2 reasons why people are talking about you

Word of mouth has been around since Eve talked up the virtues of the fruit to Adam. And since this time, people have been sharing stories for two main reasons:

Show how much they know – They want to be the “go to guy” (or gal), they want to look smart, or to grow their status. (Me + You = Me2)

Share because they care – They seek out connections, enjoy helping others who lack, they yearn to be a part of something bigger than themselves, or they may simply want to make someone else’s life better/easier (Me + You = We)

The idea is to find out why people are talking about you and give them more fuel to add to their fire. Here are some examples of fuel:

  1. If your customers like to “show how much they know”, host a community group online where advanced customers can help other beginning customers (like Intuit’s QuickBooks Community). Reward those customers who go out of their way to share their knowledge with others with points or a badge of honor (or something else that allows them to keep score).
  2. If your customers “share because they care”, give them a place to hang out with others just like them (like Fisker’s Fisk-A-Teers. Or support local chapters where members can get together and share (like Harley Owner’s Group – HOG).

Either way, it’s time to get consumers talking to other consumers (or more likely – to join the conversations that are already taking place).

Happy Wednesday!

One essential ingredient for true word of mouth

Many times when I talk to people about my love for marketing they say, “Oh, advertising is important” or “I wish I was good at sales.”

Advertising and sales are only part of marketing (and if you wait for these post launch activities, you’ve failed).

The best way to get true word of mouth is to infuse value into your product – before the launch. In other words, bake the marketing goodness right inside your product and not wait to slather on ads or sales pitches after-the-fact.

How do you bake the marketing right inside your product? There are many ways, but don’t forget one often overlooked, but essential ingredient: product usability.

Make the product simple to understand, use and spread. Take a look at this example:

The left is a Tivo remote and the right is a Pioneer remote [Note to engineers – buttons don’t have to be the same size, color or shape. Give unequal weight to what is used most often as well as how it is used].

Now, your product may not have buttons but it most likely will have some points of friction that should be removed or greatly de-emphasized. Complexity corrodes the user experience (and certainly word of mouth).

The problem is that feature creep is too easy. It takes careful planning and foresight to make something simple (and I’m not talking about dumbing it down either). You may have to spend just as much time (or more) deleting the “good, but non-essential” as you spend on developing the concept in the first place.

I leave you with the words of Blaise Pascal, a 17th century philosopher: “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

Take the time.

Seinfeld on Marketing: Being Jay Leno’s chin

Dream CafeIn this episode of Seinfeld on Marketing, Jerry and Elaine are discussing why no one is visiting the newly opened “Dream Café” across from Jerry’s apartment:

JERRY: He’s serving Mexican, Italian, Chinese. He’s all over the place. That’s why no one is going in.

ELAINE: Why do you keep watching?

JERRY: I don’t know. I’m obsessed with it. It’s like a spider in the toilet struggling for survival. And even if you know it’s not going to make it, you kind of root for it for a while.

ELAINE: And then you flush.

JERRY: Well, it’s a spider.

Later on in this episode Babu Bhatt (the restaurant owner) calls Jerry a “very bad man.” In reality, it is Babu who is a very bad marketer. Switching from Mexican to Italian to Chinese will only confuse would be loyal diners.

Instead, think of the role of marketing as making it very easy for your customers to describe your company to a sketch artist. If they cannot easily describe what you do, you can kiss Word of Mouth and any remarkableness goodbye. Imagine this scene where someone is have to describe your business:

“They sell stuff that isn’t expensive but it isn’t cheap either. They run ads saying they ‘care about my business’, but their employees act as if I am bothering them if I ask a simple question. Their building is mostly clean and their products are dutifully displayed, but nothing really ever catches me eye.”

If the above describes your company, you’ll never get caught and accused of being remarkable. What you need is something that stands out.

Dr. Richard Kimble caught his wife’s killer because he was looking for the one-armed man. Dizzy Gillespie’s cheeks made him instantly recognizable. And Jay Leno’s chin has done well for himself. All of these characteristics are simple to explain and very unique.

When it comes to marketing, be Jay Leno’s chin and stick stand out.

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.

Shots, one-track minds and why I’m in trouble

We’ll, it happened this weekend. I didn’t want it to happen this soon, but it did so now I’m in trouble. My three-year-old son overheard some of us talking about our impending trip to Disneyland and now this is all he can talk about – “When are we going to ‘Dizy-land’?” (He can’t quite say “Disneyland” yet). “Can we go to ‘Dizy-land’ in 20 minutes?” (And he hasn’t quite mastered the concept of “time” yet either).

And so for the next few weeks, his little world will revolve around – and by transference of parenthood, our world will revolve around – “Dizy-land.”

