Friday, January 30, 2009

Who Uses the Internet Most - And for What?

A new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project - a highly respected group with no self-interest in what it reports - gives us a breakdown of different generations and their Internet usage. All of the generations listed below are Internet users. The percentages are the total percentage of Internet users that are in that age group weighted for the percentage of the population they comprise.

Generation Y - The Millenials (18-32 year-olds) 30% use the Internet
Generation X - (33-44) - 23%
Young Boomers (45-54) - 22%
Older Boomers (55-63) - 13%
Silent Generation (64-72) - 7%
GI Generation (73 plus) - 4%

The study notes that the biggest increase in users comes from the 73 plus age group - as 45% of them are now online a big jump from the last study.

How the Internet is used doesn't hold many surprises for marketers but it is helpful.

Teens & Gen Y - Use the Internet primarily for entertainment (videos, music, blogs - theirs and friends, personal social networks, and keeping track of friends)

Older Generations - Use the Internet primarily for shopping, research and banking. An interesting stat - 80% of Gen X shops online.

Gen X and Young Boomers - The fastest growing group on Facebook is 40-plus - not in the study but very valuable information. My Facebook page lately is flooded with people I knew in high school and family members in that age bracket.

For more information on the study go to http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Generations_2009.pdf

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Our Web Site Is Awful - Duh!





I do a lot of research online and am frustrated as hell with web sites. Every CEO, director of marketing, etc. should be locked in a room and forced to try and answer a list of questions on their organization’s web site. It would be amazing how many improvements would get made right away.

So in these tough times when we’re all fighting for business, you should revisit your web site and it's ease of use. The problem is that sites were designed by people who either don't use them or are techie. Bad idea. Your web site is the first place people go to learn about you. You have a couple of clicks to keep them.

Pissing off potential and current customers is no way to woo them. With that in mind here are five easy fixes.

1. Cut the Clutter. Most web sites give you a headache just looking at them. Cut out all the junk and narrow what you’ve got down to a few key categories. Simplify – who we are, what we do, why you need us is a good starting point. Eliminate all information that requires more than two clicks to get too. And increase the point size of your type please. For an example of bad – go to any federal government web site. For an example of good try Ogilvy PR Worldwide, MBooth & Associates or forgive me for this but my site www.sterncommdc.com.

2. Give a Phone Number in Contact Us. It is amazing how many corporate web sites do not even offer a phone number to the company. You click on Contact Us and get a form to fill out with questions that you can’t answer and a generic email that might as well be customers@wecouldcareless.com. I don’t want to dig through a site to find out that I’m emailing to someone who doesn’t exist. It’s infuriating and what’s more many companies don’t even bother to answer those emails. Not good for business.


3. Frequently asked Questions
. These just plain suck. First of all whoever wrote those questions never talked to a customer in their lives. Second, I have never once found an answer to my question in FAQs. Third, let’s take a giant step back to the "before time" when real people actually answered real questions. And I’m not talking about someone in Sri Lanka with an accent so heavy I cannot understand a word he’s saying. Didn’t you feel better about the company then – like they actually cared? Didn’t you want to do business with them again?

4. Shorten Your "Home Page." It’s mind boggling how many links are on an average home page. And what’s with all this scrolling down – page after page after page of more stuff to click on. You know what that says to me? No one could agree on what mattered so they just put everything they could think of on it. A really bad offender of this is AARP.org whose home page goes on forever, like an endless car ride. The reason it’s called a home page is because it’s supposed to be one page. To quote my kids DUH.

5. Don't have a Search Bar if it Doesn't Answer Basic Questions About Your Business. I cannot tell you how many web sites I’ve been on where you type in the most basic question and the answer isn’t there. I don’t want to play let’s stump the computer. Go on the American Psychological Association web site and type in What is a Psychologist? It does not answer the question. Go on Intel.com and type in What does Intel do? Stumped the search engine. Go on Aeropostale.com, the site that for some reason emails me every day and refuses to pay attention to my daily requests to be removed from the list. Type in How do I contact you? There’s no answer.

An easy way to fix this. Let's go back to what I said in the beginning. Find people who don’t know much about your business. Sit them down at a computer with your head of marketing and ask them to try to find answers to their basic questions. Change will come fast.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Marketing HOPE - Very Popular These Days

I quote Seth Godin who appears to be the Phil Kotler, or maybe he’s more like the Tom Peters, of his generation.

“What marketers sell is HOPE. The reason is simple: people need more. We run out. We need it replenished. HOPE is almost always in short supply.

The magical thing about selling HOPE is that it makes everything else work better, every day get better, every project work better, every relationship feel better. If you can actually deliver on the HOPE you sell, there will be a line out the door.”

I think this may have been said first by David Ogilvy or another one of the 1960s ad mavens. Yes they are the Mad Men people – I only met a couple of them, and it was when they were retiring, but they were incredibly smart.

The issue I have with Seth Godin is not that I’m sure he took this from somewhere else and took credit for it. More it’s that he’ll throw something like this out there and then expect me figure out what to do with it.

