Flooring The Consumer on Simple Marketing Now

Please visit Flooring The Consumer's new home on SimpleMarketingNow.com where you can subscribe to receive updates to blog articles in real time!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Simple Marketing Now Update - May 2009

Have you had a chance to explore my other blog, Simple Marketing Blog? It's the blog and newsroom for Simple Marketing Now and it's where I explore marketing strategy and creative, practical, even simple marketing approaches -- often with social media.

Would you consider subscribing to it, too?

Here's a snapshot of what I wrote about during the month of May 2009.

Given that the site is also my company Newsroom, I posted my latest Press Release: Whittemore Re-Appointed to SURFACES '10 Education Advisory Council.

That release generated an email from my friend and former Solutia boss and colleague, Gary Petersen. His comments led to What About The Consumer of the Future? Do read it and let me know -- what are your thoughts about consumers of the future?

The news release refers to an upcoming marketing strategy workshop taking place at Surfaces 2010 that Paul Friederichsen - BrandBiz Inc., Scott Perron - Big Bob's of America, and I will present. I guarantee that this will be a memorable session. We've already started working on it as you can read from Connecting With Retail Consumers - Marketing Strategy Series. In fact, I'll be documenting our entire planning process. You don't want to miss any of it, right? Plus, I might need your help...

Simplicity In Communication focuses on the core questions that effective communications must focus on. Do other questions come to mind?

I'm fascinated with the ideas in Marketing Effectively During An Information Revolution. Imagine that we are marketing in the equivalent of the 1500s when the Gutenberg press made its appearance. It kind of puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

The Humble News or Press Release discusses what I appreciate about press releases: they are vehicles for content creation. What's exciting, though, is to encounter a company that no only believes in press releases, but has developed a creation solution for enhancing that content. Read Press Releases, Newsletters and OtterBox.

Don't miss the wisdom in Links of Note: Practical Marketing Lessons. You Can No Longer Ignore Social Media offers additional perspective on how to make sense of social media for your business. For practical perspective, read How Marketers Grow Their Business With Social Media; it's based on an industry research report.

Thanks for reading and subscribing - you will consider subscribing, right?

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Friday, May 29, 2009

BitBriefs For Bits of Fascinating Research Data

I love research data. And, when Joshua Dreller, director, media technology & analytics at Fuor Digital LLC contacted me asking if he could submit research data for Flooring The Consumer, I felt strong interest.

But, I had questions.

Josh's note explained that his agency 'clips' great stats and charts on the marketing industry that might be useful research or supporting data for blogposts.

Very interesting. But, how does it work? I checked out the site he referred me to - BitBriefs - and wondered how best to use the site.

By the way, the site bills itself a "clog" or 'clipping log' made possible by Amplify [i.e., web clips for Twitter] , "a new service from the company that created Clipmarks [this from the Amplify About page] to share not just links, but the exact parts of web pages that matter most and the conversation that surrounds each of them".

Josh responded as follows to my questions.

How does BitBriefs work?

Josh: Well, BitBriefs started as an internal “knowledge base” tool for our agency. Each of us “clips” interesting stats/graphs/charts/etc from sources we want to share with each other. We try to clip as little as possible to keep them brief (thus, “BitBriefs”) and to not blatantly “scrape” content from other sites. Over time, we started telling our partners and clients about it and started getting some solid SEO traffic. We figured bloggers like you would be interested in finding supporting data for their posts, reporting on interesting stats, or even browsing through for story starter ideas.

What's the best way to use BitBriefs?

Josh: I think the best way to use us is to subscribe to our Twitter feed as you’ll get the headlines and can dig deeper if interested.

In addition to following BitBriefs on Twitter @bitbriefs, you can also enter search terms.

For example, enter the search term "women" and you'll discover [majority of results will appear on left sidebar]:

+ Older Female Demographic Dropping on Facebook

+ 20% of Online Population are ‘Power Moms’

+ US Affluent Internet Users by Gender, Age, Region

+ Women over 55 on Facebook Grows by 175.3% in 5 Months

+ Demographics of Americans With Social Networking Profile

You can click the “Older” link at the bottom and delve even deeper.

What's the value of BitBriefs?

Josh: BitBriefs is a simple way to stay abreast of the industry. There’s so much content out there it can be tough for marketers to read everything. The value of BitBriefs is you can read 5-10 posts in a few minutes and dig deeper to the source material/case studies if it has a direct interest to you. We try to make sure to get “coverage” on all major studies so our users don’t miss anything important.

I'm definitely intrigued! What about you? Have you tried BitBriefs? How do you integrate this data stream with Twitter? How do you use these fascinating bits of research data in what you do?

Thanks, Josh!

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Doug Meacham on Bridging New & Old - Social Media Series

This week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Doug Meacham.

Doug Meacham has a passion for the customer experience, innovation, brand engagement and social media. That's what his blog - NextUp - is about, and it's something he has considerable experience in given his current role as Multi-Channel Retail Consultant for IBM and a rich history with Circuit City Stores.

