it’s always the little things

Positive branding comes from positive customer experiences. Most of your brand is built through mundane daily customer experiences rather than polished marketing messages.

The opportunity and danger in this is that there are a LOT of little things that can either be a remarkable delight for customers or a slightly off-key note.

I eat regularly at a place that occasionally offers me a free food incentive on my receipt if I take their online survey. I usually take the survey because … hey … free taco.

At the end of the otherwise well-designed feedback survey, the final screen tells me to write the confirmation number on the line provided on the receipt and bring it in for the free food.

But … there’s no line anywhere on the receipt.

I usually just jot it down in some white space on the receipt and redeem it.

Is the line a big deal? No.

Does the lack of the line offend me so much that I will never set foot in the place again? No.

But here’s the point. If they’re missing such an obvious little thing, what else are they missing in the customer experience?

It’s like a story I enjoy using when I speak to groups about how you never notice your house stinks until you’ve been gone for a few days and return home. Likewise, business owners don’t notice the many things customers do notice because they rarely go through the customer experience for themselves.

They never see the dead plant at the entrance of the building like customers because they enter from a back door.

They never get lost in phone call center option matrix that their customers have to navigate.

And they never notice a line is missing where they say a line should be.

oprah hates your billboard

I don’t think Oprah would be happy that you put a QR code on a billboard.

qr codes on highway billboards are dumbBut put aside the whole distracting driving and near certain chance of death thing and just use some common sense.

In this great article about the shortcomings of QR codes, the author found that:

it took an average of 47 seconds for them to take out their phone and find the application to read the QR code — not exactly a “quick response.”

My rule for highway billboards has always been “one idea, you’ve only got three seconds” as the audience zips past. QR codes just don’t fit that. That’s not to ban them from all outdoor or transit placements. In a place where people are bored and waiting (bus stops, subway platforms/cars, etc), I think they work great.

The bigger problem here lies in that what SHOULD be an excellent tool to sync your mobile marketing strategy is rapidly jumping the shark because marketers are misusing it. The idea of QR codes has also trickled down to the dead-wood-from-the-neck-up managerial level who have no idea what they’re doing. Use a QR code where it makes sense, not just because you can use it.

My list of bad placements for QR codes continues to grow:

  • Highway Billboard
  • Tombstone (not the pizza)
  • TV commercial
  • Tattoo (not the Fantasy Island one)
  • Web site (use a link, not a 47 second detour!)
  • What’s the worst placement of a QR code that you’ve seen?

barbers don’t cut their own hair

A quick follow up thought to my post last week about a PR firm’s debacle

  • Barbers don’t cut their own hair.
  • The cobbler’s children have no shoes.
  • A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.
  • And marketers do a poor job of marketing themselves. In fact, they stink at it.

Your ad, PR, or marketing firm should develop a reciprocal agreement with another similar sized shop that is not a local competitor.

The immediate gain could be a mutual sounding board and critic of current client outreach programs. Each PR firm, ad agency, or marketing shop could even create self-promotional content for the other one. This content would be fresh and exciting even for employees since they wouldn’t have gotten tired of it when they created it. It’s like having someone else make a sandwich for you. It’s better.

But the real reason you should create this reciprocal agreement today is for your impending disaster.

A smart marketer would never suggest that a client handle their own crisis communication. But marketers are more than willing to dig deeper holes for themselves.

Set up an agreement and plan that lets the other agency take over your corporate communications when you hit the panic button. Maybe even hold a social media fire drill.

Your crisis partner will have an objective view because when the crisis hits you won’t be able to see the forest for the trees.

PR firms and bloggers are like matches and gasoline

Blogger outreach in PR is like working with gasoline. Work with it correctly and it makes the vehicle go. Do it incorrectly and it blows up with disastrous consequences.

I am amazed at the number of PR firms who have an astounding lack of understanding at not only the basics of public relations, but also the basics of civility and common sense.

Until yesterday, one of the best recent examples of this phenomenon was ConAgra’s PR firm tricking bloggers about Marie Callender food, but some email exchanges yesterday provide us with a classic textbook debacle.

Instead of a recap, I’ll just let you read the story of how a few employees at BrandLink Communications have nearly destroyed their business with a bad pitch to the Bloggess. (warning: profanity-laden)

Their first basic mistake was relevance. While the point of PR is to get mentioned in as many forms of media as possible, too many firms just blast their entire contact list with every pitch. Look at the placement (whether it’s a blogger or traditional print/broadcast outlet) and see if what you’re pitching is similar to the type of content and audience they have.

For some reason, I keep getting emails from a PR firm who wants me to write about MRI machines here on the Shotgun Marketing Blog. They have not researched. Shoddy research doesn’t count either. I get a few pitches a week wanting me to write about guns and/or ammunition.

The well-researched personalized pitch works. Take a look at the 2nd half of Mark Schaefer’s post back when I was pitching bloggers about Brand Zeitgeist.

Another tenet of sending out good pitches is basic proofreading. If you look at the quotes from BrandLink Comm’s original pitch, it’s rampant with spelling and grammar errors. There’s now an entire generation of young professionals who are now sending out professional emails with the laissez-faire style of online communication and texting. It might work with some bloggers, but you’re going to immediately be deleted by the traditional editor who has an AP Stylebook sitting next to the Bible.

While BrandLink Comm had a bad pitch to start with (as The Bloggess tried to tell them with the Wil Wheaton link), this issue was compounded by arrogance, hubris, and rudeness. In PR, you’re basically going with hat-in-hand and asking for help. Be respectful of their audience and their time.

And when you do mess up, say you’re sorry and mean it. BrandComm has sent the Bloggess an email apology and apologized on their Facebook page, but the offensive VP (Jose) continues to be glib and use non-apologies on his Twitter feed.

All PR firms who reach out to bloggers need to have a training with all their employees using this instance as the prime case study. (Need a trainer?)

And always remember, reply-all is the most dangerous thing on your computer.

Update: This is not the first time that Jose has ticked off a high-profile blogger.

Follow-up Post: PR firms, ad agencies, and other marketers should find a partner for disaster