Archive for October, 2006

Blog about how to solve the service – cost dichotomy

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

How do you deliver great service and keep your prices down? Good article in a recent HBR about strategies for managing the variability that customers introduce when you’re in the business of delivering a high-end service. Here are a couple of hints:

On handling an overload

  • Instead of hiring 93 extra people to make sure you can meet sudden demands, think about automating tasks, hiring lower-cost labor, or outsourcing customer contact.
  • Instead of requiring reservations, or giving off-peak special pricing, or limiting service availability, think about how to create a complementary demand so your people and resources are more evenly allocated.
  • And the biggest tip of all: think self-service. Follow the model of the Internet and let the customers do more of the work. They’ll love it because they take pride in their contribution to the finished result. The smartest software companies have been doing this for decades.

None of these are easy. They require highly creative thinking. What a great set of topics to blog about! Can you imagine enlisting your customers’ help in finding out just what would work best as an automated task? Imagine how excited they’d be about helping you design a system where they could feel a sense of ownership–and get what they need?

Win – win – win. Those are the kinds of solutions you blog about.

Videos explain major surgery – what to blog about?

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Got surgery scheduled? I bet you want to know everything you possibly can about what’s going to happen and what risks you’re taking. Now there’s a company that’s making videos to tell you just that sort of thing. A new website gives you deep insights into the risks your doctor may forget to tell you about when s/he schedules you for surgery..

The producer, Emmi Solutions, says the idea is to reduce the risk of malpractice lawsuits–if you believe that informed patients are happier and less likely to sue (makes sense to me).

The beauty of this from a marketing viewpoint is that we, the people hear about it and want it, and we are going to be the ones calling our doctors and pushing them to subscribe to this service. Talk about a powerful sales technique…

So if Emmi Solutions wanted a corporate blog, what would they write about? The process of making the videos. The doctors who cooperate with them. The research they do. The illustrators who work with them. The customers (doctors, risk managers, etc.) whose patients actually are happier. Stories written with respect and compassion and integrity. Stories that will build the success of this service like wildfire.

Changing horses – good for a blog post

Friday, October 20th, 2006

When a giant company like Qualcomm decides to stop selling a product, that’s news. But anytime you change out a product or revamp your business model–Qualcomm realized Eudora, an early-to-the-scene email client, was never going to make it long-term because, though profitable, fewer and fewer people would buy it because they can get other email clients for free–that’s a good time to talk to your audience about your rationale.

If you have hard-core users, as Qualcomm apparently does for Eudora, you can soften the blow by talking in your blog about the research you’re doing to see whether the product can continue to make sense for your business. And you can be careful to talk about good, easy-to-use alternative producst or services to replace what you’re about to pull out from under them.

Of course, you might get a few comments along the lines of “What took you so long?” from non-users, but that’s a great opportunity to respond and talk about how you like to be true to your users as long as possible, and how you didn’t want to disappoint them until it just didn’t make economic sense anymore. Wouldn’t you like to do business with a company like that? Get the rest of that story. here.

Your blog w/video on a phone – 2 predictions

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

While mobile marketing is gaining share–text messaging with coupons and contests is the biggest moneymaker right now–it’s still a sloppy proposition to go web surfing in most programs. Readability and usability can be painful. But one of the lesser search engines, Ask.com (used to be Ask Jeeves), has at least come out with a new search product they hope will make it easier to find what you want online via your phone.

Clearly, as people continue to get less and less tethered to their desks, new and innovative technologies are going to keep coming along to provide quicker and easier access to the Internet from wherever you are and whatever tool you have available. What that means for your corporate blog is that if you’re building relationships with your prospects and customers by delivering them valuable content, they’ll bookmark you in their phone favorites just as surely as they do on their desktops.

I predict two developments very soon:

1)A way for your phone to give you a bigger viewing area–either portable and foldable, or pullout, and/or virtual, as in projector! Ever seen those virtual laser keyboards that shine a light that depicts a keyboard on a flat surface?

We used to think it was unique to see pictures of people aiming their phones across a room to take a picture. I predict we’ll soon see pictures of people shining their phones on the wall to view online content–and videos. Virtual projection technology’s already here; all they have to do is adapt it to the phone.

2) Now with Google–and many others–in the video business, I predict we’ll soon be putting video into our corporate blogs. Not long ones, you understand, just little snippets. As streaming technology improves, wait times are cut. As resolution improves, so does quality. And now, with the virtual screen, your visitors can even view your blog video big-screen.

So I suggest you don’t rush out to pay someone to convert your current site to microsize yet. Give it another few months and see what happens in these other areas.

Products that seamlessly translate the full-size onto the microchip and back out to the megascreen could quickly make the idea of needing to have content viewable on a tiny screen quaint.

Blogging for business in the senior health/living industry

Monday, October 9th, 2006

When you’re in senior health and living services, you’re in a competitive business, for sure.

And even more than some others, yours is a business of relationships. People especially like to feel they know and can trust the person who helps them with the living and care solutions for an elderly or ill relative.