I love how practical and relevant Doug's advice is. Take the retail experience wisdom he shares in The Flooring Display Challenge - Part I. Or his post, Your Blog is a Cabin in the Woods which gives you a feel for how best to use social media to create a worthy customer experience and bridge the old with the new.

Doug contributed "The Digital Playground" to The Age of Conversation 2 - Why Don't They Get It? - the book that 237 authors from around the world collaborated on to benefit Variety, the children's charity. [Per a previous post, The Age of Conversation 2 - Why Don't They Get It? is now available on Amazon. Would you consider purchasing it, if you haven't already?] His chapter explores how social interaction on the web comes naturally to millennials...

For those of you in the Richmond, VA area, I have wonderful news for you! Doug has been busy since February launching a local Social Media Club chapter for Richmond, VA. The group is on http://twitter.com/SMCRVA and Facebook with a website coming as soon as socialmediaclub.org rolls out its new web platform.

As Doug explains "the first event took place last month. It was more of a mixer to introduce the local chapter to the attendees and to provide information about what we were planning to do with the club over the coming months. Around 140 people attended. The next event takes place on June 9 and will feature a panel of local journalists from a variety of media channels to discuss the impact of social media on the news business. It sold out (150 seats) in 6 hours! Lots of demand for social media guidance in Richmond!"

C.B.: Doug, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Doug: I first got involved while at Circuit City in 2006. I was working on developing a strategy for getting the organization more engaged in idea creation. I saw social media tools as a great way to engage 36,000 employees across a highly distributed organization. The tools were primarily used for insight sharing and idea generation.

This was a bit of a skunkworks project. Initially sanctioned as part of a larger innovation team effort to try to make the organization more adaptive, I proposed a series of "Insight Sharing" initiatives, all of which involved some sort of social media or collaboration tool. The innovation was subsequently shut down, but I went ahead with building in internal blogging platform using Wordpress and recruiting people across the organization to participate. It was strictly a word of mouth thing flying under the radar to avoid pushback from management. The idea was to generate interest and create value before showing it to decision makers. Unfortunately, my position was eliminated before we could reach that level.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Doug: From a personal standpoint, social media has allowed me to tap into a network of amazing people. I learn from them every day and often apply those those insights in my day to day work. From a business standpoint, I am a bit obsessed with great customer experiences. Social media, when used in the right way, gives organizations powerful tools to engage with and get feedback from both customers and internal associates.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Doug: Unlike traditional media that tends to be controlled and managed, social media is in the hands of people. As more people are getting involved, the volume of content being produced keeps growing making it increasingly difficult to find the really valuable content in the noise. I am also a big fan of Twitter. As its popularity has increased, so have the spammers.

C.B.: How has social media changed how you interact with the marketplace as a consumer or customer?

Doug: I often look to Twitter first to get product recommendations or to discuss an issue directly with a representative of the business. I don't usually read company blogs. I haven't found any companies that offer content which is compelling enough to get me to add them to my read list. For many retailers, the company blog looks a lot like a promotional email telling me about products and services that they offer.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

1. Whether you have started using social media or not, the first thing companies must do is determine what social media channel (if any) is going to help them connect with their customers. A denture adhesive doesn't need to establish a presence on Facebook, at least not yet. Go where your customers are.

2. Listen

3. Listen some more. What do you hear. Are people talking about your brand? If not, then why? If they are, then what are they saying? Do they love you? Do they hate you? Are they helping you to increase your customer base or lose it? There is a lot of value in those conversations. Use it to your advantage.

4. Offer something of value. Companies often make the mistake of treating social media like another advertising channel. Remember, these are places where your customers spend time with friends. Imagine if it was a physical place. Would you go in shouting your latest offer? Would you plaster your ads all over their walls? I don't think so. Instead, look for ways to add value for your customers. Find opportunities to turn bad experiences into good ones, but then take it one step further and look for ways to address the sources of problems your customers are talking about. Engage with people who are singing your praises; they are your biggest cheerleaders.

5. Lower your expectations. Social media is not a magic bullet. ROI is difficult to evaluate and for that reason, it may be a difficult sell to the C-level execs. Don't expect to see material results immediately. Your 3000 Twitter followers are not going to raise you stock price next quarter. You're talking about a cultural change for your organization and that takes time.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers and how best to do so.

Doug: Active participation in social media is rapidly growing across key demographics. Your customers are forging on-line relationships with each other and sharing stories about their experiences with you. Company participation in social media is no longer optional. Its effectiveness at forging stronger relationships is highly dependent on who your customers are and how you engage in the space. Leveraging social media to add value for you customers and to promote transparency is the best place to start.

Thank you, Doug!

Comments? Questions? Feedback?

Are you participating? If not, how are you experimenting? What's working? What's not?

How do you offer your customers value?

For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old, please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Social Media Series.

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Monday, May 25, 2009

MyVetwork - The Veterans Networking Site

My friends, John R. Campbell and Susan W. Bird, are actively involved in MyVetwork, a social networking site for Veterans. John is the founder of the site; I spent time with both during last year's Blogger Social.

