Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

What is Marketing? You will be surprised.

Why Marketing?

Wikipedia says that:

Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development.[1] It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments.[1] It is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves.

Blah, blah, blah. Sounds great, but it’s completely useless. It’s almost the general definition of Business.

Let me give you a much more useful way to look at marketing:

Marketing is offering people something that is more valuable to them than the price you are charging – and getting them to see that it’s a good deal. 

The first part is trade. The second part makes it marketing.

Marketing is not something you do to customers, it’s something you do for customers.

It’s the service of making the right decisions easier for the customer.

This statement has been floating around the Internet for years. It’s my most quoted statement.  I’m delighted, because it goes right to the core: make the right decision easy.

Why is marketing about making decisions easier?

Because easy means faster and that’s really the hidden secret behind marketing success. If you can get customers to make decisions faster for your product than the competitor’s products, then you accumulate customers faster, even without greater brand choice.

But “faster” isn’t the primary thing to focus on. When people focus on getting the customer to act faster, they end up pushing or pulling the customer, creating resistance, and prolonging the decision cycle.

It’s sort of what happens when people focus directly on making money as the primary goal, rather than creating value. Money is a consequence of value creation, in fact, it’s the primary way that value is stored. Focus on money first, and weird things happen. Focus on value, and magical things happen. In the same way, focus on making customer decisions easier and simpler every step of the way, and sales accelerate automatically.

Marketing = easier decisions. Another reason

People are overloaded, with dozens of New Media. They don’t have time to deliberate. They are swamped. They don’t have time to sort through the flood of information. You provide the service of saving people from the time and burden of deliberation.

Marketing helps the customer at every step of the decision-making process:

  • Helps the customer find you more easily. In fact, marketing in good companies is part of product development in most good companies. The product wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for marketing.
  • Helps the customer get information about you more easily, understand it, weigh it, see what’s relevant, compare you to the competition
  • Helps the customer try your product, evaluate the trial, decide who the winner is.
  • Helps make it easier to buy, pay, get delivery, reduce risk (return policies, guarantees & warranties)
  • Helps the customer learn, use, fix and teach the product. Only a few companies have discovered that customer service isn’t a cost center, it’s a marketing center. Companies like Amazon, Zappo’s, Apple.
  • Should be insisting on better user interfaces, better help methods, better training tools.
  • Should be teaching customers how to expand their use, become more expert.
  • _hould be stimulating word of mouth. Giving the wording, channels, tools and motivation to tell other people. I just happen to have written a book on the subject.

So, it isn’t just about getting people to buy. It’s about smoothing the way, every step of the way.

You want to focus on making the series of potentially difficult decisions easy, simple, fun, smooth, effortless for the customer. And not just up to the moment of purchase. Throughout the life of the product, indeed, throughout your entire relationship with the customer. If you’re doing the right thing, they will trust you. And trust is very practical. It makes the decisions very easy and fast. For instance, Google and Apple make my decisions easy and, therefore, fast. They can be counted on to get it as close to right the first time, then rapidly improve by listening.

The main goal of a business is to provide the best product for a given situation. The main goal of marketing is to get people to see that it is the right choice, given the circumstances. In some circumstances, your product itself, in the abstract, isn’t the best product, or isn’t any better than any other product. But if you make the decisions easy, that is, make it easy to get and weigh information, to try, to use, to deal with you, to tell the people about it, your product then becomes the better product because, even if it’s equivalent in physical characteristics, it’s easier to find, understand, try, learn to use, fix, explain to others, etc. That’s better, even if the physical product is identical to the competitions’.

Where to go next :

My unique approach to marketing

Rent George’s Brain

Are you selling a product, service or idea? Yes.

February 10, 2011 |  by  |  Idea Marketing, Marketing - Gen'l  |  ,  |  1 Comment

You are selling all three. I can’t think of a single product, service or idea that doesn’t at least imply the other two. You are almost certainly neglecting two of these and and missing some great opportunities.

Product: The physical embodiment of what you are selling, how it’s manifest in the world, the deliverable, how you know it’s there.

Service: The actions taken to produce the product.

Idea: The way it’s held in the mind of the customer in thoughts and feelings.

Try to name a single product/service/idea that doesn’t have the other two. You are probably thinking that you have only one of these.

Think about the other two that you are neglecting. There, right in front of you, are the opportunities that you are missing.

Examples of one that people might think don’t have the other two:

Pure Product?

Candy bar: is the service alleviating hunger, giving a treat, a reward, and indulgence? Is the idea “coconut almond” or “deserved reward” or “guilty pleasure”? Your decision is an opportunity.

“Pure commodity” such as gold, steel, soybeans, etc. It’s all about the service: payment terms, delivery, support, advice, guarantee of purity, etc.

An iPod wasn’t mainly a product. We forget that it was an idea: first and foremost it was a way of organizing, storing, sharing and playing your music mess of tapes, CDs, records, files, etc. It was a service that proved that if you make music ridiculously easy to buy, store and organize most people will buy, not steal.

Most great “products” are really great implementations of a great idea.

Conclusion: there is no pure product. There is no parity, me-too, product. A service and idea is always involved.

Pure Service?

A psychotherapist: What’s the product? Health? Growth? Counseling? Confidence? Feeling of well-being? Greater functionality? Greater emotional health? All or some of the above? What’s the “idea”? Remediation or growth. support, fixing, encouraging, greater-self responsibility? Different for each patient? Does the patient know? Is the product delivered in person, by phone, internationally by Skype? Via books, individual sessions, group sessions, speeches, TV talks, a radio call-in program, etc.?

Plumber: Is the product fixing problems, new installations, residential, commercial. Is the idea speed, reliability, always showing up, etc.?

Are Google Search, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter services? Yes. Are they products? Yes. They are at the very least web sites. How you define the product, the idea,  (social contact, finding answers, on-demand goods, instant X, easy X, etc. is worth billions of dollars in these cases. They made the right calls at the right time, and implemented their products brilliantly. None was the first.)

Conclusion: There is no such thing as a pure service that doesn’t have a product and an idea behind it.

Pure ideas?

What if you are selling the idea of Smaller Government, Lower Taxes, Less Spending? If you are actually trying to “sell” it, i.e., persuade people to agree with you, rather than swirling it around in your head, what’s the product, the actions, of your thinking? Joining/starting a Tea Party chapter? Starting a new party? Writing essays, talking, teaching, etc. If you’re actively selling your idea, there has to be a product of your efforts. What’s the service you will provide? Running for office, teaching, lecturing, public speaking, blogging, etc.?

New product idea: You have an idea for a product or service. You’re not selling it unless you are taking steps to manifest it (that’s the product of your thinking) and you are selectively taking actions in the service of the idea: are you the entrepreneur, the finance person, the inventor, the engineer, some or all of the above? What other services do you need to make the idea into a product?

Conclusion: There are “pure” ideas, but not in the marketing context. As soon as you start “selling” the idea, it has to take the form of a product with its attendant services, or a service with its attendant products.

Again, think about the areas you might be neglecting and how you can change your assumptions.

If you think you might make a million dollars out of these insights, at the very least, you owe me lunch, and a rave in the comments section below.

A little more detail about the 3-sentence Secrets of Marketing

This site is about ONE central idea:

“Easify” the customer decision process:

It’s The Secret Key to Marketing Success

  • Customers are overwhelmed by information overload.
  • So they usually choose the easy-to-decide-on product, not the best.
  • So, the key to marketing is to make it easier to decide on your product than the competition’s.

    Conventional marketing: make the product look more desirable.

    My approach: Eliminate the decision blocks.

    A little more detail: Every decision path has several major stages. Think of them as hills to climb:

    Status quo → finding you → learning about you → culling → weighing → sorting → evaluating → comparing alternatives → justifying trial →trying → buying → using → fixing → teaching → recommending → evangelizing.

    On each of these hills, there are many obstacles:

    Questions, qualms, issues, confusions, uncertainty, misunderstandings, distractions, competitor counter-information, fog, effort, time wasters, information overload, distrust and many other stumbling blocks.

    If they stumble enough, they pause, flounder, go home or find another product that’s easier to fathom. It’s at these hidden obstacles that you’re losing most of your potential customers.

    They’re mostly hidden because you are an expert who doesn’t see how difficult it is to understand and get past these obstacles. You see it as a smooth path, they see it as a bumpy, hilly obstacle course.

    Your job is to identify these friction points and get people past them. In this day and age, you have to do it — not only by being more persuasive — but by making every step and stage of the decision process easier. Give them shortcuts past the hills.

