Monday, August 29, 2005

A Cluetrain Moment

I just finished reading The Cluetrain Manifesto (yes, I know C-2001, I'm a bit behind on my reading). Those of you who've read this book will understand the reference. For those of you who haven't, I'll provide a more detailed response to the book in some future post, but it is well worth the read.

Anyway, I had a "Cluetrain moment" last week when I met an extraordinary gentleman named Brad Cleveland, CEO of a rapid plastic injection molding prototyping company called Protomold. I don't know if Brad has read the book or not, but he certainly gets it, and lives it.

The company has been using a wide variety of marketing tactics for some time, including search engine marketing / pay-per-click, print, direct mail and email marketing, but decided to hire an outside telemarketing firm to test that tactic as well. On one occasion, one of the telemarketers deviated from the script and upset a customer, who then called a CSR at Prototmold. Brad was notified immediately (Cluetrain factor #1: he actually has a system in place to notify him of any customer complaints that come to CSRs). Brad promptly contacted the customer, apologized and made sure things were okay.

When I mentioned that I found this extraordinary, Brad humbly shrugged it off, saying that most CEOs in his industry probably would have done the same thing. Cluetrain factors #2 and #3: a CEO who is both responsive to customers and modest.

One more thing: Brad also checks Google frequently to see where his company is being talked about (including forums and blogs) and what's being said about the firm. It's not surprising that a CEO like Anne Holland of Marketing Sherpa would do this sort of thing, but it's a very Cluetrain activity for a CEO in plastic injection molding space. So it probably isn't surprising that Protomold is one of the fast growing companies in the state, ranking #2 on the Deloitte Fast 50 for 2004, and named the fastest growing private company in Minnesota last year by Twin Cities Business Journal.

Brad attributes the company's success to its proprietary software that enables the company to produce prototypes much faster than industry standard, and to the company's aggressive and smart marketing. I would add that having a CEO who clearly has a clue is a key reason as well.

Keywords of the week: The Cluetrain Manifesto, Marketing Sherpa, email marketing, search engine marketing

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