I have been carrying a credit card from CitiBank around in my wallet since 1990, and have lost track of the shifting cardmember values attached to it: It started as an AT&T-branded card that had calling card benefits, and has morphed without me lifting a finger through other iterations to end up as a Citi-branded card with Thank You Rewards attached.
The card has waxed and waned as my primary credit card over two decades, and is currently not stirring much from its slot in my wallet. However, that may change given the new benefit added this year (or at least, noticed by me!)
Exploring a service called “price rewind.”
I do not normally open e-mails from my financial service firms that start like this:
A Personal Message from Citi Cards CEO Jud Linville (Could this be less enticing?)
This time, though, having just received e-mails about security breaches from two other vendors, I felt it in my interest to open this one. They surprised me with a gift rather than a warning, which matched up well with my mantra about e-mails having to be Pinatas rather than Trojan Horses (containing gifts rather than self-promotion, in short.)
- Shop with your Citi Card and register your purchases at citi.com/pricerewind and we will search hundreds of retailers’ web sites for a lower price.
- If the same item is found and the price is at least $25 lower than what you paid within 30 calendar days of your covered purchase, you can be refunded the difference, up to $250 per item.
- We improved the experience and you now have the ability to upload your receipt at anytime making it more convenient to request a refund.
- This year, Citi Price Rewind has refunded customers an average of $80 on qualifying purchases.
All this makes me realize that the service has been around awhile (I do not recall receiving any news about this from Citi before, but I may not have noticed the e-mails – which condemns their past marketing efforts, if any were sent to me!)
And this is pretty neat. I get to buy the item I like at a price I find worthwhile, I register the purchase with this Price Rewind service, and it keeps price shopping for me for 30 more days.
Caveat: I haven’t yet tried this, and the need to manually load up my purchase information into the service is a hurdle I may trip over.
Prediction: I may just try this, which is going to move that old CitiBank card back to the front of the wallet while I do.
And, if they take the next step and put an “add to Price Rewind Register” button next to my purchases in my online account statements, I may become a regular.
We are all in a mad rush to market our goods and services as the Holiday Shopping Season gets revved up. Lost in the shuffle: Veterans Day!
Take the time to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans any way you can in your business this weekend (or as I say in my recent Forbes article: Make next week Veterans Week.)
You don’t have to remove or delay any of your holiday campaigning, just find spots to inject some Red, White and Blue graphics or materials right in the center for the next few days. You also don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Use all the stuff you put in storage (digital or physical) for other patriotic holidays.
I recommend some tangible value for the veterans with whom you may work: Special deals just for them, such as a 20% discount for the week, or a gift-with-purchase (make it really valuable, please!)
Add your greeting and Veterans’ specials to your upcoming e-mails and social media posts, and ask your audience to share what you post with their friends and family members who may be veterans.
You know what to do. Just go out and do it! It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated. The gesture is the thing. Never forget! Always remember!
I, personally, will be calling all the veterans in my family this weekend. Make sure you do that, too.
It boggles my mind that any company would still NOT take the time to hone their marketing messages to hit customer pain points and priorities. Yet a recent bit of research and calculation by the management consultancy McKinsey has found that B2B companies (at least the larger ones) are still talking about themselves more than they are listening to their customers.
If their algorithms were properly constructed, they found a complete disconnection between what sort of product or corporate position the selling entity found critical to emphasize, and the messaging that the buying entity wanted to hear.
Take a look at how uncorrelated the two parties are on what they want to say/hear:
Clearly some of these attributes, such as “promoting and practicing sustainability” and “promoting diversity” have broader objectives for the B2B firm than just building relationships with prospects. But the fact that six prominent messaging priorities for B2B firms have no resonance with their key prospects cries out for a reassessment before shareholders begin to notice and call into question the priorities of senior management.
And the mismatch between the buyer who places a high value on “honest, open communication” is not hearing that from its prospective vendors. In that one point lies a big potential source of competitive advantage for any B2B firm that puts resources behind that particular bit of positioning!
It is also quite informative that the prospects don’t put a lot of emphasis on “global reach” and “shapes the direction of the market.” Perhaps this isn’t surprising, given that their main concern focuses on whether the specific product or service solves their problem. They don’t really care about the overall success of the firm from which they plan to buy stuff.
It is also interesting to see that “low prices” are less of a factor for the buyer than you might think. Price is clearly always a factor in deciding between sources for solutions, but the factors at the top of the chart clearly are where a company needs to focus its message!
Great guidance for content creators and copywriters around the world!
I found a recent LinkedIn post with the provocative theme that the “marketing department as a separate department is going to vanish.”
Hmm. The people participating in the comment section of the discussion certainly took the position that this was short-sighted and wrong-headed. But all the people commenting were in the marketing profession, so you could say they were biased.
