Make Sharing Easy

Antivirus company AVG pushed a great report to me earlier today called a “Threat Report”.  You can see a copy at the bottom of this post.  The security company with the freemium model wanted me to give them credit for protecting one my computers from a series of problems.  It’s a smart, relatively passive way for the company to prove its product’s worth to a user who is a potential upsell.

Silver Beacon Marketing does a similar thing, showing clients their return on investment (ROI) for advertising campaigns or other goals from our search engine optimization efforts.  That is proprietary data that few would publicize, but I’ve lost count of the number of times a referral has quoted their friend’s ROI to me.

Bagging about the number of threats your computer stopped is something you might share with anyone.  The whole thing sounds like fun.  And even a small adoption rate can mean some great exposure.  Let’s say that the report showed your level of web savvy and a fun rating about your computer’s strength along with some Twitter and Facebook share buttons.  Your product gets valuable exposure every time someone sends that report to their Twitter or Facebook stream.

Enabling that sharing function is only a part of the battle though. Sharing has to be simple–absolutely frictionless–to get the best possible return.  And that’s what I experienced today when I reactivated a StumbleUpon account.

Signing up was easy–only four fields after I clicked “connect with Facebook”.  And the company was smart enough to ask, “Hey, since you’re recommending pages to strangers, how about recommending them to your friends?”

Why not?  That makes perfectly good sense.  And with each post to my Facebook page, StumbleUpon gets a big endorsement from me to anyone connected with me.

Asking that question is smart.  My Facebook friends might not have a StumbleUpon account, but all the work is done for me if I want to post a link to my Facebook page or other social media channels. That is completely  frictionless.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is to consider how your company communicates its real value to stakeh0lders.  Special bonus points if you make sharing that information easy.

AVG Threat Report shows that businesses value to customers

AVG Threat report - click to expand

Size Matters For YouTube

The axiom of recall and comprehension rising when more senses are engaged has a factual basis.    A Harvard Medical School publication urges subscribers to actively engage, stating “The more senses you use when you learn something, the more of your brain will be involved in retaining the memory.”

That’s one reason why YouTube clips go viral more than plain HTML pages.

You may read something you want to share, but when a video plays and engages you with video and sound, the effect is much more pronounced.  And experts say that’s what helps boost memory and retention.

Now YouTube has announced that the new limit for videos is 15 minutes.   Five extra minutes of video is huge.

Success stories surrounding video are all over the web.

A company selling $400 blenders for the home market made its case with a funny viral series and laughed all the way to the bank.

The debut album from an amateur singer pushing 50 years old outsold Lady Gaga and Rihanna on both sides of the ocean.

A teenage and her friends began uploading makeup videos.  Their tutorials go viral and a19 year old becomes Lancome’s video makeup artist.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is that you are probably not doing enough video outreach.   How-tos are big.  So is anything entertaining.  An entertaining how-to is a ticket for success.  Consider these examples:

  • A catering service could shoot video on how to frill up a table for an intimate dinner for two.  How do you get the napkins to do that?  What about the candles?  And, of course, the food.
  • A towing service might show a series of simulated roadside problems and how to deal with each.
  • A consultant can upload past talks that they’ve given to public audiences.
  • Any retail store can give product demonstrations of any merchandise.

We know that big television networks used pretty people, but YouTube has the been great democratizing force in video.  If you have something worthwhile to say, there’s an audience for you no matter what you look or sound like.

And now you have 5 minutes more to get your message across.

Name Power

A bird soaked in oil. Smart naming sends "Bob", not "Robert", to the scene

Naming things is one of the most important things you’ll do in your small business.  Besides naming your company, each service and product is a unique opportunity to convey information without an explanation.

Three current examples show how much a simple name can convey.

BP today ousted beleaguered CEO Tony Hayward and installed a new boss. Meet Bob Dudley.

There is no doubt that the oil company executive has the knowledge to run the company.  Multibillion dollar companies don’t just choose people for their names.  But Dudley, who uses the name Robert in business and even on the BP site, has been introduced to the world as Bob.’

Bob, Bill and Tony sound a lot more accessible than Robert, William and Anthony.

The effect is subtle and usually only lasts beyond the first few actions, but BP’s message today is clear.  ”Bob, you know, from right down in the Gulf, is coming back home to look after things.  He’s ‘merican, just like you.”

