Marketing challenges


“When Cultures Collide”

Thanks to Rod Rothwell – an Aussie doing business in Korea – for bringing this to our attention.

According to  “When Cultures Collide“ by British linguist Richard D. Lewis,who has mapped out leadership styles and cultural identities, cultures have different approaches to communication in business negotiations.

Lewis speaks ten languages, so he realistically warns of the danger of cultural comparisons and generalizations. However, he finds that there are also “national norms:”

By focusing on the cultural roots of national behavior, both in society and business, we can foresee and calculate with a surprising degree of accuracy how others will react to our plans for them, and we can make certain assumptions as to how they will approach us. A working knowledge of the basic traits of other cultures (as well as our own) will minimize unpleasant surprises (culture shock), give us insights in advance, and enable us to interact successfully with nationalities with whom we previously had difficulty.

Lewis’ communication diagrams follow these conventions:

  • Wider shapes show greater conversational range
  • Obstacles are marked in gray
  • Cultural traits are also noted.

Vive la Différence!

How do the different nationalities compare? Here’s how they tend to communicate:

  • Americans tend to launch straight into negotiations, respond to discord confrontationally, and resolve with one or both sides making concessions.
  • Canadians, while similarly direct, can be more low-key, and inclined to seek harmony.
  • English may avoid confrontation in an understated, mannered, and humorous style
  • French often engage vigorously in a logical debate.
  • Germans rely on logic, while amassing more evidence and laboring their points more than the British or French.
  • Spanish and Italians “regard their languages as instruments of eloquence and they will go up and down the scale at will, pulling out every stop if need be to achieve greater expressiveness.”
  • Scandinavians can have entrenched but often reasonable opinions formulated “in the long dark nights.”
  • Swiss tend to be straightforward and unaggressive negotiators, obtaining concessions by expressing confidence in the quality and value of their goods and services.
  • Hungarians value eloquence over logic and are unafraid to talk over each other.
  • Bulgarians may take a circuitous approach to negotiations before seeking a mutually beneficial resolution, which will often be screwed up by bureaucracy.
  • Poles often have a communication style that is “enigmatic, ranging from a matter-of-fact pragmatic style to a wordy, sentimental, romantic approach to any given subject.”
  • Dutch are focused on facts and figures but “are also great talkers and rarely make final decisions without a long ‘Dutch’ debate, sometimes approaching the danger zone of overanalysis.”
  • Chinese tend to be more direct than the Japanese and some other East Asians; however, meetings are principally for information gathering, with the real decisions made elsewhere.
  • Hong Kongers negotiate much more briskly to achieve quick results.
  • Indians speak English in a way that “excels in ambiguity, and such things as truth and appearances are often subject to negotiation.”
  • Australians tend to have a loose and frank conversational style.
  • Singaporeans generally take time to build a relationship, after which they can be shrewd negotiators.
  • Koreans tend to be energetic conversationalists who seek to close deals quickly, occasionally stretching the truth.
  • Indonesians tend to be very deferential conversationalists, sometimes to the point of ambiguity.
  • Israelis tend to proceed logically on most issues but emotionally on some.

 

communication styles

 

 

 

losing_contact

NewLink Consulting, Toronto found: 29% of U.S. life policyholders lost contact with the agent/financial planner who had sold them the policy, and 41% if the policy was purchased from an agent/broker.

Guest blogger Mark Weishaar

An orphan can be defined as “One who lacks support, supervision or care”.
How many do you have in your CRM database? How many customers have simply become dormant and shuffled into an inactive or unassigned category?

In a recent conversation with my client from a major life insurance carrier, I was appalled to learn that her company had well over 100,000 orphaned policyholders. In insurance-speak, these are folks who originally purchased a policy from an agent, but were never re-assigned after that agent left the company.

