Thursday, April 27, 2006

Marketing that Works - Tips from the Trenches

Mike Lieberman, co-founder of Square 2 Marketing, presented some excellent advice to members of the Philadelphia Drexel alumni Club at the Union League today.

His remarks were directed towards business people involved in marketing functions.

The title of his presentation was: My Marketing Isn't Working, and I Don't Know Why.

Here is a summary of his key points:
  • Make your product or service remarkable (Seth Godin's book Purple Cow was recommended.)
  • Narrow your focus so that when your prospect reads your pitch, she/he can relate to it.
  • Use language that targets the pains and problems of your prospect.
  • Provide unique solutions to those problems.
  • Design a series of messages to send to your prospects, because a single marketing effort is worthless.
  • Create a no-risk offer as a way to get a prospect involved.
  • Be sure to capture contact information so that you can continue to communicate with each prospect.

Mike also shared with us his method for creating a monthly calendar of marketing activities to stay on track.

Many participants stayed around afterwards to talk about the presentation with each other and with Mike Lieberman.

I found Mike to be a personable and knowledgeable marketing professional. It was great to meet at the Drexel Alumni luncheon.

For more information about Square 2 Marketing, visit their web site at: to find out more about marketing that works.

Bill Ringle is a business growth strategist and eBusiness Expert. Visit for more info on Bill's companies and projects.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Charm Offensive

Swarthmore College was featured in an article in today's New York Times on how colleges woo students who have made the cut.

It's not an academic exercise. Far from it, with annual tution and fees cresting at over $40,000 per year at top schools.

Here are a few of the techniques schools use to create a bond with accepted students:
  • Denison University pays up to half the airfare of any admitted student from outside Ohio who wants to visit campus.
  • Colgate hosts receptions in cities around the country.
  • Swarthmore, as well as others, hosts a multi-day event filled with activities and opportunites to make friends and develop an affection for the campus.

This is similar to how businesses reward customers and clients, yet goes beyond giving a new customer an umbrella for opening a checking account at the bank.

I encourage my clients who are looking to grow their business or expand into a different market to calculate the cost to acquire a new customer and also the lifetime value of the customer as you decide on the appropriate level of expenditure.

For instance, when attempting to influence a prospective undergrad to enroll at a university, you are discussing influencing a $120,000 plus decision per customer. The $20 cost to send a t-shirt is neglible. The real question is whether it's an effective use of an incentive.

How are you using incentives and rewards to build a stronger business?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Airline Service Drops are OK with Flyers So Long as Fares Stay Low

Did you know that airline passengers are generally satisfied with their flying experience in a survey released this week?

75% of the 529 adult flyers who have used the airlines in the last year said that they were satisfied with the job major airlines are doing.

What a shot in the arm for United, American, Continental, Delta, and US Air!

There's no denying that service and amenities have fallen, the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll acknowledges. As customers, we've decided that the trade-offs are worth the lower fare and air travel still beats the alternatives.

Let's look at three of the underlying messages and see how they apply to your business:

1. When you provide less value, lower your fees.

The airlines had to lower their cost structure after 9/11 to stay in business. But with fewer staff and fewer flights, lines became longer and patience grew thinner. Pressures from carriers like Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines also contributed to lower fares all around.

If appropriate, how has your business passed along cost savings recently?

In tense situations, such as flyer-airline operator relationships, savings go a long way towards maintaining relationships.

2. Re-examine what your customer is buying

You've heard the expression that people don't buy a drill, but they buy a device to make holes.

In the airline industry, they pared back the relationship to the bone. Flyers pay to be transported from city to city, safely and swiftly. Everything else is negotiable, such as the meals, the snacks, the pillows.

What's the core benefit your customers are buying?

3. If your customers are satisfied when you remove parts of your solution that were previously 'bundled' maybe that's a good thing.

Airline executives who thought that their stale peanuts and pretzels were added bonuses for flyers were deluding themselves.

More than likely, they were part of the unchallenged assumption of what constituted a satisfying "flying experience."

What assumptions could you challenge and test about your customer experiences that simply might be unappreciated expense on your part?

Competing on cost typically has detrimental (oftentimes fatal) impact on a business. Learn from the airline industry example, but do all that you can to avoid emulating it.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Russian Children's Circus Shows Us The Results of Dedication and Presentation

14 children and 4 adult performers held our attention captivated for an evening of delightful dancing, juggling, and acrobatic feats at the Upper Darby High School. On stage, the children did 98% of the work; the adults spotted dangerous flips and introduced acts.

I couldn't help admiring the dedication it took these perfomers to achieve their levels of prowess. For example, at one point the ringmaster invited eight audience members to participate in a short stunt. Four adults and four children were individually coached to take tiny steps on top of a Swiss ball and walk it four or five feet forward on the stage. The demonstration lasted less than 5 minutes as one participant after another was helped on top of the giant rubber ball and then flopped hopelessly to one side or the other, supported by the strong spotters on either side holding their arm and encouraging them forward.

As the last of the audience members made their way to the stairs leading off stage, the ring master blew his whistle and out came the children performers. One pair of 5-6 year olds trotted out from each side entrance on top of their Swiss balls juggling. Another pair came out juggling pins. Yet another pair came out jumping rope on top of their balls. Then they performed to music and guided their balls around each other with utter precision, grace, and style.

