"Thank You." How 2 words earn Gary Vaynerchuck $60 million a year.
Here's me meeting Gary Vaynerchuk during a book reading at Kepler's in Menlo Park last week. I'm not much of an author groupie, but had just finished "The Thank You Economy" and was impressed enough to drive over and hear what Mr. V had to say.
I'm a big believer that someone's intelligence is never as evident -- or lacking -- as when answering questions from a live audience (case study: George Bush). And our audience was filled with Silicon Valley wunderkind asking all sorts of tough questions about SEO and local and "who has time to do all this social stuff and still run a business?"
Gary V. is good. Really, really good. He totally gets it.
He stayed on message, reiterating that if you game technology to get people to your site or to Like your Facebook page, you're playing at a losing game. Instead, companies must accept that there are no shortcuts. The only way up is to do the exhausting work of caring about every last customer.
Especially when your company targets women, caring cannot be outsourced, downplayed, or substituted. The book jacket itself reads like a fortune cookie for businesses who hope to capture female consumers:
Gone are the days when a blizzard of marketing dollars can overwhelm the airwaves, shut out the competition, and grab customer awareness. Now customers' demands for authenticity, originality, creativity, honesty, and good intent have made it necessary for companies and brands to revert to a level of customer service rarely seen since our great-grandparents' day, when business owners often knew their customers personally, and gave them individual attention.
Or, as Gary Twitterized this notion even further: "Caring is the new battleground."
Those who care most, win. Those who don't, lose. Leaving just one question to ask your team:
Are we ready for battle?Please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below, even if -- no, especially if --
you don't agree with what I've written.
I've been wanting to create some kind of memorable, shareable, useful term that summarizes the most important "musts" for marketing to moms.
Here it is: B-R-O-A-D-S.
B is for Blanket, as in "What's Your Blanket?" You must know what your product or service does to "care for the caretaker" before you can do anything else.
R is for Reach. Go where your consumer is. Find out where she hangs out online (or in the real world) and talk to her there. Instead of inventing a "new" mom community and trying to woo people over, find an already popular spot and sponsor it.
O is for Optimistic. Paint a picture of success for your customer, instead of belaboring the negative. Even if your product or service solves an icky problem, talk about the solution, not the problem. Make mom the hero.
A is for Ambassadors. Identify your most enthusiastic customers and mobilize them on your behalf. They are the best sales force you could ever hope to have.
D is for Donate. Create a charitable give-back to a cause that aligns with your brand. Tell women about it. 67% of women will try a brand if it supports a cause she cares about.
S is for Service. Offer outstanding customer service and real-time help. Put your 1-800 number on every page of your website and make sure your phones don't go unanswered.
The next time you tackle anything to do with marketing, run through this list in your head. Are you succeeding on all 6 fronts?
Can you imagine getting a tweet like this sent to you?
It's just one example of the Random Acts of Kindness phenomenon which more and more smart brands are embracing.
I read a great report about R.A.K. that describes its appeal this way:
For consumers long used to (and annoyed by) distant, inflexible and self-serving corporations, any acts of kindness by brands will be gratefully received. For brands, increasingly open communications both with and between consumers (especially online), means that it's never been easier to surprise and delight audiences with R.A.K.: whether sending gifts, responding to publicly expressed moods or just showing that they care.
The three drivers to achieve R.A.K. greatness are:
HUMAN TOUCH Consumers increasingly wanting to see the human side of brands, meaning R.A.K. reach out to those consumers craving ‘human’ brands who show not generosity, but acts of compassion, humanity, or even just some personality.
PUTTING IT OUT THERE Audiences are publicly disclosing more and more personal information on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, about their lives, moods and whereabouts, both current and intended, enabling R.A.K. to be more relevant. In fact, it’s never been easier for brands to listen and react to potential customers’ needs or desires in innovative or even personalized ways. As much of this happens in real time, brands can increasingly engage with consumers right at their moment of need, making R.A.K. more relevant, and therefore better received.
PASS IT ON More consumers than ever are now sharing their experiences with their friends and wider audiences on social networks, meaning R.A.K. can spread far beyond the original recipients.
Can you imagine an audience more deserving of R.A.K. treatment than moms? I can't. Especially single moms, military moms, and moms of multiples. If you make a product or offer a service for moms (and I suspect you do if you read Maternal Journal), how could you create a killer R.A.K. campaign? My brain is already reeling with ideas. Hopefully yours is, too.
Biomimicry is such a fun word to say. Here's its definition: "Biologically inspired engineering."