Building relationships with the members of your target audience is usually a one-to-one proposition—your outreach staff and the people you meet as you go about town attending meetings and events.

The good news is that the Internet has spawned a new tool that you can now use to keep on building relationships, even when you’re sitting comfortably at your desk.

This tool is a blog, and the idea has been around for quite a while. Remember Doogie Howser typing his thoughts online for all to read?. We viewers got to know Doogie pretty well as he made us privy to the inner workings of his mind each week.

The fact is your company has much to offer and even if other companies offer similar services, yours is unique in certain ways. The location, the facilities, and, importantly, the people in your company, including you, are unique. No other place has quite the same combination of characteristics and qualities—and no one has the same people that you do.

Use your blog to keep a dialog going with your prospects and customers. You don’t have to violate any legal requirements—there’s plenty to write about in the worlds your customers inhabit. Real stories, though. Written with real feeling for the people. Written not in superficial ways, but with heart.

Because it’s not a far stretch from the way you already deal with your customers, a blog is a perfect complement to your current marketing and outreach efforts. Questions? Call me at 216.472.8502 or 312.416.7965 or email.

Blog popularity

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

“…expands the competitive landscape…” That’s what a small online video company exec says in this Forbes article about the possibility that megagiant Google might buy hot-property video winner YouTube. Now that’s a great attitude–to view as a good thing the purchase of your competitor by one of the world’s most successful companies (as of June 30, Google reportedly had $4 billion laying around burning big holes in its pockets).

Interestingly, the story about Google’s thinking broke in a very popular blog techcrunch. This particular post currently has 205 comments to it–a very popular blog! Unless you’re Microsoft or some other giant, your corporate blog won’t be getting that kind of activity. But that’s perfectly okay.

When you blog for your company, the site doesn’t have to generate a ton of comments to be considered successful. Remember, you’re blogging for your business because: a) you care about your customers, b) you want them to know your company well, c) you want to invite them to participate if they wish, d) you want to show the world that your company is open, honest, and engaged with its customers, vendors and suppliers, e) you want to showcase new products, f) you want to demonstrate your commitment to superior customer service, and so on. Readers can see and feel all of that from how you write your blog posts.

Blogging for your business offers the same types of benefits you get with a newsletter and with a regular public relations program–and it offers more. The frequency encourages readers to engage more often. The personal voice invites readers to be comfortable in their relationship with you. The content feeds their desire to know more. Blogging is a win-win proposition for all concerned.

Handling touchy issues on your corporate blog

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

The local Crain’s Cleveland Businesss sent this out by email as a breaking news item–15,000 Goodyear workers on strike. You know that newspapers love to point out problems and bad news. And you can bet that if you’re a high profile company like Goodyear, your problem is gonna get covered, big-time.

So what should you do on your corporate blog when tough issues surface? Traditionally, companies have tried to keep potentially negative things under wraps, but in these days of global connectivity and publishing-by-the-masses, that almost can’t be done. And even more importantly, it’s much easier for a coverup to be discovered and come back to bite you.

So just as you rely on your attorneys and your public relations people to help you through a crisis, you use the same discretion and ethics when you write about it in your corporate blog–always remembering that honesty tempered with consideration for all sides of the story is the best policy.

Paranoia or practicality?

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

Depends who you are. Whether it’s good to spend a fortune to develop software to monitor public opinion in foreign countries, as the U.S. is currently doing, is an open question.

But it IS good to watch what people are saying about your company. Some businesses even pay to have services track mentions in newspapers and so on. Online you can use some of today’s modern RSS tracking programs like Bloglines or Feedster. But even if you don’t use these “aggregators,” set a reminder every couple of weeks for one of your staff to google (yes, it’s become a verb) your company and your own name. Whatever you see come up–good or bad–address it immediately. Leave a calm, considered comment. Write a responsive post on your own corporate blog. Whatever you do, be moderate in your response but don’t ignore it.

Give back to your customers

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

Your corporate blog is the online vessel from which you can draw endlessly to refresh your email campaigns. Just got a message today from a company that I followed closely for a while (a colleague of mine–who also happens to the eye doctor who did my cataract surgeries!–is an investor and got me interested) that’s based on an inspired idea: highlight your customers as sources for your readers.

In this case CardinalCommerce, which makes a credit-card-secure software that helps protect merchants from credit-card fraud, sent out a “Holiday Shopping Guide” in which they list some of their customers and point out that you, the consumer, can go holiday shopping online with confidence at these outlets because they offer the security of the Cardinal Commerce program. Their intro pitch is low-key:

“For your shopping convenience, CardinalCommerce has created this Holiday Shopping Guide to provide you a select listing of our current customers that are utilizing Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode…. Click on the merchant logos or links to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list this year!

Sorry I can’t link to the guide–it’s in an email without a link to a webpage. But here’s their website. [UPDATE: CC sent me the link so you can see the guide here.]

The idea is to give your customers exposure in your blog and your email campaigns–a smart way to use your blog, and a quiet way to let your readers see that you care about your customers.