Marketing is the Future. Neglect it at your Peril.
Still, marketing as a function will never disappear, because companies need customers, and the process through which you find and engage with them is called “Marketing.”
You can argue about the details of marketing programming shifting, and the need for better analytics to better focus marketing investments on programming that actually produces business, but some eternal truths will never change:
- Marketing is the only part of an organization that is focused on the future: Where will we get business next year? No one else in the company asks this question, or is actively working on it.
- Marketing represents the customer (however defined) within the organization. It keeps track of changing customer needs, it investigates how your current products or services are meeting those needs. It drives innovation to meet needs that are not being met.
- Marketing works to ensure that when a prospective customer raises his or her hand and says “I am ready to buy” your value proposition pops up. Great SEO and SEM, brand awareness and testimonials as endorsements to move the buyer in your direction. All this has to be thought about and set up well ahead of the hand-raise!
Who else in the organization is tasked with doing all of this? You cannot succeed in business without marketing, so how could anyone say that the Marketing Department is old-fashioned and fading away?
What do you think? Is marketing simple enough that its tasks can be parceled out between operations, sales and non-marketing executives?
I like this presentation, especially slide 26 about “the end of lying.” The pursuit of truth is the better long-term strategy:
All products that you can physically hold in your hand come in packaging to the consumer. That packaging is real estate for benefit messaging, as most of us know.
Consumer Packaged Goods companies (naturally) have know this for years, and many a junior product manager at Clorox, Quaker Oats or Proctor & Gamble took their first responsible steps in building a marketing skill set by designing packages that met all product branding and regulatory disclosure requirements and still left plenty of space for marketing messages. A lot of thought went into what should occupy each square inch of marketing real estate on a cereal box, say, or a cleaning fluid bottle.
Other industries took longer to cotton onto this opportunity, especially the financial services industry. Clearly they are cluing themselves in, however, and the proof was in my mail this week. I received two orders for fresh checks, for two different bank accounts:
Examine the images to the right, and you will see that Bank of the West has done a better job of using their available marketing messaging real estate.
Both made a claim on the front of their packaging:
- Chase: “Your checking account comes with way more than will fit in this box.”
- Bank of the West: “Checking that comes with the features and services that you want.”
Round One to Chase. Their claim is more intriguing, and makes no claim to knowing what I want.
- Chase stops there, however, and does not back up its claim. No other panel of the check box has any messaging on it.
- Bank of the West takes the next step and backs up the claims with six messages under each item in the check folio.
Round Two, and the match, to Bank of the West!
I agree with those who may say that the business account check packaging got more marketing attention than the personal check order, as business accounts tend to be more profitable for banks.
I still think Chase missed a chance to print suggestions for services that could further engage me as a banking client.
To quibble a bit with Bank of the West:
- I cannot find all the service suggestions/messaging until I pull off the packet of checks, and only two of the four service messages will appear right away. Important suggestions about mobile banking and using my account’s debit card are still under check packets I may not use for months.
- Chase’s box (albeit with no messaging printed on the inside or back) did fold into a nice, tidy easy-to-store shape. Bank of the West stuck me with a more awkward folio shape that will require a change in how I store checks!
The advantage still remains with Bank of the West in this packaging competition!
Share any packaging brilliance that you have seen lately. I would love to see images of them!
In marketing, you hone your pitch to fit into 140-character tweets and 100-character keyword ads. These shoe-box-sized spots for product messaging really challenge the copywriter to get to the point.
The same rigor goes for your 30-second, or elevator, pitch. You cannot ramble, you cannot drift off on a tangent. You must deliver one succinct, memorable sound bite that is so compelling that it buys you more time (right then or later) to make your case in more detail.
The only immediate goal of your pitch is to buy yourself time with that audience to have a longer conversation. Your close must also end with a question that hooks the listener:
Have these planned in advance, too. They should all revolve around this basic idea: “What are your pain points in this area?”
Translate that into whatever it needs to sound like for the particular audiences you wish to attract.
I wrote about this in more detail in a Forbes column last week. If you read it, let me know what you think!
A second key success factor in delivering a sterling 30-second pitch is to practice it until you can deliver it without thinking, and then develop the knack for tailoring it on the spot to your audience. Another way to think about your goal is to internalize your pitch so that it wears on you like a second skin, and rolling it out is a natural as breathing.
Third: Speak in plain English. Drain your pitch of buzzwords and cliches. Expunge it of technical terms. If your value proposition cannot be understood by the common man, keep working at it until all of your friends and everyone in your family nods their head in understanding the first time they hear it.
Let me know if this makes sense. Have you put the work in to hone your pitch to perfection? How did you know you had succeeded?
