Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Greening Your Event: The Impact of Destination

Part 1 of a 3-part series
Today's guest post was contributed by Cara Unterkofler. She is Director of Sustainable Event Programs at Greenview.
The environmental impact of an event can be measured using various metrics. 

One popular metric is the event’s "carbon footprint."

The graph (representing a large citywide event with a substantial expo) shows that the largest contributor to an event’s carbon footprint is the fuel used by attendees to travel to the destination (fuel represents around 80%). And don’t forget there's freight being shipped along with them, representing another 5-15% of an event’s total carbon emissions.

This means you don’t have to understand carbon footprinting and the science of greenhouse gases and climate change to make a huge difference, when it comes to sustainability; nor go digital; nor figure out if your printer uses vegetable-based inks.

It simply means you need to select an event location that is close to attendees and, ideally, accessible by car or train. 

You’re likely already doing that, so keep it up and feel good that you’re not only increasing your odds of greater attendance, but having a positive effect on climate change from the comfort of your office.

How to Calm an Angry Customer

Recently, I had my DNA analyzed and learned I'm related to Benjamin Franklin.

So I'll quote him.

“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

How can you make amends after disappointing a customer?

Sue Hershkowitz-Coore, author of Power Sales Writing, offers these five tips:

Plan to keep the customer's business. Before you write a word, determine your strategy for delighting the angry customer. Find an alternative solution to her problem.

Begin with a thank-you. Offering a thank-you makes the customer feel "safe and smart," according to Herskowitz-Coore. Writing, "Thank you for giving me a chance to explain the situation," helps disarm further criticism.

Validate the customer's viewpoint. Acknowledge that, from her shoes, the customer's right. "The words 'Your'e right' are magical when they're genuine."

Belay the apologies. Don't dive into the "We're so sorry" waters. An apology is robotic and doesn't soothe; a solution is sincere, and should.

Stay positive. "Explain what is possible, not what is impossible," advises Herskowitz-Coore. Find positive ways to express negatives. Tell your angry customer what you can do, not what you cannot doand explain what's in it for them.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Too Much Joy in Your Copy?

Last week, a marketer told me about her meddlesome boss.

The more anxious he gets about sales, the more exclamation points he inserts in her copy.

Exclamation points are like canned laughter in a sitcom.

They don’t make the jokes any funnier.

There's little added when the writer tacks an exclamation point onto a descriptive sentence like, "The finest system available today!"

The exclamation point is a Medieval emoticon.

It originated when a monk transformed the Latin word io, meaning “exclamation of joy,” into a symbol by stacking the first letter above the second.

The exclamations of joy in your copy, most writers agree, should be few.

When you use the exclamation point to modify a descriptive sentence ("We're going to dispatch an exploration party!"), you're misusing it.

The same goes when you use the exclamation point to indicate a routine command ("Make necessary preparations!").

Tennessee Williams used the exclamation point effectively in these lines from Camino Real"Make voyages! Attempt them! There's nothing else."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

What Do Gen Yers Want from Tradeshows?

Part 2 of a 2-part series

According to new research from Amsterdam RAI, organizers need to indulge Gen Yers, if they hope to attract them to tradeshows.

Generation Y are used to getting exactly what they want," the RAI says. "They are conscious about world problems and love to have specific knowledge and skills that give them value in their networks. Gen Yers are children of a our visual culture and therefore love everything visual."

As a result, the RAI recommends organizers:
  • Deliver collaborative experiences and know-how before, during and after the show.
  • Be playful, hip and socially conscious when marketing.
  • Invest in a strong visual identity.

Friday, April 26, 2013

What Do Gen Xers Want from Tradeshows?

Part 1 of a 2-part series

New psychographic research from Amsterdam RAI says organizers need to show Gen Xers a special brand of love to attract them to tradeshows.

“Generation Xers are very pragmatic when it comes to making decisions, mainly because they suffer the most from the current economic crisis,” the RAI says.

“They are not loyal if they can get a better deal somewhere else. They often have a cynical world view and are very conscious of media and marketing. Many of them are project parents, which describes the over-involvement when it comes to their children.”

As a result, the RAI recommends organizers:
  • Rationalize Gen Xers' costs to participate and offer guaranties.
  • Be transparent and play to Gen Xers' cynicism.
  • Cater to Gen Xers' helicopter-parent lifestyles.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Vintage Verbs: Consopite

Part 5 of a 5-part series on forgotten verbs

Consopite means to put to sleep.

