Tag Archives: marketing messaging

Four Characteristics of a Good Protest

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program to try to get a handle on the madness occurring in and around Wall Street. I confess I am almost totally at a loss on this one. From what little I can tell by scanning various news sites and the protestors own site:

  • There are somewhere between 500 (conservative estimate) and 1200 (generous estimate) people involved. Fewer than attended my son’s high school homecoming game a couple weeks ago.
  • The number tends to be larger during the day. Apparently many of the protestors go home at night to get a good night’s sleep and catch up on some corporate sponsored sit-com.
  • They have no specific demands other than a seeming distaste for banks, large corporations, and anyone they deem to be in possession of too much money. “Too much” being defined loosely as “more than I have.”
  • They seem to want to align themselves tactically with what has gone on in the Arab world recently. You know, where they’ve been overthrowing oppressive militant regimes that have been in entrenched power for years?
  • The media love it…but seem to be growing a bit weary since they can’t find a good contiguous angle.

So in the interest of helping these angst filled souls disentangle themselves from their socialistic ennui allow me to suggest four characteristics that are the mark of a really good protest:

You ought to have a recognized villain

The French got this right when they did their revolutionary gig. Yes, yes they hated ALL the bourgeois but they REALLY hated Marie and Louie. A really good protest need a villainous face to point at and spit on and shake fists at. This idea of vaguely villainizing the corporations that built much of America and gave the protestors parents jobs, and contributed to their schools is ineffectual. Pictures of ‘corporations’ don’t work well on posters.

The villain really ought to have done something decidedly bad

You’d be hard pressed to call any of the recently displaced leaders in the Arab and north African world “good guys” and once they start firing on their own people it’s all over. While I agree that we have seen continuously mounting evidence of rampant corporate greed in the news lately the jury is still out on how they choose what is fit to show. After all Pine Creek’s homecoming had more people out than this protest and it got NO air time.  At the end of the day corporations provide jobs. You’d have to give a LOT of money to illegal immigrants and homeless people to put them in a positions to create jobs.

You really ought to have specific demands

When my kids were little we taught them that ranting, pouting, and grousing were not effective methods for getting what they want. As a result all three of them have turned out to be first class negotiators. (My bad on that one.) A ‘protest’ without specific demands or calls for specific action comes across rather like a flash-mobbed tantrum. Cool idea, but you really need more commitment to make it fly. Plus, with no call to specific action how do you know when the protest is over? How do you keep score?

You really ought to have a plan for change

A workable plan. At least the rudiments of a plan. “Redistribution of wealth” isn’t a plan unless you’re Robin Hood and working on a small village scale.

I can completely identify with the sens of disenfranchisement expressed by these protestors. I empathize even more with the fact that it is difficult to sort out who to vent their spleens towards when it all just feel oppressive, unfair, and constant. I applaud them for trying to keep their carnival non-violent.

But I’m afraid that shy of defining these four characteristics for their current shindig it’ll be tough to have any consistent, meaningful dialogue and without consistent meaningful dialogue I’m afraid we’ll all continue to flounder a bit.

Care for a slice of consistent meaningful dialogue? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these protests and their issues.

Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement – Level 4

And so we come full circle in our exploration of the four levels of agreement. Level 4 agreement – Committed Rapport – is when we have made Disciples.

I have no doubt that on October 4 a scene much like the one depicted in this graphic will emerge at the Apple event where they are predicted to unveil the iPhone 5.  Apple’s Disciples will fill the room in eager anticipation of the new device.We all wish we had such devoted customers.

So let’s look back and remember how we get to this fourth level agreement:

Level 1 was that mental ‘click’ that caught your attention. Level 2 was the move from thought to action. Level 3 is where you entered into a contract based on expectations and promises and Level 4 is where you become the ‘more than satisfied’ customer we refer to as a Disciple.

