Some useful reading

I’ll post some more in-depth thoughts on both of the books I’m currently reading, but having already been inspired to rethink various aspects of our work on creativity, marketing and technology, I wanted to recommend Paid to Think: A Leader’s Toolkit for Redefining Your Future by David Goldsmith, and Future Minds: How The Digital Age is Changing Our Minds, Why This Matters and What We Can Do About It by Richard Watson.

Paid to Think is a structured approach to the various elements of leadership. I should note that I was kindly sent a review copy, and that the reason for the delay in publishing an actual review is because unusually, the book is prompting me to pause and put the various lessons and techniques into practice, including into live client work.

Future Minds is a book I wish I’d read when it was published in 2010, but picked up as the Kindle edition is currently discounted to the impulse-friendly £1.49, and although I don’t necessarily agree with every conclusion in it, there have been a number of points which have caused me to re-frame my thinking on specific topics.

Both are well worth checking out for yourself – Paid To Think encompasses more than the title suggests, but is probably more suitable for those either leading/managing a business, or looking to take on that type of role in the future. Future Minds is suitable for anyone with an interest in technology and the changes it is making to society.

The 3 big marketing fallacies for 2013

The start of each year is always accompanied by a rush from everyone to make their predictions for the next 12 months. While I’ve obviously got my own thoughts on the subject, I thought I’d do something different. My good friend Jonathan MacDonald has used Fallacies as a theme of sorts for a few years now, so in the creative spirit, I’m adopting the idea with the 3 big marketing fallacies which all businesses need to overcome.

Having worked with a huge range of brands and clients over the years, there are certain issues and concerns which I know will increase in regularity over the next 12 months. So identifying and tackling them now as part of your strategy for 2013 will be key in having a successful year with less problems.

 

2013 Marketing Fallacy 1: Content Quantity not quality:

The recognition of how content has become increasingly important, and the rise of content marketing is a good thing for various reasons. Content has always been vital to the success of a business since the rise of print and broadcast media, and the internet has only increased this need.

But almost inevitably I predict companies will invest in large amounts of content, either internally, or from external suppliers who are able to churn out copy, images and audio at bargain prices. And 12 months later will look at the time, effort and cost with little resulting success.

The reason is simple. More content has already been published online than previously in the history of human existence. None of us are short of things to watch, read, play or hear. Most of us will have returned from Christmas with a backlog of emails, RSS feeds, and podcasts, having finally caught up over the holidays on the Tivo’d and DVR’d films and TV shows which we’d been meaning to watch for weeks and months. And now every brand is going to be pumping out an endless stream of content marketing to add to the noise level.

Although it’s certainly possible that many businesses could increase the amount of published content, the priority should be to first develop an effective content strategy and improve the quality of what is already being produced. One amazing piece of content will be far more effective in building a brand and converting readers to customers than five pieces of generic filler material.

It’s why we focus on how content most effectively fits with a business, and on the most effective strategy as a starting point, and it’s also why we provide quality outsourced content to clients. Our work needs to be the best for us to be a sustainable business – reselling the cheapest writers we can find around the internet will soon lead to disappointment for all involved.

 

2013 Marketing Fallacy 2: We need more Facebook/Twitter/etc

This could have been published at any time in the last 5 years, but still holds true. It’s particularly important for those businesses still entering digital marketing, or those who don’t look at the attribution model for sales/enquiries in enough detail.

The most important website to optimise for digital marketing and sales is your own. It’s the only location where you have complete control over look, feel, layout and content, and can create the ultimate site for your business. It’s also a place which can be backed up effectively, and can be easily publicised and advertised without relying on a third party brand.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t include the right social media outlets in your digital marketing. As someone who provides social media marketing and consultancy, I firmly believe that the relevant third party platforms are essential for a modern business. But they should be part of the ‘hub and spoke’ model which has often been discussed – your website at the centre, and third party platforms operating as the spokes to reach people in the locations they currently enjoy.