The phenomenon doesn’t just extend to first names.

Think about Facebook and how the marketing team didn’t adjust the friendly, social lexicon throughout the site once the growth started outside colleges.

On LinkedIn, you have connections.
In email, you have contacts
But on Facebook, you have friends who you like.

Those were absolutely the proper words at the beginning of the company’s evolution, but when it announced business platforms and suggested connecting to people you knew at work, the word “friend” needed to be dumped.

And “like”?  Well, in an early iteration of Facebook Connect, I posted a link about a drug’s side effect that was on CNN.  The item appearing on my Facebook profile was that I “liked” the story.


I was outraged, horrified and a little scared.

Words are powerful.  The power of the name we give things can’t be overstated.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is simple.  Examine every name in your company.  Look at how you refer to your processes and services–internal and external.  Listen to your team on the phone.  Write down unique words they use.  Then study those words.  What do they really mean?

For two years, I have toyed with an essay (not even a blog) called “I Am Not Your Friend”.    Look at your own Facebook profile.  Are the people you’ve called “friend” actually your friends or are they a mishmash of your personal and professional life scattered with people from places you’ve moved from and schoolmates.

Names have power.  If they were your friends, you probably would have contacted them well before Facebook appeared.

Exposure to Pharma Advertising Drives Patient Demand

Prescription medicine bottleSpeaking with some young entrepreneurs last week, I kept circling back to the point that thinking something was far different from knowing something. The issue for these really smart guys was how they could leverage smart analytics analysis to better understand their business.

Today, they are in thinking something mode.

Also today, I believed that big pharma DTCA (direct to consumer advertising) must have at least a branding impact because big pharma is great at two things:  marketing and its lobbying sibling.

I was in thinking something mode too.  Thanks to a study of DTCA pharma campaigns in the current issue of The Canadian Pharmacists Journal, I know at least one study that corroborates my assumption.  The work by Dr. Michelle van den Engh and pharmacist Lori Bonertz shows that exposure to advertising creates patients who ask more often for medications.’

Some numbers that jump out at me from their study:

  • Almost 40% of subjects had recall on at least 10 pharmaceutical ads in the past year.  Go ahead and test yourself now. Can you name ten? Twenty?  Even more?
  • The study was conducted in a remote Canadian area.
  • People under the age of 50 were more susceptible to pharma ads.
  • The “low exposure” group that had recall of less than 4 ads did not ask for any advertised medications by name or type during the study.
  • The “high exposure” group asked for medicine by name in 1.6% of cases.

Pause here.

Going from zero to a measurable percentage in anything is huge.  To put a number on the notion, there were about 157 million adults in the US between the ages of 18 and 55 in 2008.   If the 1.6% number in the Canadian study held for the US, the incremental number of people asking for a medicine by name grows to more than 2 million.

That’s worth some advertising spend, isn’t it?

The researchers’ biggest finding in my opinion is that low exposure individuals asked for a medication just under 5% of the time in the study.  Those in the high exposure group asked for a prescription medication 10.2% of the time –even if the medication wasn’t one they had seen advertised.

One important takeaway from the study is that pharama DTCA effort grew direct sales and the industry as a whole.  That number is big.   Simply advertising the category helps all boats rise together sometimes even if the payoff isn’t in direct sales.

Photo: Dani Simmonds

What Image Does Your Company Project?

Not Target. They have cool lights that help brand and save money.

What images is projected by your company’s normal operations?

While wandering through a Target recently, I was pleased to see that the lights in the refrigerated food cases (it’s a big Target) snapped on as I approached them.  They really do care about the environment was the message I took away.  A few seconds later, I wondered how much money this move was saving the company.

The Department of Energy says electricity costs for US commercial customers in January was 9.58 cents per kilowatt hour.

In an article covering the change just last month, LEDs Magazine writes that Target is replacing the lights in 500 stores.   The article also says that Target expects to save 15 million kilowatt hours by making the move.

Now Target may pay less for its electricity, but just using the average, I already did the math for you.  If the average holds, Target will save over $1.4 million dollars every year once the retrofit is paid for.

