Got a Minute?

When a co-worker drops in and asks to see you, how often do you say ‘No?’

Apparently not very often if the results of a study by Basex, a New York research firm are any indication.

The study estimates interruptions consume approximately 28% of the average workday, resulting in $650 billion of lost productivity. It’s bad enough we stop what we are doing to handle an email, telephone call, text message or ‘drop in’ meeting. What’s worse is it can take up to 50% more time to complete tasks when you switch between them rather than complete one thing at a time.

Obviously, managing interruptions well is essential to maximizing productivity. So how can we improve?

First, we need to focus on our focus. We are not built to stay on task. Typical workers set aside whatever they are doing and start something else once every three minutes, so we have to make a commitment to focusing on the work at hand.

Time management experts often suggest scheduling ‘uninterruptable time’ during which the phone goes to voicemail, emails are ignored and your staff and co-workers know to avoid the dreaded ‘drop in’ meeting.

Another tactic involves managing interruptions so they are kept to a minute or two so you can help others but not completely lose focus on your current project.
Adopting a planning system is also helpful. It’s not so much which system you use but that you plan and prioritize activities on a regular basis.

You might also take the advice of Jim Collins, author of ‘Good to Great.’ In a recent Business Week interview Collins noted that the most effective people he has studied have a “stop-doing” list or not-to-do list. Collins believes this is more important than a to-do list because the ‘not-to-do list’ frees up time and energy for more productive activities.

Regardless of the tactics you choose, communicate your approach to your staff and co-workers. Let them know your most productive ‘work alone’ times and therefore when not to interrupt. And, ask them to tell you their preferences and show them you listened by respecting their time.

 

David M. Mastovich, MBA is President of MASSolutions, an integrated marketing firm focused on improving the bottom line for clients through creative selling, messaging and PR solutions. He’s also author of “Get Where You Want To Go: How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling.” For more information, go to www.massolutions.biz.

Co-Create Unique Customer Experiences

Apple created the iPod but we decide on our playlists. MySpace and Facebook aren’t really products or services but platforms for individuals to express themselves and communicate with others of their choosing. YouTube is created by you for you.

The underlying theme is that value is based on the unique, personalized experience of individual consumers. C.K. Prahalad, described by Business Week as probably the most influential thinker on business strategy today, calls it “co-creation” in his latest book The New Age of Innovation.

Prahalad writes that successful companies no longer invent new products on their own. They create them along with their customers to produce a unique experience for each individual.

Don’t confuse this with the old ‘mass customization’ model that focused on a company offering customers choices on a wide range of product or service attributes. With mass customization, the company still decided which choices to offer and how to deliver them. With “co-creation,” the choices are infinite and the individual, not the company, decides what is created and purchased.

Look at some of the most admired and successful market innovators today and their co-created offerings: Apple, Google, Starbucks, the iPhone, Gmail, The Starbucks Experience. Each focuses on the unique customer experience through co-created products and services.

What does this mean for the average company or business?

Listening to the customer, a tactic often neglected by generations of businesses, is even more vital to success and is no longer enough. Companies need to ask customers what they think and actually listen to the response. The next step is to let customers drive product and service offerings, co-create their own unique experiences.

Unfortunately, most companies are set up in the opposite manner, built around producing products and services to achieve economies of scale; reactive rather than interactive; emphasizing structure over flexibility.

The focus needs to change and fast.

You can start by asking your customers or prospects what they want. Listen, be flexible and respond by co-creating unique experiences with them and for them.

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

How to Keep Your Brand Memorable for 100 Years

NASA’s robotic explorer Curiosity landed on Mars Monday. The next day, Oreo Cookie tweeted: We come in peace. With Oreo cookies. #dailytwist pic.twitter.com/8pWggzzF featuring a Mars inspired Rover cookie with red filling and little tire tracks.

The Rover isn’t a real cookie but the original certainly is. The Oreo turned 100 this year and parent company Kraft is celebrating its history and current sales levels.

The snack food industry is growing at a faster rate than other foods. Consumers are returning to iconic brands and looking for an affordable indulgence during tough economic times. But Oreo has a century long record of success based on four customer focused marketing tactics:

1. Make a Connection: We eat them as kids and then act like kids while eating them as adults. Just about everyone either loves Oreos or loves someone who does.

2. Meet Their Needs: Oreo tweaked the product to expand into 100 countries, giving each its own cookie. Green Tea Oreos in China, Trio Chocolate in Mexico and Indonesia’s Double Delight with chocolate and peanut to name a few.