The site's goal is - per the About Us page:

"1) To provide our US military and those who care about them with a means to interact with and support each other in ways that range from the lighthearted and entertaining to deep and meaningful connections that they wish to sustain.

2) To create an interactive exchange where a broad variety of experts – including veterans of earlier conflicts – provide timely news of particular interest to military personnel, distributed in sophisticated, graphically exciting format; job and career advice; information about educational opportunities, advice regarding health care, access to coaching and mentoring services, and a variety of other resources valuable to recently separated veterans demobilizing from the military, whether they are recuperating from injury, moving on to further their education, or planning careers in public or private sectors."

Listen to this Good News Broadcast where John explains the benefits that MyVetwork offers. You'll be amazed at the vision, scope and matching capabilities of this network. I certainly am.

My Vetwork needs our help. I share with you this message in case it sparks ideas and possibilities...

"MyVetwork needs to graduate to its own office space....

MyVetwork's dream is to find an individual or organization that wants to do something special for the US Military and their families, and will trade unused office space in Manhattan in exchange for recognition as a MyVetwork sponsor (priceless!). MyVetwork is a 501 (c) (3), in case that's helpful. An alternative could be space available on a short term sublease basis. Either way, I'm hoping you may have a thought for the MyVetwork folks. They're doing great stuff for our vets. In case you want to see for yourself why we're so fired up about MyVetwork's progress, check out their latest exec summary here."

Could you help get the word out?

Thank you.

Happy Memorial Day!

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Friday, May 22, 2009

MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2009: Boston June 8-9

I am excited beyond belief: I will be attending MarketingProfs Business-to-Business Forum 2009 taking place June 8-9 in Boston, MA. What about you?

If you're still on the fence, will you join me? If you use discount code EPRT9, I can offer you - on behalf of MarketingProfs - a $200 discount. Not bad, eh? Now, you have no excuse. Please come!

As is the norm for MarketingProfs events, this one will be chock full of valuable learnings, insights, interactions and inspiration.

For one thing, we get to hear Barry Schwartz [remember the The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less ? I've only addressed that topic a few times here... in Are There Too Many Choices?, The Problem With Too Many Choices - And The Opportunities,A Transcultural Perspective On The Retail Experience, Musings on Choice, Culture and the Retail Experience, and Lost in the Supermarket] and learn about The New Model of Innovation from Steven Berlin Johnson.

The B2B Forum will focus on three key areas - all equally relevant given the environment, the state of business and the rapid pace of change we are living with:

1. Integrating your marketing programs for better results,
2. Measuring and evaluating your marketing programs to prove ROI, and
3. Keeping your customers and prospects engaged.

Check out the program for yourself
. As usual, I will have to make some tough decisions....

But, if you join me we can make the tough decisions together and divide and conquer so we don't miss out on a single aspect of this amazing event.

MarketingProfs, here I come and I can't wait!

Are you with me?

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Social Media Series: Rich Nadworny On Bridging New & Old

This week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Rich Nadworny.

Rich Nadworny writes the Digital Strategy Blog for Digalicious, the company he founded, which offers "delicious digital marketing strategy." In other words, strategies that provide customers, prospects and employees with reasons to become engaged in what we create. Once engaged, they are more likely to interact with us.

The reasons shouldn't come as a surprise to any of us at this point: the consumer is in control and one-way shouting no longer works. Digital, on the other hand, creates opportunities for dialogue, as Rich explains in Social Media Makes One-Way Media Two-Way.

By the way, if you are in the Burlington, VT area on June 1, 2009, consider attending the Burlington Social Media Breakfast that Digalicious and The Communication and Creative Media Division at Champlain College have organized. For more information and to register, visit the Burlington Social Media Breakfast site.

You can find Rich on Twitter @RNadworny. That's where I met him. His post about being a hybrid, renaissance person or even polymath beautifully captures why bridging new and old matters...

C.B.: Rich, how and why did you get involved in social media?

Rich: I would say I've been involved in social media a long time. Back in the early 90s social media was Usenet News groups, one of the best social tools of the early Internet. One thing I've noticed is that the new tools do a lot of what Usenet did, they just do it much better and much more personally. I've been involved in developing online marketing and Web sites since 1996. I remember creating one program in 2000 for an anti-smoking campaign where we developed something we called MySpace to let teens create their own space and connect with other teens! Should've taken out a patent on that one.

For current social media, I've been playing with it for the past 4 or 5 years, although I have to say that I haven't gotten into any of them (Second Life, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) to the extent I've gotten into Twitter. For the past 8 months I've been totally obsessed with it and I think it's the best thing to happen to the Internet since Free Shipping!

[Note: read Rich's post Is Twittter the New Usenet?]

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Rich: I love the fact that I can connect with people I've followed and admired for a long time and build a two-way relationship with them. In general, that's one of the best things with social media: It's an amazing way of turning one-way, broadcast media (TV, radio, news) into a two-way discussion.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Rich: 1. It takes up too much time 2. There's a lot of noise and chatter which can ultimately make some good channels not so good. This is what happened to MySpace and the risk is that it's going to happen to Facebook and Twitter soon, too.

