By APNWLNS payday loans
May 29, 2012
27,000 people can fill a modest football stadium, which may be where HP holds their next early retirement party.
In another spasm of realignment, Hewlett Packard announced that they were cutting nearly thirty thousand jobs and reinvesting in R&D. This lurched follows the amazingly abbreviated tenure of their last CEO who pledged to make HP a software company, which isn’t remotely a core HP competency (OpenView has been their single shining exception). This follows the scandal-terminated run of their previous CEO, and the “It’s all about me” administration of the one before that.
It is good that Bill and Dave are dead, for the sight of what their company has become would kill them.
Having cut my technical eye teeth on HP gear mumble-mumble-mumble years ago, watching them flop about like a landed flounder is depressing. The HP brand was built primarily on solid engineering, high quality products and a corporate culture with a solid foundation. In the past decade HP has gone from innovator to commodity player, trusted provider to a nearly also-ran status, and aside from ink cartridge price gouging, have not innovated core products to any great degree. Even their purchase of Palm for an exorbitant price couldn’t earn them innovation points and was dumped faster than a psychotic coffee date.
There are just a few ways of making money and many ways to make less of it. HP used to be an engineering company that created sophisticated devices (many lost with the Agilent spin-off) and earned premium prices because of it (which sound like Apple in the new millennia). You can also make acceptable money in commodity markets (laptops and home printers) by being operationally efficient instead of innovative, which was once rationale for the HP merger with Compaq. Doing both at once, serving consumer and business markets is tough to do through central command and control, which was HP’s management shift about the time Compaq was bolted on.
One truth to life is that a brain can focus only on a limited number of things. A corporate brain is no different. HP engineered a major organizational flaw by diversifying while centralizing management. Had they maintained their original decentralized model, they would be swimming like a shark and not sinking like whale waste.
The marketing angle to HP’s saga revolves around managing a brand when your executives damage it. Among old HP hands who remember the Bill and Dave years, the HP brand has lapsed into disrepair. When consumers are asked about HP they may well view HP as a PC vendor with acceptable (not exceptional) products and voice resentment over $50 ink cartridges. IT buyers cannot keep HP as a primary vendor when their repeated errors (Itanium) cause entire product lines to suffer or disappear (HP3000s). All faith is lost when their services groups create all-day run-arounds to answer simple questions, as they did to me when I needed to extended a laptop on-site service contract (can’t be done — that service is no longer available).
But the main problem is that without a central value, and without decentralized management, HP cannot hope to create and promote a brand that inspires confidence. Odds are the new management won’t reverse the branding slide, and HP may hobble off some more playing fields as they squander cash on poor-fit acquisitions and lay-off the people who tried to make it work.
May 22, 2012
My dentist does social marketing.
This should surprise nobody because social marketing has existed since the first two cavemen competed by selling left-over mastodon meat (“My mastodon steaks come with 30% fewer fatal microbes!”). Businesses have always used the power of social networking, long before social media became a reality. Social media changes nothing and thinking about primitive social marketing helps to clarify your social outreach.
Social marketing is, in essence, assuring that people talk about you in positive terms. As an example, when you move to a new city, odds are you ask everyone about their recommendation for a good dentist. Some will warn you about bad jaw crackers, and others will wax poetic about how gentle and through is their dental doc. This is social promotions in its most basic form. The product (dental services) is referenced by customers based on the positioning criteria they most vale (money, painlessness, how cute the hygienist is). The product is the promotion.
Above all else, this one element is critical. If your product is not important or its basic requirements are not of sufficient quality, then no social promotions follow. The chairs in my dentist’s office overlook a pleasant, sunny harbor littered with sailboats. None of that would matter if he had ham hock hands, was skimpy on the Novocain and had a hygienist who looked like a haddock.
Social promotions, on- or off-line, have two forms — passive and active. Passive social promotions are based on creating good or great products, then hoping that customers talk about you. This works upon occasion, typically on a local geographical basis. But when your customers are not neighbors and they all share Internet conversations, active social promotions are elemental. Active social promotion requires giving people both a reason and concepts to communicate. My dentist offers cash rewards for new patients, which provides many people with extra incentive to recommend him. What he does not do is frame this incentive with the brand and baseline messaging he wants new patients to hear. This leaves his customers to decide what to say about the size of his fingers, the cleanliness of his hypodermic needles, and that his hygienist’s implants double as a head rest. Active social promotions would eliminate unsupervised thinking on the part of his customers.
The reason social media is now the rage among marketers is that is offers them the opportunity to orchestrate active social promotions, guiding if not actually regulating conversations and tying outreach to their branding. Whereas my dentist trusts his customers to socially promote his services, he has near zero insight into if they are promoting him, how they are doing it and if they are saying the right things about him.