    Conventional marketing tries to be more persuasive: to make the case better that this is the more desirable product.

    My approach is to remove all possible obstacles. Only sometimes does this involve tuning up the persuasion. Usually, this involves getting finding and eliminating the many ways that you have inadvertently made it difficult to understand, try, buy or talk about the product. Every click. Every unnecessary word. Every distracting graphic. Everything that doesn’t clarify. Everything that isn’t from the right source, in the right medium, in the right form, at the right level of detail, in the right sequence, for the right kind of customer.

    This is a different approach to marketing that has caused record-breaking sales increases.

    I’ve finally distilled the secret to marketing success into 3 sentences

    The Secret Key to Marketing Success

    • Customers are overwhelmed by information overload.
    • So they usually choose the easy-to-decide-on product, not the best.
    • So, the key to marketing is to make it easier to decide on your product than the competition’s.

    I’m the leading expert on easifying the customer decision process. If you want clever word play, pretty pictures, or other razzle-dazzle, I’m not your guy. But if you’ve tried all that, try my approach. It’s easier, cheaper and so much more effective.

    I keep telling my consulting clients that they need to have a terse statement like this that sums up the essence of their differences, but they are blocked by expert blindness. I’m no exception. It’s taken 10 years to come up with these three sentences for myself. If there were another decision easification consultant in the world, he or she could have done it for me in a few hours, except for one thing: S/he also would have also had expert blindness in this area! But in your area, I’m an expert in easification, and just ignorant enough to say it simply.

    Learn a little more about the secret to marketing success.

    The Super Bowl Commercials Teach Lessons in How Not to Advertise

    The day after the Super Bowl, I’m still recovering from the commercials. Is it my imagination, or do they get worse every year? The unavoidable conclusion is that these advertisers and their agencies have no idea what advertising as all about. It was a mélange of nostalgia, obscure cultural references, borrowed interest, and non-product-relevant humor. Ironically, consumers constructed the highest-rated ads, not professional advertising agencies.

    Secrets:

    The purpose of any media is to reach people and use its unique characteristics to increase product sales. The purpose of advertising — with rare exceptions — is to dramatize the unique benefits of the product in a memorable and persuasive way that causes sales increases.

    The Super Bowl is no exception, even though its ads have to compete with Super Bowl party conversation, food and drink, bathroom breaks and the competing emotions that come from rooting for the winning or losing team. So, yes, Super Bowl ads have to be off the charts on the attention-getting factor. This, and their astronomical prices, puts them in a class by themselves.

    But none of this absolves the advertiser from the fact that the advertising needs to be about the unique advantages of the brand.

    As I look over the list of the ads, from the idiotic USA Today Super Bowl Popularity Contest, I only remember ONE ad that talks about a brand advantage: The Verizon ad, which highlights its superiority in making calls.

    The reason that advertising popularity contests are idiotic is that the purpose of an ad is not to entertain. It’s to ultimately sell product. This can be done indirectly, such as by enhancing the image of the product, or directly by talking about product advantages.

    When I see a charming ad like the VW borrowed interest Darth Vader ad, I’m vastly entertained. But until someone shows that entertainment causes product sales, I’m amused but skeptical.

    On the other hand, when I see an ad about the Ford Focus, which tries to gin up interest in a rally they are running, I think, “When you have nothing special to say about the car, run a rally.” It’s a dead giveaway that they either have a me-too car, or an incompetent advertising agency, or both.

    As I’ve written elsewhere:

    Before the golden age of advertising, people just put drawings of the product in the mass media, without any benefit statements or even descriptions. Then, advertising hit its stride and discovered its true strengths: bringing dramatizations of the unique benefits of the product to the masses. It was “salesmanship in print” in the best sense. It zeroed in on the most beneficial, unique aspects of the product and dramatized them in an entertaining way that got attention. At least, the best of it did. Then, the side show took over the circus. Most of it — to this day — gave up dramatizing the benefits and went for image instead. “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” became the rallying call for the hypemeisters. Advertising lost its way and just tries to make an intrusive impression, confusing getting attention with fundamental persuasion. Advertising is now judged by its entertainment value rather than its persuasive results. For instance, after the Super Bowl each year, there are many published polls naming the commercials voted “best” by viewers. So, you can win “best commercial” and go out of business because the commercials didn’t cause any sales, as 17 out of 18 of the Dot.com companies did in 2000.

    Advertising that calls attention to itself — instead of something related to the product — almost never works. Advertising history is filled with examples. Many of them won awards. But the products failed.

    I thought you might be interested in reading the section dealing with the Dot-Com Super Bowl, from the 2nd Edition of The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, about to be published in March of 2011.

    The Dot-Com Super  Bowl

    On January 31, 2000, at the height of the dot-com boom, about a dozen dot-coms aired 30-second commercials during Super Bowl XXXIV at a cost of $2.2 million each, the entire marketing budget for some, in the hope that—with hundreds of millions of people watching—they would put their unknown companies on the map and establish a corporate identity. I was appalled and publicly called it the worst case of advertising agency malpractice I had ever seen. Either their ad agencies knew better or they should have. In either case, the agencies were, in my opinion, negligent.

    The dot-com bubble burst soon after. The Super Bowl advertisers found that they could not establish a corporate identity in a 30-second TV spot. They found that they could get everyone talking about their quirky commercials all right, but that wasn’t the same as getting people to rave about their products’ benefits. With one or two exceptions, all the advertisers on that Super Bowl went out of business.

    It became known as the Dot-Com Super Bowl and, in many people’s minds, it not only marked the end of the dot-com bubble, it marked the beginning of the end of the Old Marketing, perhaps symbolized best by the pets.com sock puppet.

    Fortunately, the “too big to fail” mentality hadn’t caught on yet, so the dot-coms were allowed to “creatively destruct.” What nobody realized was that the dot-coms, ironically, were using the old media to sell the new media. Heck, they were the new media!

    So, if you’re going to advertise, at least keep your eye on the ball: emphasize your unique benefits, in a dramatic, entertaining way. And only do it on the Super Bowl if you have a product that most of the billions of people watching can use. Don’t worry if people discuss it in the social media. Measure the effectiveness of ads — and any other marketing efforts — on trials and sales.

    How my interest in marketing started

    October 16, 2010 |  by  |  Marketing - Gen'l, Secrets of WOMM  |   |  No Comments

    My interest in marketing started one day in my father’s drug store. I watched a Camel Cigarette salesman repeatedly approach customers who had just bought a pack of the largest competing brand, Chesterfield.  He had pushed a Camel and a Chesterfield cigarette through two holes in a 3 x 5 index card, so that they couldn’t see the cigarettes’ brand names. He asked them to take a few puffs of each and tell him which they liked better. Most of the Chesterfield smokers said that they preferred the taste of the one that turned out to be a Camel. He showed them that they had chosen a different brand, Camel, over their regular brand. They were shocked, much to my amusement. It looked to me, at about the age of 12, like a pretty good joke on them. But then came my turn to be shocked. He offered to exchange the cigarettes they had just bought for his brand, whose taste they had just proven they preferred.

    Most of them stuck with their regular brand!

    I saw another salesman do a similar comparison test with Breyer’s Ice Cream. Same results. Even though they preferred Breyer’s, they walked out with their regular brand. “Why?” I wondered.

    At the same time, I was learning to practice the art of slight-of-hand.  As I mastered more and more sophisticated magic tricks, I realized that people saw what they wanted to see, no matter what the evidence said. Why?

    I was hooked.

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    How to Research your Customers’ Buying Process

    How to research the buying process of your customers and shorten the buying cycle

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    How not to write an email

    Don’t you just love all the emails you get that say…

    Please do not reply to this email. This e-mail has been sent to you automatically and is not capable of handling responses.

    … without giving you a selection of addresses to reply to? Or, without actively asking for feedback, questions, any other way we can be of help?

    It’s another example of Knowledge Blindness, plus the lack of a customer mindset.

    What’s the big deal? After all, the one that sparked this was only an email confirming the sign-up of my iPad and my iPhone on Optimum Online’s wonderful WiFi hotspot network, an amazing partnership with TimeWarner and others to bring free WiFi hotspots to their customers.

    I’ll bet you are doing the equivalent, in many other ways, in other media — missing opportunities to serve the customer, falling into unfriendly, perfunctory formality. I’m sure I am. I just haven’t found them all — yet. But I keep looking. Are you? Take a look. If you can’t find one a day for the next two weeks, you’re either not looking, have a really bad case of Knowledge Blindness or I should be taking lessons from YOU.

