When All Hell Breaks Loose

With automation comes risk. In the course of drafting, testing and deploying automated programs, many of us have suffered through the terrible realization our automation didn’t work exactly as expected. Do you send yet another email and risk alienating our clients further?

With automation comes risk. In the course of drafting, testing and deploying automated programs, many of us have suffered through the terrible realization our automation didn’t work exactly as expected.

After auto-sending many emails to clients in the span of a few hours, we find ourselves faced with a dilemma. Do you send yet another email and risk alienating our clients further? Do you stop all communication until the recipients have been given enough time to forget you spammed their inboxes? Do you remove them all from your list entirely? Do you respond to the dozens or hundreds of hate emails? Lastly, what do you do to salvage unsubscribes?

Many of my peers believe you should always apologize when you make a mistake in your automated program—be that a simple typo, an unfortunate parallel (when your marketing message inadvertently aligns with an unfavorable situation, e.g. “Retailer Apologizes For ‘Unfortunate Timing’ Of Isis Lingerie Line”), or, as in this instance, when your automated program goes haywire and sends your subscribers 37 emails in the span of 14.6 minutes (or something like that).

If this happens to you, remember to keep the gravity of the error in perspective. Panicking will not help you, but this checklist may.

  1. Evaluate the extent of the damage: For most errors of this type, you can get a feel for how angry your constituents are by reading the reply emails. As you do this, keep in mind not everyone feels the same way. Don’t let a vocal few represent the entire list, but do give these responses careful consideration and use them as a guide to gauge the overall impact. Take a look too at opens, clicks and unsubscribes. Though irritated, your list may have actually engaged with the content to an acceptable level and this should help you to decide next steps.
  2. Choose an appropriate response: With a clear understanding (and some best guesses) at the level of damage, think next about what you would say to these recipients. Don’t draft a response to the most annoyed and most vocal, deal with those persons individually and separately in more personal emails if the group is small enough to do so. Your response should instead target the group just below the most angry; those who are smoldering in silence. Pick up the phone and dial one or two of your best customers and ask how they felt about receiving three dozen emails and in what way could you best show your concern for the event and desire to lessen the impact. For best results, act quickly, be frank and forthright about what happened, do not make excuses, and do apologize.
  3. Choose a response method: You may learn sending another email would only worsen the situation, but everyone has likely been the recipient of more than just your wayward program. A simply apology with an offer designed especially for them may do the trick. If you’re not retail, perhaps a small gift card at a local coffee shop or Amazon.com (which typically has a very low redemption rate) might be in order. Find a vendor that charges you only for gift cards redeemed. If another email is not recommended, try reaching out through social media or direct mail. Admit your mistake, take it in the chops, and perhaps add in a bit of self-deprecating humor to lighten the mood as you extend the olive branch.
  4. Distill the analytics. Go beyond opens/clicks/unsubscribes and look at visits to the landing page, form completions and more. This is a golden opportunity to learn something, so don’t consider the entire event a disaster. Even tornadoes leave a trail useful for educating storm chasers about patterns and other types of data, which can influence prevention and protection.

You are not alone. Even software/hardware giant HP apparently experienced issues with its automated program and sent a few too many emails to subscribers. HP sent an email apology with oops in the subject line and title. As a side note, this is the subject line I receive most often, and for me it’s effective. Short and sweet, and though I don’t have statistics to support this, my guess is it elicits good open rates—even when tempered by the influence of the multiple emails preceding it.

If you choose to promote your oops in social media, know that some people who did not receive the multiple emails will also use the discount code, but that’s probably a good way to turn a bad situation into a redeemable fiasco. That’s not such an awful thing—is it?

Where Are All the Courageous Clients?

I was chatting with a friend of mine over lunch the other day—he’s a senior creative in an integrated advertising agency (brand and direct)—and we were asking ourselves: “Where are all the courageous clients?” Where are the clients that aren’t afraid to take risks—at least creatively?

I was chatting with a friend of mine over lunch the other day—he’s a senior creative in an integrated advertising agency (brand and direct)—and we were asking ourselves: “Where are all the courageous clients?”