The contrast with the unrehearsed audience members who looked so awkward just moments ago could not be more dramatic!

Idea for business owners: Identify an aspect of your business that you do particularly well and buff it to the level of performance art. It can make a positive impression on your clients.

For instance, I've learned quite a few pointers from a fellow consultant who is a virtuoso of proposals. Alan Weiss, who is CEO of the Society for the Advancement of Consulting, generates business proposals with breathtaking speed, penetrating clarity, and flourishes that are sometimes worthy of a standing ovation.

What can you do to differentiate yourself from your competition?

Can you raise the level of your game to the point that people will talk about it?

Let's find out.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

On Guard: Understand the Limits of Catching Cybercriminals to Protect Your Business

Federal law enforcement officials may be cracking down on Internet thieves, but they have their work cut out for them.

Cyber criminals are trading customer bank account details, social security numbers and e-mail access and there seems to be little that law enforcement officials can do to stop it, according to Tom Zeller Jr.’s article in The New York Times, “Countless Dens of Uncatchable Thieves”.

Zo0mer, the codename of Russian Sergey Kozerey, has been wheeling and dealing in the personal details of others for profit. He brags in one Internet forum that his prices are lower than other vendors and he’ll “deliver them in real time”.

Another hacker offers complete access to his nameless victims’ credit card accounts while others trade in bank passwords and pin numbers, viruses and phishing scams.

Although some Americans were recently arrested, including 17-year old Hunter Moore and Virginia Tech student Benjamin W. Pinkston for identity theft, the Secret Service believes they are minor league compared to the well organized international criminal enterprises in the global data trade. Russia and Eastern Europe sit at the top of the stolen data sector.

Despite well-publicized crackdowns such as Operation Firewall and Operation Rolling Stone, these busts have had little impact on the global market.

One of the more impressive busts netted an American, 22 year old Douglas Cade Harvard, who used contacts with the Russian underworld and the help of a Scottish accomplice to steal $11 million in two years. One scam involved encoding stolen account numbers onto blank cards. The American and Scottish criminal duo withdrew more than $1.3 million from Western banks over a 10-month period. They received the account data from Russian contacts and kicked the majority of funds back to them. The Russian hackers remain at large.

One of the biggest challenges to netting cybercriminals is getting the cooperation of foreign countries.
Officials have to navigate a web of global treaties and rights to privacy in releasing information to foreign law enforcement officials, says Gregory Crabb, an investigator with the United States Postal Inspection Service and the economic crimes division of Interpol. That’s after banks and credit card companies admit they have a problem rather than hushing it up to avoid the publicity. Even when these obstacles are overcome, there is still the challenge of getting the cooperation of foreign investigators.

If you take every precaution to ensure that your clients’ sensitive information is protected and secure and are sensitive to the dangers of cybercrime, you will build a stronger business.

Hard Drives Can Give You a Hard Time

Facts may be stubborn, but data is positively infuriating in the way it insinuates itself in computer hard drives. For those who have lost valuable information on their computers, a new industry has been developed by the sleuths that can track it down.

Digital Forensics, the acquisition and analysis of digital information, has become a significant legal tool. Important evidence can be gleaned from digital storage devices. Even when cell phone numbers are erased, the phone’s memory can still bare a trace of the number. Appointments on a device such as a Blackberry can provide information about a person’s schedule. TV shows, if recorded on TiVo, can reveal when a person was watching it or when they paused. Theoretically this evidence can be recovered.

Police were able to unmask a serial killer; using Guidence software’s Encase Forensic application they found erased files on a floppy disc that revealed his identity. The software was also used to assemble the case against Scott Petersen for his wife’s murder. Computer records revealed he had looked up tidal conditions in San Francisco Bay where his wife’s body was found.

Because files are easy to erase, it has lulled people into a false sense of security; the computer’s memory still retains the evidence. The computer is the ultimate witness.

Data never truly vanishes in the old fashioned sense of the word, and companies need to be mindful of the implications of this. If companies do their utmost to protect their companies and their staff and the integrity of their business dealings they can build a stronger business.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Movies From the Internet to You

Sites offering movies for sale:
  • Movielink (owned by Warner Brothers, a unit of Time Warner; Sony Pictures, Universal; MGM; and Paramount, a unit of Viacom)
  • CinemaNow (movies from Sony, MGM and Lions Gate)

Apple, and other sites are working to add downloadable movies to their sites.

Though downloading movies provides easy access, the process can be cumbersome. According to Hansell in "At Last, Movies to Keep Arrive on the Internet" in The New York Times, "a movie will need about 1 gigabyte of hard-drive space and will take an hour or two to download using a high-speed internet connection." Additionally, many of the movies have limited methods by which they can be watched. Other limitations include the downloads not having some of the features offered on DVDs (deleted scenes, bonus features and filmmaker interviews). These limitations concern industry executives since chain stores and Web retailers often discount movies below wholesale costs to gain customers; these low price items are known as "loss leaders." However, even with their limitations, about 400 films can currently be send to your hard drive.