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Finding a vendor

24 Aug

How do you find a vendor? It is important to know this because it can inform marketing. Depending on what I am looking for, I used Google, LinkedIn, listing services, reviews or Twitter. I am sure you use other tools (and would appreciate your insights in the comments).

For example, yesterday I was searching for a freelance editor.  I used Google, and found (remarkably) few individuals had websites, whether I searched for “DC freelance editor” or “Maryland freelance editor.” I did find a couple, and one of them, had a very nice website and clearly defined rates. I searched for her on LinkedIn, and discovered that her background was very technical–no editorial. Made me think twice about her skill set. Another one had very strong writing credentials, but absolutely no social media (and she explained she is not into it). It made me question whether she gets it. I also Tweeted it out, and got a response from a colleague (good word of mouth).  But, no freelance editors even picked up on it. Obviously, not using Twitter search to find business.

Tool: Google

Marketing lesson: Websites are important. Google profiles are helpful. If you are in an industry that is reviewed, having positive reviews is important since Google finds results from Yelp and others.

Tool: LinkedIn

Marketing lesson: If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you are at a disadvantage. The quality of your profile (both for individuals and companies) is important. For individuals, testimonials, number of connections and your background do matter. Don’t make stuff up, but bone up what is there.

Tool: Twitter (or other social media sites)

Marketing lesson: How you present yourself, and even if you are on social media, says a lot. What does your Twitter profile, stream, followers say about your business or you?

Tool:  Printed materials (brochures, business cards, etc.)

Marketing lesson: How your marketing materials look (are they printed on quality stock, are they black/white or color, do they look professionally designed),  can give an immediate impression. How your marketing materials read–what information you provide–can seal the deal.

Tool:  Using the telephone

Marketing lesson: Are you reachable? How do you/your company answer the phone? Do you even answer the phone? Some people will want to talk to someone in real time.

 

Tool: Word of mouth

Marketing lesson: Each and every customer who has a positive interaction with you can be an ambassador, and each and every customer who has a negative impression can be a detractor. Watch your customer interactions. Improve your customer service.

The bottom line is that if you are marketing yourself/your company, you have to understand how people find you, and how they decide whether to contact you or not.

Your thoughts? What makes you decide on a vendor? How do you find a vendor?

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Do you have an internal communications program?

23 Aug

Many companies devote almost all of their communications/marketing resources to EXTERNAL communications, that is, the customer facing communications like ads, press releases, and so forth.  It seems like far fewer companies take the time to invest in INTERNAL communications.

Internal communications are the information exchanges you have with your internal audiences: your staff, board of directors, volunteers and any other group internally affiliated with your organization.  Many companies communicate company news to employees via internal email or a staff meeting. There is nothing wrong with that, but perhaps you could do more.

An internal communications program should be:

Timely. Your staff should never find out about a company decision from outside sources.

Complete. Provide all the necessary details–more than you would provide the media.

Regular. Even if you have no major announcements, you should communicate with your internal audiences on a regular basis.

What kind of information should you share? Here are some ideas:

  • Staff changes and promotions–including dismissals
  • Company earnings and market reports
  • Competitive information
  • Any external communications: press releases, ads, blog posts
  • News reports on your organization
  • News reports on your field
  • Calendar events
  • Policies–including any changes

When your internal audiences know less about your organization that the general public you risk a downgrade in morale. Having a good internal communications program will keep your internal audiences informed.

If you do have an internal communications program, what is your preferred form of communication? If not, why not?

 

 

A tagline that works

10 Aug

Taglines can help or hamper your marketing efforts. They must be clear and relevant. A few nights ago, I was watching TV and saw the following commercial for Red Lobster:

The last line is: “I see food differently. “The tagline for this campaign is Sea Food Differently.  I think this is tagline writing at its best: clever, play on words, and RELEVANT. They are saying that Red Lobster does seafood differently (presumably better) than other restaurants. Perfect.

Compare that to Salonpas. Salonpas, which has a completely weird name that makes me think of a hair salon, is a pain relief patch. They are running this spot on TV right now:

The tagline is: “Nothing’s been proven to beat the relief.”

What does that mean? It is saying that nothing is proven to provide relief–which, I am pretty sure, is not the message they intended.

Some taglines make you scratch your head, some don’t make you think at all, and some, the ones that work, make you think.

More ways to make people dislike your company

13 Jul

It is the marketing kiss of death when people actively start disliking your company. People like to do business with people (and companies) they like. Except where there is monopoly–like with the power company or the phone or cable company–then people are forced to do business with companies they do not like very much.

