125 Blog Posts and I’m Done

On April 6, 2012, I wrote my first blog for Target Marketing, and on Aug. 10, 2017, I’m writing my last one; from my math, that’s about 125 posts considering I wrote two a month. These past five years have been a wild ride to say the least, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.

On April 6, 2012, I wrote my first blog for Target Marketing, and on Aug. 10, 2017, I’m writing my last one; from my math, that’s about 125 posts considering I wrote two a month.

After a long-standing career on the agency-side of the business, I’ve been given the opportunity to expand the CRM program for a luxury brand while working on the inside of this prestigious organization, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s a demanding position that will require 150 percent of my attention, and thus, I’ve decided to hang up my blog.

These past five years have been a wild ride to say the least, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.

  • Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously: My blog was written as a marketer for marketers, so I was able to have a little fun with my perspective — and I had a great editor at Target Marketing supporting my ideas.
  • Topical Issues Are Most Engaging: Two of my most popular posts (if you’re using the number of comments as a metric) were about current marketing news: the addition of LinkedIn endorsements and The Most Interesting Man in the World. Both garnered great feedback and discussion on timely topics.
  • The Haters Gonna Hate: My posts weren’t always controversial, but when I touched on a nerve, boy, did readers let me know — and fast. Sometimes it was a headline that folks found offensive (my favorite one, “Here’s a Recommendation, You Cheap Bastard,” attracted a lovely supportive note from direct marketing guru Drayton Bird, so I felt redeemed). But my Feb. 23, 2017 post on “The KellyAnne Conway School of Customer Service” got some very nasty responses — including ugly emails in my personal inbox. That post taught me that people don’t read an entire post before they jump to conclusions and start name-calling. Luckily I have thick skin!
  • It’s Easy to Be Negative When Using a Fake Name: Many comments to my posts came from anonymous users — marketers who hid behind a user name so it was difficult to know exactly who they were. Personally, I think that’s a cowardly way to engage in a discussion on a topic — especially when you have something unsavory to say — but over the years, I learned who was a consistent supporter and who was looking to put me in my place. So be it.
  • If Blogging Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It: Some weeks I would stare at a blank screen and think “what can I write about that everyone doesn’t already know?” It took a while to find my blogging “voice” but once I did, I wasn’t afraid to share my experiences and interactions with brands — both good and bad — and try to offer ideas on how things could work better or how to steal that idea and make it work for another brand. While there are thousands of nuances in marketing strategies and tactics, I’m always thrilled when I learn about something new, or how someone else found success, so I’ll continue to be a consumer of smart marketing tips.

I hope all my followers will continue to read, engage and share their POV’s on the sites of other Target Marketing bloggers. I’ve always been a fan of this publication and know that, at the end of the day, we all believe in the power of targeted marketing.

Are You Marketing or Succumbing to Google?

If your organization hosts a website, you probably already know the importance of seeding key search terms on your site. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the method used to improve a website’s position on the results page of a search engine. The more relevant your site to the search term, the better positioning you’ll get in organic search results. The challenge is to stay true to your brand while leveraging those keyword terms.

search-engine-76519_640 googleIf your organization hosts a website, you probably already know the importance of seeding key search terms on your site. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the method used to improve a website’s position on the results page of a search engine. The more relevant your site to the search term, the better positioning you’ll get in organic search results. The challenge is to stay true to your brand while leveraging those keyword terms.

Recently, a client rejected some copy I’d written for a new piece of fulfillment content because it did not reflect their brand voice. When I pointed out that it closely mimicked something I had found deep in their website, the reply was something like “Oh that was just for SEO. We would never actually talk about our brand that way.”

With the bulk of leads being driven by digital channels, keywords have become the backbone of every digital marketing initiative.

  • H1 tags (the header words you use to title your content) and meta descriptions (the copy that appears underneath the search result headline) should absolutely reflect key words. But if you’ve ever conducted search and read the meta descriptions they often appear to simply have the search word “inserted” into the middle of the sentence, and as a result, the sentence makes very little sense.
  • Permalinks (the name of each URL page in your website) need to leverage keywords. For example, if your business is Joe’s Plumbing and consumers regularly search for the term “rusty pipes,” it would be optimal for you to have a page with a permalink such as http://www.joesplumbing.com/rusty-pipes.
  • Keyword density is the number of times a keyword appears on your website, but many websites go overboard trying to “please” Google search engines. FYI, Google will also consider the use of synonymous keywords, so you don’t need to bog every page down with the word “rusty pipes” in order to boost your rankings.

