Friday, November 13, 2015
It's About Education, Not Destination
If you're only using QR codes as a substitute for a hyperlink, you're not coming close to unlocking the benefits of this technology. Consider the example of a restaurant that uses QR codes for customer education. There's only so much information that you can fit on a "take home" menu before it starts to get unwieldy. The larger that menu is, the more likely it is to get thrown in the garbage because it's difficult to store long-term.
If you were a restaurant owner, you might include an abbreviated menu featuring just items that are available to carry-out as a print marketing material. The QR code on that same menu, however, can be used to instantly educate the user about what your restaurant looks like, what items you have available for dine-in visitors and more. The physical print information that the customer is receiving is contextually relevant, in that dine-in options aren't necessarily on their mind if they're looking to order in. However, they do have access to all of that additional data should the need arise.
The customer has everything they need to order in and stay home for the evening if they choose, but you're also using the opportunity to show them what a great time they'll have, and what a great selection they'll be exposed to when they do decide to pay you a visit. More than that, you're saving physical space on your material and are leaving contextual information in the digital realm. This is the power of a well-placed QR code at work.
Adding to an Experience
Another great way to use a QR code in your campaign has to do with adding to the experience before, during, and after the event. As previously stated, a QR code should be about delivering quality information to your customers. In the days leading up to an in-store event, for example, a QR code on the print mailer that you send out may automatically send relevant details about who is going to be there, why the customer should come, and more to that person.
After the event, however, you can update what that QR code actually does to redirect the user to photos, video and other multimedia elements that were captured while the event was going on. Did a speaker host a question and answer session during the event? Suddenly, that same QR code can be used to deliver all that content right to the user's smartphone to let them relive the experience (if they were there), or show them what they missed (if they, unfortunately, couldn't make it).
Now, you don't have to send out another print mailer with updated information because the QR code itself is inherently malleable. It can be whatever you need it to at any given moment with a few quick modifications.
A well-placed QR code can do wonders for combining the best parts of both print and digital campaigns together. More than anything, however, it gives the user a choice regarding how they want to view the information that you're trying to get across. It allows them to pick a forum for the receipt of this data, allowing them to gain exposure to your message in the format that matters most to them.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
We were all children at some point, complete with the requisite innocence of childhood and before the experiences of life turned us into knowing adults. While most of us have trouble remembering the innocence of our own early lives, there is no denying that the innocence we observe in today's small children inspires in us a faint recollection and a distant longing for whatever feeling that was, way back when. Innocence is attractive to us precisely because it is something we have largely lost and cannot regain.
We really have little choice in the loss of our innocence. We value experience as a necessary part of being functional adults, so we allow our innocence to die at its hands. That makes observed innocence all that much more attractive to us.
We still see flashes of that inherent goodness in adults, but it is usually reserved for times of emergency and imminent danger. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanoes have brought out the best in heroic bravery. We honored the dedication of first-responders to the 9/11 disaster. We see images and videos on Internet social media, depicting the work of individuals who rise to specific occasions helping others in need, from mining disasters to oil spill clean-ups. But for adults, this is the exception, and not the rule. Only in the innocence of children can goodness still be displayed as the norm, as the way children simply are.
We adults chuckle at innocence, but deep down inside we respect it. Few things can be more deeply inspiring than innocence as French philosopher Jean Baudrillard said, "There is no aphrodisiac like innocence."
What is it we see in the eyes of a young child? We see untainted belief in the goodness of human beings. We see the belief in the goodness of ourselves, vicariously re-lived in our young counterparts. We see a willingness to embrace the irrational and an ignorance of the concept of death. The eyes of the innocent are a deep well of remembered truths and valued feelings. What can be more inspiring than the look of a child who sees into your own soul with a clarity that you, yourself, can no longer muster? Innocence, it seems, can be far more powerful than experience.
Founder of the Hilton hotel chain Conrad Hilton once said, "Be ever watchful for the opportunity to shelter little children with the umbrella of your charity; â¦[They are] in their innocence the repositories of our hopes for the upward progress of humanity."
We never completely outlive our innocence, but as adults, we need to spend the time to view its full force in the eyes of our children.
Monday, November 9, 2015
Constructive Criticism: Why Direct Customer Feedback is Better Than Surveys and How It Can Help Propel Your Business Forward
The Survey Conundrum
Many people believe that sending out surveys is one of the best ways to get open and honest criticism regarding what they're doing, what they should be doing, and what they should stop doing as quickly as possible. In reality, this is incredibly false and surveys, in general, are faulty for a very important reason. The types of people who are the most likely to fill out surveys are the ones on the extreme ends of the customer spectrum. People who are really, really dissatisfied or who really, truly already love your company are going to represent the vast majority of all responses. As a result, you're going to get a huge number of responses that you can't really do anything with or learn anything from and the few, valuable leads that you do have are easy to get lost in the shuffle.
What is Direct Customer Feedback?
