Recently wireless provider T-Mobile did something that very few companies have the nerve or inventiveness to do – they created a completely new business model that, if successful, could shake up an entire industry.
Last month, T-Mobile’s colorful new CEO – in a hip and fun yet understated fashion – announced a new way of doing business with customers, one that effectively did away with the traditional subsidized phone pricing/high monthly rate structure in favor of, in T-Mobile’s view, a more straightforward, cost-effective and consumer-friendly approach. In doing so, T-Mobile repositioned itself as “the un-carrier,” effectively staking a claim against the other major U.S. wireless networks. In effect, T-Mobile is saying to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, “We are not one of you, and we do not want to be seen as one of you.”
The truth is, though, T-Mobile can’t afford to be seen as one of them. For years the company has been viewed as coming in fourth in a very competitive U.S. wireless market, bleeding customers and teetering on the edge of irrelevance. T-Mobile had to do something to shake things up. Their backs were against the wall, and they had to heave one into the end zone in the hopes of playing catch up.
They did – and their numbers are looking up.
T-Mobile is just one example of a company that got extremely creative when they absolutely had to. Of course, there are others, many in recent memory. Microsoft drastically altered their entire operating system with the roll-out of Windows 8. Nintendo was losing huge market share to Sony and Microsoft in the video game wars, which is what led to the awesome success of the Wii. Even the almighty Apple was on its deathbed in the ‘90s, until Steve Jobs came in, cut everything that wasn’t working, and introduced the world to the iMac.
It’s not that these organizations did not have the creative juice to come up with these innovative products or ways of doing business before. It’s just that they did not have to, not while everything was coming up roses. But there’s something about the scent of failure that can do one of two things: make companies quiver and hide, hoping to ride out the storm before the waves break over them, or get them to come together in the most cohesive way possible and have them take strong, creative, gutsy risks that allow them to break free of what wasn’t working – and perhaps revitalize them.
I love seeing this happen because these are the ways that business becomes truly exciting. Scary, no doubt, but exciting. And quite often it pays off. Perhaps not immediately, but in the long-run.
PR and marketing certainly play their own role in this. When a company does something different, so totally off the wall…well, that’s a pretty compelling “sell.” Not only does the business get revitalized – so does the marketing. It’s much easier to break through the clutter of the news cycle when there’s something really unique to pitch. It’s even better when it’s something that’s completely unexpected from a company that is doing something outside of the norm, or one that’s engaging in activities that will disrupt an industry.
I’m not suggesting that organizations should change things for change’s sake – if something is working, then perhaps there’s no reason to make adjustments. But organizations that do not continue to push the boundaries, even during times when things are going well, need to pay particular attention to the traps that may lie in wait in the future. After all, I’m pretty sure that the former executives from BlackBerry never imagined a world in which that company, once at the top of its game, would be fighting for its life.
The point is, to be creative means to infuse life into your organization – whether it’s into your marketing or your business itself – and to continue doing so throughout its entire lifespan. In other words, treat your business like every day might be its last. Don’t let it get to the point where its back is against the wall.
- Pete Larmey
April Fool’s Day 2013 presented us with a wide variety of pranks, from Google’s answer to Smell-O-Vision to SpeakerBox’s move to the moors of Scotland, but as always, there are a few that one wishes were actually real. For me, it’s the BullScanner.
The faux product was the April Fool’s Day prank from Rohit Bhargava, the man behind the excellent Influential Marketing Blog. A stand-alone barcode-type scanner, the BullScanner was proposed to scan document language to create a Linguistic Relativity Score (LRS). If a score was too low, it meant that the document was full of BS – the BullScanner would then take matters into its own hands, destroying the document and punishing the creator with a savage electroshock.
Petty? Yes. Disturbingly accurate with regards to today’s business language environment? Also yes.
Business language, especially in press releases, can be an utter nightmare to deal with from a public relations perspective – “dynamic” this, “bleeding edge” that, and so on. Finding something, anything, to automate the weeding out process would be incredibly helpful – while the BullScanner is obviously a prank, it brings me back to the days of an old Word plug-in called BullFighter, which was designed to recognize and eliminate jargon within documents. The site is still live but looks mostly untouched since the heady days of XP, so I doubt it’s a viable option anymore.
