Kevin Daum

Tuesday, 12 June 2012 15:49

The case for humor

Knock Knock! Who’s there? Iowa. Iowa who? Iowa lot of money for my marketing programs. Okay, so that might not be the funniest joke ever but it serves well for exploring humor as an effective business tool.

As people communicate more individually in areas of presentation and electronic media, many focus on creating a “professional” image, which simply means making it look like what’s expected. Sadly this often results in boring and forgettable websites, PowerPoint and videos. It doesn’t help the presenter connect emotionally nor differentiate from the other “professional” offerings.

Rarely do you hear people coming out of a business presentation saying: “That person was hysterical!” More often presenters attempt connection by tugging emotional heartstrings creating small trauma. In most film festivals, dramas outnumber, comedies by 20 to 1. Why? The great 18th century actor Edmund Kean answered us as he lay dying: “Death is easy, comedy is hard.”

Still, humor is a worthy aspiration, accomplishing tasks seldom achieved by serious approach.

  • Humor establishes rapport – Almost all people love to laugh. Non-offensive jokes can easily establish likeability and trust. A joke related to a difficult situation can disarm a prospect or client when delivering “tough medicine.”  Relationships are often built on experiences of shared humor. People do business with people they like, and if they smile and laugh every time you are near they associate you with happiness. Combined with knowledge, humor enhances expertise, demonstrating confidence and strength.
  • Humor triggers memorability – Many strive to create “AHA! moments” in customer’s minds.  This occurs when one is thinking one way and you turn their head to think another. Those are the very mechanics of a joke punch-line. In our example I suggest a Midwestern state and quickly turn it to a statement of finances. The unexpected wordplay registers in the brain as humor, which triggers endorphins that encode for memory. This is why a childhood joke exists in our repertoire decades after introduction.
  • Humor creates alignment – A joke is based upon shared experience. Humor works well when there is communal understanding of the issues at hand. By identifying a common problem and creating a punch-line around it, insiders will adopt the punch-line as a trigger representing the issue. So when no one remembers to turn off the lights when leaving, a giant light switch painted on the wall makes people laugh and remember their responsibility without embarrassment.

Exploring humor research can be beneficial to creating memorable marketing, particularly in video. But suffice it to say if you just want people to like and remember you in a consistent and productive manner, simply follow the words of the late, great Donald Oconnor and “Make ‘em laugh! Make ‘em laugh! Make ‘em laugh!

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best selling author of Video Marketing For Dummies. and ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle. Visit him at KevinDaum.com or @awesomeroar

What if I came to you recently for advice on opening a business? What if I said I was going to open a 15,000-square-foot, brick-and-mortar, retail store selling gift items and furniture? What if I told you I was going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars creating this store? What if I told you it was in suburban Detroit? Put down the phone, there is no need to have me committed. The suggestions I’m making are exactly the choices made by Mary Liz Curtin and Stephen Scannell just a few years ago, and thanks to their understanding of The Awesome Experience, their store, Leon & Lulu, was in the black in less than four months, and today, it is a highly profitable multimillion-dollar destination store in Clawson, Mich.

It’s no secret that most new retail ventures fail, so dissecting the strategy behind Leon & Lulu’s success is a worthwhile endeavor that neatly exposes The Awesome Experience components.

Need

Mary Liz and Stephen love retail. They both had decades of prior retail experience and Mary Liz speaks, writes and consults for the retail industry. As Detroit locals, they were well aware of the economic challenges in their area. With unemployment greater than 15 percent and the decimation of the automobile industry, Detroit business had suffered for more than a decade. But through their research, they realized that more than 80 percent of suburbanites still had jobs and needed to buy things.

Furniture wears out, gets dated and eventually needs to be replaced. Gift items may seem like an unnecessary luxury, but in reality, they are a necessary staple in American life, so Mary Liz was intent on making sure she had something worth buying.

A big part of Leon & Lulu’s success is due to the amount of research and forethought that Mary Liz and Stephen put into their buying and selling process. Months before they began, the couple created a detailed business plan. They were crystal clear on their expenses and how much they would need to sell each day and at what margins just to keep the doors open.

Their research and forethought helped them find the best vendors for products that met their pricing and margin criteria. They keep a steady overstock of products reflecting a meticulous selection of core performers with room for new and exciting experiments.

Entertainment

From day one, Mary Liz designed Leon & Lulu to delight. Stephen spent months searching for the perfect facility. They found it in the form of a 1941 suburban roller rink that was still in use. It had charm, was unique and could accommodate large events, which would become the key to customer growth. They were intentional in rehabbing the space to be party central. They made it caterer-friendly, bought land next to the store for parking and planned the interior to accommodate crowds. They even left the roller floor intact and kept 300 pairs of skates for decoration.

Mary Liz has made it easy for individuals and community groups alike to host everything from birthday parties and showers to fund-raisers like their annual Hysterical, Historical Museum party, and they even host artist’s markets. Apparently one still-living patron has reserved the store for her wake, in hopefully the distant future.