By the way HOPE is capitalized because it looks more powerful that way. That's marketing.

Here’s what I think when I hear the word HOPE.

Cosmetics used to be called HOPE in a bottle.

Bill Clinton came from HOPE, Arkansas.

Bob HOPE was a very famous comedian from my father's era.

I had a friend named HOPE in high school who was actually pretty hopeful.

When Pandora let all the bad stuff fly out of her box the only thing left was a tiny voice called HOPE.

The HOPE of falling in love again, of watching your children have children, of finding joy in your work, of the promise on a small child's face as they learn something out for the first time – HOPE springs eternal. That was Alexander Pope, I just looked it up – thank you Internet.

If we don’t HOPE we begin to slowly die. Did you ever spend time in the company of someone who had lost HOPE? If you did you probably didn’t go back.

HOPE is what won Barack Obama the presidency of the United States. HOPE is what keeps people religious. Is shopping a form of HOPE? Or is it just something we do when we want to psyche ourselves up to face the next round of hopelessness? OK that’s not a fair question.

Although I never would have defined it that way here’s how I’m helping clients and others sell HOPE.

Coalition on Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) is capitalizing on the HOPE of scientists, engineers, teachers and everyone involved in Science that it’s back on the national radar screen. President Obama mentioned Science in his inaugural speech. They’ve declared 2009 The Year of Science. For eight years science was kept under the radar screen as the evolution debate raged. Now there is HOPE.

AAAS is marketing the Science of Alcohol – here the HOPE is clearer. If we teach kids the science of what alcohol is and how it can hurt their bodies – rather than just tell them it’s bad for them – the HOPE is they will delay their first drink. We’ve tried everything else, now we’re hopeful about science.

Healthcarebluebook.com is selling the HOPE that if you get smarter about what your treatments and services should cost, you will ultimately get better care and pay less. Selling HOPE when it goes against what you’re accustomed too is complicated. It has to be built one step at a time. First, there’s the HOPE that you can figure out how to do this. Second, there’s the HOPE that the provider will negotiate. Third, there’s the HOPE you’ll actually save money.

International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) – is selling the HOPE that belonging to its group will improve your stature, get you a new job, keep you up-to-date and networked in. But their membership is declining and I think the HOPE message is diluted. People aren’t sure why they belong – and when they can’t identify the price/value relationship of membership HOPE goes right out the window.

American Society of Association Executives – markets HOPE in the form of professional development. It has so many products, services, conferences, networking events, meetings – many specialized for individual market segments – that I personally cannot figure them all out. How can you sell HOPE when it’s a giant bureaucratic hodgepodge? Their events are usually well attended so HOPE must be in there somewhere.

I could go on but you get it. HOPE does sell. Figure out what it is in the products or services you’re marketing – do research – learn and use HOPE to market it. In these tough economic times, it’s one of the most potent weapons we’ve got.

Here's Barack Obama selling HOPE.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjXyqcx-mYY

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Communicating 2.0 in the Social Media Space

Here are two video presentations that I found which show why it's so critical for marketers and communications professionals to keep on top of social networking. Link is at the bottom. Let me know what you think.

#1. Health 2.0

Shows the possibility of using Twitter and tweets for constant communication between doctor and patient.

Also Twitter can be used as a customer feedback loop.


#2. Reputation Management

This reads like a giant flow chart and shows how branding and reputation work across social media platforms.

Discusses how dissatisfied customers can go after you and if it goes viral the trouble you can get into.

Touches on consistency of branding across social media platforms - vital for communicators and marketers.

Talks about monitoring what's being said about you through blogs, social networking sites, etc.

Go look and learn - www.vizedu.com

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Marketers Tell Us What's Hot and What's Not in 2009












The Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) and Anderson Analytics issued the results of its second annual survey of Top Marketing Trends for 2009. More than 630 senior marketers from a wide variety of industries across the nation (MENG members must make $160,000 plus per year) responded to the email poll.

Here’s what they said about budgets:

34% said they expect their budgets will remain flat
25% say they will not fill open positions
19% say their budgets will be reduced
11% said their budgets would go up

Which are the most important target markets?

78% said baby boomers – up from 6%
64% said women – up 9%
53% said generation X – up 13%
52% said Gen Y – up 11%

What’s Hot in Marketing
Marketers were asked which strategies they would concentrate on for 2009. Here are some highlights:
79% said customer satisfaction
76% said customer retention
65% said marketing ROI
61% said market segmentation
51% said innovation and R&D with 51% believing their budgets will stay the same and 21% saying it will increase.
#1 New Business Opportunity - China with India a distant second

What to Read?

The winner is still Good to Great but up and comers include: Groundswell, Hot Flat and Crowded, The Black Swan, Predictably Irrational and Mavericks at Work.
Hot Marketers (We mean popular not that kind of hot) – Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Warren Buffet


What’s Not So Hot

In these tough economic times marketers’ priorities are changing.