What it means is to look to nature to solve our most vexing problems. And even if the word is new to you, the concept isn't. Just think about Velcro. It was created after a dog owner noticed how tenaciously burrs stuck to his pet's fur. He then mimicked the hook and loop pattern on opposing fabrics and voila -- instant inventorship and mogulhood.
So of course I can't help wondering what problems mom face that Mother Nature can solve. Here are some things on the horizon:
- No more cleaning showers, thanks to a sealant modeled after the lotus plant which naturally repels water
- No more birds dive-bombing windows, thanks to an invisible (to the human eye) spider web pattern built into the glass
- No more toxic textiles, thanks to fabrics using optical illusions to create hues, thanks to the peacock -- a completely brown bird whose colors are the result of light scattering off melanin rods
I suspect nature's lessons can be behavioral, too. Watch a single episode of Animal Planet and you'll notice every mother -- no matter the species -- tossing her young into the wild, forcing them to figure it out. Perhaps it's time we humans stopped driving our kids two blocks to school and started letting them fix their own lunches.
Or are there suddenly dozens of new-fangled thingamajigs being peddled to women?
There's Clinique's new lower-lash mascara, for starters. Yes, ladies, it appears we now need not one, but two, mascaras to do the trick of making our eyelashes most battable.
While you're in the bathroom, be sure to double up shelf space, too, for Dove's new body mist line, made to complement the fragrances of their deodorants.
And, in addition to the fashionable "playdate cards" moms print up these days, there are now personalized "allergy cards" -- in-vogue calling cards announcing Jimmy's permanent divorce from walnuts.
But wait...there's more! Especially if you've got a new baby!
Last weekend I attended my first baby shower in years. Since my youngest was born 8 years ago, they've come up with all sorts of new "musts" for moms, including shopping cart covers, strollers with acoustic canopies (fancy talk for MP3 music piping in), and even Pee-Pee Teepees, little cones that will keep you from being hit in the eye by a warm stream of your son's urine during a diaper change.
I am not making this up.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for smart advancements. But there's a difference between inspired Why Didn't I Think of That? ingenuity and Why Did Anyone Think of That? fluff.
When it comes to new products for moms, here's my litmus test: solve a real problem without making more work for her. Creating another thing for a mom to pay for, own, maintain, and find in her purse is not progress unless it's truly useful. Otherwise, let's call it for what it is: preying on her insecurities while pocketing more of her cash. Clinique could easily have made a two-sided mascara wand with the smaller lower-lash brush at one end, but that would have been less of a "mascara breakthrough!"
Here's the moral of this story: Marketing to moms is all about simplifying her life and solving problems. It's the very heart of our What's Your Blanket? philosophy. And if I -- a broad who works in advertising -- has such heightened respect for a mother's time and intelligence -- imagine how the other 82 million moms in our fair country feel.
Does the ad above shock you? Do you find it distasteful? Would you be embarrassed to have your kids see it?
If so, not to worry. It won't be gracing your flat screen anytime soon. Back in September, the ad was turned down by many TV stations and networks, radio stations, websites and even Facebook -- the very folks who bring us a Viagra-thon of messaging, 24/7.
What did Zestra do? Wisely, they called BS on the media, claiming a double-standard in advertising. They then launched a petition for women to sign that read:
Dear Network Executive,
I think it is WRONG that men's sexual products are advertised but ads for women's sexual enhancement products are blocked. I want to END the double-standard in advertising. Women's sexual products should have the same opportunity to be heard.
Then, they took the matter to the airwaves, scoring a segment on ABC Nightline where they enjoyed 3 minutes and 22 seconds of free publicity. In these segments, they revealed that 43% of women suffer from sexual dysfunction, compared to 31% of men, a compelling case for equal air time and shelf space.
Next, rather than wait for a reversal of policy, they stayed in the game by recreating their ad, using euphemisms like “wow moments" instead of words like “arousal” and “sexuality.”
An ad I'm glad is airing, but that I find harder to watch than the original. Not quite a Saturday Night Live parody (but close), the spot feels scripted, hackneyed and stalled in sorority-speak. The most interesting tidbit -- that 93% of women who tried Zestra would recommend it to a friend -- is served up as an afterthought rather than as the big a-ha it is. It's regrettable that their hard-won airtime didn't result in something more watchable.
But that's just my take. Watch it here and then tell me: what's yours?
Selling deodorant has gotta suck. After all, how many different ways can you say "stops wetness" and "prevents odor"?
This is where really smart marketers leave features and benefits behind and take up a bigger torch.
Secret has a slam dunk with their new Mean Stinks campaign. They're pairing up with the Girls Leadership Institute, best-selling author and girl-expert Rachel Simmons, teen girls and moms, too, toput an end tothe mean streak in girls.
