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

The portal for Web marketing and e-commerce: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Monday, August 22, 2005

It's News to You

Marketing professionals, particularly those focused on online or Web marketing, depend on the latest news from a wide variety of sources to help them stay current on their craft. While there are obviously some excellent news sites available (such as MarketingVOX, ClickZ and BtoBonline), it's impractical to visit all of them and way too time-consuming to sift through all of the articles that don't matter in order to find the ones that do.

But now you can get all of the pertinent content, from literally thousands of online sources, in one place: the new Web Marketing News and E-Commerce News pages on WebMarketCentral.com. I try to avoid being too self-referential here but I'm really excited about these new feeds and I think -- and hope -- that you will find them useful. The feeds are powered by Web content provider Moreover Technologies. Moreover pulls literally tens of thousands of articles from more than 10,000 online sources, categorizes them, and delivers news feeds on specific and/or custom topics in near-realtime.

There are several Web content providers listed in the WebMarketCentral directory; each has its own strengths and limitations, and specific applications for which it is the best fit. Moreover is generally considered the leader in current awareness solutions.

Keywords of the week: web marketing news, online marketing news, e-commerce news

The portal for online marketing: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Ubiquitous Ads, Disappearing Freedom

The brilliant and entertaining Anne Holland at Marketing Sherpa recently blogged about the proliferation of advertising, and the need for marketers to save themselves through relevant targeting. She mentioned sand-sculpture advertising on the beach and other examples of the "loud shouting" sometimes done by marketers instead of delivering focused, relevant messages in targeted media.

I stumbled (or rather, paddled) across another example yesterday. My son and I canoed down the scenic and wild St. Croix river on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. While making our way down river, I occasionally glanced down at my paddle to make sure I was pushing water efficiently. Imprinted on the front side of the paddle was, not surprisingly, the name of the camp where we'd rented the canoe. However, late in the trip, I turned the paddle over and glanced at the back of it, on which was imprinted -- the Pepsi name and logo.

What brilliant marketer at Pepsi came up with the idea of putting their logo on the back of canoe paddles? How much did that cost? Was there any way to measure the ROI? Was it not possible -- even likely -- that there was no ROI? (I don't think there was a Pepsi machine around for miles). Oh, how nice it would be to have that kind of marketing budget to spend...

The other thing I noticed, at the camp sites where we parked, rented our gear, and stopped along for breaks along the way, even in the relative remoteness of the St. Croix valley, was the proliferation of "no" signs. There were rules when I was young too, of course, but it just seemed that there weren't so many. While our trip down river was beautiful and wonderful overall, it was annoying to see so many "no" signs even in the wilderness.

No parking. No daytime parking. No overnight parking. No parking anytime. No swimming. No fishing. No alcoholic beverages. No non-alcoholic beverages. No food or beverages. No running. No motorized vehicles. No non-motorized vehicles. No experimental vehicles. No promotional vehicles. No smoking. No cigar smoking. No pipe smoking. No fish smoking. No wet bathing suits. No dry bathing suits. No littering. No loitering. No loud music. No soft music. No bad music from the 70's (okay, I made that one up, but I'm positive that someone's thought of it). No sun bathing. No nude sun bathing. No fully-clothed sunbathing. No pets. No children. No shell collecting (I'm NOT making that one up). Permit required. License required. Sticker required. Life jacket required. Insanity required. No screaming (AAAAArgh!).

Even the great outdoors in the "land of the free and home of the brave" has become as regulated and restricted as the most dense (in at least two senses of the word) urban core. Thanks to a small number of ill-behaved boors and large number of trial lawyers willing to sue anybody anytime anything bad happens to anyone anywhere, freedom gets eroded and life gets more rule-bound.

That's how it, sadly, has happened in the real world. The Internet is still, by comparison, a wide-open frontier. Regulation encroaches however; how long can we keep the Web (relatively) free? Yes, unfortunately, there are people who go online to do bad things: spammers, hackers, virus-writers and fraudsters. The law-abiding need to be protected. I hope that we can obtain this protection, predominantly if not entirely, through technology solutions (and more precise targeting by legitimate marketers), rather than asking the government to do more. In so many areas of life, we've already asked the government to do too much -- leading to higher taxes and reduced freedom. I hope that we can keep the "no" signs from proliferating on the Internet for a long time to come.