3. Tailor Your Message: Oreo changes with the times. The “twist” was first promoted on trolley cars in 1923. Double Stuff Oreos hit stores in the ‘70’s. “Cookies N Cream Ice Cream” was introduced in 1983 and my personal favorite, Fudge Covered Oreos, in 1987. Reduced Fat Oreos (Really? What’s the point?) bummed fans out in the mid-90’s while bite sized Mini Oreos were part of a 2001 promotional campaign.

4. Make It Memorable: The product is memorable and so is the advertising. Check out this list of slogans:

1950 – Oh-oh! Oreo

1980 – For the Kid in All of Us

1982 – America’s Best Loved Cookie

1986- Who’s The Kid with the Oreo Cookie?

1990 – Oreo, The Original Twister

2004 – Milk’s Favorite Cookie

And that’s not including the “Twist, Lick and Dunk” campaign  or the recent Perfect Start to Father’s Day ad.

Add the Rover cookie celebrating NASA’s trip to Mars with millions of Facebook and Twitter followers and you have 100 years of memorable messaging leading to more than 345 billion Oreos sold since 1912. Milk’s favorite cookie indeed…and maybe the world’s too.

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – Sounds of Marketing

The Rolling Stones-Out of Our Heads(1965)

When I’m watchin’ my TV
And a man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be?

Feature/Benefit advertising has been around for generations. So has our quest to learn whether or not those ‘Improve Your Life Today’ clams are true. Our skepticism of advertising remains high while recall of specific messages continues to plummet.

When I’m drivin’ in my car
And a man comes on the radio
He’s tellin’ me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination 

The old advertising adage ‘Less is More’seems to have been replaced with ‘More, More, More’—more details, more comparisons, more information to sift through.

I can’t get no, I can’t get no
I can’t get no satisfaction 

As is usually the case, frustration leads to change. While consumers are willing to take the time to find the right product or service, we want to decide when, where and how we learn about things. We not only want convenience in making the purchase, we also want to weigh the pros and cons of the product or service at our convenience.

Studies show nearly 70% of consumers now consult online product reviews or consumer ratings before making a purchase. Stories about people turning to Facebook or Twitter to ask friends what they think before making purchases are becoming increasingly common. We want to hear about the good and the bad–the real story as told by real people.

Hey hey hey, that’s what I say 

Customer testimonials have always influenced consumer behavior. Now, access to such feedback is more readily available. What can you do to maximize this opportunity? First, obviously, cultivate a group of loyal, satisfied customers. Ask them to provide testimonials so you can build your inventory of success stories. Make it easy for them by providing a draft testimonial they can review, tweak and approve. Then, spread the word through your customers’ words–online, in selling situations, via traditional marketing and advertising.

Let potential customers know that others like them are satisfied customers of yours.

Hey hey hey, that’s what I say

 

If you have a song suggestion for Sounds of Marketing, please let us know by emailing SoundsOfMarketing@massolutions.biz

 

Clearing Your Desk (And Inbox)

Recently, a colleague of mine teased me about my desk and office being so organized.  He joked that I must not have much to do but ended up asking me how I honed my organizational skills.

Like an Academy Awards acceptance speech, I started off crediting my Mom.  She has always been incredibly organized and taught my brother and me to be so as well.  I was also fortunate to be mentored by some organizational gurus and to work with some top notch administrative assistants over the years.

I’m sure there are many fancy systems for organizing things, but here’s one thing I learned from Mom and others:

A piece of paper (and now an email) should only be touched once through one of the following actions:

  • Act on it immediately.  If something can be done quickly (in less than 15 minutes) and you are not working on an immediate deadline project, act on the task immediately and complete it.  Then, it’s done and off of your ‘to do’ list.
  • If the item needs acted on within the next week and you can’t work on it immediately, place it in your ‘To Do File.’  This file will usually have multiple items in it and should be kept nearby your primary work area.  You should also have a ‘To Do Folder’ on your computer for emails.  The ‘To Do File/Folder’ must be reviewed every day to make sure you are on top of your main priority items.
  • If a task requires action within two weeks and you don’t want to forget about it, place it in your ‘Tickle File.’  The ‘Tickle File’ should be reviewed two or three times each week. Items in the ‘Tickle File’ should have a due date written on them so you know to prepare for the deadline.
  • Delegate or forward the item to someone. Remember to provide specific timelines and action items for the person who has been assigned the responsibility.
  • If it is something important but not actionable, file it as soon as possible.  If you can’t file things quickly, at least file multiple items once a week.
  • Discard or Delete!  You need to get rid of some emails and throw certain pieces of paper away if they are not relevant now or won’t be within six months.  Enjoy discarding and deleting…it should be a liberating experience.