    • Where are you missing opportunities to:  
      • Ask for specific suggestions
      • Tell people how to reach you (without looking it up or even clicking)
      • Ask for feedback
      • Give them a tip
    • Did you send out any communications without surprising the recipient with something unexpectedly, remarkably beneficial to THEM?
    • Did you send out any mundane communications that contributed to their boredom?
    • Did you think for a moment that you’re contacting a friend, and while you’re at it, it would be nice to…

    Whoops, I almost missed an opportunity:

    If you have any comments, questions or suggestions that you want to communicate privately, my private email is: grs at mnav dot com. Any other comments, let’s hear them below.

    Word of Mouth — without words and without mouths!

    Implied WOM — Here’s a case where it’s more important than explicit WOM

    The Olympic swimming competition is providing a great example of what I call “Implied Word of Mouth.”

    The current flurry of Olympic gold medals and world records in swimming is being attributed in large part to the new Speedo LZR swimsuits.

    — 38 world records have been broken since its introduction in February until June, before the Olympic qualifiers and Olympics, not counting all the Olympic trial and Olympic records.

    In fact, as of this writing, here’s some information that Speedo has on its website:

    200808151508

    They have an endorsement deal with Michael Phelps. That’s an obvious use of paid word of mouth.

    More importantly — and often neglected by people who are thinking about word of mouth — is the implied endorsement by all of the swimmers, many of them previously non-contenders, as they win medals and smash world records.

    Adding to the situation is the controversy around whether the suits constitute “technological doping.” Swimmers and Speedo are being accused of using technology — rather than athletic ability and training — to give athletes an artificial edge, much like using performance-enhancing drugs.

    It is just about the ideal word of mouth situation:

    1. A wildly superior, unusual product.
    2. Easy to talk about the product as a whole.
    3. A technology story that is easy to describe, thereby giving a “reason to believe.”
    4. An overall story that is easy to tell, even in headline form. (“New Kind of Swimsuit Shatters World Records” Better for the Company: “New Kind of Swimsuit Makes Even Mediocre Swimmers Win Races.”
    5. Celebrity endorsements. Some paid, others spontaneous.
    6. Implied endorsements by everyone who is seen on the Olympics wearing one, especially medalists and world-record breakers. [Note: This is the original meaning of “viral marketing”: a product whose very use is an implied recommendation by those who use it. It was originally used for HotMail, which had at the bottom something like: “Sent by HotMail. Want a free email account? Go to Hotmail.com”)]
    7. Controversy, generating buzz, that reflects well on them. After all, if the suits were not effective, there would be no accusations of unfairness.
    8. An amazing website (Speedousa.com). It is simple, uncluttered, fun, and allows you to find anything you want on a very information-packed website with only an obvious click or two. Their explanations are simple, yet informative. There are a few problems: they have a fun “Virtual Model” section in which you can construct someone who looks like you, and then try on various kinds of swimwear (when did “bathing suits” become “swimwear”?). Unfortunately, all of the avatars are under 30. More importantly, they have so many fabrics and lines that they need a comparison chart or a decision tool where you can enter info, such as whether you are a competitive swimmer, where you will use the swimwear, etc. and it makes recommendations. Like many of the sites that help you pick a camera or a television set.
    9. A product that is not yet available to the public, but will be soon, thereby building desire for something you can’t have. By the way, a full swimsuit will cost around $550, with leggings costing just $350, and trunks just $290. But don’t worry, they have models that are almost as good, especially for the non-competitive swimmer. By the time you check out other models, their $100 and $50 swim trunks begin to look cheap.
    10. There are dozens of other little and large issues around their product lines, website, attitudes, innovative spirit, etc. that make this a marketing situation well worth studying. I’ve barely begun to look into this company, and already I’m bowled over.

    Yes, but…

    Note to any companies that are tempted to say, “Yes, but we are not Speedo,” or, “Yes, but we have a mundane product,” let me respectfully remind you of several things: First of all, stop saying “Yes, but…”  Then, remember that they were a swim trunk manufacturer. There is nothing more mundane than that. Then, they were the first to use Lycra® in swimwear in 1972. Then, a series of innovations in all areas of sportswear followed that. To get WOM, you have to be EXTRA-ordinary.

    The REALLY important lesson here:

    Okay, here is your reward for reading this far: All of the above is an example of a much more important and broader concept: Decision Simplification. Speedo has made the brand choice decision into that Holy Grail of marketing: a no-brainer. If you want to buy a swimsuit and want the very best, the decision is now simple — a decision so simple that no time or effort has to be spent on it by busy people (everybody!). If you are an affluent and aspirational buyer of sportswear, what are you going to buy yourself or your kids? Simple. The suit that Michael Phelps and every other medalist and world record holder wears.

    Many people have gone from only a dim awareness of the brand to the belief that Speedo makes the best swimwear. When they go to their website, they find out that they make a broad line of sportswear and accessories.

    It doesn’t make a bit of difference if Speedo doesn’t make any money on the new swimsuits. They have, after all, put a huge amount of R&D into its development. They have now out-Niked Nike, the masters of the actual and implied endorsement. They have demonstrated in the most rigorous environment that their particular clothes actually enhance performance. I’m not aware that anyone else has done that, at least so convincingly and so publicly.

    This particular formula for Decision Simplicity is simple to understand, but hard to do: Make a smashingly superior, astonishing product and get everybody to use it visibly because of the edge that it gives them. They don’t actually have to say a word about it, although they will. Of course, you might have to put in some R&D that will make the bean counters go crazy.

    What this means to you

    If you can make a product that actually enhances the performance of something your customers do (why make it if it doesn’t?), you are making your customers into a personal champion and making them feel better about themselves. They will brag about it. They will wear your logo.

    Also, get the leaders in your customers’ line of work to visibly use it. Get them involved in its development, get their continual feedback, stir up the good kind of controversy and competition, make it something whose name and logo they are proud to display. It’s worked for Speedo, Nike, Canon, Nikon, Leica, Apple and many, many other brands that you’ve never heard of because they are in obscure and technical areas. But, I could name plenty of other brands in windsurfing, magic, photography, surgery and medical devices. There is room in your area, even if you’re getting clobbered by a Nike at the moment.

    Here’s another idea: Maybe you should run an “Olympics” in your category. For instance, if I made voice dictation software and it was the fastest on the market, I would run a contest for the fastest “typist” (sounds better than “dictator”) in the world. They could type or use voice dictation. Since the fastest typist in the world types about 160 words per minute, and I can easily hit that with my present voice dictation system, the champion would be widely acknowledged to be the fastest in the world, using my software. My guess is it would be over 200 words a minute, using my software. This would be a real contest that actually demonstrates the superiority of my product dramatically, instead of the stupid, artificial contests that are usually run.

    How can you take advantage of implied word of mouth?

    Technorati Tags: Customer Decision Experience, , Decision Simplification, WOMM, Womworthy products, word of mouth marketing, Word-of-mouth marketing

    Technorati Tags: Customer Decision Experience, Decision Simplification, , WOMM, Womworthy products, word of mouth marketing, Word-of-mouth marketing

    Technorati Tags: Customer Decision Experience, Decision Simplification, , WOMM, Womworthy products, word of mouth marketing, Word-of-mouth marketing

    David Pogue wonders about the Macintosh Surge

    David Pogue has recently attempted to explain the Macintosh Surge, and solicited opinions about it:

    http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/18/explaining-the-macintosh-surge/

    The comments, hundreds of them!, are a primer on WOM and should be read by anyone interested in WOM.

    (Those of you who go to the WOMMA conventions: remember when I got up and challenged the Vista product manager to give me a single reason to switch to Vista, instead of a contest to win a trip to the moon!)

    In part, here’s what he says:

    At the risk of enraging the Apple bashers, I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer: Something is going on with the Macintosh.

    At this week’s Macworld Expo, there were 475 exhibitors. That’s 100 more booths than last year.

    There were 50,000 attendees. That’s 10,000 more people than last year.

    A book publisher told me that 2007 Macintosh book sales were up by double-digit leaps over the previous year.

    Gartner’s fourth-quarter 2007 research shows that Mac shipments grew 28 percent over the year before, giving it an 6.1 percent market share. (It was 3-point-something only a couple of years ago.)

    According to Net Applications, use of the Mac’s Web browser, Safari, climbed 32 percent in 2007.

    Apple sold 2.16 million Macs in the last quarter–a new company record.

