Category Archives: Integrated Marketing

Are Your Poorly Executed Low Margin Services Hurting Business?

On a recent dive trip to the Philippines I saw two different situations where service companies had upset and lost some of their best customers over something that could have been prevented by a bit of attention to detail.  Too often companies do not understand the value of these low margin, loss leader tasks on their reputation and in the case of SCUBA diving, their potential liability.  I see this problem everywhere from minimum wage check out staff, call centers and front line technicians that just slog away day to day not thinking about how their actions have a direct impact to the bottom line of the business.

Doing what is expected and Requested by Customers

The first problem was the quality of SCUBA gear maintenance.  Most dive shops offer it to get people back into the store and hope they upgrade their gear, take a new course or sign up for a trip. Like filling tanks, one of the few things related to diving you cannot buy online.   Since they don’t make much on the annual maintenance most treat it that way.  Let me set up the situation from this trip in the Philippines.   There were 25 divers that went with Backscatter to Anilo Philippines for a 10 day macro photo course.   The trip is expensive so you can assume these customers have a bit of money.   All had relatively new and higher end gear and since they use it a lot all take good care of it.  On this trip we had at least 8 divers that had some sort of gear problem that is directly related to poor repair service by their local dive shop.

All regulator manufactures require you to service your breathing device annually.  It is either a full rebuild of all moving parts and o-rings which is done every other year or a visual where they check everything out for defects and wear and if all looks good you are good for another year.  The nice things is if you keep the maintenance current, the parts for the rebuild are free.  This is a very small price to pay by the manufacture to minimize lawsuits from dive injuries from malfunctioning equipment.  Unfortunately, since it is a low margin service, many dive shops relegate this to “support staff” who do this sort of work for discounted dive gear or free air or as part of the duties of the shop’s sales staff. It is not complicated work but does require attention to detail and time for the online certification course.

Lets start with my problem first, mine and Motoko’s gear was due for just for an inspection but since we were going on a long trip with an estimated 40 dives I asked for ours to be rebuilt and I would pay for the parts.  When I picked up my gear a few days before the trip, I learned they did a visual inspection only.  Since every thing looked good the tech felt there was no need to do a rebuild – not what I asked and was willing to pay for.   I can accept that since it looked good but my concern was with our wireless air transmitters that send data to our wrist computers.   These batteries are supposed to be replaced annually.  The dive shop clerk did not have an explanation as to why it was not replaced.   Since opening it requires a certified tech to keep the warranty, they were not able to change the batteries before we left on the trip.  Also, they require a specific battery that is not readily available which is why I was looking for the parts bag in the first place.   The previous year I had two transmitters fail during a dive and when checked the batteries upon return we learned the dive shop had used some cheap batteries from China they had bought online to save a few dollars.

There are 2 distinct problems in my case.  First they did not do what the customer asked and was willing to pay for.  Specific notes were added to the ticket to tell them to do a full overhaul. Second, the required service was not done.  Had I not specifically checked I would not have known they did not replace the batteries.  They had the gear for 45 days so should not have been a rush job.  I have had two previous issues with techs doing a bad job including where they forgot to tighten the yolk value after repair and it flooded and another leaded transmitter when they had not tightened it correctly.  In both cases the dive center covered the repairs but both caused me problems when I was out diving.  There are not many dives shops near us so we are running out of alternatives.

The other 7 divers, 2 of them on our boat, had similar problems.  They paid for the full service but did not happen.   One diver had a serious leak on the first dive were her computer attached to the high pressure hose that had a serious leak.   She came to the surface and found that they had not put the o-ring back on where it connects to the hose.  She would miss out on that dive and we had to go back to the resort to get her another regulator.   The second person had a problem on dive 2 when her high pressure hose had a rapid stream of bubbles coming from it.  Back on the boat after the dive, she found that her hose was worn.   That is one of the items that is supposed to be checked during the inspection.  First to make sure the hose is not on a recall list and second for any sort of damage or excessive wear.  A blown high pressure hose is not only a problem since that takes away your air supply it can also cause great injury as it is a higher pressure hose that is bouncing around your head violently until the air run out or is turned off.

