Monthly Archives: January 2014


Foodie Friday and the subject is tapas.

Español: Tapas en un establecimiento de Barcel...

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Most of you are probably familiar with them although you might not know from where the term derives. A “tapa” is a cover, and tapas originated as pieces of bread to cover glasses of sherry in between sips to keep the flies out. At some point the bread began to be topped with other food; bread became plates and what we know as a tapa came to be.

The original tapas were very salty meats and, as with bars that serve salted nuts as free snacks, the salty food encouraged more alcohol sales.  Obviously the Spanish bar owners weren’t the only ones to figure this out.  The Italians have cicchetti, the Brazilians tira-gostos, and other cultures have their own versions as well.  Even if you’re not a bar owner, there are things you can learn from tapas that are applicable to your business.

Free food is customer-friendly, especially if it’s exceptionally good.  Does the fact that the free food is designed to sell more high-margin drinks detract from that customer-centric point of view?  I don’t think so, and even those customer who recognize that fact will probably acknowledge that they are getting quite a bit of value in the exchange.

Tapas are small plates, generally no more than two or three bites of food on each.  They always leave me wanting more but I also appreciate the fact that I haven’t really “committed” to a dish when I’m eating tapas.  I can graze, figure out which dishes I like the most, and have a much broader dining experience than if I simply orders an appetizer and an entrée.  As businesses we need to think that way.  There is a tendency once we have their attention to overwhelm our customers or prospects.  Less really is more.  Let them graze our information and product offerings until they feel as if they’re ready to commit.  That’s the nature of conversational marketing.

Tapas are just one expression of a tasting menu, something most high-end chefs offer.  Small plates have become a dining norm in a number of restaurants as well.  I suspect that while the cost per dish is lower customers order more of them and they lead to bigger profits per meal served.  All that while being incredibly customer friendly.  Isn’t that what business is supposed to be about?

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The Devil You Know

The folks at Forrester issued a study on marketing and customer experience the other day and it makes a number of interesting points.

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Maybe “interesting” isn’t the right word; maybe it could be more like “disappointing” or “confusing.”  Entitled The Convergence Of Brand, Customer Experience And Marketingthe study deals with the intersection of brand, marketing, and customer experience.  One might expect those three areas to be operating in sync.  One would be wrong.

Forrester found that 63% of Chief Marketing Officers consider customer acquisition their number one priority, while only 22% give precedence to retention. Kind of a silly choice, because there is a lot of  evidence that shows that generating loyalty and holding onto existing customers is better for a brand financially  than spending resources to bring in new customers.  In fact, the 22% statistic represents a decline in the focus on retention.  In 2011, the number was 30%.

What’s a little strange is that many of the CMO‘s do believe that they are, in fact, highly customer-focused.  The research found, however, that they are highly transaction-focused and are trying to foster conversions, not conversations.  Lifetime value is only a concern to a little over a third of these folks while two-thirds focus on segmentation studies to pursue new customers.

It’s almost as if there are two completely different experiences – one for prospects and one for existing customers – while it seems obvious that those experiences should be united into a vision that derives from the brand itself.  Otherwise, as the study found, there is customer confusion, dissatisfaction and departure.

No one likes to be treated like royalty when they’re being wooed only to be given short shrift once the deal is sealed.  Even worse, if a brand is a promise to the customer, no one likes to be confused about what that promise is or how it is to be kept.  Heck, even accounting recognizes that and puts something called “goodwill” on the balance sheet.  The disconnect cited in this study is disturbing and the trends it recognizes are even more so.

I’m a believer in “the devil you know” and the value of doing everything I can for existing customers.  I’m a believer in making the brand the source of strategic thinking about customers, current and future and expressing that thinking in a cohesive way.  Are you?

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Is Creepy Dead?

I’ve had beacons on my brain lately.

Start Point Lighthouse, in the south of Devon,...

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I’ll explain what they are and why in a second but they raise a larger question in my mind, which is our topic today:  has the “creepy” factor left us?  Not long ago, the notion of someone, much less some business, tracking our every move and approximating what we’re thinking would be…creepy.  Have we become so immune to the fact that said tracking occurs almost constantly caused us not to even care any more?  Let’s see what you think.

First, why beacons and what are they?  Here is a good explanation:

Beacons are devices that communicate with a shopper’s smartphone in the hopes of improving the in-store shopping experience. When placed in a store, beacons use Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones and send them media such as ads, coupons or supplementary product information. They can also be used as point-of-sale systems and to collect information on those consumers — particularly how consumers maneuver through stores.