So how do you move someone from Level 3 to Level 4? What is the secret sauce, the mystery of the ages, the magic bullet that creates these fanatical followers? It takes work. In order to become a Disciple-making organization you need to remember three keys:

1. You start with Customer Service

Customer service always starts with a set of expectations. Those that were created at Level 3. The expectations of those delivering the service may not be the same as the expectations of those receiving it. The closer the match the easier it is to deliver on the expectations. Do you see why the Level 3 agreement becomes so crucial? You need to set the right expectations early on.

On the delivery end you can compare yourself to the competition and create higher expectations for what you will deliver. Your customer will be pleasantly surprised the first few times they experience this higher level of service.
After that you’ve set your own bar at a minimum that is higher than the competition but is still a minimum…for you. Now the customer set of expectations is higher when they enter your store. Now, what was once “higher than anyone else” has become “the minimum expected in this place” Because that is the minimum set of expectations, even though it is better than the competition, the best you can do is “not fail”.
Even if your standard is the best in the industry.

So how do you create opportunities for a “pleasant surprise” that lives beyond the first or second visit?

2. You have to Empower your People.

I was marshaling at a local golf course several years ago sending groups off in order from the first tee. I had a twosome who somehow got lost in the rotation. The club house had delayed in calling them down to me so by the time they did get called they were almost an hour behind their scheduled tee time. There were NOT happy. The late start meant they wouldn’t get the full round of 18 in that they had paid for because they had appointments later in the day. I could easily have blamed the club house, they HAD messed up. I could have apologized profusely,  which would have made no difference to them.

Instead I offered that we’d give them their money back for the full 18, get them out to play the 9 holes for which they had time, and give them a 2-for-1 on their next visit. They went from haters to fans in an instant! Was there a procedure for such a thing? No. Did I ask permission? No. Did I cost the golf course money? Not really in the long view. But I was empowered enough to make a decision that served the customer.

You have to empower the people who interact with the public to make service decisions instantly and you need to applaud them when they do. (Spoiler Alert: This means that every “mishap” is really a golden opportunity, but we’ll talk about THAT another day.)

3. You must Anticipate Need

Have you ever found yourself struggling to open a door with two armloads of stuff?  Ever had someone see you struggling and come up to help? Better yet ever had someone see you approaching the door, bounce past you before you got there, and opened it for you? That anticipation of need creates a different level of appreciation than just meeting the obvious need of someone struggling with a door. As I mentioned in Preparing for Disciples:

“Customer service that fosters Disciples does not seek to merely serve the customer needs in the moment. It seeks to anticipate what the customer’s needs will be tomorrow and stands prepared to meet them or even preempt them.”

Anticipating need is all about knowing your customer. Not just at a transactional level but at a motivational level as well.

These three keys, customer service, empowered people, and anticipated needs will help you move from Level 3 agreements to Level 4 agreements smoothly setting you on the road to Disciple making.

Expectations are crucial in moving from Level 3 to Level 4. What would you guess your customers expectations are when they deal with you?

Do you meet the minimum expectations or do you constantly seek to raise the bar?

Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement – Creating Level 2

Last week we started to look at relationship building from the perspective of four levels of agreement.

Level 1, Cognitive Resonance, was that mental click that happens when something gets your attention. Level 2, Completed Response, is the move from thought to action. That thing you do in response to the mental click. So if our premise is that relationships build as you move through these four levels of agreement how do ensure that your “call to action” is something doable?

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone presents a 30 slide presentation FULL of information that is nothing more than just that, information? No application, no ask, no call to action.

Several years ago I was doing some communications consulting with a large technology company. They told us of a meeting that had been held by the Senior VP of sales in which he recounted which of their product lines they were going to focus specifically on in the coming fiscal year. Good information right? Problem was he didn’t provide any call to action and as a result:

  • The support group wanted to know when they were supposed to announce end of support for the lines that were not in focus for the coming year.
  • Development teams on the non-focus lines started updating resumes in fear they were going to be let go.
  • Marketing started working on messaging around migrating customers off of the non-focus product lines.
  • Multiple meetings were called to try to figure out the impact of dropping several of the product lines.