If all your traffic comes from any single source – search, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc – then you’re completely at the mercy of that platform and any changes they make. Whether it’s Facebook reducing the reach of Page updates, Twitter falling out with Instagram, or the acquisition of Posterous, you’ll have built your business on ground which can be shakey or indeed disappear completely if the service closes.

 

2013 Marketing Fallacy 3: It’s all too much

With search, social, newsletters, analytics and more to manage, it’s no surprise that digital marketing can become somewhat overwhelming. Marketing has always had a variety of demands and inputs, but the rapid changes enabled by the internet can mean that everything starts to pile up very quickly.

The result is that small businesses feel that they can’t compete, and large businesses quickly end up making mistakes due to a confused sprawling mess of accounts and responsibilities.

Hence why the strategy and planning is so important to effective digital marketing. A small company with limited resource has a great opportunity to compete on a comparatively level playing field compared to the costs of a national TV advertising campaign, for example, but needs to be laser-focused to use those resources most effectively. Meanwhile a larger business needs just as much clarity in order to co-ordinate a larger range of initiatives. And both need to plan for their efforts to constantly evolve even throughout the space of just 12 months as platforms and priorities change.

A good strategy should enable you to focus on the key areas of your digital marketing, with time and resource built-in for experimentation, evolution and learning to give you a good platform for this year, and for the future.

How does your business handle ‘off-menu’ requests?

To celebrate a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, I took my son and ex-girlfriend on a trip down to Woburn Safari Park on Sunday, and on the way back we decided to eat at our nearest OK Diner.

It’s a pretty regular thing for my son and I. He’d quite happily live on hot dogs every day, I’m a fan of burgers (Particularly their bacon and guacamole burger), and he seems to have inherited my love of 50’s American style and music. Plus, the kids menu comes with crayons and pictures to colour in, which gives the two of us something to do!

Bear crossing at Woburn Safari Park

One reason why we spent so long at the Safari Park. It appears bears assume right-of-way!

 

But I left feeling a bit disappointed in myself. You see, as part of the kids meal, you get the choice of vanilla, strawberry or chocolate ice cream, but when my son first got offered a choice of flavours, he picked mint.

And until now, the waiting staff have happily accommodated him, which has made it feel a bit more special. This time though, the waitress enforced the menu options, so he settled on chocolate instead.

Part of me says that’s fine – it’s a clear menu option after all. But part of me wondered why I just accepted it – I could have either asked for a favour or even offered a pound or two to see if they’d have upgraded the ice cream. It’s not the English way to go ‘off-menu’, but it would have kept the special feeling that I and my four-year-old had after getting a ‘special’ ice cream.

I’m sure we’ll be eating there again soon – great milkshakes and burgers are a necessity in life – but it started me wondering whether my son will now automatically go for a menu choice or stick to his guns next time, and how all sorts of businesses react to special requests.

 

How does your business handle ‘off-menu’ requests?

Every business involves a lot of consideration for what can be offered, what is profitable enough, and how that can be presented in the marketplace. Often it’s more about ruling out possibilities to maintain some focus and direction, and to be able to market a clear message.

But in every case there will always be customers who want to tweak what you do. Maybe they want a different colour or size, or maybe they want an additional service bundled into your offering. And as time goes by, clients may have a wider range of needs that they’d like to come from one provider, or that they hadn’t considered previously.

Strange things on the menu here

So how do you deal with them?

I don’t believe any business can try and please all the people, all the time. Some requests are going to be completely uneconomical to fulfill.

But I think you have a couple of choices.

  • Where it incurs little or no downside, accommodate the request. An off-menu scoop of ice cream might eat very slightly into the profit margin on a particular meal, but the cost would be marginal, particularly compared to the lifetime value of 2-3 people regularly buying full meals.
  • Where it incurs a prohibitive downside, explain the reasons for denying the request, and if possible recommend alternative solutions. That may mean exposing some of the challenges you face as a business, and even suggesting someone goes to a competitor company, but in the long run you’ll find that good, honest reasons and recommendations would gain you more than just saying no.