Keywords of the week: online advertising, targeted marketing

The Web marketing portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

WMC Interviews: Kelly Allan


This week, I had the opportunity to talk to Kelly Allan, founder of and senior associate at Kelly Allan Associates in Columbus, Ohio. Kelly's firm assists companies in a variety of industries with marketing and operations consulting, helping them to streamline business processes and achieve better results. Kelly has been widely published -- and is just a really nice guy.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): What did you do before starting Kelly Allan Associates?

Kelly Allan (KA): I was a writer, producer/director of educational programs for The University of Michigan Medical Center. Had I stayed, I'd be retired, fat, and unhappy. I had a great boss and great colleagues, but it wasn't what I really wantedto do. Staying would have been a compromise. I tell young people, "Don't sell your life for money. Go take some chances."

WMC: How, when and why did Kelly Allan Associates get started?

KA: I started the company full time in 1976, at age 24. I was too young to knowany better! There are people who, when they read about the evils ofdrinking, they give up reading. I decided to give up being an employee and follow my dream of starting a company. I started the company in my bedroom. It was difficult, but I loved every minute of it. I still do.

WMC: Whom do you target, that is, who is your ideal or typical client?

KA: The ideal client is full of energy to make things happen and to get things done --in an enlightened, healthy way. Our clients are local, national, and international. There are only a handful of companies that do both marketing/sales work and operations management work. We are one of them. When you do both, you attract companies that already have a systems view ofhow things really work. That puts us more in sync with presidents andCEOs --and increases our effectiveness on their behalf.

WMC: What is your key differentiator (or differentiators)? What separates you from your competition?

KA: I started the company with the ignorant notion that we ought to be able to pay for the cost of our advice and services by saving clients a LOT of money --or by making them a LOT more money. I figured we should promise that if within 90 days we couldn't provide a payback that couldn't would more than cover the cost of our work, we shouldn't take on the work. As Mark Twain said, '"Why not go out on a limb? That's where all the fruit is." Amazingly, we still live by that ignorant notion of extreme accountability. And, we like fruit.

WMC: How do you market/promote your business?

KA: We don't need much promotion because we tend to keep clients for a long, long time. Many have been with us for more than a decade. So, we are somewhat picky about adding to the list. Nor do we grow for growth sake. Many of my 25 associates have been with the company for more than a decade. New business often comes via word of mouth. We are also the only authorized contact point for Peter R. Scholtes, and we conduct seminars and consulting on his behalf. (Peter wrote The Leader's Handbook and The Team Handbook).

WMC: What's the biggest or most important marketing lesson you've learned since starting Kelly Allan Associates?

KA: I learned this lesson in the rain forest of Ecuador while doing client work: you must be able to prove you can do what you say you can do. You need to prove it quickly, compellingly, honestly, and humbly. If not, you might get killed.

WMC: Anything else you'd like to add?

KA: I encourage people to move things along quickly, yet thoughtfully. Did you hear about the new microwave fireplace? You can enjoy an entire evening in front of it in fewer than eight minutes. Now that's moving things along.

*****

Keywords of the week: marketing consulting, operations consulting, marketing portal

The Web marketing portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Yvonne and Jane

If you market to women, or like reading about marketing to women, or just enjoy exceptionally well-written marketing-related blog copy, check out Yvonne DiVita's Lip-Sticking blog. As a strictly b2b marketer, and a guy, I'll acknowledge that I'm as clueless on this subject as the Hahn beer guy (if you've never seen these videos, you must).

Yvonne writes about blogging, conferences, copywriting, advertising and other related topics from her own unique perspective and with her own inimitable style. A great example is "5 Things About Your Website that will send Jane Screaming in Frustration" -- although these apply equally to men.

Who's Jane?

*****

The portal for online marketing, WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

WMC Interviews: Jay Lipe


WebMarketCentral had the chance to sit down (figuratively speaking) with Jay Lipe, founder of marketing consulting firm Emerge Marketing, to talk about his background and his company, and to tap into his Web marketing wisdom. Herewith, the inaugural WebMarketCentral blog interview.

WebMarketCentral (WMC): What did you do before Emerge Marketing?

Jay Lipe (JL): My background is pretty much all in marketing. For almost twenty years, I’ve worked to market companies, products, services, universities, cities, even politicians.

After I received my MBA in Marketing from Northwestern (Kellogg School of Management) in the 80’s, I worked for marketing powerhouses like General Mills, Novartis and Select Comfort. I went as far as I could on that track, then I launched my own business, Emerge Marketing in 1994. I help small companies (less than 100 employees) gain focus in their marketing.

WMC: How, when and why did Emerge Marketing get started?

JL: September 23, 1994. On that day I met with a good friend who is also a top-notch strategic consultant. He encouraged me to start my own marketing practice and when I got home that night there were two voicemail messages from potential clients (neither of whom he referred). Things happen for a reason.