So what about you? Do you have problems with jargon invading your content? Any sweet, automated tools to handle it or are we editors doomed to suffer through the tedium of manual jargon removal?
I’ll say upfront that I’m venting more than anything in this blog post. But I do have a point to make…
I am from Detroit and love my hometown pro sports teams, Tigers included. With that said, I’m running on very little sleep this month, but am not complaining since it was their run to the World Series that kept me up night after night. We fell short to the San Francisco Giants last night, and I went to bed sulking and scratching my head for answers. With a tear in my eye, I put away my World Series sweatshirt that my husband bought me at game three, and prayed I’d wear it in happier times next season. When the ninth inning concluded, I couldn’t have turned off my television any faster, and needless to say, I’ve since avoided all articles, videos and SportsCenter segments. But I never considered abandoning my personal email account. Maybe I should have.
I awoke to an email from a national sporting goods retailer (a place at which I shop regularly here in Detroit) congratulating the Giants on their World Series win and encouraging shoppers to buy the official championship shirt and hat. Needless to say, I stared at the email for a few seconds, muttered a few expletives and hit delete. I’m not a sore loser, don't get me wrong. But I just couldn’t believe that I had received that email. Like I mentioned, I shop there regularly, most recently buying Tigers apparel. In fact, just a couple weeks ago I purchased three team t-shirts for my out of town nieces and nephews to wear, hoping to spread some luck to the team. Pairing that type of purchase history with my debit/credit cards, all of which have Michigan billing addresses, it should be obvious that I’m not a Giants fan.
What’s my point? Know your audience. Understand the basics of their demographics and use the information wisely. Don’t group everyone together just because it’s convenient. Take the time to find out what interests them, their history (maybe pages they’ve viewed on your website, past interactions, social media activity, etc.) and how you can provide value.
Passionate Tigers fan? Yes. Unhappy customer? Yes. Deal breaker? No. I’ll get over it. After all, I do have some Lions gear to stock up on…
- Mary Evans
Earlier today, our very own Elizabeth Shea, CEO at SpeakerBox joined Matt Howard, Co-founder and CEO at ZoomSafer and D.P. Venkatesh, Founder and CEO at mPortal, in a webinar to share their inbound marketing success stories and the strategies that drove them. I thought I would share the short of it all with our readers who weren’t able to join in for the live presentation.
Whether you were an early adopter of inbound marketing, looking to revamp your current program or just thinking about inbound marketing for the first time, there were several great takeaways from the discussion. But, I’ll start you off with a great quote that was referenced:
“Not only do leads generated through social and content marketing cost half as much as traditional outbound-generated leads, they also close at higher rate” – Tom Pick, Business2Community (Check out Tom’s whole article on the subject here.)
According to Shea, inbound marketing is all about engaging and giving people or potential customers something they will find valuable. And, social networks have really given us the opportunity to provide this value on a two-way street, something Venkatesh agreed with, noting that the difference between one and two-way communication has really allowed his company, mPortal, to deploy inbound marketing in a way that has really changed things for them.
Howard, whose company ZoomSafer adopted inbound marketing as a start-up, compared initiating an inbound marketing program to joining a gym, stressing, “It’s not easy, you have to invest time everyday to see a payoff.” You can check out his entire blog post on the metaphor by vising ZoomSafer’s blog.
The Inbound Marketing Funnel
The presentation focused briefly on the use of a funnel-model for inbound marketing, which rallies interest near the top with search, content and social media efforts. Once interest is tracked through something like a click on a whitepaper, website visit or connection via a social network, a company can nurture the relationship by using the intel provided to start an authentic conversation or meeting that can help lead the interested party to a solution (hopefully via their product or service). Which then brings us to the bottom of the funnel, where the ultimate goal is to generate customers.