Finally the VP had to call yet another meeting to “announce” that they weren’t going to drop ANY product lines. They were just going to put specific focus in the coming year on the ones he had mentioned previously. Which, by the way, didn’t alleviate ALL the fears…it just extended the runway.

Contrast NO call to action with the sidewalk evangelist who approached a friend and I, when we were nine years old, leaving little league tryouts. This kid was probably in high school or college, all the same to me…I was nine, and he was really in to “sharing the gospel”. Having “grown up” in the church I was interested in what the guy had to say, not sure if my friend was, and listened politely. He came to the end of his schpiel, with a few leading questions along the way, and asked if we wanted to confess our sins and ask Jesus into our hearts. Hmmmm…call to action (for a nine year old): Admit that much of what you have done in your nine years is wrong, confess that to GOD, and give Him complete control of your life, right here, while we’re talking, on the sidewalk, after little league tryouts, without asking your parents. Yikes.

Let me share a couple characteristics to remember when sorting out your call to action, that thing you’re asking someone to do to move to a Level 2 relationship.

1. Make it Clear and Actionable – “I want you to consider supporting” is not a crystal clear action. “I want you to support” isn’t either, they’re both passive asks. Remember this is an action step. You want them to do something physically. “I want you to support this initiative by taking two actions…” Those two actions are your clear ask.

2. Make it Right Sized – The ask of the street evangelist to a nine year old is huge. How about asking the kid to attend a church service with his folks?  “Get up out of your chair and sign up for classes today.” Again, huge. There’s cost, schedule, class choice, a lot of decisions that go into that ask. “Come try a one day class for free.” Relatively easy. (By the way this is where offering freebies is a GREAT call to action: come try it.)

3. Make it Low Risk or at least Risk Appropriate. – Remember you’re early on in relationship here. Trust has to be earned. Think about the risk you’re asking someone to take. Give them an easy first step to build confidence in the relationship, then follow that with a next easy step.

The “risk free 30 day trial” is a great attempt at a clear, actionable, low risk call to action. Are you skeptical when you see that ask? Why or why not?

Can you think of a time when your call to action was either absent or too big? How Could you change that?

Relationship Building – The Four Levels of Agreement – Level 2

Last week we started to look at relationship building from the perspective of four levels of agreement.

  • Level  1Cognitive Resonance
  • Level  2Completed Response
  • Level  3Contractual Responsibility
  • Level  4Committed Rapport

We explored Cognitive Resonance: that mental “click” that happens when something stands out and makes you take notice, and talked about how to create Cognitive Resonance for your potential customers, parishioners, or clients.

So what is this Level 2 – Completed Response all about?

Imagine that you’re walking through the kitchen in your home and the TV is playing quietly in the background. A commercial comes on, it’s for a local car dealership, the LAST thing you need to do is listen but the volume has suddenly reached that epic, please-don’t-use-your-outdoor-voice-in-the-house level like all commercials do. You grimace, shake your head, plant your face firmly in the fridge, and then you hear: “Everyone who comes in and test drives today receives a free trip to Paris, France!”

You stop what you’re doing and turn quickly to face the TV. You want to be sure you heard that right. The announcer continues ranting but manages to convince you that there is no apparent catch. All you have to do is go test drive a car and get a trip. Your interest is piqued! You’ve JUST entered into a Level 1 relationship with the dealer. Now what?

Now you have a choice to make. Will you believe it enough to go test drive a car? You rational brain kicks into overdrive analysis mode.  There has to be a catch. They couldn’t afford to do that even if they marked up every car significantly AND sold one for every two test drives. “Paris, France” must be a name they’ve given to their sales office or something. It cannot be.

At the same time your heart is fighting back. What if it IS true? What if their owner also owns an airline? How big of a hero would I be if I took my wife to Paris? I’ve got nothing else going on this afternoon, I should go do it!

At this point you’re on the verge of entering into a Level 2 agreement, the Completed Response.

While Level 1, Cognitive Resonance, is a passive, almost automatic reaction Level 2, Completed Response, is a cognitive active choice that involves some form of physical action.