I think, though, that while the names may change, there will always be innovators to take the tools to the next level. They're not going away anytime soon.

C.B.: How has social media changed how you interact with the marketplace as a consumer or customer?

Rich: As a consumer, I totally rely on strangers' opinions for almost everything I buy, from electronics, to household goods, to cars and vacations. It's kind of crazy when I say it like that, but it's true. Social media has started the undeniable shift in marketing control from the producers, or brands, to the consumers. And thank God for that! It's about time.

[Note: check out Rich's post How Do You Buy?]

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

1. Listen. Most companies are pretty bad at this anyway, but they have to start being very good at it. It will make them much better at what they do.

2. Use social media to solve problems. This is, I think, the silver bullet. If you listen to the complaints and use social media to help fix things, you win. It shows that you take people seriously, that you connect with them personally, and that you care about them. Companies who do this will find that their word-of-mouth marketing will grow substantially.

3. Be generous. Most companies have content that people are interested in. Share it without asking for something in return. The return will come, but it's hard for companies to get in the habit of giving something away, even if it has little value in the company's eyes.

4. Connect social media to the rest of your outbound marketing. See above about making one way two way. Integrate this into everything (print, TV, direct and online).

5. Tap into existing constellations rather than building your own. It's easier, cheaper and more authentic. You may have to give up control, but that's what it's all about these days. If you build it, they probably won't come.

Extra Credit 6. You have to connect social media with both the marketing and customer service groups in your company. It can't survive without support of the other two groups. The other two groups will also become much better themselves when they're connected with social media.

C.B.: Rich, any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers and how best to do so.

Rich: Think of the best person you know, and then use that persona as your social marketing model. It works.

Thank you, Rich!

Comments? Questions? Reactions?

What about using social media to solve problems? Have you considered doing that? What about tapping into 'existing constellations rather than building your own?' Is that scary to you?

I love the notion of connecting social media with marketing and customer service. That to me is what makes social media tools so very powerful...

For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old, please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Social Media Series.

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Getting Ahead By Being Local

Local Wildlife - stained glass window, Dornoch Cathedral #1
originally uploaded by foxypar4.

Local represents a competitive advantage, a means for getting ahead, right?

After all, local businesses capture an aura, a perspective, an approach, that has nothing to do with that of national businesses. Rather than be beige-ly uniform, local businesses express character and uniqeness. They are memorable, and focused entirely on their customers, right?

Combine that with our desire to focus locally, to eliminate waste from distribution chains by sourcing our foods, clothing items and services from organizations down the road from us and people we know, with whom we converse regularly, and who listen to us.

So why is it that local business often don't 'get' it?

Some examples.

In 3 Ways For Local Businesses To Benefit From Being Local, Retail Hits and Misses' Judy Hopelain describes her experiences running pre-prom errands with her daughter. Local doesn't always win out, despite a strong biais. Judy recommends:

1. Making sure that your business services are available when customers need them. In other words, are your hours of operation relevant to your customer base?

2. Know what's going on in town and tailor what your offer to be relevant. If it's prom season, do you offer a prom package?

3. Help customers extend the usefulness of their purchases. This ties into the new age of frugality.

Jeanne Byington from The Importance of Earnest Service makes a similar comparison in Service at 1,000+ Supermarkets vs. a Pair of Bread Boutiques. Imagine how dreadful her local service exprience is!

At the same time, large organizations are catching onto the appeal of local. Take Frito-Lay pitches its Lay's potato chips as locally made from the 5/12/09 USA Today. I'm impressed with the concept: it celebrates individuals, the "80 'local' farmers from 27 states who grow the potatotes used to make its chips." All of sudden, chips have more character. They form the basis of a conversation about location and potatoes and people. I like that a lot!

In the 5/13/09 New York Times article titled When 'Local' Makes It Big, the same chips are criticized for "embracing a broad interpretation of what eating locally means." Ok. But, still, a different kind of conversation is taking place involving products and the companies responsible for the products. Hunt's now highlights the provenance of the tomatoes used for canned tomatoes. The Sacramento County Farm Bureau has started a "Grow and Buy Local" initiative.

Being local definitely has merit.

My local paper - The Argus - wrote "R&M celebrates 28 years as an old-school hardware store" in the 5/7/09 issue. I was intrigued given the subject of this post. The owners attribute their local success to "old-fashioned customer service." More specifically,

+ "Customers know they can get anything from screen and window repair to high-tech computer color matching."
+ "They are now serving the second generation of hardware buyers in the Pompton area. Many of their customers come in to show their children the pictureof te Little League team that R&M sponsored over 20 years ago."
+ They help customers work to 'tackle smaller projects' themselves and save money.
+ They have an extensive inventory and willingly special order anything not available in store.
+ They are open seven days a week.

Being local can definitely get you ahead. But, it means embracing all that local means: being closely connected to your customers, interacting with them, and staying relevant to them in the value and convenience you offer them.

