Amusing is good. I like amusing.

Mr. Cartoons-drawn-on-the-back-of-business-cards and Global Microbrand uber-guru Hugh Macleod over at GapingVoid requested an under 500 word marketing manifesto.

I sent him an expanded version of one of my most quoted posts from back in March of 2005.

The Marketing-by-Committee manifesto on Gaping Void

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Liar Friday

Just now, someone popped into the office and said they’d heard some shocking news…
“People are shopping today”

It ranks right up there with the hard hitting headline of…
“The sun came up this morning”

It reminded me of a post I did last year about the lie of “Black Friday”.

And while we’re at it, the true date of Cyber Monday is also a lie.

BONUS::While in the Wayback Machine looking at the Nov-05 archives for the link to the Black Friday post, Mr. Peabody and I found these two other holiday posts. Enjoy. After all, what is Christmas without bringing out the old decorations?
Holiday Marketing Tips
Salmon Flavored PR

Real Numbers

As I said in this post and followed up with this post…when you do a survey and then publish the numbers, the numbers become real. When people are shown statistics, very few people will question the methodology that was used to get the numbers.

The survey/poll/etc says “X”…..so “X” must be true.

The power of published numbers is so strong that sometimes people don’t accept the real results. There’s a losing candidate in Florida who is considering a legal challenge to the election results because in his words….

“In this election, the results did not match the…pre-election poll, our internal polling, or our exit polling.”

The results didn’t match your surveys? So…the real numbers are wrong?

Of course, this is politics and there are other factors….but lots of businesses fall into this trap as well.

Surveys and research are good for getting a feel of the market. They’re good for testing the waters. They are not hard facts. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking your research is the truth. You may be surprised.

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Cream and Sugar

Saturday afternoon on the way to Nashville, I stopped at a McDonalds to get a Coke. Here’s the conversation that the person in front of me had with the cashier…

GUY: Senior coffee, please

MICKEY D: Would you like for us to add the cream and sugar?

GUY: (While glancing down the counter at the cream and sugar) It’s right there.

MICKEY D: Would you like for us to add it?

GUY: Why? It’s right there.

MICKEY D: Silence and blank stare

GUY: Silence and blank stare

While the McDonalds counter guy couldn’t offer an answer….let me.

It’s because there was a committee meeting of the “premium” coffee folks in Oak Brook, IL. Phrases such as “compete with Dunkin Donuts”….”create a customer experience”….and “an upscale Starbucks interaction” were used heavily.

I’m sure they came out of the meeting thinking they had the next McDLT.

Of course, if they’d just asked a senior citizen and a teenager at a rural McDonalds off of I-65 what they thought of the idea, they’d told them….”but it’s right there!”

McDonalds next big and great ideas?
–Would you like for me to squirt ketchup on your fries?
–Would you like for me to chew your food?
–Would you like for me to have the angioplasty for you?

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State of the UnBlogosphere

David Sifry recently posted the latest State of the Blogosphere.

As always, the medium looks strong and growth is explosive. And as always, the blogosphere is excited about the new numbers.

But, I have a slightly different take on “the state” of the blogosphere. Obviously, Technorati has a very good vantage point to see what’s happening in the blog world…but what about the state of blogs out in the overall real world?

I’ve always maintained that the blogosphere is a long way from being mainstream. But recent experiences have cemented that belief for me.

Recently, I started delivering a new speaking topic called Blogs: Marketing as Conversation. It’s somewhat of a blog101 and a how-to on using blogs to reach out and have conversations with customers. To date, I have delivered it twice and I’m booked to give it a few times in the coming months. The groups that I have already delivered it to include a marketing professionals group and a businesswomen’s group. Both were populated with intelligent informed businesspeople who are active marketers. But in both instances, I found a dichotomy in regards to the audience’s awareness of the blogosphere.

At the beginning of the presentation, I ask for a quick show of hands for…
1) People that have heard of blogs (Usually most of the room)
2) People who have ever read a blog (less than half the room)
3) People who have ever left a comment on a blog (5-10 people)
4) People who are bloggers themselves (2-3 people)

The amazing thing as I go through the presentation is that it’s all new to them. I observe that most take notes on “new” concepts such as Technorati, RSS, Scoble, the long tail, the cluetrain, and a thousand other things that you “inside the blogosphere” take for granted as common knowledge.

Now obviously, there are a few people in the room who “get” all of it. (The handraisers on questions 3&4) They come up afterwards with great questions and want more in-depth knowledge. As I’ve discovered this extreme two-toned group, I’m having to re-do the presentation before I present it again. Imagine giving a speech about the need for a U.S. Mission to Mars in a room made up of 50% rocket scientists and 50% average Joes. You get too technical and you’ll lose the Joes. And you bore/patronize the rocket scientists when you explain that Mars is the 4th planet.

In essence, this is what the blogosphere doesn’t understand. And it’s the biggest danger to the continued growth of the medium. Yes, it’s great that we can have a conversation among ourselves about blogs and bloggers and how it’s going to change the dynamics of communication and marketing. We can point to successes. But frankly, most people are not on the train.

“Well, Chris, you can’t base the entire state of the blogosphere on the reactions of two groups that you spoke to.” OK. Here’s what an attendee of the recent Blog Business Summit had to say about the acceptance…

I enjoyed the speakers at the conference and thought for the most part they were interesting and informative. At the same time, I felt like they are so keyed into the blogosphere that they don’t really know how to relate with people who aren’t. I contribute to 2 blogs right now, I use RSS and Bloglines, I know how to navigate Technorati, I’m somewhat comfortable with del.icio.us, and I know what the term Google Juice means, so I’m probably more familiar with the concept of Web 2.0 than a lot of folks out there. But, I didn’t relate to most of the “elite” bloggers (or bloggerati) at the conference who referred to themselves as tech geeks.
One of the things I would’ve liked to have learned is how to get people involved in blogging. There are many people out there who simply don’t get blogs. I have a handful of friends that contribute to blogs or read them; the rest of my friends think they are just online diaries full of inane ramblings. Sure, some of them read blogs without even knowing it, and I try to point that out, but for the most part they have no interest in the blogosphere. To them it has a negative connation, like MySpace has to me.