Many industries have a similar category in their database. Inactive bank accounts, infrequent flyers, one-time visitors… the list goes on. It gets me thinking: how many organizations could use a shot in the bottom-line? This category represents a huge untapped asset:

  1. Orphans are never contacted. You have forgotten about them, and they have forgotten about you. How likely are they to ever upgrade or buy another product or service from you? 
  2. If your competition is effectively marketing – and you know they are – how many competing offers can your orphans resist? Retention rates suffer when customers are ignored. 

The ROI of Marketing to Orphaned Policyholders

Let’s put some dollars and sense behind a simple illustration exercise: 

With the potential for this scope of increased revenue, it makes no sense to me that so many insurance companies do not devote any attention to their orphaned policyholders. Political turf issues over account re-assignment? Possibly. “Don’t rock the boat” and “Let sleeping clients lie” mentality? Maybe. Inertia? Most likely. 

Case Study: A short while back, I worked with a major hotel chain to develop a multi-pronged marketing campaign. Our objective was to revitalize their “dormant” clients: those who had not booked a room within the previous 24 months. Of the many successful initiatives we launched, the highlight was going back to the dormant customers.

After modeling their data against the frequent guests and re-soliciting a predictive-modeled group with an offer, we generated an ROI of 1,090%!

Unheard of? Yes. But true. And I could predict similar successes in your own organization.

So take a look at your entire customer file. Find those pockets of orphaned customers who have been ignored for whatever reason. Develop a strategy to solicit them with a product offering using a predictive model-driven approach. The incremental revenue generation and low acquisition costs are likely to amaze you, and will demonstrate once again the truism that:

Your Best Customer is Your Current Customer.

Mark Weishaar is a veteran financial services direct marketer and senior executive delivering broad range of leadership responsibility, experience and accomplishment across brand strategy, marketing, loyalty programs, customer data analytics, distribution, CRM, and social media on a worldwide basis.  He has directed the sales & marketing of a wide variety of financial services products and programs and held senior level roles in start-ups and  Fortune 100 companies in direct marketing environments, and  traditional agent/advisor companies. He has a unique ability to analyze and develop actionable marketing and sales programs with measurable ROI improvements.
Want to chat with Mark? Reply to him here or leave a comment on the blog.

CM-Barriers-06

What Stands in the Way of Compelling Content?

Nasheen Liu, VP of marketing at The  IT Media Group,  discusses hindrances marketers face in creating compelling marketing content and and recommends three strategies to overcome them.  Two key problems she identifies are:

  1. Lack of control over the subject-matter.
  2. Feeling too removed from their audience.

She shares some approaches for overcoming those  challenges that allows markerters to more effectively create and repurpose compelling content.

Three Strategies

Strategy 1: Be an avid journalist to your internal  audience

In brief, there is no substitute for interaction with your field organization and customers.  Your notes from these interactions should include insights  from customers that can be summarized in a report and communicated to  your stakeholders.

Liu’s recommendation is to repurpose these valuable insights as “Industry Newsflashes,”  “Customer Insights,” and “Opportunity Analysis” for your internal audiences.  Why is this important?

Marketers often fail to realize that their most important audience is the  internal one. To market anything successfully, one must first and foremost  create as much visibility as possible internally. Every employee is your message  carrier. You will not become a rock star marketer if you don’t have the support  of your internal stakeholders.

Strategy 2: Insource your content, but control the  output

To get a good handle on your subject matter, it’s important to identify the domain experts  – at least one person in each cross-functional area who can serve as your go-to resource. This will give you a ready supply of content.

Getting subject experts to be responsive is a key challenge. You’ll need to schedule some time interviewing them in person. The conversation should be targeted to extracting content from them in 30 minutes or less.  One way to set this process in motion is to create an editiorial calendar.

If you promote your experts and give them visibility, you can gain you loyal sponsors and  support for your endeavors.

Strategy 3: Outsource your topics to industry  experts

One of the most common failures that I see marketers make in trying to promote themselves as thought leaders or impress audiences with their products and services is the mistake of “singing your own praises.”  To gain the attention and trust of the customer, it’s much better to get someone else to do the praising in an indirect way.