The best way to get the constructive criticism that you're after is to go to more direct sources - namely, social media, forums and similar channels online. Social media, in general, has made this incredibly easy in the last few years - you can search for your company name on a site like Twitter or Facebook and look at the conversations that users are already having with one another that you had no part in starting. These are people who were already having an open and honest discussion that they never assumed you would be a part of in the first place, so they don't have a "horse in the race," so to speak. These are the conversations that you need to be learning from. Online communities like message boards are also a great source of this, provided that it isn't a message board hosted on your own website. Again, these will be users who are similar to survey respondents - they're not the customers in the middle who you really need, but are the "extreme" customers who fall firmly in "love it" or "hate it" camps.
Onward and Upward
Direct customer feedback is something that you should not only embrace, but actively seek out on a regular basis. In a way, it's like any other customer service channel - by showing that you're ready to accept anything that your customers can throw at you, you're showing that they have a voice that is equal (if not more important) than your own. Some business owners label people with issues "haters," even if they have legitimate concerns. This would really only be true if you believe that your business is already perfect, which is not true. This is also hugely beneficial from a marketing perspective. Simply put, customers enjoy supporting businesses when they know that their opinions are valued and they feel valued, too. By seeking direct customer feedback through public channels, you're putting your best foot forward in this regard and are only strengthening your marketing message, your brand, and ultimately your business at the same time.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
As a young man fresh out of high school, Eric started up his own business, a personal training studio. Bright eyed and bushy-tailed, he easily achieved his early financial goals, and his business seemed destined for success with Eric still at the tender age of 18. He was on top of the world before things began to unravel.
Eric was already married with two young children, and addicted to a fast-paced lifestyle that came with the success of his business. The pressures of raising a family while running a business took their toll on someone perhaps a bit too young to handle the situation. Eric descended into depression and alcohol abuse. His early successes now haunted him like spirits. He lost his wife and children. Then came the day Eric punched his fist through a glass window and almost permanently lost the use of his hand. He knew he had hit rock bottom and needed a change in his life.
He thought he had lost the use of his hand, but being well versed in personal training concepts he rehabilitated the hand himself. That was the first thing he dedicated his efforts toward, and it worked. he knew he needed more, however, and he went after it. As Norman Vincent Peale wrote, "There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment."
Eric decided to try out for college football even though he had never played on a team. Eight dreary years had been wasted in depression and alcohol, and the 26-year-old version of Eric was deemed too old for college football. Everyone tried to discourage him.
He released 40 clients and closed his studio, cutting off his income. Eric tried out for three college football teams and applied to enter two others. Only on the strength of a letter from San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza was Eric accepted by the University of the Incarnate Word. He made the team as a walk-on.
Four years later, Eric was a 30-year-old senior ready to graduate, having lived his dream of being on a college football team. While he had not played a single play in all that time, his dream was fulfilled by simply running onto the field with his team for every game. He had reached for the stars and succeeded.
One of Eric's inspirations had been the film, "Rudy," about a walk-on with limiting disabilities who made the team. Eric's only limitation was his age, and having overcome it he earned the respect of his teammates and coaches. In the last game of his career, his teammates called out to the coaches to put Eric in for a few snaps. Just like in the movie, "Rudy," the guys were calling out, "Put in Castillo!"
It was like icing on the cake. Eric got more than he ever expected. He had already realized his dream and had decided to use the drive and ambition he now generated in another way, toward another objective. While still a UIW student, Eric started up a non-profit organization called A Walk in My Shoes. He solicited and received donations of new and slightly used pairs of shoes to distribute to needy people for free.
To date, they have distributed thousands of shoes to organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio and the American Red Cross. There has even been a documentary film of Eric's drive to overcome adversity entitled, "The Power of a Dream" that was released in 2015. Through his continuing efforts, Eric's success has become the success of others.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Changing your brand may be a difficult decision, but sometimes it is the best chance you have to re-organize your priorities and start anew. There are a few key warning signs that it may be time to change your brand that you should always be on the lookout for.
Time Has Passed and Passed... and Passed...
A lot can happen in a decade. Since 2005 alone, the world saw the rise of the smartphone, the fall (and arguable recovery) of desktop computing, the "death" of physical media and more. If the one thing that you CAN'T say about the last ten years is, "I've updated by brand at least once, preferably twice during this period of time," then you're looking at a clear-cut sign that it's time for a change.
So much happens in a decade that without a brand refresh, you run the risk of developing a reputation for being old and stale. Even if you know that isn't true, relying on the same logo and marketing approach from President Bush's second term will land you right back there anyway. A brand change or upgrade is a perfect way to start fresh with a bold, new (and most importantly modern) voice.
Your Target Audience is Changing
At some point, any successful business that has operated for an appreciable amount of time needs to deal with a target audience that "ages out" of what attracted them to their business in the first place. If you think of the most successful brands in history, be it Pepsi or Microsoft or something in between, they've all had to deal with the same issue at some point in their history.
If despite your best marketing efforts your once steady sales have started to stagnate, or if you just can't seem to rile up your audience the way you once did no matter what you try, it may be time to rethink your brand and who it is geared towards. Remember that a 30-year-old in 2015, and a 30-year-old in 1965, represent two completely different things and barely resemble one another. If your core audience has gone away, a dramatic change to your brand (but adherence to the values you established in the first place) is a great way to attract the attention of a whole new crop of people in one bold and striking move.