You might say, "The meeting consopited Chad."

We recall the verb's Latin root sopire
when we complain that something's soporific.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Postman Always Rings Twice

I don't often hear from my life insurance carrier. 

The company silently sweeps the premium due every month from my bank account, while we go merrily about our separate ways.

I'm not sure I want to hear from the firm, to be frank.

But this week, I suddenly did.

The letter carrier brought a stately direct mail piece offering me a $400,000 accidental death and dismemberment policy.

It arrived one week to the day after the bombs blew up at the Boston Marathon.

Tchotchke peddlers began to cash in on the tragedy within 24 hours. 

An insurance company simply moves a bit slower.

Remember Rule 17

Rule 17 of Strunk & White's Elements of Style commands, "Omit needless words."

When eight of 10 readers scannot readyour copy, according to Web usability researcher Jakob Nielsen, why stuff it with unwanted ideas?

Be selective.

Under the heading "Good Writing," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal, "All writing should be selection in order to drop every dead word. Why do you not save out of your speech or thinking only the vital things?"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vintage Verbs: Perquest

Part 4 of a 5-part series on forgotten verbs

Perquest means to search.

You might say, "Chad had to perquest his trashcan to find my email."

Canadian criminal law today still refers to a warranted search as a perquisition.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Vintage Verbs: Gignate

Part 3 of a 5-part series on forgotten verbs

Gignate means to produce.

You might say, "Chad gignated 200 leads with his email."

Nowadays we honor the verb's Latin root, oriri, to begin, and only say originate.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Vintage Verbs: Perstringe

Part 2 of a 5-part series on forgotten verbs

Perstringe means to put down or rebuke.

You might say, "Chad was fired after he perstringed his employer on Facebook."

The verb derives from the Latin word perstringo, to reprimand.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Vintage Verbs: Attinge

Part 1 of a 5-part series on forgotten verbs

English comprises more than half a million words. 

Many are undeservedly forgotten.

Attinge means to touch or influence.

You might say, "Chad's post about great customer service attinged thousands of users."

We preserve the verb's Latin root whenever we use the word tangent.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Viral Content Cookbook

In Contagious, Wharton School marketing professor Jonah Berger offers a science-based sequel to Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, the 2000 book that put the word "viral" in everyone's vocabulary.

In 200 pages, Berger examines the "six principles of contagiousness."

He asks readers to visualize the principles as the six "ingredients" baked into every piece of viral content.

  1. Berger claims viral content is spread because it makes carriers "look smart," a facet of that content he calls "social currency."
  2. Viral content also contains "triggers," cues to some outside world; when people enter that world, they're spurred to talk about the content (for example, during breakfast-hours, Tweets mentioning "Cheerios" spike because the cereal is inextricably linked to that time of day).
  3. Viral content pulls the heartstrings. Content that evokes strong "emotion" (the threat of a tax increase, for example) is apt to spread.
  4. Viral content always has a "public" aspect; people witness others engaged and follow the herd.
  5. Viral content has "practical value," which encourages people to pass it on.
  6. Viral content tells "stories," prompting people, like the poet Homer, to recite that content.
For readability, Contagious doesn't compare to The Tipping Point; and whether you master Berger's "recipe" will depend on your culinary skills. 

But, as chefs like to say, "Great food begins with great ingredients."

Monday, April 15, 2013

End Sloppy Emails

When I first entered the workforce, no one would dare send a written communication (we called it a "memo") without prior review by the boss.
Business ran according to military rules (in fact, many of the bosses were former military officers). 
Those days are long over.
"A new status symbol in today's generally more egalitarian business environment has arisen: sloppy e-mails," says consultant Keith Ferazzi.
Writing for Harvard Business Review, Ferazzi recommends these four tips for ending sloppy emails:
Empathize with readers. Too many writers lack empathy for their readers. When writing an email, "use respect, positive affirmations, and gratitude to set the right tone and proper context." Your writing will display more empathy if you "visualize that individual in his office as you send him an e-mail."
Appreciate different styles. "We all tend to prefer a certain 'language' for communications at work," Ferazzi says. Some people prefer numbers; some, pictures; and others, stories. Appreciating others' styles improves your ability to communicate and reduces the likelihood of misinterpretation.
Spell things out. "We often communicate less information than we think we are, a syndrome psychologists call signal amplification bias," Ferazzi writes. Make descriptions and instructions clear and complete.
Respond promptly. Readers care not only about content, but about the promptness of your replies to their emails, Ferazzi says. "When your reply is tardy, the other party is left wondering whether you value that relationship or not."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

In Defense of the Plain Style

Itinerant writer Robert Louis Stevenson, battling TB, wandered into a merchant’s stall in San Francisco one day in 1879. 