But a three-year-old doesn’t mind staying on one topic for weeks. Case in point…DVDs. A child can watch a DVD over and over for weeks and sometimes months on end and not get bored of it. If it’s something that the child loves, they seem to be able channel the powers of a relentlessly undeviating one-track mindset that plagues many of us adults as we merely try to keep from mentally choking on our untamed undergrowth of thoughts.

If only there was a way to bottle the unbridled enthusiasm (to quote Seinfeld) of a three-year-old for something they love. If we could bottle this and inject it into our customers to inoculate them against the disease of abundant distractions, what would be in the antidote? Here’s my list:

  1. Filters – With a plethora of choice and limited time, customers need something that only lets in the pertinent and tosses aside the unwanted. This could be word of mouth, recommendations related to a customers previous purchases or even well thought out search on your website.
  2. Omnipresent – Be everywhere that your customers expect (in a good way, not a creepy stalker sort of way).
  3. Connections – Make what you have “connect” with your customers. Relevant and timely content and products go a along way.
  4. Us – It’s not a monologue, it’s a conversation. It’s their problem and your solution. You won’t look weird on the dance floor of business if you and your customers are bustin’ a move together in perfect time.
  5. Surprises – At times, under promise and over deliver. At other times, just delight them with something remarkable or profound yet not promised or expected.

This is what I call the “FOCUS shot” – it’s the best way I know of creating the most fertile ground of a one-track mind with you planted in it. Now, if only there was an antidote for three year olds! (The UN-focused shot?)

Happy Monday!

Seinfeld on Marketing: The opposite

Good Friday to ya’ll. Things have been a little busy as of late, so I going green and recycling a post from last year. But don’t worry; it’s very timely. In this episode of Seinfeld on Marketing, George is lamenting to Jerry about how his life has turned out thus far:

GEORGE: Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but … I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong.

JERRY: If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

Doing the opposite really worked for George. He met a woman and got a job with the New York Yankees. If George can benefit from doing the opposite, I’m fairly certain that you can too. Let’s take a common scene you may encounter this weekend.

Springtime in the US– A time for baseball, time spent outdoors and of course Easter egg hunts. We can learn a lot about business by watching children during an Easter egg hunt.
Remember as a kid when participated in Easter egg hunts? You heard the magical word “go!” and your heart raced as you headed for the middle of the lawn where the eggs were easily seen.

However, since most of the other kids also gravitated toward the middle of the lawn, you were often met with sharp elbows, pushing and shoving and other scenes that were better left for WrestleMania. If you were a bigger kid or a bully (heaven forbid!) you did quite well in the middle. However, most kids that headed for the middle of the lawn came away with little or nothing at all because the competition in the middle was fierce.

Contrast this to the children who went for the boundaries of the lawn. They often found little or no competition. They were left to themselves to grab the hidden gems in the cool grass at the edges of the lawn.

Your market is like a large Easter egg hunt -most companies fight for the middle of the market, the mass market. The middle looks very tempting because of its size. However, there is nothing exciting about the middle. The middle of your market often only contains homogeneous, morphed products or services that try (unsuccessfully) to be all things to all people. Instead, look to the boundaries (or the extremes) of your market – become über-luxury (Starbucks), über-inexpensive (Wal-Mart), über-fast (FedEx), über-customer friendly (Nordstrom), über-small (the Mini), über-big (the Hummer) or über-different (Apple).

Whatever you do, just get to the boundaries first and become the best in that category. The boundaries are where the profund products and services can be found getting most of the word of mouth on the playground.

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.

Happy Friday!

2 reasons why people recommend stuff

I put together this grid to help me to see two common but opposing reasons why people go out of their way to recommend stuff to other people:


In your business you will more then likely encounter both types of recommendations so the distinctions are important. In reality, most recommendations are a combination of the two but usually lean to one side. What do you see that needs to be added (or removed)?

In favor of being found, part 2

[This is a continuation of a previous post.]

Many companies that set off down the road of being “found” already have a rearview mirror full of attempts of trying to be incrementally better then what is already offered. You offer a non-stop flight from New York to Dallas so I offer a non-stop flight from New York to Dallas and a bag of peanuts (Woot! I win). You offer a flight from Colorado to Oregon for $129 so I offer the same flight for $119. Back and forth we go until someone like Southwest Airlines comes along and disrupts our “dance.”

