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Monday, March 31, 2008

TalkFloor Tells Flooring News

There's a new online flooring publication called TalkFloor.com. Have you heard about it? Have you subscribed for free daily email updates?

TalkFloor is the creation of John Simonson from Webstream Dynamics [also author of Flooring Insights & Tips blog] and Dave Foster, of FloorRadio.

Here's how John and Dave describe the site:

"Who is TalkFloor.com?

TalkFloor is the vision of two flooring guys. One guy with a microphone (that's Dave Foster of FloorRadio) and one with a mouse (that's John Simonson of Webstream Dynamics). We felt there is a real need for a great flooring industry web portal to keep flooring professionals up to date on the latest happenings in the flooring industry. A web site that is totally committed to bringing the latest news and audio interviews, as well as product videos, expert blogs, resource guide, marketplace, industry events, job opportunities and lots more exciting things. If it is happening anywhere in the flooring industry you will find it here first!!"

Key words: web portal and expert blogs. That what makes TalkFloor particularly unusual. The first flooring industry portal to feature blogs!

Here's the visual lineup [I know the images are small - Can you pick me out?] And, more detail on the TalkFloor blogs, which cover a wide range of topics.

+ The Brand Stand by Paul Friederichsen from BrandBiz Marketing Communications discusses marketing and branding.

+ Web Strategies by John Simonson is all about Web Site Design, SEO & Web Marketing.

+ Design by Don Marlowe offers design perspective.

+ Sustainability by Jon Dougal, who has a rich background in sustainable design [he's also the editor of the Green InSight Newsletter], promotes sustainability.

+ Totally Tech by Scott McGillivray offering Technology Help by RFMS [which also offers the Bits 'n Bytes newsletter]

+ Flooring the Consumer. Although it carries the same name as this Flooring The Consumer, it focuses more intensely on the flooring consumer. At least, so far.

+ Round the World by Jim Gould from the Floor Covering Institute offers insights into the floor covering business from around the World - literally! He's just come back from China.

+ Zeitgeist by Ben Kinlaw offers insights into housing, flooring, and the economy.

My posts to date include:
Please Write Your Elected Officials...
Customer Service: The New Luxury
The Flooring Installation Opportunity
Surfaces 2008 - Focus on the Consumer?
How Well Do You Know Your Consumer?
Feasting The Senses

Do check out TalkFloor.com and consider subscribing to the email newsletter [on front page, right hand side]. It will definitely keep you in the flooring know!

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Age of Conversation: What's Next?

This weekend was truly momentous. More specifically, Saturday March 29th. You see, that's when Social Media Bum Rush Happened for The Age of Conversation, the amazing book created from the contributions of over 100 bloggers from around the world [including me].

In between my daughter's Saturday dance class and other weekend obligations, I witnessed and participated in some of the excitement.

Before my eyes, I saw the ranking of The Age of Conversation change on Amazon.

I contributed a few tweets [coded #AOC for tracking], added an Amazon review [although it hasn't yet appeared], and purchased.

Via Twitter, I learned that The Age of Conversation now appears on Wikipedia. And Mack Collier suggested I bring my new copy to Blogger Social for autographs as 38 contributors are attending...

Amazing, too, to read The Marketing Fresh Peel's play-by-play commentary on THE LAUNCH: The Age of Conversation Bum Rush. Here is the final entry:

March 29th @ 10:00pm - #262
We made one last push up the charts that came in just under the wire!

What an amazing day! I along with the 103 authors of The Age of Conversation thank everyone that bought a copy (or more) of the book and helped generate buzz. Our combined efforts created a wave of conversation, blowing up on blogs, Twitter and other social media outlets, ultimately propelling the book from being ranked at 102,282 all the way to #36 on the Business Bestsellers list and #262 overall. Thanks for joining the rush!"

Thank you for being a part of this momentous day!

Equally exciting is getting a taste for what's next.

In January 2008, I asked What's the 2008 Version of Age of Conversation? Today, I share with you the details as announced by Drew McLellan in Meet the Age of Conversation '08 authors!

First, the theme: "Why don't they get it?"

Second, each contributing author will select one of eight topics that falls under the "why don't people get it?" theme to address. That makes it more interesting!

Finally, here are the 274 authors of the 2008 Age of Conversation: Why Don't People Get It?

Adam Crowe, Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob Carlton, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Bradley Spitzer, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Clay Parker Jones, Chris Brown, Colin McKay, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Cord Silverstein, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Goldstein, Dan Schawbel, Dana VanDen Heuvel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Darryl Patterson, Dave Davison, Dave Origano, David Armano, David Bausola, David Berkowitz, David Brazeal, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Emily Reed, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, G. Kofi Annan, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Graham Hill, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, J.C. Hutchins, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeremy Middleton, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, Joe Talbott, John Herrington, John Jantsch, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Flowers, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kris Hoet, Krishna De, Kristin Gorski, Laura Fitton, Laurence Helene Borei, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Barnes-Johnston, Louise Mangan, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Marcus Brown, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Mark McSpadden, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Hawkins, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Monica Wright, Nathan Gilliatt, Nathan Snell, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul Marobella, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Rob Mortimer, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Cribbett, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tiffany Kenyon, Tim Brunelle, Tim Buesing, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Longhurst, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

I am extremely honored and excited about taking part in this next version of The Age of Conversation: Why Don't People Get It? I promise to share more.

