Any Business Blogging *is* Micromarketing

Shel Israel, co-author of naked conversations had this to say after giving a talk to the Seattle chamber of commerce: What inspired me the most, a little to my surprise, were the folks at the Chamber of Commerce. These were folks, as Robert puts it, who were hungry to learn. I met a wedding planner who blogs, and an architect and carpet cleaner, among others, who plan to soon follow suit. This is heartening for me. The day has finally come where small businesses can use technology tools to elevate and differentiate themselves and it is heartening to find so many in one room plunging into the blogosphere.

Many forward thinking businesses, big and small, are discovering blogs as a tool to connect with customers, and give customers a way to connect with the business. IMHO any business blogging is engaging in a form of Micromarketing, a way to connect with customers using alternative media. I use the term micromarketing as a way to differentiate from mass marketing, because blogs enable companies to literally connect with one customer/prospect at a time, in a conversation and not a sales pitch.

Just remember:

  • Micromarketing is not selling
  • Micromarketing is conversational – if you have comments and trackback turned off it’s not a conversation
  • Micromarketing is about being open and informal – tell readers something they wouldn’t get from a press release
  • Micromarketing is talking about shareing experiences and telling stories

Video Games Aiming For The “Massive Market”

“Brain Age” is here, and yes it’s a video game, but it’s not aiming for what would normally be considered the mass market of boys 18-30 or “gamers”, it’s going for the “massive market” of people who want to “train their brain”. With tag lines like:

For decades Nintendo has been exercising your thumbs. Now they’re going to exercise your mind.

and

Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day

Nintendo is essentially turning market perception on it’s head, positioning the video game as positive “mental exercise”, as opposed to the common perception of it being a pointless, mind numbing activity. Not only does the game act as a diagnostic tool, by testing your “brain age”, but as a training tool to help lower your brain age, the idea being that a younger brain age is better for your mental health.

As was mentioned in the excellent escapist article the gaming community treated the Nintendo DS (dual screen with a stylus) as a bit of a joke, the graphics were sub par to competing systems, and the interface was kind of clunky and the two screens…. well it didn’t fit the handheld gaming mold. But with a game like Brain Age suddenly the Nintendo DS could become a household name with baby boomers that might not have even heard of Nintendo before. Talk about Word of Mouth, if it starts to gain traction in the 50+ market as a way to stave off something as awful as alzeimers people like me are going to be buying Nintendo DS’s for my parents.

(I’m not super keen on the “do you remember what you had for dinner 2 nights ago” line on their Web site, for me it just smacks of the “i’ve fallen and I can’t get up” approach to marketing, but that’s just my gut feeling.)

In a flyer I read today about Brain Age, mention was made of a game called “Big Brain Academy” which could be aimed at the parents of young children (originally called Brain Flex I think, but the addition of the word “academy” sure aims to create position this tool as making you or your kids “smarter”). Another switch, parents trying to get their kids to play more video games.

Update: If anyone thinks this is hyperbole take a look at the top-ten selling video games in Japan on “any” system:

The ten bestselling games in Japan for the week ending April 16:

  1. Brain Age 2 (Kahashima Ryuuta Kyouju Kanshuu: Motto Nouo Kitaeru Otona DS) [DS]
  2. Brain Age: Train your Brain in Minutes a Day (Kahashima Ryuuta Kyouju no Nouo Kitaeru Otona DS Training) [DS]
  3. Animal Crossing: Wild World [DS]
  4. Legend of Starfy 4 [DS]
  5. Guilty Gear XX Slash [PS2]
  6. DS English Training [DS]
  7. Pokémon Ranger [DS]
  8. Final Fantasy XII [PS2]
  9. Pro Yakyu Netsu Star 2006 [PS2]
  10. Pro Yakyu Spirit 3 [PS2]

Marketing vs. Micromarketing – Moving from mass market to the “massive market”

Isn’t micromarketing just marketing but smaller and targeting fewer people? Short answer no, and let me just preface by saying, there is so much to say on this topic that i feel like a general going into battle, you’re not all going to make it. So in the spirit of writing upside down for the web I put a table together with some preliminary ideas on how micromarketing is distinct from marketing.