Clearly it’s not possible to have every keyword embedded multiple times on your website. And, it’s a lot of work to have duplicate Web pages tweaked to ensure the permalink replicates the keyword term and they are keyword-dense.

In our fight to get our brand to the top of the organic results, are we compromising our brand values and brand voice? Are we simply crafting content so we can ensure Google knows we’re constantly updating our pages to optimize search engine results? Are we busy building relationships with bloggers and news outlets in order to ensure we optimize the number of backlinks?

Somehow it all feels like we’ve lost control of our brand and our marketing integrity as we bow to the Google algorithm gods.

The LTV of My GTI Is Tied to My NPS

Buying a new car is a big deal for most of us. Once we get the notion in our heads, we actually start watching car commercials, notice what other people are driving, think about what we hate in our current vehicle that can be “fixed” in our new one, read online reviews, seek out the advice of others, etc. Bottom line is, it’s probably the second biggest purchase you’ll make (next to a house), so you’re a little more thoughtful about the process.

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

Buying a new car is a big deal for most of us. Once we get the notion in our heads, we actually start watching car commercials, notice what other people are driving, think about what we hate in our current vehicle that can be “fixed” in our new one, read online reviews, seek out the advice of others, etc., etc. Bottom line is, it’s probably the second biggest purchase you’ll make in a while (next to a house), so you’re a little more thoughtful about the process.

And while the fun of shopping for something new is always fabulous, the real proof-of-concept comes when you take that baby in for its first service check-up. Now that they’ve made the sale, how well does the brand treat you to ensure you’ll keep buying from them again and again? As a marketer, this is where the rubber hits the road … forget all the carefully crafted content, emails with offers, and direct mail packages about recalls or tune-up reminders. It’s the visit itself that makes or breaks your relationship with the brand.

Two years ago, when the last of my kids was headed to college, he needed his own set of wheels. But instead of buying him something used by a stranger, I decided to give him my 10-year old Acura and get Mama a little somethin’ new to spin around town. I wanted something sporty and fun to drive and considered a MINI, but after a test drive, found it a little too low to the ground for all the potholes in my area.

After getting a ride home from a friend one night, I fell in love with her Volkswagen GTI. It was good looking, roomy on the inside and gas efficient. So I headed to the VW dealer with my list of demands.

Tony probably couldn’t believe his luck when I rolled into his showroom on that fateful Saturday: I wanted a white VW GTI, 6-speed stick on the floor, black leather interior, sunroof. He made a quick call and my dream car was driven up to the door outside his office, 2 miles on the speedometer.

If I said I peeled rubber out of that parking lot, would that sound too braggartly? I love driving a stick shift, and Tony clung to the hand rail as I zoomed around a few tight corners and headed out to the open road.

SOLD! I negotiated a few extras (including a 3-year service package) and was out the door in two hours with my new toy.

At 5,000 miles I sauntered back in for a tune-up. Everything was good and I was back to terrorizing the roads.

I got a recall notice about some part around 9,000 miles. Booked an appointment, but received a call that the part wasn’t in yet, and they’d call me back. Never heard from them again.

At 15,000 miles, I was due for another tune-up, so I booked an appointment and watched as my “check engine” light came on two days before my scheduled day.

The problem really started when I got a call around noon telling me my car was being washed and would be ready to be picked up after 2 p.m. At 3 p.m., they called to say another warning light had come on, and they were checking it out. At 4 p.m., they called to say they couldn’t figure out what was wrong and needed to keep the car overnight. That’s always a big hassle, but I quickly made other arrangements. I called in the morning to check-in. Sorry, the car still wasn’t ready. I called at noon … sorry, still not quite ready. They called me at  2 p.m. to tell me it was ready, but I was busy, so my husband volunteered to pick it up.

The next morning I climb back into my baby, but in the middle of a 30-mile drive away from the dealership in a blinding rainstorm, an emergency message flashes at me on my dash telling me my tires were underinflated. Wha–?!?