The point of the story is that every one of these cases the diver did their part and took their gear in to get serviced before this important trip.  They expected the professional to do their job and since they did not this resulted in undue stress and frustration and in all cases the divers indicated they would change dive shops.  We have moved onto another dive shop to give them a try to see if their are any better.   Checking with a few of the divers after the trip they have all changed costing that shop both revenue and most importantly, a hit to their reputation.  Again these are people with money and at a time where more gear and travel is bought online, local dive shops need to excel at the small things that actually force people into their stores.  Even if you relegate this to junior person or volunteer the owner must ensure that things are done correctly and that customers are satisfied.  I had suggested that when people tell you they are going on a big trip contact them after and see how it went.  If they had a problem with gear that is a potential to try and resolve it or maybe sell them something more specialized.   I had been going to my local dive shop for 12 years and every few years replacing at least 2 if not 4 sets of gear so lets see if they miss me this year.

Expectations of High Value Advice and Service

This was the second set of problems people experienced on the trip.  To be fair, no one can know all the bits that go into a custom camera package but when people are paying as much as a low end car for a camera set up they are expecting a certain level of experience and service.  During the trip there were a few cases, myself included, where we bought a package of some sort and had problems.  In my case they handled it great but did require a bit of effort that was more than necessary on my part.

Anilao is one of the ultimate places for underwater macro photography.  The suggestion was to bring a extension diopter to help magnify some of the smaller critters.  Now I did research between 3 or 4 different online stores but quickly realized there were too many moving parts and needed help. Trying to piece the adapter, a converter due to the housing mount being a different diameter and something to allow me to move the diopter out of the way when not using it was to time consuming so I called my favorite store Backscatter.    They suggested a specific combination and strongly recommended one diopter over the other especially for this trip.   Other review sites I read suggested the same product.   They sent me everything a few days before departing and since I was testing everything I tried to assemble this set up as well.    No matter what I tried the diopter would not fit the flip mount that they suggested for my camera.  I spent a good amount of time trying to get it to fit – frontwards, backwards, even almost disassembling it thinking the mount was put together backwards in the factory.  I sent a note to support and they replied to tell me they they had the same outcome when trying to replicate it on a similar set up – does not fit.   They indicated this diopter was new and they had not tested it on this specific mount.   They dropped the next best one in the mail overnight and I got it and all worked well.  Would have sucked if I had blind trust and waited until I got to the Philippines to put it together as others on the trip did.

I had a similar problem with a prior wide angle/video trip.   I called the sales team and told then what I wanted.  They suggested a very specific package.  I paid for it and it arrived and went on the trip assuming that I had all I needed.   After the first day of diving all of my photos had a bright spot from the internal flash reflecting off the dome.  One of the other divers heard me and told me I needed to block the internal flash from getting into the dome.  He was surprised they had not sent a small felt ring that goes around the lens between the housing and camera to block the flash reflection.  I made one out of cardboard for the next day and set an email to the sales team.  They responded with yes, we sell that item for $10 but most people don’t want to pay $10 for a piece of felt.  Again, why not at least suggest that I get it to solve a well known problem? Or better yet, why not add it as part of the package for that expensive dome/lens would have been better experience or at least add as an item on the invoice to trigger a conversation.

Some of the other divers did not fair well.   They were missing whole components like sync cords to talk to strobes.  IN every case the people felt that it should have been in the package or at least notified that they needed to make the set work.   I am not a fan of nickel and dimeing people.  In the end you pay the same price so why not just include it or at least list the additional items necessary.   Seriously, if you are paying $15k for a new camera package the sync cords or fancy carry handle should be part of the package or at least a line item the user can tell you to remove.
In this case the photo pro that came to the event from this shop had a couple or cords knowing they fail.

There were other photographers that could not use their new camera rig since they were missing a key part that was simple to include or at least ensure they bought.   They specifically told the sales person they were going on this long trip so a bit of extra attention should have been provided to make sure they had all of the items they needed to make their expensive toy usable.   Imagine flying around the world to use your new expensive underwater camera only to find out that you were missing the gear to focus the lens, or the cords to fire your strobes or in one case the battery for the camera itself.  Yes, that one was a user fault since it is on the checklist but a simple question by sales, do you have the battery for the brand new camera you are buying from us would have gone a long way.

