Archive | June, 2011

The problem with leaf blowers

28 Jun

Have you ever been jarred awake by the sound of a leaf blower? Not too pleasant is it? Leaf blowers are definitely high on the noise index, but low on the productivity scale. After all, what does a leaf blower do? It blows leaves around–it doesn’t gather them, or suck them up, it just moves them from place to place.

As I was watching a gardener use his leaf-blower several times over a four-hour span, making noise and not accomplishing ANYTHING, it occurred to me that the people paying for his services were really wasting their money. First, he kept doing the same thing, over and over, without actually creating any change. Second, he seemed to be busy and not to be accomplishing much. Third, he was taking the easy way out, yet at more expense. The harder and cheaper way would be to use a rake and gather the leaves to then dispose of.  He was wasting resources (time, gas) and accomplishing little or nothing.

Since this is not a gardening blog, you know where I am headed with this. Are you using a leaf-blower for your marketing efforts? Are you making lots of noise but not actually getting things done? Are you moving paper around but not actually getting to closing? Are you doing the same thing over and over with minimal or no results?

Just like leaf blowers are annoying and pretty useless in gardens throughout the country, loud and untargeted marketing efforts are pointless exercises that create noise and don’t communicate. Next time you launch a marketing campaign or create a marketing piece, ask yourself, is this at all like a leaf-blower or is it a rake? After all, rakes are useful, cheap and get the job done with minimal noise.


Putting back the social in social media

22 Jun

It’s been discussed to pieces but social media is just a channel for communicating with other people. It is not the be-all-end-all. Yes, it can be used for marketing (just like that ad you just saw on your way to work this morning) or to incite political action (as in Egypt) or to let people know when the next event is.

Recently, I was at a women’s business networking event  and we were told to discuss resources we recommend for new businesses, and our own goals and achievements.  When I talked about blogs (I write blog content for clients, among other things), many of the women started saying things like “I am not on Twitter/Facebook, and I just don’t get it.” My response was this: well, you better learn because people are using these channels to communicate much the way you use the telephone or we used to use the fax or the telex even longer ago.

Social media has become the communication channel of choice for many people. Will people still use the phone? Yes. Will some use the fax? Maybe. Telex, no. In a few years, we will be communicating some other way (not on Twitter or Facebook).We will use what other people are using.

Communicating on social media is just a phone conversation on steroids.

It is about people speaking to other people. Yet, there are many people out there scheduling their tweets, and broadcasting irrelevant news and/or sales pitches. There are people who never attempt to learn anything about the PERSON at the other end of the avatar.  People who are too busy looking at their screens to interact with other people at an event. (As an aside, a few weeks ago I was at an event regarding social media, and one of the organizers never introduced herself to anyone and barely looked up from her laptop. And she is supposed to be a social media whiz.  Apparently, she knows how to use the tools of social media but not how to be social in real life with actual people.)

Last week, I made a point of having coffee with someone I regularly chat with on Twitter: Diane Danielson (founder of the Downtown Women’s Club). I had traveled up to Boston for my college reunion, and asked Diane if she would like to meet up. It was nice to be able to talk face-to-face, and make a more tangible connection.

In my opinion, the real goal of social media or any other communication channel is to connect, whether it be to converse or  to exchange information or to perhaps to sell (products, ideas, services).

So, try to put the social back into social media by realizing you are using it as a way to communicate with other people.

Another cosmetics failure

16 Jun

You may recall that a couple of years ago I was trying to buy a foundation from Prescriptives. It turns out Prescriptives had gone out of business, but I was able to order the makeup through their website. The failure was in communication–no real advertising of the closure and misinformation at the counter.

Well, it has happened again. Clinique has discontinued my favorite mascara, without any notice. I went up to the counter, asked for the mascara by name, and was told they no longer carry it. That was it.  My friend and fellow WWPR board member Debbie Friez recommended calling the 1-800 number that the Estee Lauder cosmetics company has for discontinued items (you have to search really hard on the Clinique website for the “Gone but  Not Forgotten program”).

I called the Gone but not Forgotten program, and they said it could take up to two weeks to locate the product, and if they did, they would ship it out to me. After nearly two weeks, not a word. I called the program (and was on hold for 20 minutes) only to find out “that I contacted them before they could contact me” to tell me that the product is no longer available.

What a massive failure from Clinique. First, they discontinued a product just so they could introduce a substitute that is not as good. Second, they failed to inform their customers.  And third, their program for discontinued items is a joke–why would it take two weeks to locate inventory? Why would you not email as soon as you knew you couldn’t fulfill a customer’s request? Perhaps you could give the customer a voucher to try another product for free, etc.

Why should I buy from Clinique ever again? Why would I buy a cosmetic that I like only to have it discontinued? Why would I want to deal with a company that disregards its customers? Clinique has effectively forced me into the marketplace to find another mascara that I like.

A note to male readers: mascara is a product that should be replaced every three months. This made me visit the Clinique counter at least four times a year. And hey, if you are there four times a year, chances are good you will see something else you like.

In any case. the lessons here are as always: advertising alone will  not sell a product. Service will seal the deal. Personal experiences will also influence buying behavior, and in the social media world, may influence the behavior of other people too.

