Weapons of Mass Distraction


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“Tools, Watson.”

“Tools, sir?” When The Effective Detective started a conversation with a declarative statement like that, it was always best to merely repeat the statement as a question and prepare for a lecture.

“Yes Watson, tools,” The Detective repeated, with a look that indicated he knew the purpose of my reply.

“I have been reflecting on the use of the vast collection of sales and marketing tools available to even the smallest marketer. Unfortunately, too many of our marketing brethren buy into the software mantra of ‘more features are better'”, The Detective said, with an almost wistful tone.

“What is the fault in that mantra, sir?” asking the question that I know would get the most, shall we say, enthusiastic response.

“The fault is obvious Watson!” The Detective responded vigorously, “Instead of choosing a piece of software based on what they are trying to accomplish, they go for the software with the most features that they can afford. The result would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.”

“And that result would be?” I asked, jumping into the breach.

“Why nothing of course, Watson! They end up doing nothing because they get utterly confused when assaulted by the process of using said features. At that time of course, we hear that this software or that doesn’t work, or that the process they are trying to automate is useless to their business, etcetera, etcetera. This is the cycle, almost without fail,” The Detective finished.

“Is there an alternative sir?” I asked, genuinely interested by now.

“Of course there is Watson, it isn’t as sexy and certainly not as easy as buying the most feature packed latest  and greatest version of software. It involves figuring out what exactly you are trying to do, rather than allowing yourself to be distracted by the shiny new thing. It involves thinking through things, to write the process flow down on a piece of paper so you can see exactly what is needed,rather than what a software manufacturer wants to sell you.

“In a nutshell Watson, if you can’t do it or at least flow it out by hand, then you certainly cannot automate it,” The Detective completed his thought.

“An interesting viewpoint from someone who has been involved in software for most of his life, sir,” I responded, egging him on for some reason. Luckily, The Detective’s reaction was more restrained that I expected.

“Not really Watson. I have spent a chunk of my life designing and writing software. I have seen projects succeed and I have seen many fail. I have watched innumerable users  do what I have just described. It is simply the obvious deduction of years of observations.”

“Ah. Well played sir,” I congratulated him.

“Quite so Watson.”

One Thing to Bring Them All and in The Business Bind Them

The Mystery of the Marketing Trilogy Part 3

“So Watson, when last we met you had deduced that something was missing. We had provided a ‘Why’ our prospect should be interested and we had told them ‘What’ was required to address said ‘Why’. Yet, something was missing. Now what would that be Watson?” The Detective prompted.

“Well, sir, how would I go about doing this ‘What’ that you described?” I asked.

“Exactly, Watson! The How! The third part of the trilogy! That is what some percentage of your prospects will pay for! Once they understand why this is important to them, and what to do, some will not possess the knowledge or skill to know how to go about doing the ‘What’; some of them will just want someone to do it for them.

“Without the first two steps though, the ‘Why’ they should care, and the ‘What’ to do to address it – and this content is so often missing from presentations, you cannot build the urgency, and you cannot build their trust and confidence in you. Many presenters are so afraid that some people will go off on their own, that they actually give virtually no content, mostly just teasers. What they don’t realize is they are driving away a large number of people, because they do not make their case convincingly.” The Detective finished with a flourish.

“But sir, what about the ones that think they already know how, and go off on their own without taking you up on your ‘How’?” I interjected.

“Well Watson, those people will generally break into one of two camps. The first we will call The Successful Doers. They will scurry off with the information you have given them, execute on it, and most likely will encounter some, or possibly a good amount of success. They will often return to you for more information, and may just encounter something you are offering that they can’t do for themselves or will see the wisdom in working with you, and feeling that you know from whence you speak, engage you to help them. The second we will call The Not Ready Yets. Their businesses or lives may not quite be ready for what you are offering. They may not be able to afford your service or product, or are still debating the value. They will most likely dabble a bit with what you have given them, and have just a  small amount, if any, success. They also have a high probability of returning for other pieces of information you are giving out, and hopefully at some point they will find a price point they can handle, or encounter just enough success to properly engage you and will move forward like The Successful Doers.”

“It seems like a distinctly win-win situation, sir.” I said enthusiastically.

“Admittedly Watson, there is a third camp: The Takers. They will always come to hear you, take what you give, and never become your customer. Luckily, they are more rare than you would expect.

“The overall effect though is quite advantageous to all parties. Your audience gets ideas to work with, and if they desire, the help they need, you gain a well deserved reputation for being knowledgeable in your field, and most likely, more than a few clients. A definite win-win.”

“An objective well suited for a professional, sir,” I responded.

“Quite so, Watson, quite so.”


The Mystery of the Marketing Trilogy Part 2

“What, sir,” I began, hoping for a reaction.

“In regards to…” The Detective replied, trailing off in anticipation that I would explain myself.