There are several companies who have achieved oft-quoted success with that customer service approach, such as Zappos, who train their reps to recommend competitor websites if they don’t have what a customer wants. And 10 years after founding in 1999, it was acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion. CEO Tony Hsieh published a book about company culture and process called ‘Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose‘.

And there are plenty of restaurants and bars around the world which have off-menu choices known to a select few (until they become widely-shared on the internet).

Even McDonalds and other fast food outlets have ‘off-menu’ choices, although I can’t vouch for them being available in the UK. Or edible.

But the key isn’t having special items, or allowing special requests. The key is empowering the people who run your business at every level to be able to handle those decisions effectively.

  • Empower every person in your business to be able to handle any off-menu request. Your customers benefit from being special. Your employees and colleagues benefit from being trusted to make those decisions. And your business benefits massively in the age of digital recommendations and the amplified word-of-mouth.

Global culture is changing dramatically, and everyone is becoming more accustomed to being able to customise any purchase to be exactly what they desire. If you’re not looking at ways to incorporate that customer need into your business, you risk losing them to someone which will.

And considering the theme of this post, here’s a cool hot rod picture from Flickr.

Hot Rod

Tweaking marketing when products are delivered

I’ve been meaning to share some practical examples of how marketing should work as an integral part of all areas of a business. Too often people perceive marketing as a cousin of advertising, whereas it should span from initial product or service design and build through to customer use and interaction.

One great example, particularly for anyone selling products online, is what happens when your customer gets a package delivered to their door. Yesterday I happened to receive my first order from the awesome Last Exit to Nowhere, who specialise in T-shirts ‘inspired’ by cool films. Firstly the ordering experience was easy and their website is pretty well designed to display their range and go through the ordering process.

T Shirt order from Last Exit to Nowhere

My lovely new T-Shirts and everything else included in the packaging

It’s a pretty good package. The outer envelope features their logo, and in addition to the ordered shirts, there are two free Last Exit stickers, a form for sorting any returns, and a fold-out pamphlet I can hand to someone to hint at what presents might be well received.

So this definitely isn’t a criticism, or an example of bad practice, but as with anything, there’s always room for improvement, so I figured it’s worth sharing some suggestions.

First up – the logo and strapline on the outer packaging does mention that the company sells ‘T-shirts and other apparel inspired by killer films’. Whilst I trust 99.99% of all postal and courier staff, I do wonder whether someone might be tempted by that to possibly misplace the contents en route.

Inside is a clear plastic bag containing the shirts, stickers and pamphlet. Having seen the cool outer package, there’s more scope with the inner bag for branding, or for some cool imagery etc. It’s the unwrapping that’s fun, not the postage, and the more it feels like a celebration during that process, the more I’ll be rushing to make another purchase to feel that same excitement again.

The stickers are definitely a good touch – for a low cost in printing and shipping there’s a decent chance the customer will share the brand name with others. The only tweak here is that there’s no need for a quote praising the store, even when it’s from a film director. If I’m plastering my laptop, fridge or anything else with a cool quote or a brand name, I want to be the one who gets to be cool and explain to my friends what it is – too much explanation means I don’t get that pleasure.

The pamphlet is alright – it mentions the ‘Picture of the Month’ competition to win more shirts, social media links and an email address for ideas and suggestions. Plus a phone number so I can get those people who don’t shop online to still buy me something. About the only slight flaw is that the selection was taken as correct of January 2012 – it’s now August 2012, and I know from my own shopping that the range is pretty much identical, so updating that information every quarter would help make it feel a lot more up-to-date.

 

Good job Last Exit people:

Just to reiterate – Last Exit to Nowhere do a pretty good job of making receiving your order a pleasant experience, and I wrote this to highlight how even a good experience can still be tweaked and improved.

Having yet to actually model my new clothing, I’m pretty confident I’ll be taking a look on a regular basis as I try and purge my wardrobe of old and crap shirts, and I’ve already picked out 2 or 3 for a future order.

How to justify Marketing, User Experience and Psychology in 30 minutes

Rather than justifying the role of marketing, and particularly psychology in business success myself, here’s a great video of Rory Sutherland at a Google Zeitgeist event last year.