For social promotions, especially online, you need to commit as if it were any other marketing program. This means you need to invest, guide and monitor the process.
Investment: If you think social promotions are free, find another job … quickly. Social promotions require investment, and a rather constant one at that. It mainly takes manpower, which is expensive. Some companies launch social media promotions by relying on their executives to blog or participate in online forums, but execs are the most expensive people in your company and not cost effective. Budget for social and think long about distracting key employees from their primary jobs.
Guidance: Left to themselves, people inside and outside your company will invent things to say about your product. Sometimes their compositions are factual and position products well. More often they are empty, repetitive or even destructive. Any social promotion must start with training about what to say, who to say it to, and when to pass the ball to your PR team.
Monitoring and correction: Since the goal of social promotions is to get customers to talk about your products in a positive light, you need to monitor what is being said about you. If you see few conversations, or if those conversations violate your brand guidelines, then you must correct the defect. No use investing for negative traction.
Foremost though is to focus on the product first, then guide advocacy. If the product isn’t right, no amount of social promotion will work and might even create public backlash. Make sure your customer’s teeth are white and they get a lollipop on the way out.
May 15, 2012
My dictionary defines fiat as “an arbitrary decree,” which makes redundant a recent Fiat motorcar advertising campaign.
A stylish bimbette and a bubble car landed in my lap this morning, all combined in a ten panel fold-out mailer from Fiat that pimped their 500 series micro machine, which looks like the bastard child of a Mini Cooper and a Volkswagen Beetle. Therein Fiat attempts to differentiate this vehicle by linking various models of their rolling soap bubble with various luxury brand names (Note to Fiat: It isn’t a luxury vehicle if you drive with your knees in your chin). The Gucci edition was shown with the slinky blonde draped across the hood, her impossibly long legs escaping from abbreviated shorts and her top strategically unzipped.
Ironically the photo caption read “European model shown” which could have applied to the vehicle or the vamp.
I have no idea from what rented mailing list Fiat acquired my name and address. I suspect they cross referenced my San Francisco location (where small car parking advantages and higher incomes collide) but that did not inform Fiat about the Toyota Tundra TRD and Jeep in my driveway (though come to think of it I could park the Fiat under my truck). This was Fiat’s first and most innocent mistake — inaccurate targeting. Yet this Fiat faux pas faded in comparison to their basic branding blunders.
A fundamental rule of marketing is to never confuse your audience with mixed metaphors. Small cars for urbanites are produced for a variety of reasons, none of which include projecting sexiness and sophistication. Hot Italian models lounging on tepid Italian subcompacts is an attempt to stretch the Fiat 500′s brand further than politicians stretch the truth. It is an attempt to make a specific audience feel something about Fiat that the car’s design does not deliver. This basic branding error — to force people to feel something that in their gut they know isn’t real — defies the customer, which in turn defies sales.
Brand and reality must at least be neighbors.
Curious about how ghastly the Fiat campaign might be, I dropped by fiat.com, which exposed a second instance of Fiat marketing mayhem. Eliminating friction — unnecessary barriers to customers discovering/experiencing you — is an essential marketing function. Let us pray that Fiat’s automotive engineering is better than their web engineering, for their web site creates more friction than a Klansman at an NAACP convention. In order, Fiat web friction included:
No country homing: Instead of looking-up my IP address and automatically switching me to the U.S. site, Fiat forced me to choose it manually.
Oddball interfaces: Instead of the nearly instant pick list found on most web sites, Fiat forces people to slowly scroll through a list of countries. Since “United States of America” was on the bottom of Fiat’s list, this took some time and evaporated my patience.
Content free and hard to find: Being a bit too clever, Fiat decided to call their dealerships “studios”, which delayed finding the dealership link. Once located, it provided me with the name of their local “studio” and nothing more … no street address, phone number, hours of operation or even a vague scent for bloodhounds to follow.
All in all Fiat flaked and infringed on buyer patience by violating some basic marketing rules:
- Don’t confuse customers with mixed branding metaphors
- Don’t miss-sell them by offering what isn’t
- Don’t get in the way of discovery
After all, you cannot rule the market by fiat.
May 8, 2012
I don’t expect much, and I usually get it.
Expected outcomes are what buyers pay money for. Businesses and consumers lob lucre at vendors in order to achieve something, be it optimizing general ledger processes or smelling better. Expected outcomes, or expectations, are the foundation of all commercial relationships. I give you money and you make me smell good.
If the cologne you sold me knocks buzzards off cesspool fencing, then my expectations have not been met.