Are you ready to flaunt how local you are?

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Social Media Series: Yvonne DiVita on Bridging New & Old

This week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Yvonne DiVita.

Yvonne DiVita is a woman of purpose and passions. The passions - women and pets - she pursues in Lip-Sticking, about marketing to women online, and
Scratchings and Sniffings, a delightful and informative pet blog. Both passions reflect rich experience. The purpose you see in how Yvonne approaches her passions and her business.

As the founder and president of Windsor Media Enterprises, LLC, an “author services” company that specializes in print-on-demand book publishing technology, professional business blog creation and social media, Yvonne helps aspiring business book authors "make wise publishing choices."

Yvonne is also the author of Dickless Marketing: Smart Marketing to Women Online, a smart and extremely practical look at marketing to women online. I first met Yvonne at BlogHer Business 07 in NYC when she and Lena West [LipSticking co-contributor] participated in a panel discussion on the subject. I witnessed the purpose and passion firsthand!

You'll note in her responses below that Yvonne never loses sight of the ultimate consumer...

C.B.: Yvonne, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Yvonne: This is a funny story. I wrote my book about how to market to women online (Dickless Marketing: Smart Marketing to Women Online) and I felt like I needed a newsletter to go with my website. My partner and fiance, Tom, was taking graduate classes and learning how to blog...so he said I should really start a blog. We went back and forth over this issue for several months. I did not want to try to do something that sounded...like a Grade B movie from the Sixties! AND...it seemed like a lot of work! Guess who won, eventually? Tom won. As we discussed how the blog would look and what it would be called...I have to admit that I kind of shrugged and said, "I don't care." Seriously. I didn't care. I had no intention of keeping the blog up...I was doing it to humor Tom, since I could see I was not going to start that newsletter any time soon!

Guess what happened? I feel in love with the blog! I got to write stuff that was important (about women and business) and I got to meet and interview people who were on the leading edge of technology, and lo! and behold! my blog took off and I gained lots of traction with the search engines. Understand, I was already a search engine professional... so I used that knowledge to make sure my blog came up in a Google search on page one...for certain keyword phrases (like marketing to women online).

The blog was the start of my involvement in social media as a business tool. The people I met, like Toby Bloomberg - my very first BBFF (best blogging friend forever) and Susan Getgood, my 2nd BBFF, and a whole list of others (like Phil Gerbyshak - and Dana VanDen Heuvel and Dennis Kennedy), taught me so much and guided me as I explored this new medium. The women who were kind enough to visit the blog and leave comments became friends, and even clients. Here I was - a complete unknown one day, and a marketing diva online, the next. Only social media can do that for you. With commitment, passion, open-mindedness, and a willingness to put yourself out there - social media will always return a positive result. It might not return the exact result you want...but it will be a positive result.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Yvonne: The ability to meet new people. People who willingly share information with you. People who don't judge you by your appearance...or your job or where you live. With social media, you are only judged on how approachable you are. After that, people accept you for who you are. Sometimes that's a business professional, sometimes that's a Mom, sometimes that's just someone hoping to learn from others. Social media works when people don't come to the table with preconceived notions. Everyone fits in somewhere. There is an unspoken rule that you need to maintain the same politeness you would use offline, online. It's not a free-for-all. It's a communications tool and the most successful people using it are the ones who welcome the social aspects, as they would offline in a coffee shop or a park or a friend's home. Community, social interaction, and openness...that's what I like best about social media.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Yvonne: The thing that annoys me about social media is that it changes daily! While that's not a bad thing, it can be hard to keep up. I have to remind myself that even though I am a social media professional, I cannot know EVERYTHING about the new tools. I need to focus on the new tools that are going to benefit me and my clients, and be aware of the others. I avoided Twitter for a very long time, but once I committed to it - I was hooked! It fits so well with blogs and Friendfeed and Facebook. But, please...I cannot join another network or forum or sign up for another new tool. One has to draw the line somewhere... unfortunately, that's really hard to do.

C.B.: How has social media changed how you interact with the marketplace as a consumer or customer?

Yvonne: As a consumer, social media has given me better tools and more opportunity to learn about brands and products. I especially like the way some brands are willing to adopt social media tools to meet and greet customers online, even though they may be a bit skittish about what the customer may say or do. Today, using social media, I can talk to executives at brand companies, and actually get a better feel for the culture of the company. That means a lot to me. When brands back off, or refuse to join in some sort of social media, I'm hesitant to trust them. What are they so afraid of? Should I buy from them, if they won't even talk to me...? Email doesn't cut it - a blog, a Facebook page, Twitter, these are tools that humanize a brand and give me that warm, fuzzy feeling I need to buy from them.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

Yvonne: Blogs are a great way to get started. I recommend Typepad because it's easy to use and manage. Facebook can also be a good starting point. There are numerous brands already on Facebook to use as examples. All companies should Twitter. Understand that we recommend using a professional, spending time creating your strategy, and also your guidelines. So...