Thanks again!

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Carpetology Blog Update for March

Have you been keeping up with the Women of Wear-Dated?

If not, here's a quick summary of what we've been up to in the past month over at The Carpetology Blog.

Naturally, we continue to cover practical carpet related topics:

Pray Tell: What is a Frieze Carpet?
A Guide to Carpet Installation
The Carpetology Guide to Buying Carpet: Step 2 - Options & Decisions
The Perils of Padless Carpet

Then, there are the unusual or unexpected carpet stories:

Carpet Creates 'Theatre of the Senses'
Carpet Exudes Sweet Emotion...
Smart Carpet: Your Key To Survival

And, given how important a role fashion, color and design play in enticing the consumer to select one carpet style over another, we have those stories, too:

All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up....
Green Around The World
The Women of Carpet Design

Please let us know if you come across any intriguing ideas to showcase, or whether there are specific subjects that come up when you discuss carpet with customers, friends and family.

Enjoy, and Thank You for reading and subscribing!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Which Is Better? Buying Cars or Carpet?

We Buy Cars originally uploaded by AntyDiluvian.

I consider this serious stuff.

So serious, that I'm referring to most of it here.

It's the kind of thing that gets my attention. Because it gets to the heart of issues that plague the carpet business. Not that these issues are unique to carpet or flooring, but they are all too prevalent. And, I predict that they will become even more objectionable as the consumer gains more power, can more easily express frustration and becomes better able to come up with solutions to the frustrations. In fact, I've also discovered Cullison's comments on Helium.com.

At the heart of these issues lie transparency and authenticity - telling the truth and not obfuscating - so that consumers feel enthusiastically delighted about their purchases [think of the delight that an Apple iPod purchase generates] rather than that they've been taken for a ride.

It gets my attention because I frequently compare the carpet buying retail experience to that of purchasing used cars. But it's another thing for a real-live consumer to use that analogy, and rate car buying ahead. Considerably ahead.

Here follows part of the letter. Brace yourselves. It's not pretty:

I am in the market for new wall-to-wall carpet for my home. This sounds simple enough. You decide on a color and style and make a purchase based on your budget. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am the type of person who reads Consumer Reports and other similar review publications and buys accordingly. I won't pay more for something because of a designer label or snob appeal. I will spend more for something; let's say a car tire, if the performance and wear justifies the expense. In our family, we strive to make thoughtful informed decisions, especially regarding large-dollar purchases.

Unfortunately, unlike just about any other purchase one can make in this civilized world, the carpet industry has effectively established a marketing culture making it almost impossible to determine general values of quality and pricing. This culture of imposed confusion is embraced by all the companies that make carpet. This is exacerbated by the fact that fiber selections are not directly related to actual rug construction. You can choose a great fiber and good luck finding out what company actually made the carpet out of that fabric. Further, each carpet manufacturer has its own cute criteria/system for determining wear ability, stain resistance, static protection, etc. Lastly, the industry refuses to use the same terms from one manufacturer to another.

One company uses a term "Softbac" for a flexible carpet backing, while others call it “Action Back” or “OPTIBACK.” Density, weight and other determining factors should be quantifiable absolutes but become abstract and nebulous in the way the industry presents this information. Buying carpet is not fun. It is easier to buy a used car in terms of decision-making.

My family is willing to pay more for a product if it can demonstrate cost effectiveness albeit there is no way of effectively researching carpets in order to make an informed decision. I have spent more time than I care to admit trying to find reliable data and some common denominators in the carpet industry. The carpet moguls have won. I am at the mercy of my carpet salesperson and the industry marketing hype.

Ironically - going back to the Apple example - anyone walking into an Apple Store knows that anything within costs more than the equivalent MP3, laptop, phone... And, yet, everyone walks in willingly. Each one knows exactly what s/he is considering - having been able - assuming a desire - to compare it to equivalent products. And, yet, consumers still walk in and purchase willingly and with delight, impatient to get it home and start playing.

So, carpet industry. What are we waiting for?

Let's make carpet buying as exciting and inspiring as buying something from Apple - and a LOT better than buying a car!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Social Media Bum Rush Happens 3/29/2008. Please Participate!

The social media bum rush event of 2008 will be taking place on March 29, 2008 to benefit The Age of Conversation. I would not only like to invite you to take part, but also beg, plead, urge and demand [nicely] that you take part by:

+ Purchasing The Age of Conversation on 3/29/08

+ Getting the word to everyone you know that they should purchase The Age of Conversation on 3/29/08

NOTE: As incentive, I have created and posted a document summarizing and organizing the 103 chapters from The Age of Conversation [based on the 'slices' I published last summer in the posts listed in The Age Of Conversation RoundUp] -- to whet your appetite!

The last time a social media event of this sort happened - and let me tell you this is a recent but powerful phenomenon - is when Joe Jaffe so successfully bum rushed Amazon in October 2007 that his book Join The Conversation wound up 2nd only to Greenspan's! In one day, if I'm not mistaken. Impressive.

We'd like to do the same for The Age of Conversation. It's a long anticipated event as announced in Extra, Extra: The Age of Conversation on Amazon, and the date has finally been set. Better late than never and now let's get on with the bum rush!