So ask yourself, how much business am I loosing from poor performance on low margin services.  In the end it is your responsibility to ensure that your front line teams are doing their jobs to the best of their ability.  And remember it is had to expect owner level knowledge and passion from a minimum wage employee that has nothing to loose from providing poor service your clients.  Ensure they are motivated, trained and passionate.  Also ensure that the best of your clients are happy and getting the service they are willing and most importantly able to pay for.

Importance of Try before you Buy

We would never imagine buying a car without a test drive but there are so many other purchases that we must make by reading product descriptions and reviews but I think companies can be more successful if they leverage a try before you buy model. My favorite Scotch is Arbourlor which came from a tasking in a duty free shop at the airport.

Last week I was in Roatan Honduras as part of a group of underwater photographers. We were there to dive and enhance our photo skills but also to try out a lot of new equipment.

My son had a problem with his mask. This is one of the most critical pieces of equipment for divers after their breathing source. I always bring an extra mask with me but I was using it since mine broke after a diver crushed it in rough seas. Bill went to the dive shop and tried a few on and found one he thought might fit. Given we are in a remote area with a smaller selection not sure he found the best one. While on land you can simulate the fit but until you dive you cannot be sure. IN 20 years of diving I have never been offered the opportunity to try a mask in water. Every dive shop where I have bought the mask required me to buy it. This dive shop let him take a sample mask diving that morning. After the two dives he loved it. The mask was so comfortable he not only bought one but bought two. Other than the cost of the “demo mask” there is no reason why others cannot do this.

I experience another “brilliant marketing moment” in Roatan with the demo gear. During the day you dive then each afternoon submit photos from the day to have them reviewed by the group and photo pros. On the second night one of the submissions was for one of the demo cameras. The Olympus TG4 This is one of the new Tough cameras that is waterproof to 50′ This one was in a housing with external strobes. The pictures looked great on the big screen. Berkly White the photo pro commented they were great for a compact point and shoot camera and this camera would make a great backup camera to the more complex and expensive rig. The next day we went into the demo room to try a new lens for a different Olympus camera and get on the list to try the TG4. We waited in line behind 5 people who wanted to try the TG4 camera. Carlos from Olympus, told them that the 4 he brought were already checked out. That is 10 people who were excited to try the camera the next morning. Not only did they see the photos, have an influencer make a comment but they would get a chance to try it. I tried the camera and it was great and it is not my backup!

For me I dive with the Canon 7D in an Aquatica housing. I have been loyal to Aquatica for 7 years – more than anything the service and support is um-matched. They make a great product. I wanted to upgrade to the Canon 5d but after my demo I have decided to go with the 7D Mk II which is an upgrade. I tried this camera in 4 different housings on at least 2 dives each. In the end I loved a different housing from Subal and pass my housing down to my son. It was more compact and easier to hold especially for macro shots. I tool it on 4additional dives and loved it placing and order on the spot.

The outcome of this try and buy event will be significant. Over 80 people saw the quality of the photos and at least 20 people tried the TG4 camera. Not sure how many went to buy it but once they do and people see it on the dive boats they will want it too. In rough estimates they should be able to sell at least 100 units from this event alone and that would be over $35,000 in revenue far more than the cost to have someone there to make it easy for people to try the product. The same is true with the other housings – many people want to move to the higher level of photography but would do so if they could actually try the equipment. Maybe larger dive-friendly locations like Roatan, Bonaire and Grand Cayman can create a rental program that would enable people to move beyond the point and shoot.

So why is try and buy a big deal – in the past some of the housing and camera makers did not attend this event and felt the opportunity was too small but they are not seeing the the power of influencers and social media expansion. I have shared my pictures with my network as have others that attended. I have seen a few posts of people asking what camera they used to do it. In the day of social media and even moderate influencers creating a situation where you can try and buy a product may be a great move for you.