1. Consider the tool you want to start with - why? who will be the front person? how will you measure results?
2. Create a strategy: is this for brand recognition? sales? marketing? thought leadership?
3. How will you implement -how much time will you spend? This is part of your strategy but be very careful about this aspect - social media can be time consuming if not approached properly.
4. Combine your marketing offline and online: use offline to drive online and vice-versa. Create connections on a blog that bring people into your store. Make sure your store has your blog URL or your Twitter ID posted openly. ASK for feedback...
5. Remember that women are a primary market. Women buy or influence over 85% of the goods and services in the U.S. Be nice to them. Create campaigns that touch the women in your world - by asking for help from your current women customers. Recognize, respect, respond - those are the Three Rs in dealing with women.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers and how best to do so.

Yvonne: Social media is not going away. It's not a panacea. It's not a chat room. Blogs are not just a journal to talk about your day. The world is getting smaller because social media touches each of us, every day - whether we're online or not. Be open to change and embrace the voice of your customer. Engage professionals - as my partner Tom says, remember the Internet superhighway? Well, you can get on anytime - if you want to really get to your destination in one piece, you need a map, a navigator, and an alarm clock. The map (your social media tools) will help you find your way. The navigator (the professional who knows best how to use those tools) will make sure you have the right map and it's taking you to the right destination. And the alarm clock - well, that's like your Mom. Set it to ring every few hours, just to make sure you stop now and then to eat and nap and take care of yourself.

By doing these things, by participating in the conversation, you invite me, the customer, into your office and your home, so to speak. I see you as a real person...real people are always more friendly than the TV spokesperson or the radio personality or the cartoon character many brands use to sell their products. While we like the old-fashioned way, sometimes, in the end, we all want to hear a real voice, a human voice, talking about things other than how great the company is. Can you provide that human voice? Can you take criticism as a gift? Can you learn to grow with me, your customer? Can you turn a negative around by figuring out what went wrong, and fixing it? All within 4 hours... on Twitter? You can if you want to.

It's the only way that will work, going forward. Those who choose not to participate will find themselves stuck on the corner of NoWhere, right next to NoPlace. And, the only customers they will have are no one and no way.

Thanks, Yvonne!

Comments? Questions? Feedback?

How do you determine which are the best social media tools to focus on?

How do you react to companies that are accessible compared to those that aren't willing to interact with customers?

How much attention do you pay to women in your marketing efforts and in your social media programs?

For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old, please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Social Media Series.

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Injecting New Life Into Dead Malls

What to do with a dead mall? It's increasingly a relevant question as the economic downturn precipitates a dramatic increase in retail vacancies. How to inject new life into otherwise dead malls?

A while back, I wrote several posts on the subject of Lifestyle Centers as the next evolution in the traditional mall concept. Intuitively, Lifestyle Centers make sense to me. Wouldn't we rather find a place to live close to where we might shop and possibly even work? It's the ultimate in walkable neighborhoods.

As opposed to the traditional mall accessible only by car.

PSFK.com published What Can Be Done With Dead Malls? on 4/6/09 which led me to 101 Uses for a Deserted Mall from the 4/4/09 New York Times' Room for Debate Blog. Did you see it? The post features perspective from six experts.

+ Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, authors of “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.” They say "Depending on the specifics of each site, we can expect to see future failed malls re-inhabited, re-greened, or retrofitted" and offer interesting examples. They feel that dead malls offer communities an opportunity to better serve their needs.

+ Helene Klodawsky is director of the film Malls R Us which documents the story of the American shopping mall and its translation into related concepts around the world. The movie features Peter Blackbird, founder of deadmalls.com who says "going forward, suburban planners need to recognize that the shopping mall of the future can’t simply be a nucleus of stores surrounded by a sea of asphalt with a ring of highway around it. They need to encourage shopping centers that are woven into the fabric of the community, close to where people live and, therefore, easy for pedestrians to access. Developers should also strive to create malls that offer a place for people to socialize, not simply to buy."

[Subscribers, please click on the link to YouTube for a Malls R Us film clip.]

+ James J. Farrell, author of “One Nation Under Goods: Malls and the Seductions of American Shopping, states that "Shopping centers have also served as cultural indicators of American assumptions about need and sufficiency, status and class, race and gender. And they are a showcase for how Americans work and play." He sees that although some malls will die, and others be repurposed for homes, community centers or workspaces, most malls will need to fit into a business model that recognizes both the globe's and consumers' finite resources.

+ Joel Kotkin, author of “The City: A Global History," sees dead malls offering communities opportunities to reinvent themselves. They can easily be recycled: "Essentially malls can be repositioned into what a community needs. They have the advantages of an already existing infrastructure and usually are located on major transportation routes. The key thing is not to let them stay underused or fallow for too long. They should be regarded as a potential asset, much as you would look at well-located unimproved land, or a deserted warehouse or office district in a city center."

Have you come across interesting examples of otherwise dead malls successfully reinventing themselves? How did they do it? What appeals to you most?