Mary Liz and Stephen are able to manage all of this off-the-wall chaos by being obsessively organized behind the scenes. Mary Liz also supports all of the charitable events by donating 10 percent of the proceeds, and she increases her customer database through co-promotion.

The Unexpected

What takes Leon & Lulu from great to awesome is the creativity. In a day when so much of the retail experience is contrived, Mary Liz finds ways to personalize the interaction of her store with the customers.

Hospitality for the whole family starts the second you enter and smell the cookies baking. You can often hear laughter over the fun, hip music. The staff will gift wrap everything at no charge while they joke around and engage you in warm, friendly discussion.

Once you are a friend of the store, you will find yourself the unexpected recipient of spontaneous gifts for a birthday or when your spirits need a lift. Mary Liz even has a budget for giving gifts to those who are grieving or suffering. Her comprehensive approach to gift giving has led to a deeply loyal following and steady sales growth. The gift component of the store initially designed to be a supplement to furniture sales, now represents more than 60 percent of the store’s revenue.

Leon & Lulu effectively showcases the benefits of stringent forethought, consistent focus and passion for your business. Here is some self-analysis to help make you awesome, Mary Liz style:

  • Have you identified and promoted the passion you and your customers share?
  • What rarely filled need still exists in your community that you can uniquely provide?
  • How can you take a mundane business process and make it fun?
  • How much budget do you give in your business for experimentation?

Often businesses focus on customers or operations or products or promotion or environment but rarely do they put together all of the above. Successful business today rarely happens by accident, so get planning, get connected and get creative.

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the author of several books, including “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle.” He is a regular speaker and consultant on marketing and book development. Reach him at Kevin@TheAwesomeExperience.com. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at http://www.awesomeroar.com/.

Some may have heard about the Virgin Galactic unveiling of the new VSS Enterprise spaceliner in the Mojave Desert last December. It was an astounding event and very much in keeping with the spectacle we normally associate with Sir Richard Branson.

But for me, the thrill of this event came from seeing a California company called Group Delphi landing and executing a major event contract by providing Virgin Galactic executives with “The Awesome Experience.”

Group Delphi had done a small project for Virgin Galactic in the past, but that only gave the company the opportunity to bid against five of the finest creative companies in the world for this significant event. Its charge was to demonstrate in less than four weeks that the company could design and execute, in a superior manner, a creative experience that would impress more than 800 investors, customers, members of the press and dignitaries attending the dramatic unveiling of the first commercial spacecraft.

Imagine the challenge. Virgin has access to the best and brightest creative minds in the world and requires a standard of presentation that is unsurpassed. Group Delphi CEO Justin Hersh was incredibly excited by the opportunity to show the Virgin Galactic executives that his company could out-Virgin Virgin by creating the convergence of need, entertainment and the unexpected necessary to create “The Awesome Experience.”

First, Group Delphi focused on Virgin’s pain. The Virgin Galactic executives had one shot with this event. They really didn’t know the Group Delphi team. Hersh figured his competition would have solid, creative ideas, so the key differentiator was to demonstrate high-caliber execution in the presentation process.

[See Kevin Daum talk with Group Delphi's CEO Justin Hersh on video]

The team focused on providing a differentiated compelling message that said to Virgin executives, “Not only can we deliver an exciting, creative solution, but we can also execute in an efficient and detailed manner.”

Group Delphi has a culture that stems from experience in theater arts. In theater school, Hersh and his team learned how to develop and execute a moment-by-moment customer experience accounting for every microscopic detail. They used these practiced skills to create an extensive presentation that identified every aspect of what the attendees would see, hear and feel over the entire experience, from the moment invitations went out until post-event follow-up was completed.

As theater people, the Group Delphi team was accustomed to executing under tight deadlines. Despite less than four weeks of preparation, Hersh was able to rally his team to create an extensive presentation designed to overwhelm Virgin. The presentation was efficiently integrated as a 52-page PowerPoint deck that showed off Group Delphi’s ability to manage complexity with effective execution and communication. The Group Delphi team purposefully showed Virgin that nothing would be left out or left to chance in the production of this critical spectacle.

The Group Delphi team paid careful attention to integrating its own message into the Virgin Galactic story in a way that would entertain and impress the Virgin executives. The team members knew that a mediocre delivery would relegate them to a runner-up position, so they decided to go big or go home.

Consistency was key. The look and feel of the presentation was designed to be reflective of Group Delphi’s general design while clearly being about Virgin Galactic. They went the extra mile in delivering a memorable presentation.

Scripts were written and the production was staged so that images, messaging and emotions were synchronous with the excitement of the Virgin Galactic brand. For a “wow” factor, a powerful computer-generated film was created that brought the static imagery of the PowerPoint unveiling moment to emotional life.