Along with using this model as a guide for your inbound marketing program, Howard pointed to great technology platforms like HubSpot and Eloqua that can help automate the process in a cost effective way by generating great quality data for people already interested in your solution. Venkatesh agreed that those tools and the rich data they generate are helping mPortal to jump directly to the middle of the funnel with more targeted leads.
Search and Content
“Content strategy is about keywords being visible and tagged so you can be found,” said Shea. She also highlighted that content can be anything that adds value, including web content, articles by 3rd parties, eBooks, blog posts and comments, social media feeds and even this webinar (to name a few examples). And, the key to high search rankings? Good keywords, a dynamic, keyword-centric strategy and inbound links from high authorities.
You can check out some great whitepapers on content marketing from the Content Marketing Institute here.
When it comes to content, Shea advised that it is essential for companies to have a blog. Venkatesh stated, “It is no longer a question of ‘to blog or not to blog,’ but what to blog about and how often. Howard agreed, stating that it is impossible to blog too much. The key takeaway? BLOG. BLOG. BLOG.
But, what should you be blogging about? Avoid writing about your products and services, but instead speak broadly to topics and trends that will position you and your company as thought leaders in the space. Venkatesh suggested discussing a problem and pointing out how to solve it sans specific product placement. In his experience, it will most likely bring the reader back to the writer to ask how his/her company can play a role in the solution. And, when it comes to length of content, it was agreed that quality is everything, whether it takes a paragraph or two pages.
Implementing an inbound marketing program takes time and patience. Shea noted that a reasonable time for seeing results could be about 7-8 months. Utilizing a technology platform to assist your efforts can go a long way as well as a strong focus on SEO, blogging and social to funnel in leads. Lastly, Howard noted that it in order to be successful, a CEO must culturally embrace this type of campaign.
Full infographic available at:http://www.cmswire.com/cms/customer-experience/infographic-the-decline-of-outbound-marketing-013308.php
What are you doing on March 7th at 1:00 EST?
If your business goals include a capital raise, future acquisitions, or a successful exit, you should join SBX’s Elizabeth Shea and Clearsight Advisors’ Gretchen Guandolo for a webinar on PR and marketing activities that can enhance value for future capital raises or M&A activities.
Elizabeth and Gretchen will cover:
- How to land on the radar screen of the future investors and buyers of your business
- How to leverage communications to gain the most traction and exposure around a transaction
- What buyers seek in considering technologies and how your public persona can help put your best foot forward
- How PR is critical for capital raises, and when and when not to engage in PR
- What buyers look for when starting the due diligence process and how a company's presence affects that process.
- Strategic identification of select targets (investors and/or strategic buyers) and strategies for “creating buzz” within those segments
To learn more about the webinar and sign up please follow the link below.
Pretty soon, the Silicon Valley will have nothing on us. DC/MD/VA are going above and beyond to create an entrepreneurial community all our own, initiating programs like Foster.ly, DC Tech Meet-up, and most recently, Startup America.
Last Tuesday, January 31st, Startup Virginia kicked-off their new membership into the Startup America clan by hosting an (awesome) early-morning, entrepreneurial get together at Founders Hall Auditorium at Geroge Mason University’s Arlington Campus. The celebration began with a quick note from Jonathan Aberman, Startup Virginia co-chair, president of FounderCorps and managing partner of Amplifier Venture Partners. This was followed by a few words from GMU President Dr. Alan Mertens, professing his dedication and support to the area’s startup and tech communities,. “Here at George Mason we have a responsibility to foster the entrepreneurial community…Be innovative and entrepreneurial,” said Mertens. “Take advantage of your location. Build on your strengths.”
Held in conjunction with Startup America’s first birthday party, Startup Virginia featured a 1-year anniversary video followed by an Aberman-led panel discussion with Startup DC, MD and VA co-chairs Evan Burfield, Mark Walsh and Dendy Young and Donna Harris, Startup America’s managing director of startup regions. The group provided positive insight into the future of entrepreneurialism in the region but also gave straight-forward advice on what we’ll need to do to reach our potential, specifically citing the need to “embrace failure the way the Silicon Valley has.”