Yesterday, Netflix became a very disliked company. In an email to subscribers (which again hit AFTER the press release hit the blogosphere), Netflix raised its prices for the second time in less than one year. The company, which was offering people a plan that allowed one DVD at a time (unlimited in a month) and unlimited streaming for $9.99 (raised from $8.99 last December), is now offering this combination for $15.99 OR you can get the DVD option only for $7.99 or the streaming option only for $7.99. You can read it Netflix own words here:  http://blog.netflix.com/2011/07/netflix-introduces-new-plans-and.html

Needless to say, a price hike of this magnitude was not greeted with open arms by Netflix subscribers. Just check out the more than 6,000 comments on the blog (link above), or these stories from USA Today and the New York Post.

On Twitter, many people are expressing their dislike for this price hike and threatening to cancel their subscription altogether.

Netflix is pretty disliked right now. But what really is driving the discontent?

1. Raising rates without offering more. In effect,  most people are complaining because Netflix’ streaming option does not offer the equivalent value of the DVD option (i.e. you can’t get everything on streaming that you can get on DVD).

2. Thinking your customers will grin and bear it. Yes, it probably will help to raise revenue….if you keep your current base! The result here is that customers will find other options better suited to the value they perceive the service should be worth.

3. Underestimating the power of social media. With Twitter and Facebook one person’s discontent spreads like wildfire.

4. Underestimating your customer’s intelligence. The email from Netflix about the price hike says this:

We are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into two separate plans to better reflect the costs of each. Now our members have a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan, or both.

 

This presumes customers want a choice or that they don’t like the choice they have or that if you put it as a choice then people will accept it.

Companies that treat their customers like revenue sources and not like people who actually do have a choice in which companies they do business with, risk losing business.  Netflix will probably survive this episode, but not without a lot of bad blood and bad publicity.

How to become the most hated company

12 Jul

Yesterday, I talked about how you can make sure people dislike you. It’s not hard–all  you have to do is be self-centered and creepy. Well, how about making your company on of the most hated companies in America? That is a new level of dislike, and Pepco has reached it.

The article about this “honor” in WTOP (Berzerk customers make Pepco ‘most hated’ in U.S.) tells us that the power company has had a drop in customer satisfaction since last year, due in part to:

frequent and wide-ranging outages made worse by belated customer service response… Pepco has had reliability problems in the past, but not as serious as the last year when its customers faced 70% more power outages than households in other metropolitan areas, along with outages lasting twice as long on average.

What is most interesting to me is how Pepco responded to this “accolade” reported in the website Business Insider. Here is what the article said

Pepco initially issued a statement questioning the validity of the Business Insider rankings, which it said could have been to drive up their readership.

It later retracted this statement, released another written statement in response to the survey. Pepco spokespeople declined to answer specific questions.

“While we certainly believe that this label is over the top, we have heard our customers loud and clear and are working hard to upgrade our system,” the second statement said.

Pepco’s communication department certainly does not get it.  You don’t get rid of something by attacking the source (unless it was some muck-raking tabloid). The lesson here is that Pepco is in denial about how it is perceived by its customers. As a company, it believes that if it says that it is fixing things, people should just accept it.

To become the most hated company you have to provide bad service, first and foremost. But you compound this by:

  • Denying that serious problems exist
  • Not doing enough to address those problems, or just giving lip-service to fixing said issues.
  • If criticized, pointing fingers at the source of criticism rather than dealing with the substance.

I tweeted out the WTOP article yesterday, and @pepcoconnect tweeted back: Working to get it right (with a link to this: http://pepcoconnect.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/working-to-get-it-right/ ) And if that is true, why on Friday night, did I lose power for one and half hours, for no apparent reason?

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.

 

 

My marketing must-haves

19 Apr

As a very small business, Deborah Brody Marketing Communications does not have a large marketing budget (seems a bit ironic). For instance, I have never printed a brochure, but I do have a website. Here are the list of things I do have, some of which are free, for marketing purposes:

  • Website (soon to be upgraded…stay tuned): This is the must-have of all must-haves, for the obvious reasons that you need to know that I exist, and without a website, I may as well not be here.
  • Blog (you are here on WordPress.com …soon to be integrated to one site): Keeps you informed on what I am thinking.
  • Business cards: printed, in color and double-sided. Well worth the investment. Latest ones were ordered from Greenerprinter.com and are made of 100% recycled paper.
  • Twitter: Have met many people via Twitter not to mention the amount of information and ideas that I have picked up.
  • LinkedIn: A profile on LinkedIn is like an online resume with feelers.
  • Google alerts: I track several topics, and my own name. An invaluable source of current information only topped by
  • Google reader (with a long list of great blogs and feeds): You need to be current in the marketing field…and probably any field. A good way to stay on top of stuff is to have your Google Reader feeding you the latest from the industry’s top blogs, etc.

What I have that is not a must-have: a Facebook page for my business. This is in spite of evidence that says Facebook is a good place to be for businesses and brands.

What are your must-haves? Let me know in the comments please!