    And anecdotally—well, you probably know somebody who’s switched to the Mac recently.

    What is going on?

    He rejects the IPod (and by implication iPhone) halo effects.

    He rejects the “fed up with viruses and spyware” argument.

    He says that the best theory is “Windows Vista.” “When people found out they’d have to buy a new computer and learn a new interface, a certain slice of them just said, ‘Well, if I have to buy a new machine and learn a new interface, I may as well get the cool-looking, virus-free one.’

    He goes on to ask, ”But could that effect explain this gigantic 35 percent leap in just 12 months? It’s still an expensive proposition to switch platforms once you’ve got an investment in software and peripherals.

    Anyone else got a better theory?“

    What he didn’t mention:

    He and other gurus now openly support the Mac.

    A HUGE increase in the Mac notebook share of market.

    The ability for Macs to co-exist on Windows networks.

    The seamless integration between the iPhone and/or iPods, email programs, iPhoto, ITunes, IMovie, iCal (the Mac calendar).

    Some programs that are Mac-only that are so good that it’s worth switching for them. For me, they are DevonThink Pro (a free-form database that you can dump all your info into and retrieve with artificial intelligence — and a whole lot more) and Scrivener, an authoring program for articles, scripts and books that goes light years beyond word processing by separating info gathering, writing and formatting into totally separate processes. Quicksilver — the most useful program I’ve ever used that is so all-purpose that I can’t even describe it adequately. (But, here’s a try: with a couple of keystrokes, it lets me instantaneously find any file, move it, open it, launch programs, add text to files without even opening them, send emails, look up phone numbers, plus dozens of other things without even thinking.) Plus, Keynote is way better than PowerPoint. Plus some technically advanced photography programs that I can’t even go into.

    in addition, the upcoming arrival (which he did mention in another post) of MacSpeech Dictate, the super-accurate speech recognition program, and the even better implementation of Microsoft Word 2008 on the Mac than Word 2007 on Windows itself! also make the Mac much more attractive, and well worth the learning curve.

    Here’s my take:

    His premise is wrong. He is looking for something that has recently changed to explain it all.

    PC vs. Mac is the largest word-of-mouth disparity that I have found in decades of studying word of mouth. I’ve been predicting this surge for years because nothing can withstand the degree of negative word of mouth that Windows and Microsoft have, especially against such a positive WOM alternative.

    As I’ve reported before, when I give a speech and talk about this, I ask the audience how many people use Windows. Then I ask, knowing what they know now, how many of them think they would switch to a Mac for their next machine if it were feasible to run their Windows programs, or make an easy switch, if it didn’t cost them much in money or time. At least 80% of them say they would, if their companies would only let them. This much pent-up demand is screaming to be satisfied.

    But for the first time, it’s becoming ever more easily satisfied.

    What has held it back is that Apple has ”knowledge blindness“ and doesn’t understand how onerous people imagine the switch to be. Apple doesn’t understand that most people don’t even know what an operating system is, and don’t want to. Apple doesn’t understand all the things they could be doing to ease the switch and think they are doing all they can.

    The ”Tipping Point“ is arriving.

    Gradually, these decision barriers have been coming down. Required, legacy Windows programs can be run on the Mac, so businesses can use it. Famous Windows mavins, and regular IT people are encouraging their non-geek spouses, children, friends and grandmothers to buy Macs, so they don’t have to be bothered by phone calls. The technology mavins like Pogue  himself and Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal have finally come out of the closet and no longer afraid to say that the Mac is much better. The Mac kids are growing up. The last few areas missing Mac programs, such as voice recognition and GPS mapping, now have Mac alternatives, often better ones. And now, they keep hearing how easy it all is to switch. Apple is porting over files from PCs at Apple stores. More complete switching support would be even better, but it’s coming along. Apple stores themselves have revolutionized retailing. More of people’s friends are able to offer support, as are stores and consultants. Apple offers a $99 one-year series of private, weekly lessons in how to do YOUR things on the Mac. It’s turned many people I know from people who hate the computer, to people who have fun on it and produce cool things that spread the word of mouth.

    Example: My wife — who barely tolerated and rarely used her Windows computer — has been having a ball doing the things she is learning in those lessons. She has produced our Holiday cards on it, stunning picture and all. Of course, on the back of each card, it says ”Made on a Mac“ (which could have been optionally removed, but we are Mac fans).

    Gradually, the word of mouth is reaching critical mass, so that a large number of people keep hearing from people they know and trust that the switch will be painless and supported. In addition, they keep seeing all the cool things that their friends can do: the movies, greeting cards, coffee-table picture books, web sites, picture galleries, etc.

    So, the answer, David, in summary, is that you are seeing a surge now because of the exponential effects of word of mouth. At some point, it reaches critical mass, then everyone asks, ”what’s new,“ looks around for an event, and points to the most obvious or most proximal. There is no single event. The so-called ”tipping point“ is made possible by all of these events, plus the removal of most of the under-appreciated barriers to switching.

    Apple creates WOMworthy products (spectacularly simple, elegant yet powerful) that makes people feel very good about themselves, creating word of mouth. AND — the reason that the geeks don’t understand — we are reaching the point where real people are viewing the switch as less onerous. What technical people see as an adventure and ”not a problem“ is becoming actually just about tolerable and only minimally painful for the rest of the world..

    At some point WOM grows exponentially, so look for the surge to turn into an explosion in Mac sales at some point in the very near future, if Apple doesn’t get too arrogant and shoot itself in the foot, which it could easily do, since it is product oriented (in the best sense) rather than people oriented. When they make mistakes, that’s where they tend to make them.

    One last point. Imagine what would happen if the Mac OS could run Windows programs natively, without virtualization software and without Windows. Apple would take over the market overnight.

    George Silverman

    Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant

    Author,
    The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

    main website:
    www.mnav.com    blog: wordofmouth.typepad.com

    Beware the Oracles

    Listening to the pundits speculate about why the polls failed to predict the Clinton win in New Hampshire, why they had prematurely counted out McCain, Huckabee and Obama, why they had paid so much attention to Thompson and why they can’t call the nominees yet, has caused me to think about experts and expertise, particularly in marketing.

    The presidential elections are intensely competitive, often interactive, marketing campaigns. As such, they fascinate me.

    For once, the political pundits were talking about something that I know a lot more about than they do. They were talking about marketing research, even though they talked in terms of polls and elections, rather than surveys and purchases. Polls = surveys and elections = a purchase, or product selection. What’s different is that in elections, the products talk (I know, the analogy breaks down with Elmo).

    What was amazing to me is that there were the pundits doing exactly the same thing as marketing executives, agency executives and consultants that I have been observing for decades. They blindly project past behavior and intentional data (what people say they will do) into the future. They are very, very often wrong. But they are highly paid, so they have to look right. So what do they do? They make up plausible stories.

    Sometimes, they even go out and find the data that will back up their stories. What’s going on here?

    The network’s producers call up an expert who they are about to book for a show. They ask that expert what he/she thinks. Producers are not going to provide an airplane and limousine to the studio for an expert who was simply going to say, “we just don’t know.” They want people with definite opinions, strongly held. They want controversy. They want plausibility. The pundits are all too willing to provide that. They spin out plausible explanations with great certainty.

    The same is true with the marketing pundits, when they are making predictions.

    I’m standing up, like that little boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes, and telling you there’s nothing there. They don’t have a clue.

    Not when they’re explaining the past or predicting the future or describing the present. Why? Because there is much more that they don’t know than they do know. Furthermore, they don’t know it, because if they knew it, they would know it. You don’t know what you don’t know. So, while do you know that you don’t know some things, you severely underestimate the things that you don’t know.

    So, they are saying things like the Clinton voters showed up in greater numbers than were expected because they were angered by other candidates ganging up on Hillary, or because of Hillary’s becoming choked up. Never mind that this was not reflected in the exit polls. They quote their mothers, their friends, or passersby in the streets.

    The actual experts in polling, who are, for the most part, pretty dull and therefore don’t make it to television interviews, are saying that it was probably the Bradley effect (blacks do worse in the actual elections and they do in the polls), or the fact that lower income people to not like to be interviewed and have a higher refusal rate, and favor Clinton. They would be likely to refuse both polls prior to the election, and exit polls. These, to me, are the most likely explanations, but they are not as politically correct as other explanations. Notice that I said “most likely.” The so-called experts rarely use this or equivalent phrases. The fact is, that we don’t know, and may never know.