Wanting to, but in the end unwilling to extend the game, I replied, “What, sir, is the second part of the Marketing Trilogy, which you are expounding upon.”

“Ah, yes, quite right Watson!” The Detective recovered, and quickly moved into the explanation.

“The What is the tricky part, and the one that so many marketers seem to fall short on. Once your prospects know why they should be interested, the what is literally telling your audience what they need to do to solve their problem. Outline the process. Tell them what they need to do!” The Detective exclaimed.

“By providing a solution you are establishing that you truly know what you are talking about, without having to go through the drudgery of say writing hundreds of articles that, sad to say Watson, are most likely going to get lost in the noise. That said, I cannot in good conscience claim writing and speaking – in the multitude of presentation forms and venues available,  should be eliminated from your ongoing marketing process. However, by directly providing truly rich and most importantly, useful, content you gain the added bonus of building trust. No one feels like you pulled a bait and switch on them. You told them why something was a problem, and what they should do to resolve it.

“But sir, aren’t you giving away what you are trying to sell? Won’t some of your audience just run off with your ideas?” I asked in consternation.

“Ah Watson, that is the beauty of this methodology, and the most difficult part. Telling someone WHAT they must do does not necessarily end their pain. Tell me Watson, if I said to you that to conduct an effective email campaign you must first review your list and segment it demographically, then design a content delivery process with a mixture of usable content and sales promotions utilizing an automated tool, did I or did I not tell you what you must do?”

“Yes, sir, but there is something missing.” I answered cautiously.

“Precisely Watson! And exactly what that something missing is we will review in our next discussion,” said The Detective, effectively ending the discussion for the day.




The Mystery of The Incomplete Explanation Part 2

“Where were we Watson,” started The Detective.

“I believe you were just going to start a further explanation of point two from a previous discussion, sir. Lost Customers to be precise.” I quickly replied.

“Quite Right. Actually, this one in a way, is self-explanatory. It astounds that more business people don’t see it.

“You see Watson, in the haste to get new customers, because everyone knows they are the life-blood of a business, business people often forget they already have a source of said ‘life-blood’: people who have already bought from them. Unfortunately, too often they either take them for granted – assuming that because they were so impressed with the service and/or product they received, they will come running back when they need something additional, or they don’t think of them at all, acting as if all customers are new customers. Of course, the result is the customer does not think of them either.

“A truly ‘lost’ customer must be approached cautiously. After all, there has probably been no real communication for some time. But you must find a way to reestablish contact. Direct mail, email, the method may depend on the data you have. Here is where caution comes in. Suddenly pummeling them with reminders that you are still in business and why the heck have they not visited you, or the same old flyers you send out would be counter productive. These are people who have done business with you before. They want to – and may already,  think of themselves as special, as having done you the kindness of having done business with you – no matter that you may feel you saved their business, made them look good to their client or boss, or simply given them a great deal! Your perception is irrelevant.

There must be some kind of offer to entice these lost souls. It needn’t be anything large, just something of value. After all, they were your customer once, if you provided a quality product and good service, they probably would most likely welcome the contact; a much easier sale I would say. In all probability it wasn’t that they did not want to do business any longer, but, like for most of us, life simply got in the way, and since the business did nothing to reestablish the relationship, it slipped away like an old High School friend,” finished The Detective with a flourish.

“How poetic!” I exclaimed.

“Yes, well, sometimes it is easy to get carried away Watson, let us not dwell on that,” replied The Detective sheepishly.

“Of course, sir. Shall we take a break before going into another mystery?” I asked, giving him an opportunity to slip away from the subject.

“Excellent idea, Watson, Excellent idea!”



The Mystery of The Incomplete Explanation Part 1

Sometimes in relating information The Detective and I forget that giving a couple of bullet points is often insufficient to fully explain an important concept (or concepts!). Case in point. If you are an observant reader you might have caught the link to an article in Time Magazine that we sent out over the weekend just past. If not, fear not! We realized belatedly that perhaps we could have or should have expounded a little bit more on some of the key points; at least given an example that fits in more with our readers. After all, the article was talking about databases with hundreds of thousands of names, perhaps millions. How could that possibly relate? Let The Detective give it a try:

“Watson, do you think perhaps we were a bit, shall we say, vague in how some of the data mining techniques mentioned in that article could actually apply to the smaller list owner?” asked The Detective as we sat enjoying our brandies.

“Funny thing, I was just considering that,” I replied.

“Very well then,” launched The Detective, “perhaps we should give a slightly longer explanation a go. Let me start with the first point: too many databases.”

“Even a relatively small business could have too many databases. In fact, too many could easily be two, depending on the data that is stored in each of them. Take as a simple example a business that deals with consumers rather than other businesses. It would be quite easy for them to have two databases: one for email through one of the many systems out there, and a direct mail listing, perhaps a mailing list database or document they can merge.