  • Where are the clients that aren’t afraid to take risks—at least creatively?
  • Where breakthrough results originate from innovative strategy and provocative creative—and not a re-hash or incremental tweak to a tired control?
  • Where tomorrow’s ad campaign is designed with the consumer or customer first in mind—not the CEO, CMO or some other elder statesman with purse strings?
  • Where agencies are treated as consultative partners—and the advertising product reflects true collaboration that generates excitement?
  • Where advertising’s Golden Age returns, where creative brilliance—advertising that works—returns to the mantle it once held.

There’s certainty among us that such clients exist. (Even he admitted he has some in his mix.) It’s just that not all the new business pitches these days are with brands that are ready to fly among the clouds. Taking the safest route may win the business, but trying to be safe all the time is so boring—and keeps everyone sadly on the ground all the time.

Judging the Direct Marketing Association International ECHO Awards every year, as I so enjoy doing, really gives me a superb perspective on who’s creating magnificent advertising—both here at home and (often) overseas.

There’s still time to make that ECHO Award deadline this year, now extended to May 28 (Wednesday this week): http://www.dma-echo.org/.

A helpful video for last-minute entering tips—from the Judges themselves:

There’s still time to prove to the world—there really are courageous clients (and the agencies that support them).

A Successful Social Selling Example in B-to-B Marketing

Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) is one of my favorite social selling examples in B-to-B sales. Telling this story at conferences is always a crowd-pleaser because of how practical and repeatable the approach is. JLL is a global player in real estate management and investments. The firm helps commercial real estate owners make money managing big properties and buildings smarter. In this short video, I’ll reveal how JLL’s sales team is using YouTube videos to get more discussion going with hard-to-reach decision-makers.

Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) is one of my favorite social selling examples in B-to-B sales. Telling this story at conferences is always a crowd-pleaser because of how practical and repeatable the approach is.

JLL is a global player in real estate management and investments. The firm helps commercial real estate owners make money managing big properties and buildings smarter. In this short video, I’ll reveal how JLL’s sales team is using YouTube videos to get more discussion going with hard-to-reach decision-makers.

Behind the Scenes
What’s at work here? Let’s look at what’s going on behind the scenes so you can replicate social selling success in your setting.

JLL’s sales team has an unusually smart, very effective, starting point when approaching social selling.

They start with customers’ problems, challenges and goals in mind. Then, they design everything they put out onto social media to create one thing: response. For them that’s all that matters—getting clients to email or pick up the phone and ask for a meeting to talk about their problems.

JLL’s sales and account reps know how to structure what to say. They know how to talk to clients, not just what to say. They also know when to talk and when to clam up. This helps them create so much curiosity in JLL that customers cannot resist responding.

JLL’s reps provoke customers to take action. Here’s the surprising part: In the world of social media, what actually generates response has very little to do with technology.

Generating leads and appointments is based on one, essential practice: Copywriting. Direct response copywriting that grabs attention, challenges status quo thinking and provokes a response. So here’s one of my best social selling examples: A multi-billion dollar organization using the copywriting technique I love to train sales teams to execute.

The Problem and Solution
JLL had a new energy & sustainability division to launch, but current customers told sales reps their whitepapers were horrible. Potential customers were distracted—impossible to reach. The “greening of corporate America” was in full swing, but customers didn’t want to engage.

The problem: JLL’s whitepapers were filled with knowledge that clients already. So JLL’s sellers decided to focus more on capturing video sound bytes from a variety of property management experts.

Each two- to three-minute video captured surprising and, sometimes, shocking information. Knowledge that was structured to intentionally irritate customers—cause them to think, “Uh-oh, I didn’t realize that. I’d better call my rep to get to the bottom of this,” or “WHAT?! I had no idea. I better find out more about this right away … my butt is on the line here!”

For the rest of the story, watch the video clip above and learn how got the attention of busy, distracted property owners—many of whom were interested in talking about JLL’s services after all! I’ll show you exactly how they got prospects and clients to ask for discussions!

Are You Mad About Your Internal Culture?