Who you are, what you’re looking at, where you go and how frequently you shop there are all part of the equation.  Maybe not so awful.  A store with an attentive staff can generally say the same about any regular customer and the information delivered about a product should be more complete than any clerk can remember across hundreds of products.  Many stores use cameras to do just that.  Apple, of course, is in the forefront of this with their iBeacon.  It’s built into every device – iPhone or iPad – sold in the last few years.  They recently deployed the technology in all of their Apple stores:  what they set up uses the Bluetooth technology of the iBeacon to detect where a shopper is within a store so Apple can send location-specific product information to his or her Apple device.  Helpful or creepy?

That’s one example.  Combine the beacon with an app and it becomes simple to send targeted messages to devices.  For example, at a sporting event, you might get messages providing discounts on concessions and merchandise or maybe even seat upgrades if you’re a VIP.  Of course, in the process a lot of information about you is gathered.

So back to the question:  is it creepy or don’t we care?  If we use credit cards, our purchasing habits are known.  If we use an in-store scanner at the supermarket, how we wander the store is recorded along with what we buy even as we’re offered coupons and discounts.  Is the prospect of a better shopping experience worth giving up yet another remnant of our privacy?  Amazon and other retailers know how we wander their virtual stores via click-tracking.  Why should physical outlets be disadvantaged?  More importantly, when the online experience can be mirrored and continued by a retailer’s brick and mortar store, doesn’t the shopper benefit?

I don’t know how many iPhone users know they have this technology in their pockets already.  I don’t know how many people realize what they’re giving up when they opt-in to this technology.  Google has deployed something in newer versions of Android that will allow retailers to bid on serving ads to people conducting product searches and Google can then track the person via their phone to see if they visited the store.  I do feel that many wouldn’t be quite some comfortable if they knew all this.

Are you, or is creepy dead?

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Turn Turn Turn

I woke up to the sad news that Pete Seeger has passed. He was a giant of American music, influencing and inspiring many music greats. In the case of Bruce Springsteen, that influence was so great The Boss recorded an album of songs Seeger made popular. It seems appropriate that this TunesDay, we look at one of Pete’s most popular songs. Here is the version most of us know:

For Turn Turn Turn, Seeger often said all he did was write some music and six words (actually, one word repeated) since the lyric is from the Book Of Ecclesiastes.  That sort of humility (and humor) extended into his sense of community.  You never went to a Pete Seeger show unless you were prepared to sing, and I can’t remember ever not knowing many of his instantly familiar songs – If I Had A Hammer, Where Have All The Flowers Gone and many others.  While The Byrds made today’s song a hit, many others recorded it as well.  I think that’s so in part because of the music and mostly because of the message which is one of those universal truths that apply to business as well as to our non-business lives.

There is a time to every purpose; everything has a season but that time will come and go.   That’s the song distilled down and it’s something we often overlook in business.  If you don’t actively embrace change, you probably have very little chance to do well.  It’s not particularly difficult to look around and see those industries with outdated business models and those which have sprung up to fill the voids left by those businesses not moving forward.  The music business itself is still struggling to turn, as is any content business that clings to the old ways and sues their customers.

Change isn’t something to be feared in business.  New markets emerge, new product categories are developed.  It’s something that, as the song points out, is GOING to happen.  Change is the catalyst that moves business forward.  We can choose to embrace it or to resist it.  Your call.

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Small Guys, Big Voices

I spent part of the weekend getting caught up on everything going on across the various social networks to which I belong.

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

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It’s an impossible task, by the way.  It’s really the epitome of living in the moment because one can’t ever really get “caught up” – a post from a week ago is so…last week, I guess.  In any event, it got me thinking about how social media keeps changing and how what I tell clients about optimizing their use of that channel needs to change as well.

Sometimes I think the Internet should be called “The Great Equalizer,” since it puts the small guys on an even footing with the big guys.  It may seem to you as if every company/brand/retailer you know is on Facebook and you’re right: 92% of them use it.  The majority of them are on YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and publish some sort of blog.  Unlike regular advertising, a bigger budget doesn’t assure you of bigger visibility.  If as a smaller business you’re going to be good at social media and conduct what some term “social commerce” it’s pretty obvious that you can’t outspend the big guys in your category.  You need to outsmart them with great content, and make wise choices about where to devote resources, both human and financial.