On 4/26/09, ChicagoTribune.com published Empty boxes. Mounting number of vacancies leave huge holes to fill in the retail landscape by Sandra M. Jones. Although more about vacant big boxes rather than just malls, the problem is similar. What comes next? What to do with all of that empty space -- more than 100 million square feet of it?

Given enough creativity, the possibilities are endless: county courthouse, indoor raceway, museum, library, charter school, senior center, chapel....

Given enough creativity, the possibilities also suggest opportunities for strengthening community and making better use of resources.

What do you think?

Photo credit: Overland Park, KS Metcalf South Shopping Center (a dead mall) escalators and fountains originally uploaded by army.arch. Note: please read the notes to this photo.

Related Articles from Flooring The Consumer:
+ Atlanta's Atlantic Station - A Lifestyle Center
+ An Architect's View of Better LifeStyle Centers
+ Southlake Town Square - A Lifestyle Center
+ A. Alfred Taubman: Overcoming Threshold Resistance

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Friday, May 08, 2009

What Are You Optimistic About?

Tree of Light originally uploaded by JPhilipson.
How often do you stop and tally up all that's wonderful around you, all that makes you feel truly optimistic?

I hadn't in a while until Ian Fitzpatrick specifically asked me What is it that you are optimistic about?

Here is what I am optimistic about.

Ian asked me to share the source of my optimism on The Optimist Conspectus, a "survey of contemporary optimism."

How could I not participate? I am a person whose glass isn't half full; rather it's full to overflowing! I appreciate that Alltop celebrates All the top Good and Uplifting news and that AdAge has launched the GoodWorks blog. Optimism affects all of us in powerful and positive ways.

I was intrigued with the genesis of Ian's survey of contemporary optimism. Here's how he described it:

"The project was borne of a recent observation that there is a great deal of optimism in society at the moment, even as we are witnessing massive economic turmoil, warfare and significant threats to our planet in the form of environmental destruction and disease. I am quite curious as to the cause for the optimism I witness. Some of it I ascribe to excitement about the new administration, although I think it actually goes much deeper.

The ultimate goal for the project is to create a set of data visualizations - a map of optimism - utilizing the most frequently-used words from the submissions to paint a picture of what it is that people are optimistic about, akin to two recent New York Times features: Map of Popular Super Bowl Words Used on Twitter and Inaugural Words - 1789 to the Present."

[BTW, those word maps are fascinating!]

Read more about The Optimist Conspectus. It will definitely have you thinking....

Also, go explore.

You see, what's marvelous is that all of the entries have been tagged: men, women and by geographic location.

Definitely submit your own tale of optimism - complete a form on The Optimist Conspectus.

Go on, Be Happy!

Thank you, Ian!

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Social Media Series: Peg Mulligan on Bridging New & Old

This week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Peg Mulligan.

Peg Mulligan has an impressive background as content developer. Combine that with experience teaching - writing, literature, and history - and a love of learning and sharing content with others. To me, that's what explains how Peg 'gets' this space so intuitively despite only having launched Peg Mulligan's Blog in March 2009.

I first 'met' Peg via Twitter - @PegMulligan - where she is impressively active. I loved her summary of the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing World Virtual Conference. Did you catch it?

I also greatly admire her enthusiasm for this amazingly social and interactive world. Her perspective on bridging new & old is a refreshing eye opener for all of us.

C.B.: Peg, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Peg: About a year and a half ago, I joined LinkedIn, which helped me to start building a network of past and present colleagues, as well as position myself as an Independent Technical and Content Marketing Writer.

Since that time, I have joined various social networking sites and used the most popular tools, including, Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Google Reader, social bookmarking sites, and most recently, my WordPress blog.

Through these sites and tools, social media is helping me to meet these goals:
• promote my personal brand
• connect more meaningfully with existing friends and professional contacts
• meet and build relationships with new contacts
• gain real-time information about my interests (mainly professional, but also personal )
• showcase (especially through my blog) what I am learning and doing, in an interactive format, which lets me engage and learn from others
• explore how social media can help me better understand my audience’s requirements for technical documentation and collaborate more with my audience online, through wikis, user forums, and blogs
• expand my skill-set and professionally develop through the multiple free webinars, ebooks, white papers, and blogs, available through social media, especially on content marketing

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Peg: The common thread between these different goals and the various tools is the powerful way social media helps me to build and maintain relationships as well as get information. As Chris Brogan noted in a recent HubSpot webinar (How to Demonstrate the Value of Social Media to Your Boss) “social media is the new telephone,” and my uses for social media are as numerous as the ways you can imagine using a phone, in addition to many innovative uses that go above and beyond the analogy to this familiar device.

The following list describes how my social media usage has evolved since winter 2008 and what I like most about the various social media tools I am using.

• LinkedIn:
LinkedIn helps me to maintain and build my professional network as well as stay aware of the most current trends through the groups and book recommendations features. The endorsements feature helps me showcase my accomplishments and promote those of others, increasing job-seeking momentum and adding value to the entire network. LinkedIn also lets me promote my blog and subscribe to others’ blogs from within the LinkedIn interface.