Next up was the life of the party and White House CTO Aneesh Chopra, addressing the importance of entrepreneurship and Startup Virginia. He spoke of the need for government to remove barriers for entrepreneurs and announced President Obama’s unveiling of legislation to support entrepreneurship with bipartisan support later that same day. He also hit on the importance of students and others taking action to pitch policy changes that will help the community grow.
The moment everyone was waiting for, however, came when headliner Steve Case, chairman of Startup America (he may have also held some other important roles), made his way to the podium. He started out by making the audience feel important (cough - lying to everyone in the room) by stating he skipped the Startup Hawaii launch for the VA launch. His motivational speech encouraged everyone to go back to what worked, reminding us that we didn’t become the greatest economy in the world on accident. Case also pointed out his priorities for national policy change, noting immigration reform, easing crowd-sourced funding and lowering the cost of an IPO.
All-in-all, the event was a great way to kick things off for the entrepreneurial community here in the tri-state area. And, although I wasn’t able to attend, I heard another great event took place later that night for the Startup DC launch.
On an ending note – here were some of my favorite tweets from the event. Check them all out at #startupva!
@jmbadlam: #StartupVA event tomorrow expecting 450 attendees. Wowza. Great news for the alma mater!
@wfuentes3: @SpeakerBox: thanks for the invite to @startup_va event. Great panel right now #startupVA (what, I’m allowed to like a shout out?)
@TracyTran: Frankly, #startupva started because Virginia is the most business-friendly state in the country. Suck it other 49.
@ChrisF: "Marketing its not a dirty word." -- Alan Merten, George Mason President #startupva
It has been said before, but after reading this blog post about a company’s mistake of offering a 75% off deal on Groupon, I think it’s worth repeating: marketing tactics that work for some, may not work for you. And just because it’s trendy, doesn’t mean it’s a necessity. Case in point is a small UK bakery – the owner jumped on the Groupon bandwagon hoping to boost their sales and attract new and future repeat customers. To be fair, that might have worked, but they also found themselves having to make 102,000 cupcakes thanks to a rush of 8,500 Groupon customers. The bakery was forced to recruit additional employees to meet the unexpected demand and ended up losing nearly $20,000 on the deal. Talk about an unforeseen expense. Sadly, at the bakery’s expense, it’s a good reminder that not all avenues are right for every company. All of the popular mediums, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, apps, etc. (including all of the location-based deal finders like the Groupons and LivingSocials of the world), are mediums that need to be carefully understood, researched and vetted on all levels. Your company’s customers may be prime users of the tools, but it will only find success if it engages with them correctly and deploys at the right time, in the right manner…if at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to explore all the options out there and test the waters, but be careful where you spend your money and energy. There’s something for everyone out there, but not everything is for someone.
Cupcakes are great and all, but who wants to be knee deep in them?
- Mary Evans
Why is it that whenever we picture the future, we invariably think of talking computers? After all, we have that technology now
. Its widely accessible. Its not really all that useful. But for some reason, talking computers will forever remain the lynchpin of any futuristic, ultramodern fantasy.
I suppose one of the things we havent yet perfected, though, is a truly open talking computer interface, through which to ask poignant questions about the universe (Computer, what is true love?), ormuch more likelystupid questions about Star Trek. (Computer, is Kate Mulgrew still alive?)
Enter Qwikia paradigm-disrupting interactive information experience game-changer. (Computer, what is a press release?)
Actually, Qwiki is more like a website that reads you Wikipedia entries in a stilted robotic voice while pulling up semi-relevant images and videos. In fact, thats exactly what it is.
People are talking about Qwiki now because Facebooks Eduardo Saverin (a.k.a. Spidermans hunkalicious alter ego)wait, Im confusing movies and real life againinvested heavily in the company. And as we now know from watching Aaron Sorkins The Social Network
, all successful Internet start-ups need a petulant wet blanket to stifle the creative genius of their idiosyncratic founders. (Why else do you think Steve Jobs made Lou Dobbs his VP of product development?)