Per Drew McLellan's instructions, here's the plan to bring this ground-breaking work to a wider audience via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other quality retail book selling sites. Remember, not only do you get a copy of a great book, but the children of Variety's LifeLine literally get the gift of life.

1. On Saturday, March 29th, we need you to purchase The Age of Conversation from Amazon.com to support the Social Media Bum Rush [as outlined by Chris Wilson]!

2. If you want to purchase several copies, please do so in separate transactions.

3. When you purchase, please go to Amazon via this Amazon affiliate link to The Age of Conversation.

4. Please encourage others around you to purchase the book through this Amazon affiliate link to The Age of Conversation.

If you blog, and you want to participate:
1. Please post the badge to your blog.
2. Talk this event up and help generate as many touch points around the web as possible so that it will be hard not to spot the Age of Conversation activity.
3. Buy the Book & send others to buy the book.
4. Please use this affiliate link, which will help in tracking sales. Remember, all the proceeds from the book sales and referrals will go to charity. [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1847992994?ie=UTF8&tag= drewmclellan-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325& creativeASIN=1847992994]

For Twitter Commentary - Join Gavin, Chris and Drew as they provide Bum Rush play-by-play on Twitter. (Follow them: @Freshpeel, @DrewMcLellan, @servantofchaos.) If you add commentary about the Bum Rush to use the code #AOC so that it can be picked up by Twemes.com.

In addition:
1. Trackback or Comment on the post that Chris leaves on March 29, at 12am CST, so that everyone can follow the conversation and help promote exposure on social sites (Digg, StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, etc.)
2. Digg the posts listed on Chris' site and send emails and shouts to friends requesting Diggs.
3. Stumble the posts listed & tell friends to do the same.
4. Bookmark your posts on Del.icio.us
5. Add your post to other social media outlets ( Technorati, Ma.gnolia, Furl, BlinkList, Newsvine, Facebook, etc.)
6. Send an Old Fashioned email to your friends about the Bum Rush for AoC.
7. Keep talking - Get on ooVoo, iChat, Aim, or where ever you like to talk, and start talking.

To add the Join the Rush Badge to your Blog or Web page: simply copy and paste the HTML code from Drew's blogpost.

+ Add your Reviews and tags on Amazon - Help fill it up!
+ Join the Facebook Group - You can join the group here.
+ Become an AOC Fan on Facebook - Join the AOC fan page here.

Please help make this day a huge success. Don't forget! Join The Rush on 3/29/08. Thank you!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sam Allman - How To Survive & Thrive During a Slowing Economy

Sam Allman, author of Heart & Mind Selling, and often referred to as The Dean of Mohawk University, presented "How To Survive and Thrive During a Slowing Economy" during Surfaces 2008.

Although particularly relevant to a slowing economy, Sam's recommendations apply in good times as well as bad. [By the way, if you aren't convinced that the economy has slowed, then consider these recent articles: Unemployment Rising in North West Georgia by Ashley Horn and Housing Slump Hurting Carpet Capital by Matt Johnson.]

Running a business is not the same as doing the business [think how different it is to do a job vs. running a department of people doing your job. It takes getting used to].

Retailing represents an interesting business model in that, once the doors are open for the day, the assumption is that "they will come" and that it is up to them [i.e., the customers] to come back, to followup, to complete the sale. It's a flawed assumption. Not only because of the slowing economy, but also because the consumer is shopping differently.

Forget sitting back and waiting passively for it to get better. That option leads to shutting down the business. Better to become more creative and create results.

According to Sam, the average salesperson never reads a book on selling. The best salespeople are 'students of the game.' They've observed and internalized how best to romance the customer. All salespeople need to master the basics of selling.

In Allman's model of selling, the funnel starts with creating rapport, then engaging inquiry [or engaged exchange] during which you qualify the customer via a two-way excited conversation; it's equivalent to a state of the customer [formerly known as the "probe" - not the nicest way to describe learning more about a customer!]. Next, presentation of products or solutions, which - if done well - will open [not close] a lifelong relationship.

That lifelong relationship means that next time that customer comes to you, price will not be an issue. Subsequent sales are easier because the customer trusts you. You've developed rapport and mutual trust and affinity.

How to do so? Find areas of commonness, listen, be interesting, be interested in the other, smile/look professional [did you know that closing rates are higher for well-dressed professionals?]; be safe, never say "may I help you?"

[Image from page 231 of Heart & Mind Selling.]
The engaging inquiry or engaged exchange is about understanding the customer's decision making process. It requires mastering the art of asking questions [Ask at least 17 questions before showing any product to better understand fashion preferences, performance requirements, budget decisions, etc.].

Make sure to never talk longer than thirty seconds without asking a question.

Never say a thing that you can't find a way to ask. The reason is that rather than tell, you want to sell. By asking questions, you involve your customer in the decision-making process.

During the presentation, be sure to convey conviction, enthusiasm, and passion for the customer [all buying decisions are emotional, including the decision to purchase from you and your store]. Remember that you are selling benefits, not features [people buy for their reasons, to benefit their lives], and that you are presenting the benefits from the customer's perspective.

The open. It's the point of everything we do. Right? Were you aware that 76% of sales presentations end without asking for the order? What a missed opportunity. This is the time to handle objections, to be persistent, yet - at the same time - so customer focused that you aren't perceived as pushy.

