Everyone Works for the Marketing Department

Last night I was fortunate enough to make my way with Heather Mosley to deCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA for Marketing Profs Smart Marketers Tour – Boston. In addition to a gorgeous venue and evening, the crowd was lively and the speakers – interviewed by Matt Grant of Marketing Profs – were excellent. I’m also a big fan of Marketing Profs Chief Evangelist, Ann Handley – so anytime I get to see her and chat for even a minute is a bonus.

As a former Harvard Square resident, I was very interested to hear the lessons learned – and continued innovations of – Harvard Bookstore’s Jeff Mayersohn, who bought the store in 2008. He talked about the challenges of buying a book and mortar business in an industry that has been rumored to be dying. He mentioned that many people told him he was “insane” – and I believe it is that kind of insanity that helps us reach disruption. You also have to be a little bit crazy to be an entrepreneur – it’s the only way to survive. Jeff’s craziness has obviously paid off, as the business has doubled its growth under his tenure, through online marketing, innovative events and unique offerings such as the Expresso Book Machine, which prints any book in just five minutes. In addition to his interesting tales of business and marketing success, Jeff reminded us why technology isn’t going to replace books but rather, can enhance the experience of reading and buying them. He had plenty of powerful and interesting quotes that rang true for me, such as “When you go into a bookstore, the best experience is finding a book you didn’t know existed but you just have to read.” He’s right – it’s akin to any online shopping for me, really. Online is about speed and convenience, but it is never as fun as going into a funky store draped in goodies that I can touch, feel, try out and discover.

The second guest was Lou Imbriano, the former vice president and chief marketing officer of the New England Patriots and current president and CEO of TrinityOne, a marketing strategy and business advisory consultancy, and author of Winning the Customer. Lou is a character. In addition to his self proclaimed “freakin’ brilliant” marketing ideas, he is chock full of sound bytes that had everyone Tweeting away during his interview. Lou took it well when members of the audience chided him a bit for touting his success for an organization that has different challenges – and deeper pockets – than most traditional marketers face. Nonetheless, Lou gave us interesting insight into his experiences in marketing a beloved brand through good seasons and bad, and how he continued to create new milestones for himself and his marketing team to surpass. I also loved that he talked about teaching everyone in the organization why marketing matters. In fact, one of his most controversial quotes of the night was,

“Everyone works for marketing; everyone needs to be a custodian of the brand.”

Now, non-marketers might not like this. Sales, HR, customer service, maybe even the C-Suite might take offense. But if they can set aside their egos for a minute and think about it, they’ll realize that although not technically accurate, it’s true. And of course, marketing works for every division in the company as well. Lou had some of his own great examples of this – such as the receptionist of the Boston Red Sox answering the phone in a shrill voice and having someone have that as their first interaction with the brand. I’ve said before in previous posts that marketing’s work is wiped out if the other departments of a company don’t hold up to and follow through on the promises marketing publicly makes to customers and prospects every day. Marketing can work consistently to develop a beloved brand, but no doubt that even one bad customer service experience can tarnish all that hard work faster that you can say “Twitter.”

In fact, I had my own such experience on the way to the event. I had recently received a new credit card from TJX – after many trips to Marshalls and as a self-proclaimed “Maxxinista,” they finally convinced me to open a rewards card useable across their stores. So while driving to the MP event, I called to activate my card. Only I couldn’t because they kept telling me that my birth date was inaccurate. (Um, no.) After 15 excruciatingly frustrating minutes of just trying to get off with the computerized system and on with an actual human being, I finally explained the situation and thought surely, this customer service rep could help. I was sure she’d recognize that human error on their end (inputting my DOB into their system incorrectly) meant they should run my social security number and see that they indeed had my DOB wrong, and simply fix it so I could activate my card. But no, this woman explained to me that it would a multiple step process on my end to fax in a bunch of information in order to fix this issue that was their mistake. By this point, I was beyond agitated and explained to her that I thought it was ridiculous to put the customer through all of these extra steps when 1) the error was clearly on their end and 2) they could run my ss# and all other details and confirm that they indeed have my DOB wrong and simply fix it. She didn’t seem to care that I was frustrated and just offered to cancel the card. That further irritated me because anyone knows that opening and closing credit cards haphazardly can negatively affect your credit rating. Furthermore, I found it absolutely ludicrous that in the end she actually did offer to activate the card for me – but told me I couldn’t pay it online or access my rewards. In other words, without my correct DOB I can still spend and shop with the card – but I CAN’T PAY YOU in the fastest, easy way possible (online)?

