Thursday, December 28, 2006

Toward a Code of Ethics for Marketing Consultants

My philosophy of consulting has always been that 1) I want every client to remain a (satisfied) client for as long as possible, and 2) I want every ex-client to be referenceable. To me, that seems common-sensical enough, but I'm disgusted by how many outside vendors don't share that approach to clients, whether through price gouging, incompetence, non-responsiveness, or just plain dishonesty.

It's not that there's a shortage of ethical codes, just a shortage of adherence to them. Codes abound, from ethical guidelines for management consulting and marketing to search engine optimization, public relations and blogging.

My personal contribution to the genre would be:

- Start with an honest assessment of your strengths. No single individual can be good at everything, even with a narrowly-defined area such as website design. Accept projects only in your strength areas; you'll be more likely to avoid delivering poor quality work.

- Develop a network of talented people in your non-strength areas. Closely related to the point above, in some cases you'll want to be able to bid on a larger project. By having a network, you can take on these projects and still provide quality. Plus, you'll have other talented individuals referring work to you in their non-strength areas.

- Price fairly. It's not only ethically wrong, but just doesn't make good business sense, to overcharge a client for short-term gain while sacrificing long-term loyalty and referenceability.

Trust goes a long way in maintaining current business and generating new projects. It's hard to get it back once it's lost, so it's better not to lose it in the first place.

*****

Terms: marketing consulting code of ethics, management consultant ethics, public relations, blogging

The website marketing strategy portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Friday, December 22, 2006

5 Things You Didn't Know About Me (as if you care)

Ardath Albee at the Marketing Interactions blog tagged me, so in the Christmas spirit, I'll play the game.

1. I biked to Canada with my oldest brother when I was 15. That's biked in as 10-speed, not motorcycle. 920 miles in eight days.

2. My wife and I like to joke that we are both "perfect 10s" -- I was the tenth child out of ten, she was the tenth out of 11. Yes, our holidays are insane, with intimate family gatherings that are about the size of Cleveland.

3. I worked my way through college cooking at and managing an Italian restaurant. I still enjoy whipping up a couple of the recipes I developed there -- chicken lasagna with cheddar sauce, and seafood lasagna with white sauce.

4. My summer car (and perpetual project) is a 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible. It's a two-door 5-passenger vehicle that's longer than my wife's SUV (an extended one with the third seat). I've thought of painting it gray with a white stripe down the middle and letting fighter jets land on it.

5. I'm a (very) amateur carpenter. Last summer, I added a second level to my kids' tree house (really more of a tree deck). It's bedecked with 12 strings of white Christmas lights, which take two separate circuits to power, so the kids can use if after dark. It lights up like a Christmas tree -- the White House Christmas tree.

6. (Bonus) I was in a serious car accident when I was 18. I went through four plastic surgeries -- and still look like I do. Maybe I should have sued.

Tag, you're it to: Albert Maruggi, Jay Lipe, Yvonne DiVita, and Shawn Hessinger.

*****

Terms: 5 things tag

The web Internet marketing portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Defining Your Micromarket

Many companies, particularly smaller firms, struggle to properly define their target micromarket properly. The natural temptation is to spread efforts widely so as not to miss any possible prospects. For example, one company I worked with said it "focused" on eight (!) vertical markets. You can focus on one, two, possibly even three things simultaneously -- but not eight. The practical result of a "scattershot" approach is that the best prospects are inadequately communicated to, resulting in wasted marketing efforts and dollars, a mushy message, and an inordinately difficult sales process.

By carefully defining and focusing efforts on a micromarket and using the proper micromedia to reach it, companies not only reduce wasted marketing spending but can also finely tune their messages to have the greatest impact on their target market, as opposed to producing lowest-common-denominator prose designed to appeal to a wide variety of prospects, and thereby being of little interest to any.