Peak performers must first have empathy so they can connect and communicate with customers. Next, they must have "ego - drive." This motivates them to make the sale, be pro-active and take action. It also means that they are busy increasing the likelihood of making a sale even during off-peak periods and in between customers.

[In fact, the best example of that behavior comes from Jack Mitchell. For more information, read A Good Hug Is Worth.... and Hugs or Relentless Customer Focus!]

During slower times, fewer customers come into stores. So, focus on improving close rates. Do more followup. Did you know the industry averages a closing rate of 26.8%?

Send a thank you note within 24 hours whether they buy or not. Add something personal, send a gift [remember love leads to reciprocity]; make contact w/in 72 hours of the first visit.

Allman suggests tracking every customer entering the store until they buy or go elsewhere. The point is to monitor the information to learn from it - and then figure out how to improve the closing ratios! Keep score, too, with salespeople. Measure performance so they can improve. A salesperson with goals is 33% more productive than one without. Food for thought!

Also try to increase your average ticket. Consider selling at higher prices than your competition. Yes, you will need to explain why you are better or different [i.e., "it's not the same" because you have certified installers and guaranteed installation]; just make sure those differences are real.

Stay away from being price driven. If you use price, you are nothing but an order taker. Did you know that for every 69 cent increase to a McDonald's ticket, 62 cents goes to the bottom line? The message is: upgrade, add-on. Start high [e.g., you might say "this is something a little more than what you wanted to spend. Do you want to see it...?"] , then work down. Sam says to lead with 4 or 5 products. No more or you will confuse the customer. This also makes the comparison process easier.

Create curiosity! Sell anticipation or the feeling of ownership. Present emotional benefits. Take the focus OFF of price. Reduce it to the ridiculous [e.g., it's only 39 cents a month vs. $10k] so it disappears as an issue. Offer credit [did you know that 80% of home furnishings are sold on credit, but not carpet?].

Once you have begun the relationship [i.e., the open], ask for referrals -- without saying 'referral'. Instead, you might ask whether your customer has any friends you might help.

Be sure to call 18 months later to remind your customer to get the carpet professionally cleaned; that keeps the warranty valid.

Stay in contact with your customers. Be everywhere, be visible, be creative to find business. Definitely be involved in the community! Call your customers when they are down. Be there for them. Never sit back and be complacent!

I noticed these recent articles offering suggestions on how best to survive tough economic times:
+ From MarketingProfs comes Five Tips for Marketing in a Recession by Glenn Gow: spend smarter, double-down on your current customers, outsmart your competitors, invest in growing market segments and fight for your resources.

+ High-end dealers fall back on the basics to stay ahead by Sarah Zimmerman from Jan 28/Feb 4, 2008 supports staying as far away from price as possible, and focusing on offering better service and products. Make sure your showroom is not only clean and neat, but also inspires creativity and feels welcoming. Be sure to deliver an impeccable experience.

+ Media Recession? Probably Not… by David L. Smith includes a fascinating paragraph with critical advice. It states: "astute marketers know that advertising in a down economy gains market share, which generally is sustained when markets come back. This has been established a number of times in newsletters and research papers from the MPA." The lesson: continue to advertise!

Note: Sam graciously sent me a copy of his book - Heart & Mind Selling. It goes into delicious detail about the points made during his presentation, and will definitely make you appreciate selling as you have never before [and don't forget that selling takes place with your children, parents, siblings, significant other as well as for work!]. Thanks, Sam.

Related Surfaces '08 Posts:
+ Kizer & Bender - First Impressions: The Art of Store Layout...
+ Tom Jennings - Installation is Not a Dirty Word
+ Las Vegas and FAO Schwartz

Posts Relating to Surviving During Slow Times
+ January Retail Tips
+ A Few More January Retail Tips
+ How To Sell Your Retail Experience
+ Ruthless Focus On The Consumer

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Brite '08 - Univision & Maryam Banikarim

Columbia Business School's Brite '08 conference included fascinating roundtable discussions. Each one started out with formal comments - i.e., conversational backdrop - and then we were let loose to discuss within our smaller table group.

Maryam Banikarim, CMO, Univision, provided the backdrop for a discussion titled "The New Marketing Department – Challenges, Opportunities, and Skill Sets" which David Rogers, Director, Center on Global Brand Leadership facilitated.

For anyone remotely interested in connecting with the Hispanic market, Univision is a must. Maryam explained why.

Univision has 80% market share [can you imagine that level of visibility and awareness with this increasingly important consumer market?] and has been around over 40 years. Univision considers itself the champion of the Hispanic consumer.

[To put the hispanic market into perspective, consider reading the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Development report on The multicultural economy 2006 - BTW, 2007 buying power increased 6% over 2006 to reach $863 billion - and Synovate's Hispanic/Latino Market Profile which lists the metropolitan areas with the largest Hispanic populations.]

Maryam joined in 2002 during troubled economic times when the network first experienced single digit growth [a shock compared to double digit growth]. She observed that selling was more about impersonal bar charts rather than focusing on bringing solutions to customers. A big problem.

So, she brought in a more consultative and strategic approach. She hired account planners to talk about consumer insights and connect emotionally and MBAs to analyze. She decided that marketing would run programming and sell emotion, using a new format for its 2007 Upfront Event for selling programming to advertisers titled "I heart Univision." The format included consumer generated media with testimonials and user-generated content.