This experience – a cumulative 20 minutes – just tainted my feelings about the TJX brand even though technically, it’s probably the financial institution behind the card that is to blame (well them, and the woman behind the counter at Marshalls that made the error in the first place and is thus causing me this massive headache just to SPEND MONEY WITH TJX). Case in point – even your partners work for your marketing department. This partner of TJX left a bad taste in my mouth for going back in and spending more money with them any time soon.

So, what Lou said resonates with me – and it should resonate with you. You likely pay a lot to market your company, product and brand. Why not let other departments recognize their role in “working for marketing” – upholding those brand promises in every single interaction they have with customers? From the customer service rep to the receptionist, intern at a networking event to CEO speaking at a major conference, everyone does indeed have an impact on the marketing of your brand.

Christine Perkett and Heather Mosley of PerkettPR at Boston's MPTour

Thanks for the soundbytes, Lou, and for a great event with many fascinating lessons, Marketing Profs!

Influencers Who Inspire: Hubspot’s Mike Volpe

Just a little over a year ago, Christine Perkett won a guest spot on Hubspot TV with Mike Volpe.  Christine received 40% of the vote and had the privilege of guest hosting with Mike live from their Cambridge, MA offices.  We’ve always had a huge appreciation for Mike here at PerkettPR, and appreciated him welcoming Christine so warmly and making her guest spot a really fun and rewarding experience. We were psyched he agreed to do an interview for our blog and to be a part of our Influencers who Inspire series.

Mike is the Chief Marketing Officer of HubSpot. He joined in early 2007 as the company’s fifth employee  and currently serves as Chief Marketing Officer.  He heads  HubSpot’s lead generation and branding strategy through inbound marketing, including blogging, search engine optimization, video marketing, and social  media.  Since Mike joined HubSpot, the company has  grown from 10 to 5,000 customers, expanded from five to 300 employees, and raised $65 million in venture capital.  Under Mike’s leadership, HubSpot’s marketing  has won more than 30 marketing awards and has been featured in over 20 marketing  and business books.  Mike is a cutting-edge B2B inbound marketer who speaks at  numerous conferences, hosts a weekly live marketing video podcast on HubSpot TV, is one of the 100 most popular marketers on  Twitter, consistently posts on blog.hubspot.com, and appears as  a marketing speaker at  industry conferences.  He has also guest lectured at Harvard Business School,  Babson University, Carnegie Mellon, TCU, Boston University, and MIT Sloan School of Management.

 

You wear many hats at HubSpot. How do you manage it all?

The truth is that I don’t manage it at all.  I have a great team.  At this point in our growth, there is little I can do as one person directly that has a huge impact.  The impact I can have is by setting the right strategy and playbook, making sure we have the right people on the team, and mentoring the team members to help them grow.

 

What do you love about your role at Hubspot? Anything you dislike about your role or would like to change?

I love marketing.  Call me a marketing geek, but I love thinking about marketing problems and talking about marketing.  Doing marketing at HubSpot is like a triple dose of marketing because we’re marketing our marketing software to marketers.  There isn’t much I would change – I’d love it if we had a gym in the office or had a chef cater our meals, both of which we are considering for our next space.

 

If you could golf with anyone in particular (celebrity or athlete), who would it be and who would win?

I love to golf, and Tiger Woods is the natural choice because his raw talent is a level above everyone else.  But I don’t think it would be much fun to play a round with him, it would be too intense and he’d probably get really frustrated with me really fast, and it just would not be fun.  So I’ll go with Bill Murray.  He is a good golfer and hilarious - nothing could be more fun than to play 18 with him.

 

What topics do you enjoy speaking about the most?

Is there something to speak about besides marketing?  I actually don’t speak a lot anymore, but when I do, I prefer to speak about my own experiences in marketing.  That is what I know best and I usually hate it when some “guru” is up on stage talking about marketing, yet they have not worked in marketing at a real company in years.

 

What is next for you in 2012? And, for HubSpot?

In 2011 my wife and I had our first child, sold our condo in the city, moved to the suburbs after we renovated a house, hired a nanny and my wife went back to work.  So we’re looking to have a less hectic year in 2012.