Now then: Zuckerburgs role at Qwiki is being filled by Doug Imbruce (CEO), or maybe CTO and former AltaVista founder Louis Monier (you know, that guy whos always telling people to just AltaVista it and then getting hit with blank stares.)
I could describe this more, but its probably just easier for you to try it out. The alpha version is up and running here
, or you can check out Dougs award-winning presentation
from Septembers TechCrunch Disrupt conference.
Play around and let me know what you think: game-changer or pointless waste-o-time? I know which way Im leaning. (Computer, what is a Ponzi scheme?)
If youre a Skins fan and you work in PR, youve probably had the same thought as me
it would be a nightmare to have to do PR for Dan Snyder. The man is a walking, talking media time bomb.
Yesterday, Dan Snyder launched a lawsuit against The Washington City Papers parent company for what he claims to be a libelous article written about him almost three months ago by Dave McKenna. Snyder is claiming that for a number of reasons (all of which I personally disagree with) the article should be considered libel. My question is what does Snyder want out of this? If it is to clear his name, by bringing an article from three months ago back to life his plan has backfired. This fuss about the lawsuit has created a boom in people looking for the original article The Cranky Redskins Fans Guide to Dan Snyder, opening it up to a new audience. And since were not going to be playing in the big game this weekend, every local sports news outlet has been covering the story making it snowball to the point that is being covered by national news outlets (and making fans blood boil in the process). If money is the cure-all here, he probably wont get that either
the definition of libel indicates that the offending statements written are false and for a public figure like Snyder hell have to prove they were made with the intent to do harm (or on purpose to damage his character). While McKennas article was not flattering, it was factual. To me it seems that Snyders own actions damaged his character, not McKennas list of them. The City Paper has responded to the claim by offering Snyder the chance to pen his own column responding to the article, to meet with editors to discuss the problem or to provide evidence to support his claim that the facts stated are wrong none of these have happened yet. They will not however stop reporting on the Redskins or fire McKenna over this article. While fighting libel cases can be costly, it looks like The City Paper will not back down. From the response: Its extremely unfortunate that Snyder believes that it is appropriate to threaten City Paper with litigation because he objects to our coverage. As a 30-year old newspaper and vibrant website committed to both in-depth news reporting and full-throated commentary, we do not believe that using the court system to stifle or chill free speech is ever appropriate. In this case, its especially shabby: As a well known public figure, Snyder has more than ample ability and resources to respond to coverage he does not like, including through his significant public relations apparatus. Lest there be any doubt, we have offered him a forum to do so in our pages, and that invitation stands. Should he elect to actually file a lawsuit, we have directed our counsel to defend the case vigorously. Im excited to see how this plays out but if libel is still proven the same way it was in Frascas Comm Law class a short eight years ago The City Paper should have no trouble.
Happy Friday from a snowy Washington, D.C.! Here's a roundup of what currently has my attention online:
* News Corp. + Apple are getting set to launch the first "iPad only" newspaper
, "The Daily," next week. What does this mean for PR and marketing professionals? There's more of an opportunity for organizations to rethink their story angles and delivery of them, and to develop and place their own visual content, including video, infographics / interactive data and photos. [PC Magazine
* 10 online strategies for your next product launch
* GigaOm's Ryan Kim reports that location-based services
, such as FourSquare, Gowalla and Loopt, are "making progress, especially as [they] solve practical concerns for people." [GigaOm
* With lots of cash lingering on some corporate balance sheets, 2011 is set to be a banner year for M&A activity
. [The Deal
* Salesforce.com is launching its first-ever TV ads during the Super Bowl. [Wall Street Journal
] Interestingly, Salesforce.com collaborated with will.i.am
(of Black Eyed Peas fame) for the ads, who just this week was named as Intel's "director of creative innovation." [Intel
] Is this a new tech company trend?
* Great video of BoomTown's Kara Swisher talking about the changing landscape of the PR industry
with former Facebook communications director Brandee Barker and others at the DLD Conference. [DLD11
- Stephanie Wonderlick