What Would Google Do? Trust vs. Control

In WWGD, Jeff Jarvis addresses a number of principles (he refers to them as laws) that have enabled Google to become so dominant so fast.  His first law is: “Give the people control and we will use it; don’t and you will lose us”. He speaks of it primarily in the context of the media business – where the fence between journalists, editors and the readers/consumers was tall and inviolable until the advent of the Internet and the rise of the Blog (not the “Borg”).

If you think about it, it also applies to many other industries.  Henry Ford’s old adage that “people can have a car in any colour they want as long as it’s black”, which held sway for decades, is no longer.  Companies that give their customers choice (read control) engender their audience’s trust and this translates into increased revenues and profits (see Google and Craigslist).

How can you apply this to your business? Engage your customers in the areas that are most important to them: product development and customer service.  For powerful examples, see – My Starbucks Idea and  Dell Idea Storm.  My favorite Starbucks idea: coffee ice cubes – brilliant!

Please share your experiences and post any questions you may about how to apply this to your business.

Side note:  Jeff Jarvis first came to prominence due a critical blog post of an experience he had with Dell and which ultimately led Dell to pay attention to blogs and to begin engaging their customers.  Check one of the posts here – http://www.buzzmachine.com/2005/08/17/dear-mr-dell/

What Would Google Do?

One of the ways we make our clients’ lives easier is by reading and studying the latest marketing trends and then synthesizing them into actionable strategies and tactics. This way, we can help our clients keep up with the massive amount of information flying their way.  In fairness to my partners at AR, they often do come up with original thinking and ideas.  For me,  it only happens once in a very long while.  Most of the time I gather the best practices and strategies out there and tweak them so our clients can apply them to their businesses and industries.  It’s a win/win – they get a medley of the best that is available and I don’t have to over-tax my brain.

To this end, over the next few months I will be sharing some insights I’ve been gleaning from some leading thinkers and writers on marketing and social media/networking.

The first book I want to talk about is What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, which I read (actually listened to, courtesy of Audible.com) over the holidays.  It will definitely influence some of our marketing strategies for clients in 2010.  To make life really easy (which is what the Internet is all about), before starting to discuss it, here is an excellent summary you can peruse to familiarize yourself with it.

Please share your thoughts once you’ve had a chance to check out the summary.

View more documents from Steven Zwerink.

New FTC Internet Marketing Guidelines–Pay Close Attention

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently approved new guidelines with respect to certain aspects of online marketing. These guidelines represent administrative interpretations concerning the application of Section 5 of the FTC Act (15 U.S.C. 45) regarding the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, and are intended to prevent and eliminate deceptive practices. You can view the new FTC guidelines here – http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm

While many of our clients are Canadianbased companies, a significant number of them market their products and services online to USbased customers and should therefore play close attention to these rules. As a first step, if you have an internal legal department, have it take a look at your current online practices.  If you don’t have an internal team, you may want to check with your legal counsel. Testimonials and endorsements are powerful tools in any marketer’s arsenal.  When used ethically, they can add significant equity to your brand.  Read the new guidelines and make sure your company is onside. If you have already done so, please share your insights by leaving us a comment.

For an excellent post on this, check out New York Times best selling author Joel Comm’s blog at – http://www.joelcomm.com/new_ftc_rules_for_testimonials_1.html

Is Social Media for Real?

A good number of our clients have been rolling out social media initiatives over the last year or are in the process of doing so.  These initiatives include blogs, podcasts and social networking.

We also hear regularly from clients who are considering initiatives but are still unsure about the effectiveness and staying power of this particular marketing channel.  One of the most frequent questions we hear:  Is this social media thing for real and should be deploying our resources to leverage it?  To answer this question I will direct you to some stats that were sent to us by a friend of ours, who herself is a savvy marketer. Check it out here: http://socialnomics.net/2009/08/11/statistics-show-social-media-is-bigger-than-you-think/

One last thing before you post: Editing best practices

There is a new level of immediacy in so many of the written marketing communications vehicles we use today – including blogs, micro-blogs, and Web sites you can update with the click of a button. Your thoughts can be “out there” in an instant. And sometimes that’s not such a good thing.

Here are five levels of editing you can apply to any piece of writing that will maintain your credibility online:

1.    The content. Save your message and walk away from it for at least five or ten minutes, or longer if you can. Then re-read your message from an objective perspective. Is this what you meant to say? Could it be easily misunderstood or inflame controversy? Controversy is not necessarily a bad thing, nor can you always predict it, but it’s helpful to be as prepared as you can.
2.    The spelling and typing. Use your computer’s spell checker to catch any typos or other errors. Reading your message aloud (see the next point) can also help with words that are commonly mixed up (e.g., here and hear). If you’re not sure, look it up.
3.    The grammar and readability. Read your message out loud and ensure your words flow and make sense. Don’t try to combine too many ideas in the same sentence. Run-on sentences make it too hard for your reader to stay with you.
4.    The density. Break up long paragraphs so they are just one or two sentences each. Use lists to highlight key information and to allow the reader to scan through your message.
5.    The framework. Introduce your message, make your point, and then conclude your message.

Remember that just because you CAN share your thoughts with people around the world in an instant doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. So click the pause button before you click the send button, and practice these basic editing tips.

How to get action on your calls to action

As entertaining as some marketing communications are, what it all comes down to is whether or not they compel the reader, viewer, or listener to take action.

People take action as a way of meeting their most basic emotional needs. People decide with their feelings and then rationalize their decisions with the facts. If you can match your offer with their needs, you’ll get better results. For example:

People want to belong – Show them that other people, just like them, have taken the same action that you’re asking them to take. Use testimonials, case studies, or stories.

People want to escape pain – Put them in touch with the pain that will continue and worsen if they fail to take action.

People want to experience pleasure – Paint a colourful picture of the benefits and positive feelings waiting for them once they take action.

People want to feel financially secure – Offer a financial incentive to act now, such as a time-limited discount or bonus offer.

Depending on your product or service, you may also want to align your message with people’s needs for fame and fortune, increased wealth, or health and happiness. The inducement will differ with each offer you present, but the result should always be the same: Measurable response with every communication.