Banikarim conducted an online promotion inviting viewers to send in videoclips of why they loved Univision. She and her team weren't sure what to expect - or even whether they would receive submissions. They were surprised that the first submission came from an older woman who said "A day without Univision is like a day without sunshine." Powerful!

[Although, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Hispanics are a lot less likely to use the internet, lower education levels and limited English ability largely explain the gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanics in the U.S., as you realize from Banikarim's success with user generated content, Hispanics use the Internet!]

Twelve viewers participated in the event - a first. They swooned when Don Francisco came on stage and quickly got into the RBD group groove. Essentially the audience focused not on the programming – as in the past – but on the reactions that the twelve viewers onstage had to the programming. Very powerful.

Given that backdrop, our roundtable was eager to discuss the new marketing department. To put things into perspective, we had the BEST table in the room with the most diverse, creative and well spoken participants: a non-profit CFO, a soon-to-be-author, a branding expert and business school professor, a P&G visionary, a telecom CMO, a non-profit founder, an agency executive with online and social media expertise, a marketing PhD candidate, and a blogger.

First we identified potential challenges to pursuing new marketing strategies:
+ Concerns over how to measure
+ Company culture; traditional ways of doing things get in the way
+ Figuring out how to overcome legacy strategies and plan for change despite leadership turnover
+ Encouraging risk taking despite budgets and fear of failure [both institutional and individual]. Can compensation tied into new models help?
+ Assessing risks and prioritizing strategies while balancing longterm and short term growth imperitives
+ Having the financial fluency to build strong cases and sell projects internally
+ Developing a willingnes to invest in small things/new media to experiment first

Next, we examined Opportunities in implementing new marketing strategies:
+ Using customer insight and evaluating indirect competitors for a strong strategy
+ Developing a brand that is meaningful and relevant to customers, thereby justifying internal brand advocacy and disruptive product innovation [i.e., it's not about the company; it's about being relevant to the customer].
+ Creating and managing a brand community.
+ Leveraging technology new to the industry and creating the means for evangelizing the brand.
+ Implementing value creation from the customer's perspective
+ There may be opportunities to collaborate with complimentary companies [eco system approach; network of organizations]

And then we detailed the Skills most needed:
+ Need to hire cooperative distruptors, communicators, reasearch/insights; content aggregators
+ Develop partnership hr/finance/marketing/sales.
+ Encourage collaboration amongst workers.
+ Have strategic thinking --> marketplace assessment, understand brand, competition...,
+ It's about problem solving
+ Use creative briefs to translate idea/concept to a wider audience;
+ Have consumer empathy
+ Must have an idea person.

NOTE: I came across this article titled Ford Of Canada Lets Customers Stand For The Brand about letting Ford customers act as brand ambassadors. Whereas Univision, in changing the Upfront Event format, unleashed the Univision viewership passion onto the advertiser selling process, Ford Canada seems to be similarly unleashing the Ford customer passion internally via the "Powered By You" campaign. They have created a platform for conversation and then are stepping aside to let that Power take over.

Previous Flooring The Consumer posts on Brite '08:
+ BRITE '08: Nickelodeon's Pamela Kaufman on Brand ...
+ The BRITE '08 Conference

Also, visit the Brite '08 Blog.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Solutia Rings In the NYSE Bell - 3/17/2008

NYSE 2 originally uploaded by idowens.
From Jubilation! Solutia Emerges From Bankruptcy, you know the good news.

The next step is being relisted on the New York Stock Exchange...

Which we officially celebrated today - Monday, March 17, 2008 at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time - as Solutia took part in the Opening Bell Ringing Ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange.

Very cool to witness it via live NYSE webcast [you may experience it via recorded webcast] and to see our new stock symbol - SOA.

In addition to the senior leadership of the organization, Solutia invited two employees to attend the ceremony.

The two were chosen via random drawing. Essentially, all U.S. based employees were invited to participate. 1,709 employees expressed interest and of the two chosen, I know one: David Montgomery, Engineering Fellow, from our plant in Decatur, Alabama.

[By the way, I discovered via Google that David Montgomery did a webcast in 2000 on DeltaV success stories and authored this article on Company-Wide Asset Management. Way cool, David!]

The second, Jeff Leandro is Environmental Coordinator at our Indian Orchard site in Springfield, Massachusetts.

What a great way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day!

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blogger Must Haves: Backups and Tags

A while back, Drew McLellan listed links to posts that offered suggestions to new bloggers just starting out in New Blogger's Toolbox, including mine - Building A Blogger Toolbox.

Perhaps because Spring is in the air [or the mind depending on where you are located], I've had lots of questions lately about blogging and getting started on the blogging path. Drew's Blogger Toolbox came to mind, as did some additional resource ideas.

So, here are additional ideas for that Toolbox. I.e., Blogger Must Haves.

My favorite reference manual is Buzz Marketing with Blogs For Dummies. I still refer to it and routinely recommend it [that came out of a MarketingProfs webinar in 2005].

For the more advanced new blogger, please don't forget to backup your posts. When I first got started, I used BlogCollector Lite. But, when Blogger updated to its current version, that option no longer worked. I confess: I didn't backup for an extended period of time.