Think about things this way:  Target impressed me and burnished its brand by demonstrating the company cares about the environment.  Then they impressed as a businessperson by saving a lot of money in the process.  And they impressed me as a geek because it was cool to watch the lights come on as I walked down the aisle.

What is your small business doing today to create a “Wow, that’s cool!” moment that coincidentally saves money?

Google’s Voice Gives Critics Pause Like It’s 1999

Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase

This symbol was once synonymous with most ersonal computers. Image via CrunchBase

Many people share a desire to root for underdogs.

The New York Giants, a team hard pressed to find a fan base outside of a populous Northeast corridor, became a fan favorite by stopping the New England Patriots from enjoying an undefeated season.   Musicians who sell millions of units of their work are routinely branded as sellouts.   Bill Murray exhorted his costars in 1981′s Stripes by screaming, “We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re 10 and 1!”

And as we recently presented to a group of students, the top technology dog isn’t likely to be to be there for long.  Consider:

2009 :  Google critics worry that the company’s new operating system will be anti-competitive with Microsoft in one of the most ironic twists of consumer sentiment in years.  Meanwhile, the company’s Google Voice and handset is looking to make unified communications, the Holy Grail of telephony, a reality.  One number to call them all is fast becoming reality.  SMS, voice, messaging, rules-based answering are all part of Google’s latest offering.

1999:  The U.S. government began investigating Microsoft’s business practices way back in 1991.  The Justice Department gathered together half of the state Attorneys General and unleashed a massive suit against the company in 1998.  A year later, the sides were still slugging at each other.  For those who understood business law, the case was juicier than O.J.’s.  The rest of us simply wondered how much the next version of Office would set us back and whether we needed to install the ubiquitous bloatware on every computer.

1989:  The fourth generation of x86 Intel chips, the 486, powered a device that Americans still referred to as an IBM PC.   Squandering the biggest branding lead in business history, Big Blue managed to go in less than a decade from its company name being a synonym for the product to people asking if the company still made the product.  It’s as if the guys from those two documentaries, Bruno and Borat, formed a delivery company and knocked Federal Express into 11th place in a 10 place field.   That’s not to say IBM is doing poorly, merely that they are not the global dominating force they would have been had the phrase “IBM clone” been more than code for consumers to say, “Wow, those IBM computers are wicked expensive, aren’t they?”

So as we rip apart Google’s latest offering while the race begins for dominance in 2019, the question is not if you’re going to use Google Voice,  but why someone else didn’t beat the company out there?  Meanwhile, a couple of folks in a grad school quad or two mid-career execs in a coffee room or some kind a Czech Republic basement is creating the business bogeyman we’ll run from a decade from now.

Me?  I’m a geek.  I beta tested Google Voice when it was called Grand Central.  Even my tech friends thought it was too geeky then.  But man, that search engine they built…

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9 Hours and No Obama Update? – Fast Friday Fact

Let me first give mad love to the Five Guys Burger chain that started here in DC.   Before common sense, my family and a nutritionist stepped in, the store occupying the 4.4 miles from my driveway to my office parking space was awfully darn convenient.

White House Chef Cristeta Comerford

Chef Cristeta rocking the stock pot

President Obama found a convenient location today too and dropped in for his second burger photo op in as many months.  Nine hours later, the chain’s site has absolutely no mention of their favored visit.    It’s not as if Barack Obama can’t have an awesome burger delivered by Chef Cristeta Comerford in about, oh, as long as it takes to prepare one.

Chef Cristeta, the first woman Executive Chef the White House has ever had, can probably cook fries too although at Five Guys, the portions are so big that my three boys and I have trouble finishing two orders.  We have, I don’t anymore, but I know Chef Cristeta can whip up a batch just s good in a healthier portion.

But here’s the issue:   9 hours after the fact, the Five Guys site still has absolutely no mention, no video, no photo, no nothing about the President’s visit.  That’s a grievous error.  Tomorrow is another day, another news cycle and on a slow and rainy Friday in Washington, the Five Guys marketing team really missed the boat.

[No word on whether the President asked for a little mustard this time around, but burger joints in DC better keep some "you know, Dijon or somethin'" on hand in case a motorcade pulls in.]

Your Friday Fast Fact:   Five Guys made the Google Hot trends list and did absolutely nothing with the attention — not even a whisper of a special offer to drive traffic in.  For shame.