He bought a used copy of Some Fruits of Solitude, a collection of maxims published 176 years earlier by the American Quaker William Penn.

Stevenson later told a friend that he had “carried the book in my pocket all about the San Francisco streets, read it in streetcars and ferryboats when I was sick unto death, and found in all times and places a peaceful and sweet companion.”

Among the things Stevenson admired was Penn's defense of the “plain style” of writing.

The plain style was characterized by clarity and simplicity.

Plain-stylists like Penn believed affected writing was the product of vanity and served only to confuse people.

He hated especially the “laboring of slight matter with flourished turns of expression,” calling it “worse than the modern imitation of tapestry.”

Imagine how Penn would respond today to this crazy-quilt (quoted in full from the Home page of an IT firm):

_______ is an industry leader in the development of both Hosted and On Premise based call center solutions and predictive dialers for industry-specific applications ranging from financial services to home remodeling and other related companies that utilize the services of Predictive Dialing and Contact Center Management & Customer Interaction. We offer both premise based and hosted solutions to small to medium-sized inside sales organizations to larger call centers. Our goal is to provide a seamless cost- effective call center solution which involves the cohesive blend of computer telephony integration (CTI) applications, Web-centric applications, customer relationship management (CRM), agent interaction and other channels of communications such as Web call back, Web chat, email, fax and Web collaboration.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

More Matter. Less Art.

In Act 2 of Hamlet, Gertrude insists the windbag Polonius make his point. "More matter, with less art."

Geoffrey James, writing for Inc., sides with the queen. 

"If you've got something to say, say it in as few words as possible," James writes.

"All companies today are trying to do more with fewer people, which means that everybody is short on time. That's why it's crazy to load up your documents (e-mails, brochures, Websites, etc.) with fancy-sounding business cliches, and unsubstantiated opinions. Nobody has time to wade through biz-blab." 

Get to the point, James insists. "Especially if you don't have all that much to say."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

B2B Marketers Spending More on Content

B2B marketers plan to spend a full third of their budgets on content marketing in 2013, according to research firm eMarketer.

The firm defines content marketing as attracting customers with “content that is not, at its core, promotional material, but which is interesting or valuable for its own sake” and that's “geared to help businesspeople do their jobs better.”

With the larger investment comes greater eagerness for “sticky” content, says eMarketer.

Personalization is a sure way to assure content is sticky. “The more personalized the content is, the more helpful and necessary the content—and therefore the brand—becomes to the customer,” eMarketer says.

Consistency is another. “Content marketers must also keep the content flowing,” the firm says. “A customer community is like a pump that one must prime.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hole, Baby, Hole

Renowned marketing guru and Harvard professor Ted Levitt liked to tell students, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

Pardon the pun, but it's surprising this decades-old saw has reentered everyday discussions of social media marketing.

It's not as if Levitt's insight doesn't deserve resurrection. It does.

That's because most marketers still believe they're selling drills.

How about you?

Is your head screwed on right?

Your motto should be, Hole, Baby, Hole.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The 3 Keys to Public Speaking

At an after-dinner speech in 1887, General Sherman introduced Mark Twain by noting that "he could not make an impromptu speech unless he had four days for preparation."
You may never speak at TED, but performing in front of crowds is a skill every marketer needs.
Most acquire it by hiring a coach or joining a local Toastmasters Club.
Whichever path you take, you'll soon discover these are the keys to public speaking:
Preparation. As Sherman observed, a good speaker prepares, not just for hours, but for days.
Clarity. Listeners expect you to deliver a clear business case and a definite call to action.
Study. Good public speakers study the performances of great public speakers, such as Bill Clinton.

