An intervention, for my Corporate Marketing friends

Intervention (TV series)
Image via Wikipedia


It’s time for an intervention. We ‘ve been worried about you. You’ve been spending an awful lot of time at marketing conferences, talking about marketing with other marketing people on Twitter and Facebook, reading newsletters from Chris Brogan, CC Chapman and the WOMMA team. Maybe you’ve even taken it upon yourself to write a blog post or two about the importance of “Joining the Conversation”.

You proudly proclaim that you “get it”. Out with the old, in with the new. Community, collaboration, crowdsourcing. Empowering the consumer. Push vs pull.

Let me share with you how your experiences have affected us.

  • We don’t feel connected with you anymore. You proclaim you know what’s good for the amorphous mass known as consumers, wholly excluding yourself and what you know to be true about how you want to interact with companies, instead choosing to focus on statistics, anecdotal stories shared by others with similar worldviews, and what Google Analytics’ home page tells you.
  • For someone so focused on the power of others, you sure do spend an awful lot of time talking about what you’re up to.  Your Facebook pages (and those of your clients) have the unmistakable tone of “Look at what we can do for you! Aren’t we great?” We think you may be missing the point a little.  When you say “It’s not about us anymore,” and then twitter about your new launch party, people may come to the conclusion that you and your clients may be a bit insecure and overcompensating by talking about yourself. You know, the whole “Enough about me, what do you think about me?” thing.
  • Relax! We like you! That’s why we followed you on Twitter, fanned you on Facebook, checked out your blog, maybe even subscribed to your newsletter.  You don’t have to tell us how cool you and your company are all the time.  Just be cool, and show some interest in what’s going on with us.  You know, like an actual conversation, rather than something one of you came up with to sell books.
  • When your company’s communications are about how many units you’ve sold or how popular you are? Yeah, we don’t care.  We also don’t care about awards you’ve won, chart positions within your industry, or how innovative you are, or how much you’re pushing the envelope.  It’s great for you that your company is meeting its financial goals, but for us, it comes off more like “look at how much money you guys are giving us!”
  • We think you might be forgetting that we are the reason your company has those sales numbers, and the reason we are the reason is that you’ve done something to make our lives easier, more fulfilling, more fun.  The monetary transaction is a result of us weighing the pro’s of giving you our money vs the con’s of not getting access to your product or service. That is what drives us to invest time and money in your company, not your company’s sales, awards, or the pretty new website that your web team worked so hard on.
  • This is kind of awkward, but… You know when you talk, blog or tweet about meeting your business goals publicly? We’re a little embarrassed for you.  See, the thing is, we don’t care about your business goals, unless we do.  We know this is complicated to understand, but think of it this way: If you get some great news from a friend, you congratulate them.  If some guy from your high school that ignored you the entire time you were there is in the paper talking about how he’s now a millionaire and marrying the prom queen? Yeah…not so much.  We care about your success when its our success too.  You making money is not our success, it’s a reminder of our money that your company is now spending to send out a press release about all the money its making.
  • We’ve noticed you’ve taken to calling us  advocates, audiences, influencers, milennials, and talking about our psychographics and our clickstreams.  Can you see how this could make us feel like less than people, and how we might think we’re not that important to you?  We know, on some level, that you need to aggregate how we interact with you in order to best serve us in the future (that is what you’re doing, right?), but we don’t need to know how the sausages are made.

So, we hope that you will take these in the spirit in which they were intended.  We really do care about you, and we want whats best for you. We recognize that maybe you don’t see how what you’ve been doing has affected you and the people around you, so we wanted to gather together and let you know, for your own good.

With love

-People on the internet

The difference between wanting help and being ready to accept help

Image by D3 San Francisco via Flickr

In life, we are each frequently in the position of being able to offer help to others.  This may come in the form of giving advice to a loved one, strategizing on behalf of a client or your company, or just sitting back and listening to a friend rant about their day.