I’ll admit to have hardly ever clicked on an ad on a social site.  I do, however, read posts from brands all the time and once in a while I’ll click-through those to find something that’s piqued my interest.  I’ve even bought something as a result.  I’m not alone.  According to Internet Retailer 2014 Social Media 500, which ranks online merchants on the percentage of site traffic they receive from social networks:

  • Monthly referral traffic to e-commerce sites from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube increased 42% in 2013 to 51.5 million monthly unique visitors from 36.3 million.
  • Social commerce sales retailers raked in, that is, revenue derived from those visitors, jumped nearly 63% to $2.69 billion from $1.65 billion.
  • Spending on social ads by 40 retailers that supplied data increased 400% from 2012 to 2013.

It’s the small guys driving those numbers.  The challenge for them – and maybe for you – is to overcome the clutter in every user’s social landscape. That clutter in not the only issue. The fact that only a tiny fraction of what you post appears in your fans’ news feeds means that you must get the user to seek you out and to do so often enough that the algorithms see you as a close enough “friend” to put your news in those “top news” feeds.  You up to the task?

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Can You Feel It?

It’s Foodie Friday and today I was inspired by something I saw last night on The Taste.

Healthy Berries are Good Food for Health

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Yes, I do watch a lot of competitive cooking shows but I find it to be a great way to learn about technique and also how to think about blending flavors, textures, and foods into great dishes.   The guest judge was Roy Choi and he was giving one team a master class on making street food (of which he is a master!).  While serving them the food, he asked the contestants a lot of questions about how what they were eating made them feel.  Not how did it taste – how did it make them feel.

That resonated with me on a number of levels.  Maybe you’ve had the experience of eating something and having had a flood of memories hit you.  I certainly get that when I cook one of my grandmother’s recipes.  I’ve also had it happen sometimes when I eat a dish in one place that I’ve had in another and I am taken back to the place in which I first had it.  Food that makes you feel something is a great goal, one we can apply to our businesses too.

Part of many great brands’ success is that they make you feel something.  It can be nostalgia about our childhoods (Coke, Kraft, Campbell’s Soup) or being a part of a bigger cause (Apple, Prius), or maybe just safe and loved.  That emotional involvement, how we make people feel, is what helps differentiate great brands and great service businesses.  It’s not how the business “tastes” as much as it is how it feels.

Think about “cold” brands.  I’ve been to hotels where the place was clean and the service good but I’d have given up some efficiency for a little warmth.  I don’t think “warm and fuzzy” is for every business but I think every business does need to think about how their customers feel after interacting with them.  Those aren’t the kind of check box answers one gets on most surveys if the questions are even asked.  You need to dig deeper, maybe even become your own customer.  If you can’t feel anything, they probably can’t either, or at least not anything you’d want them to repeat. You with me?

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Feeling The Love

I read something the other day that got me thinking.


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Businesses spend over $200 Billion on advertising and yet surveys show that only 4% of customers trust advertising as a source of information about products and services.  I’ve written about this before and how word of mouth, consumer review sites, and other social media are far more important these days in many purchase decisions than is good old advertising.

Think about your own shopping habits.  You are interested in something, and the bigger the purchase (TV, technology, a car) the more likely you are to research the heck out of it.  Anyone you know bought something major without asking around or checking it out?   Much of the time, that “checking out” process happens in a physical store but many of us window shop online as well.  Maybe it’s advertising that precipitates the desire for a product but it’s what happens next that sells it.

I was in an unfamiliar store the other day and couldn’t find something.  I asked an employee who was replenishing the shelves where I might find the item, fully expecting an “aisle 5” sort of response.  Instead, he put down his box and walked me over to where the item should have been.  When it wasn’t there, he said “wait here” and went in the back to find me what I needed.  I was feeling the love and this store will be a regular part of my shopping.  Yes, it was advertising that got me in but had he just directed me to an aisle I would have left the store empty-handed, unlikely to return.

Maybe “customer love programs” needs to be a budget item.  Many retailers cut back on floor help after the holidays while increasing advertising.  Is that backwards?  Might money spent on customer service – read that as retaining existing customers – have a better ROI than on the ads designed to attract new ones?  A happy customer might not tell everyone about how great your products are unless they’re asked, but I can guarantee a large percentage of them (studies show 95% take action) WILL tell their friends how horrible you are (79% told others) should they be unhappy with you or have a bad experience.

We all have heard the old Attention -> Interest -> Desire -> Action paradigm, or  AIDA.  Maybe we need to get “show some love” in there somehow.  Thoughts?

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