So how do you define a micromarket? In a word: precisely. For example, "healthcare" is not a market; it's a segment word used by economists, as in "the U.S. spends 14% of GDP on healthcare." The healthcare segment is comprised of several vertical markets, including manufacturing (medical devices, durable medical equipment, pharmaceuticals), financial institutions (insurance companies, banks), providers (hospitals and clinics), professionals (physicians, nurses, medical technicians) and others.

Healthcare is a segment; hospitals and doctors are vertical markets; neonatologists at hospitals with at least 500 beds are a micromarket. By carefully defining and then focusing on a specific micromarket in this way, companies are able to maximize the impact of both marketing dollars and target-specific messaging. The opportunities missed by focusing in this manner are generally those with the most difficult sales cycles and lowest probability of closing -- hardly a big loss.

Once a company has successfully established a beachhead in one micromarket, it can repeat the exercise with others. That creates a path to growth through focused efforts that provide a much higher ROI than a scattershot approach.

*****

Terms: micromarket, micromedia, targeted marketing, marketing focus

The Internet website marketing portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Adding Social Networking Links to Your Blog

Happening across Blogs Are Like Pliers on the One by One Media blog, I noticed two things: 1) these guys are pretty smart, and 2) the social networking links across the bottom of each post are cool. Where did they get them?

It didn't take long to find the Social Bookmark Link Creator. This handy tool enables you to add links to a variety of social bookmarking sites to each of your blog posts in Blogger, Wordpress, or MoveableType.

I'm guessing it works best with Wordpress. In Blogger, the tool only allows you to add text links to social bookmarking sites, and even then, it took some experimentation to get the links to show up in the right place without breaking my template. It also only provides instructions for creating a vertical list; if you prefer a horizontal list -- which I think looks better -- you'll need to add "&nbsp" between the links to keep them from running together.

I tried adding social bookmark icons from the ExplodingBoy blog, but couldn't get them to line up properly. At ExplodingBoy, Christopher Ware also provides social bookmark tagging code, though to a more limited number of sites than the One to One folks, and his code only works with PHP pages.

Still, this is, theoretically, a helpful traffic-building tool to add to your blog. Making it easy for readers to tag their favorite posts in your blog for others should bring you more readers, and it's very Web 2.0-ish.

*****

Terms: One by One Media blog, social tagging, social bookmarking, social networking, ExplodingBoy blog, Christopher Ware, blogging tools

The Internet marketing business portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Marketing in Reverse: Handling Returns

Marketers promote products, and sales professionals sell them. Understandably, both groups focus on a one-way flow of products -- out the door and into the hands of customers. Little thought is given to the messy problem of products coming back in the door through returns; that's an operations problem. But while marketing generally isn't, and shouldn't be, in charge of the reverse logistics process, it definitely needs to be involved.

First, returns are a big issue. According to Forbes, "up to 7% of an enterprise’s gross sales are captured by return costs," amounting to a staggering $100 billion per year in the U.S. alone. Return rates vary by product and type of retailer/distributor, from about 5% in consumer electronics, to 15% on average for computer manufacturers, and up to 30% for book publishers.

Second, proper returns handling is important to marketers. As Multichannel Merchant magazine points out in this article, "handling merchandise returns is an important customer touchpoint. Customers who have positive return experiences are the most loyal buyers, as they'll reorder confident that any potential challenges will quickly be resolved."

Your organization may choose to manage the returns process internally using software from a vendor such as Manhattan Associates, ClearOrbit or Sterling Commerce, or outsource the function to a reverse logisitics specialist. Firms offering reverse logistics outsourcing services range from third-party logistics providers like Roadway and UPS to supply chain management outsourcers such as Zomax, Arvato or Inoveris.

If your organization needs help determining the best approach to handling returns management, you may want the services of a consulting firm that understands both operations and marketing, such as Kelly Allan Associates.

But whether done internally or externally, proper returns management is critical both to improving profitability and retaining customers. Sometimes it pays to think backwards.

*****

Terms: reverse logistics management, RMA, returns handing, return rates by industry, ClearOrbit

The Internet marketing advertising portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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