 

In an era of data analysis and ‘social media scientists’, it helps to remind me why an absolute reliance on data and numbers makes me feel rather uneasy. There’s a belief that somewhere in the numbers is the one ultimate answer that will guarantee business success.

It also underlines the mistake that many companies make in seeing marketing and the customer experience as a low value add-on to the intrinsic value of the product or service they are selling – and how they can compound that mistake by always sacrificing those areas first when looking to cut costs.

It’s why I’d rather think of myself as an aspiring digital marketing psychologist than a scientist.

Open Source is a feature, not a benefit

Open source is a wonderful thing. Without it, this blog wouldn’t exist (WordPress) and I wouldn’t have access to a great Photoshop alternative (GIMP), or clients like Jigoshop, for example. We wouldn’t have GNU Linux, Ubuntu, Apache, Drupal, and we’d all be using Internet Explorer without the option to switch to Firefox or Chrome.

But reading Matthew Ingram’s post last week about the lack of adoption for an open Twitter alternatives highlighted the key reason why so few open source projects become mainstream success stories at the level of WordPress or Firefox. It’s because they break probably the biggest rule of marketing, advertising and promotions.

 

Share benefits not features:

If you want people to adopt a service or buy a product, the most effective communication is to highlight the benefits it brings rather than the features.

The fact that a fridge is cold didn’t sell a single product. The fact that you can get fresh food days after you bought it, or a cold beer whenever you want is what makes you buy a fridge.
Fridge

And yet look at the description’s in Mathew’s article – Status.net (actually identi.ca) is the ‘open source Twitter alternative’, whilst Diaspora is the ‘open source Facebook alternative’. And although the Diaspora homepage does a better job of explaining the benefits of community development, certainly both use open source heavily in various descriptions and interviews.

There’s a painful truth here for developers currently flocking to the latest cool open source project on Github.

 

Most people don’t care that it’s Open Source:

A certain group of people will actively seek out projects and products because they wish to support the concept of Open Source, and that’s fine and dandy. A significant number of those people are developers, designers and technology-savvy internet users, and that’s a good core group to have on board, assuming you don’t get into an endless cycle of debates which sap the direction and focus of a project.

But that group is a relatively tiny percentage of the digital world, and most mainstream internet users either haven’t heard of Open Source, or could care less about it.

  • The success of projects such as Apache came when businesses realised the benefits which came from lower costs and more open systems.
  • The success of WordPress came from quick and simple self-hosted online publishing.
  • The success of Jigoshop is because it’s free to set up a full online store and easy to tweak and customise.
  • Arduino lets people learn electronics and build amazing gadgets easily.

There are huge benefits which come from Open Source projects, licensing and businesses – I’m a big advocate of opening up as a necessary way for companies to operate and grow in the future. Having open code means projects don’t die because one company or one developer quits. It allows brilliant people around the world to get involved and means that the end users can find someone who can work with that code relatively easily. It means that things can exist and grow in ways the creators may never have imagined, and can produce weird and varied offshoots. And it allows all sorts of feedback and contributions which create a way extremely small businesses can compete with incredibly large ones.

But these come from developer and user adoption, which is not inherent just by slapping an ‘Open Source’ label on a project. And that’s why many projects struggle – Open Office is an example of a great project which comes close to matching the leading proprietary office software but has yet to be quite as easy to use, or product a unique advantage beyond being open and free.

Find the benefit or go home…

Cloning an existing product or service doesn’t work unless you’re the Samwer brothers and have the funds to push it. So if your main pitch is ‘It’s the open source version of …..’, I’d suggest you stop working on it and think of some other ideas.

pujols strikes out

If it’s something which is amazing in some way, and it’s also open source, then you’ve got double the chances of success. Don’t be afraid of promoting the Open Source aspect to the developer community to attract interest, but make sure that’s not the main message going out to mainstream internet users.

And if you’re struggling, get in touch, as I’m happy to take a quick look and make some hopefully helpful suggestions – or to work with you to create the marketing and communication strategy an Open Source project needs as much as any proprietary business.