In the technology space, I engage industry experts, media personalities, and  well-known bloggers. The kind of perception you are trying to create is this:  “Wow, these guys are associated with her? Impressive.”

To build on this,  you can build  an onging campaign in which your expert can help you in various activities. Some ideas:

An initial article can turn into a moderated customer forum. The  findings from the forum become a whitepaper. The whitepaper can be used to  develop a video case study. And so on. Such linkages can continue to develop and  mature over the life of the catmpaign.

As Liu points out, “content is the bread and butter of what we do in the world of marketing.” Yet it often seems to get lost in the flurry of planning and execution, and becomes an afterthought. A successful marketing organization exists as part of a larger context of consistent messaging accross all touch points, internal and external. Nothing promotes an organization’s brand value more effectvely than shared messaging.

visualizing-seo

Economist  explained why you shouldn’t shop at Walmart on Friday (Black Friday.) A dumbed-down America wasn’t listening. He laid out the hard truths about American labor:

A half century ago America’s largest private-sector employer was General Motors, whose full-time workers earned an average hourly wage of around $50, in today’s dollars, including health and pension benefits. Today, America’s largest employer is Walmart, whose average employee earns $8.81 an hour. A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours per week and don’t qualify for benefits.

A Nation Sliding Backwards

One of the reasons for the decline of the middle class in America is the decline of labor unions. Membership is down from 33% of private sector workers in the 1950s to fewer than 7% today. Walmart’s employees have no union to represent them, and have been receiving a tiny portion of the corporate earnings compared to that the United Auto Workers members received in the 1950s.

Last year Walmart earned $16 billion, reporting a 9% increase in earnings ($3.6 billion) in the third quarter, but most of the profit went to Walmart’s shareholders, including the Walton family.

  • The Walton family earned more on their Walmart stock than the combined earnings of the bottom 40% of American workers.

The employee strike on Friday was a show of protest against wages as low at $8 an hour, unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, excessive hours, and sexual harassment.

A Company In Denial

Walmart fought back, filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to ban the strikes. OUR Walmart, the worker organization that is coordinating the protests backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, estimates that nationwide, there were more than 1,000 individual actions. But Walmart chose to put out dishonest talking points, saying that less than 500 workers absented themselves. Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. issued this lie:

Only 26 protests occurred at stores last night and many of them did not include any Walmart associates. We estimate that less than 50 associates participated in the protest nationwide. In fact, this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year.”

On a conference call Friday, Dan Schlademan, director of the union’s Making Change at Walmart campaign, said that, while his organization does not yet have a precise count of the number of workers who walked off since the strikes are ongoing,  there were hundreds of workers and thousands of supporters. Many cities around the country had higher-than-expected turnouts. According to The Huffington Post’s  and 

At the Walmart in Paramount, where The Huffington Post counted 600 people at one point, organizers later said that a total of 1,500 people had shown up. Nine people were arrested for sitting in the street, which had been blocked off for the protesters. Those arrested included three Walmart employees, a father of a worker, a former worker, two clergy members and two other supporters, according to organizers.

In places where fewer strikers than expected joined the protests, one reason is that the company intimidates anyone who considers joining a labor group. Three workers who did not participate strike told The Huffington Post that they shared the concerns about low wages, lost benefits and retaliation for speaking up, but they were too afraid of losing their jobs to strike.  Jaime Durand, a Walmart human relations manager  said:

In Texas, we own our parking lots. We won’t ask them to stop what they’re doing, but we will be asking them to leave private property so we can maintain a safe area for our customers.

Why It Matters To All

What happens at Walmart has far-reaching economic consequences. Its pay scale and working conditions set the standard for competitors. Today, the median wage is 8% lower than it was in 2000.  Without a vibrant and growing middle class, the economy will continue to falter. This is especially true now that most new jobs in America are in personal services like retail, and have low pay and bad hours. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics:

  • The average full-time retail worker earns between $18,000 and $21,000 per year.