Sometimes we forget that great brands start inside. Before companies can show and tell the outside world about their awesome products and services, they must pay important and mindful attention to the team members who create and are responsible for engineering those amazing brand experiences. Internal branding can sometimes be overlooked or lower on a corporation’s list of active priorities than it should be.

And by mad I mean actually passionate about your work in a good way, in a can’t-wait-to-build-the-brand-in-some-new-way-today kind of way?

Sometimes we forget that great brands start inside. Before companies can show and tell the outside world about their awesome products and services, they must pay important and mindful attention to the team members who create and are responsible for engineering those amazing brand experiences. Internal branding can sometimes be overlooked or lower on a corporation’s list of active priorities than it should be.

As I lead interdepartmental meetings these days with my clients, I often hear comments like these from our face time “group genius” gatherings:

  • “We really should connect as a group more often.”
  • “I now understand your department better.”
  • To a co-worker: “I never knew what you did!”
  • “Oh, that’s why we do that! That makes sense now.”
  • “How come I never heard this before?”
  • “We need to tell the rest of the team this!”

Building passionate brand ambassadors and an engaging culture should be high on every brand leader’s “must do” list. Companies like Southwest Airlines and Zappos.com consider these internal branding strategies core to their successful business models. Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, says, “our people are our single greatest strength and most enduring long-term competitive advantage.”

And these Zappos’ core values lay the groundwork for its notable and enviable culture:

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I’m blessed to work with clients like these who are positively mad about what they do! I recently had three experiences of working again with long-term clients. I hadn’t been on-site to their respective offices for almost a year. I smiled as I saw reconfigured offices to allow for more collaboration, customer comments boldly displayed on walls, brand storytelling by happy customers sprinkled throughout the entire office and profiles of customer segments/personas highlighted throughout the company. These brand leaders were so thrilled to show me how they’ve elevated the importance of internal branding and what it’s meant to their employees. Internal branding matters.

Sara Florin, senior director of creative services for SmartPak, the Zappos of the equestrian industry, was delighted to share one recent event she led to help the rest of this fast-paced entrepreneurial organization learn more about all that her talented department handles. Here’s how she describes it: “Our energetic, passionate creative department is constantly working on bigger and better ways to market our products, but not everyone in the company understands the scope or details of what we do. We wanted to take time to celebrate our accomplishments and show off our capabilities in a fun and formal way. Inspired by the hit show “Mad Men,” we hosted an open house and cocktail hour so we could show off our “mad style.”

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“We dressed up to fit the era, served 60s-inspired food and cocktails to encourage attendance, and set up displays of our recent work. With over 50 people from other departments attending throughout the hour, we were able to demystify the creative process and present ourselves as a polished, professional in-house creative team that could rival any external agency. And we got to have a lot of fun doing it!”

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Activities like hosting a “Mad Men”-themed party may not fit your brand personality, but why not brandstorm some ideas that might help your team members empathize more with all the various roles and responsibilities needed to create your brand experience. Identify activities that engage co-workers from cross-functional areas, inspire collaboration, and just plain add fun and playfulness to all the hard work in building remarkable customer experiences.

So go ahead, get mad … in a good way!

Riding Coattails

Situated neatly between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a lesser known, but growing, shopping holiday called Small Business Saturday. (with the apropos tagline of Shop Small). Founded by AMEX in 2010, and officially recognized by the U.S. Senate in 2011, Small Business Saturday has quickly become a noteworthy event. Posting numbers of more than $5.5 billion in additional revenue to small businesses across America last year alone, this date presents a unique opportunity for marketers to grab some coattails and hang on.

Situated neatly between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is a lesser known, but growing, shopping holiday called Small Business Saturday. (with the apropos tagline of Shop Small). Founded by AMEX in 2010, and officially recognized by the U.S. Senate in 2011, Small Business Saturday has quickly become a noteworthy event. Posting numbers of more than $5.5 billion in additional revenue to small businesses across America last year alone, this date presents a unique opportunity for marketers to grab some coattails and hang on.

