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Friday, July 31, 2009

Barry Schwartz Promotes Practical Wisdom

Barry Schwarz originally uploaded by Jesper Rønn-Jensen.
Barry SchwartzBarry Schwartz, best known for the Paradox of Choice and the need for simplicity, shared new wisdom during the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston. This time, he discussed Practical Wisdom and the remoralization of professional life, the subject of an upcoming book.

You see, our over-reliance on rules and regulations, procedures and performance incentives have essentially undermined our wisdom and ability to improvise. We need to relearn the virtue of practical wisdom [phronesis] as defined by Aristotle:

+ Know when and how to make exceptions.
+ Know when and how to improvise [i.e., wisdom is the equivalent of moral jazz].
+ Know how to use skills to pursue right ends.

A wise person - or Mensch, a person of integrity and honor - is made not born!

Schwartz shared the example of a hospital janitor whose job duties, although copiously detailed, included no mention of patients or customers. Yet, to better care for his patients, he exhibited moral will to do the right thing and moral skill to determine how to do it right. Not captured in the job description, but certainly a function of his own virtue and beliefs, and which added to the overall quality of the patient's experience.

Shortly after hearing Schwartz, I encountered a New Jersey Transit Bus Driver who displayed amazing customer empathy: a frazzled woman got on the bus with her kids; she hadn't purchased her ticket ahead of time, had insufficient cash on hand [she missed the bus at the previous stop] and had parked her broken down car in an incorrect spot. Rather than tell the woman 'tough,' this driver accepted the cash, suggested she leave a sign under her windshield wiper about the breakdown, waited for her to do so, gave her a bus depot number to call [to prevent the car from being towed], and encouraged her to relax. Practical wisdom at work.

Too often, in our zeal to document and orchestrate specific behaviors, we forget about human components - kindness, care, empathy. Rather than encourage wisdom, experimentation and independent thinking, we prefer instead to rely on excessive supervision. How often have you heard "we hate to do this, but we have to follow procedure" or "those are the rules" in situations that might benefit from some flexibility?

Virtue and character supersede rules. Without virtue and practical wisdom, we wage a "war on wisdom" and ensure mediocrity, says Schwartz.

Think of situations you've been in and how you learned. How did you deal with uncertainty? Did you take a risk? Did you try a new approach? How did you react given a specific incentive? Did you try to work the system to meet those requirements? Did the incentive lead to a superior result? How did you make sure you did the right thing?

Think of Zappos' business and customer service culture. Can you imagine it existing without practical wisdom? I can't. BTW, they don't do call scripts or fixed customer handling times. [Read Paid Content Profile: How Zappos Became An Expert On Customer Service Culture, and a Publisher.]

I've been reexamining my immediate world from the perspective of practical wisdom. My 7.5 year old daughter just finished a series of four weekly scavenger hunts. She required that I participate with her in the first and the second. By the third, tension built: I was supervising her too closely. She stated that she would do the fourth and last on her own.

During the fourth scavenger hunt, she had to figure things out: pay close attention to the directions, organize herself and approach authority figures for information. She gained experience by herself. Although she didn't win one of the top three prizes [she came in fourth], my daughter was more proud and satisfied from her experience than when she earned 3rd place in an earlier hunt. My rules and guidance had stifled her creativity.

She learned and so did I.

Now, there's much more to practical wisdom. Barry Shwartz reminded us that we need strong upright exemplars and heroes [i.e., Menschs] like Atticus Finch or Interface's Ray Anderson, who has committed to reducing his company's environmental footprint and make it completely sustainable by 2020. Practical wisdom affects one's attitude toward performance, life, health and work [is it work? a career? a calling? or just a job?]. It adds meaning and engagement. It remoralizes all that we do. So, each and every one of us should nurture virtue and character, embrace practical wisdom and give others enough room to be human beings.

My reaction: this fits into the zeitgeist of the times. We yearn not just for simplicity, but also for truth and trust, authenticity and long term focus to get our world back on track. It's what I admire and appreciate about the tools of social media which facilitate transparency, interaction, engagement and conversation with other human beings. I believe that many of us truly want to do the right thing.