New Venture Announcement – Voice of Consumer Data Management System

Hi again, it has been way to long since I updated this blog and has been for good reason. As a few of you know I have been heads down developing a system to data mine keyword and social media data. Yes, I know the subject name sucks – any suggestions? What seemed like and easy thing to do had turned into a total beast and development feat. I am here to day that we have accomplished most of the phase 1 specification and are now ready to realize as a commercial product. We we will add features in 3 phases which I will talk about in more details later.

More information is at http://www.back-azimuth.com – if your interested in it ping me and we can do a demo and maybe make you a beta client.

For now the application does the following:

Aggregates all of your keyword related data into a single repository stored on the cloud. Then allows you to quickly identify critical issues and missed opportunities.

Why did I do this? Over my years in search marketing one of the biggest challenges have been to manage keyword data. At IBM I built a keyword de-duping application just to find and manage duplicates between 30 business units doing paid search.

Only until we had this tool did we know that 21 business units were all bidding on the same keyword phrases. Last year working with a large multinational in Europe I asked them for their keywords and it took 8 days and I received 21 different Excel worksheets from the Search manager that represented their words. In another case, a multinational with thousands of products only had selected 25
keywords for any optimization efforts meaning tens of thousands were going without any efforts. All of these led to my desire to create a tool that would eliminate problems.

Over the past few months I have conducted a few survey’s of companies and from this research I have identified a number of keyword management challenges.

Keyword Management Challenges:

  1. Companies struggle to manage keywords in Excel (99.8% of companies surveyed)
  2. No lens into collaboration of Paid and Organic data (99.87% of companies surveyed)
  3. No way to see where keywords are under-performing against KPI’s (98.75% of companies surveyed)
  4. No way to monitor if the “right” page is ranking (99.25% of companies surveyed)
  5. No way to understand keyword performance by category or buy cycle (99.98% of companies surveyed)
  6. No way to understand performance based on the Searcher’s Intent (99.98% of companies surveyed)
  7. No way to leverage searcher interest data to prioritize content in the organization (100% of companies surveyed)

If you want to add to the survey simply go and add your responses to the Keyword Management Current State Survey.

What can we do today?

1. Aggregate all of your keyword data into a single searchable repository with role-based login access by different roles in the company.
2. Conduct paid and organic co-optimization analysis – are they cannibalizing or complimenting each other.
3. Preferred Landing Page Analysis – is the page you “want to rank” the one that is ranking?
4. Rank Analysis – same as everyone else but we allow you to sort by priority words, line of business and any keyword cluster or classification
5. HitWise Integration – if you have a HitWise account we can pull in the API feed and compare HitWise trends to your actual data
6. Data mine and Report on any of 55 different keyword variables
7. Develop Searcher Intent and Persona Segmentation – using any of 50 performance or segmentation factors cluster keywords into logical segments
8. Store, sort and report on data across business units, lines of business or countries
9. Understand performance by keyword length, position and paid and organic assists
10. ROI Modeling based on multiple variables

What has been the outcome?
In my first generation I used Microsoft Access and Excel Pivot Tables to test the theory then moved into MVP “Minimum Viable Product” mode to quickly develop functions that allowed us to scale data resulting in the following success stories:

Success Story 1: UK travel site matched keywords to top ranking pages found less than optimal pages ranking – fixing just 5 pages resulted in $60k incremental revenue in 25 days.

Success Story 2: PC Maker found significant searches but no traffic for “End of Life” products that they had no web page representation for – They added new content and PPC campaigns generating $400k

Success Story 3: Fortune 50 company realigned keyword ownership and budgets based on segmentation analysis for maximum opportunity resulting in a decrease in PPC spend of 12% but 300% increase in sales

Success Story 4:
Travel site identified 50 keywords in top 5 position with less than 5% share of clicks – optimized snippets increasing click rates from 5% to 15% resulting in 85% increase in revenue

Where are we at today?
This is not a mainstream consumer site product. It is designed for a site with a large base of keywords typically more than 500,000 of them that want to get more out of the product. We are looking to develop a mainstream version of the application but seems those customers want something cheap, that does a lot of automated analysis and does not require them to think.
We are not quite thee yet and when we are we will roll that version out.