At the last minute, the team decided to forego presenting by videoconference and booked flights on Virgin Atlantic and unexpectedly showed up in London. For the Virgin team, no detail was left untouched. Group Delphi had clearly shown Virgin Galactic executives that it was better prepared to deliver an awesome experience.

Although Group Delphi clearly executed on all three aspects of “The Awesome Experience,” its focus on forethought in specific detail was definitely its strong point. The effort Group Delphi showed was beyond the expectations of the Virgin Galactic executives giving it a decisive victory over competitors’ presentations that were likely good and potentially great.

The takeaway from this story for executives is an examination of the level of detail and design applied to presentation.

Many companies still use last-minute or stock presentations to compete for business. This leaves the door open for you to show prospects what they are missing by thinking ahead and committing to awesome execution.

Kevin Daum is the principal of TAE International and the author of several books, including “Building Your Own Home For Dummies,” and his latest, “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle.” He is a regular speaker and consultant on marketing and book development, and he blogs at http://www.awesomeroar.com/. Reach him at Kevin@TheAwesomeExperience.com. Kevin will be the featured speaker at CEO Think Tank's Fourth Annual Growth Strategies Breakfast on March 9.

Read Kevin Daum's previous column

Thursday, 25 November 2010 19:00

Overcoming the new austerity

Depending on which news service or economist you listen to, the recession is officially over. That means that business is now going forward, albeit slowly and certainly not painlessly.

In examining the effects of the worst economic times since the Great Depression, I have noticed a definitive pattern change in buyer behavior. The fact that fewer people are buying and purchasing less when they do buy doesn’t come as any shock, but the shift in the motivating factors for buying is significant.

There have always been three motivating factors for buying: greed, logic and fear. Sadly logic is the weakest, and one only needs to examine the commercials of the recent election to understand that fear is the most powerful of the three.

Greed was the driving force for the last two decades until the financial crisis turned everything upside down. People had plenty of resources and felt secure that business would be stable or growing so they focused on buying what they wanted with little concern. Today, the concerns are big, so very little is bought from greed.

Fear is now the driving force causing what could be referred to as “the new austerity.” Consumers and businesses alike have built-in fear about parting with their money. They have three fears that will keep them from spending today.

Fear of waste — In this economy, every dollar counts, and guilt sets in when we buy something that doesn’t work or collects dust on the shelf from lack of use.

Fear of extravagance — Excess is no longer the fad for most people and few want to be seen as ostentatious when so many are hurting. Companies have greatly reduced the way they spend on visible items, such as parties and travel, so as not to upset their shareholders. Some are promoting their frugality as a way of showing that their margins are slim enough to justify their pricing.

Fear of poverty — Hoarding resources is the order of the day since we still operate in an uncertain economy. No one wants to deplete the bank account when another downturn may be right around the corner. Buyers are keeping their balances as flush as possible to make sure they can weather the unforeseen cash issues that may be ahead.

The challenge for a business today is providing an offering that is more compelling than the established fears. Unless a company appeals to a more powerful fear than waste, extravagance or poverty, a prospect won’t likely part with cash and no sale will occur.

As one who experienced the crisis personally, I subscribe to all of these fears and it’s tough to get me to buy today unless I have a strong need causing me pain. In my recent relocation to Cleveland, I was overwhelmed by such a need. I love to bike but dreaded cycling in the Midwestern cold.

But then I heard of a definite “awesome experience.” The world’s first indoor mountain bike park! I was more than happy to overcome my fears and part with $300 for a season pass.

Years ago, contractor Ray Petro needed a winter home to practice his mountain-biking tricks. He searched Cleveland for warehouse space to rent and was constantly turned down. Finally, he rented 20,000-plus square feet in an old industrial complex. He built ramps and jumps and charged his friends a small fee to help pay the rent. Flash forward years later and now Petro’s MTB occupies more than 125,000 square feet hosting more than 20,000 visitors every year.

Petro’s business has become so successful that the company was bought this year by Trek Bicycle Corp. and is now opening a second park in Milwaukee.

The park is a perfect example of meeting the need of winter bikers as well as an inspired reuse of dying industrial space worthy of consideration in other snow-belt manufacturing towns. There is no shortage of entertainment, whether it’s watching the tricksters from safe viewing areas, listening to head banging rock or trying out the latest Trek demo bikes. Petro has set a high bar for constantly exciting his customers and overcoming the new austerity.

Here are some considerations for you to do the same:

1. What pain do you solve that is more powerful than the new austerity fears?

2. How can you communicate your solution in a compelling manner?

3. What creative niche can you identify and solve within your current capabilities?

4. What creative ways can you benefit your community that makes you money?

5. How can you make your service entertaining beyond resolving the basic need?

Not every company leader can leverage his or her passion like Petro, but using a little creativity will help to appeal to customers at a passionate level and overcome their fears and austere attitudes.

