March 26, 2006

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Making the Perfect Offer The decision to make personal versus professional offers is a constant conundrum. The tchachkie versus the White Paper is to marketing what the Lady and the Tiger are to game theory. And when you are seeking to reach C level executives and decision-makers add a dose of anxiety to this dilemma. Most of the decisions that lead to offers are made on the basis of personal experience or supposition. There is no collected database of the millions of tests done over the years. And for every marketer that would rely on the intense, immutable qualities of greed there is another marketer who truly believes that "an educated consumer is your best customer." Anyone who has ever watched a CEO clad in a $2000 suit dash across a crowded room and elbow his way through a crowd to grab a free t-shirt will attest to the perpetual pulling power of personal goodies. And yet for many companies the notion of passing out toys, wearables or electronics is unseemly or contrary to their self image. Surely no respectable firm wants to be seen as a font of promotional items when they could be perceived as a font of faux wisdom. Into this fray comes Jerame Thurik, Director of Market Development at Concur Software. Faced with the need to develop leads among CFOs, Jerame tested a white paper against a laptop light, a jelly keyboard, fancy clocks, world calculators, thumb drives and USB hubs. Guess what happened? His highest cost per lead was the white paper. The swag performed uniformly better than the IP, though certain items (clocks and calulators) were duds and others like the USB hub drew a great 5% response. It seems that perceived utility rather than perceived unit value drives uptake. The promotion items pulled so well that they more than paid off the costs they added to the campaigns. On his way to premium heaven, Jerame also learned a few other useful things, as reported in Marketing Sherpa: 1. Senior players will indeed trade survey answers (no more than 10) for a prize. 2. You can eliminate the possibility of everyone on Internet seeking out your freebies by using a passcode; which can be limited for one-time use by those on your list. It requires a bit of technology but is oh so worth it. And the passcode deters only a very small number of your targeted players – 3-4% in the Concur campaigns. 3. As you winnow and qualify the list you can escalate the offers to compel more involved behavior. If you get a thumb drive for taking the survey, you get an iPod for taking a live meeting with a sales rep. This really works though it often challenges the skill of the rep to focus the meeting when confronted with a qualified and greedy prospect. Yet often in this situation guilt acts a governor or channelor of wanton desire. 4. You can deliver offers to C level people using e-mail because it is ubiquitous and broadly accepted in corporate circles. You have to fulfill the offer in time to satiate your prospect and reward his or her behavior. And you still have to avoid tripping the SPAM filters with your copy, but even C level executives expect to receive offers by e-mail. So what does Jerame teach us? To make the perfect offer rely on human nature.
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Why Intranets Suck Telling someone to use the company intranet is usually like telling them to “go to hell.” In most companies the operative business model seems to be to build the legendary library at Alexandria without a catalogue or a navigable interface. Ironically the worst intranets are often in software companies where the shoemaker’s son syndrome is at play. But the problem of internal communications is a by-product of trying to create a comprehensive archive of stuff without a communications strategy in the face of many departments eager, and often incented, to publish to the site. The result is usually a mish-mash of hard-to-find stuff which ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime thrown together without the benefit of skilled information architecture or interface design. Every one clains that whatever you need is "in there" and no one ever wants to use it. This too is partly the fault of software companies who madly tout and sell portals as a tool for cutting costs, reducing cycle times and empowering employees by forcing them into self-service. The software guys hint that all the big issues have been pre-thought, pre-digested and will be solved by buying their code. The reality is usually the opposite. To get an employee portal right and get it used requires three basic steps: 1. Determine the Primary Mission and Create a Hierarchy of Needs What should this portal do? Everything is NOT an acceptable answer. Do you want employees to make transactions like selecting or adjusting their benefits, sick days and vacation requests or filing expense reports? Do you want it to be a beacon for your mission statement, your vision and your corporate blab? Is it a communications channel for reaching and interacting with employees? Is it a workbook for setting MBOs, doing performance evaluations and hiring or firing? Is it a workgroup collaboration tool? Is it a delivery mechanism for added employee services and benefits? Is it a document storage system or knowledge-sharing device? You can’t build it right if you don’t know what it should do. And even if you aspire to a multi-functional portal, you can never afford the time or money to invest in state of the art features for each element. So you must choose what it should do first and best and then rank order by priority the other functions that get built in. 2. Don’t Leave it Solely to HR Too many bad intranets are run by HR departments alone. They rarely get the IT, marketing or communications part right because they are all about processing paperwork and keeping records. In fact the modern HR department is mostly about automating employee interactions not necessarily encouraging them. You have to create a cross functional team and bring all the relevant disciplines to bear. And you have to start out by thinking of your employees with the same care and concern that you think about your customers. From the beginning you have to assume that personalization, preference setting and straight forward presentation are mandatory. Intranets that are the oracle for corporate big brother and those that are relentlessly rah-rah generally fail. Also you need to decide up front on the definition of success. Is it usage? Is it the number of transactions? It is manager compliance with instructions? Is it time and money saved? Understanding that metrics motivate most corporate behavior means that what you measure is what will get done. So laying out what you want to happen will directly influence what gets built and what gets used. 3. Think in Web 2.0 Terms The best websites and the best portals have abandoned the page-serving paradigm. Web 2.0 is about anticipating information needs and usage patterns and staging information so that it comes to the user rather than forcing the user to find whatever he/she is looking for. This requirement ratchets up the technology needs and the necessary advance thinking about information design, site architecture and interface construction. But ultimately it’s well worth it since without it your realistic chance of stimulating widespread use and any ind of ROI is severely diminished.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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