What is is not?

While the tool does a lot, it does not or will not do any of the following:

1. A bid management tool – there are plenty of them that will work great for you
2. A SEO Automation tool – there are plenty of them that will work great for you
3. A Search Analytic tool – sort of but does not replace Omniture, Google or Web Trends
4. Keyword Research tool – sort of since we can mine data but we typically are not looking for new words. Great tools like Keyword Discovery, Wordstream exist for this function.

The challenges:
Where do I start with this one – this project has taken every ounce of patience and sanity I could muster to not abort it along the way. Fortunately, I have been working with a great team at OC4 on managing this in the cloud. We have nailed most of the big issues and are just fine tuning.

Data Integration – The biggest challenge was integrating and managing the data. Readers, there is some messed up data out there. I found that there are a lot of agencies and people that should be fired for incompetence if not fraud. This was the biggest challenge of integrating the data. There are large volumes of it and we needed to suck them in and align them.

Data Clean Up – people use some crazy words to find your products and there is a lot of bot activity. We has to write a data import and cleaner tool just to parse log traffic data. Omniture does a decent job of sorting these into “Small Elements” but other tools do not. We had to develop a routine to process 286 different types of data contamination before we could import CSV files into the system. We had whole paragraphs coming in, multiple commas, and ton of scrapping strings looking for pricing or other elements that all had t be cleaned out. Not to mention beginning and trailing white space and other issues just to normalize the data. In one case there were 854 different misspellings of the company name which we leave in the tool but don’t necessary want to gather other data for.

Product Naming – Another big challenge is a name for it – My original concept was to call it “VOCDMS” – Voice of the Consumer Data Management System – but clearly that does not roll of the tongue so we are working on a better naming. We have thought to keep it aligned to Back Azimuth since that is still the foundation of what we believe – helping you get back to your consumer.

Development Teams
– I am now on the 3rd iteration of a development team. The current team from Exadel are awesome. They have fixed many of the bugs and problems from the previous India teams. I have tried local developers but they were way to expensive, too distracted or wanted a large share of the company while only offering mediocre skills.

Market Interest – This one has been strange – when I have told people about the tool they are skeptical assuming there is already one like it then realize or ask their teams to find they are like the rest of the companies using Excel or maybe a in-house database to manage it.

Whats next?
We have a few clients and pilots going now and will start to market the product to a wider audience by the end of the year. If you have an wish list items send them my way.

Interview with Exchange 4 Media – Delhi India

I did the following interview after the panel discussion organized by Exchange 4 Media with some of the top Indian Digital Marketers at ‘Digital 3.0: A Roundtable on Marketing Strategies in a Digital World’ in Delhi India on January 17, 2011. As you would expect, some of my comments were controversial – especially when I suggested many old fashioned agencies deserve to die for not evolving their services.

Social Rewards and the Awesome Sanyo Dual Camera

Last Thursday following the last day of SES San Francisco I attended a launch party for the brilliant new company Social Rewards started by Joe Morin and Mike Uesugi. I think they have a winner with this company since it effectively connects brands to consumers and leverages Word of Mouth to help spread the word about new products and services faster than you can with traditional media.

The night kicked off with Joe announcing they would be giving away over 50 cameras and assorted other prizes. Everyone likes to win things but the last thing I needed was another  camera. I have 3 on my desk now not to mention thousands of dollars worth in my underwater photography set up.    Another problem – all of my cameras except 1 are Canon. I have been loyal to Canon for over 25 years. I did cheat last year and buy an Olympus waterproof that I use on dive boats and my wife uses in a housing for underwater photography – only because Canon did not offer one.

Honestly, I now know this Canon loyalty kept me from looking at other products. I would have never thought of Sanyo until I saw the impressive display at the event of all of the dual format cameras and people taking pictures with them that evening.  After looking at the dual format concept I got to thinking about the implications for underwater photography.