By merging the two data sources, or more simply, picking and choosing items that can be used to properly segment the list, such a business could easily send highly targeted emails as well as direct mail to a potential customer base.”

“What types of items could they, as you put it, ‘pick and choose’ pray tell,” I asked, intrigued.

“Elementary, dear Watson. The simplest in this case would be zip code. If the business is local, then  they probably know the neighborhoods and thus the zip codes of the more affluent residents. Given that information included into the Email list, one could send an offer for high-end merchandise, knowing they would not irritate those who have less interest or capability to pay for such a purchase,” answered The Detective.

“Brilliant, sir!” I exclaimed in spite of myself.

“Another simple example would be if they have tracked the purchase history of their customers, perhaps in an accounting system. By adding an indicator of a high volume purchaser to their email program, they could also target special offers for such loyal customers!” finished The Detective.

“I think that gives a much better idea of what was meant by too many databases, sir. Now perhaps the others?…” I encouraged.

“All in good time, Watson. All in good time.”


The Mystery of the Missed Marketing Message

The Effective Detective was never a big one for newspapers (especially the ones that are mostly or all advertisements), being more of an email guy, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when he got a tad upset when I brought to his attention an ad he had missed concerning a favorite restaurant of his.

“What’s that Watson? One of my favorite restaurants not only has an entertainer I would enjoy, but a special? When shall we go?”

“I’m afraid all of that is in the past tense sir. Last week to be precise.”

“Confound it, Watson! I don’t read those bloody papers! I have enough to do already let alone leafing through a collection of coupons and offers I generally have no interest in, just to see if there might be one that catches my fancy.” It would seem I had started a minor storm.

“Well sir, I don’t think they could go about calling every one of their customers to let them know what is happening on a regular basis. Far more cost efficient to do the ad.” I offered, watching the sarcasm, knowing that might trigger a bigger storm.

“Bah!” The Detective spat out, “I have been to that restaurant countless times, you would think they would have some kind of loyalty program set up.”

“Perhaps sir, but not everyone has the time, or in particular the resources to organize and run such a thing, and where could they get your contact information?” I replied, playing devil’s advocate.

“Again… Bah!” The Detective retorted, “Just have a simple sign up sheet, then type in the name and email addresses into an email program and send out offers and notices through that! For heaven’s sake they could queue up any number of dates at once and then let it run on auto-pilot. If they send useful offers or information on a regular basis, I would actually be looking forward to their emails, instead of having to sift through these bloody papers. And, I wouldn’t have missed the one last week! ” The Detective finished with a sigh.

“I see your point,” I answered, “could this also be utilized by other non-food establishments?”

“Of course Watson! Any retail outlet could easily do the same thing!” The Detective shot back.

“What could they use to do such a thing?” I asked.

“There are any number of inexpensive services out there,” The Detective replied, starting to calm down again. “But that discussion is for another time.”

“Of course,” I nodded, “Of course.”

The Mystery of Big Data

Sometimes I feel as The Effective Detective’s virtual (literally) assistant, I am led by The Detective from one mystery straight into another.

“Watson, have you been reading the technical papers lately – in particular regarding the issue of ‘Big Data’?”  The Detective asked.

“Ah yes, there seems to be quite the fascination with it now.” I answered.

“As always Watson, most writers have missed the point, and while larger businesses might be able to afford to dally with all of the mumbo jumbo discussed, many small business people and entrepreneurs are being left out in the cold and are missing an amazing opportunity.” The Detective started, jabbing his pipe in my direction for emphasis.

“How so?” I asked, encouraging him on.

“Elementary, my dear Watson. As always, our friends in the technical press have over-complicated the issue. Perhaps to impress everyone with their knowledge of jargon, or perhaps to help their advertisers sell their extremely expensive analysis software and database systems.

“Data is data my dear Watson, whether it is the ocean that pours into the largest of businesses or the stream that flows quietly into a smaller enterprise. The primary issue is not discovering new and fancy ways to organize, store, and access it, although that can occasionally be useful,” he paused briefly, building my anticipation for the main point.

“The primary issue is understanding what it is you are trying to accomplish with your data be it ‘big’ or otherwise, of course! Collecting customer and sales data has one purpose: to help you make more sales. You need to choose the data that is most important for that goal, not what some consultant or writer has decided is a best practice.” The Detective shot out the last two words and made a face like he had eaten a lemon.

“If you know what you are trying to accomplish, a bloody spreadsheet may turn out to be a perfectly acceptable way to store and retrieve your data! The smaller enterprises need to forget about ‘Big Data’ and start thinking about ‘The Right Data’” he concluded.

“And how do they go about identifying this ‘Right Data’?” I queried.

“Ah, Watson, that is a mystery for another day. Brandy?” replied The Detective with a slight smile.