I love this campaign for so many, many reasons. Here are but a few:
- It's relevant but not obvious. Secret's tagline: "Fearlessness. Apply daily." elevates deodorant from a beauty product to a philosophy. It's the perfect bridge to the Mean Stinks campaign since bullying is all about fearfulness -- the very thing Secret stands against.
- It's not heavy-handed. The fabulous print ads show graffiti on a bathroom stall that reads "Kara B is a lovely person!!!!" The call-to-action instructs "Be nice behind someone's back," followed by the URL to the Facebook page (more on that below). Even the logo is rendered in context, a simple doodle at the bottom of the bathroom door.
- It's multi-sided. The online community at Facebook lets teen girls anonymously upload video apologies, submit "sticky situations" where they need help, post kind graffiti on their friends' walls, and even download an app that scores them on the kindness quotient of their Facebook updates.
As of this post, the Secret Facebook page has over 800,000 likes. Including my own. For creating a campaign that involves moms, helps teens, and dares to tackle one of the thorniest girl issues out there, I award Secret a Warm Blanket award.
Please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below, even if -- no, especially if --
you don't agree with what I've written.
In a recent interview, I was asked the following question: "What is the biggest mistake companies make when marketing to moms?" My answer:
Missing the central truth of what matters most about their product to moms. It’s mystifying to me why in today’s world of real-time media – where it’s never been easier, faster or cheaper to get a quick read on what the marketplace wants – companies still brazenly assume they know from the comfort of their conference rooms.
This is precisely the trap that Farm Rich fell into with this recent print ad for their snack foods.
I read this ad several times, thinking I must be missing something each time. Yet my questions never got answered:
Don't you need to heat up these mini cheese steaks, pizzas and quesadillas? If so, how are they relevant to a car trip? Do they realize cars do not come equipped with microwaves and toaster ovens?
Why does the girl look so pissed while her little brother is laughing his head off?
Speaking of the toddler, why isn't his car seat in the center of the car? Every mother knows this is the safest spot in the car and where safety experts train parents to install car seats.
Why is the tween son wearing a headset circa 1985?
Are they on their way to the older boy’s soccer game? If so, why does the headline reference “Are We There Yet?” That's a car-trip reference, not a cross-town reference.
Where do I find these in my grocery store? It’s unclear if they’re boxed or bagged, frozen or not. (This is the least of the concerns since I doubt this ad will prompt anyone to check out the product.)
Then the copy. It begins: “They’re impatient, bored and hungry.” One of the overarching truths about marketing to moms is to never be negative, even in a situation a mom hates. It’s like making fun of one’s own family – I can do it, but don’t you dare. What would have been a better tactic would be to position a really yummy hot snack as the thing that brings kids together, even in moments when they're captive in the car.
How to do this? Easy. Lose the headphones, have your talent scout fire the sister and sub in a smiler, bump shortie to the center seat spot, rewrite your copy and now -- now you've got an ad with Mom appeal.
But no. Farm Rich thought they had it knocked all on their own. For raising more questions than it answers, this Farm Rich ad wins a Wet Blanket award. In just 27 words, they manage to confuse, concern and turn off their target audience. All because they never bothered to utter these 4 words: "Let's ask some moms."
How long is too long? 4 ways to win the waiting game.
How long is too long to make a customer wait?
Are they on the phone, in person, or online? For each situation, you should have a strategy for how responsive you aim to be.
Because people hate to wait. Moms really, really hate to wait. Just like "dog years," a one-minute wait feels about seven times as long to a mom. Why? Because her wait is very often spent with a child in tow, accompanied by a soundtrack that goes something like this: "Howmuchlongermom? CanIpleasegetacupcake? GivemeyourphonesoIcanplayDoodleJump. Ihavetopee. Myarmitchesfromwaiting. Howmuchlongermomthisistakingforever."
The best illustration of how excruciating this waiting with child exercise can be comes from the beloved blogger Catherine Newman who wrote a post about being on a delayed flight with both her small kids in tow. She was especially annoyed by the single passengers who, upon hearing the announcement of another hour delay, exhaled grumpily, leading to Newman's brilliant mental retort: "Oh, sorry you have to spend another hour sitting alone reading your novel while I began my millionth round of tic-tac-toe."
But waits do happen. And the best advice for winning at the waiting game with moms can be summed up in four directives:
#1 Staff up #2 Return control #3 Set expectations #4 Provide value
Here's how it looks in practice:
Scenario 1: Customer on hold
You've got a mom on hold waiting to speak to someone at your company. How long can you leave her there? A 2008 report found that the average time wireless customers spend on hold before speaking with a customer service representative was 4.4 minutes. Again, in mom/kid time, that translates to a half hour. And don't kid yourself that the musak makes the time go faster. As one mom posted on Twitter last week:
"Stuck on hold listening to Hawaiian music. It's like I'm on a beach, hating your company."