Aristotle's Virtues [the link includes an interesting chart with an overview of the virtues as does this link to Aristotle's Ethics] include the following:
  • Courage
  • Temperance
  • Generosity
  • Pride
  • Good Temper
  • Truthfulness
  • Wittiness
  • Friendliness
  • Modesty
  • Righteous Indignation
These virtues had me thinking about the "little virtues" of St. Francis de Sales that my high school now overtly integrates into its curriculum. I've detailed them here, based on Seven Salesian Virtues To Make The Ordinary, Extraordinary:

1) To others' little acts of selfishness and unfairness - ENDURE PATIENTLY.

2) Amid your shortcomings and limitations - SEE THE BRIGHT SIDE.

3) When others are curt with you - SHOW GOOD HUMOR.

4) At the tiresome tempers of others - STAY CHEERFULLY EXCUSING.

5) When someone turns you down - PUT ON A GOOD FACE.

6) If someone helps, when you'd rather do it yourself - BE APPRECIATIVE.

7) When answering others - SPEAK GENTLY AND SHOW COURTESY.

All virtues that I would love for my daughter to take to heart.

Experience Barry Schwartz' Practical Wisdom presentation for yourselves in TED Talks Barry Schwartz on our loss of wisdom.

And, in this video interview with MarketingProfs - Barry Schwartz: Practical Wisdom as a Business Tool, Schwartz puts practical wisdom into a greater business framework.

What do you think about practical wisdom? How would you incorporate it into your personal and business lives? How do you go about ensuring that you do the right thing?

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Press Release: Whittemore Delivers Social Media Presentation To NJ Executives In Transition

For Immediate Release: July 29, 2009

Whittemore Delivers Social Media Presentation To NJ Executives In Transition
Shares Practical Knowledge On Using Digital Tools For Branding & Research

Kinnelon, NJ – Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier of Simple Marketing Now LLC, delivered a presentation to executives in transition at the Parsippany, NJ offices of a major career management organization on July 14, 2009. As an expert on the subject, she was asked to address the practical social media knowledge that would enable executives in transition to use digital social tools to rebrand themselves, broaden their understanding of the digital marketplace and better research companies, brands and market segments of interest.

“When you think that markets are conversations, taking place between people, and that technology now allows unprecedented access to these conversations and markets, it’s a shame not to participate,” said Whittemore. “In educating executives about social media, my focus is practical: how to demystify Google, Twitter and blogs, simplify access and encourage them to explore and start listening to the conversations taking place.

Participants reacted enthusiastically to Whittemore’s expert presentation, expressing intent to set up their own Google alerts, research blogs relevant to their areas of interest and generally begin exploring online social tools like blogs, Twitter and other digital social platforms.

“The marketplace has changed significantly and it’s important for executives in transition to be aware of and feel comfortable accessing digital and social tools to better market and position themselves with future employers,” added Whittemore.

Whittemore urged participants to start by listening to the conversations taking place, explore and experiment with the tools available, and consider participating, but only after recognizing best practices and the rules of behavior essential to blogs and Twitter.

For more information about Simple Marketing Now LLC, contact chief simplifier Whittemore at or visit the Simple Marketing Now website and companion weblog & newsroom – Simple Marketing Blog.

# # #

About Simple Marketing Now LLC

Simple Marketing Now is a marketing communications consultancy that provides organizations with the right combination of traditional marketing and new and digital tools to improve the customer experience and build brand. For more information, visit

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Perspective on How Best To Use Twitter

TwitterYes, Twitter is in the news. It's making headlines and conversation and generating plenty of digital content. What appeal to me most in the digital content are articles offering perspective on how best to use Twitter - in other words, practical marketing perspectives.

I haven't yet uncovered any Twitter silver bullets. None of these articles and posts will solve all of your marketing and communication challenges or opportunities. However, they do offer ideas and angles worth exploring. It's the exploration that will lead you to the solution that is right for you and your business; it will also help you determine how best to integrate a tool like Twitter into your marketing mix.