ActivityMarketingMicromarketing
Overarching metaphorHunting, targeting (shotgun/rifle)Farming, Cultivating, Growing
Budgetbig bang spending after a tonne of planning, big spike and steady drop off until the next big bang. Media and content lose value over time ready for the next big bangSmall budget, media and content get more valuable over time through continued updates and customer participation
Finding CustomersFinding/Identifying targeting demographicsCustomers identify themselves, part of a ‘network’ of prospects and customers
Talking to CustomersTightly controlled messages broadcast 1 way to mass of people who may or may not be prospects or customers. Only authorized agents create and disperse messages from ad companies to PR agencies.Messages, ideas, and news spread through network of employees, customers & prospects
Listening to CustomersFragmented, filtered through numerous channels, for various purposes. Focus groups, customer research, customer service. The result, a fragmented view of the customer and their relationship with your products and servicesBuilt into the process of talking to customers, the advantage of a dialogue, listening is built into the communication medium
Delivering ValueOne way value chain through the company – outputs value for cashA value network that co-creates value with the customers that want to contribute

Marketing – Sacred Cow or Not?

Marketing is a young discipline, you can argue that marketing has been around as long as trade, but modern marketing is a result of the ability to mass produce ie. the ability for production capabilities to outstrip basic demand. It was only after the industrial revolution that marketing became a necessity and replaced accounting as the discipline to lead business. In fact modern advertising came about after world war II as businesses tried to combat societies “post war frugality”, and the fact that companies were trying to do that at the same time as television was becoming a dominant medium was how modern advertising was born. What i’m trying to say is that marketing and advertising are very young disciplines (relatively) and should not be mistaken for some kind of ’science’ with thousands of years of history.

The Irony of the Mass Marketing is a Mass of Individuals

I call it irony because mass marketing treats the market as a mass of individuals that are not connected. Why is this important? Because mass marketing and mass advertising relies on the kind of embellishment and hyperbole that relies on your customers not getting together and comparing notes, that may expose fibs and exaggerated promise. Why is advertising becoming less effective, because you can only get away with the “new and improved” story so many times before the market gets wise. Don’t get me wrong i actually “love” advertising and think it’s an incredibly creative medium, telling a story in 30 seconds is a beautiful creative constraint, but lets say it’s like me “loving” email, despite the spam.

The mass market is dead, long live the massive market

The mass market concept of some kind of homogenious group of for instance adult males 18-35, is if not totally dead, a bit of a red herring. Instead of trying to find and group customers like that it should be about customers self selecting, identifying themselves and recruiting other customers. No longer is it about the mass-market, now it’s about the massive market, the billions of interconnected customers that are just waiting to self select to be your prospect, customer, partner, evangelist. Phew, i’m tingling just writing that, but it’s happening right now. How did 37signals get to half a million users in a year or two with no advertising? Great product that was worth talking about, and a connection into the blogosphere of web developers that were just waiting to talk about a great new tool.

Micromarketing is the opposite approach to marketing

Traditional advertising involves lots of planning, then a big bang, followed by an immediate spike in activity, followed by a steep decline until the next campaign, this is why I really like the hunting metaphor of targeting and firing some kind of weapon. Lots of marketers like to talk about shotguns and rifles, picking off customers, but in the end once the bullets fired it will eventually lose power and plough into the ground. Micromarketing takes totally the opposite approach, and is certainly more akin to farming where you are essentially seeding ideas onto fertile ground, that will be more valuable and be generating more interest in a years time. A blog is the perfect example of this, I mean a blog has essentially no value when you launch it, it’s like a savings account with $1 in it, but over the year every post you make, every comment that a customer makes, every link that comes from another blog is like a deposit of a couple of dollars, and what you end up with in a year is a blog full of ideas and content that is appreciating with compound interest. This is why the whole ROI conversation on blogs is a total red herring until you do something.

