Thursday, July 31, 2008

A nail salon differentiates itself

In a sea of sameness it's a pleasure to come across a business that's identified a need, solved it and worked it into their business model. Earlier this week I popped into a nail salon in Charlestown, MA for a pedicure. I don't particularly enjoy pedicures, but I find them a necessary evil in order to keep up with the vanity of pretty toes in the summer. One of the reasons I don't like getting pedicures is I always recall the horror stories of people contracting infections from improperly sanitized tools.

So back to the nail salon - after picking out my color the woman charged with giving me my pedicure asked if I had a box at the salon. I responded no, but inquired as to what she meant. Apparently, if you plan on returning to the salon they'll set aside a dedicated set of tools for you. They go in a box with your name on it and you are the only one those tools are used on - brilliant.

With that simple gesture the nail salon has distinguished itself from the flood of others and alleviated fears of tool contamination. Sure, it costs them extra money to maintain a higher than normal supply of nail salon tools, but by the sight of all the boxes they also have a lot of repeat business. And we all know, it's cheaper to retain a customer than to find another one.

Image credit: Yips

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Free Marketing Idea

Here's a free marketing idea for my friends in the architecture field. The inspiration came from United Health; as part of their member outreach they send a birthday card to all their members reminding them of the preventive screenings they're due for that year.

Here's my twist for the architectural community. As part of your CRM (define) program send a birthday card (or perhaps an anniversary card) to your clients each year to commemorate the completion of the building your firm designed for them. It will remind them to reflect on the joy your firm's design has given them over the year(s) and keep your firm's name top of mind when they're considering other design projects, or speaking to friends and colleagues who might be looking for an architect.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Analyzing Boston's Visit the Pin

Boston has launched a quirky new marketing campaign designed to get more people engaged with the city. It's called Visit the Pin and it uses gigantic push pin replicas with tags as location markers. The tags on the pins ask viewers to text a keyword to 46305. I've only come across one pin so far and it's in Copley Square.

After texting COPLEY (as instructed by the pin) to 46305 I received a return message informing me that there's a farmers market in the area on Tuesdays and Fridays (which I knew since I found the pin on a Friday). It also invited me to call a phone number for more information, text A for near sites or text B for free events.

Texting A results in: Boston Public Library, Trinity Church and Newbury Street and a phone number for more info. Texting B results in Waterfront Performing Arts Series, Landmarks Orchestra Hatch Shell and AHTS: Boston Arts Festival and a second phone number. I was also directed to to learn more.

The campaign is intriguing. It captured my attention and warranted some follow-up. But there are certainly things the city could be doing better. Here's my 30 second analysis of what works, what doesn't and suggestions for improvement. Feel free to add your own comments at the end.

What works: The pins catch people's attention and encourage them to interact with their environment. Texting results in more options for interacting, including phone and web.

What doesn't: The campaign doesn't engage people that aren't willing to send that first text. The phone numbers that the city provides in their follow-up texts aren't of much use (one led to the parks department's voice mail telling me they're often out of the office, the other phone number just rang and rang with no answer) and the website doesn't extend the campaign branding.

Suggestions for improvement: Give people multiple ways to interact with the pin. Text is great, but put a phone number and URL on the tag as well. Give clues to where the other pins are, make a game out of it and the city's likely to get more interaction. And finally, if you're going to throw out a couple of phone numbers, make sure they're supported, if not by person than at least have a campaign specific voice message.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The story of eggs

While discussing The Omnivore's Dilemma at my book group a friend noted that fresh eggs were available at the farmers market in Copley Square (Boston) this year. Another recalled getting fresh eggs from a semi-crazed farmer near her summer home and the buttery flavor that the fresh eggs contained. And yet another recalled how the taste was unparalleled to that of commercial eggs. After digesting this information I left with a mission – to get my hands on some fresh eggs.

After three weeks of visiting the farmers market and being told “sorry, we sold out an hour after opening,” my lucky day arrived (the beauty of scarcity, three weeks later and I was still excited about eggs). There was a refrigerator full of fresh eggs awaiting me. I paid my $4 for 6 eggs and was on my way. The next morning I toasted and buttered some bread, cooked the eggs ‘over easy’ and sat down at the table with pure anticipation, only to become completely under whelmed. The eggs tasted just like the eggs I routinely buy at the grocery store (and only pay $1.59 per dozen for).