I start to sweat. I call the service guy on the phone, tell him my issue and he, of course, says, “Why don’t you just stop by?” Um … because it’s INCONVENIENT.

I finally get back to the dealership by 4 p.m. and after a 30-minute wait, I’m told the tires were okay after all … somebody in the service department hadn’t reset the computer in my car after they were rotated. Grrr …

24 hours later I get an email from “Sandy,” the woman at the dealership in charge of customer care. She advised me that I would be getting an email from VW Corporate, and wanted to make I would be rating my experience as “extraordinary.” Since you and I both know that the dealership probably has a target Net Promoter Score (NPS) and my service rating would not be “10” I decided to email her back. I carefully recounted my experience, step-by-painful-step, and told her my experience would rate far less than “extraordinary.” I had barely hit “Send” when my phone rang.

Sandy was extremely apologetic and dismayed over my experience. Not only did she thank me for taking the time to respond, but she claims she ran it “upstairs” and was authorized to give me $500 off on my next service appointment. That’s all well and good, but since I have a service plan, that doesn’t help me at all … “No problem!” she exclaimed. Use the $500 towards new tires, or floor mats, or whatever my little heart desired.

Is this “gaming” the system? Is her interference between my experience and the corporate research team changing the way this dealership is ranked and scored on customer service? Probably.

Will I give them an “extraordinary” rating? I’m still not sure. I’m worried that if they found out I gave them 8 out of 10, they might take my $500 away from me. For now, I’m just idling …

Never Drink and Change Your Password

It all started when I got a new phone. The AT&T rep assured me that all my data would be transferred to my new device by just “bumping” my old Galaxy against my new one. Yeah, right.

It all started when I got a new phone. The AT&T rep assured me that all my data would be transferred to my new device by just “bumping” my old Galaxy against my new one.

Yeah, right.

Two HOURS later, I left the store with my email and phone working properly, but I needed to find my password list in order to log into all my other apps. Fair enough.

With that accomplished, I was back to my daily rituals: Posting to Facebook and Instagram, playing Words with Friends, and posting and following on Twitter. My life seemed back to normal.

But last weekend, disaster struck.

I was at a wedding and the mother-of-the-groom suggested we Snapchat as the bride had created her own geofilter … a perfect way to create memories that celebrated her special day. Unfortunately, it seems I had not tried logging into Snapchat with my new device. And, since there was no way I could remember my password, I had to click on “reset.”

You would think I was trying to reset the password to my account in the Cayman Islands!

First, a series of photos appeared and asked me to click on those where “NO” vehicles appear. Ummm … you’d think that would be easy, but after a couple of glasses of champagne, it was not so much. I looked carefully at all the images and clicked as directed. It seems I was mistaken, as another set of images appeared and asked me to use different criteria to select the images. I tried again.

The next set of images and instructions felt like Snapchat was simply mocking me. I told the mother-of-the-groom to continue her socializing at another table and swing back to mine, as I desperately tried to pick the correct images that matched the criteria.

Third time is NOT the charm, as I snorted with disgust at a new set of visual requirements.

To be honest, the rest of the process is a bit of a blur as my husband took the device out of my hand and said he’d do it … but first he had to find his cheaters to see the screen clearly.

A few more minutes pass and he’s still not able to pass the verification tests, but eventually we were able to get to a reset screen. Whew! I choose a password and the first answer I get from Snapchat is “Sorry, you can’t use a password that you’ve used before.”

So now I am wracking my brain to think of a password that:

  • Seems logical to me,
  • I haven’t used before and
  • I’ll remember the next morning.

I finally make my selection, log into my account, call over the mother-of-the-bride, find the geofilter and post our picture. But the nightmare is far from over …

You guessed it. The next day, when I try to log into my Snapchat account, I can’t remember the password … and my journey to recovery starts all over again. Call me crazy, but does the system to recover your password need to be so complex — especially on a harmless app like Snapchat? Should I be fearful that someone is going to hack in and send embarrassing pictures of themselves under my name to my kids?

I understand the need for user name and password security. And I understand these apps are trying to ensure it’s not a bot hacking the system, but there has got to be a better way. Maybe the Russians have a solution … Just sayin’!