    So, what are we to do? In politics, we have to make predictions. In business, we have to make forecasts. One very successful marketing vice president, who came up from marketing research, when I asked him once about forecasting said, “give them a date, and give them a number, but never, ever at the same time.”

    I used to be asked, “Based on the focus groups, will the product be successful?” I suspect that my answers were rather disappointing. Now, I am never asked that question because I make it clear beforehand that focus groups and surveys can’t predict a product’s success, although they can sometimes predict a product’s failure when there is a fundamental flaw in the product. There are just too many things that have to go right for success. For instance, there is no way to predict what competitors will do. What if an iPod or an iPhone comes along? What if you are Alta Vista, doing a great job, and a Google comes along?

    There are last-moment, decisive factors that hit people when they are in the privacy of the voting booth, or are about to click their product choice, or standing at the shelf in the store.

    People do not know what they are going to do. They don’t know what they will buy or not buy (or vote). They do not know how strongly held their preferences are. They do not know “what it would take to get you to buy the product,” a favorite, stupid question that marketers like to ask. Or, “On a scale of one to 10, 1 being least likely and 10 being certain, how likely are you to vote for your previous choice.?” (Who says there are no stupid questions?)

    If people (including pollsters) can’t predict their own behavior, how do you think they’re going to predict others’?

    So, what can focus groups, polls and surveys tell us? They can tell us about many obvious and hidden attitudes, opinions, beliefs, wishes, fears, etc. that may need to be addressed. They can tell us, for instance, that people are frustrated because their music libraries are a mess. They can tell us that the iTunes/iPod system of keeping them organized addresses that frustration. They can’t tell you that these will displace the ubiquitous Walkmans and CD players. They can’t tell you that these will take over the music industry.

    They can’t tell you that an obscure Arkansas governor (Bill Clinton) can go up against a wildly popular president who just won the Gulf War (1), who the Democrats were despairing about running against, and who had lost the first primaries, could go on to win the presidency.

    The Taurus, wildly popular in its time, was ridiculed as a “jelly bean” in focus groups. The VW bug, as well as its revived version decades later, was also ridiculed, but found its niche, who probably weren’t well represented in the surveys and focus groups. Respondents loved the Edsel and New Coke.

    The Oracles are frauds. Predicting is a con game. Historians are fiction writers. Stock pickers are just racetrack touts. Forecasting is only on target by chance. Get it?

    Sometimes, you just have to refine your guesses by marketing research, then put them out into the marketplace and let reality decide.

    The main lesson: Clues are clues. Reality is reality. Sometimes they coincide. Sometimes… You get the picture.

    Using Online Networks for Market Research Can Be Dangerous

    In an article last Monday in the Wall Street Journal, reporter Emily Steel described the growing trend of using online social networks — both existing and company-encouraged — for marketing research. It’s a very dangerous trend, as I point out in my letter to her. Many companies are headed for disaster if they give undue weight to the opinions expressed on their online networks.

    Emily,

    Very much enjoyed your article The New Focus Groups: Online Networks.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120027230906987357.html?mod=djemMM

    However, it didn’t cover the major pitfalls, of which there are many. (Full disclosure: I am a marketing consultant who runs face-to-face focus groups and telephone focus groups. I’m a founder of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association and member of its Professionalism Committee, although I am speaking officially for neither.)

    I have rejected the methodology of online groups for reasons enumerated in detail in the following article:

    http://www.mnav.com/onlinetablesort.htm

    In brief, the written word does not allow for the reading of emotions that live focus groups do, and the reading of these emotions is absolutely necessary for the interpretation of the results. (E.g., How enthusiastic are they? Are they hesitant? Are their remarks ironic and sarcastic? Are they coming from their heads or hearts? Are they mildly annoyed or royally pissed off?)

    However, these kinds of standing panels have a problem that I didn’t discuss in the article. It is one of sample bias. As you describe, people are continually dropping out of the group and being replenished. This severely skews the kind of people who remain in the panel, in ways that are virtually impossible to account for in interpreting the findings. It is well known that participators are radically different than non-participators and ex-participators. For instance, probably the more enthusiastic and/or more lonely people (including social misfits) tend to stay in. So, you keep the enthusiasts, for whom the panel becomes a part of their social life (as mentioned in your article). They are sometimes less prone to criticize, but sometimes more prone to criticize. The point is, one never knows. But as this sample becomes more and more distorted and unrepresentative of real customers, you have a disaster waiting to happen.

    On the other hand, these panels are a wonderful source of ideas and a way to make sure that certain actions and wording do not antagonize loyal customers.. But they are notoriously unpredictive of success in the marketplace. The Edsel automobile and New Coke are but two of many examples of going to the wrong people and asking the wrong questions. Many of the .com failures were guided by discussions on company forums, forgetting that most real people to not hang out on forums, especially for prolonged periods of time.

    I hope that, as a reporter, you will follow this phenomenon. You will have many juicy disasters to cover. When you ask, “What were they thinking and why were they thinking it?” I hope that you will keep this letter in mind when they tell you “That’s what our customers told us they wanted.”

    Best regards,

    George

    George Silverman

    President and Founder,

    Market Navigation, Inc.

    Word of Mouth Consultants

    Author of “The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing: How to Trigger

    Exponential Sales Through Runaway Word of Mouth” AMACOM

    http://www.mnav.com/wombook.htm

    Sometimes you want to tell everybody! Why?

    Here is an old joke, that I’m not telling for the humor. I’m telling it to make a point.

    An elderly man goes into confession and says to the priest, “Father, I’m 80 years old, married, have four kids and 11 grandchildren, and last night I had an affair. I made love to two 21 year old girls. Both of them. Twice.”

    The priest said: “Well, my son, when was the last time you were in confession?”

    “Never Father, I’m Jewish.”

    “So then, why are you telling me?”

    “Are you kidding? I’m telling everybody!”

    When you understand what is driving that man, you will understand more about marketing than you can possibly learn in all the marketing books put together. More about this in future blog posts, but there is breaking news that I want to “tell everybody!.”

    On Tuesday, at MacWorld, a product was officially announced that I have been beta testing. This releases me to talk about some details that have been publicly revealed, although I still can’t talk about many of the other details.

    MacSpeech has announced a completely new voice dictation product for the Mac. One that is so accurate that it can be used by professional writers.

    For those of you who don’t know what voice dictation is, or who don’t yet appreciate its significance, let me explain. Simply, you talk and your words magically appear on the screen, like in a science fiction movie.

    I have been beta testing this new product for the last three weeks. While I have been publicly critical of MacSpeech’s previous product, iListen, this product, MacSpeech Dictate, just blows me away. It has sensational accuracy with only 5 minutes of training. That means that you can dictate into any program on the Mac and have your words appear.

    Now I’m a pretty fast Dvorak typist, around 120 wpm.

    But, when I’m writing books, articles and speeches, that’s not fast enough, and my arms and hands get tired, even with the 1/16th lower finger movement that Dvorak typing requires (look it up). So I have written my last two books in Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which is a Windows program. At this point, with continual training and corrections, I’ve gotten it beyond 99.7% accuracy. But, I had to maintain a separate Windows machine to do it, which was a great inconvenience, and ruled out voice dictation when I traveled, when I do a lot of my writing.

    Ever since it’s been possible, I’ve been running Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my Mac. I has been an acceptable solution, even though it takes considerable memory resources, disk space, and central processing power. It also requires me to run Windows, putting me at considerable risk, even though I have a firewall, anti-spyware software, antivirus software, etc. Windows also requires constant maintenance, and is unstable, so it can’t stay up for days and weeks on end like my Mac. I consider Windows to be an almost criminally unsafe product. Also, I have to continually transfer my dictation into whatever program I’m using, such as my word processor and my e-mail.

    None of these drawbacks is terrible, but all of them together add up to considerable inconvenience. Like most Mac users, I can work much longer and conveniently on the Mac side of the machine. The Mac aesthetics are not just a matter of being pretty. The machine is much easier on the eyes, cutting down on fatigue, something that is almost never mentioned.

    Then, I broke my arm skiing three weeks ago. I found myself totally dependent upon voice dictation, except that using the trackball to highlight text, copy and paste it was excruciating. In an extraordinary bit of coincidence, MacSpeech happened to send me a beta copy of their new program, MacSpeech Dictate, a couple of days after my accident. I was pretty skeptical, since I found their previous program unacceptable for sustained writing.