“But Walmart Labor Policies Keep Prices Low”

A new study by the think tank Demos reports that low salaries actually depress the economy. The report finds that even raising the salary of all full-time workers at large retailers to $25,000 per year would lift more than 700,000 people out of poverty. The cost: only a 1% price increase for customers.

But what would the wage increase cost retailers? According to the report:

  • the cost to major retailers of raising salaries would be 1% of the sector’s $2.17 trillion in total annual sales – $20.8 billion.
  • Yet the increased purchasing power of lower-wage workers would generate $4 billion to $5 billion in additional retail sales.

Whatever Happened to Smart Management Practices?

The real costs of Dickensian labor policies like those practiced at companies like Walmart and Hostess are more than our economy can afford. At Hostess, labor unions were unfairly blamed for a pending bankruptcy that was caused entirely by this kind of mismanagement. The end result is that the workers, company and consumers all lose.

The Real Story At Hostess Brands: Hostess Brands, Inc., maker of Twinkies, founded in 1930, is about to permanently shut its doors, putting 18,500 people out of work. While management has been placing the blame on the BCTGM (Bakery, Confectionery Tobacco and Grain Millars International Union), the union representing Hostess employees, the real cause was inexcusably poor management.

  • The company has had two bankruptcies since 2004 due to poor management, as witnessed by the fact that it has had no less than six CEOs since 2002.
  • A Wall Street private equity firm and two hedge funds made matters worse, burdening Hostess with $800 million of debt.

Yet, the company was never moved to employ sound business practices to improve it’s market position.

  • In the 1990s, Hostess overextended itself, doubling its production facilities and employees.
  • In the early 2000s, ignoring the advice of market analysts, it bought back numerous shares of its own stock, which caused enormous debt described as “balance sheet degradation.”
  • During the 2000s, Hostess shut down 21 production facilities and cut its total workforce from 35,000 to 18,000.

To make matters worse, rather than face the fact that they were a company in distress, and working to improve their market position and rationalize their management, the company chose to ignore its fundamentals:

  • Hostess failed to invest in upgrading technology that was growing obsolete.
  • It failed to address the fact that it continued to lose market share.
  • It continued accruing debt.
  • It generously rewarded its top executives, doubling and even tripling their annual salaries.

Hostess’ Union Pitches In To Rescue The Company

Even so, following In the wake of Hostess’ 2004 bankruptcy, the union (BCTGM) did what they could to help, giving back $110 million in concessions. They showed more business acumen than the highly paid executives. They provided the give backs in exchange for the company’s promise that it would invest in new machinery and new technology, and improve it’s market position.

Hostess Fails To Do Their Share

Hostess broke that promise, and failed to follow through on those long-term investments. Instead they continued to churn their assets and their CEOs, rewarding themselves bigger bonuses. Rather than address their failing business model, here’s how they hey attempted to keep the scheme going by doing the following:

  • Management approached the BCTGM with unrealistic demands for pay and benefit cuts of between 27-32 percent.
  • They began looking to “harvest” as much of the company’s assets as it could on the way out.

The union and workers by now understood what was going on.  Hostess management could not be counted on to run a business. By a 92% vote, the union rejected the massive cuts, knowing the company was no longer sustainable.

Lessons Learned: Labor Has A Stake

Labor has a huge stake in the operations of a company.  By excluding them from the table, American businesses have written their own epitaph. While the corporate propaganda machine would have you believe that mismanagement of the American economy is the fault of the government and regulations, this is not even close to the hard economic truth that large corporations are running their businesses as cash cows for their top executives without regard for the real long-term interests of the company, it’s employees, consumers or the economy at large.  sums it up well:

Hostess is a cautionary tale. It’s a company that was not only systematically picked clean by Wall Street vultures, it’s one whose executives lavishly compensated themselves during its death throes. For Hostess, it’s been one reckless, greedy move after another — one management fiasco after another — and yet they’ve been unwilling to blame themselves. They blame the union for this whole mess.