For Our Security, Does the FBI Need a Predictive Model?

If you’ve ever worked with a predictive model, you know it is not static, but an iterative effort that requires constant testing, tweaking and feeding of additional data points. It’s a living, breathing tool that is extremely useful in helping to determine where you should best spend your marketing investment for the highest return. This same premise could be used to predict the likelihood of terrorist activity — and therefore be a useful tool in our global war on terror.

Data ScientistIf you’ve ever tried to improve your direct marketing response rates, you’ve probably considered the use of a predictive model.

Predictive modeling is a process that uses data mining and probability to forecast outcomes. The model is made up of a number of variables about your customers: demographic variables (gender, age, household income, etc.), lifestyle variables (smoker, frequent flyer, etc.) and behavioral variables (last date of purchase, purchase amount, SKU, etc.). Each variable is weighted as to its likelihood to predict a specific outcome (like a future purchase) and a statistical model is then formulated. The model is then overlaid on your customer file and every customer is ranked based on their likelihood to respond to an offer, take your desired action, and even predict the average purchase amount.

If you’ve ever worked with a predictive model, you know it is not static, but an iterative effort that requires constant testing, tweaking and feeding of additional data points. It’s a living, breathing tool that is extremely useful in helping to determine where you should best spend your marketing investment for the highest return.

This same premise could be used to predict the likelihood of terrorist activity — and therefore be a useful tool in our global war on terror.

Think about it for just a minute.

The recent bombing in Manchester, U.K. might have been prevented if only the suspect had been higher on the terrorism watch list.

While authorities noted that the suspect (and his family) were on the list, it was added that there are “thousands” on the watch list and there isn’t enough manpower to track them all. Fair enough. But let’s consider those variables that may have predicted that something was about to happen and that, perhaps, he should have moved higher up on that list.

  • The suspects father was linked to a well-known militant Islamist group in Libya
  • His two brothers have been separately arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences
  • He was reported to authorities two years ago “because he [was] thought to be involved in extremism and terrorism”
  • Two friends separately called the police counter-terrorism hotline five years ago and again last year
  • Neighbors had called authorities within the last year, noting that the family had flown a flag for a short time that was black and had writing on it similar to jihadists

The final variable is that the suspect had traveled to both Syria and Libya — the latter only a few weeks before returning to the U.K. and launching his attack. Libya is well known as a terrorist hotbed, so add all the previous variables and the “traveled in May 2017 to Libya” variable would probably catapult this guy to the top of the model.

But why doesn’t such a database exist?

Well, privacy concerns, for one. While consumers — and in particular, Americans — argue about their privacy rights, they are already part of every large consumer database whether they realize it or not. If you’ve ever purchased a home, opened a credit card, paid a tax bill, enrolled in a public school, joined a Frequent Flyer program, registered a purchase for warranty coverage, made a political contribution or subscribed to a magazine, you’re in the Experian or Equifax master file.

In many countries around the world, these same kinds of consumer databases exist, so imagine if these files were combined, and then appended with data variables from law enforcement databases and ticket sales from airline databases. Add in databases about weapon and ammunition purchases, and surely there are enough predictive variables that would allow an analyst to build a model that would determine a way to help prioritize security watch lists, and aid in keeping our world just a little bit safer?

Privacy advocates get itchy just thinking about it.

And, of course, there are those concerned about how this wealth of information could be abused, or how hackers could infiltrate and release confidential information.

But as I head through another security check at my airline gate, and I hear more news about losing the ability to work on my laptop or read my Kindle while in the air, I have to think there’s got to be a better way than the seemingly randomization of these security measures. And it seems that a predictive model might be the answer — but since it depends on consumer data at its core, the future is uncertain without it.

Is Lying the New Marketing Normal?

There are plenty of studies that emphasize the importance of the subject line. And, with many email clients providing a snippet of the first paragraph of the email in a preview panel, somewhere a marketer decided it was okay to lie in order to garner your attention.

email“I noticed you didn’t complete your registration.”

“As I mentioned in my phone call to you…”

“You had asked me to follow up…”

These are just three of the opening lines used in emails to me lately, and while they may have been designed to be the second step in a contact strategy, the reality is: I have never had any contact with these organizations.