Take Steven Berlin Johnson's presentation on Twitter - it had me appreciating the 140 character micro-blogging platform in a new light. This post and video - Twitter Founder at TED Charts Adoption & Gestation Milestones - offer similar big picture perspective.

Now, Twitter definitely has its challenges. Best practices aren't self evident and immersion in the platform has its own issues [so you have an account, then what? you tweet about your breakfast?]. That's why I really enjoyed this New York Times article from David Pogue titled Twitter? It's What You Make It.

Josh Bernoff gets right to the heart of the most powerful aspect of Twitter -- customer interaction and service-- in his 5 practical uses for Twitter from Twitter is a 5-tool player -- how it should get paid. More specifically, do research, talk to people, energize your brand advocates, support your customers and embrace customer feedback.

Practical Resources:
Duct Tape Marketing's John Jantsch created Using Twitter for Business, a terrific down-to-earth resource. I also like's A Twitter primer - in way more than 140 characters [premium membership required]. You'll notice similar guidelines and information; I like reading them to remind me of an angle I might have forgotten or not fully absorbed.

Lists to Explore
If you think you're really serious [and borderline geeky] about Twitter, consider bookmarking the ever evolving masterlist of Top Twitter Tools, Twitter Resources, and Twitter Services from John Kremer [count as of 7/27/09 = 327].

Do check out 100 Twitter Tools to Help You Achieve All Your Goals.

In your spare time, consider taking a look at Twitter Fan Wiki. You'll be astounded at all that has been created. Warning! I found it overwhelming.

What other useful resources and perspectives on how best to use Twitter have you come across?

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Marketing With Twitter

TwitterWith so much talk about Twitter, are you curious how companies are marketing with Twitter? I certainly am.

The more I experience Twitter as a means of connection and communication, the more intrigued I am with how it works on a local or specific level.

I recently exchanged Tweets with a friend about a rice flour based pizza available at Whole Foods, and immediately received an automated Tweet from another party selling some sort of a pizza timer. What a turn-off! The trigger was the word 'pizza' and this autoresponse was not only inappropriate, but also hugely interruptive. Had that party engaged me in conversation, I might have been more amenable. I certainly would have been more appreciative.

Nonetheless, I do see possibilities.

Harness The Power Of Twitter For Local Marketing addresses some of those possibilities and lists pioneers using Twitter for local marketing. I particularly appreciate the tips that the author includes - ranging from instant coupons, promoting coming attractions, collaborative tweeting, promoting your blog, quick polls and including Twitpics of anything special taking place. The tip I add to the list is making sure that you have a human being fully engaged in interaction and conversation. Ban the autoresponder.

Twitter Marketing Successes specifically addresses WholeFoods and Zappos [which has just been acquired by Amazon!]. The two have widely varied approaches to Twitter. Zappos exudes customer centricity, passion and humanity on Twitter [e.g., Tony Hsieh, the CEO, sent out this tweet today "Big day! Email I just sent to Zappos employees today about the Amazon acquisition -"]. Whole Foods is much more straightforward and focused, answering questions and providing information. Both are effective.

Tweeters Use Twitter For Business describes how companies use Twitter. My favorite example is that of the gourmet Korean taco truck business in LA which uses Twitter to communicate [advertise?] when and where it will be so patrons can order food. Politicians use Twitter to hold discussions of relevance to constituents, and marketers can track mentions of specific topics or brand names.

On 5/12/2009, USA Today published Banks try social networking, jump on Twitter wagon. Imagine, banks using Twitter "to reach consumers amid the economic downturn." Wells Fargo in particular I think is doing a nice job reaching out, connecting, interacting and helping customers. Many financial institutions are realizing that participating in social networks is no longer a matter of choice: their customers are actively participating and fully engaged in conversation about them [e.g., take a look at the kind of tweets that a search on bankofamerica generates]. If they intend to salvage their brands and be customer-focused, they had better take part!