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the best-selling author of the Amazon No. 1 best-sellers “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle” and “Green$ense For the Home: Rating the Real Payoff on 50 Green Home Projects” both in bookstores now. He is also a speaker and marketing consultant. Reach him at Kevin@TheAwesomeExperience.com. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at www.AwesomeRoar.com.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010 20:00

Selling blue suede shoes

I was recently inspired about the subject of branding on a trip to Memphis, Tenn. I was speaking at an event and was shown great Southern hospitality on my first trip to Graceland. I was immediately impressed by the story of how Priscilla Presley had taken this amazingly modest home and turned it into one of the biggest international tourist destinations. Thirty-three years after the death of Elvis Presley, people who weren’t even alive during his lifetime travel thousands of miles to visit, pay homage and spend hard-earned dollars on Elvis paraphernalia. All of this happened by leveraging the personal and corporate brand of Elvis.

I thought about what we as businesspeople can learn from the Elvis branding exercise. I was treated to some answers later in the day from a speech by a quiet, yet effective, brander named Trace Hallowell of Tactical Magic. I was impressed with Hallowell’s presentation. It was certainly different than my own.

Trace was slow, simple and elegant. While differing from me in style, he was able to effectively articulate his few points with the support of graphics and a number of Elvis quotes that demonstrated the King’s approach to personal branding that brought on the legendary success.

The Elvis quote that resonates heavily with me is this: “I guess I always knew if you want to stand out in a crowd, you gotta be different.” Differentiation is at the core of a successful branding exercise. The idea of creating a brand is to attract customers predisposed to buy at a premium price. You want to be in the customer’s mind when he or she first thinks of needing your product or service. Then you want them to perceive there to be additional value to go with you versus your competitors. Otherwise there is no value in the brand.

Branding is not just about having a catchy name and slogan. Good branding requires connecting with your customer on an emotional level that will keep you in their brain. Before spending a ton of money promoting a brand, it helps to know who is likely to be responsive to your offering. Many executives wrongly assume that everyone is a potential customer if only they were aware of your product or service, but most often, this is not the case. Today, customers can be grouped more effectively and efficiently by location, product type and the emotional need to buy your product or service. By segmenting your customers into these categories, you can associate your brand with the customer’s strongest emotional connection.

Your brand needs to be steeped in authenticity to be successful. Often companies attempt and fail to brand themselves around promises they can’t keep or slogans that don’t reflect their actual experience.

The following questions will help you get started on a branding approach that will make you stand out from the competition.

1. How does your current brand promotion reflect your current offering?

2. Who is your target market that most benefits from your product or service?

3. What are the emotions your prospects feel when they are ready for your offering?

4. What are you and your employees passionate about when servicing customers?

5. What do you do that your competitors can’t or won’t?

Whether you attempt to create your own brand or hire an expert like Hallowell, you will need to invest time and find a way to approach the subject objectively. This may be difficult, but the rewards are worth the time and effort. Branding is an approach that requires patience. Done right, branding can drive easier lead generation, higher conversion and higher margins, getting your salespeople and investors to quote Elvis with a, “Thank yah. Thank yah very much!”

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the best-selling author of the Amazon No. 1 best-sellers “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle” and “Green$ense For the Home: Rating the Real Payoff on 50 Green Home Projects” both in bookstores now. He is also a speaker and marketing consultant. Reach him at Kevin@TheAwesomeExperience.com. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at www.AwesomeRoar.com.

Monday, 26 July 2010 20:00

Book your biz

Despite all of the hype about electronic readers like the Kindle and Nook, digital downloads still represent only a few percent of book sales. It’s not likely that we’ll see books and bookstores disappear any time soon. The importance and value of books are still being instilled into our children even today. While some parents may be reading bedtime stories from their Nook, what toddler doesn’t have a 10-page cardboard book teaching them about planets and colors.

In the business world, the credibility associated with a published book is driving growth in the book market — not so much in book sales but in self-publishing. Dozens of consultants and small publishing companies have popped up to appeal to the vanity involved with being an author. Of course, these publishers and consultants neglect to explain the real challenges of book marketing or distribution. They extol the success of very few outliers who have launched their self-published book to fame and fortune. Nearly all of these books sell less than 1,000 copies.

Still the battle cry is “You need to have a book!” — as if just having your name on the cover will automatically make people hear of you and make your message compelling enough to drive business to your door.

A book is a marketing and efficiency tool, plain and simple. Created with forethought and intention, it can do many things. But it’s the intention behind the content and distribution that leads to efficiency in business and enhancement for the customer. Even if you’re not going for the New York Times best-seller list, you can get value from a book in your own business without attracting a single client. One company in New York City invests $5,000 annually to self-publish a book that saves them more than $150,000 in operational costs every year. And they simply give them away.

Tekserve is an independent, certified Apple reseller and servicer located in the heart of Manhattan. Sixty percent of its customers are small businesses, but the company services a large number of consumers, as well. With more than 200 employees, Tekserve caters to a wide variety of needs and problems associated with computers and media equipment. It also provides classes and on-site service to support the needs of its clientele.