And, since I’ve noticed these techniques repeatedly, I have to believe they are deliberately designed to “trick” me into believing I was part of some previous interaction. But is that the right way to try and start a relationship that will lead to a sale?

With our in-boxes clogged with an increasing number of unsolicited emails (the Radicati Group claims the average office worker receives 121 emails a day), and 49.7 percent of that is considered spam, recipients are making a decision in 8 seconds as to whether or not your email is worthy of a longer look.

There are plenty of studies that emphasize the importance of the subject line. And, with many email clients providing a snippet of the first paragraph of the email in a preview panel, somewhere a marketer decided it was okay to lie in order to garner your attention.

Deceptive selling practices are certainly not a new idea. In his 1985 book “Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage,” author Dr. Paul Ekman writes, “There are two primary ways to lie: to conceal and to falsify. In concealing, the liar withholds some information without actually saying anything untrue. In falsifying, the liar takes an additional step. Not only does the liar withhold true information, but he presents false information as if it were true.”

In marketing, lying usually means manipulation and — let’s face it — advertising doesn’t exactly maintain a reputation for honesty. Who can forget Skechers and Kim Kardashian who teamed up to claim that by simply putting on a pair of their shoes you’d magically get buns of steel? The FTC didn’t buy it, and they ended up paying a $40 million settlement.

Classmates.com lied in their email when they told prospects that an old friend was trying to contact them. It cost them a $9.5 million class-action lawsuit.

So what does a lie achieve?

For starters, it completely disintegrated the credibility of DM News as they used one of the tactics I noted at the start of this blog in a recent email to me. As one of my industry go-to resources, they should know better.

The Most Interesting Man in the World Is No Longer Interesting

In 2006, Dos Equis beer launched an ad campaign featuring “the world’s most interesting man” — a campaign that ran for 10 years and had an undeniable impact on sales, some reporting an increase of 22 percent while other imported beer sales fell 4 percent in the U.S.

Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the WorldIn 2006, Dos Equis beer launched an ad campaign featuring “the world’s most interesting man” — a campaign that ran for 10 years, and it’s had an undeniable impact on sales with some reporting an increase of 22 percent while other imported beer sales fell 4 percent in the U.S.

It’s not surprising that the campaign resonated. It was clever, and the situations “the man” found himself in were outrageous, far-fetched and humorous. From surfing a killer whale, to slamming a revolving door, to “speaking French … in Russian,” to finding The Fountain of Youth but not taking a drink because “he wasn’t thirsty,” the campaign always elicited at least a smirk from the men in my household.

At the end of every TV spot, the most interesting man in the world would face the camera surrounded by several beautiful woman and comment, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis … Stay thirsty my friends.” The actor, Johnathan Goldsmith, was bearded, silver-haired and exuded sexual charm, despite being in his 70s. In fact it was his age that made his adventures believable!

But in the spring of 2016, Dos Equis announced that Goldsmith would be retiring from the role by sending him on a one-way trip to Mars. I was devastated. Did some focus group tell Dos Equis that Goldsmith didn’t resonate with Millennials? Were sales on the decline and the campaign was seen as no longer relevant?

That doesn’t seem to be true because Dos Equis has now launched a new campaign and has replaced Goldsmith with a younger version. But instead of being outrageous, far-fetched and humorous, the new TV spots are just plain dumb. But don’t take my word for it. My Millennial sons actually made the observation first.

The most recent spot, “The Most Interesting Man Spices Things Up,” has our hero in a competition of who can eat the spiciest pepper. After both take a bite, his competitor’s eyes bulge and sweat pours off his forehead; our hero simply smiles.

“Wow. They’ve missed the point!,” lamented my son. “We watch YouTube videos of people eating spicy things to see what happens to them … what’s interesting about a guy who has no reaction at all?”

Indeed.

A trip to YouTube shows a mere 323 views of this newest commercial, posted over 2 weeks ago. Another spot, posted 6 months ago, got 95,000 views. In comparison, one of the historical spots with my man Jonathan racked up 3.5 million views.