The best resource that I've come across recently is the MarketingProfs Twitter Success Stories [free with premium membership] which includes case studies about 11 companies using Twitter to build their businesses [including KogiBBQ, the Korean taco truck business mentioned above].

Are you marketing with Twitter? What do you find works best?

Related Posts:
+ A Practical Twitter Primer
+ Steven Berlin Johnson at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2009

Added 7/25/09:
+ From Ann Handley: What'a a Dry Cleaner Doing on Twitter?
+ From the New York Times: Mom-and-Pop Operators Turn to Social Media

Added 7/30/09:
+ From The Atlanta-Journal Constitution: Taco Mac uses Twitter to tweetup business

Added 8/14/09:
+ From Can the Twitterati help sell your soda pop?

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Simplicity, A Dominant Trend

Primary Complexity originally uploaded by Jeremy Stockwell.
Primary ComplexityYes, I'm biased in favor of simplicity and I love discovering references further supporting my bias. Imagine, then, my delight in finding proof positive that Simplicity Is A Dominant Trend!

Before proof, I need to share with you simple inspiration.

I love Rich Nadworny's post titled The Brilliance of Simplicity. He says: "Simplicity might be the hardest thing in the world to achieve. It’s much easier to take something and make it overly complex.... Our challenge is to make the complex simple."

Charles Mingus further qualifies the value of simplicity is this quote: "Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

To achieve simplicity, read about There's brilliance in simplicity: the rule of one, two or three.

Check out this SlideShare presentation from Oscar Berg. It visually makes the point in favor of Simplicity.
Then, there's The Frederick News-Post Online, which in its July 6, 2009 editorial titled "Enough, already!" puts the need for simplicity into consumer perspective given the choice fatigue we all face.

I find the ending particularly inspiring...

"Savvy marketing types are signing on to his viewpoint and advising their clients to "end the chaos" by focusing product offerings through "a rigorous editing process." Those same advisers are bringing new titles and new company names to the mix. C.B. Whittemore, Chief Simplifier, Simple Marketing Now LLC, is a case in point.

And one well taken."

Now for the proof about simplicity being a dominant trend: a recent Harvard Business Review article titled "Understanding the Post-Recession Consumer" by Paul Flatters and Michael Willmott [registration or purchase required]. The subtitle states "A new thriftiness and desire for simplicity will combine with pent-up demand to shape buying behavior."

This demand for simplicity is leading to "edited retailing, ... a growing demand for trusted brands and value, an increasing desire for advisors... that can simplify choicemaking, and enthusiasm for less complicated, more user-friendly technologies."

I recommend that you read it.

Excessive consumption is out.

Obfuscation is out.

Simplicity is in.

Are you ready?

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fiskars: 360 Years Young & Innovating With Customers

Fiskateers Blog
I consider Fiskars fascinating: it's an old company, about to celebrate its 360th birthday, [check out the Fiskars Cinema Series] with a young soul, willing to experiment with new and social approaches to connect with customers. I know Fiskars as the scissor company -- you know, the ones with the recognizable orange handles. I also know Fiskars as the company that has unleashed a tsunami of fan-based enthusiasm and innovation in the form of Fiskateers.

Back in November 2008, I reported on Francois Gossieaux's CMO 2.0 conversation about the Fiskateers. On June 16th, 2009, I spoke directly with Suzanne Fanning, Director of Fiskars Corporate Communications. Suzanne had just returned from Project Orange Thumb, Extreme Garden Makeover project in Toronto, Canada, where Fiskars had transformed a desolate space outside Toronto with representatives from Canadian Tire and the City of Toronto into a community garden [see Media Alert - Fiskars, Canadian Tire and the City of Toronto partner to create Scarborough Village garden and Fiskars launches regeneration project]. The results were phenomenal [see makeover pictures], and Fiskars continues in other US locations.

When I approached Suzanne, I wanted to learn more about how she and Fiskars integrate Fiskateers with other more traditional marketing programs. How, too, do the other Fiskars business segments fit in?

Her responses were in keeping with the CMO 2.0 conversation, and also highlighted the transformative nature of social based programs for a company intent on integrating the customer voice into their overall business and innovating with it.