PS: Attire. Dress does matter. A tee-shirt and jeans may be some industries' uniform, but wearing that uniform while speaking in public harms your credibility. The rule-of-thumb? Look better than your audience.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Why Your Brand's Values Should Be Your Story

Your brand's valuesits "higher purpose, philosophy, culture and contribution"should be your story, says brand consultant Thomas Dawson in Branding Strategy Insider.
That's because stories about values resonate among customers who share those values; and when they do, "there is no need for selling, convincing, persuading and discounting."
But effective storytelling demands discipline many marketers lack:
Storytelling means ignoring many customers for a chosen few. Dawson reminds us of a line from Wayne’s World. "''Led Zeppelin didn’t write songs everybody liked. They left that to the Bee-Gees.' So it is with brand storytelling."
Storytelling means no more "marketing." Dawson defines marketing as the recitation of product facts. But facts are coldand highly forgettable. Stories, on the other hand, "stir up intense emotions that are quickly and easily stored in our brains."
Storytelling means telling the truth. "Nobody trusts marketing anymore," Dawson writes. To earn back trust, you need to "feel authentic to customers." Authenticity is all about truth-telling and the avoidance of ad-like "tall tales."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Club Fed

Like any red-blooded, tax-paying American, I despise April 15.

Don't get me wrong. 

I'm the first guy to acknowledge my appreciation for the handy stuff our government does. National defense. Air traffic control. Clean skies. Student lending. Veterans aid. Crime detection. Disease prevention. Scientific research. Space exploration. Roads. Bridges. Historic preservation. Wildland protection. Etc.

But these things should come free, n'est-ce pas?

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., famously wrote, "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society."

That's true only if you believe we enjoy a civilized society. (Ever watched an episode of Jersey Shore?)

I'll venture another definition.

Taxes are your membership dues in Club Fed.

What, don't like our club?

Join some other.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Laws of Persuasion: Appeal to Self-Interest

Part 5 of a 5-part series

If you want to change customers' beliefs, remember to appeal to self-interest.

So said American philosopher, statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin in his 1734 pamphlet Poor Richard's Almanac.

"Would you persuade, speak of interest, not of reason," Franklin wrote.

We're taught to value reason, but "the world runs on individuals pursuing their self interests," as economist Milton Friedman once said.

The copywriter observes this law when she asks What's your WIFM?

Want to persuade?

Start with your WIFM.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Laws of Persuasion: Character Counts

Part 4 of a 5-part series

If you want to change customers' beliefs, remember character counts.

So said the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle in his fourth-century BC Treatise on Rhetoric.

We like to think we're moved by good speeches, not good speakers.

But that's not the case, Aristotle says.

"It is not true, as some writers assume in their treatises on rhetoric, that the personal goodness revealed by the speaker contributes nothing to his power of persuasion; on the contrary, his character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion he possesses."

So stay upright and be strong; it will serve you well.

As the late Zig Ziglar once said, "The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Laws of Persuasion: Begin with Your Own Beliefs

Part 3 of a 5-part series

If you want to change customers' beliefs, remember to begin with your own.

So said American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1841 essay Spiritual Laws.

You won't persuade someone to believe what you don't believe yourself, he said.

Emerson asked readers to consider the attorney's faith in his client's story.

"If he does not believe it, his unbelief will appear to the jury, despite all his protestations, and will become their unbelief."

It's a kind of karmic justice, Emerson says: the attorney's bad faith stifles him and feeds the jury's doubt.

"That which we do not believe, we cannot adequately say, though we may repeat the words ever so often."

Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle put it nicely: "Let one who wants to move and convince others, first be convinced and moved themselves."

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Laws of Persuasion: Facts Won't Take You Far

Part 2 of a 5-part series

If you want to change customers' beliefs, remember facts won't take you far.

So said German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in his 1951 book On Certainty.

Wittgenstein wondered why we trust, for example, the facts in a physics textbook.

It isn't because we understand them (we may not), but because we know how textbooks are written (physicists repeat various experiments and report their findings to peers).

The facts in a physics textbooks reflect a set of beliefs that a community accepts as true.

But what would you say to someone (a shaman, for example) who didn't accept physics?

Would you argue that his belief is foolish?

If you did, you'd be offering reasons his belief is foolish based on your belief in physics.

That won't get you very far.

To win the shaman's heart and mind, you must forget facts and focus on your vision.

"At the end of reasons comes persuasion," Wittgenstein says.
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