Over time, most companies eventually realize that incremental changes or simply varying the shade of grey of what is now offered will only succeed in adding more noise to an already crowded marketplace. With this realization comes the awareness that they need to do something different to be seen.

stunt.pngOne way is to use eye-catching and surprising “marketing” stunts. When these stunts are used, it’s usually not the company that is remembered but the shocking stunt or the funny one liner that is remembered. Think Super Bowl ads. How many times have you heard in the last few weeks about a funny or surprising Super Bowl ad but the person telling you about it cannot remember the company behind the ad? I know that I am getting sick of this. (Side note: I couldn’t even remember the company that paid the lady in the photo to the right $10,000 to tattoo her forehead with their company logo, but luckily I remembered the stunt so I eventually found the photo).

The only to true way to be found is to realize that it’s very difficult to get a speeding ticket on the road to success. More often than not, being found means a slower approach that first involves developing a product or service worthy of being found and customers who are ready, willing and able to talk to others about you.

So when I state, “if you are in favor (or pro) being found, then be profound”, I’m not talking about the one time explosion (or stunt) to turn a few heads. What I am talking about is having a sustained relationship with your customers coupled with a sense of purpose that will turn hearts.

Happy Wednesday!

“Dying” to be the market leader

In some markets there is no clear-cut leader. Instead of having a market book-ended by black and white opposite approaches, the entire market is made up of the many shades of grey. This can happen when a market is still relatively young, or a market is particularly volatile or due to a lack of distribution. In these markets, how do you compete with the other shades of grey and eventually move on towards market leadership?

Let’s hop on over and take a look at the pet sitting market in my neck of the woods. In my hometown, I cannot see any leader gobbling up a majority of this market. Enter my brother and sister-in-law with their new pet sitting service, Companion Caregivers. Their pet sitting service provides at a reasonable price the love and care for pets in your own home (the pets natural environment) while you are away– but so does many of the other shades of grey in this market. But what may well move them to the top of the market is a unique service that acts as an instant “dye” to the color of their business.

While you are away from your pet and hopefully reading a good book while on some tropical beach, the nagging thought of “Is my beloved pet being treated o.k. while I am away?” may creep into your mind. Companion Caregivers has nearly reduced this fear down to zero. While you are away, they videotape your pet having a great time (like your cat chasing some string or your dog playing fetch). Then while you are still kayaking in Kenya, they e-mail you this video.

This approach is brilliant for three reasons: As I mentioned it helps to reduce the fear of how your pet is doing while you are away. It also reminds the customer of their loving service each time they watch it. Lastly (and maybe most importantly), the video acts as a natural conversation starter. We all know that pet lovers love to share anything and everything about their pets. These videos are e-mailed or sent to their video phone and shared with friends, co-workers and strangers on the bus (I mean, it really doesn’t take much for a pet lover to want to share with the world “the cutest thing that Daisy did today”). In the conversation, Companion Caregivers will naturally be brought up and word of mouth has been given a forum.

In a market full of shades of grey, go for the dye that will propel you from a shade of grey to the end of the market spectrum (market leadership). At times it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be of value to the market. Dye. Rinse. Repeat. – it can be that easy. What can you do to “dye” your company to the top?

Change is part of the experience

GrandOpeningFor Grand Opening, change is part of the experience. As a living, breathing space, GrandOpening, morphs into a variety of small, physical spaces every few months or so.

About six months ago it was a single ping-pong table that allowed the locals to engage in a unique and entertaining table tennis experience.

Currently, it is a drive-in movie experience with a car that will seat you and 5 of your closest friends. From the looks of it, it is already booked solid.

Typically when we define the loyalty and word of mouth we throw out the word “consistency”. You must provide consistent, positive experiences in order for customer’s to want to keep coming back and to tell other people. However, GrandOpening is a great reminder that the boundary of consistency is not limited to a consistent physical space or even consistent products or services. The only limit of consistency is the overall experience you provide.

Grand Opening’s website says it all:

GrandOpening is a store.
GrandOpening isn’t afraid to change its face.
GrandOpening will have many “Grand Openings”.
GrandOpening will engage and entertain the community.
GrandOpening could be yours for a month, or two, or three.
GrandOpening might be different the next time you come by.

[Source: Boing Boing]

Seinfeld on Marketing ebook

This week’s “Seinfeld on Marketing” is a little special. A couple of weeks ago, Ron Shevlin suggested that I compile my weekly Seinfeld on Marketing riffs into a free ebook. (Thanks Ron!)

Please download Seinfeld on Marketing: 7 Marketing lessons from the cast of “the show about nothing” (PDF format) and feel free to pass it along to everyone.

You don’t even have to be a lover of Seinfeld to understand and apply the marketing concepts. So if you are a newbie, I’ll hold your hand and walk you through them. If you wear your “puffy shirt” on casual Friday’s, I’m sure you’ll be just fine.

Happy Friday!

Seinfeld on Marketing ebook