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Reconsider Vanity Phone Numbers – Fast Friday Fact

Cool phone.  A shame it can't dial your vanity phone number.

Cool phone. A shame it can't dial your vanity phone number.

Take a look at your cell phone.  Remember the old touch pad on your bulky phone?   Remember how the letters A, B, C appeared around the number “2″?

Those were the days of vanity phone numbers.  But those days are changing.  Our telephone system doesn’t have letters on the phone’s dialing pad.    Neither do about 30% of the phones I just randomly checked.

Your takeway?   Vanity phone numbers that spelled great words maybe as dated as asking an operator dial “BUtterfield-8″ instead of a string of digits.  Think carefully about all your branding, even your online branding, to ensure that someone facing a phone without letters on the keypad can find your business.

Reputation Smearing Online

Image via Wikipedia Note no gang signs on this sign. Maybe we should look into that rumor first.

Three things hit my desk today that made me continue reflecting on the issue of misinformation or brutal subjective comment on the Internet.

First, a client told me about an ugly forum comment made about him during his days as a journalist.  As is often the case with forums that allow anonymous posting, people piled on, and whether they were wrong or right, they were ugly.  Then I saw media hits that wouldn’t subside for two relatively silly incidents:

1)  A spider – a single spider – was found in an Oklahoma grocery store.

2)  The stupid Wal-Mart gang initiation story is generating headlines in multiple cities because people forward email without first checking whether the facts in the email are correct.

The spider first.   A Brazilian walking spider was found in some bananas at a Whole Foods in Tulsa.  The spider was supposedly deadly, able to kill an adult in as little as 30 minutes.  Decent “oh gee, look at that news”, but not really of any consequence.   But due to the flow of information online, the story appeared in hundreds of mainstream media outlets.  Some good reporting today from Sharon Munchmore at The Tulsa World brought forward a local zoologist who questioned whether the spider was truly as dangerous as media reports might lead one to believe.

Now from spiders to gang members.   The gang fight at Wal-Mart is not happening, people.   Stop forwarding the story to your friends in email like lemmings.    This is group hysteria at its ugliest with every person in the story, including me, having a megaphone.  When I see garbage like this, I usually head straight for Snopes, and the debunkers there once again saved America from a mass panic attack.     There is no gang attack at Wal-Mart in your town, reports Snopes, the site that has documentation going back four years.  Wal-Mart would like you to return to the store now.

Last is the story of my client and is a great case of how something can be a maddening function of a search engine algorithim.   Because this person is not a self-promoter, search engines often show this one bulletin board / forum thread about him high up in the rankings.  The problem is an easy one for an online marketer to fix, and we’ll start promoting this client by name so that people can read about the person rather than some anonymous screed.

What you have in front of you is the most powerful communcations device in all of recorded civilization.  Please be careful when you post information.  I referenced a major newspaper and, a generally acknowledged ‘authoritative’ site.   Then I shared a client story that you have no way of testing, but if you’re a regular reader, ask yourself why we would make the story up.

You are responsible for checking your facts, and you are responsible for the informaton you transmit and retransmit.

Be careful out there.

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Denizen Hotel – Video Game or New Brand?

A picture of a dictionary viewed with a lens o...
Image via Wikipedia

Hilton has officially rolled out its new brand – Denizen.

I always thought the term was somewhat pejorative, but branding folks should know better so I went on a web search expedition.   Visits to three dictionaries (and some great art you can see in the video below) make me wonder how much global and modern appeal this new brand generates.

Merriam-Webster, Random House (via the always useful from and the Oxford English Dictionary all pretty much agree that a denizen is an inhabitant of something.  Some noted an older British meaning that was not very polite.    The funniest similarity was how often alcohol played into the definition.  M-W included this as part of its definition, “one that frequents a place <nightclub denizens>”.  Not to be outdone, weighed in with “the denizens of a local bar”.  And since no one outdoes the OED, consider one type of non-human denizen, “<the tapeworm is an inhabitant of the intestine>”.

After that excursion, I thought it best to look at pictures of denizens.  Our screencast below shows that the dictionary editors were polite.

Those denizens, they’re pretty scary. So now the big question is if Hilton has made a horrible branding mistake and can redefine the term.  What do you think?

Silver Beacon’s web tour of the word “denizen”

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