Change is Scary

Clearly this kind of sea change is a terrifying prospect for many traditional marketers, but the good news is all this stuff is going to make your jobs easier. C’mon take a look at these points here and then go read a blog:

  • Customers identify themselves
  • Customers transmit your marketing messages
  • Your marketing tools will become more valuable over time
  • You don’t need to talk to the 90% of people that don’t care about or need your product
  • Product development and market development is built in
  • Talking to and listening to customers will no longer require separate channels

Edelman on the Future of PR and the Me2 Revolution

Smart companies must reinvent their communications thinking, moving away from a sole reliance on top-down messages delivered through mass advertising.

Read the rest of the article here

Here’s some high points:: We trust other people more than we trust companies. co-creation as a key strategy The market is a conversation

As I’ve said before, trust forms the foundation of the customer relationship and co-creation is the pinnacle:

Blog Evangalism

Sometimes I hate Guy Kawasaki… I’ve been thinking about writing an article about how to build a readership for your blog for a couple of weeks now but just haven’t got around to it. Anyway, I was going to share my lessons of 3 years of blogging, anyway, it seems that Guy has learned the a lot in his 120 days of blogging:

So go and read The 120 Day Wonder: How to Evangelize a Blog

I do particularly like two points that Guy brings up:

  • Scoop Stuff
  • Supplement other bloggers with a followup entries

I know I focus a lot on writing things that are not being beaten to death by other bloggers, and I really make an effort to “scoop stuff” but it’s actually quite difficult, and sometimes I leave days in between posting. Maybe I should pick up on the whole “links of the day idea”, that takes much less work and is at least a little activity.

If there is anything I should be doing more of is commenting on other blogs more and building upon other ideas, I have done that a little and the rewards are obvious.

Threadless.com – Customer Driven Innovation/Design

Threadless.com is a T-Shirt company and it has some of the coolest, most beautiful, original T-Shirts I’ve ever seen. Not only that, almost all their designs are “award winners”, in other words Threadless.com is an ongoing T-Shirt competition, in which its customers submit designs and its customers vote on designs they like and if that wasn’t enough its customers also submit photo’s of T-shirt sightings, phew. In this case though customers is almost inaccurate, i mean, they are psudo employees.

Take a look at this frequently asked question:Who designs the Threadless product?
You do!

Threadless.com is an on-going tee shirt design competition, anyone can submit their design and if it gets a high enough score and is chosen by the Threadless crew it will be printed and sold from the site.

Most of the product found on Threadless is a result of the competition. A few of the shirts were printed outside of the contest, some of which were commissioned by Threadless to various well-known designers.

Because Threadless offers a serious cash prize for winners $1500 + $500 worth of credit with Threadless, they get some serious entries from a lot of great designers. For designers that win they get plenty of publicity from it as well.

The interesting thing about this model is it brings up lots of questions of trust, money and ownership. In other-words Threadless only works because of the very high level of trust between the people submitting designs and the people running Threadless.

It is interesting to look at because companies that want to build deeper relationships with customers, and take advantage of WOM, “consumer generated” content, and other more valuable interactions must build trust. Without a fundamental foundation of trust attempts at this kind of marketing will either wither and die, or backfire entirely.

Here are some things that I think help build trust:

  • Authenticity – an amorphous term I know, but just try and be genuine, stay away from traditional marketing superlatives and hyperbole
  • Transparency – not only talk about what’s happening, what your doing, make feedback and your responses transparent
  • Humility – be more human, don’t try and be perfect, and don’t pretend you are either
  • Constancy – in visual look, action, words, and behavior

I’d be glad to hear more ideas for how to build trust, I find it a fascinating topic.

Bullying a Bully – Giving GM a Noogie, and the Chevy Tahoe a Chinese Burn

Have you ever got in a fight with someone and ended up much better friends? Well I wonder if all the people out there who are slapping GM around with the Chevy Apprentice “negative ads” aren’t actually putting more of a human face on GM? After we slap around the bully aren’t we now somewhat more connected to them? They respect us more, and we realize that they are just a product of their bad upbringing.

I mean, take a look at this ad and don’t tell me you feel a bit better about GM, even if it’s just because it calls the Chevy Tahoe gay.