Ouch. What can you do? If you've already blown it with directive #1 -- and failed to staff up for peak calling times -- then leapfrog to directive #2 and return control to the customer.
Give Moms the opportunity to ask for a call back. Play a message where you apologize for the wait, reiterate your commitment to excellent service, and allow the customer to enter their phone number to request a call back. Then have your very best customer service reps return those calls and offer a discount or extra service to make up for the inconvenience.
Scenario 2: In line
You've got a mom in line waiting to give you money -- a good thing. There are 12 customers in front of her also waiting to give you money -- a really good thing. You want to make sure all 12 of them make it to the register rather than abandoning ship.
Time for directives #3 and #4. Set expectations. If your store tends to have long waits at the cashier, post a sign like they do at Disneyland that predicts how long the line is from that point to the cashier. Somehow knowing what you're signing on for gives you more of a sense of control than a blind-length wait.
Next, provide value. Give moms more merchandise to peruse while in line, an educational video to watch, or samples to try. TJ Maxx is great at this, creating a tunnel of fun gifty items you pass through as you wait in line. I almost never arrive at the cashier without at least one item picked up during this idle time.
Lastly, never, ever give call-in customers priority over in-person customers. Last week I waited 20 minutes for my salad to be made in a virtually empty restaurant because dozens of phone-in orders for a corporate pick-up were in the queue before mine. Even though I didn't have my kids with me, I was furious at being treated like my time was of so little value. My parting words to the manager were "I will never, ever come here again." Ouch again.
Scenario 3: Online
You've got a mom at your website ready to place an order. How many screens must she encounter before she arrives at the desired order confirmation screen? If you don't know, count them. Then evaluate the necessity of each one. Must you really force her to create a username and password? Tick tock. Must she wrestle with the drop-down menu of every country on earth to choose USA, even though 95% of your orders are domestic? Tick tock. How quickly does your site calculate costs, shipping, personalization previews or other things needed to complete a sale? Time it.
And however long it takes, see if you can somehow make it faster. If you can't, offer up something of value to keep her entertained. We did this for client Hawaiian Airlines, creating fun messaging selling different features of the brand to appear during the ticket booking path. It works. Time spent waiting feels diminished when the customer is doing something else during the wait.
Another story to illustrate: an old historic office building received many complaints from tenants about how slow the ancient elevator was. Yet the building was not built to accommodate a modern-day higher-speed elevator. The building management team had an idea. They outfitted the inside of the elevator cars with mirrors so riders could check their lipstick or straighten their ties during the ride. Magically the complaints stopped.
That concludes today's Maternal Journal post, three days late from our normal publishing schedule. Sorry to have kept you waiting...
The home page that hasn't been updated since the Bush administration.
The voicemail greeting, for Pete's sake, that makes the wrong first impression on customers.
Yes, yes, I know.
The laundry list of untapped marketing opportunities is L-O-N-G. And your spare time to tackle them is non-existent.
I know because I'm a business owner, too.
This post is dedicated to those baby steps that we never take because we're waiting for the new hire/approved budget/final branding/company anniversary/product launch/PR spin before we do anything about it.
Do something now.
Even something small.
Because small gains snowball into big gains. And competitive advantage is built when the other guy is waiting for his budget/personnel/launch to happen before his next move.
I dedicate this post to VoiceQuilt, one of Maternal Instinct's clients. They get it. They don't have deep pockets, yet they are always looking for ways to move the needle slightly in their favor.
Case in point: recently they asked us to make one or two suggestions for their home page to improve conversion, working within the existing layout and design. I wrote two new headlines for them.
TWO NEW HEADLINES.
Okay, two headlines and one subhead.
30 words in total.
Yet it improved their conversion by 10 basis points.
Below is the messaging I changed on their site. What small change like this could bump you 10 points forward?
I am the founder and creative director of Maternal Instinct, a Palo Alto agency of creative problem solvers for marketing to moms. I am lucky enough to get paid to spend my days helping big and small corporations figure out how to make moms want to do business with them. (I don’t get paid for my nights and weekends, caring for my two boys, which is far, far more tiring.)
My 20-year advertising career spans both coasts: in New York (my hometown) and San Francisco, my home today with husband Gene and boys, Henry and Benjamin. I have peddled products for every industry -- credit cards, wine, cars, magazines, jewelry, hotels, software, phone service -- and even picked up a Clio and a few ADDYs along the way.