• Facebook:
Facebook lets me connect mainly with my friends, closer colleagues, or other contacts who share professional or personal interests. I have experienced a deepening in many of my personal relationships, through the subtle way Facebook’s status updates and picture-sharing features have helped me to seamlessly and more regularly connect with many people, from many different parts of my life, all at once.

• Twitter:
Twitter has increasingly become my source of information, for professional, consumer-related, and current events. Twitter also helps me to build relationships in real-time as well as spread the word and discuss the various posts on my blog.

• FriendFeed and other RSS Feeds:
Though I do not use Friendfeed a lot, it is the most convenient way to aggregate my growing social media accounts. I also subscribe to various blogs with Google Reader, as a way to read and explore ideas in a deeper way than Twitter’s 140 character limits allow.

• Social Bookmarking Sites:
Stumbled Upon, Digg, and especially Delicious help me to save and share links of particular interest. In many cases, I am finding these links on Twitter and sharing them on my social bookmarking sites, not vice versa, which reinforces predictions that Twitter is becoming the ultimate search engine.

• Blogging:
Blogging provides a way to interact more deeply with those I’m meeting and engaging with on Twitter. As a consultant, my blog serves as a living resume, online job interview, and public portfolio piece. It also increases my organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ranking on Google and makes it more likely that potential clients will find me.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Peg: The perception among some mainstream critics that social media (especially Twitter) is a waste of time gets to me a bit, especially as this attitude comes from those who possibly haven’t used the tools or haven’t used them long enough to reap the benefits.

For this reason, I really appreciate the April survey results, where in a guest post (“Inside the Minds of Twitter Users”) on Mashable, MarketingProfs’ Ann Handley sets the record straight about the motivations of many Twitter users:
…above all, people on Twitter are truly motivated by learning new things and getting information real-time, as it’s developing.

Social media buzz words also becomes a bit tiresome, without statistics, case-studies, real-world examples, or lessons learned to back up the rhetoric, especially for our executive decision-making audiences.

C.B.: How has social media changed how you interact with the marketplace as a consumer or customer?

Peg: Since January, I have registered for a professional membership and two conferences that I heard about entirely through Twitter. I have also bought a number of professional books and a WordPress theme, based on Twitter recommendations and through the affiliate of someone I’m following.

As a consumer, my appetite to buy a Kindle 2, Flip Video Camcorder, and iPhone has been whetted by my time on Twitter (where lots of people are tweeting about these products), as well as by product reviews on the various blogs I’ve been reading.

I recently had a question about my new professional membership and instead of contacting Customer Service via the phone or e-mail, it was more natural for me to turn to my trusted contact, a representative of that company on Twitter, as the most logical place to ask my question.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

1. Be prepared to make the case for social media to upper management. Arm yourself with as many case studies, statistics, examples, and success stories as possible. Also see if your competition is using social media and make that a selling point to your bosses.

2. Set up Goggle Alerts to start listening to what the market-place is saying about you. Read Chris Brogan’s “Grow Bigger Ears” post for other ways to effectively listen. The results may further arm you as you convince decision-makers that people are already talking about you, and it is better to be part of the conversation.

3. Determine your social media strategy and examine social media tools in context of your communication requirements, not according to what’s trendy. Consider Li and Bernoff’s Social Technographics® profile to map your intended audience’s participation in various social media activities, with your overall strategy. Apply the “Possibility and Function” formula (see Chris Brogan’s “What the Tools Can Do Post”) to choose your tools. Remember to go where your users are.

4. Start a blog, which is one of the best ways to improve organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results and then choose a few outposts like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter to start discussing posts with your readers. Provide content that helps your readers.

5. Measure your social media efforts in a meaningful way. Chris Brogan’s suggestions from the HubSpot webinar (How to Demonstrate the Value of Social Media to Your Boss), provides these suggestions: “actionable clicks over page views, sales calls over views, prospects and conversions over comments, blog sentiment ranking, keyword rankings, and email marketing open rates.”

C.B.: Peg, any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers and how best to do so.

Peg: Social media is about building a relationship with your customers through the content you share. The aim of your content is to entertain, inform, and educate, in such a way that your customers want to keep coming back for more information, and will make eventual purchases, based on the quality and helpfulness of the previous content you have shared with them.

Social media is also about the genuine interest you take in helping your customers to solve their own problems. Remember, as David Meerman Scott, author of World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers that Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your Stories, aptly notes “No one cares about your product and services (except you).”

If you can consistently help your customers with their problems, and provide answers to their questions, your customers will begin to look to you as a trusted authority. That trust and positive customer experience will matter when your customers have a need for your product or when a friend asks for a product recommendation.

With so many similar products on the market, trust and customer experience matter more than ever in business. With social media, you can start to harness these key product differentiators.

Thank you, Peg!

Comments? Questions? Observations?

What about Peg's Twitter experiences and motivations? What about her comments relating to content? I love her comment that "social media is about building a relationship with your customers through the content you share."

For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old, please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Social Media Series.

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...