The story I was told about fresh eggs was that of taste and quality, incomparable to commercial eggs. The eggs I bought at the farmers market didn’t live up to that story. And the farmers market offered no alternative version. The story I should have been told was that of sustainability, local support and famers’ pride. Essentially, by spending the extra money on fresh eggs at the farmers market I can make a difference in my community and receive a product produced with care.

The moral of this story – when marketing your product, make sure you offer a story that’s believable and lives up to the experience. Otherwise you under whelm and your brand under performs.

Image by cobalt123

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Social media's role in transparency and learning

A surgery went very wrong at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) last week. A patient went in for one procedure and ended up having the procedure performed on the wrong body part. To the hospital’s credit there are no excuses being offered, after all there’s no excuse that could justify the mistake. Rather BIDMC is taking a more human approach and social media is playing a large role.

Paul Levy, author of the blog Running a Hospital and CEO of BIDMC shared on his blog an email that was circulated to all BIDMC staff after the event. The surgeon and his team acknowledged and accepted the mistake and apologized to the patient. Readers have offered thoughtful comments and shared their own personal lessons. But the most compelling story is BIDMC’s willingness to publicly share their mistake, to let others learn from it and to being completely transparent about the entire ordeal.

Without social media this couldn’t have happened. This mistake would have been one more in a series, covered up by legal departments and offering no learning experiences. Paul Levy has done a great service for his community. He’s opened another line of communication and has encouraged others to learn from the story. If social media can help us all be a little more transparent, to put our pride behind us and share our stories so that others can leave more knowledgeable after reading them than we all stand to gain from it.

Image by ortizmj12

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Philippe Stark making wind power cool

Philippe Stark, best known for his whimsical designs of everyday household items and his strangely uncomfortable looking large plastic garden chairs has proclaimed design is dead. However, it can’t be too dead as he’s resurfaced from that proclamation with another design twist on a not so ordinary product – the wind turbine.

Fittingly with his TED Talks presentation on the mutation leading up to the human race, Stark seems to be rethinking his previous contributions of useless design (his words) and mutating toward design for good. That is, putting his stamp on a seemingly utilitarian object whose goal is to better the earth.

As far as green efforts go, the world could use more first class designers, such as Stark lending their well recognized names to the advancement of a greener lifestyle. Here’s to Stark’s next transformation.

Image from Inhabitat's website

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July

Although the sky is gray today and the air is cool, Boston's 4th of July celebration will be sure to please. From the fly over to the cannons blasting during the 1812 Overture to the fireworks adding sparkle to the sky above the Charles. The 4th of July is a time of celebration and remembrance. And Boston provides the perfect backdrop. With this I wish you a happy and safe 4th of July.

Image taken on Comm Ave. Take a peek behind the flag.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tuned In book review

We all have books in our summer reading que. Some are business related, some are to help us escape reality and others are the carryovers from last summer's reading pile. Among the books in my que are The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles recommended by John Moore, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing (I realize I'm behind the curve on this one, as evidenced by the bargain basement price of $5.49 on Amazon) and Tuned In , which I received as part of a blogger outreach post on Web Ink Now.

Summer also coincides with my company's planning session so Tuned In made it off the pile first. I was hoping to find some inspiration to get the brainstorming started and in some aspects I did. Though like many who will read this book I realized there is a lot more work to be done before becoming "Tuned In."

Tuned In is a new book on the market written by Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott. It "argues that the key to business success lies in understanding and connecting with what consumers and markets want most." It's a quick read and gives a good overview of what companies need to embrace to become tuned in. To give you an overview of the book I'll share with you the book's Top Ten Actions to Create a Tuned In Culture.
  1. Get out of your comfortable office and talk with buyers about their unresolved problems.
  2. Identify your buyer personas. In order to make them real for you and your colleagues, name each buyer persona, build a profile for each and cut a representative photo from a magazine to represent them.
  3. Define your distinctive competence. Make certain everyone on your team understands what it is.
  4. Don't go to an internal meeting if you're only going to give your own opinion. Instead, be the person who goes to the meeting armed with data.
  5. Always ask where "facts" come from to disqualify mere opinions from your decision making process.
  6. Map your products and services on the Tuned In Impact-Continuum. Build a plan to increase the impact.
  7. Communicate directly the problems you solve for customers, not what your product or service does.
  8. Count the number of times you say "our" and "we" on your website. Write for your buyers by using "you" and "your" instead.
  9. Remove corporate gobbledygook such as mission statements from your external communications.
  10. Become a thought leader in your market and industry.
If this list has peaked your interest or if you're unconvinced by anything on the list then pick up the book. Or start with a free excerpt from the Tuned In website.