I’m not going to run out and buy a Tahoe, but somehow GM has managed to humanize themselves just a little bit by not taking down all the negative ads that were created for them.

There’s now an entire site dedicated to voting on the negative ads, go take a look and prepare to be blown away by the creativity

BTW from a publicity standpoint this is an absolute slam dunk, picked up by New York Times, CNET, Nightline, rocketboom (yes, that’s right nightline and rocketboom in the same sentence

Exponential Marketing Through Customer Experience

It has occured to me that the hierarchy of customer experience forms an interesting foundation when thinking about modern marketing. I’ve used the term “expontential marketing” because customers co-creating value can create powerful network effects. I think this formula can provide a lens through which we can look at the success of companies like flickr, amazon.com, IKEA, 37signals etc.

Obviously these diagrams are vast simplifications of the complexity of the relationship between customers and organizations, but I think it’s a useful way to think about the tools and infrastructure you need to put in place to build an deeper and more meaningful relationships with customers. This is very much inspired by the thinking from the cluetrain manifesto, Tara Hunts Pinko marketing, and of course my ideas on.

Attract & Motivate

This is an idea that kept me awake last night. I’ve been struggling for a while to try and bring together a couple of seemingly disparate concepts. Namely search engine marketing, micromarketing, and customer experience. Why would I try and do such a thing? (that’s what my dad asked as well). Well I write about customer experience at experiencecurve, and micromarketing, and my business is currently positioned around search engine marketing, so needless to say i feel somewhat torn when writing about topics, and feel like I should be offering my clients a wider set of my skills and experience.

Anyway, my starting point for this unified theory is “Attract & Motivate”. Companies have been trying to attract customers for years, and micromarketing is another way of building that attraction over time, by leveraging conversational marketing, customer made aspects of the marketing and business, citizen media. In many ways, many people “get” the attraction side of the equation, the part that’s glossed over is the “motivation”, ie. motivating customers to interact with your company in deeper more meaningful ways by participating in the conversation, by creating citizen media, by helping make things.

I built a framework that tried to connect customer experience and motivation a few years ago, that proposes that customers have certain needs that have to be addressed before they can become a valuable participant/co-creator, and the one thing that companies need to watch out for is avoiding “demotivators” even before they think about motivation. The “demotivators” I’ve identified are “trust” and “usability”, in other words, these are not so much motivators, but enablers, lubricants of cooperation if you like. “Motivators” are actually more enablers, ie. autonomy is just about putting frameworks in place that enable customers to be creative.

I know a lot of my focus is online and blogs etc. so I’ll give you a real world example. Take IKEA, which has gained tremendous value from its customers by giving them more autonomy. When customers enter an IKEA store, they are given catalogues, tape measures, pencils, and paper, and then they are given the freedom to make their own deliveries and put their own furniture together, changing the cost structure of the value chain. It is in this way that customers become creators of value; and autonomy is the foundation of motivation.

‘New’ Marketing Podcasts Worth Listening To

Managing the Grey hosted by C.C. Chapman who is the Digital Marketing Manager at Babson College and has been doing music podcasts for a while. Managing The Grey is about “new media, social marketing, no control PR”. Hmm. those are some more terms to add to the ever growing list of adjectives used to describe ‘new’ marketing.

and

Accross The Sound Hosted by Joseph Jaffe, of Beyond the 30 Second spot fame. Joe brings a wonderful perspective to this conversation because he has worked on the agency side of things and on the ‘new’ marketing side of things. Across The Sound is usually about an hour, but he does a good job of filling it with interesting content and gives a nice show summery on the Across The Sound blog (i think they call them show notes).

and

MarketingMonger.com – Marketing Strategy, Social Media, 1,000 Podcasts Hosted by Eric Mattson who is currently in the middle of conducting 1,000 podcasted interviews of marketers, innovators, entrepreneurs and other interesting people

Anyway, for me it’s kind of weird to just be discovering these guys as i’ve been an avid participant in the blogosphere for a few years, and finding these podcasts is like finding a parallel universe. Maybe bloggers and podcasters run in different circles.