The Trust Deficit

Does your company or brand earn your customers’ trust every day?  If it doesn’t, you’ve got problems that transcend marketing and marketing messages.

Do you trust the Better Business Bureau? Watch the video before answering.

Trust issue #1: Performance

I had a client in the telecom business who told me that the problem with his customers (already a bad start, isn’t it?) was that they blamed him and his phone systems every time phone service went down due to the Internet service provider. Well now. If my system went down every week, I’d blame the guy who advised me to buy it, too. Continue reading

One way to respond when your competitors lie to your customers

How do you respond to misleading information spread by your competitors? This video provides one simple example.

I like how they’re not angry or obnoxious (as I’d be tempted to be). They use a low-key approach with disarming good nature to nail the message. Sure, the presentation could be better, and I wish they could have taken Paramount Equity Mortgage to task more directly. But I give the two young mortgage brokers a lot a credit for standing up for themselves.

[By the way, here’s my post on the misleading advertising they refer to from Paramount Equity Mortgage. Here’s more information from the Washington Dept. of Financial Institutions.]

Does one video posted to YouTube solve the problem of  competitors who mislead the public? Of course not. Some people will always weigh the pros and cons of playing dirty. They’ll figure out how much they can get away with and go just that far. As social media continues to empower consumers and small competitors, the unscrupulous will look for new and creative ways to cheat. So while I applaud the video, there has to be more.

Imagine if every honest company, small and large alike, policed their own industry like Brandon and Cliff tried to do on their own. Imagine if an entire confederation of honest companies cooperated in showing customers how to recognize and deal with questionable sales tactics. Eventually, I think that will be rule, rather than the exception – and it will be a lot harder for the bad guys to win by cheating. I sure hope so.

Maybe I’m wrong. (I don’t think so!) What about you – do you think companies should respond when they find competitors lying to their customers? If so, how?

Note: from the looks of things, Revolution Financial seems to have gone out of business. But I have a feeling Brandon and Cliff will do well in the long run if they keep using the same instincts that led them to post that video.

From Seth Godin: How to tell a great story

I want to share a blog post about storytelling, or more precisely, telling your company’s story. It’s from a wonderful blogger and best-selling author, Seth Godin. I’ve edited it down slightly, and rearranged it some. I hope Seth doesn’t mind. Read the full post at Seth’s Blog. Here the highlights:

Great stories are rarely aimed at everyone… The most effective stories match the world view of a tiny audience—and then that tiny audience spreads the story.

Seth Godin's blog

I hope Seth doesn't hate me for this.

A great story is true. Not necessarily because it’s factual, but because it’s consistent and authentic. Consumers are too good at sniffing out inconsistencies for a marketer to get away with a story that’s just slapped on… If your restaurant is in the right location but had the wrong menu, you lose. If your art gallery carries the right artists but your staff is made up of rejects from a used car lot, you lose. Consumers are clever and they’ll see through your deceit at once. …

Great stories make a promise… The promise needs to be bold and audacious. It’s either exceptional or it’s not worth listening to.

Great stories are trusted. Trust is the scarcest resource we’ve got left. No one trusts anyone. …

Great stories are subtle… Talented marketers understand that allowing people to draw their own conclusions is far more effective than announcing the punch line.

Great stories don’t appeal to logic, but they often appeal to our senses. …

The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.

Notice that second sentence? This was written in 2006, way before social media hit its stride. Imagine how more important it is today to make your company story tight and compelling.

I’m going to write a lot about storytelling in the weeks ahead. Just a warning. In the meantime, does your company have a good story to tell?  If not, what are you going to do about it?

More about stories:
When raving fans spread your message
A business lesson from Buzz Lightyear

The future of education – and maybe the future of marketing

Here’s Sal Khan talking about his Khan Academy. To me, it looks like a stunning innovation in education.

So what’s this got to do with your marketing message?

“Marketing by education” is huge, especially in B2B markets. Just look at the crazy success of HubSpot, and all the free marketing education resources they and their partners pump out. (See: Google, Salesforce, Sequoia invest in HubSpot.)

Towards the end of Khan’s presentation, Bill Gates steps in and says “I think you’ve just got a glimpse of the future of education.”  I think it’s part of the future of marketing, too.

So the question becomes, no matter what size business you are, how can you can use video for your marketing? Should you offer webinars? Can you make better webinars by using some of Sal Khan’s ideas? What about video for customer service? Video messages on Facebook and blogs to help build your community – or honor your customers?

What’s stopping you?

When raving fans spread your message

If you’ve crafted a tight and compelling company/brand story, exuberant fans will spread it for you. Your employees will work harder to play their part in the story. Here are a few videos, created by raving fans, that remind us that if you get your story straight, customers have unprecedented means of spreading it. The videos:  Continue reading

Your company story: A business lesson from Buzz Lightyear

In 2010, Toy Story 3 was the top-grossing film in the U.S. by a large margin, and one of the biggest films ever. It Buzz Lightyear with a lesson for businesses was five years in development. But if you assume the Pixar crew spent most of that time using fancy computers to replicate human facial expressions, Buzz Lightyear has a surprise for you.

A lesson for businesses small and large:
Pixar spent the first four years of development just getting the story straight!

For four years, they amped up the drama. They made every detail of every plot twist and turn flow together. They filled the story with emotion. Toy Story 3’s secret sauce is not Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks or amazing technology – it’s the storytelling. Continue reading

Where does a small business even start? (part 1)

So you haven’t paid attention to your marketing for a while and it’s starting to show in your bottom line. Time to ramp up?

Marketers must analyze themselves, their customers and competition

Ready for some self analysis?

Marketing isn’t something you can easily turn on and off. If you don’t make it part of your everyday routine, constantly thinking of how to better serve and interact with your customers, and constantly monitoring your competition, you put yourself at a huge, ongoing disadvantage.

Where do you start to catch up? Before you do anything else: analyze your situation. Do it yourself, or pay someone with an outside perspective – you’d be amazed at how liberating this can be. In any case, here are three things you need to truly understand: Continue reading

Netflix v. Amazon: The loser is…

The loser is… named at the end of the post

Would you believe that a story about Netflix v. Amazon is really a lesson for your much smaller business?

Netflix versus Amazon on your televisionYesterday Amazon greeted visitors with a wonderful announcement: Members of Amazon Prime ($79 for a year’s worth of free shipping) now get streaming video of 5,000 TV and film titles to your computer or TV at no extra charge.

That made my day because I’m a Prime subscriber. But it wasn’t about to make me end my $96 per year relationship with Netflix. Continue reading

“The Idea Writers” by Creativity editor Teressa Iezzi

The Idea Writers by Teressa Iezzi

Marketing in the digital era can confuse and frustrate the heck out of people – clients, agency managers, 20-something interactive whiz kids.

About two months ago a longtime ad-agency pal asked me, “What in the world has happened to our industry?”  I tried to answer. Teressa Iezzi, editor of Creativity, explains it a whole lot better in her book, The Idea Writers. Continue reading

Hayes Barnard, Paramount Equity Mortgage and advertising lies

Hayes Barnard and Paramount Equity fined about $400,000 for violations

This is not a photo of Hayes Barnard of Paramount Equity Mortgage, who was fined $400,000

You’ll notice I didn’t write “Hayes Barnard and Paramount Equity Lie.” No, I parsed the language (quite cleverly, if I say so myself). It leads you to believe something a bit different than what’s actually written.

It’s kind of like the radio commercials of Hayes Barnard and Paramount Equity Mortgage. Continue reading