Tekserve management has streamlined the customer experience by separating service and sales for its divisions into various areas of the store. Upon entrance, you are immediately stopped by a polite customer service person or gatekeeper and are asked your need before given a numbered ticket for the particular department that can best serve you. And, of course, there are plenty of gadgets to play with while you are waiting.

Tekserve keeps its wait times low through the use of a small book. It is a perfect-bound, 60-page, 4-by-9- inch paperback version of Tekserve’s frequently asked questions. The company prints approximately 10,000 of these each year at a cost of roughly 50 cents each. The contents are what you would expect in a typical FAQ. The book tells you what to do when your Mac freezes, when the hard drive crashes, when you spill Coke on the keyboard, etc. Now being that this is a computer company, you would think they would just put this information online, and they do. But, of course, when your computer crashes or you spill wine on it, chances are you can’t get online, and so, like most New Yorkers, you’ll just pick up your computer and head to Tekserve.

The gatekeeper distributes thousands of these books to people with minor problems, which saves Tekserve personnel from answering the same questions over and over again. Customers can identify their own minor issues, and if there are major problems, they can easily communicate their needs accurately and get the service required efficiently. Over the years, Tekserve’s management has estimated a time-savings equivalent of more than three full-time employees. At an employee cost of roughly $50,000 annually per employee, Tekserve’s $5,000 publishing investment results in a hard savings of more than $150,000 annually.

Of course, there are the added marketing benefits to having the book. Tekserve provides them to all of its customers who retain them as reference manuals, keeping Tekserve at the top of customers’ minds. Additionally, Tekserve fans may pass the book along to friends introducing new customers to the store.

Consider these questions to figure how you might gain ROI from a cost-effective book.

1. What redundant information takes time from staff to provide to your customers?

2. What procedures would be more efficient by notifying the customer before he or she calls you?

3. What aspect of your business needs added credibility?

4. What inside information can you give away to wow your customers?

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the best selling author the Amazon #1 Bestsellers “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle” and “Green$ense For the Home: Rating the Real Payoff on 50 Green Home Projects” both on bookstore shelves this month. He is a speaker and marketing consultant. Reach him at Kevin@TheAwesomeExperience.com. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at www.AwesomeRoar.com.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010 20:00

It’s not about us!

If you are a woman with children, then you are in the majority of U.S. females — but not by much. It turns out that according to the most recent U.S. Census fertility data, nearly 45.1 percent of all single and married women in the United States under the age of 44 are childless, either by choice or by circumstance. Most of these women still connect to other people’s children in some manner or another. That is a huge number and reasonably surprising. But not nearly as surprising as the fact that media and marketers largely ignore the needs and emotions of these women. Forget about the moral right or wrong of exclusion or even the stigma some of these women feel from society about being childless. Plain and simple, businesses that sell products are missing a giant market opportunity and foregoing vast amounts of potential revenue.

Big companies like Hasbro, Disney and Tropicana are beginning to take notice and action with this hidden demographic thanks to Melanie Notkin, founder of SavvyAuntie.com Inc. Notkin is a 41-year-old woman who is childless and very much in tune with the pain of her constituency. In fact, she so clearly identified the pain of this undiscovered group that she created savvyauntie.com and has built a growing social community of tens of thousands of women previously ignored.

To those of us with children, we may not realize how much the mom culture dominates print, TV and even the Web. Most of the child-oriented marketing considers the pain, needs and concerns of the mother or couple with child, with no thought for the nearly 1 in 2 childless women who are buying for their niece, nephew or child of a friend. And buy they do. Labeled PANKs by Notkin, which stands for Professional Aunt No Kids, many of these women have plenty of disposable income and are more than willing to spend it on other people’s young children with whom they have connected. They are forced to get their product information from media that not only makes them feel excluded but constantly reminds them why. So why are their needs missed by the marketers so anxious to increase revenue?

Simply put, we tend to market with our heads more than our hearts and rarely look outside the scope of our own experience. In the search for marketing efficiency, we work to identify our core group and focus our message to connect in an empathetic manner with their pain. We segregate the market into those who need our product and those we assume don’t. These decisions are often based upon how we perceive our own view of traditional life. This is why extensive market research can contradict initial assumptions made. Smaller companies should take note that even some anecdotal research can be valuable to bring objective perspectives resulting in new market opportunities. Just because you don’t have a budget for a big research study doesn’t mean you can’t find new pockets of business.