But, then, I cam across Communication Overtone's Kami Huyse's post about Cool Tools: Free Service to Back-up or Transfer Blog Content and I was hooked. Thank you, Kami!

BlogBackupOnline is an easy-to-use web based backup service. Simply sign up for an account, register your blog and the updates will happen automatically - including comments and visuals. It's an amazing resource.

And, it will be moving out of Beta in the next few weeks.

BlogBackupOnline offers a free account means with 5 MB of storage, in addition to paid options [i.e., Professional at 50 MB and Enterprise at 1GB].

Although by mentioning BlogBackupOnline here, I hope to expand my free storage from 5MB to 10MB, I can't say enough about how delightful this resource is, and how easy to use it is. I hope never to have to require restoration, but if I do I have good feelings about what to anticipate. It's also just a matter of time before I become a Professional account holder.

Another invaluable tool I came across via Google is Richard Rodger's Social Tag Generator For Your Blog Posts. This is a gem that has made tagging painless. Thank you, Richard.

Do you have other Blogger Must Haves you'd like to add? I'd love to learn about them.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The Flooring Display Challenge - Part IV

A few more thoughts to share...

In The Flooring Display Challenge - Part III: Design Centers, Floor Talk!'s Shannon Bilby explained the "level" system for displaying product choices in design centers, those very interesting hybrid retail places developed specifically for new home buyers.

Here, we continue with perspective on how the layout and organization of the design center affected consumers.

The layout of the Design Center helped with the success of the level system carpet display.

The front doors of The Design Studio were an abstract design partly frosted, creating curiosity about what was inside. The doors were not open to the public and sessions were by appointment only. Once clients entered, they already felt like they were valued and in somewhere exclusive.

Once inside, if the non selecting spouse (9 times out of 10 that person was the husband) was in attendance, he was immediately offered a big cushy leather chair, beverage of his choice, a variety of movies from The Blues Brothers to Pulp Fiction, magazines or a sign-up sheet to have a consultant from the grill store, billiard store or other fun businesses come to the next appointment to meet with him.

Couple Dynamics
Giving the spouse (husband) a chance to be comfortable while the decision maker (wife) was free to do work proved to be one of the best features of the whole design center. The spouse (husband) was not required to be at the selection meetings, but was often asked by the other spouse to attend. Most husbands had very little interest in the selection process. They just wanted to know how much she spent and be in a comfortable chair while she worked!

After the first meeting, the spouse (husband) looked forward to having the option to meet with a professional to help him with an area of the home he was interested in at the next appointment. When the spouse (husband) knew he got brownie points for coming to the meeting - but did not have to actively participate in the selection process - there were virtually no selection changes made later in the process because he felt that he had contributed. Likewise, she didn’t feel like she had to make changes to the original plan because he was more likely to agree with the original selections since he had a say if he wanted to.

Let me put it in slightly different terms.

The home buying process is an extremely tense one with home buyers having to make so many critical decisions over a short period of time. Changes have financial implications so the more relaxed and focused the decision-makers can be, the better it is for the entire process.

Design Centers must encourage buyers to relax. Ideally, one spouse can focus on the important decisions. The secondary spouse can be involved if he's interested, but otherwise she can efficiently complete the process without wearing either one out. Neither has reason to get into any tense situations that might escalate into a fight. Neither has any reason to decide at the last minute to opt for cheaper selections to pacify concerns about spending too much money. The less involved spouse can relax, too, or he can make his own upgrade decisions (e.g., grilling area), making the likelihood of his objecting to better oven upgrades and more expensive carpet almost non-existent!

Visualizing the End Result
Every product was displayed in a furniture piece or custom designed piece of millwork - anything other than the typical carpet store displays found all across America. The Design Studio felt like a complete home with kitchen vignette, shower/bath vignette, lounging area and conference area complete with round table that encouraged exploration and decision making!

[Note: the beautiful photos here and in Parts I and II are of a Design Center, courtesy of Shannon Bilby. Notice how much 'white space' -i.e., uncluttered space- the Design Center includes. Did you see that the walls are painted interesting colors? The lighting varies. Doesn't the space look inviting and calm? Wouldn't you want to shop there? I would.]

During the process, no other clients came in to interrupt, no telephones rang, no distractions were allowed. This made the client feel important while giving them the ability to focus on their selections. Freshly made cappuccino and espresso started the meetings alongside a tour of the whole space to demonstrate everything that was available for selection. The whole feeling of the experience helped them realize the importance of why they were there. After this experience, how could they want to shop anywhere else?

This environment that felt more like a home resulted in faster selections, fewer changes, happier clients, more loyal clients, more upgrades and more referrals. Most importantly, customers did not feel like they were being sold. It was an experience that got the designers onto more Christmas card lists than any other job they’d ever had!

Thank you, Shannon, for this fascinating glimpse into a retail experience that goes a long way toward reinventing the presentation of flooring - and other home-related products. Amazing how creating an engaging, appealing, relaxing environment can be so successful in generating sales.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

4x4 About Me...

4x4 postcard originally uploaded by Erin Z*.
This one's a bit different:

Four categories.
Four bits of information per category.
= 4 x 4 about me.