What is interesting is that Heineken’s share price (Dos Equis’ parent company) started dipping in the middle of 2016 … right around the time the old campaign ended. Another research report by YouGov shows that consideration of purchase among Millennials fell from 18 percent in November to 8 percent in December.

It’s just one more example of a brilliant marketing idea gone terribly awry. That’s the only interesting part of this story.

Brand Strategy Beats Price Tactics

My nose may not have been bloodied and my body dragged off a plane, but I faced my own travel crisis this week. And that experience proved that one company’s ongoing, consistent brand message — embedded deep in my psyche — was about to finally pay off.

Enterprise brand strategyMy nose may not have been bloodied and my body dragged off a plane, but I faced my own travel crisis this week. And that experience proved that one company’s ongoing, consistent brand message, embedded deep in my psyche, was about to finally pay off.

It all started at the airline check-in counter. Delta, an airline that has never done anything to endanger my loyalty, presented me with a dilemma: My one-stop flight to Ottawa was in jeopardy because the first leg of the flight was delayed, meaning I would miss my connection.

If you’ve ever tried to fly to Canada, you already know there are limited options. And despite Ottawa being Canada’s capital city, Delta only offers two daily flights from Detroit.

I HAD to be in Ottawa first thing Tuesday morning to help my son move out of his dorm, and make our afternoon flight home. The Delta agent could not have been more helpful as she tried to rebook me multiple ways to get me there. Finally, I agreed to fly to Atlanta, then onto Montreal and would rent a car to drive the 2-hours to Ottawa.

Rearranging my car rental proved to be the bigger challenge.

To be honest, I haven’t been a loyalist to any particular rental company … until now. I typically use a website like Travelocity to compare prices across all brands, then rent from the cheapest option. So, when making my original rental, Budget had won the price war.

So there I was, sitting on the floor at the packed airline gate, my flight to Atlanta about to depart, and I’m frantically trying to rearrange my car rental before my cell phone dies. I call the Budget desk in Ottawa and tell them my dilemma. They suggest I call the Budget desk at the airport in Montreal. I make that phone call but am serviced by one of the most incompetent of all customer service agents.

He speaks so quietly I can barely hear him, so I say (politely I might add) “I’m in a noisy airport and can barely hear you, would you mind speaking up?” Apparently he has no volume capabilities because I continue to strain to hear him.

After explaining (again), that I need to rent an SUV at the Montreal airport and return it to the Ottawa airport, and after he repeatedly says “You’ll return it to the Montreal airport, right?” I ask to speak to his supervisor. He puts me on hold and then — wait for it — after a few seconds I’m listening to the dial tone. Gee, what a surprise.

The gate agent begins the boarding process and now I’m in full panic mode.

I Google car rental options at the Montreal Airport and while lots of options pop up, I see that Enterprise has a 4-star rating (Budget has 1 star). And that’s when the Enterprise brand tag line (“We’ll pick you up!”) quickly translates in my brain to “We’ll do anything for you!”

And sure enough, my Enterprise experience was fabulous … from the minute I got them on the phone, explained my need, to the drop-off in Ottawa. And, they did go the extra mile since their rental desk closed at midnight, and I wasn’t landing until after midnight, they left the rental agreement and keys with at the National car rental counter which was open until 1am. WHEW!

Calm, cool and cooperative during my personal crisis, I want to shout from the rooftops, “Thank you Enterprise, for picking me up when I was down … way down.”

And the company’s long-invested marketing strategy and messaging paid off big time for this customer. Forget shopping for the cheapest option. Forget renting from the Budget folks. Enterprise will be rewarded with my ongoing loyalty.

Intelligent Content Needs Intelligent Marketers

After attending several sessions, watching the social media behavior of those seated near me and visiting every booth on the small tradeshow floor, I came away disturbed by several trends I witnessed. Here was a conference filled with a few thousand marketers who seemed unaware of how to actually market themselves, their insights and ideas, and their products.

Intelligent Content ConferenceLast week I spoke at the 2017 Intelligent Content Conference (ICC) in Las Vegas. The goal of the event, clearly stated on its website, is “the movement away from the copy/paste mentality of most marketers, toward a format-free, modular and single-source approach to content creation and distribution.”