But with all of these professional, childless women, some obviously in marketing, the question bears asking why they didn’t recognize their own needs? Institutionally, even many PANKs see society through a “traditional values” lens and not surprisingly suffer some emotional discourse for not having a child no matter how comfortable they are with the decision or circumstance. Many companies focus on the obvious features of their product and the obvious customers, which for child and women products all leads back to motherhood. Consideration for child-oriented products is given to current moms or even grandmothers as the primary target group. All other women are considered to be wannabe moms and not sufficiently motivated to purchase product. Messaging is focused on the primary group of buyers and all others are eliminated from the thought process. That is, unless they are identified as a viable market by someone else. This is why Notkin is gaining attention. With a strong digital marketing and communications background developed through working for L’Oréal, the New York Times and American Express, Notkin has harnessed her entrepreneurial energy since 2008 and is quickly aggregating this nontraditional group of child product buyers, creating an easy access point for marketers.

[See video of Kevin Daum visiting Melanie Notkin]

Notkin now serves as a consultant to big companies looking to reach her PANK constituents and is a self-titled social influencer for the PANK community. She speaks to and for her sisterhood on TV, radio, in print and primarily through social media. She has a faithful Twitter following of nearly 15,000 and an even larger Web presence. She continuously connects with her PANK sisters sometimes 20 times a day whether she is advising them on the latest hot toy or letting them know which company has just become PANK-friendly. Notkin is not the first to identify and consolidate a previously unidentified market segment and with the increase in social media she certainly won’t be the last.

Consider these questions to find ways to identify and show empathy to your silent constituency:

  • What are the societal assumptions you are making about your product or service?
  • How can you survey people outside your customer base to see what you are missing
  • What problems can your product or service solve if used unconventionally?
  • Who in the company feels isolated or disconnected from your marketing? Why?
  • How can you easily connect with other market segments for your company?

Of course, most of us can’t and shouldn’t market our products and services to anyone and everyone, as that would be expensive, cumbersome and eliminate the efficiency benefits of marketing. But, for many, there are silent segments that can add to top-line revenue and differentiate our approach in the marketplace. We just need to open our eyes, hearts and perspectives and, like Melanie Notkin, be a little more savvy.

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the best-selling author of several books, including “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle.” He is a regular speaker and consultant on marketing and book development. Reach him at Kevin@TheAwesomeExperience.com. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at http://www.awesomeroar.com/.

Sunday, 25 April 2010 20:00

Efficiency equals excellence

“That is the most amazing bathroom!” my friend said as she walked back into the room.

An incredible women’s bathroom is just one of the many surprises she and I found at this 1 million-square-foot venue, which includes a fitness center, juice bar and lounge, concierge service, spa treatments, massage therapy chairs, makeup consultations, boutique, café, children’s play area, teeth-whitening station, putting green, meditation room, and a wireless business center.

Of course, the big surprise is that all of these amenities are part of Lexus of North Miami. Craig Zinn opened the Taj Mahal of car dealerships in southern Florida in the summer of 2009. Zinn’s reasoning for the opulence in the women’s bathroom is reflective of his approach to the customer: “When I started out working in car dealerships as a teenager, I always had to clean bathrooms. The women’s bathroom was the most neglected mess and a horrible reflection on how customers should be treated.”

Now, Zinn sets the standard for the car-owning experience, and he sets it very high.

Zinn spent plenty of money on this dealership, but it’s the business forethought shown in every detail that makes it amazing. He has found ways to improve every aspect of the connection between company and customer. His consistently high customer satisfaction ratings come from his obsession with integrating efficiency into service and profitability.

Lexus of North Miami is an awesome example of integrating the customers’ needs with the business process. With most dealerships, the profit is in the service. You may sell a customer a car every few years, but he or she will come for service every few months. A dealer can break even on the car sales and profit nicely on oil changes, tire sales, warranty work and collision repair. That is, of course, providing that you bring your car back. This is where Zinn’s integrated approach shows up best.

[Watch Kevin Daum visit Lexus of North Miami]

From the moment you drive your car in for service, you feel like you are driving up to a big hotel. Your first stop is the concierge desk where your immediate car needs are resolved and you are invited to enjoy the wondrous amenities. If you are just dropping off, you will be instantly assigned one of the 140 loaner cars kept on-site. If your needs can be handled in a short period, you are invited to get a massage, work out or hang out in country-club-style leisure.

One would think this type of luxury can only be offered at premium prices for parts and service, but actually, it’s efficiency and forethought that allows Lexus of North Miami to compete with Costco and Wal-Mart on standard parts like tires and any other dealer on service.

Zinn’s service operation has been carefully structured for maximum flexibility and efficiency. The dealership’s high standards in quality and appearance attract and retain the best mechanics, resulting in better performance.

Zinn keeps his pricing down by buying in volume and stocking heavily. Often Zinn is the go-to parts supplier for other Lexus dealerships. He can turn around a repair or service before other dealers get the requested parts. His one-stop approach to car service includes collision. Zinn leveraged his reputation and volume to reduce the claim adjustment process for car damage resulting in three-day savings. This means he moves cars through faster.