Why I love writing and technology…

…because done well, both can inspire people to act.

Whether it’s laughter or tears, love or hate, making a purchase or revolting against a government – both can provide amazing tools to inspire and encourage.

It’s how I ended up combining writing and marketing.

And it’s why I don’t dream about one day turning this business into an ‘SEO’ agency. Or a ‘social media’ agency.

I dream growing this business into something larger which is known for being able to enable change and action both internally and externally.

And it’s why I also think a lot about how that looks in terms of structure and recruitment.

And both of those issues are likely to become increasingly important this year, so if that’s the sort of thing you might be interested in, please do get in touch. Location won’t be important, but the right ideas will…

Creating categories and definitions by doing, not debating

I just read a post by Peep Laja which talked about the old advice of inventing a new category to be able to charge more for your products than just slotting into a predefined definition, followed by a post by Neville Hobson on an attempt to redefine what PR means. And both have reinforced my belief that you only create new categories and redefine existing ones by actually going out and doing stuff.

As much as I can have respect for the people who get caught up in debates about what PR, Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Transmedia, SEO, etc all should mean exactly, the simple fact is that noone cares. Seth Godin talked about successful modern marketing beginning with product planning and development, but still many businesses and consumers see marketing as part of advertising.

When I try and define what I do for people, it comes out as:

  • I write for my own projects
  • I write for other people’s projects
  • I market my own projects
  • I market other people’s projects
  • I run training courses in writing and marketing
  • I run training courses in writing and marketing for other people
  • I provide research for my own projects
  • I provide research for other people
  • I host my own websites
  • I provide hosting for other people
  • I manage my own paid advertising campaigns
  • I manage paid advertising campaigns for other people
  • I manage affiliate campaigns for other people
  • Or I do: Writing, Journalism, Blogging, Natural SEO, Paid SEO, PPC, Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Training, Tutoring, Affiliate Management, Community Management, Analytics,

Either way, it means I should need the world’s biggest business cards. I don’t.

Dan Thornton business card - AKA TheWayoftheWeb.net and HotModMedia.com

It's me. And a quick meeting or search tells you more...

 

But actually, what tends to happen is that my client list has grown from referrals from existing clients or from people finding out about me for one area of what I do, and those that are more rewarding for me in terms of enjoyment and financial rewards grow more quickly than areas that I might not favour, so over time my reputation in some areas will naturally build and lead to more focus.

 

Defining what you and your brand do:

Rather than worrying too much about an exact definition, it’s better to have an idea which you and any employees can broadly follow, but also be flexible within. I always loved the idea of my former employers at Absolute Radio, which was that we were ‘a digital entertainment company with audio at it’s core’, and targetted ‘reluctant adults’. That meant we always focused on sound and sound quality first, and always prioritised those people who were incredibly passionate about their interest (music, comedy, sport), but it didn’t matter whether we had an idea for a website, mobile app, radio station, or anything else, as long as it involved the best possible audio and delighted the right people. And in a challenging market for all broadcasters, it seems like they’re doing better than ever.

But noone ever tuned in because of those definitions – they tuned in because they liked what they heard as a result.

Too often I speak to companies who declare that ‘their customers don’t do it that way’ – and it turns out that actually it’s because they don’t allow customers to interact that way for some reason.

Or that customers ‘just don’t get what we’re trying to do’. Or that ‘clients just don’t understand’.

 

Building brands – do stuff, monitor, do more stuff:

You don’t build a brand simply by having logos or mission statements. Those are brand assets. What builds a brand is making stuff available, seeing how people respond and then building on it. Google didn’t define itself as a search engine, it set out to index the world’s information. Apple didn’t say it only made personal computers – it put design into technology, whether it’s a Mac, iPhone or iPad. The legendary production line methods of Ford went from one colour of car to over 1000 different variations for the Ford Transit van alone.

Geek Pride

Obviously to be successful, it’s not enough to be different – the recent demise of Saab is one example of how you can be known for being unusual but still fail due to not managing sales and costs effectively. But that name will still stand out for many years for a lot of people, and it’s easier to optimise a supply chain than to become known for brilliance and character.