Suzanne's overarching concern is making sure that the Fiskateers program isn't just online hype [which I imagine can get challenging with so many marketers watching and admiring]. Rather, it represents intense person to person conversations. Last year, 5 Fiskateers events took place across the country. In July, all Fiskateers are invited to Orlando for the 360 birthday party of Fiskars. She finds it is critical to have in person events. Not only do they enable face to face interaction, but the interaction sustains and strengthens online programs. Furthermore, those interactions [including meetings] get blogged making them widely disseminated so the entire community benefits.

When you visit the Fiskars website, you'll notice three options: Garden, Crafting & Sewing and School.

I asked Suzanne about the overlap between garden and crafting tools that I had noticed on the Fiskateers blog. I was surprised - mostly because I hadn't expected the overlap - although the integration of the products made sense.

She explained that, yes, this is a community of crafters, but garden tools make sense, too, in certain circumstances. Fiskars will do giveaways and there's a natural connection for Fiskateers if they are creating gift baskets or doing outdoor projects. After all, Martha does both!

School is separate, although Fiskars works with teachers, has gotten teacher recommendations for its products, and has partnered with Scholastic on lesson plans and teacher resources. The category differs from garden and craft tools in that the relationship building is more complex: is it with the kids, the parents, the teachers, or all three?

Fiskars has a Twitter [see worldwide Twitter account] and Facebook [see Fiskars official facebook page] presence where the company doesn't limit itself to one end use segment or another. Suzanne explained that those two platforms aren't as specialized and help promote Fiskars the brand. In fact, you'll note quite a bit of Facebook activity relating to the upcoming 360 birthday celebration.

Suzanne visualizes the platforms and programs in terms of a pyramid. At the bottom is broad social media: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube. In the middle is the Fiskars website, with Fiskars TV, contests that might attract user generated galleries, projects and articles, and similar type elements. Then, at the top, Fiskateers and Project Orange Thumb gardeners; it's the realm of focused, dedicated, enthusiasts.

When I alternate between the website and the Fiskateers Blog, I can't help but be struck by the the blog's intense energy and momentum, all a result of what Fiskateers inject into everything they do. It's powerful. And Project Orange Thumb looks to have similar potential.

I asked about retail relationships. Fiskateers started out as a public relations program with, initially, more of a 'feel good' quality. As it has evolved, it has gone beyond 'feel good.' Now Fiskateers engage with engineers around product development [including live chats around the Trimmer; and here is an example of Fiskaneers asking for Fiskateers' feedback.] Feedback has been so beneficial that they have continued. Talk about innovation and co-creation at work.

Early on in the Fiskateers program, the question of surveys came up. Suzanne suggested that Fiskateers be involved. At first, it was hard convincing the internal organization; they feared what they would hear back. She prevailed and - guess what? - Fiskars has discovered that Fiskateers are amazing predictors of best products. Talk about a grounding approach to keep your finger on the pulse of your marketplace.

Fiskars has seen a beneficial change in retail relationships; it's easy now to walk up to Target and recommend specific products. Fiskars can justify the recommendation based on consumer feedback gathered through and from Fiskateers, offering a different level of value and insight to retailers. They have even started conducting surveys on behalf of retailers. Talk about adding new value and a sure way to make private label products irrelevant!

Suzanne's role has a lot to do with bridging between the corporate organization and the Fiskateers. It's not always easy. She has to make sure that the fun benefits the corporation. The benefits are substantial, though, in the form of product feedback, innovation, ready and qualified focus groups base, and -of course- the strong word-of-mouth generated in the blogosphere.

Fiskateers watch for mention of Fiskars and product placements across a range of TV shows; they're far better than any clipping service! [She initially created awareness by having a Fiskars citing contest, but now Fiskateers automatically notice and communicate citings.]

Furthermore, by engaging with both consumers and store owners, Fiskateer interactions have led to a 3x sales growth increase. I'm not surprised! Fiskateers are passionate about what they do and how they do it and ready to talk about that passion. If a retailer is equally passionate about his or her business, they how not to respond in kind in the face of unbridled enthusiasm?