Given the increased power of these vulture capitalists, Americans increasingly feel powerless to do anything but express angst in unfocused displays of tea party revolt. Rather than learn the lessons of history, our anger is increasingly coopted by corporate populist fronts like the tea party. The very fact that incompetent heirs like corporate vulture Mitt Romney and George W. Bush were considered to be viable presidential candidates is indicative of the extent of the problem.

So what can we do? Stand with the workers of Walmart, as they express their grievances.

The Economist article, “Data, Data, Everywhere” discusses the fact that the digital universe is growing faster than the capability to store this information. In the graph below you can see a representation of this phenomenon measured in Exabytes. (5 Exabytes = all of the words ever spoken by mankind.)

To attempt to deal with all this data, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and SAP have spent more than $15 billion in the past few years buying software firms specializing in data management and analytics – an industry  estimated to be worth more than $100 billion and growing at almost 10% a year, twice as fast as the software business as a whole.

This produces a significant problem for Marketers as well.

More Data Than Talent = Bad Marketing

 writes in New Media Media and Marketing that brands, like consumers are overwhelmed with too much data to know what to do with. And when it comes to Marketing, a new study shows that companies don’t have enough talent to know how to use it.  Rich sums up the problem:

With too much data, a lack of funding and resources and a scarcity of talented individuals and it’s not hard to understand why there is so much bad marketing out there.

The Problem: A Shortage of Marketing Talent

A study by MarketingSherpa conducted among small, medium and large businesses found that the most significant challenges facing marketers are:

  • Lack of funding or resources.
  • Lack of skilled individuals.

Here’s what the companies surveyed said were the major marketing problems they faced:

The Causes: Old Paradigms

Corporate politics:  A majority of respondents said that “there is at lest one wrong person in a critical position.”

Traditional Marketing Mindset:   Companies are still throwing money at traditional marketing tactics that are don’t engage today’s empowered consumers who don’t want to be interrupted with irrelevant ads.

No Clear ROI: Companies continue to do elaborate “branding” without demonstrating “a clear path to ROI.” In today’s cost-conscious environment, executives therefore see marketing as an expense rather than an investment in the brand.

The Solution: 5 Steps to Better Marketing

Companies need to find real marketing talent real fast. And Rich provides 5 steps to do so:

1: Hire Different:  If you want to “think different” then hire different. Instead of hiring people based on a close fit for a job description put together with the help of Human Resources, hire people for their passion and commitment to creative solutions.

2: Hire Outside the Boxers: Seek out those who question the status quo and adopt to them, rather than bring in those who fit in too well.

3: Hire Influencers: People who are creative and engaged and can influence others within your organization can get others excited about using data creatively to market to micro segments.

4: Hire Ego Challengers: As Rich puts it: “always hire someone smarter than you.”

5: Hire Non Technicians: Hire someone who knows how to use technology to maximize business objectives rather than someone who is just great at technology.

Do you want to read a 647 page report on data deluge?

Don’t be ridiculous. Rich Meyer’s last piece of advice is this:

Finally hire someone who can take a 60 slide Power Point deck and condense it down to one page of actionable recommendations against key brand objectives.   Either your organization is going to change or you’re going to become more and more irrelevant to consumers.

End of Story!

, motivational psychologist and author of ‘Succeed’ and “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently” writes a must read article for HBR.org and the Huffington Post titled “The Presentation Mistake You Don’t Know You’re Making.”

Dr. Halvorson discusses an important principle in behavioral economics – a pervasive bias in presenter thinking (“more is better”) that actually runs counter to an equally pervasive consumer perceptual bias (less is more). The implications for marketing are significant.