If you really pay attention, though, you may notice something in a tone of voice or a type of request that gives you pause.  Perhaps the request is phrased in a very reactive way: “our competitors are using twitter, we need to be using it too” / “my boyfriend is acting weird, what do I do!”.  What you’re noticing is anxiety.  When we’re caught in anxiety about our situation or feel pressured, our ask for assistance may carry an extra layer of “save me” desperation.

The thing about anxiety and desperation is that it tends to overwhelm our ability to actually be productive or address a situation in a meaningful way.  We get caught in it, rather than being able to calmly assess the situation and figure out the best possible course of action.  At that point, any advice offered would only be taken reactively in a “I hope this will fix me” kind of way, and will not last in the long term, and in fact keeps “crisis mode” first and foremost.

The first step in any situation is for the person or organization to pause and take stock of the current situation, before any action is taken.  This should always be our initial recommendation.

When you see companies focused on tactics (e.g. a twitter account sending out press releases, a Facebook page with only a few fans and no content, a blog with comments disabled), try to be compassionate.  They’re not thinking straight. In order to truly be able to help, we need to learn how to identify the tone of the request, and offer compassion and support in different ways.  If someone is not ready to accept help, then any recommendation we may offer will be wasted.

Our job as people who “get it” is not to call #fail on companies doing a bad job, or to shake our heads as someone asks us yet again why anyone should bother to communicate online.  It may be frustrating, but we can remember that it is our job to help guide the from a place of fear to a level of understanding and acceptance, before making any strategic or tactical recommendations whatsoever.  If we want them to resonate, we must be patient and encourage a moment to pause for reflection of their current standing, platform, and opportunities.  Only when they are ready for help will any recommendation be effective.

Don’t be sexy. Be Good. Good is sexy.

In this economy and media-saturated climate, its understandable to want to spend organizational dollars positioning yourself as the next big thing, ahead of the curve, to add features or redesign the package or WiFi-enable in an attempt to add ‘sex appeal’.  So many articles have been written about advertising dollars losing effectiveness and marketing teams at a loss that sometimes we need to remember that if you have a rock-solid product with a good reputation,  the changing landscape that grows up around your offering can be navigated with much greater ease, like water over a stone. Two of my favorite examples of what it may be helpful to strive for with your core offering:

Shredded Wheat
Shredded Wheat

Shredded wheat was invented in 1893 and has been available, unchanged, since then.  There are some variations (size, with or without sugar), but its pretty much stayed the same for over 100 years.  Even the plant where it’s made is the same one that’s made shredded wheat since 1954.


Notepad has remained virtually unchanged since Windows 3.0, which was released in 1990, almost 20 years ago.  The only feature additions have been to address bugs and to increase the size of the files it can open.  Yet every coder, designer and content writer I know uses Notepad for at least some of their productivity, be it to take notes, quickly edit a CSS file, or do markup. Spending the time to create something that will stand the test of time is a far better use of resources than being able to connect to the internet from my toaster oven. I’d love to hear about other examples.

I’m a customer. Envelop me, dont tack me on.

Most eCommerce sites are, by design, static product catalogs.  Sure there may be a place tacked on down at the bottom for customer reviews if you’re lucky, but for the most part the message is “here’s what we got, find what you want and hit ‘order now'”.  The expectation for interactive experience has been set so low that the concept of ‘customer service’ has been moved to a post-purchase point (problem with your order? click here!), rather than some version of people asking if they can help you find something. This has worked, for the most part, because people have expected their online shopping experience to be an analog (pardon the pun) for a paper catalog they might receive in the mail.

How could we have gotten 15 years into the development of the web and not addressed this fundamental disadvantage vs shopping in person?  Well, my thought is basically that this shortfall was not made apparet until the new surface area of business-with-consumer (not business-TO-consumer) communications were created via myspace/facebook/twitter/etc.

There is a huge opportunity to envelop customers tastes, contributions and personality into ecommerce sites rather than purely tacking them on at the end of the design/UX process.