Suzanne mentioned - and this had me rethinking how powerful the Fiskateers network is - that many independent store owners are Fiskateers, actively participating in committees, and bringing customers with them to events. They like having a connection to the company, and will routinely defend the company when they hear negativity, even helping out customer service on message boards, adding links to videos, and resolving issues.

Think about it: Fiskateers are passionate Fiskars brand ambassadors. Yet, they are also end consumers of Fiskars products, often retail customers purchasing Fiskars products to sell to end consumers, and fully engaged in the Fiskateer community which transforms Fiskars' products into tools that do more than just cut. Rather, they become tools for friendship.

In listening to Suzanne, I couldn't help but realize that she is facilitator, coordinator, enabler, nurturer and protector of this amazing Fiskateer community. She shields it from corporate pressures while ensuring that it keeps evolving and never gets stale -- by adding committees, appointing new leads every 2 years. She watches what the Fiskateers do and when she senses a need, will help address it. Perhaps it's a bulletin board or a widget. She says it's important to enable and be active enough that she can respond quickly with no loss of momentum.

Although it's a large community - Fiskateers now total over 6400 growing by 120 new members per month - it's an active one. Committees [aka Fiskamittees] and smaller groups bring together those with common interests, around a specific charity or children or pets... However, the focus is not on growth, but rather on deepening relationships and involvement. If you remember from the previous post, membership is purposely NOT automatic. To become a Fiskateer, one must be invited. It's based on a powerful word-of-mouth referral system.

At the same time, it only works because of a genuine interest in customers and a strong desire to help them solve the issues that matter to them. The entire Fiskateer program would fall apart if Fiskars were to force products or edicts about the company onto these brand ambassadors. In backing off, Fiskars has helped inspire creative and intense friendships.

[Read these entries from the Brains On Fire blog for additional insight on how transformative brand ambassador programs can be, including a video clip from a recent FIRE session.]

I asked about traditional marketing programs. Fiskars advertises in a few magazines. This year, though, resources have shifted to social media given how much more effective it is. When consumers don't believe ads and prefer to Google their questions, isn't it better to encourage the word-of-mouth that Fiskateers generate? Consumers believe what they read; they can discern that it's genuine and filled with authentic passion.

Press releases make sense for events or product releases [we can expect one for the upcoming official 360th birthday celebration!].

However, if you want to really know what's happening at Fiskars, I suggest that you read through the Fiskateers' Blog, Suzanne's Blog and even the Facebook page. On all of those platforms, you'll observe true engagement.

I'm even more fascinated with Fiskars having had the benefit of Suzanne's insights. Happy 360th Birthday, Fiskars and thank you, Suzanne, for your time. I look forward to hearing, reading and seeing more.

Related article:
Consumer-centric innovation: Tapping into consumer insights to drive growth from Deloitte.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Subscribe To News From Simple Marketing Now!

Simple Marketing Now NewsThe inaugural issue of Simple Marketing Now's Simple News e-Newsletter has just been distributed. Can you tell that I'm jazzed about it?

Please, would you check it out? And, let me know what you think?

Here is a link to the inaugural July 2009 News from Simple Marketing Now.

If you'd like to subscribe [I would love for you to do so!], here is a link to the Newsletter signup form [or you can sign up via the form on the Simple Marketing Blog sidebar].

This July 2009 issue touches on:

+ The Social Flooring Index
+ Flooring The Consumer's third anniversary
+ The social media marketing resources and case studies available on this blog
+ How I attended NeoCon virtually [a true sci-fi feat!]
+ The Floor Covering Institute series [Meet Ruland and Gould].

I'm using Mail Chimp and am 'floored' at how user friendly the platform is. [A major point of comparison is the email process I followed for the Wear-Dated newsletter.]

Mail Chimp is big on visual experience [and fun, too]. The charts are really cool, graphically capturing open, bounced, unopened and overall click rates [and complaints]. I can even see 'opens' by locations around the globe and over time. It also allows for social sharing during the distribution process.