Look at Amazon – offering web servers, books and Kindles. Artists such as Hugh McLeod, Tom Fishbourne, or Penny Arcade. Authors like William Gibson. Musicians from Robert Johnson to Hendrix to Skrillex. 37Signals and Wunderlist are as much about design as project management. I’m already incredibly excited about HiutDenim because I know Howies and The Do Lectures.

Put stuff out there and look at the response, using the wealth of data that is available and complimenting it with the right research.

 

Industries and reputations:

Some industries stuggle with their reputation. Obviously banks and bankers aren’t particularly well respected at the moment, and neither are journalists.

At the same time, SEO and Social Media ‘snake oil salesman’ has become a common criticism for digital marketing.

And yet I know brilliant journalists, SEOs and Social Media specialists who are incredibly well-respected and constantly in-demand because they do brilliant things consistently well. I’ve also had meetings with top marketing and SEO agencies which ended in disaster because they seemed to spend all their time talking a good game in public, but not delivering on it directly in a client meeting.

I actually have a couple of lists which are close to my heart – one is a list of companies I’d love to work with, whether as a freelancer or even possibly as a full-time employee because over the years I’ve known them, they always done things brilliantly (I also have a list of companies who seem to squander their potential and wish they’d let me help sort it out).

And I have another list of individuals I’d love to work with on a project at some point – it’s grown to quite a size over the years, with everyone from creative talents to hard-headed business people. And pretty much everyone on the list has worked on multiple projects, sometimes concurrently, but what they’ve done is always interesting or exciting or innovative or profitable – often all four.

The simple fact is that I don’t worry about crap definitions of the industries I nominally work in. And I’ve stopped worrying about being painted with the same brush as the snake oil salesman. If a million people see a great example of content marketing, or social media, or SEO that I’ve been involved in, then that’s far better mechanism for change than debating definitions.

Good service, bad service and social media

I went for a quick shopping trip at Bluewater yesterday, and it once again highlighted how important it is to align the whole customer experience of your brand, including your products, service levels and marketing. A comparison of three retail and social media experience sum it up nicely:

Store 1: Uniqlo:

I’ve heard various things about Uniqlo and browsed their stores, but this was the first time I’ve intended to make a purchase, having seen numerous mentions of their selvage jeans (Selvage refers to the method of stitching, if you’re not a denim geek). And the level of service was great – first someone was able to help me find the one pile of the right jeans amongst the masses on display, and also explained that they offer a free alteration service when I struggled to find the right leg length.Then the young lady manning the fitting rooms was also friendly and helpful when arranging the alterations and pinning the jeans, and the till staff maintained that. After 40 minutes I came back and my jeans were ready.

Store 2: Ed’s Easy Diner:

I’m a big fan of good burger joints and Americana, so Ed’s should have been perfect. But it was average for various reasons. Partly the quality of food doesn’t quite justify the price (the bacon on my burger was burnt and rock solid, the strawberry milkshake was mainly vanilla, and the chips were undercooked). And partly because the three waiting staff between them were disinterested at best. Having invested in something slightly overpriced and with a hefty amount of competitive restaurants nearby, seeing our food and drinks slammed on the table or being ignored when we tried to pay the bill really didn’t make up for the food. Especially when I’ve experienced alternatives including the constant favourite Byron Burger in London (for example).

Store 3: Soletrader:

The actual service in Soletrader wasn’t bad – reasonably quick, friendly and helpful. The problem is that they were totally hampered by the store infrastructure. I’ve received a voucher for the store, which can’t be redeemed online. I want a specific pair of trainers, which are never in stock in my size. And although I can order them to a physical store, I really wanted to try the two closest sizes to check the right fit. It’s the sort of problem which turns a normally docile and compliant customer into one who will cause any amount of hassle to get rid of his voucher and never go near the store again.

How about the social media marketing:

When I came back online, I decided to tweet about the 3 different levels of service – good, average, and hampered by store policies.