Often what stands between you and successful integrated marketing—the cross-channel marketing of a consistent brand message—is a brilliant idea. As marketers, we may be more challenged seeking creative inspiration than we are by deploying the actual campaign. Events, such as Small Business Saturday[1], are apt fodder for an integrated campaign that will speak to and engage your customers on many levels: philanthropic-type support of small business, special offers at a time when shopping is especially top of mind, social sharing, community building, and much more.

Our approach to an integrated campaign is to draft the content and then brainstorm to choose in what channels we can publish the content to “give the project some legs.” In the case of Small Business Saturday (SBS), AMEX has provided a fair amount of content for participants; while it may not be ideal for the channels you choose, it’s certainly a great start, as that first step is often the biggest—and hardest.

As an example, we sifted through the promotional content and chose to first launch our initiative as a Facebook campaign where we invited our friends and fans to like the post to support small business. For our network followers, who are small business, we asked that they comment on the post, adding their logo and an offer valid only on 30 November.

With the social postings making a regular appearance in our timelines, we then created the email campaign to educate our small-business clients about SBS, give them ideas for participating, and direct them to the site’s resources for launching full-blown initiatives in their own communities. To both gain support for the event and foster a closer relationship with our customers, our email offered a complimentary, branded email theme they could use to specifically promote their own SBS offer—no strings attached.

While it wasn’t planned as part of our integrated campaign for SBS, blog articles such as this could easily be developed in a way to extend the reach of your campaign.

Big business (B-to-B) can also benefit from promoting events (like SBS) when selling to small businesses, just as we did by offering our clients an email theme. A larger enterprise can nurture goodwill by becoming involved in a way that is beneficial to their clients beyond the bounds of their typical day-to-day business relationship. Clients are much more likely to show loyalty to vendors with whom they feel a connection and benevolent events give both parties a place to come together in a like-minded pursuit.

Campaign inspiration surrounds us, and it’s not always about discounting, selling and downloads. As any salesperson can tell you, developing qualified leads requires relationship building, and that is seldom done using email alone. Intersperse your typical business and sales emails with feel-good content that benefits the customer beyond your products and services, and you’ll find that engagements become more valuable, last longer and, yes, drives sales.

Join us in celebrating Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013.


[1] If Small Business Saturday isn’t right for you, think about other charitable or community events, such as breast cancer walks, balloon festivals, food fairs and the like. Coattails come in all sorts of fabrics. Be receptive to events where content is readily available, and this will reduce the demands on your internal team or external resource needs.

How to Tell if Your Storytelling Strategy Is a Dud

What do potential and existing customers care about more in your business: Your culture, history of your company, how funny or “human” you are, or your ability to solve problems in innovative ways that help them create distinctive market position and grow? Reality check: Your clients rarely base decisions on starting or continuing to do business based on your corporate culture, attitude, style or personality.

What do potential and existing customers care about more in your business: Your culture, history of your company, how funny or “human” you are, or your ability to solve problems in innovative ways that help them create distinctive market position and grow?

Customers Care Less About Your Story
Reality check: Your clients rarely base decisions on starting or continuing to do business based on your corporate culture, attitude, style or personality.

They care more about their own problems or goals.

That’s why smart B-to-B marketers are asking themselves a tough new question in 2013-to make sure their storytelling strategies actually drive sales.

“If customers make purchase decisions based on how well we solve problems for clients, why is our social media strategy focused on stories and image?”

Connect Stories to Your Selling Process
Telling prospects “I can solve your problem” through a story is weak as compared to the other three-part option:

  1. Getting their attention with a good story;
  2. helping them make better decisions, learn a new skill, avoid dangerous risks and;
  3. doing this in ways that build confidence in themselves, trust in your brand and result in a sales lead.

In my own experience, success starts happening more when I resist telling prospects all about my company’s “unique story,” or those of my clients’.

Instead, I’m connecting my stories to a simple process, a nurturing program. The more I’m promising prospective customers a cure for an expressed pain, and taking them on a journey toward the remedy, the more they’re identifying themselves as leads and transacting with me.

The difference is distinct: Telling disconnected stories that create images versus proving you’re worth consideration by creating micro-successes with prospects. This is the way to start leading prospects toward (or away from) the larger solutions we’re selling.