Thanks for checking out News From Simple Marketing Now. If you think of topics to include in the next issue, please don't hesitate to let me know.

Back to my cool charts!

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Carpetology Blog: Case Study

Carpetology BlogThis case study explores the creation of the Wear-Dated Carpetology Blog which I launched on December 27, 2007 - in anticipation of the redesigned Wear-Dated website launch date of June 1, 2008.

The web is filled with misinformation about carpet products and the carpet buying process. Much of the content is confusing, focused primarily on price with a hard sell tone and has nothing to do with fashion or style when carpet is a product that enhances a consumer's home.

Wear-Dated had the opportunity to simplify the carpet buying process, share accurate information about carpet styles, carpet care and carpet selection, while demystifying industry jargon, and celebrating the beauty and comfort of carpet. We were passionate about carpet and wanted to share that enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, in the Fall of 2007, we were still a little over 8 months away from launching the redesigned Wear-Dated website. How not to lose all of that time time and opportunity to create carpet relevant digital content? How do so at very little cost?

Based on my experience creating and nurturing Flooring The Consumer, I realized that a carpet focused blog represented a perfect solution: I needed little lead time and insignificant resources to launch it. Content ideas and resources were readily available within Solutia and Wear-Dated and I had already set up Google alerts to monitor stories relating to carpet. Next, I needed to put together a strategy, obtain internal buy-in and formally identify content resources.

Wear-Dated had launched the By The Foot marketing campaign in December 2006. The new website would reflect this look and quirky yet stylish feel. The By The Foot campaign included the notion of 'carpetology' or the science of feet and how they, as the best-qualified body part, evaluate carpet. No surprise, we incorporated that science - and whimsy - into The Carpetology Blog.

Given that women represent our core consumer, making or influencing over 85% of the purchasing decisions, particularly in the home, we considered it critical that this blog authentically represent a woman's voice. We decided that the Women of Wear-Dated would be the blog's voices.

The Women of Wear-Dated consisted of: Marianne Cone, Ann Hurley, Annette Smith, Elizabeth Hise and Christine Whittemore, who was editor, chief content creator and strategist.

The Carpetology Blog launched six months prior to the website launch date, on December 27, 2007.

As of 3/24/09 [my last official day with Solutia and Wear-Dated], The Carpetology Blog had generated 37, 543 visits averaging 1:14 minutes per visitor and a total of 57,686 page views. It continues to generate healthy traffic despite no new posts since then.

We generated 181 stories ranging from stories that specifically promoted Wear-Dated [e.g., See About Us: What is Wear-Dated], to stories offering valuable tips, advice and recommendations, interspersed with 'carpet in the news' stories, color trends and design site reviews. I created a video series titled "A Foot's Perspective" -- showcasing perspectives on and from carpet, celebrating beautiful carpet and offering ‘how to’ tips on caring for carpet -- and a series addressing common consumer complaints and warranty issues.

Here are the top five reasons for visiting The Carpetology Blog.

At the end of August 2008, I submitted an entry for The Carpetology Blog to the Forrester Grounsdwell Awards. With the blog only 8 months old, I identified an ROI of $39,378.25. [Updating that calculation to reflect data as of 3/24/09, the ROI increases to $62,893.86. Not too shabby!]

The most exciting result of The Carpetology Blog, though, is that it became the strongest driver of qualified visitors to the Wear-Dated website:
  • visiting 5.28 pages per visit [vs. an average of 3.8 pages]
  • spending 6:15 minutes on site per visit [vs. an average of 2:55 min]
  • with a bounce rate of 41.94% [vs. an average of 52.03%]
Another result is that the conversations I had with our warranty department to understand consumer carpet warranty and carpet care issues led to creating two new consumer reference documents:
Valuable, credible and authentic content, better qualified website traffic, a strong digital presence, a casual forum for celebrating all of the benefits that carpet offers -- including beautiful, stylish carpet -- a positive ROI and buzz at no cost. So much so, that it not only bridged the 6 month gap until the introduction of the Wear-Dated website, but The Carpetology Blog even outlived the business itself and continues to generate excellent traffic all by itself.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Steven Berlin Johnson at MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2009

