Monthly Archives: March 2009

Startup Marketing Lessons from Cinderellas of March Madness

final_fourThe first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament is one of the most exciting weekends in sports.  The emotion and effort left on the court between teams hopeful of advancing into the Sweet Sixteen is palpable.  However, effort alone can’t get your team into the Sweet Sixteen.  Cinderella teams must play with a winning strategy to reach the Sweet Sixteen.  Entrepreneurs can take notes from a Cinderella’s strategy in their startup marketing efforts to find business success.

Differentiate Your Product

Much like a startup company with a unique strategy that differentiates them from the established companies to find success, the underdogs of the NCAA tournament rely on unique schemes and dynamic, difference-making players that they hope to ride into the Sweet Sixteen.  Differentiate your product from the competition.

Avoid the Gorilla

Victorious underdog teams dictate the pace of the game that works best for their team.  The same can said for successful startups.  Winning startups play “their game” – one that differentiates them from their competition in a landscape they can own.  They avoid beating a “gorilla’s game” in the gorilla’s territory and target a market segment ripe for a better customized solution.  Avoid the gorillas in your industry.

Play Your Game

With your startup business, be sure you are playing your game.  Target your market and differentiate your solution to establish credibility with a unique solution and select customers before challenging the market-leading competition in their territory.  Play your game and taste the sweetness that following through with your strategy will bear!

Is your company differentiating itself from your competition?  Share your story by commenting or send me an e-mail directly.

Why Negative Online Reviews are Good

When it comes to Web 2.0 and social media, many organizations hate the idea of losing control over what is said about their brand or products.  For many years, companies avoided engaging in newer online technologies that facilitate customer feedback in public mediums for this very reason.  How could they these mediums, monitor them all, and get any value out from them?  It was scary and social media scares many companies today.

Even negative review can be good.

Even negative reviews can be good.

Take the Dive

More recently, companies have plunged into social media, but there are still concerns about negative reviews.  I believe this to be counter-intuitive thinking.  If your product is great and your customer service is fantastic, social media is your friend.  If your social media strategy listens to, interacts with, and gives your customers a means to voice their opinions you are on the right track.

When I think about businesses, particularly B-to-C companies, that avoid entering social media out of fear, I pause and question whether their products are good enough to take the plunge.  The truth is social media isn’t for every company, but if your products are good and your customer service is great, negative reviews can actually improve your brand.

Company Case Studies

Companies listening to and engaging with their customers are finding that negative reviews capture nuggets of information that allow marketers to better understand their customer.  From the design, delivery, and return of a product, negative reviews can actually help companies improve their brand image.  Still don’t believe me?  Perhaps these companies case studies will show you how negative reviews can be beneficial.

Rubbermaid  – Rubbermaid has had success listening and responding with better product design.  As this post shows, sometimes it’s not your product that needs help, its communicating how to use it properly.

Dell –  Distinguished itself for bad customer service and as a consequence has structured itself to address it very well online. At last check, Dell employs 35 “community ambassadors” who troll the web listening and conversing with customers on popular social networking sites, blogs, all over the world.

Merck – Merck was very resistant to using blogs and allowing comments on it because of regulatory fear (having to monitor and report posted adverse effects).  At first, the launch of one of Merck’s blogs saw a negative drug review and they wanted to take the comment off the site.  Soon, however, supporters of their life-saving drug flocked to the site criticizing the negative review and singing the drug’s praises and the preponderance of positive comments put the drug in a favorable light.

Negative Reviews Really can be Good

Ultimately, negative reviews are good for:

1. Better understanding your customer’s needs and experience  –  This knowledge will allow you to better communicate usage; features and benefits; and shed light on potential opportunities to make a better product that meets customer needs.

2. Righting what’s wrong  –  Turn an annoyed customer into a delighted one by acting swiftly and unexpectedly.  If you had an issue with a product and posted something online and all of a sudden a someone addressed your issue by going above an beyond your expectations, you’d be impressed. Imagine how one of your customers would feel if you responded in an unexpected way.

3. Generating positive attention – The adage any publicity is good publicity may make you cringe, but the positive publicity your company can garner by addressing the negative review (righting what’s wrong) can turn a frustrated customers into customer advocate.  Think of all the referrals a customer advocate that already has proven they will talk about your brand could generate because of the goodwill you’ve created by addressing their issue.

Marketing Metrics

Metrics are becoming more important than ever to verify what works and how to outlay your budget.  Are you using metrics to drive your marketing decisions?

To do so you need measurable data.  Every program you run should be defined by metrics that are quantifiable.  Generally, these metrics should be measured against benchmarks in both your industry and your company.

Lead Generation

For example, metrics from an email campaign I run with the goal of generating qualified leads will tell me many things.  I’ll know the email rental list’s open, click-to-open, and response rates.  But more importantly, I’ll learn what my qualified prospect lives based on which list they came from.

Further, knowing a list’s propensity for qualified leads (measured by metrics like their budget to buy, time-frame to buy, and ability to make the decision to buy) will not only help me focus on the right target customer through other mediums as well, but will also allow me to create a better product since I’ll better understand their specific needs.

Track Marketing Metrics

Keep track of your programs’ success and failures.  With each campaign you’ll equip yourself with the knowledge to improve your marketing effectiveness.  Marketing efforts that can show solid quantifiable returns on investment make budgeting for future efforts even more fruitful than the first go around.

The Marketing Metrics Process

To recap:  Set measurable goals, track your effectiveness, find what works, learn about your customer, increase budget for proven strategies that reach qualified prospects, repeat!