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What is the one thing that Powerball, dieting, and Social Media have in common?

Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Business Strategy, Marketing | 0 comments

What is the one thing that Powerball, dieting, and Social Media have in common?

Quick, close your eyes and ask yourself what do these three things have in common?  Let’s look closer:

Powerball:  One of the major news stories recently was on that Powerball lottery was recently over 600 million dollars (I even bought a ticket which I do not normally do).

Dieting:  In amazon, my search for the word dieting just returned over 13,326 results.  I am always amazed when people who I like, respect, and think are smart tell me about their wacky diet.

Social media: companies, non-profits, and small businesses feel that they need to do all of the social media platforms, right now.  And somehow that “other companies” are capturing all of the benefit of social media.

Hope ,untempered by realism or experience, is the common element. Powerball is money, dieting is to look great, and social media is to solve your business problems. All may have a role in your life but I would argue need to be viewed in the proper context.

Don’t believe it?  Ok, you are right, go get your lottery ticket, I just lost 50 pounds by eating just grapefruit, and you can do all of the social media platforms in 3 minutes a day and it will expand your business by 300%.

Oh, and by the way, I have a bridge in NY that I would like to sell you.

Harry McNabb

Spalding Barker Strategies



One Example of How Not to do Social Media.

Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Business Strategy, Marketing | 0 comments

One Example of How Not to do Social Media.

“We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic”.  Susan Jeffers.

I believe that negativity is poison, and I try very hard to not fall into the trap of negativity.  I do not believe that bringing out all the bad things that can happen is being smart or shows experience or even good judgment.

That being said, sometime people do things, either out of anger or frustration, or a momentary lack of judgment that hurts them.  In social media, we can all think of examples of grown men and woman who should know better, doing something stupid.

We at Spalding Barker use the rule, that you should view anything that you post as going to be read by your boss, your mother, and your priest/preacher or rabbi (substitute in religion of your choice).  Or if you rather, as if it was to be published in The New York Times.

I ran across a instance that might help you to prevent a more subtle mistake that can damage your hard-won on-line reputation.

I belong to a Linkedin group called “Strategies and Tips on Social Media Marketing”.  I recently received an email with the subject line, with the following text (below).

“Please stop spamming this group!”

I thank you for being a member of my “Strategies and Tips on Social Media Marketing” LinkedIn group — but please remember it is a group for people to share strategies and tips. Spamming the group with your or your client’s blog post is not sharing.
Please remember the difference between sharing and promoting. I am actively deleting anything in the moderation queue that is neither a strategy or tip on social media marketing. Please keep this in mind the next time you post something here.
I assume people joined this group to read, share, and participate. Help them. Consider they can help you too. Thanks.

(end of post).

So given it was addressed to me,  I took it personally.  Like most people, I don’t think of myself as a spammer, but in matters of taste…, so I checked my posting history on that group and had not posted there for some time.  So I was pretty sure that I wasn’t the problem.

What happens next is the interesting part,  within 24 hours, over 60 people took the time to reply and comment back to the above message from the moderator and creator of the group.  It was overwhelmingly negative.  Not only that, as I had not changed the default for preferences to receive notification from the moderator via email (and comments regarding what the moderator wrote), I received over 60 messages in my in-box.  Talk about spamming!

So what happened here?  Without knowing the moderator or having special knowledge, I think that he had read some posts for a while that he viewed as spamming, got sick of it, and rather than take the time to respond individually to the offending parties, wrote and sent the above post.

Did it hurt his brand?  Maybe too soon to tell, but it didn’t help him or the good work that he had been doing for some time.

The take away is that social media communication is similar to most other communication, email, letter, or even the phone, but the potential reach is greater with higher upside and downside.  So think twice about what you write and how it will be viewed by those that read it.  Especially if you are in a bad mood!


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Deal Sites and Customer Service. Does it matter to your business?

Posted by on Feb 1, 2013 in Marketing | 0 comments

Deal Sites and Customer Service.  Does it matter to your business?

Some time ago we wrote about daily deal sites, which included sites such as;  Groupon, Google Offers, Living Social , and others and how they are influencing pricing and purchasing patterns of consumers and the B2C companies who service them.

I use these sites regularly and wanted to compare a customer service experience that I recently had where I was able to contrast Google Offers and Groupon.

By way of background, I was looking to purchase a couple of small corporate gifts for the holidays.  I was tired of sending chocolates / fruit baskets/  etc. and wanted to try purchasing something that my clients may use rather than just try to get rid of.

