Archive for November, 2011

Passing On 12 Cyberscams of Christmas – A Holiday Gift from McAfee

Man tearing hair out

Do NOT let your customer have this sort of experience shopping by smartphone!

This is not strictly a marketing topic, but mobile marketing does involve asking your customers to shop online. You convert websites to display property on mobile devices, and build mobile “ping” lists for your text-message-based outreach (or at least some of you do!) So, you are asking your customers to interact with you over the air.

Cyber criminals are some of the smartest people on the planet. They see that valuable information is starting to flow from smartphones to merchants wirelessly, which gives them access. Plus, customers may not be savvy to the need to look for a secure site sign when shopping (https://, etc.) This gives the crooks the chance to imitate true merchants and steal account information.

MediaPost recently shared some research (find the summary here) that found consumers unaware of, or ignoring, the perils of sharing their credit card and other information through mobile devices. Through that article, I found the list of the Twelve CyberScams of Christmas (these are the sorts of “cute” headlines that actually get clicks, so please forgive the author for the bad pun!) In the interest of spreading the word, I share the link, and reprint the list below. Note the advice you can share with customers is at the bottom.

So, give your clients/customers the gift of security this holiday season, and into 2012! Share this with them, and make sure all your interactions with them are completely secure at your end. Dedicate a holiday tweet/post/text message to the issue. Give them the information they need to continue to have pleasant web-based and mobile shopping experiences!

McAfee’s 12 Scams of Christmas (with thanks to Gary Davis)

1. Mobile Malware:  A recent National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, dated October 19, found that 52.6 percent of U.S. consumers who own a smartphone said they will be using their device for holiday-shopping related activities—whether it’s to research products, redeem coupons, or purchase holiday gifts. Malware targeted at mobile devices is on the rise, and Android smartphones are most at risk. McAfee cites a 76 percent increase in malware targeted at Android devices in the second quarter of 2011 over the first, making it the most targeted smartphone platform.

New malware has recently been found that targets QR codes, a digital barcode that consumers might scan with their smartphone to find good deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or just to learn about products they want to buy. Read the rest of this entry »

Small Business Owners Add Local Value – Leverage It!

O'Neill with Reagan

Local Pols O'Neill and Reagan understood local marketing

The old politician Tip O’Neill famously opined that “all politics is local.” That is, the day-to-day issues of each voter drive his or her choice of candidate or political party.

Even in the age of internet shopping, “local” is still King with consumers, too. And here is the evidence: Big companies still try to interact with their customers and prospects locally to maximize the chance they will choose their brand. As noted in this article:

“Localization of messages, images, creative executions, offers, deals, and interactions is still critical to marketing effectiveness and customer relationship building across many business categories.”

Here are some highlights:

  • 49% of marketers believe localized marketing is essential to business growth and profitability, particularly as it relates to demand generation and sell-through of products and services
  • 30% of marketers have embraced local marketing automation platforms, resources and tools, compared to 62% who either don’t have them or only now evaluating these options
  • 23% of marketing respondents allocate over 50% of their marketing and merchandising budgets to local programs; another 41% spend between 20 and 50% of the budgets on local marketing
  • Cable and broadcast television, local magazines, and radio reportedly deliver the lowest return on spend, compared to top performers like local events, direct mail or FSIs, local partner or channel web sites, social networks and electronic messaging.

In other words, local small business people, the BIG Boys are horning into your turf. Are you fighting to retain your share of local consumer spending? How are you reminding the people in your target market that you are there, and have all the same stuff the Big Boys of Marketing do? Look at that last bullet point. It is a nice summary of all the places you can profitably position your own business against the big budgets of national brands. There is your level playing field!

  • Monthly e-mails that have valuable offers for your regular customers?
  • Prospecting in local coupon mailers (still effective) and online coupon marketing services (usually profitable if structured correctly)?
  • Active on all local shopping and review sites (and tracking which ones actually bring leads)?
  • Investigating local mobile marketing, and adding those mobile numbers (opted-in!!!) to your database? Especially those of you who cater to younger generations?
  • How is your library of video clips coming along? Do you have a YouTube channel for your business yet?
  • If you are getting uncomfortable reading this, you need to take action!
  • Remember, you don’t have to do everything in the marketing toolbox. You just need to find those four or five tools that best work for you, and put the time and money in to make them work hard for you.

The year 2012 is upon us. It is going to be a year of reawakening consumers and reviving buying behavior (a trend started this year already). We are not getting back to the glory years of the mid-2000s, but better times are on the horizon, and you need to have plans laid in to get your fair share of all business done locally.

Brand Disasters for 2011

We still have two months to go in this business year, yet we already have two candidates for brand disasters that will be hard to top.

Netflix gets top prize for marketing fiasco in 2011

First up, Netflix and the repricing/rebranding two-step stumble that occurred this Summer and Fall. What a mess! It is understandable that the company needed to rework its pricing to better match its business model, but it hard to believe the company did sufficient homework (customer research, that is) before making a big pricing increase from around $10 for the combo home delivery/streaming film service to $16. I saw poor marketing planning, too, almost as if Marketing had little say in the decision, and was handed a fait accomplis and a tight timetable:

  • Where was the looooong telegraphing of the move before it took effect (let’s say at least six months) that would have given customers the chance to adjust to the news? (Full disclosure: My household is a customer.)
  • Where was the justification for the shift, fully explained to us, the customers? Not the media, mind you, but directly to the customers? We customers received a letter after the whole thing blew up in Netflix’ face, but not before (at least not my house.)
  • How about giving loyal customers an inside benefit by allowing them to keep the old price for a period of time (two months, say, for each year of being a customer.) That would have made the transition less painful. As it is, my family quickly canceled the home delivery and kept only the streaming service. We might have stuck with both for a loyalty discount.

And where Quikster came from is a real mystery. NetFlix is still a very strong brand, yet the old business that built the brand was being dropped down to a secondary brand like last year’s fashion designs. A needless and expensive solution for a customer service and communication problem, that was clearly not thought out. It may even have been the brainchild of one man (the CEO) in a desperate attempt to contain the damage from the pricing fiasco.

This led to a consumer revolt, and the whole mess has led to close to 1 million customers going out the door. Ouch.

And BofA is right on their heels

Close on the heels of Netflix comes Bank of America with their debit card fee, announced at $5 per month for any month their debit card is used at a merchant point-of-sale (not at ATMs).

This was a financial decision, taken in response to the limits placed on debit card transaction fees by the Dodd-Frank financial industry regulation package. BofA stands to lose millions in foregone transaction fees (as will all other debit card issuers.) So, they decided to keep debit cards profitable by imposing a new fee for using them. Their biggest mistakes? Same as Netflix:

  • Poor telegraphing of the move. Their competitors announced “tests” of the concept, and quickly drew in their horns when the “tests” produced poor customer reactions (a significant drop in POS debit card usage.) See a good summary here. Unlike airlines in the days of old, an announced round of price rises did not signal to competitors that it was OK to announce their own matching increase.
  • Poor choice of price: $5 monthly is a huge fee. Why not $1? That might have been a bearable load for most consumers, and still have made up a bunch of revenue.
  • Poor understanding of market sentiment. Consumers are very aware of prices and fees for service today, so this bald announcement generated an entirely predictable marketplace response.

These two companies did not do their homework, did not soften the blow with any nods to customer loyalty or possible competitive responses. They just bulled in the china shop and started knocking stuff over.

Perhaps they didn’t think so, but it sure came across that way to consumers! Whenever you face a need to raise prices (as all businesses should at some point), you need to actively structure it as a chance to reward good customers by “sharing” the needed price increase with them.