You observe the girl across the room, hear her talk and are intrigued by her combination of looks and intelligence…”click”…Level 1 agreement. But unless you walk over and introduce yourself OR go do some “friend research” to learn more about here, both Completed Responses, the relationship never moves forward.

You hear the car commercial offering the trip…”click”…Level 1 agreement. You internally debate. But unless you go test drive a car OR talk to someone who has tested the offer, both Completed Responses, the relationship never moves forward.

In traditional sales this is typically referred to as the “call to action”. This is the “what I want them to do” after they hear the pitch. It is important to remember that the Completed Response involves physical action. It moves the relationship from thought to action. Too often we present ideas, try to sell products, attempt to build relationships with little or no thought to this call to action. We present information to folks and HOPE they’ll make the right choice or give them an ultimatum: buy today. There is art in creating the right call to action. There is elegance is providing an easy path to a Level 2 agreement.  We’ll look at the “how to” next time.

Think about the last time you tried to recruit someone, to sell something, or even to convince someone of a new idea.

Did you present the information in a way that would inspire a Level 1 “click”?

And did you follow that up with an easily achievable and understandable call to action that made for a seamless transition from thought to Completed Response?

Relationship Building: The Four Levels of Agreement – Level 1

Last time we looked at how relationships grow through four levels of agreement. We identified the first level agreement as Cognitive Resonance, that instant where your attention is captured enough to create a connection, a first level agreement. We described Cognitive Resonance as:

It’s the brain buzz, the ‘click’, the “hey, that looks interesting”. It’s that thing that happens when the server walks by with someone else’s food and you start madly scrambling for the menu to see if you can figure out what that was because “THAT looked goooood.”

It’s that moment in a conversation with someone you’ve just met where you start to pay closer attention because you were suddenly struck with the thought, “Hey, I think there could be more to this person.”

It’s that third recommendation of a restaurant that makes you think, “Yeah, we should check that place out.”

Make sense? Good. So here’s the question of the day…

If you can identify what the moment of Cognitive Resonance feels like how do you inspire it in others?

Whether you’re trying to woo potential customers, build a congregation, or simply make friends knowing how to create that moment of Cognitive Resonance is key to getting out of the gate on the right foot. I believe there are two key operating principles you MUST  employ when you’re looking to create a moment of Cognitive Resonance for people.

Principle 1: It isn’t about you, it’s about them.

The picture at the top of this post is the first magazine ad I was ever tasked with creating. It was a half page ad in a magazine that was going to be distributed to all attendees at a large industry conference being put on by a large software company.  I looked at the ads that all of our competitors had done the previous year and they all sounded the same. “We’re the best.” “We’re the biggest.” “We have more.” ” We, We, We”  That’s why my ad emphasizes the word YOU. I wanted to start with the prospect in mind. In fact, we go so far as to tell them what they want. Pretty bold move.

This was an ad that I really thought would be more or less a throw away. We got it free as a sponsor of the event. But you would have been amazed at how many people came by our booth and mentioned it in one way or another. The change in approach that put the focus back on the customer prospect, rather than on trying to scream how good WE were louder than our competitors, actually caused people to pause. It created a moment of Cognitive Resonance.

Now I’ll admit, taking that approach you have to know pretty well what the prospect really wants. But that is exactly where marketing lives today. Traditional marketing was about screaming more loudly than the competition how good your stuff is and because it is so good, Mrs. Customer, you know you want it.

Relational marketing, or tribal marketing, or social marketing…whatever label we’re going to land on here shortly…is about understanding the customer and speaking to their need. And if you do THAT well you’ll create a moment of Cognitive Resonance.

Doing that WELL leads to principle number two.

Principle 2: Understand the customer and start where they are.

Customers, potential church attenders, soon to be friends all have needs both recognized and unrecognized. The better you can identify those needs the better you can meet them with a product, service, or relationship.