Here’s How to Get Started
Let’s say you’re using LinkedIn for sales prospecting. When participating in LinkedIn group discussions ask yourself, “How can I get prospects to take an action based on what I know they want?”

Think of a shortcut, a smarter way of achieving a goal or avoiding a risk you can share. Solve a problem for them. But do it in a way that provokes an action-gets readers to more deeply explore the thought you just provoked.

In return you’ll earn a chance at getting their permission to take them on a journey to a better place … to continue a very focused, purpose-driven digital conversation that ultimately you can relate to whatever it is you sell.

If you do this, you’ll have a much easier way figuring out how to create a social media sales strategy that creates sales for you! You’ll be generating B-to-B leads with social media more effectively.

Wunderman’s Morel on Social Media, Online Video and Mobile, Part 2

I recently spoke with Daniel Morel, chairman and CEO of Wunderman, a New York City-based marketing services firm that’s part of Young & Rubicam Brands and a member of WPP. Among other topics, we talked about the difference between social media and social networking, online video, and mobile marketing.

I recently spoke with Daniel Morel, chairman and CEO of Wunderman, a New York City-based marketing services firm that’s part of Young & Rubicam Brands and a member of WPP. Among other topics, we talked about the difference between social media and social networking, online video, and mobile marketing.

Last week I offered part 1 of the highlights of our discussion. The following is part 2.

Melissa Campanelli, eM+C: I know Wunderman has used video extensively in its campaigns. Why is video important?
Daniel Morel: People are more seduced by moving images than fixed images. They’re more interested in entertainment than text. People are inherently lazy — you and me included. We want to be entertained constantly. That’s why television moved from a static experience — simply voice and text — to a medium of moving images. That’s when it became an entertainment medium.

The same thing is happening on the web, thanks to new technology. Moving video — and thus entertainment — is appearing on the web, and when entertainment arrives in a medium, that medium takes off. This is why we’re doing more video on the web. It’s possible. It’s what people like to consume, and it allows for customization. It’s also tested, and we know it works.

My only concern right now is about how many creatives we need to produce if we want to use our data to create customized video. We’ll have to create several versions of the same piece of communication — not just one 30-second spot. So, what kind of production capability will we need?

MC: What about mobile marketing. Do you see that as a growing area?

DM: We spend a lot of time testing mobile marketing. But I still haven’t made a large bet on it yet. Maybe I’m making a mistake, but the reason I haven’t made a serious bet on it is because I follow the desire of my clients, and they’re not asking for it. Sure, I try to push them a bit and have them look at new technologies, but in most cases, I can’t make the economy of mobile work for my clients and me. A large amount of time is spent on working on the mobile platform and technology and making sure messages can be calibrated properly and tabulated.

On a $100,000 mobile marketing project, for example, I could spend $75,000 on technology and only $25,000 on communication. And when I get 10 [percent] to 15 percent of the $25,000, that’s not a lot of money.

We do have several people here working on mobile with clients. Ford is very interested in mobile, as is Microsoft. Our clients Nokia and Burger King are very active in it. But what does that represent in terms of a percentage of our business? It’s not large.

Yes, technology has improved. The chips are getting faster, the messages can now be in color and customized for each platform, and mobile operators are becoming more receptive to the needs of marketers.

So, the channel has become more marketing-friendly and more interesting to me. But, the technology has to mature even more, and the people in charge of the pipe have to recognize the value of marketing more before I make any real bets on it.

MC: Where do you see advertising or marketing being in the next five to 10 years?
DM: You’ll see exactly the same thing you’re seeing today: The existing channels will continue to coexist with whatever new channel or new use of an existing channel comes around.

Books have been around since the 16th century and still haven’t been replaced. The television advertising market is also very robust even after 15 years of internet communication. So, we have yet to see an example of a new medium totally eradicating what was done before.

Customers in the end will decide how they want to consume information. Consumers like to have choices. They want to watch the Oscars on large screens, product demos on their laptops and stock quotes from their portfolios on their mobile phones. They decide which channel is most appropriate. Five years down the road it will be exactly the same.