As an example of a starting point, do you know those product registration cards included with electronics that sometimes you fill out and definitely never get any value from?   Maybe those could be revised to offer a unique ID that consumers could use to drive traffic to a specific site, a la a low-investment affiliate program. If I can send people to and also customize what people see (model numbers, reviews, links) once they get there, you’ve involved me as a customer and an advocate, created a new traffic stream to your site, and treated me special.

As usual, a leader in this particular concept is Threadless (my favorite ecommerce site on the web).  I have a page on Threadless thats all about me. Here, check it out.  It can pull in feeds from other sites, and i can post blogs about products I’ve purchased, which show up on the products page.  They also have a built-in affiliate program which they call “street team”. Referrals which lead to sales earn me $3 in store credit.

All of these are really simply implemented ideas that will create a much ROI and ROE.

In order not to be left in the dust by sites like Threadless, eCommerce sites (and consumer goods sites in general) would be very wise to reconceptualize their online presence to envelop their users and include them in the building of the site from the ground up, rather than allow them to comment on content generated internally.

Have you seen any other great examples of customer envelopment? Please share in the comments!

Social Media People need to STFU and GBTW too.

Note: the “too” in the headline is a reference connecting this post to a previous one about media companies needing to STFU and, well, you know.

I’ve really had it up to here with Social Media Experts (including, and sometimes especially, those who go on rants about social media experts as if they aren’t ones themselves) going on and on and on about how twitter is a fundamental paradigm shift and how important it is that everyone learn how to do it the “right” way by listening to them.

Here are some things that really piss me off (not just me, either)

  • If you’re at a conference that you paid to get into?  Be at the conference.  Don’t spend 90% of your time tweeting what the people on stage are saying.  You’re not a participant, you’re a court reporter.  And it annoys the HELL out of people who follow you because you’re making an assumption that they’re interested in whats going on at this conference enough to eat up some significant portion of their real estate.
  • Here are some topics that you can just shut up about right now.
  • I’m interesting, so everyone must be interested in how I use twitter. (also known as ‘hey I joined a site,I must be an expert! syndrome).
  • Number of followers don’t matter even though I have thousands and that’s why I’m here attending/speaking at this conference
  • The shifting business paradigm making it so much easier to get paid to chat all day.
  • Listening is the new talking even though I’m talking about listening without actually listening
  • Posts entitled “What _____ can teach us about social media”? Shut up. Not everything is about Social Media. The world is bigger than that. Filtering everything through the SM lens narrows the ability of people to take larger messages, lessons and tools from the things going on around.  And isn’t that the point?
  • Just because a company has a PR mishap or doesn’t do something according to your own arbitrary rules of how companies should be run (whether or not you’ve ever worked in the industry in question, at a company of that size, or at a company at all), doesn’t mean they FAIL or that it’s a CATASTROPHE or and they’re OBVIOUSLY OUT OF TOUCH. Shut up. Nobody wants to read your blog posts about it except other people like you.

We get it. That’s why we’re using the site.

Also: DO something. If you can’t cite specific examples of ways you’ve used stuff you’re talking about to help a company you work for? Shut up.  You know what helps people to learn? Show, don’t tell.

It is your job to provide the maximum value per-interaction as possible, right? That’s what it says on your linkedin profiles? If your value proposition (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little) to people who pay attention to you (be it online or in person) is spouting confucian words of wisdom about marketing and being a stenographer in rooms full of people also being stenographers (especially if you complain about people getting information for free that you paid for), then maybe you shouldn’t be a Social Media rockstar in the first place.

How did a group of people that are supposed to be all about effective communication of ideas and authentic interpersonal relationships devolve into such self-congratulatory ego-fed bullshit?  As @davewiner has taken to saying: “Dude! No One Cares!”

STFU and GBTW.  And no, your job isn’t building your personal brand.

Rant over.