For years I sold software. People selling software always assume the customer wants to buy software. What started to bug me was that we sometimes lost the sale, to “no decision”. WHAT?!?! They bought NOTHING? The reason was that while software sales people were assuming that the customer need was for software, the customer felt they needed to solve a business problem. They HOPED software might solve it but the NEED was a solution to a business problem. In general then the bulk of the software sales people I was running across were starting in the wrong place!

We began creating presentations that said nothing about software. I had several CEO’s for whom I worked nearly go through the roof with me on that. Our presentations started talking about the business problem, in detail. Without fail we’d have a major prospect, or analyst, or board member stop us only a third of the way into our presentation and say, “You get this better than anyone else we’ve talked to. Now how do we solve it?”

By starting where the customer was, with their felt need, we were able to move very quickly to a moment of Cognitive resonance that set us apart from the competition. We also started selling more software.

Looking at your set of potential customers, or attendees, or friendships how can you start making the conversation more about them than about you?

With those folks you have in mind is there a difference between what they think they might need and what YOU think they might need? How can you start where they are and bridge the gap?



The Prodigal Son in the Key of P

Pining for pretzels, pislner and polkas a pre-pubescent punk pressed his Pa for post-mortem pasetas prior to the padres passing. Prancing and partying with pretentious pals and professional pleasure providers pushed the plebe promptly poorward. Presently he paused…pondering his position passing pods to pigs in a polluted pen panting after the procurement of parallel pottage.

“Pah!,”, he postulated, “Pop’s peasants possess pleasant porridge whilst I pass provisions to pigs in poop.”  Ploddingly pacing ‘pon the paterfamilias the penitent posed, petitioning, “Pa, please pardon past faux pas, poor planning and parting with proceeds.”

Presently the patriarch pulled the peasants to the patio promptly producing precious pajamas and porterhouse.

The prima donnas primigenous pal protested prodigiously, “A proclivity for pernicious proceedings proves no prerogative for portly pampering! Persistent probity plus parsimony provide prescription for periodic pleasantries!”

“Pish-posh!” plied the progenitor, “progenies passing the planet propagates pain but prolonged potency proves positively pleasing!”

Something a little different today. Sometimes looking at an old story (or marketing message?) in a new way results in stretched creativity.

What stories do you know, or tell, that could use a fresh perspective?


Commercial Perfection

Have you seen the new Perrier commercial?

This is really brilliant stuff, especially when held up next to much of what is being aired these days. If you’ve seen it in context, meaning on TV, it really stands out from the commercials on either side of it. Why? you may ask, what makes it so appealing? Let me suggest three simple elements:

1) It Understands the Medium:

Television is a visual medium. The visuals of all the melting landscape and props are artistic candy. Watch the actors as they interact with their melting surroundings…great stuff. There is a trend in commercials today to be more reliant on audio, the thought being that people are headed to the fridge with their back turned to the tube so we better give them an audio message. This piece is purely visual communication. Walk to the fridge with your back turned and you won’t know what the commercial is about but watch it, and you’re captivated.

2) It Tells a Story:

We’re drawn in early on to the mystery of why stuff is melting. We shown the main character with a look of confusion approaching panic. She moves toward resolution and then the story arc peaks as the bottle falls off the ledge, a moment of high tension. We get it, we know where this is headed because we’ve seen it before but the piece is so artistically done, the story so visually well told, that we follow it anyway.

3) It Resolves on the Product:

The moment we see the “heroine” drink deeply in the pool we think, or at least I thought, “refreshment”. No slogan is spoken, no print on the screen, but the idea is clear, and more importantly, it is centered on the product. Not the funny person in the video, not the comedic climax, not the tag line, the product. We’re given one word “Perrier” and we provide our own tag line, highly personalized, subconsciously.

What are the places in life where you are trying, or have to try, to convince people to do something, or try something, or decide something? Do your “commercials” understand the medium in which you’re presenting your idea? Do you have a story to tell? DO you focus on “the product”? The thing you want them to choose?

It may be trying to get your kids out of bed in the morning. It may be trying to convince a friend to start exercising with you. It may be trying to sell your boss on a new idea. How can you leverage these three elements to convince your audience in a more compelling way?