Ann Handley tagged me. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Then, I started to get into the format. Check out Becky Carroll's [who also tagged me!], Peter Kim's, Tish Grier's, Maria Palma's, Phil Gerbyshak's and Toby Bloomberg's. Don't you agree it's a fun one?

4 Places I've Lived In:
+ Bujumbura, Burundi
+ Dakar, Senegal
+ Abidjan, Ivory Coast
+ Benodet in Brittany, France

4 Jobs I've Held:
+ Sales assistant at Teri's French Parfumerie in Georgetown [mais, oui!]
+ Messenger at Arnold & Porter in DC [when I thought I might become a lawyer]
+ Intern at The Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, MA [when I thought I might go into arts administration]
+ Manager, Administration, Policy & Procedures at the Association for Computing Machinery [ACM] in NYC [home of SIGGRAPH]

4 Foods I Really Like:
+ Crepes bretonnes [with butter/sugar and une bollee de cidre]
+ Mexican street tacos
+ Thai Tom Kha Gai soup
+ Vietnamese cha gio

4 DVR'd TV Shows I Watch:
+ Tony Bourdain's No Reservations
+ Iron Chef America
+ Dancing With The Stars
+ Jane Austen movies

I tag:
+ Lolly from Blog 'Til You Drop to whom I owe My Media Week
+ Daria from Social Hallucinations
+ Brad Shorr from Word Sell
+ Mark Goren, Transmission Content + Creative, to whom I owe 8 more things!

Have a great weekend!

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The California Rug Project Needs Small Rolling Rack

A special plea to all - especially those of you with connections to the beautiful state of California.

It has to do with a beautiful - nearly complete - project called The California Rug Project, designed by artist Vicki Fraser, who has worked on it for 12 years. It tells the story of the State of California using native materials. Once finished, it will visit every County seat to tell the story of California.

However, at 5 feet by 15 feet - with an 6 to 8 inch "hole" in the middle, the rug can be awkward to move around.

Hence, the plea for help from Derek Hoyle - aka: Mister X & Delta 9 on KZYX - KZYZ, FM, Mendocino County Public Broadcasting who also regularly sits in on Roots Revelation & The Good News Guys on KMFB, FM.

Derek - who in his spare time has taken up weaving - has accepted the task of searching for a rolling rack to hold the BEAUTIFUL and nearly completed California Rug. As it is now, the rug sits on a table and has to be moved several times a week, due to other groups using the room at the Mendocino Art Center. Currently, it has to be hand carried, unrolled, etc., and most of the wonderful women involved in this project really have to struggle, moving it around without some sort of holder/roller.

Derek is looking for donation or long term loan of a small rolling rack, so the California Rug can easily be transported, moved and unrolled/rolled. First to finish trimming the rug, and eventually to display the rug throughout California in every County Seat.

Does something come to mind? Might something already exist that fits the bill? It needs to look professional, too.

He adds that this is a non-profit project, and any donations are tax deductible.

Anyone inspired with a solution [or a donation] should contact The Mendocino Art Center and/or Derek Hoyle directly at helios [at] saber dot net.

Thank you for getting the word out!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

BRITE '08: Nickelodeon's Pamela Kaufman on Brand Building

Back to the BRITE '08 Conference. I still have quite a bit to share...

Day 1 of the Brite '08 Conference featured Pamela Kaufman, Chief Marketing Officer of Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group, as she discussed "Building Brands in a New Media Environment."

A six year old daughter means that I'm familiar with Nickelodeon. We're into Nick Jr. and Noggin. She loves the BackYardigans and Miss Spider Sunnypatch; Little Bill, The UpsideDown Show, WonderPets and Max and Ruby. She and her friends may not know that they are watching Noggin or Nick Jr., but they do know the channel number and how to access it on the remote [for us, it's 123].

As far as the 'older' stuff, I've caught some Nick at Nite and have come close to Slime Across America, although I made sure to steer far away from it [I just wasn't in a Be Slimed mood, ok? Even virtually.].

Until I heard Kaufman's presentation, I hadn't really appreciated how influenced my household is by Nickelodeon. As aware as I am of Disney [especially lately with High School Musicals and Hannah Montana] - and somewhat cautious of it [I can't help it, I'm suspicious of large, controlling, entertainment entities, even if I admire them] - I have really enjoyed the musicality of the BackYardigans and the cleverness of the Upside Down Show.

From recent press releases, the boilerplate for Nickelodeon reads: "Nickelodeon, in its 28th year, is the number-one entertainment brand for kids. It has built a diverse, global business by putting kids first in everything it does. The company includes television programming and production in the United States and around the world, plus consumer products, online, recreation, books, magazines and feature films. Nickelodeon's U.S. television network is seen in more than 96 million households and has been the number-one-rated basic cable network for 13 consecutive years. Nickelodeon and all related titles, characters and logos are trademarks of Viacom Inc."

According to Kaufman, the Nickelodeon Network has been #1 for 13 years. She joined 11 years ago, becoming CMO in the past year when the rapid growth of the business led to the creation of the CMO position to effectively communicate one consistent brand message. [Here is info on her promotion to EVP in 2005.] In her opinion, the role of the CMO is changing, becoming more about strategy, development and execution to keep the brand message consistent across businesses and to the consumer. Nick's key challenger is Disney.