    Even though some parts of it were still under development, it blew me away. (The MacSpeech people just revealed that it has licensed the Dragon NaturallySpeeking speech recognition engine, and is adapting it to the Mac. So, MacSpeech Dictate is using the Dragon voice recognition engine.) It also dictates right into my word processor, e-mail, writing program (Scrivener) and my blog post editor (Ecto). I can dictate so fast it’s almost frightening. Steven Wright jokes that he got hurt in a speed-reading accident. I feel like I’m about to get injured in a speed writing accident.

    What’s so important about writing fast? Time saving is the least of it.

    It makes my writing better. The processes of writing and editing should be separated. With voice dictation, I can close my eyes or look at the ceiling and just think my thoughts without distraction. When I look at the screen, there are my thoughts! I can then go back and polish. This has made a dramatic difference in the quality of my writing. Anything that gets in the way of putting thoughts onto paper is a distraction and decreases the quality. With voice dictation finally accurate enough to use on the Mac, all I have to do is think the thought and it magically appears in whatever program I want. Nothing else gets in the way.

    Furthermore, my typing speed is about 2-3 times faster, since I make virtually no mistakes and can dictate much faster than I can actually type. So, I can sail through my e-mail at dazzling speed.

    This entire blog post was done with MacSpeech Dictate, with well over 99% accuracy.

    I want to congratulate the folks at MacSpeech. They are a living lesson in word-of-mouth marketing. I was publicly critical of their previous product. Instead of ignoring me or getting defensive, they contacted me and asked if I would like to work with their technical support in increasing my accuracy. Their technical support put in hours increasing my accuracy, but still, the fundamental design of the program and how it made corrections was just was too unwieldy for me to use. I stayed on as a beta tester mostly on the strength of their Customer Evangelist’s enthusiasm (thanks Chuck Rogers) and complete confidence that things would get better. What they couldn’t tell me was that they were coming out with an entirely new program, based on Dragon.

    They were so  customer oriented and enthusiastic about their product that I hung in there with them. As a result, I am now the poster boy for the expression “The biggest skeptic is the biggest convert.” I’m also going to tell thousands of people about the program via my speeches and blog, and demo it every chance I get. I can now also enthusiastically recommend the Mac, since it now has voice dictation. (I would never recommend that anyone but a very sophisticated user put Windows on a Mac.)

    My arm is feeling better, but I won’t ever go back to Dragon NaturallySpeaking in Windows. Although I will leave Windows on my Mac just in case I need to run another Windows program, I really don’t think I’m ever going to see Windows defacing my Mac ever again.

    WHWL? (What have we learned?)

    • if you’ve got the goods, stay with your strongest critics, work with them, acknowledge that they may be right, take their suggestions. You never know who they will tell, who they know, how many thousands of people they can reach.
    • Get them involved in product improvement. It’s very hard to be a net detractor for a product you have helped develop. They will, however, not be shy about criticizing you, usually constructively.
    • Be straight with customers. Don’t make believe your product is better than it is. if you tell the truth, you’ll always be reality based and fix real things. If you distort, you’ll be fantasy based and start believing your own fantasies. You will break a lot more than you will fix.
    • Make your customers feel like that 80 year old guy. Well, as close as you can get. These days, people only talk about the sensational.

    Breaking News: MacSpeech Dictate just received Best of Show at Macworld! Congratulations!

    Oh, by the way, the new Apple announcements at Macworld are pretty good too, but you can read about them elsewhere.

    George Silverman

    Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant

    Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

    main website:
    www.mnav.com    blog: wordofmouth.typepad.com

    Things are not always as simple as they seem in surveys

    The New Hampshire Primary was a cautionary marketing tale. It shows us why surveys (polls) can be very misleading.


    The polls missed the Clinton victory by a mile yesterday, yet they were right on target with the McCain victory. Why?

    No one knows exactly what happened for sure yet, but several possibilities illustrate some of the pitfalls in marketing research.

    First of all, there is the assumption that you can believe people when you ask them what they have decided to do in matters of simple choice like whether they have a preference for Coke or Pepsi, or which candidate they favor. In most cases, this is a reasonable assumption, and most of the time, polls are accurate.

    Other times, what looks like a simple question is not. It turns out that in the minds of New Hampshire voters, McCain versus Romney was one of these simple questions. Though polls got it right, both on preference and amount.

    On Clinton vs. Obama, not so simple, on many grounds.

    Here are some of the possibilities that are yet to be investigated and quite possibly never definitively determined.

    (1) What if people’s minds are not made up? Not a problem, at least as far as taking a snapshot. While that would make prediction difficult, with these people would have turned up as a large number of undecideds. This is not what happened. So, the pundits say, the people didn’t make up their minds at the last moment. But what if they were undecided, but didn’t know it? What if they thought they favored one candidate over the other, but this was a weakly held preference and they were easily swayed by last-minute remarks that they heard on the radio or from their friends, on the way to the voting booth?

    So, when people hold an opinion, the strength of the opinion is just as important as the opinion itself. Sometimes opinions can be held so weakly that they might as well not be an opinion at all. But that’s not the way it’s experienced by the person.  In the absence of a challenge, it’s often experienced as an opinion that is pretty firmly held.  So it is of no use to ask the person in the survey, “on a scale of 1-10, how strongly do you hold that opinion?” It’s also equally nonsensical to ask people what it would take to change their minds.

    So, the first possibility is that they changed their minds at the last moment, perhaps even in the voting booth, but did not know until that moment that their previous choice was weakly held.

    (2) People may have in fact held a very strong beliefs, but changed their minds quickly and decisively when they saw, for instance, Hillary Clinton cry the day before the voting. This may have been too close to the voting for the polls to have picked up. But, I don’t think so because it wasn’t picked up in the exit polls either.

    (3) Here is the most intriguing one for me: What if racism isn’t dead? Well, of course racism isn’t dead. It didn’t evaporate just because Obama it isn’t running as a black candidate. In that case, many people (it would only have to be about 10% to account for the data) might not want to tell a pollster that he or she was not voting for Obama, even though they thought that Obama was the best candidate. They might be feeling guilty, or they might expect disapproval, or they might just experience a vague sense of unease about Obama that makes them feel vaguely uncomfortable. Or, they may be worried about being perceived as racists even though they are not. So, when asked, they blurt out “Obama,” and maybe even mean it at the moment. But in the privacy of the voting booth, that vague sense of unease — which, I suspect, is the main way that racism is experienced among people who are just mildly racist, especially those who are ashamed of it or are unaware of it— rears its annoying little head and causes a private little finger twitch that never gets reported.

    This is a well-known, and well-documented effect called the Bradley Effect, or the Wilder Effect, where blacks often poll with stronger support than they ultimately show in the polling booth. Even exit polls often say that the politically correct person won, but when the votes are counted, the politically correct is not the politically erect.

    It will be interesting to see what happens in the primaries versus the caucuses. For instance, in the Iowa caucus, people had to stand up in front of their peers openly and declare their allegiance, unlike in the New Hampshire secret ballot.

    So the marketing lessons here are:

    • “Take a survey [poll]” isn’t always the answer.
    • Simple questions are often not.
    • Asking questions gets answers, but not necessarily the truth.
    • People don’t always know what they believe or how strongly they believe it.
    • People often have beliefs that they don’t know they have.
    • People can’t even predict their own behavior.
    • People often say things based upon what they think you want to hear.
    • Distrust after-the-fact explanations from pundits, including me.

    What I am really saying here is things are not as simple as they seem. If you have a product with any degree of controversy you are navigating a mine field when you try to assess public opinion. Even professionals don’t always know what they are doing.

    The secrets to Apple’s success

    Steve Chazin, a former Apple marketing and sales exec, has identified 5 of the things that make Apple such successful marketers.

    This little  8 page eBook is absolutely brilliant.

    He calls it MarketingApple: 5 Secrets of the World’s Best Marketing Machine.

    I believe that there is one, underlying thing that Apple is doing, and I wonder if Steve Jobs has realized it:

    All of the great, wildly successful products, services, companies, institutions of the last decade or two have all done one thing at the root. They have helped the customer make Better Decisions Faster: not only faster in buying, using, recommending the product itself, but also helping the customer use that product to make better decisions faster in their lives.

    For instance, Apple makes it faster to get on the Internet; operate a computer; organize, find, store, carry & access their music, photos, etc.

    Amazon has done the same for books, eBay for collecting, Google for searching & reaching the customer at the exact point of interest, Yahoo for accessing certain types of content, Prius for making a certain social statement, Toyota in general for making it easy to buy a more reliable car, etc.

    An the root of all successful marketing these days, is helping the customer make Better Decisions Faster. I have always been able to find several major ways to make it faster for your customers to decide on your product, if your product is the better decision.