Image courtesy of Leigh Bureau.
Steven Berlin JohnsonAccording to Steven Berlin Johnson -- who spoke during the 2009 MarketingProfs B2B Forum -- we are in the midst of a modern-day Enlightenment. You know, when the 18th century coffeehouse [and other public institutions like books, academies, journals and debating societies] made its mark, creating public spaces where conversation took place freely between people from all walks of life and multiple disciplines, amateurs and experts alike -- all sharing perspectives that generated change at an unprecedented pace.

[Note: my favorite aspect of the coffeehouse image is that it is dependent on then newly introduced caffeine which transformed an otherwise sedated [remember, these were the days when water killed, so best to drink mead, beer or wine] population into an ever-alert No-Doz one. I couldn't help but think about Marketing Effectively During An Information Revolution and was definitely ready to hear more.]

Not so different from the interactions taking place today through social networking tools like Twitter.

Steven B. Johnson's keynote presentation addressed many of the points from his just published Time article -- How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live [I strongly suggest you read it] and had me re-evaluating the various social tools I've become familiar with.

Twitter has "unsuspected depth." Not only does it offer 'social warmth' [i.e., all of those details about what one had for breakfast], but, thanks to user-created innovations ['jury-rigging the system' to do things never imagined by its creators], it has opened up conversations about otherwise closed or unknown events.

In the article, Steven refers to Hacking Education, a small, private event, which Twitter transformed. Tweets with the "#hackedu" identifier drew the attention of those outside the event, brought in valuable real-time new perspectives, created a public record as well as a platform for continued conversation on the topic.

Powerful stuff!

The room in which events take place becomes significantly bigger via virtual participation. Events, topics, and brands come alive with meaning. Those interested can share in common experiences regardless of geographic, intellectual, socio-economic or any other differences.

I found fascinating the realization that Twitter users invented how to deliver value to users. For example, the hashtag [#name] identifiers for specific events or topics and the @name to reply to specific Twitterers were invented by users. Search functionality developed outside of Twitter, although it has since been incorporated [acquired].

When I first describe Twitter, I immediately hear noise about the inane quality of so many Tweets. How can substance be conveyed in 140 characters? [Read A categorical imperative to twitter by Gideon Rachman.] And, yet, think of the role the platform has played in conveying information about recent 'unfolding events', and the pulse on shared national experiences [i.e., Twitter trending topics]. Furthermore, what Twitter does very well, via shortened URLs, is point followers to articles and blogposts of potential interest.

Johnson then spoke about the evolution of social searches - something that Twitter as a search platform epitomizes.

Unlike Google searches which are mostly anonymous, Twitter searches offer relevance with a human face! Your social network passes along news and links [something Facebook now does, too]. It helps filter relevance more effectively than an anonymous one. The fundamental element evolving in all of this is people, not pages or brands: social networks + live search + link sharing.

I'm experiencing Twitter differently as a result. I love how it allowed me to attend NeoCon virtually and am intrigued with how it integrates into overall marketing strategies.

What do you think these tools mean for your business?

Related Links:
+ Read Steve Woodruff's Goodbye Social Media - Hello Networked Communications.]

+ This YouTube interview of Steven B. Johnson at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum lets you hear Steven discuss firsthand Twitter, what it means for businesses, and why he thinks Twitter shouldn't be dismissed.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy 4th July Holiday!

4th of July originally uploaded by GR58.
I wish you, your friends and your families a wonderful July 4th Holiday!

I hope it's filled with sunshine and friendship, good conversation, summer foods and an opportunity to unwind.

I'm looking forward to a hike tomorrow before the local fireworks display and have just learned that I'll be getting a personal tour of the bell tower of our local St. Hubert's Chapel...

Fingers crossed, too, that we have no torrential downpours!

What do you have planned?

Happy, happy 4th, and thank you for being a part of The Simple Marketing Blog!

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