Changing Your Brand Doesn't Mean Changing Your Vision
These are just a few of the many signs that it may be time to change your brand. Above all else, it's important to remember that a brand realignment is not an admission of guilt that something went wrong, or defeat in terms of your business in general. Instead, it's an opportunity. It's a chance to throw out the old and rise from the ashes like the phoenix, ready to take a new generation of your target audience by storm and impact their lives with your products or services in a much more organic and impacting way.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Famous singer/song writer Janis Ian recently documented in a blog post several of the mistakes she has made over the years. Describing herself as prone to accidents "in the minefield of life," she revealed some whopping errors. Three noteworthy examples are refusing the role eventually played by Rhea Pearlman in the hit TV series Cheers, passing on performing at Woodstock, and declining to write the musical score for the blockbuster film, The Graduate.
These were definite mistakes, to be sure. But as serious as these now obvious blunders were, Janis Ian is still doing what she loves and making others happy in the process. She is earning a living writing music and performing, and the world is better for this. None of her mistakes in that minefield have kept her down nor kept the world from enjoying her music.
Isaac Newton's mother made a mistake that had the potential of altering the history of science. Young Isaac was pulled out of school to help run the family farm, but he was really no good at this, and his mother recognized it. She also knew that he really wanted to finish his schooling. When she realized that this was a far better fit for her son, she found another way to get the farm running as it should and allowed her son to finish school. The world of science is better because of this woman's mistake being corrected and learned from.
Many stories tell of business successes born after their founders' prior failures. Macy's, the department store chain, is one of the largest such chains in the world, but Rowland H. Macy suffered through multiple business failures before learning enough from them to bring him and his family fame and wealth.
Dave Anderson of Famous Dave's BBQ restaurants was, at one time, a not-so-famous Dave, after experiencing not one, but two business bankruptcies. One of them was as a wholesale florist supplying very large clients like Sears Roebuck. His business grew so rapidly that he failed to keep up with it, and lost the business. But, he learned from his mistakes and personal limitations. Indeed, he describes failure simply as "a learning tool."
Since Dave knew that he loved making food, a restaurant was an obvious choice, and Famous Dave's is the famously successful result, but he did not stop there. Anderson also created the LifeSkills Center for Leadership in Minneapolis, investing over a million dollars to start the program for helping at-risk Native American youth. The program focuses on leadership skills--the same skills Dave learned from his previous mistakes.
As author John C. Maxwell put it in his successful book, Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, your objectives should include this mantra: "Fail early, fail often, and fail forward." Mistakes should become vehicles, not obstacles. Like Janis Ian, despite mistakes you keep on keeping on. Isaac Newton's mother learned that correcting mistakes can create value where none appeared to be. Like Rowland H. Macy and Dave Anderson, you build success on the foundation created by prior failures.
As social activist, composer, and singer Bernice Johnson Reagon put it, âLifeâs challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; theyâre supposed to help you discover who you are.â
Monday, October 19, 2015
Let the Customer Discover Your Message on Their Own Terms
For an example of effective multi-channel communication in action, consider what happens after you send out a print item to a customer using direct mail. Logic dictates that you should wait a week or two and send a follow-up message, right? As you've already established contact, that follow-up doesn't have to come in the form of another mailer sent to the customer's mailbox. It can easily be an e-mail sent to the address for that customer you have on file. Suddenly, you've used not one, but two, different channels effectively, allowing the customer a full range of options regarding how and why they respond and continue their journey.
That may be simplifying the situation a bit, but the benefit to the consumer of getting full control over how they're receiving and responding to your message is what multi-channel communications are all about.
Better Campaigns Mean Better Results
In order to master multi-channel marketing and really put it to good use for your organization, you'll need to keep a few key things in mind. For starters, you'll need to establish a single, unified view of your customers across all channels. Any available piece of information will need to be collated together, not only so that each channel seems like a natural extension of the next, but so each channel can allow for the deeper level of customization that attracts customers in the first place.
Another factor to consider has to do with your organization's ability to create the most consistent experience possible across all of those channels at the same time. When a customer gets an e-mail, sees a mobile ad, and receives a letter in the mail from your campaign, they all need to feel like they're coming from the same company. One can't be casual, while the other, stuffy and overly professional. Failure to grasp this basic concept can result in your organization coming across as a bit schizophrenic.
You'll also need to develop your own in-house multi-channel platform to help keep track of all of these materials. You'll need things like campaign management software, for example, giving you the ability to execute all aspects of a campaign (including both print and digital materials) all from the same unified workflow. This will also give you a better idea of tweaks that you can be making to your campaign by way of things like predictive and actionable analytics.
Multi-channel communication, in general, just goes to show you that print and digital don't have to be an "either/or" scenario for marketers. By leveraging all of the tools you have available to you instead of playing favorites, you'll put you and your team in a much better position to succeed moving forward.