Global warming shrank in importance dropped 14 spots on the list

Green marketing moved down 5

And dead last: Game theory, anti-Americanism and immigration.

Who’s Not So Hot – Al Ries, Jack Welch, Jim Stengel

Large numbers of marketers said they are sick of hearing about new media. What areas did they say enough already about? Web 2.0 19.4% Social Networking 12.2% Social Media 11.3% Blogging 7.9% Viral Marketing 6.2% Synergy 5.8%.
BUT in a recent survey by the same research firm, 67% of senior marketers admitted they didn’t know much about social media. So go figure.

I talked to Tom Anderson,author of the survey, and he gave us some insight into what all of this means. He told me:

MENG are experienced marketers who have been through other recessions. They know cutting back isn’t going to help long-term.

Generation Y is gaining in importance because they are the customers of tomorrow and they are influencing purchasing by their parents

Marketing research focus didn’t change as much as he thought – they’re still focused on it just trying to do what’s most important

Green is expensive and so is global warning – and in these economic times people are more worried about survival.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Media Outreach in A Press Apocalypse




I've been pitching a great story for the past couple of weeks and struggling like hell to get coverage. It’s a brand new company that provides pricing info (you type your zip code and surgery, treatment, etc. into a web site and it pulls up the average price PPOs pay their doctors). Thought it was a no brainer for major coverage. Check out Healthcarebluebook.com.

Welcome to the new media reality. Getting press is absolute hell these days. Here are just a few issues I’ve run into:

Lists are Out of Date Immediately - The lists, no matter how fresh are no good because everyone is getting laid off. Entire departments are going – an editor for The Washington Post recently discussed how he had one writer left in science, CNN has laid off entire segments of its newsroom, and the list goes on.

Spam is Hell - You have no clue if your email pitch/press advisory gets to where it’s going requiring endless follow-up. And media people get really pissed off if you ask if they got your release because they really don’t care. If the computer decided it was spam – then you have 15 seconds to convince them it’s worth listening to you and all they will do is ask you to send it again. Then you have to make it stick.

Are there Any Real People Writing this Stuff? - It is virtually impossible to get to a real person at any major publication, news room, etc. Web is the worst - unless you have their direct dial in which case they'll either ignore you or tell you that if they're interested they'll call. Rage not withstanding. And so many places use virtual freelancers now that when you do finally get a name (a lot of site digging and reading) no one knows how to find them – or cares. Remember when you used to make nice with the editorial assistants? They are gone. Or they are hiding behind a computer screen and talking to their friends on Twitter.

Story Approval Layers are Endless – You used to be able to pitch a story and if someone liked it they pitched it to an editor or producer and you moved forward. Now there are layers upon layers of approvals (too many lawyers got involved I guess) and by the time you finally get an answer – if you get one – the story could be dead.

Bloggers Don’t Like Anything that Sounds Client-Written – The bureaucracy of getting a client to approve a news release, saying things the way they want them said, trying to keep it short, delivering an engaging headline – is a nightmare. We used to get around it by sending out the release and pitching a paragraph by email that told the real story and then following up. But bloggers hate releases or anything that sounds client written. If they get the release they often won’t cover the story. Or they write a sentence and the prospect of an interview is gone.

I am lucky because I’m outspoken and the people that end up hiring me are smart and they listen. But that’s not the norm.


A Few Tips for PR Now

So what is a PR person supposed to do? My background is journalism – I know editors, writers, etc. and how they think. Of course you go to the people you know, that’s a no brainer if they still have jobs. And the big agencies can use armies of kids to hit social media, traditional media, etc. and eventually something sticks.

These tips come from a very long talk with a PR Newswire veteran (she wants to be anonymous but was so helpful) and here’s some of what I’ve learned.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is everything.
The search firms act like what they do is rocket science but it’s really not. You use the words that you know people search a lot in your news release but not so much that it ends up in the SPAM folder.

If you want to Google higher get a Wiki, Facebook page (Google has downgraded LinkedIn a lot), ask or answer a question on Yahoo. That will help enormously.

Use The Right Words and the Assessment Tools – PR Newswire, for instance, has an assessment tool for clients to see if you've used words too many or too few times. There are probably freebies out there too. And by the way, no one has any clue or studies how journalists search – including those news companies you are paying a lot of money too.

Think to yourself – if reporters in my industry have Google Alerts (and most of us do these days) what are the key words that they will search? Then come up with a list of industry and general public buzzwords and run them by your clients. Use them throughout the release – it’s no longer just the headline and first paragraph – it’s the whole thing.

Write a Press Release Like a News Story – Journalists who still have jobs don’t have time to search out sources, spend days on stories, check quotes, find data, etc. I’ve had a lot of success with getting my releases picked up verbatim if they are short and well written. One client quote to amplify a point – two or three data points that make the story timely and valuable. Find a news peg – these days it can be almost anything – but it’s better if it’s a big one. And don’t go over one page – it makes a huge difference.

There’s a lot more to be said on all of this. Check back in a couple of days.