Interestingly, Uniqlo didn’t need to respond or acknowledge my recommendation, but various friends echoed the fact that instore it’s a great experience (Although apparently their email marketing can be pretty overwhelming). That’s fine as I’m quite happy to follow their Twitter account.

Ed’s Easy Diner didn’t respond which is consistently disapointing. I’d hoped to be reassured that my experience may have been a one-off, but can only assume it wasn’t.

But the most interested in the fact that Soletrader did get back to me on Twitter. I got an acknowledgement and an apology for the hassle, although yet again, someone attempting to offer service and customer care couldn’t actually provide a solution, although they did say ‘we’re looking into a way gift vouchers can be used online in the future’.

More effort needed:

Recent stats show that customers expectations of service and feedback via social media outstrip the expectations of companies to monitor and respond. That has to change, and it has to go just beyond monitoring mentions and passing on details.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect Ed’s to respond with any offers or compensation (though I wouldn’t have complained if they did), but at least acknowledging their was a problem with the service offered and finding out more about my experience may have helped them identify a way in which they could improve their business in a location with a high level of competing restaurants and a fairly captive market. It certainly wasn’t busy when we ate, and yet we still ended up on a table with a jukebox out of order.

And Soletrader really need to move more quickly to solve their infrastructure problems, or empower staff to sort a solution out. I hate to quote the Zappos example yet again, but it’s appropriate for a footwear company. If the marketing team on Twitter wanted to turn an annoyed customer into a loyal one, they’d just need to grab a pair of Onitsuka Tigers in blue/red in size 7 and size 8 – send them both to my home address and allow me to send back the pair which didn’t fit. I can give them the voucher code in advance, and they can deal with the hassle of it not being valid for an online order. But having checked the Soletrader site, it appears of 13 different shoes, they have 3 in stock in size 7 across the UK.

The financial risk would be the outlay on posting one reasonable sized box (About £10), and the risk of losing one additional pair of trainers (Retail £70, so under that). I wonder what their current cost is for customer acquisition, and what value they put on their marketing and advertising expenditure, but without being too engrossed in follower numbers, the fact that I personally have twice as many as their official account means that it would probably be a cost efficient exercise overall – and the fact that I also have a number of sneaker addicted friends (including a couple of sneaker collectors) would surely pay off.

Compare that to the knowledge that if I’d just paid for trainers I’d get free postage and returns to store. But by receiving a voucher which ties me into that store I lose all the benefits and service, and instead gain additional hassle.

Great event combines my passion for social media and motorcycles

I’m pleased to say that I’ll be one of the speakers at Torque Social, which is a new social media event dedicated to the motorcycle industry. It runs from Thursday 9th February until Friday 10th February 2012 at The Manor House Hotel in Gloucestershire, and should be a fantastic event as it combines two of the biggest passions in my life – using new technology to benefit businesses and their customers, and motorcycles.

Incidentally, if you book before December 16th, 2011, you can save up to £124 on tickets. And in addition to the focus of the event on explaining how to get real returns on using social media and technology, there’s also a networking dinner and the chance to grab 1-to-1 sessions with the speakers, meaning you can come away with really specific advice and actions for your business.

Social Media is perfect for motorcycling:

Without wanting to give too many spoilers as to what I’ll be running a seminar on, it’s great to see the motorcycle industry starting to embrace social media as a way to engage with their customers. Motorcyclists are some of the most passionate, knowledgable, and enthusiastic people on the planet when it comes to spending time and money on their hobby, but also sharing their love with other people.

And there’s always been a social aspect, whether it’s ride-outs, bike meets, or the experience of being part of a convoy of hundreds of bikers heading to an event. And along with the usual age, location and other social strata, there’s the fact that motorcyclists handily tend to divide themselves into groups by the type of bike they ride, and often the make and model.

Add the fact that most bikers are also keen on gadgets and technology, hence the huge number of forums and messageboards that have been around for many years, and the fact biking often becomes part of life rather than a hobby, and you can see the massive opportunities, especially as motorcycling is often under pressure from outside forces, such as Government legislation.

Plus, bikes are cool.