First, I saw something that I thought would work on Groupon,  it happened to be cigars which, while maybe not so PC these days, would fit the bill for one of our clients. I went on the site and purchased the cigars intending to give them as a gift.  So far, so good.  Now I am willing to admit to user error a much as the next person, but I wanted to send the actual cigars rather than send an email that they could then redeem.  I was worried that the email might get lost in a spam filter, or just be forgotten in the crush of ones email inbox leaving me in the awkward position of having to “remind” them to use the gift that I gave them.  I ordered the item, but could not figure out how send the cigars to them directly so I ended up rescinding my purchase.   Ok, first attempt failed,  I tried it again, certain that something as basic as giving a gift must be covered and that it was my error.  Again I was unsuccessful, but this time I decided that I would just let the purchase go through, call customer service and have them straighten it out for me.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I could not find a Groupon customer service phone number so I send in my request via email as directed.  I immediately received back via a mail demon that told that Groupon was very busy and while they like to get back to clients within 24 hours, it would be more like 48 hours.  Fast forward, two days later and I get a second mail demon telling me that they were very sorry but they were still not able to get to my request as they were still very busy.

What to do?  I went on the site where I was purchasing the cigars, and just filled out my clients name and address for shipping.  I also learned that my “deal” was a lot less so.  My groupon “deal” was more like 20% less vs. the 50% that they were telling me about.  Not really what I was hoping to hear.

The next gift, I purchased was from Google Offers.  I was looking to purchase something for a friend  / colleague and wanted to but something that she might actually like. I decided that there were not many woman who do not like getting a message so I found one in her part of the country that I felt was suitable,  checked out the reviews, and pulled the trigger.  Again,  I had some problems with sending it as a gift (you would think that I would learn).

Ok, here is where the story differs.  I was able to get a phone number and called customer service.  They had a cool piece of technology where I put in my phone number and they called me back, which I was ok with and worked well.  I had someone on the  line in 90 seconds who explained that while they typically send out an email for a gift purchase, I could print out a hard copy of the offer and send it to them via snail mail.  While they agreed that it was not optimal, it did work for me.  In addition, when I asked, they informed me the providers of the goods and services like to have the price on the good on the offer so as not to confuse it with other promotions that they might be doing and it could not be removed.  Not great but ok.  They left me relatively happy and said that they would share my feedback on publishing the pricing (I did not like it).

What is my point?  After a few days, I was thinking how consumers view companies they do business with.  If you think of your own interactions with companies, I bet you view some companies as having good customer service and some as not.  Now, I understand that there are costs, staffing, peak times, etc. that make customer service hard.  But if companies are going to spend significant time and effort to attract new clients, then part of that matrix should be how good or bad customer service can affect client retention.  Customers are hard to get so it seems a shame to blow it on poor customer service.  What do you think? 


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10 Things that Affect your Products Pricing or The Efficient Market Hypothesis of Product Pricing

Posted by on Dec 4, 2012 in Business Strategy, Marketing, miscellaneous | 0 comments

10 Things that Affect your Products Pricing or The Efficient Market Hypothesis of Product Pricing

 Like everyone else in the country, I spent a portion of last weekend shopping for a few gifts, some for my family and some for me.  As I shopped, I was struck with the concept of how product pricing has changed.

Pricing a product has always been challenging. In the old days (you pick the time frame) you would spend some time in determining your costs, what you needed to make to stay in business, and what similar products were selling for. You mix it all together, say a prayer to your heathen god, and then set your price. Then, come hell or high water, you would stick to the price until forced to change it. Price was the last thing that you changed.

 That worked pretty well for a very long time. People would pay “the going rate” for a product and not think much about it. Competition was in place but it was a “rough cut”; you could not be over the going rate by a large percentage.

 Economists who study the financial markets on a macro level have named a concept to help explain the current market in terms of stock pricing: the Efficient Market Theory. Sometimes called the Efficient Market Hypothesis, it states that markets are “informationally efficient.” This means that it is nearly impossible to get better than average returns on a stock these days – any information available to the public (that would be any information that you won’t get sent to jail for using) is available to the entire public, and therefore already baked into the stock price.

 It seems to me that the product market is now also “informationally efficient.” Being aware of it will help you to remain competitive.

 What has changed:

  •  The Internet. The internet allows for easy comparison of prices and access to many sellers. Let’s use a technology product as an example: say that you want a 40 inch TV. Rather than go to a local store and purchase one, as you might have done 10 years ago, you have the option of searching for both that same TV (the exact make and model) from any number of retailers (both internet and brick and mortar) for price and availability. It is relatively easy now to determine exactly the lowest selling price for your new TV. If you allow for the concept of “substitute goods”, in this case other TV that are similar to the one that you were looking for, there will be several (or many) brands of 40 inch TVs that you might find acceptable and you may get an even lower price for one of these.
  • Shopping Holidays. Not that many years ago, there was no Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Depending upon who you ask, the idea of selling goods at discount the day after Thanksgiving was used as far back as 1924 with the Macy’s parade.   The term Black Friday goes back to the 1970’s. (Some feel that is was from the fact that so many cars were on the road and others that it is when the retailers first turned profitable for the year – with finances “in the black”.) The term Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 and some feel it coincided with faster internet access to homes which allowed for on-line shopping.   These shopping “holidays” are used to extend the holiday shopping season and the trend is to extend these holidays to get a jump on other retailers. They are not likely to go away anytime soon.
  • Review Sites. Pick the product and you can now find at least one if not several websites that will review and compare the product that you are looking for. The days of looking things up in a battered library copy of Consumer Reports are long gone.
  • Loss Leaders. This is an old concept updated. In the past, companies would discount prices on a limited number of products to be below their costs. Why? Because it gets you into the store, and studies have shown that if they get you into the store they have a better idea of selling more things when you are there. Stores still use this concept to sell more goods (like a particular model of TV at a very low price, but only if you go into the store, and in limited quantities.)
  • Discount Sites. With timed offers, sites such as Groupon, Living Social, Google Offers and others change the way that consumers think about the price of products.
  • Mobile Devices. The ability to walk along an aisle in a store with your phone and review what you can purchase that product for on-line or at other stores, acts to drive home the “efficient market” for goods. If you do not match the going rate, you will increasingly not get the sale. This leads to the next point.
  • Free Shipping. Internet and brick and mortar retailers now use discount or free shipping to entice shoppers. I had a big box retailer ship me a 400 pound stove (off-season) for free to get my business. (Which they did!)
  • Energy Costs. Countries like the US are currently energy importers, but the advent of new technologies to drill for oil and gas are expected to make the US energy independent or even an energy exporter in the decades to come. This changes the pricing of manufacturing and transport.
  • Internationalization of Money and Manufacturing. “ Made in China” with low labor and less restrictive environmental laws have changed manufacturing. Product companies need to show that their product is not comparable, or match the price of the import.


This “Efficient Market” for goods as a result of these changes makes prices of goods more consistent. It is nearly impossible to compete on dollar pricing alone. What to do? To be competitive, companies (like yours if you work in a large company that produces consumer goods) have been forced to think about pricing in new ways. The concept of pricing is more fluid, and will continue to be going forward.


10 Things to Keep in Mind When You Are Doing a Client Survey

Posted by on Nov 27, 2012 in Business Strategy, Marketing, miscellaneous | 0 comments

10 Things to Keep in Mind When You Are Doing a Client Survey

Every once in a while a client asked us to perform a client survey for them.   It is usually driven by the marketing department within the company with the goal of understanding how the product or service is viewed by those that have either purchased the product or those who have decided not to purchase. In some cases, it is driven from outside of the company by investors or stakeholders with the idea of helping the company to sharpen their focus on potential markets.

A customer and non-customer survey can be very valuable.  In most non-survey situations, client have contact either by sales (who are trying to sell them something) or support (who are trying to fix something that is broken).   Those two channels are not the best way to get a broader picture of what someone thinks about your company and your offerings.

Think a survey might help you? Here are 10 tips to get you started:

  1. If you can, try to have it done by an independent company. Most people are conflict averse and don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or get them into trouble.   Having the sales or support person call is awkward, and should be avoided if possible.
  2. Use the phone vs. email for a small sample. We know, this can be difficult.  Phone contacts usually require multiple calls as most calls to go voice mail.  However, when done correctly there is great value in having a direct conversation.  E-mail is best when you have many many people to survey, you have their email already and you are ok with very low response rates. (A c1-2 percent response rate is pretty good for this type of survey. If you chose to do email, consider a raffle or a small gift if someone fills out a survey, as this will help.)  One issue with email is that those who bother to respond may represent the extremes: either someone who really likes you or really doesn’t like you. Not always the best data to make bet your company decisions on.
  3. Think of the end result first. What is your internal audience for the survey, and how are you going to best convey the data you collect? Will you be presenting the material to a group or will it be in a written form that will be reviewed by someone else?  Knowing this will help you on the next item.
  4. Spend some time thinking about your questions.  Think about what you are hoping to take away from the results of the survey. Have realistic expectations- one or two specific goals- about what you are going to get out this survey.   It is easy to lose focus and flounder.
  5. Make it short.   Ten questions or less is best.   Again, think of how you will present your data and frame the questions accordingly.   If you envision a graph-heavy presentation to your stakeholders at the end, ask multiple choice questions which will be easily represented. If you plan on presenting a written paper, you can leave more flexibility for open-ended questions.
  6. Include survey comments and quotes in your results. These give the reader a chance to get a more nuanced view of what customers think and often gives some of the most valuable feedback.
  7. Present results in a professional manner. Go to the extra trouble to prepare an excellent presentation or paper, and your data will be taken more seriously.
  8. Make full use of your unexpected results. Like a focus group, it is amazing what people will tell you if you listen. In some of your survey conversations, you may have come across product ideas for enhancements, or ideas for how the grow the use of the product. Be sure to present that data- preferably in the form of customer quotes – to the appropriate departments for their use.
  9. Try to make your results actionable. We’ve all heard the saying: “Present solutions, not problems.” Analyze the data with your team and present actionable steps on the basis of your findings. Any negative response is an opportunity for change.
  10. Rather one and done, think about surveying on a regular basis. A semi-annual survey will allow you to follow up on process changes and track results. 

Surveying takes time and patience but done correctly can allow companies to make course corrections, identify new markets, correct pricing errors, and determine how to increase penetration. You will always be valued internally if you can speak to what the client and non-client is saying.


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