For HubSpot though, I think 2012 will be a huge year where a lot of the groundwork we have done over the past couple of years starts to pay off in a big way.  I am more positive about the next 12 months than I have ever been in the history of the company.  There are so many things to be excited about, most of which are not ready for prime time yet.  All I will say is make sure to join us at Inbound 2012 for an amazing event and some big announcements.

 

Keeping up with the Kardashian Brand

Kardashian. Even if you don’t want to, you know the name. You may watch the slew of reality television shows associated with the name (Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kourtney & Kim Kardashian Take New York, Khloe & Lamar). Or perhaps you shop at Dash (the Kardashian boutique) or Sears (the Kardashian Kollection clothing line). Or maybe you’ve read and weighed in about Kim Kardashian’s scandalous divorce with basketball pro Kris Humphries. Was it real? Was it fake? Was it all for money? Regardless, the name is everywhere (perfumes, weight loss supplements, jewelry, fitness videos, credit cards, cosmetics, Barbie dolls, etc). Hate it or love it, talent or no talent— no matter what you may think of the brand itself, it does have a powerful recognition — worth an estimated $65 million.

While a public divorce and paternity scandal (it’s rumored that the late Robert Kardashian isn’t the birth father of Khloe Kardashian) has kept the Kardashian name in the news, another PR and branding crisis may be looming. In recent news, the NY Post reported that the Kardashian brand is tarnishing — and fast. According to the article, “Ratings for the family’s reality show have plummeted, sales of magazines with Kim Kardashian’s mug go unsold, and her products are unmarketable, insiders say.” In fact the article continues to share some startling statistics that may just prove that the Kardashian brand is in trouble.

These include:

· E!’s Kardashian TV franchise — “Keeping up with the Kardashians” — suffered a 14 percent dip in Nielsen ratings, from 3.5 million viewers per episode last season to 3 million this season.

· Circulation at Us Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style and OK! dropped about 18 percent when a Kardashian was on the cover in December, publishers said.

· Skechers ditched Kim as the face of the company in 2011 — they’ve replaced her with a French bulldog.

In fact, 500,000 consumers have signed an online petition to boycott companies that partner with Kim Kardashian at BoycottKim.com. The site claims Kardashian has “made a mockery of American culture.” And while I can’t disagree, I also can’t stop watching.

This begs the question—what can be done to help save the seemingly toxic Kardashian brand? The answer may lay within the successful mastermind behind the brand, Kardashian mother, Kris Jenner. Kris manages all of her daughters’ careers and is president of her own production company, Jenner Communications. She’s proven that she’s a marketing and branding genius. From controlling the news to making sure consumers are left wanting more, Jenner has positively and continually exposed the Kardashian brand.

It will be interesting to see if the Kardashian brand is sustainable— where will it be in three years? What creative marketing tactics will be used to salvage the brand? Will the Kardashian brand find news way to connect with its audience, fans, and customers? What do you think? Are you ready for the Kardashian brand to retire? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Scan Me! QR codes–the Connection between Offline and Online Worlds

Quick Response codes (QR codes) are going mainstream and creating quite the buzz.  Similar to a barcode—QR codes are used by businesses to track inventory and price products at the point of sale; however, unlike one-dimensional barcodes, QR codes are two-dimensional and have the ability to hold more information, making them increasingly popular for retailers.

Home Depot and QR CodesA few weeks ago, I received a direct mail piece from Home Depot featuring a QR code. I immediately noticed it, whipped out my Blackberry and scanned away. I was directed to Home Depot’s mobile site, giving me access to product ratings, reviews, how-to guides and product-specific videos. The entire process was convenient, quick, and simply cool.  According to Tom Sweeney, Senior Director of Online Strategy at HomeDepot.com, “The main objective…is to further enhance the customer shopping experience by offering additional product and project know-how and increase customer conversion.”

A recent study called “The Naked Facts: Whiplash Edition” by Mobio Identity Systems, an international mobile payment and marketing company, shows an unbelievable 4549% increase in QR barcode scanning across the continent for the first 3 months of 2011. In terms of the type of media scanned, social media accounts for 70% of scans, TV 22%, offline four percent, online three percent, and print one percent. The report also highlights that Generation X and females continue to dominate the scanning world. And while some skeptics may think that consumers are just trying the QR code technology—the report points out that repeat scanners account for 62% of the market.