    When you enable customers to make better decisions faster, you accumulate customers faster, your customers get to be better users faster, they feel better about the whole experience, so they spread the word faster.

    In the Age of Overload, time is more than money.

    Surprise! Give ’em a little frisson to be Womworthy

    Did you know that there is a hidden symbol in the FedEx logo?

    It symbolizes speed and precision.

    Once you see it, you can’t not see it. I won’t spoil the fun by pointing it out.

    Spoiler Alert: If you don’t know about it, stop here and look for it.

    Yes, it’s intentional. The designer, Lindon Leader, had some very interesting things to say about it.

    What’s this doing in a marketing blog? Glad you asked.

    First of all, it’s a great example of knowledge blindness. Once you see it, you can’t NOT see it.

    Secondly, why make the insignificant significant? Why elevate a minor little surprise into a major distraction, like almost every web site?

    I was struck by the question that the logo designer says he is always asked:

    “Why choose to keep the arrow so subtle? It seems to show remarkable restraint. Weren’t you or the people at FedEx ever tempted to make it more obvious with an outline or a different color?”

    It’s so obvious that I might not have asked the question, but I’m glad the interviewer did:

    He replied that the arrow is one of the most mundane graphic devices. There is nothing unique or particularly strategic, from a marketing point of view, in an arrow as a brand identifier.

    Then Lindon went on to say,

    The power of the hidden arrow is simply that it is a “hidden bonus.” It is a positive-reverse optical kind of thing: either you see it or you don’t. Importantly, not “getting the punch line” by not seeing the arrow, does not reduce the impact of the logo’s essential communication. The power of the logo and the FedEx marketing supporting the logo is strong enough to convey clearly FedEx brand positioning [Speed  & Precision]. On the other hand, if you do see the arrow, or someone points it out to you, you won’t forget it. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how much fun they have asking others “if they can spot ‘something’ in the logo.” To have filled in the arrow, or to somehow make it more “visible” would have been like Henny Youngman saying “Please take my wife” instead of “Take my wife. Please.” Punch lines that need to be explained are neither funny nor memorable. (Emphasis mine).

    In other words, it’s hidden, surprising, memorable, unusual. It’s one of life’s little pick-me-ups on an otherwise boring truck, envelope or uniform. So, it causes Word of Mouth. People like to point it out, or ask others to spot it. Like I’m doing now.

    (FedEx did not pay for this ad. That’s the point.)

    I’ve always said that FedEx didn’t succeed, as most business books state, because of its brilliant logistics breakthrough of sending the packages to a central point (Memphis), sorting there, then sending back out. They succeeded because they were beneficially unusual and constructively quirky. In those days, secretaries sent packages. They told secretaries they would look good because they would positively, absolutely DELIVER overnight. In those days, reliable delivery was as unusual as a customer-oriented phone company is today.

    (On the day I wrote this, an iPhone customer got a 300 page bill, itemizing every text message, from AT&T, delivered in a box. It made the national news. No, not a FedEx box. I looked. Wouldn’t that have been perfect?)

    Are you making decisions easier for your customers?

    Either you’re supporting the customer’s decision making, or you’re creating clutter and obstructing it.

    Prospects make dozens of little decisions as they move through the decision process:

    • Decisions about entering the marketplace. “Browsing.”
    • Decisions about learning about your products and your competitors’. Technical term: it’s called “Shopping.”
    • Decisions about  initial experiences with the product. Technical term: it’s called “Trying.”
    • Decisions about  purchase. Buying.
    • Decisions about  expanding usage:  Using. committing.
    • Decisions about the whole decision and usage experience. Raving, Evangelizing

    Different customers have many different ways of doing each of these. Each has its own set of rules.

    Your marketing materials and activities are rarely in exact sync with your customers. That’s why there are so many browsers and shoppers, but so few raving fans.

    People are more in sync with their friends than they ever will be with your advertising and salespeople. That’s why word of mouth is so much more powerful than marketing.

    The lessons learned from all this is that you need to:

    • Lay out all the dozens of little steps that people need to take in order to go from browsing to evangelism.
    • Spend a whole lot more time eliminating these steps or making the steps simpler, easier, faster, and more fun.
    • Find every large and small block, barrier, impediment and bottleneck and eliminate them. “Disimpedimentation.”
    • Focus on the whole decision experience rather than just the user experience with the product interface.
    • Put a lot more time, energy and resources into streamlining and funifying the customer decision process from beginning to end. [By the way, there is no end, at least not with on-going customers.]

    Conventional marketing complexifies by shoveling information at already overloaded people.

    You can use this decision smoothing approach by employing word of mouth and other techniques to smooth out the bumps in your customers’ very rough decision process.

    More to come. Stay tuned. I feel another book coming on.

    Subscribe by feed, or by newsletter. Look in the left column. Speaking of decision smoothing.

    George Silverman

    Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant

    Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

    main website: www.mnav.com blog: wordofmouth.typepad.com

    A Hilarious Spoof on Word-of-Mouth Marketing

    January 17, 2007 |  by  |  General  |  , , ,  |  No Comments

    In case you missed this hilarious spoof on WOM agent marketing, published over a year ago:

    From the Onion

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    Warning: Is Word-of-Mouth Marketing Losing Its Way?

    I found the WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) conference in Washington last month both exhilarating and disturbing. I’ve been worrying about the current state of word-of-mouth marketing ever since.



    It was quite a turn-on to see so many people enthusiastic about word-of-mouth marketing. But, after Andy Sernovitz’ inspiring opening remarks about the simplicity of word-of-mouth marketing – it’s all about the simple idea that happy customers recommend you, which grows your business – it went rapidly downhill for me with subsequent speakers and panelists. And in a very disheartening way.




    They talked mostly about technique rather than strategy



    What disturbed me was an almost total concentration on
    techniques, methods and tactics rather than purpose, goals, objectives and – above all –strategy.

    Granted, I didn’t see every presentation and I understand that several speakers did mention strategy. Also, in all fairness, many of the presenters on panels had only about 12 minutes to present. Nevertheless, I would assume that when you have 12 minutes, you present the most important essence of what you are doing. Also, there is tremendous pressure at a conference to give people nuts and bolts “how to’s” so that people can feel that they came away with something practical.

    Nevertheless, there is almost a Christmas-morning delirium about our new toys, together with an irresistible urge to unwrap them and start playing with them. But, let’s not take our bicycles right out into the snow yet. Let’s spend a little more time on strategy.

    Why? You can have a good strategy and bad tactics and still win because you quickly adjust tactics to feedback. With the right strategy, you’re in the right place at the right time, doing the right kinds of things (which may need improvement).

    Conversely, good tactics will not make a bad strategy work.

    You can even have a good strategy in the wrong place at the wrong time, so that neither good strategy nor good tactics will work. Think of the Iraqi war: Free markets and representative, constitutional democracies are good strategies to build nations. Getting rid of a dictator is a good first step tactically. But in the midst of conflicting religious and ethnic fanaticism, these strategies don’t work. They lead to civil chaos. The efficient, tactical win at the beginning was well executed. But the strategies were wrong.

    Back to WOMMA. Even companies like Dell and Microsoft – who I respect tremendously – talked about all kinds of tactics designed to get people talking, instead of concentrating on the fundamental changes in their products that would get people to talk in ways that would cause fundamental product evangelism, loyalty and trust.

    Instead, many speakers throughout the whole conference talked about artificial, superficial ways that will get people talking about how unusual the message itself was. So there is a proliferation in word of mouth circles of fancy videos, contests, and all kinds of programs that are more designed to get people talking about the medium itself — hoping that the “buzz” will somehow rub off on the product image — rather than talking about the product.

    What I was craving was somebody getting up and saying, “here’s what we’re building into our product: things that will blow people away and here’s what we are doing to motivate and enable people to talk about that.” I’m sad to say that I heard absolutely none of that.

    For instance, what is Microsoft building into their new operating system Vista that would get me to install it on my computer? Or, how are they going to get me to realize that a new feature that I might ignore is extremely beneficial to me, in fact so beneficial that I will rave about it to my friends? What is Dell building into its computers that would get me to buy one instead of an Intel Mac? No, they are talking about admirable and wonderful programs that keep them in touch with and responsive to various segments and niches through blogging and many other creative programs. But these are what should come after building products that are remarkable, outstanding, extraordinary and unique.