My first two years were spent helping Fortune 500 companies with outsourced marketing projects. Then I was hired by a $3 million manufacturer that needed a marketing plan. I continued to work for that company for another 2 ½ years and realized that serving small business people made my heart go pitter patter.

WMC: Who do you target, that is, who is your ideal or typical client?

JL: Small companies (to me, less than 100 employees), I work only with the president or owner, this person is usually a non-marketer and in their first meeting with me they say something like “I know we need to be marketing, but I’m not sure where to begin”.

WMC: What is your key differentiator (or differentiators), that is, what separates you from your competition?

JL: I have red hair and I play drums—I’m the only red-headed, drumming, marketing consultant that I know of!

Really though, what makes me unique is that I focus exclusively on smaller businesses—those with less than 100 employees. And I come from a big company background (worked in marketing management for General Mills, Novartis and Select Comfort). So, I can take the strategic marketing concepts that the “big boys” use, and boil them down to a level where small business people get them, and do them.

WMC: How do you market/promote your business?

JL: To me, successful marketing leverages variety. To that end, I use a variety of marketing vehicles to promote my business. They include:

The Emerge Marketing website – This is a key tool for me to connect with the online community. On my site I feature all my services, over 25 free articles on small business marketing topics and copies of all my newsletters. Check it out at http://www.emergemarketing.com/.

My Smart Marketing blog - I frequently update my blog with marketing how-to’s for the small business. In fact the tagline for my blog is “Jay Lipe’s blog at the intersection of Small Business Street and Marketing Avenue. Check it out at http://jaylipe.typepad.com/smart_marketing/

In 2002, I wrote my first book, The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Business, and it has really helped expand my business. Three different kinds of people buy the book: 1) Early-stage entrepreneurs who have launched a business within the last 5 years 2) Established business owners with less than 10 employees who want more significant growth and 3) Small business leaders with larger companies (up to $100 million) who want growth, but without an internal marketing department.

I’m now at work on my second book for Dearborn Trade Publishing, due out next year.

I also give about 20 speeches a year in front of Chambers of Commerce, Industry Associations and Small Business organizations.

I write a lot of articles for online and offline publications. My advice has been featured in publications like Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, United Press International, Marketing News and the Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune.

I also publish an online newsletter called Jay Lipe’s Marketing Tips and Tools. If any of your readers want to be added to my subscriber list, they can sign up at my website.

WMC: What’s are the most important marketing lessons you’ve learned since starting Emerge Marketing?

JL: 1) Marketing has its own process – In accounting you close every month and you follow a standard process to balance your books. Small business leaders need to understand that marketing involves a process too. You analyze, plan, implement, and then analyze again. For more specifics on how a company can use this marketing process, I’d suggest my book The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Business.

2) Patience is a marketer’s best friend – Even brilliant marketing takes time to shine. People are too busy these days to drop everything and take notice of your marketing. You must do a new marketing initiative at least 5 times before your audience even notices. Any company that doesn’t stick with a new marketing effort for at least 5 times is short-changing itself.

3) Technology rules – The company that focuses on helping small businesses with their technology problems will make a lot of money. I’m just a little bit tech-savvy, yet I still feel overwhelmed by technology at times.

WMC: Anything else you’d like to add?

JL: Marketing is a discipline all its own. If you’re a non-marketer who’s responsible for your company’s marketing, you have to learn the discipline. In some recent research from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, more than one-half of the small business owners it surveyed launched their venture without any prior marketing or sales experience.

Also, this is increasingly becoming the Age of Marketing. These days it seems, business owners must know how to market their companies just to survive.

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Google Notes, Good People

First, I noted in my last rant here that "The Web's most popular search engine still won't find all of the words "Bronto Topica Silverpop" on WebMarketCentral, even though they are all listed on the Hosted Email Marketing Services page." Well, I checked again today and -- Google still won't find these terms on the WMC site, but it found my blog post (top spot). Guess I need to keep working on my search engine optimization.

Second, one of the most enjoyable things about running WebMarketCentral thus far has been the outstanding people I've been able to "meet" (in some cases, just via email). Kelly Allan gave WMC one its first real links. Jay Lipe, president of Emerge Marketing, agreed to be the subject of the first (of many to come) WMC blog interview (to be posted soon). And just today, Skip Lineberg at the Marketing Genius blog gave WMC a nice endorsement. The opportunity to develop new relationships with great people is one of the most rewarding aspects of what we do.

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