do the same for your employees. Whether you use the tried and true method of email to share a link to a great piece of content, or you take the more “social” approach of creating some sort of destination (such as a private group on Facebook) where employees can watch or read inspiring content – both can be great ways of bringing more inspiration into the workplace.
  2. Use co-creation to seek new ideas. Sometimes the biggest barrier to sparking innovation is routine. When employees are challenged to think beyond their roles and share new ideas in some way, it can get new creative thinking to happen and inspire them to think bigger.  So take a lesson from some consumer brands and sponsor your own employee video contest or blogging challenge and see what ideas and voices you get to participate. The upside is that some of these same people may make great voices for your business in social media when you do launch any marketing or external initiatives.
  3. Incentivize employees to attend relevant events. Social media doesn’t have to remain virtual and online. There are plenty of organizations and meetup-style events which are often primarily promoted through social media in your region.  Encouraging and even incentivizing employees to find them and go can be a great way to have them learn something and make great connections in the process.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Best & Worst Marketing From BlackFriday + CyberMonday

The fact that most retailers use the term "doorbuster" to describe their best deals from this weekend should tell you everything you need to know about the frenzied few days of retail activity that traditionally follows Thanksgiving day in America. Despite futile protests from lots of unfortunate retail workers who had to give up parts of their holiday, stores opened earlier on Thursday night for "Black Friday" and tried hard to capitalize on the extended hours to sell more stuff at deeply discounted prices.

Today the weekend is extended into the invented "Cyber Monday" where shoppers retreat into their homes or offices for another day of deal seeking. Amidst the excitement, some brands found great ways to stand out while others focused on the meaningless or insulting to try and capture attention. Here are just a few that stood out to me as a consumer and marketer watching the frenzy unfold:

BEST - Best Buy And The $199 TV

IMB_CyberMonday3_BestBuyIn terms of pre-buzz, Best Buy had the lion's share thanks to their hottest deal - a Sharp 42 inch HDTV for only $199. People waited all night to pick up one, and before you immediately criticize them - think of it in financial terms. If you have to wait for 12 hours to buy a TV that you can save about $600 on, you're effectively getting "paid" $50 an hour. It's strange reasoning, but certainly enough to keep someone in line to get a high value item - and enough to get lots of attention for Best Buy.

BEST - Virgin America and GiltCity.com Let You Name A Plane

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It is wonderfully ironic that one of the best and most talked about deals of CyberMonday was for an offer that almost no one would ever actually buy. Virgin America partnered with Gilt City to offer up a plane for a charter flight for "you and 146 of your closest friends" for the small fee of $60,000. As a side benefit, you would get to name the flight as well. Seems like the perfect ready made publicity stunt for a small or medium sized business that could afford the fee to go after.

BEST - Dyson Special Deals

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If you own a Dyson (which I do), you are usually part of a cult of believers ready to talk about the superiority of Dyson vacuums to anyone who will listen. You probably also know that they rarely come on sale, so when Dyson launched their special Cyber Monday deals, everything about it seems limited. There is an hourly countdown on their landing page. All of it is geared towards offering a sense of urgency. The promotional message and strategy is clear and simple: buy that new Dyson you have had your eye on TODAY (and in the next eleven hours) or you'll miss your shot.

WORST - Kohl's Rebecca

It may not be the greatest marketing strategy to remake a song that most people already thought was super annoying into a TV spot ... but it wasn't the song that made this spot stand out as much as the attitude it promotes. The lead actor does a great job portraying the kind of person you would hate to be in the same room with - she pushes an old lady out of the way to get into the store, grabs merchandise out of a fellow shopper's cart and seems only concerned about herself. You only hope their consumers were actually more well behaved on Black Friday night.

WORST - Motorola Droid Razr

Running almost nonstop during NFL games for the past several weeks, Motorola has created a brilliantly meaningless campaign for the new Droid Razr. Promising that "thin is no longer frail" and sharing that this phone is "too powerful to fall into the wrong hands" - the entire ad focuses on what some research must have shown would be the only things people care about in phones: that they are thin and light. While other phones promote the interface or what you can do with it, the Droid Razr is super thin and powerful in some indescribable way. I'm sure it would be great if you are in a Tron-style boomerang battle with a bad guy, but slightly confusing as a killer feature for a phone. I only hope Lex Luthor doesn't get his hands on this phone. I'm pretty sure those would be the "wrong hands."

WORST - Crazy Target Lady

The underlying message from the series of spots showing an overly excited crazy lady "training" for Black Friday at Target as if it were a marathon seems clear: you have to be sad, lonely and slightly crazy to be super excited about Black Friday. I have never been a fan of this sort of talking down to your customer or turning them into a parody. There are plenty of people who did stay up late and go into Target at midnight because they wanted to get some great deals and love the store. Does Target really need to make fun of them or turn them into crazy caricatures in a national TV spot? People usually have a hard time appreciating humor when it comes at their expense.

Clearly the list for best and worst could go on and on. What other retailers created memorable campaigns for better or worse? Let me know in a comment or tweet about them with the hashtag #cybermondaymarketing or #blackfridaymarketing.