    This is like advertising was before and after its golden age. Before the golden age of advertising, people just put drawings of the product in the mass media, without any benefit statements or even descriptions. Then, advertising hit its stride and discovered its true strengths: bringing dramatizations of the unique benefits of the product to the masses. It was “salesmanship in print” in the best sense. It zeroed in on the most beneficial, unique aspects of the product and dramatized them in an entertaining way that got attention. At least, the best of it did. Then, the side show took over the circus. Most of it — to this day — gave up dramatizing the benefits and went for image instead. “Sell the sizzle, not the steak” became the rallying call for the hypemeisters. Advertising lost its way and just tries to make an intrusive impression, confusing getting attention with fundamental persuasion. Advertising is now judged by its entertainment value rather than its persuasive results. For instance, after the Super Bowl each year, there are many published polls naming the commercials voted “best” by viewers. So, you can win “best commercial” and go out of business because the commercials didn’t cause any sales, as 17 out of 18 of the Dot.com companies did in, I believe, 2002.

    Advertising that calls attention to itself — instead of something related to the product — almost never works. Advertising history is filled with examples. Many of them won awards. But the products failed.

    In the same way, the present word-of-mouth marketing movement, I’m afraid, may be losing its way. Marketers need to spend more time creating products that are so unusually good that people will recommend them to their friends and providing the mechanisms to do so. Instead, people are focusing on the superficial aspects of our newfound ability to get people to talk about almost anything as an end in itself, in the hope that some of it will rub off on the brand.

    This will be just as self-defeating as it is presently in advertising. Pretty soon there will be so much viral video and so many pseudo-sincere (or even actually sincere) company blogs that people will just ignore them. There will be so many “agents” who were given free samples, that people will learn to probe about whether they are an agent and stop listening to their friends’ recommendations.

    Update: After I wrote the above, I came across this brilliant presentation of John Moore at the Jan, 2006 Orlando WOMMA conference, talking about Creationist (the hype marketers) vs. Evolutionist (people focused on the product and customer) marketing. Just one quote:

    “The Creationist WOM marketing mindset is about making the WOM activity more remarkable, while the Evolutionist WOM mindset is more about making products and experiences more remarkable.”  Well worth watching:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a261ThnHGUU



    Bravo, John!

    It’s not about the buzz you create. It’s about creating product decision and usage experiences that cause raves. A buzz doesn’t sound anything like a rave.

    Here’s another post that references the best slide decks of WOMMA, including thank you, my own. Many of the talks are strategic.

    http://youblog.typepad.com/the_youblog/2007/01/abandon_all_hop.html

    George Silverman

    Word-of-Mouth Marketing Speaker and Consultant

    Author, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

    main website:
    www.mnav.com    blog: wordofmouth.typepad.com

    Windows applications on Macs without Windows

    Update: So far, the following prediction was wrong. [See the update at the end] I still think that it will be true, when Apple finally gets around to making their Leopard announcements. It was a big disappointment to not hear anything about Mac at MacWorld Expo. Maybe instead of renaming Apple Computer to Apple (which was one of their “big” announcements at MacWorld), they should rename MacWorld Expo to iWorld or iPod Expo. Did they forget about the Mac?

    I have long been writing and speaking about the Mac as the product that has the worst word of mouth to sales ratio, probably in the history of marketing. In other words, it probably has the best word of mouth of any present product. Yet, as of this writing, it only has 7% of the computer market. I often use it as an example of the fact that we have to curb our enthusiasm when we start talking about word of mouth overriding all other marketing considerations. In this case, what is holding back Mac is the perceived anticipation of a great deal of pain in switching, together with the fact that Windows programs will not work directly on a Mac without a great deal of inconvenience, such as rebooting or using other programs such as Parallels or Crossover to switch back and forth.

    Here are my predictions: Next week, on Tuesday, January 9th at MacWorld, Steve Jobs will announce that the new Mac operating system called Leopard, OS X 10.5, will directly run Windows applications without needing Windows. That’s right, you will be able to install and run any Windows program directly into the Mac without having a copy of Windows on the machine! [Update: they made NO Leopard announcements!]

    This will be the biggest announcement in the computer industry in the last decade or two.

    I further predict that, if and when it occurs, this will produce the biggest word-of-mouth blowout in history. Combine the pent up positive word of mouth of the Mac with the negative word of mouth toward Microsoft, Windows, XP, Vista, the Windows PC makers like Dell, viruses, adware, spyware, malware, etc. and you have an explosive combination. This will be the most interesting test in years of the unleashing of word of mouth. It will demonstrate to the entire marketing community what happens when you follow my marketing approach of Blockbusting: find the  decision blocks, bust ’em up, and you will see exponential growth.

    I have been following Technorati and Google searches for months now to see if anyone appreciates what is about to happen. While I’m not the first to predict Windows apps running natively on the Mac, there are very, very few of us making that extreme prediction. Most are predicting some kind of hybrid, virtualization solution.

    To my knowledge, I’m the only one predicting the landslide success of Mac in the next year. It probably won’t be immediate, but as the snowball gains momentum, it will grow exponentially. First, people will need the word of mouth of infomediaries  like David Pogue and Walter Mossberg, plus their own friends nad colleagues — particularly the non-technical — to see that it actually works, even with legacy programs. Assuming that it does work for the non-technical, it will throw the Mac into production problems, especially when the Vista virus and other problems start spreading.

    By the way, I was among the first to predict that a way would be found to get Windows to work on the then-new Intel Mac. It caused a lot of WOM among the tech savvy and a lot of sales, but not among the corporate people who would have to use it seamlessly at work. Now they can. Now we’ll find out that a lot of corporate IT people have Macs at home.

    Advanced congratulations to Steve Jobs and the entire Apple team. You’ve finally completed the chain. (You now need my consulting to figure out how to handle the tornado.) [Update: There was an immediate crescendo of boos after the non-announcements of anything Leopard, Mac, iLife, iWork, etc., or even anything computer, except to take out “Computer” from their name]

    Update:

    Well, I was wrong about the announcement, but I stand by the fact that this is the biggest WOM disparity in the history of marketing, just waiting for an explosion.

    [The only other time I was wrong was in 1972, when I had thought I had made a mistake! 😉 Brings to mind the quote from George Bernard Shaw, “The longer I live, the more I see that I am never wrong about anything, and that all the pains I have so humbly taken to verify my notions have only wasted my time.”]

    I also think it would be the smartest thing that Apple could ever do. In fact, the best other thing that they could do is make OS X work on PCs. Sure, they’d lose a few Mac sales, but make it up on software sales. If they announced one or the other this month, they could get a lot of the Vista sales, and a lot of the sales of new boxes with Vista on it.

    Now, I’ll just have to buy an Intel Mac MacBook and try Crossover, which purports to do just what I predicted, but with an additional program, still without windows. Failing that, I’ll use Parallels, but will have to run Windows. [In case you’re wondering, I want to run Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 (which I maintain a separate Windows machine just to use) and Delorme’s Street Atlas. There are no comparable Mac programs. For everything else I’ve found, the Mac equivalents are far better.]

    Update July, 2005: Got an Intel Mac (MacBook Pro) in May, tried Crossover and Parallels, which didn’t work properly with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. However, VMWare Fusion works like a charm with Windows XP and Dragon.  Parallels had all sorts of quirks with the USB headset and froze up constantly. Crossover wouldn’t work at all. With VMWare Fusion, it can now see my Plantronics Audio 500 headset perfectly, and the accuracy is well over 99% and getting better all the time.

    It even works perfectly with my Olympus D-30 recorder, even in noisy environments like a car. I’m about to try it in an airplane. I can dictate on my daily walk, into a tiny recorder and have a new section of my new book, a blog post, article or whatever a few minutes after I get back.

    The only problem is that I still have to use Windows. Now that I’ve been away from it for almost 2 years, I’m shocked by how amateurish it is. Also using Word 2007 to dictate into and I’m amazed at how bad the interface is. While there are a few minor improvements, they have further buried many of the most-used functions and won’t let them go on the custom bar. 5 clicks to change a template when it’s 2 clicks on the Mac version of 2004? What is with Microsoft? Their word of mouth gets worse and worse. Vista is almost totally rejected by sophisticated users. Their sales are on new machines. If Apple could come up with a way to seamlessly allow people to upgrade to OS X in their present machines, they would take over the market.

    But it has to be seamless because fear trumps word of mouth, unless the word of mouth is addressing itself to the fear. But people can’t say yet that the conversion is easy for an ordinary, non-computer-savvy person to do. I don’t care how easy VMWare Fusion is, people need a simple way to switch, with Fusion built in and automatic conversion.