Or, after chipping through those buzzword-loaded layers, “automating the process of creating and distributing content.” “Work smarter, not harder,” as the phrase goes.

After attending several sessions, watching the social media behavior of those seated near me and visiting every booth on the small tradeshow floor, I came away disturbed by several trends I witnessed. Here was a conference filled with a few thousand marketers who seemed unaware of how to actually market themselves, their insights and ideas, and their products.

My first clue was the completely illegible set of PowerPoint slides that supported a few keynote speakers. While I was seated near the back of the room, there were two very large screens displaying the content. In many, many instances, the speaker had created visually stunning charts, graphs, or other diagrams, but the type was so teeny tiny it was impossible to read. Intelligence score? Zero.

Next, I watched fellow attendees raise their phones to snap pictures of the PPT screen. Hmmm … I thought, perhaps they are saving it, then zooming in later to read it. But then I witnessed the guy next to me madly typing away after taking a photo, so perhaps he was sending those insights to a colleague. But no, it turns out he was tweeting from the event. Did he add any intelligence or pithy insight to his tweet? Sadly no. Like many, he merely tweeted a copy of the slide and acknowledged the speaker. Intelligence score? Zero.

At conferences like this one, I like to visit each sponsor’s booth not only as a way to boost my own intelligence but to support those companies that have invested their money to attend. I asked each individual who approached me to give me their best elevator pitch — what was the product/service, and how could it benefit me as a marketer. Ninety percent were unable to simplify their pitch or tell me the biggest major benefit. They might have complex products that could probably undertake complex tasks, but they were unable to synthesize the information in order for me to wrap my head around it. Intelligence score? Zero.

My final disappointment is a quote from one of the main conference hosts and speakers, Robert Rose. While he offered many valuable insights and comments, when trying to make a point about how marketers often try to translate analogue content into digital content, he missed the mark by a long shot. For example, books have become e-books. True. But what stopped me cold was that he snorted over the word “whitepaper” and said, “Come on people, it’s a PDF!” Intelligence score? Zero.

So I have to ask: Where’s the value in automating content delivery if marketers aren’t creating unique and intelligent content?

Big Data, Little Intelligence

Data gathering techniques are getting more and more sophisticated. Databases are growing bigger and bigger. There are new data mining tools, techniques and dashboards everywhere you turn. So why is it that so many marketers fail to have a database marketing strategy in place?

Little Data Business ConceptData gathering techniques are getting more and more sophisticated. Databases are growing bigger and bigger. There are new data mining tools, techniques and dashboards everywhere you turn.

So why is it that so many marketers fail to have a database marketing strategy in place?

Yesterday, I got three pieces of direct mail in my home mailbox from Farmers Insurance:

  • One was addressed to my mother-in-law, and she died many years ago. Considering she never lived at our address, never had her name on our mortgage, never registered a vehicle at our address, you’d think — at a minimum — Farmers might use birthdate as one of their selection variables. If they did, I think they’d consider suppressing a woman who was nearly 100. Oh, and let’s not forget the death Masterfile that’s available.
  • The second piece was addressed to my husband, but they had matched his name to the name of my old consulting business that ceased to exist in 1995.
  • The final letter was addressed to my husband.

Each of the packages came from a different Farmers agent — and despite the notation of “Visit me, I’m local,” none of them were remotely close to us. According to Google maps, they ranged from 50 minutes to 1 hour away, yet another Google search indicated there was a Farmers agent within 15 minutes of my home.

There were multiple phone numbers on the creative: One for the “local” agent and a toll-free one for Farmers (I guess they were concerned that my “local” call might incur long distance charges!).

What was most interesting is that two out of three of these packages did not include a way to respond via email. I could visit a corporate website and get a quote, but considering the time invested in personalizing the letter, providing an image of the Agent, including a detailed map showing the Agent’s location, and two phone numbers, this key response channel was omitted.

Finally, what happened to de-duping? Or assigning agent’s a territory where “most likely” prospects would reside? Or using big data to help agents figure out how and where to fish for leads while maintaining a strict recency flag?

I’m continually puzzled that marketers still fail to connect all the dots given all the tools in their marketing toolbox. Perhaps Farmers field marketing needs to go back to Farmers University for that data course they slept through.