My current view of the “State of the Blogosphere” is that it’s like the Shakers. Bloggers are passionate about the blogosphere, but the belief will die out because you’re not creating new adherents.

Yes. Your blog is ranked 9,XXX on Technorati, but the only thing that really shows is your influence with other bloggers. What’s the reach of your blog to the non-blog community?

Right now the blogosphere, for all its power, is equivalent to a room full of people who each have a bullhorn and they’re all talking. Every now and then, they all point to one of the bullhorns and maybe repeat what that A-list bullhorn is saying. And every now and then, someone from outside the room stops and listens, but it’s mostly a closed system.

Here’s my challenge to you.

Get your head out of Dungeons & Dragons a/k/a Second Life and get out in the real world to start promoting this thing that you’re so passionate about. And I don’t mean at a conference full of tech people. Go to a local Chamber meeting, find a small business person, and ask them if they’re using blogs to talk to their customers. When you’re checking out at the grocery, ask the mother behind you if she reads Dooce. Ask a marketing director if she checks a blog search engine for mentions of the company.

I think you’ll be shocked.

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The year of HIPAA

This has been the “year of HIPAA” for me. Earlier this year, along with Kate Borten, I worked on both the Marketing under HIPAA webinar and book.

Recently, I was asked to write an article for the November issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

The article came out a few days ago and you can find it online here – http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/viewfeature/84310.html

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Mud Duex

One last thought on my recent political marketing post/rant

Imagine a world where all marketing is conducted like political marketing in the final two weeks before the election.

“Starbucks has been where Americans get their daily cuppajoe every morning for the past few years. But have you looked at Starbucks record? A barista in Tulsa once spilled a mocha latte on a customer’s pants. Do we really want dirty pants for Americans? Paid for by Citizens for a Better Bean”

Which invokes the following response from Starbucks…

“Ol’ Dunkin is back at it again with wild stories about coffee stained pants. But did you know that Dunkin Donuts uses coffee beans harvested by child labor in a communist dictatorship? Starbucks….we’re roasting the American Bean. Paid for by the National Bean Committee.”

And back and forth.

The final weeks of these political marketing campaigns are like a poker game where the player has lost all his money and he’s placing his wedding band (the BRAND) on the table for the final hand. It’s all or nothing. Destroy the competing brand. And in the process..destroy your own brand image.

And while it’s not this bad in the “real marketing world”…sometimes businesses get close to that line. One of my prime marketing directives is to never attack…or even mention the competition in marketing. You should offer the best product and service that is possible and use all available methods to get the message to the consumer. That’s it.

Yes. Worry about the competition in business strategy. Make sure you know what they’re doing and what they’re planning…but never take the fight public and mention it in your marketing.

When you mention the competition, you’re acknowledging to the market (some that may not have even known you HAD a competitor) that you’re running defense. And it’s hard to score when playing defense.

Forgive me for the sports analogy….but I’m Chris Houchens and I approved this message.

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Colonel Kenny Marketing

When I got home tonight, there was a letter from a local realty company telling me that if I was in the market to sell my house, they had a proven marketing plan to sell it.

First off, I don’t want to sell my house. So an immediate strike one, two and three.

But since there’s nothing on TV, let’s look at the marketing plan they use to sell themselves: They send unsolicited letters (snail spam) to my entire county’s property tax rolls in the hopes they might hook somebody. In addition, they used the full 39 cent postage instead of bulk mail rates, there were a couple of typos in the letter and it was off-center on the letterhead. Yeah. These people know how to market.

I’ve always been disturbed when real estate salespeople start beating their chest about their “marketing plan”…or “proven marketing plan”…or “exclusive marketing plan”…etc.

Most of these “plans” that I’ve seen in action involve lots of irrelevant ads directed to the masses who are unwilling or unmotivated to buy. For some reason, alot of these “plans” also involve a lot of facetime in the ad for the salesperson. It would be crazy to show a picture of a house…better to fill up half the billboard with a little self-ego inflation.

Some of the advanced salespeople have spent some of their marketing investment on “Guerilla Marketing for Dummies” and have exclusive methods such as keychains, pens, and stickers.

And like the letter I got tonight…they all love direct mail….but have no idea how to use it. The realtor we bought this house from 4 years ago (at auction!) still sends us postcards constantly every Groundhog Day, Columbus Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Festivus, and every other major/minor holiday reminding me that he has a “great marketing plan” to sell my house. My wife and I laugh and roll our eyes everytime we get one of the postcards…right before we trash it. Great marketing investment.

Why so much bad marketing in the real estate world? Several reasons. The biggest right now is that there’s a lot of get-rich-quick-schemers trying to capitalize on the bubble. They’re using everything they can to become established in the market. In addition, because of the bubble, there’s a lot of money available to “market” the real estate company. When a media salesperson comes in with a proposal, they are sold and don’t buy their marketing.

In all, it goes back to my basic stump speech. Business people know they need and they hire experts for business functions like accounting and HR. Sure, they can handle the basic day-to-day things, but for big things like audits…they hire someone…or at least have someone double check it.

But anybody can buy an ad. Right?

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