You can fight through the morass of emails and papers that come across your desk.  The key is to touch the piece of paper or email once and then have a plan for it.  And remember to thank Mom for all those things she taught you over the years.

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

Everybody Loves Quacking

When Daniel P. Amos became CEO of American Family Life Assurance Company in 1990, he closed or sold underperforming operations and focused on the company’s two biggest markets, the United States and Japan, and used the $8 million savings to launch an ad campaign.

At the time, name recognition of the company was only 2%. Ten years later, it was still under 10%. Amos realized he had to do something big. His company was unable to stand out from the crowd of competitors with names that began with “American,” so Amos decided to use the acronym AFLAC and hired The Kaplan Thaler Group to make over the company’s image.

Kaplan created and tested two commercials: One featuring Ray Romano of Everybody Loves Raymond, a top rated sitcom at the time, scored an 18.18% of the people polled recalled the company’s name after watching it. Since the industry average was a 12 score, Amos had a safe option in the Romano commercial.

The second concept consisted of a duck quacking the company’s name. Amos tried explaining the commercial to colleagues, friends, and family. No one got it. But, the commercial scored an eye opening 27 when tested. Amos took a chance on the duck ad and decided to run it for two weeks to see what would happen.

The Aflac Duck ad debuted on New Year’s Day, 2000 and boy did it work. In the first year, sales were up 29% and doubled in three years. Name recognition hit an astounding 67%!

Since you might be thinking – I don’t have millions to spend on creative concepts, expensive advertising and research, – here are some things to remember from the Aflac success story:

 

  • Focus on Key Target Markets with the greatest potential
  • Simplify Your Message – the Aflac acronym vs. American Family Life Assurance Company
  • Make it Memorable: Gilbert Gottfried quacking “Aflac” sounds about right.
  • Touch Emotions: People buy Aflac Duck merchandise!
  • Commit to the Big Idea: Amos sold the concept internally, dedicated the necessary dollars, tracked results and only wears duck ties with his suits!

And remember that although Everybody Loves Raymond, the quacking duck made the difference.

 

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

“The Best of You” Sounds of Marketing

The Best Of You – Foo Fighters

Ever feel like you’re the dumping ground at work? Peers, subordinates and your boss seem to take advantage of you?

I’ve got another confession to make
I’m your fool

Maybe you feel stuck at the same old job? Or that there’s nothing you can do to change things?

Everyone’s got their chains to break
Holdin’ you

Do you just accept things as they are?

Were you born to resist or be abused?

Or do you jump from job to job and find out the grass is the same shade of green?

Or are you gone and onto something new?

If you feel like you are being taken advantage of or that someone is getting over on you, maybe you need to take a look at yourself as well. Have you admitted your weaknesses and developed a plan to improve? What about enhancing communication with those around you so they understand where you are coming from?

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

Stubbornness gets in the way of improving relationships through open communication. We hold grudges against bosses or peers for misinterpreted comments or focus on a perceived negative outcome without asking someone their thought process. We convince ourselves situations are “win-lose” when that might not be the case.

I was too weak to give in
Too strong to lose

You have the chance to make things right through honest communication and self assessment. Take stock of your circumstances and look first at what you can do to improve. Offer your perspective to peers, subordinates and your boss. Listen to their side of the story and find some common ground. It isn’t easy and takes courage and character.

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

You owe it to yourself to be able to answer ‘Yes.’

If you have a song suggestion for Sounds of Marketing, please let us know by emailing SoundsOfMarketing@massolutions.biz


The Fake Maybe

Marketers love the thrill of getting to ‘Yes!’ and they hate to hear the dreaded “No.” But what about ‘Maybe?’

Savvy marketers realize building relationships through multiple touches is essential to successful marketing. Sometimes the prospect needs more information or isn’t quite ready to buy. They might need to reach a comfort level with you and could move to ‘Yes’ if you can meet their needs or solve a problem.

On the other hand, some prospects are really ‘Fake Maybes’ that can adversely impact sales people, the Sales Director, and ultimately the entire organization.

Sales people begin to count on the business and ‘Fake Maybes’ repeatedly ask for more details, forcing marketers to spend precious time and energy providing information.

If each sales person has two or three fake maybes, a Sales Director might be counting on 15 to 20 sales that probably aren’t going to materialize. The numbers add up and the impact snowballs. The Sales Director pressures the team, people lose confidence and miss their numbers. It’s a vicious cycle.

The solution is to quickly spot ‘Fake Maybes’ and turn them into a ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ That’s right, a ‘No’ is actually better than a ‘Fake Maybe.’

So what are the signals? While each case is a little different, a telltale sign is when the prospect says mildly positive things about your product or service while putting off a firm decision with some sort of objection.