To restate the boilerplate: Nickelodeon consists of a TV business with 4 channels, 12 digital sites, 2 virtual worlds, 2 magazines, 1 consumer product business $6B [BackYardigans, SpongeBob, Dora, Diego], a movies division [including the 2/14 launch of The Spiderwick Chronicles and last year Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging.]

Nickelodeon is expanding into the recreation business with theme parks [e.g., March 15: Mall of America Nickelodeon Theme Park], and a 20 year deal with Marriott [see Nickelodeon Resorts by Marriott] with family resorts scheduled to open by 2010 in San Diego, Dubai, Hawaii... Then, there's the family cruise this August 10-17 with Royal Caribbean. It has also developed in Kaufman's words a "Giant relationship" with Sony music promoting music and music based shows. Now a global brand, it is the most widely watched channel across world!

Next, we learned about the ad sales/research market. Starting with research.

2008 will be a remarkable year. For the first time, Nickelodeon is becoming a family brand. Launched in 1979, its first viewers are now parents. Nickelodeon considers the family as decision maker. As a result, it clearly communicates an integrated marketing message. [It sees music as a big focus and opportunity. ]

In today's world, kids are consuming media across channels. The challenge, then, is how to break through the clutter and figure out how to reach them. But, Nickelodeon knows its audience! Through research - going to schools, observing, asking questions - it has learned how influential kids are in family decisions.

In 2007, Nickelodeon obtained valuable insights on the environment, retail, the digital family [and how greater and easier access to content leads to more consumption of content]. Parents -more so than kids- consider cell phones an electronic leash, enabling them to keep track of and in contact with their kids. Kids use the Internet for school work; it's important!

Another important insight: now is the first time that kids and parents wear the same clothes, consume the same music, and are on the Internet at the same time. We live in dual consumption households. [Note: I'm almost as familiar with my daughter's favorite characters as she is although she is still coaching me on the names of all of the Miss Spider Sunnypatch bugs.]

Nickelodeon has launched a new show called iCarly. [If you noticed the recent issue of AdAge featured an outer cover with iCarly with the words: "Ground Breaking. Breaking ground with TV & the Web, iCarly premiered as the first scripted series to incorporate user-generated content." Yes. It's scripted on air and uses user generated content; it's a true mashup of TV and the Web. Launched in September 2007, iCarly.com generated 60k submissions since its launch [i.e., in a 4 month period]. It's already the number two show after SpongeBob. [Read Nickelodeon makes its content "slippy" from Valeria Maltoni on MP Daily Fix re: iCarly].

Nickelodeon has also ventured into virtual worlds, introducing its new world Nicktropolis on 1/30/07. It's immersive with games, opportunities to connect, and personal space. It has 6.5 million regular users. Interestingly, Nickelodeon acquired Neopets in 2005. Kaufman says that the Neopets experience - a site where visitors average 51 minutes average per session - positively affected the launch of Nicktropolis.

Where you aware of the following? In the advertising marketplace, Nickelodeon conducts 600 promotions per year. To ensure that advertisers connect with their audience, Nickelodeon creates custom content for advertisers. For example, 11 years ago, there were no automotive accounts. Today, there are 10! [Remember that family/kids influence decisions. ] For example, Chrysler launched the redesigned Town/Country minivan with Nickelodeon, promoting features -like the backseat TV- that would appeal to kids. In an ad created for Chrysler, Jimmy Neutron promotes the minivan. The promotion includes magazine, online, and on air components creating an integrated experiential brand message.

Other example: Wal-Mart. Nickelodeon created Wally & Marty, new cool characters. Wal-Mart is heavily involved in the Kids Choice Awards, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2007. It's very popular, and the only awards program to be growing. Products sold in Wal-Mart feature a code that drives consumers to the website for voting.

[From AdAge, Nickelodeon Sees Digital Dollars Surge on 'Multi-Splatform' Approach Advertisers Follow 3 Million Unique Monthly Visitors to Network's Five Websites and Market Expected to Be Flat, at Just Under $1 Billion. Food Ads Will Level Off; Networks Look to Movie Studios to Keep Spending Also: Nick vs. CN by Andrew Hampp from 02/25/2008 .]

The company also works with Dreamworks Animation [Over The Hedge, Shrek movie launches], teaming up on global campaigns to break through the clutter. This can include time-locked music video [e.g., The Bee Movie].

The long and short of it is that: "What's good for kids is good for business. Kids are leading parents in entertainment." However, the trust factor is critical both with parents and with kids. Kids come first. Any characters and programs must be authentic and relevant to the Nick audience and brand. The Nick brand is open and inclusive [vs. Disney]. Nickelodeon characters represent the population; they are gender neutral, non-violent, fun. They connect with parents and kids [e.g., SpongeBob]. They help build an emotional connection with viewers.

In an otherwise fragmented media environment, content and brand rule at Nickelodeon.


For more about Kaufman, read Marketers looking to break rules should be ready to go ‘splat’. Second day at Kellogg School Marketing Conference brimming with unconventional wisdom by Ed Finkel.

Other recent posts relating to the BRITE conference:
+ Max Kalehoff: Invent-It-Yourself Innovation Is A Likely Path To Nowhere
+ Blogroll: More Bloggers Report on BRITE '08
+ Justin Fox's "Craig Newmark has a bright future in advertising, and Spotme is still cool"

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