The Presenter’s Paradox: More is Actually Not Better

In 2012, psychologists Kimberlee Weaver, Stephen Garcia and Norbert Schwarz undertook a robust series of seven studies into  the “presenter’s paradox” in the Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. Their findings in impression formation demonstrate that:

Perceivers’ judgments show a weighted averaging pattern, which results in less favorable evaluations when mildly favorable information is added to highly favorable information…We show that presenters…instead design presentations that include all of the favorable information available. This additive strategy (“more is better”) hurts presenters in their perceivers’ eyes because mildly favorable information dilutes the impact of highly favorable information.

The Effect Explained

We assume when we present someone with a list of accomplishments  or a bundle of product and service benefits, that consumers will see what we’re offering additively. The example Dr. Halvorson gives is this: In applying for a job, we may list the following qualifications:

  • Graduating from Harvard.
  • Having a prestigious internship.
  • Demonstrating a record of successfully applying rigorous statistical skills.

Knowing that the company does business in Latin America, we add the following skillset:

  • Having taken 2 semesters of Spanish in college.
The result: The first 3 skills all rank a “10” on the scale of impressiveness, but the last skill ranks only a “2.” So how is this perceived by the interviewer?
We reason that more is better. Added together, we believe we have enhanced the effectiveness of our presentation:
  • 10 + 10 + 10 + 2 = “32” in impressiveness.

But the client or buyer reasons differently:  Consumers don’t add up the impressiveness, they average it,  seeing the big picture by looking at the package as a whole, rather than focusing on the individual parts.  Their perception:

  • (10+ 10+ 10+ 2)/4 = “8” in impressiveness.

The better proposition is to not add the less impressive benefit or accomplishment (2 semesters of Spanish.)  The consumer averages this as follows:

  • (10 + 10+ 10)/3 =”10″ in impressiveness.

So mentioning an additional benefit of lessor value makes you a less attractive candidate than if you’d said nothing at all.

The Effect Also Works “In Reverse

The same effect emerges in creating deterrents to discourage bad behavior. Another study asked participants were asked to choose between two punishments to give for littering: 1) a $750 fine plus two hours of community service, or 2) a $750 fine. Results:
  • 86% of participants administering punishment felt that the fine plus community service would be the stronger deterrent.
  • However,  participants who were handed these punishments rated the $750 with the two hours of community service as significantly less severe than the fine alone.

They reasoned that the overall punishment was on average less disparaging because two hours of community service isn’t really that bad.

Marketing Experiment

The research examines the implications of this effect for a variety of marketing contexts. Buyers were presented with an iPod Touch package that contained either an iPod, cover, and one free song download, or just an iPod and cover. The surprising result:

  • Buyers were willing to pay an average of $177 for the package with the download.
  • But they were willing to pay $242 for the one without the download. The addition of the low-value free song download brought down the perceived value of the package by as much as $65.

Yet, a second set of participants asked to play the role of marketer and judge which of the two packages would be more attractive to consumers overwhelmingly (92%) choose the package with the free download.

Financial Marketing: Humana Cheapens Their Value Proposition

Medicare Advantage products offered by private insurers provide an alternative to traditional Medicare. They are aptly named since have some significant advantages: they are more comprehensive, covering deductibles and copays that traditional Medicare does not, and prescription drug coverage as well, if elected.

They also provide some additional ancillary benefits, including vision care and wellness benefits.

One of the big providers, Humana, aired an infomercial during the end-of-year open enrollment period. The infomercial devoted a disproportionate amount of time to hawking the benefits of, and showing client testimonies about, membership in the Silver Sneakers fitness program. The value of health club membership is rather insignificant in comparison to providing comprehensive care in the event of chronic and life threatening illness. The presenter’s paradox informs us that devoting so much time to calling out this benefit of lesser value cheapens the consumer’s perception of the brand.

Conclusion

More is actually not better, when you add a benefit or feature that is of lesser quality than the rest of your offerings. Its dilutes the favorability of core benefits.

Dr. Halvorson’s advice: to stop ourselves from making this kind of mistake, marketers should think “big picture:

What does the package I am presenting look like taken as a whole, and are there any components that are actually bringing down its overall value or impact?

Related articles by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D.: click here.

 

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