Well, I was a lucky winner of on of the Sanyo VPC-CA102YL Xacti Dual Video & Digital cameras.  Ok, Sanyo, need to work on your product naming conventions.   It is a very cool camera. I was going to buy a Flip video (simple name) and put it in a waterproof housing to take with me next month to snorkel with the manatees but this camera is perfect. I can video these beautiful animals in addition to just taking pictures with my normal underwater rig.

Upon returning home from San Francisco my son had tickets to the Giants & Patriots football game and saw the camera on the table an he wanted to take it with him since he thought it was a very cool camera. Unfortunately it was not charged so he had to go without it. Need to make sure he does not steal it and take back to school.

After playing with it a few days it is actually a great piece of equipment. It is full HD video with zoom and the sound quality is excellent.  In addition to video it takes 14 megapixel still photos. The beauty is that it is small enough to just throw into your computer bag or glove box to always have with you. On top of that it works well with the Eye-Fi data cards (won one in bingo at the party too) with onscreen collaboration with the functionality.

I will post some pics and a video in the next few days when I have time to process them but I did want to say thank you to Sanyo and the crew from Social Rewards for both a great party and introducing me to this awesome product.

The Impact of Social Media on Search Marketing

Kate Maddox from B2B Magazine released a story today outlining key findings from a recently completed study on The Impact of Social Media on Search. This study was a collaboration between B2B Magazine and Business.com. I was not able to find the full story – once I do I will post a link.

The survey was designed and conducted to explore how marketers are integrating social media with search marketing and the collaborative results.

According to survey, the top goals for social media marketing are:
• 81% – building brand awareness
• 77% – increasing traffic to a website
• 67% – generating leads
• 66% – providing deeper engagement with customers
• 57% – improving search results

It was very interesting to read how B2B Marketers were using using social media to improve their search results:

• 48% – to drive inbound links through various social media channels
• 45% – social media accounts to increase rankings on major search engines
• 40% – monitoring social media conversations to influence organic SEO
• 26% – monitoring social media conversations to influence keyword purchases

The impact on links is interesting since many of the social media sites actually use no follow tags negating the value of the links from social. Note, I have seen a lot of incremental links from influencers who have been reached via social media that generated links that do pass value.

I am very intrigued by that last reason – to influence keywords purchases. I am waiting to see the full report for me details but this is something we are really focused on at Back Azimuth. By mining the chatter in social you are really able to understand current voice of the consumer to better understand context and needs before they show up in historical search data.

They were then asked what has been the impact of social media on their search performance.

• 44% – impact has been positive
• 28% – impact has been neutral
• 27% – impact was unknown
• 1% – impact was negative

I was curious what they are measuring since most companies are still struggling with how to measure social let along measuring the collaborative impact of each on the other. The article indicted that 41% are not currently measuring the impact of social media on their search performance. The 59% that are measuring the impact the most common metrics were:

• 37% – organic search rankings (assume the organic rankings of social media content)
• 30% – number of inbound links (30%)
• 23% – search volume for brand or keyword phrases
• 22% – search marketing conversion rates

In terms of actual impact the research asked where they are seeing the most impact of social media activities:

• 35% – seen an improvement in organic search rankings
• 24% – increased in search referrals
• 15% – increased click-through rates in paid search campaigns

The survey also looked at how companies are using search to enhance their social media efforts. Of the 70% that are using search to influence social media performance:

• 54% – search for conversations about their company’s brand or products on social media channels
• 42% – perform search engine optimization on their social media content
• 37% – search for conversations about their competitors on social media channels
• 13% – place social media links in paid search ads

The key metrics used to measure social media marketing efforts noted in the research:

• 55% – visits to websites
• 48% – number of fans, followers and “likes” on social media networks
• 35% – number of mentions about a company or product
• 28% – and number of retweets

The article mentioned another nugget when they asked about the level of sophistication of the companies SEO performance:

• 39% – program needs improvement
• 27% – program is somewhat advanced
• 26% – program is adequate
• 9% – program is very advanced

It is great that we finally have some data to help with the integration of these two key tactics. Some of the findings are interesting since they are B2B where this type of adoption and integration is less common. This data also help support many of the recommednations I made in my article on integrating Search and Social Media.