QR Code - Image from DaylifeQR codes also have the ability to become a powerful new method to reach target audiences with your public relations messaging and enhance communication strategies by offering more benefits. When executed correctly, consumers can see a QR code, scan it, and become instantly engaged in a brand’s message. Not only are QR codes a great way to understand the mobile audience, but they can be used in print media to connect a customer or prospect to additional content while offering a more interactive experience. It is apparent that this technology can be extremely powerful and an effective way to integrate media (print, web, multimedia) inside and outside a store for both consumers and businesses alike.

eBayOne company I came across that is taking QR scanning to the next level is the world’s leading e-commerce company, eBay.  In December 2010, eBay announced the integration of Milo— a localized shopping search engine that catalogs and categorizes real-time inventory at more than 50,000 stores– into its free barcode scanning app RedLaser. According to Steve Yankovich, Vice President of Mobile at eBay, Milo - Local Shopping“By including Milo shopping results in the RedLaser iPhone and Android apps, we are providing access to real-time, accurate local inventory and the power of offline and online comparison-pricing. This provides our RedLaser users even more choice and flexibility when they come to us first to comparison shop.”

This integration proves eBay’s e-commerce prowess is unshakeable—as it has resulted in new opportunities for eBay to connect with buyers and sellers globally while creating a bridge between traditional and online retail.  With over 9 million downloads, RedLaser has about 4,000 QR code scans per day. And this past month, RedLaser updated its app so that users can now create their own QR codes generated from contacts, URLs, or text.

Like most customers looking to save money and time, I am excited about the integration of Milo into RedLaser, and QR scanning. I like being in control of my shopping experience. It’s as if eBay, Milo, and RedLaser were all thinking about me when they integrated this app. While searching for a specific product, the results let me choose the best retailer for me based on price and location. I like that.

What do you think – are QR codes here to stay? Or are they overhyped marketing? When is the last time you scanned a QR code and what was was your experience like? If you haven’t tried them yet, why not? And if you’re a marketer, are you using them yet in your outreach strategies?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

“New Marketing” and “Social PR” are Simple. Talk With Me.

I constantly see chatter, blogs, articles and tweets out there about “New marketing” and “How PR works – or if it’s even necessary” now that social media is so mainstream, easy and accessible. Oy, I am so tired of the misconceptions that social media has somehow replaced these important roles in business. But I’m even more tired of everyone over-thinking this whole “new marketing” thing. Is it really that complicated? Here are a few quick “rules” to it that I think anyone can grasp:

- Social media is a tactic tied into a larger communications strategy. Key word: strategy. Have one. Actually, have more than one, because it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that there are different communications strategies across different parts of your business. Communicating with customers about a service issue is not the same as trying to sell to a prospect or get the attention of a journalist. Make social media a part of how your business communicates. But don’t tell me your “social media plan” replaces solid marketing and PR.

- Marketing has changed in that marketers (and others, like politicians) now have to talk with their audience, not just at them. One of my favorite quotes on this is from Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff in the book Groundswell: “Marketers don’t understand channels where you have to talk and listen at the same time.” That was in 2009, and I think that while many marketers are now understanding that they need to be on social channels, they still don’t know how to start actual conversations that lead to valuable interactions between their business and its audiences.

- New marketers (and PR execs) make their audiences feel important. You can only do this by building a two-way relationship. That means that you listen as much as you “talk,” even when the “conversation” gets uncomfortable (i.e., complaints about your business or products). Be prepared to handle both your brand champions and your detractors – but always let them know how important they are by talking with them. Ask questions, recognize them, make it clear in your content (Twitter updates, Facebook posts, videos, what have you) that you’ve listened to them. Need an easy example? Think Old Spice. People watched, listened, shared because they were a part of it – feeling important and recognized – even if but for a second.

- Share great content. You’ve heard this a zillion times -  but maybe it’s more important to say share interactive and meaningful content that others will want to share as well. Oh, and it should be relevant to your business, whether it’s meant to be a revenue-generator, a branding campaign or simply an awareness builder. A favorite example of mine is Life is Good Radio. It’s sticky content that ties in perfectly to their culture and company mission. If you don’t know how to build good content, get help. Seriously – without it, you are not marketing in today’s world.

- Remember, it’s not that complicated. It’s just changed. Quite simply, you can’t dance if you don’t stop leaning against the wall hoping someone will talk to you. You have to start the conversation. If you don’t know what this means, you probably shouldn’t be in marketing in the first place.

What are your best tips for “new” marketers and social PR?