Microsoft and Hotels.com recently brought all this to light by failing to meet basic expected outcomes. When rudimentary requirements are not provided, customers become ornery. The soured relationship creates new friction to selling them more products and removes all incentive to recommend products to other customers (which in the long run is the cheapest and most effective promotional tool available). Knowing and delivering customer necessaries is so basic I find Microsoft’s and Hotels.com failures on this front to be astounding.
Take Microsoft, please. One fundamental of software releases is to not change the user’s environment. Microsoft has provided a seemingly endless string of surprises, some of which were actually planned though most were not. The sidebar on my screen vanished for no obvious reason, and a dozen reboots never brought it back. However, upgrading from an ancient version of Microsoft Office to one made this century revived the sidebar while destroying two decades of my devotion to keyboard shortcuts that were the basis of my productivity (my mouse had gathered a nice layer of dust). Planned or accidental, unnecessary changes that move or remove functionality also remove the expected outcome and creates friction (let’s pray Libre Office rapidly matures and disposes Microsoft as the laptop productivity tool of choice).
Hotels.com, an alleged service company, failed to provide service. Needing to change a reservation, I was surprised to see that function absent from their web site (though one could cancel reservations outright). A phone call to their customer support line connected me with a woman in India who between speaking rapidly with a heavy accent and apparently eating her microphone for lunch, was completely unintelligible. After several attempts to make a simple reservation change, then asking to be transferred to someone who spoke less than seven hundred words per second, the call disconnected from their end.
Amusingly [not] canceling and rebooking the reservation via their web site took 1/12th the time than the “support” phone call.
Your customers have a set of expected outcomes, and they are of three levels:
Basal: These are fundamental outcomes, which if missing, immediately send customers in search of alternatives like Macs and Orbitz.
Operational: These are the outcomes for which customers actively look. This is where most marketers spend time pitching features and benefits, and for which your product engineers had better deliver consistently.
Exceptional: These outcomes enter the realm of customer delight via innovation, anticipating what a customer wants to achieve and not what they say they want to achieve. It is the difference between poking my old Nokia to enter appointments into my calendar and asking Siri to do it for me.
You have to deliver basal outcomes just to survive. You create and provide operational outcomes to remain competitive. You invent exceptional outcomes to dominate your markets.
May 1, 2012
Performing in a band might be fun if one didn’t have to work with musicians.
Bands provide a serviceable metaphor for marketing, which is all too often viewed as one or another marketing function and not the tightly coordinated combination of each function/instrument and performer. Take any piece out of a band or marketing department, and you no longer have a professional outfit. I was recently reminded of a time long ago when I was young (during the Taft administration) and the bass player in my garage band quit, yet our front man wanted to do a signed gig without any bass.
The audience was not impressed.
Let’s stretch this metaphor some more and match aspects of running a marketing department with assembling a group of musicians into a working band. Start by depriving the members of each group of alcohol, then begin.
Mapping: A band has several instruments, and each instrument requires a player that is proficient. In modern marketing operations you need PR, social, direct, branding, PPC and other functions depending on your go-to-market strategy. Odds are against finding a guitarist who can double on tuba, so it is equally unwise to look for a social media maven that can handle your Google Adwords campaign. Hire who you must, outsource what you can, but don’t stretch your talent as thin as I am stretching this metaphor.
Focus: Bands pick a genre mainly out of musical preference, but doing so is also like picking a market segment. If you are a blues band, you know the local blues clubs, how to promote to blues enthusiasts, and not to play Madonna tunes. Every company segments and surviving companies focus on one or a small number of segments. A country band can lapse into blues, and a rock band can add some crunchy rap overtones. But they stick mainly to their primary genre/segment.
Integrating: The bass player who abandoned my garage band didn’t have the best rhythm … especially after a couple of dozen beers. But when the band hit its groove, all the different instruments added to one another, which turned on the audience and got girls dancing. Marketing has to do the same. All parts need to harmonize so buyers have a consistent perspective of your company and products. If your PPC team is pitching discounts to techies and your direct mail squad is pimping top-shelf features and prices to CxOs, then nobody understands you, your brand or your value. The VP of marketing needs to be a conductor as well as a strategist.
Delivering: It hurts to hit bum notes, forget lyrics or cancel gigs. A professional band is a business, which is why local hobby bands start and stay in that condition — because they don’t conduct themselves as a business. In bands or businesses you have to deliver, which means delivering what the market needs and doing so consistently. Marketing must strive for consistency in terms of the frequency, reliability, focus and repeatability of their outbound communications. The audience are prospects and existing customers. Keeping them engaged using the mood and modes they prefer and to which they respond always hits the right note.
There is a reason pop stars lip sync their concerts and travel with backup tape machines. They deliver consistent performances.Â Your VP of marketing doesn’t have to dress like Lady Gaga, he just has to deliver like her.