I witnessed the results of this efficiency firsthand as the dealership’s service department proactively offered to fix a car for a friend that had accompanied me for my meeting with the general manager. By the time we finished the two-hour meeting, the service manager had assessed the car, obtained insurance approval and handed my friend keys to the loaner car. The whole incident cost my friend nothing but his normal deductible and Zinn picked up thousands of dollars in service work. My friend went back the following week and bought a new Lexus.

While Zinn’s other dealerships may not have the look of a Ritz Carlton, the approach is consistent. When Toyota required the notorious recall fixes, Zinn proactively sent repair teams to customers’ homes to fix the cars rather than waiting for customers to be hassled with appointments and inconvenience. Of course, this also meant that Zinn’s service bays were free to handle more paying customers, as well.

Here is some food for thought on how to integrate your business for experience and efficiency.

  • What aspect of your industry reflects the worst handling of customers?
  • Does your profit structure improve or harm the customer experience?
  • What streamlining would save you money and reduce the hassle factor for customers?
  • What improvements to your business process will give you an edge on your competitors?
  • How does your attitude toward employees reflect in their treatment of customers?

Executives often focus on certain aspects of the business without looking for the good and bad chain reaction results of their decisions. By addressing the desired outcome for the customer and your bottom line together, you can come up with ways to innovate the process and integrate efficiency with an awesome experience for the customer.

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the author of several books, including “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle,” which is available on bookstore shelves this month. He is a regular speaker and consultant on marketing and book development. Reach him at Kevin@TheAwesomeExperience.com, and check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at http://www.awesomeroar.com/.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:00

Turning fans into fanatics

There are plenty of sports fans that believe attending a live game is excitement enough to qualify as an awesome experience. Big league teams fulfill the need to belong to a community and our need for healthy competition. There is no shortage of entertainment for most, and the very nature of sports can get people sitting on the edge of their seat in anticipation of the unexpected, be it a 3-pointer, a triple play, a fumble or a fight on the hockey rink. (OK, maybe the fight isn’t so unexpected.)

Intrinsically, spectator sports are designed to create adventure, so why would Mike Birdsall of FanConnex look to improve the fan experience? For starters, as I learned on my recent trip to London, one person’s excitement in baseball can be a snorer to a cricketeer who ironically watches a five-day match. As a family man with two boys, Birdsall knows that stadium attendees engage at different levels. When the action is fast, most are attentive, but that could be only five to 10 minutes in a lopsided game or one with little action. That may leave an uninterested 12-year-old or someone just along for the ride suffering from boredom. Ultimately, sports teams want each fan to embrace every live experience regardless of the action on the field, and with the typical ballpark visit pushing $250 for a family of four, big league business needs to deliver to everyone.

Birdsall started solving this issue for the San Francisco Giants seven years ago by creating the Digital Dugout. The Bay Area is the center of technology, and Mike and his wife, Maureen, were in the thick of it with their successful Web and social media firm, Birdsall Interactive. Landing the contract with the Giants to build the team’s Web site was the kind of high-profile business coup that many CEOs dream of. Going beyond the scope of expectations, Birdsall now has the chance to change the very essence of national pastimes the world over.

Birdsall likes baseball but identified the inconsistencies in the experience. He recognized the desire of live fans to interact with the on-field experience with activities such as scorekeeping and stats. He figured that wireless in the ballpark coupled with local online games and activities would get fans deeper into the game, regardless of the action on the field. I have to admit that when I first heard of this several years ago, I was skeptical. The thought of dragging laptops to the field was silly, even for Silicon Valley technophiles. This skepticism was supported by relatively low online activity at the games for years.

But then came the iPhone and 3G network. With a friendly Web interface and the explosion of online apps, fans started looking for ways to entertain themselves online when action was slow. Birdsall was ready for them. Since AT&T was the new stadium sponsor, the stadium had the iPhone connections ready to go, and Birdsall offered fans a slew of ways to benefit. Features include: information such as finding your way to the best grilled hot dogs, games like Fantasy Baseball, and coming this year, the Holy Grail of electronic interactivity, instant replay in the palm of your hand 20 seconds after the play happens.

[See video of Kevin talking with Mike Birdsall at AT&T Park]

Birdsall’s prescience has led to more major league opportunity. He has teamed up with AT&T to bring the FanConnex experience to stadiums everywhere. The program is designed to be affordable enough to install in any pro or college stadium, and of course, all teams are exploring ways to further monetize the online fan activity. Birdsall spends much of his time figuring out how to entertain the fans in surprising ways that enhance the experience of going to see your favorite team on the field. He has to put himself in the mind of not only the serious fans but the less-engaged fans, as well. In this role, he becomes the fan experience advocate and, of course, opens his product up to scrutiny and vocal criticism not usually held back by sports fans. As wireless digital activity becomes a regular part of fan culture, FanConnex must innovate to continue to make a ballpark visit something special for both the occasional attendee as well as the season ticket holder.