In my previous post, I went on about how bricks-and-mortar merchants need to prepare for a future where customers in their store are shopping their products and prices while standing in the aisle (“showrooming”).
Now here comes evidence from ClickIQ that the businesses that are losing business from showroomers (about 24% of the people who use their phones to compare prices), may be picking up some compensating business from people showrooming in their competitors!
This does not detract from the gain Amazon is getting from the massive spread of smartphones: The study found that about half of the people who chose to complete their purchase online placed the order with Amazon.
Marketingcharts.com actually had a better write-up than ClickIQ’s press release, and they had this nifty graphic, too.
Most Shoppers Buy Where They Stand – Some good news for off-line retailers.
As you can see from the 24% figure above, a solid 76% bought from the store in which they were standing:
“The ClickIQ study does show that most of the in-store shoppers ended up buying at the retailer where they were shopping, (although) only a few used a retailer’s online site,” noted ClickIQ in their press release.
Here is another insight from the study that could better arm the bricks-and-mortar store owners: “Among the 24% of respondents who ended up buying online, a slight majority said they did not pay sales tax, with 65% of those saying that had some influence on their purchase decision.” (my bolding)
This is actionable data: How easy is it to run “pay the sales tax” promotions in-store? They could even be delivered by mobile phone for those who are opted in to your mobile community.
The bottom line here is that all is not lost: If the retailer in which the surfing shopper is standing can engage with them meaningfully, they have a great chance of capturing the business.
What is your shopping behavior in the age of the smartphone? Do you actively browse options when standing in aisles? What price points drive you to invest the time doing so?
New data released this week and posted on marketingcharts.com confirms once again that retailers need to actively work on combating showrooming. As smartphones get ever more ubiquitous, using them to check out product reviews and competitive pricing while standing in a store aisle will become par-for-the-course consumer behavior.
How do you as a small businessperson fight against the online retailers like Amazon, who can price aggressively because they take a pass on brick-and-mortar locations? Here are a few ways to think about the challenge of closing the deal with a showrooming customers standing in your store:
Engage with them: Have sales reps be alert for shoppers working their phones. If the shopper is not typing aggressively (texting) or talking (on the phone), offer to help.
Keep your prices close to online retailers: You have the advantage of being able to satisfy the “get it now” urge. No one buying from your store has to wait days or a week for UPS or FedEx to show up with the goods. Plus, your price does not have to be just as low as online, thanks to the time savings (and perhaps even shipping cost savings.)
Offer deals: Instant savings on purchases made that day, by total or by item. Have a coupon dispenser in aisles where you suspect most showrooming occurs.
Offer deals in exchange for signing up for your digital marketing program: Offer a great deal (again using coupons in the aisle) if they sign on for either e-mail or mobile marketing.
Study aisle behavior: You have security cameras trained on all areas of your store. You can use that record to track in-aisle behavior to get anecdotal evidence for which products areas are showroomed most often. Those aisles become your priority for anti-showrooming initiatives! (Disclaimer: You are not tracking specific people using in-store cameras. Read this for a good pro-and-con summary of collecting marketing data using surveillance cameras. )
Promote your easy and no-questions-asked return policies: Nothing beats making a purchase easier than knowing you can reverse the decision easily, too. Try returning an online purchase to see what your advantage is!
Wailing, rending your garments and bemoaning the impact of technology on your business are not options, or at least are not where you should stop: Get cracking figuring out how to make your store the best place to complete a purchase, even when the person in the aisle has the whole internet at their fingertips.
I have written often about the fact that the lion’s share of disposable income in the US is sitting in the pockets of Baby Boomers. It stands to reason that this would be the case:
- Empty Nests as children exit college
- Maximal income as careers peak
- Parents not all yet in full care facilities (though increasingly so)
- Inheritances coming their way from the parsimonious Greatest Generation
I recently found on immersionactive.com a great summary that confirms where the money is that could be the source of your business’ profits for the next decade as Boomers step into “retirement.” Plan for:
- People who expect a high level of service
- Quality hunters
- Spenders – They aren’t saving much for retirement as a group. Money seems to slip through their fingers
The areas of interest might be:
- Personal services (accountants, wealth management, gardening, real estate agents to help them downsize, just to name some obvious options)
- Gifts for grandchildren
- Health services – Taking care of their health is going to be more important to this group than it was to their parents. This includes cosmetic procedures to stay “looking young.”
- Job recruitment – This generation will keep working both because they want to, and because they will need to.
Finally, watch this Baby Boomer myth-busting interview on the Today Show with AARP’s Mark Kitchens.
How does your product or service line up with the needs of the Baby Boomers? If you don’t know, find out and craft messaging to support that positioning!