Unfortunately, some sales people continue to make small talk or mention more features of their product or service. Why? There’s no pain associated with talking to the prospect, leaving with a smile and an “I’ll follow-up with you on (Insert Date).” The marketer can enter the call as a ‘Maybe’ on their call report and keep thinking that they might actually close this one.

To overcome ‘Fake Maybes’, sales people should ask fact and emotion based questions and listen intently to both verbal and non verbal responses.

If you have done your Pre Call Prep, you will have a series of open ended questions ready to help you get rid of those ‘Fake Maybes.’ You owe it to yourself to move on to real prospects and provide them with solutions.

Then, you can hear more of your favorite word: ‘Yes.’

 

David M. Mastovich, MBA is President of MASSolutions, an integrated marketing firm focused on improving the bottom line for clients through creative selling, messaging and PR solutions. He’s also author of “Get Where You Want To Go: How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling.” For more information, go to www.massolutions.biz.

Nothing But The Real Story

TV Guide named Seinfeld the greatest television program of all time. Not bad for a “show about nothing” as it was originally pitched to NBC by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David and later self-parodied as such in an actual episode.

While the show focused on the minutiae of everyday life, its popularity was driven by our ability to relate to and like the key characters. They seemed believable, real and hilarious. We knew someone like them and even sometimes admitted our own quirks were similar.

Reality TV changed the game and continues to make an impact. Twitter, Facebook and other social media vehicles have touched millions. Customer reviews on Amazon.com changed our shopping process and product placement in TV shows and movies has grown.

Each of these success stories offer evidence that we are interested in the real or somewhat real story.

When we try to communicate our message or convince others to buy ideas, products or services, why not focus on the real stuff that makes us unique? Too often people think the real story is really nothing and thus embellish things. Or they go on and on without making one strong point or leaving a key takeaway. And, listening to the customer is something most people say they do but don’t do well.

Take the time to figure out what your real story is. Why is it relevant to members of your target markets? What will help them relate? Why should they care?

Then draft your message in simple, memorable terms. Break it down to a basic, core theme—What’s in it for Them? Clarity and brevity are essential.

Once you’ve developed your real story, tell it again and again. Use memorable anecdotes, ask questions and listen. Respond by matching the needs expressed with the results your idea, product or service will provide. Or as Kramer’s lawyer, Jackie Chiles, might rhyme: “Help them relate but don’t exaggerate.”

Focus on Less and More: Less talking, more listening, more real stuff. And remember that it’s not a story about nothing. It’s a story about how you can meet their needs.

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.

Are You Over Communicating to Employees?

Organizations large and small spend a great deal of time trying to reach and influence potential customers.

In order to meet or exceed their expectations, employees must deliver a quality product or service while living the company’s core values.

Yet how much time is spent making sure employees understand what the company is striving to achieve?

I’m not talking about the mission statement posted on a wall, although I’m guessing many employees couldn’t recite that either. Does your company clearly communicate core values, strategies and goals throughout the organization? Better still, are you over communicating to your employees? If not, here’s how you can do it:

5 Ways to Improve Internal Communication and Increase Productivity 

1. Develop Simple Key Messages–Decide what to communicate on a regular basis. Some messages are constant and based on company values. Others arise during the course of doing business. Both types need to be clear, simple and easy to remember. Clarity and brevity are not mutually exclusive. Tweeting and texting are popular communication vehicles because we can stay updated quickly and easily.

2. Tell Your Story Again and Again–Senior leaders and middle managers often think repeating a message questions the intelligence of their employees and is a waste of time. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We all process information differently and are inundated with messages in our personal and professional lives. We need repetition of message. Try asking three different people what they remember from a discussion and you’ll see how valuable repetition of message is.

3. Use Multiple Vehicles–Some people read emails, others scan or have a cluttered inbox. Some people take notes at meetings, others don’t. Some see those posters on the wall, others ignore them. Just as successful advertising campaigns utilize multiple mediums like TV, billboards, social and direct marketing, internal communication must use multiple vehicles as well.

4. Communicate Up, Down and All Around–Senior leaders hope if middle management hears or reads a message, it will be conveyed to everyone. Don’t take that chance. Communicate up, down and around the organization to ensure your key messages reach the entire team.

5. Find Out What They Think the Key Messages Are–Once you’ve done the first four steps, you need to find out how well it’s working. Ask multiple people to tell you what they think the key messages are. Be ready for some surprises. Take what you learn and tweak the process where appropriate.

Improving internal communication will increase productivity, enhance your customer experience and impact the bottom line. Start over communicating today.

Learn how MASSolutions can help you over communicate to your employees, click here

David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.