There are several aspects of Birdsall’s approach that can be applied in lower profile businesses. Here are a few questions to stimulate some offline activity on your part: What part of your customer’s experience is being ignored? Are you designing your experience only for the fully engaged? How can you give the casual user of your product an “Awesome Experience”? Do you revisit successful interactions to prevent being stale? How will technology change your customer interaction in five years?

Even the most exciting events and activities can become stale and mundane with frequency and inconsistency. Every company is responsible for the quality of the customer interaction. The longer the engagement, the more innovation is required to make it fresh and exciting. The objective is to stimulate your customers into being fanatical about your delivery.

KEVIN DAUM is the principal of TAE International and the author of several books, including “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle.” He is a regular speaker and consultant on marketing and book development. Reach him at Kevin@TheAwesomeExperience.com. Check out Kevin’s Quest for the Jewish Super Bowl Ring at http://www.awesomeroar.com/. Kevin will be the featured speaker at CEO Think Tank's Fourth Annual Growth Strategies Breakfast on March 9.

Read Kevin's previous column.

In Philadelphia? Come see Kevin's book launch live on April 15.

Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Pursuing the awesome experience

Why do things have to be awesome? Isn’t good good enough? What about great — isn’t that good enough? It’s not that companies intentionally force mediocrity our way. In fact, it’s the lack of intention that usually results in mediocrity. Given a choice, most people would choose an awesome experience.

Three key characteristics define an awesome experience:

Positive. Awesome experiences are always positive. Awesome by definition means inspired by that which is grand or sublime. Creating a positive experience will assure the beholder of wanting to relive the experience.

Meaningful. What is the point of doing something awesome if nobody cares? Meaning provides context and impact, which lends itself to sharing and discussion. If no one is talking about it, it wasn’t awesome.

Memorable. Reflect on the business experiences you remember. They likely resulted in an epiphany you couldn’t wait to share.

Awesome experiences can be created anytime, anyplace, so why isn’t the business world overflowing with them? Primarily because creating them requires forethought, creativity, planning and execution. It takes time, skill and an understanding of how to turn a mediocre or “just OK” experience into one that is meaningful and memorable for everyone. The awesome experience happens at the convergence of need, entertainment and the unexpected.

Here’s the difference.

Peter and Kevin go to lunch. They need someone to provide good food while they talk. They decide upon a local French restaurant, Le Café. They’ve heard good things about Le Café from friends and reviews. They are on their way to a good experience because they are fulfilling one of the requirements for need — trust. They have a recommendation and a review that says the food and service should meet or perhaps even exceed expectations.

They arrive and are greeted and seated by Pierre. He is nice and attentive. He performs his job as expected — reciting the specials, taking the order and delivering the food in a timely manner. The food was decent and so was the service, providing the second need component — resolution. Had the food been bad or the service slow, that need would have not been resolved and the trust would have been broken. A bad experience would have occurred. Instead, this was a good experience.

Later, Peter and Kevin return to Le Café. They are greeted by a young, attractive server named Marie. As they wait to be seated, Marie provides entertainment by engaging them in conversation. She tells them stories of how she first came to America from France, and soon has them laughing about her early antics learning English. Marie seats them and continues to charm the two by joking and flirting while fulfilling their need for a good lunch.

Marie succeeded in combining need with entertainment in a way that turned an ordinary lunch into a more meaningful experience. They left having thoroughly enjoyed a great experience that was positive and meaningful. This experience is great because it had their need met through trust and resolution, combined with entertainment met through engagement and joy.

A few years later, Peter and Kevin have now become regulars at Le Café. One day, Pierre greets them by saying, “We keep tabs on our guests’ visits and you may not be aware that this is your 25th time here. The chef is so appreciative he wants you to know that your meals are on the house. And, we have this lovely bottle of Bordeaux for you to enjoy with your meal.”

This is the type of experience Peter and Kevin are sure to remember for years. Not only was the experience memorable, it was worth sharing. Le Café’s management succeeded in creating the unexpected. By filling Kevin and Peter’s need, providing them entertainment and creating the unexpected with surprise and relevance, Le Café was able to create the awesome experience.

The awesome experience requires the convergence of need (through trust and resolution), combined with entertainment (through engagement and joy), combined with the unexpected (through surprise and relevance).

Over the next few months, I will share tools you can use to satisfy need, entertain and deliver the unexpected. When pursuing the awesome experience, keep your audience in mind. If you strive to exceed expectations, you are more likely to make it happen. And then, you may just inspire others to stop pushing mediocrity and create an awesome experience for you, as well.

It’s that simple: Fulfill a need, entertain and bring on the unexpected. Pursuing the awesome experience doesn’t require lots of money, props or even other people. It mainly requires a decision to make it happen and follow through.

Kevin Daum is the principal of TAE International and the author of several books, including “Building Your Own Home For Dummies,” and his latest, “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle.” He is a regular speaker and consultant on marketing and book development, and he blogs at www.awesomeroar.com. Reach him at Kevin@TheAwesomeExperience.com.

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