Creating a connected community

While I was driving home the other night in my Pontiac Vibe, I found myself practically crawling to a stop to let someone merge (almost to the detriment of the cars behind me Wink.gif). So why did I make such a drastic move to let the car in? The sole reason was because the other car was also a Pontiac Vibe.

At times we can treat total strangers as friends simply because they have a ring tone on their cell phone of our favorite band, or because they are perusing the same book as us at Barnes and Noble, or because they are wearing a t-shirt of our favorite sports team. Sometimes our beloved possessions bind us together as a tight knit community with other strangers with similar interests.

Are you harnessing this sense of belonging and community with your most loyal customers? If not, provide a forum (a blog, an in-person event, or website might work) to reap the benefits of a connected community. Here are just a few possible rewards of creating such a forum:

  1. The forum allows your loyal customers to talk and bask in the greatness that is your product. (Don’t forget to invite “investigators” to your forum so that they can mingle with your all ready “converted”.)
  2. It reinforces the reasons why your loyal customers came to you in the first place.
  3. It becomes a place for instant feedback. Use this forum to ask your best customers why they love you and what you can do to improve. It will also be a chance to find out why former customers left (also very valuable feedback).
  4. The forum allows your customers to find out how others are using your product or service. Lets face it; most of us learn by talking to others then reading the manual.

What are other benefits of creating a connected community?

Passions that become work

Most of us have a passion for something. Passions are something that we want to do so that we can have an escape from the other things that we have to do. But what happens when our passions become work?

Growing up I use to love to play basketball. I was not necessarily the first one chosen in a pick up game, but it was something that I enjoyed. Then, all of life’s little “have to dos” came at me fast – learning to balance a checkbook, change a baby’s diaper, learning the difference between a hub cap and a distributor cap (I know…I am ashamed to admit that I am auto-mechanically challenged). I found less and less time for my passion…basketball.

Well, I played basketball with my buddies the other day. Because it had been such a long time since I played, I had to really work at it. I longed to slump into my la-Z-boy and I found myself relieved when it was all over. How did my passion turn into dreaded work? The answer: I let too much time pass between each time I participated.

Why did you start that business / marry that girl / begin writing that book in the first place? I bet it was passion. Don’t let too much time pass before doing the things you love.

Are you t-shirt worthy?

DMV T-ShirtSeth Godin has a great little post about being T-shirt worthy. If your company does not pass the test of someone buying your company T-shirt and wearing it proudly, why not? Is it because:

  1. Your product sucks
  2. Your frontline employees are rude
  3. You are boring

Fix your weak spots and become T-shirt worthy.

Marketing is a lot like telling a good joke…with a couple of exceptions

I have always wanted to be a better joke teller. As I was searching on the Internet for some tips on how to tell a good joke, I got to thinking about how these delivery tips I read related to branding and marketing (I told you there were a couple of exceptions, so here goes the first. Exception One: Unlike telling a good joke, your branding message may not always be humorous, but it must be good!) Let’s break down the steps to telling a good joke (and communicating an effective brand message):

  1. Before you say a word, know your joke from memory. (Consumers can tell when you try to fumble your way through your brand message. Not knowing (or living) your message often leads to using “Twinkie phrases”.)
  2. Know your audience. Not all jokes are appropriate for all settings. (Know the communication style and ideals of your consumers. It’s okay that your brand message is not suited for all consumers. You are trying to make a connection to those consumers who have the same ideology as your brand message.)
  3. Don’t start off your joke by telling everyone how funny it is – you’ll make your audience defensive (The direct marketing message “Our widget is the coolest on the planet” is just plain lame! If your product or service is cool, your customers will already know it is by word of mouth.)
  4. Avoid indirect routes when telling your joke. Jokes work best when told using a simple, sequential storyline. (Your brand message must not stray from its core purpose. Your message must be easy enough to understand and spread to others.)
  5. Commit to your joke. Once you begin, follow through to the end. (Your company must commit to living your brand message from the inside out.)
  6. End your joke with a strong conclusion or punch line. (Exception Two: The strong conclusion is left up to the consumer to tell herself. You may own the brand message (or may not!), but the consumer owns the meaning of your brand for them).

Stop the crummy commercials

Watching the movie A Christmas Story during this Christmas season has reminded me how important having a meaningful dialogue with your customers can be.

You’ll remember in the 1983 movie Ralphie drinks gallons of Ovaltine and patiently awaits his Little Orphan Annie decoder pin so that he can unscramble the message only meant for Little Orphan Annie Secret Society members. After excitedly writing down the secret code from the radio program, Ralphie escapes to decode the message in the only place where a kid can get some privacy…the bathroom. Ralphie decodes the message: “BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE” after which he disappointedly exclaims:

Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a b****!

Marketers can learn a lot from Ralphie’s experience.

When you have your customer’s trust and approval for a two-way conversation, don’t revert back to more monologue!(self-serving, crummy commercials) Effective marketers know that having a meaningful dialogue with their customers is what builds a strong connection to their brand. True dialogue should create value for both the marketer and the customer. In order to do this, marketers need to do three things:

  1. Listen more than you speak
  2. Understand the customer’s point of view from a micro level (see point 1)
  3. Turn off the corporate conversation “firewall” to allow authentic and interesting conversation to reach the customer

Customers are begging to have meaningful conversations with brands they love and trust. Please, please, please…stop with the “crummy commercials”!

Life advice from Rocky Balboa

The new Rocky Balboa movie comes out today. When Sylvester Stallone was deciding whether or not to make another Rocky film, his wife and others begged him not to do the movie saying that he would only make a fool of himself. In response, he said:

I’d rather do something I love badly than to feel bad about not doing something I love

(I think it’s also a quote in the movie)

You said it Rocky!

Goodbye McRib


I have heard that this is the last few weeks for McDonald’s McRib sandwich (again). I’ll leave it up to you if that is a good thing or a sad thing.