So, if you know of any good hypoallergenic, waterproof, non-flaking mascara, let me know. But please, make sure it is not a Clinique brand.



Write well or fail

9 Jun

On Monday, I came across a letter to the editor in the Washington Post that made me nod my head vigorously. The author, David Klinger was writing about the Scripps Spelling Bee coverage, and I think you should read his letter:

I have written for a federal agency throughout a 34-year career. I had to pass a spelling test before graduating from the University of North Carolina’s journalism school. Yet I turn to the dictionary half a dozen times a day to check a word or reconfirm a spelling. That’s the nature of good, careful writing.
Memorization of words like “thanatophidia” (which isn’t even in my Webster’s) or “bondieuserie”for the Scripps spelling bee is about as relevant to me — or to today’s generation of texters and youthful online denizens — as a buggy whip.
Scripps included, we desperately need to acquaint the next generation with a few, basic English grammar skills that seem to have disappeared amid society’s collective cyber-mania: complete sentences, subject-verb agreement, correct punctuation and that all-important axiom that “an apostrophe does not a plural make.”
David Klinger, Martinsburg, W.Va.
Basic grammar skills are disappearing left and right.  I see the use of apostrophes to make plurals ALL the time. People just don’t get it. However, to those in the know, using grammar poorly makes you look dumb. There is no other way to describe it. In marketing and PR, which are communications-based disciplines, writing well is key. It is key because if your grammar, spelling or sentence structure don’t add up, you are probably not getting your thoughts through clearly.
Over on the Journalistics blog, Jessica Love writes “The Write Stuff: Still the#1 PR Skill.”  Yes, it should be, but no, many PR practitioners don’t have it. We can blame many things from a failing school system to an overreliance on short form messaging, but the responsibility to straighten out your writing skills lies with you.
Write well, or fail to communicate.

Thoughts on reaching out, stumbling blocks and helplessness

3 Jun

Perhaps in honor of the name of this blog (Caffeinated ideas and views on marketing), I have lots of things percolating in my head this morning.

Reaching out

With social media fast becoming a substitute for print and electronic media, and with the idea that “inbound” marketing is best, we are seeing a drop-off in reaching out. For instance, there is a conference today in Washington that I only just found out about because someone in my Twitter stream is attending. This conference is intended for nonprofits. I am not sure what type of marketing was done for the conference, but I can assure you it was not a traditional advertising in many channels approach.  I will place bets that the nonprofit I work with never heard about it…

I feel that what is happening here is that circles are getting smaller and tighter.  If you depend on social media for your outreach, you will be reaching a self-reinforcing group of folks. More and more, if I attend an event promoted on social media, I see the same folks I saw at the last event.

I am not shunning social media, but I do think that if marketers want to spread the word, they have to use many different channels to do so.

Stumbling blocks

Last week, I attended a talk by Guy Kawasaki, author of  Enchantment. He mentioned that when you put stumbling blocks between you and your customer or supporter, you are not being enchanting. And yet, I have visited dozens of blogs this week, with interesting posts that I would like to share on my social networks, and guess what, they make it hard to do. For instance “Sexy Sharing” (I think that is what is called) adds a second step when you click on one the sharing buttons (It asks whether you want to allow a third party to connect to your account…and I don’t). That is not sexy, and it is a stumbling block. Similarly, some blogs do not have sharing or their sharing buttons don’t work, making me do the work (use my own Hootsuite sharing button or use a URL shortener to cut and paste).  Or how many times are you asked to give information, create passwords, etc. just to get costs/estimates/speak to someone. Stumbling blocks turn people away, and hurt you in the end.


I belong to a listserv, the name and purpose of which I won’t share here. What irks me about this listserv is that many times people ask questions to the listserv that could be found out by doing some research (AKA typing  a term into Google). To me, this is being helpless and dependent on others, and makes those people look bad (stupid).  Perhaps these people are trying to reach out and start a conversation, but sometimes you just have to wonder if they understand the power of the Internet.

I admit, the above are some random thoughts. Your take on them is appreciated…that is why we have comments!

Using capitalized words the right way

2 Jun

In English, we use capitals in the following situations:

  • At the beginning of a sentence.
  • For proper names (Deborah Brody lives in Maryland)
  • For titles (President Barack Obama)

We do not use capitals as a way to emphasize words, or make them prominent. For that purpose, we might underline,  italicize or bold the word in question.

All caps as in NO WAY AM I GOING OUTSIDE TODAY is generally used to denote excitement, anger or “shouting.”

However, I see words being capitalized that don’t need to be, all the time.

Notice this help wanted ad from Craigslist (words underlined for emphasis by me):

Our Firm has an immediate open for two Writers/Proofreaders
We are very flexible:
You can work as contractors, Part Timers or Freelancers
You can work from your house/office or/and our office
You must have experience writing for Finance, Tax, Accounting, and Insurance businesses
You must have experience in Marketing, Advertising and Sale
You must be available to start next week
You must include your desired pay (per page and/or per hour) in your email or cover letter

This is a help-wanted ad for a proofreader! I am not sure the ad is intended to be a test or if it is showing (unwittingly) a desperate need for a proofreader.