3 Keys to Cultivating a Successful Blog: Relevant, Consistent, Transparent

Posted on June 21, 2007 by Kevin G.

Ok, we get it.  We (marketers, business owners, the general public) all know that blogs are great tools to use.  They spread awareness, knowledge and ideas behind a name, brand, or identity to the world on a personal level.  But it takes more effort than you think to cultivate a bussling active blog.  In the pursuit of spreading my knowledge (or my two cents), here are my three qualities any successful blog should have: 

1) Relevancy is Key

Successful bloggers don't throw everything at the wall to see what sticks – that's just lazy.  If bloggers are able to pick topics that ring clear to their intended audience, it shows they get it.  Show that you know what your audience is concerned about.  Be an expert through research and sharing experiences that people can benefit from.  A blog with relevant conent will spark engagement and enhance interaction.

2) Keep it Consistent

Consistency is key to developing readership.  When you pick days to post (whether it be daily, weekly, or even monthly) stick to them.  This shows that you care about the flow of your blog.  Consider the way you write about topics, present media or comment on fellow bloggers' postings.  A consistent blog is a reliable resource for your audience.

3) Maintain Transparency

Face it, your blog is open to readers all over the world.  It is easy to get burned if done dishonestly.  Savvy blog readers can see right through a fake and can make it a personal quest to expose the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Make sincere posts with honest intent to connect with your audience on a personal level.  Also, allow your readers to get in touch with you through email or be open to answer back on posts.

Here are some good tips to make a smashing start for your new blog.  Now blog away!

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June 21, 2007 in award winning blog, award winning design, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, Blogging Tools, Blogs, Brand enhancement, build credibility, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business relationships, company blog, Corporate Blogging, Custom publication, customer retention, Educating Clients, Educating Prospects, grow relationships, how to publish and promote online, how to publish online, marketing solutions, nurturing relationships, web publish, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Keep Your Company On Target: Top 3 Lessons Learned from the Target Corporation

Posted on May 31, 2007 by Kathryn Regina.

The Target Corporation has a loyal customer base whose enthusiasm has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. From the pet name Tarzhay (a “French” pronunciation of Target) to the scores of shoppers professing their love for the red bull’s-eye, Target is a force to be reckoned with in the discount retail industry.

In her book On Target: How the World’s Hottest Retailer Hit a Bull’s-eye, author Laura Rowley expounds on Target’s business and marketing strategies. And although the book is retail-centric (and at times a bit promotional), I think it offers some valuable insight into what makes a business—any business—successful. The following are my top three lessons learned from the Target Corporation.

Lesson One: Take the best of both worlds

Die-hard Target shoppers will adamantly dispute the idea that Target is “just another discount store” like Walmart or Kmart. How has Target so effectively differentiated itself from its competitors? They did it by taking the best elements of a high-end department store--a clean well-lit sales floor, stylish products and friendly customer service--and tailoring those elements to fit a discount store.

“’Before I was a professor, I worked at a housewares distribution company which sold to Target,’ said Michael Levy, a professor of retailing at Babson College in Massachusetts and co-editor of the Journal of Retailing. ‘They always paid a lot of attention to detail. Their stores always looked a lot better than the discount store competition. Even though the shelves were stacked a little higher and the displays were not as slick as department stores, they looked more like department stores in those days than the sort of dark, dingy look of a discount store (On Target, p11).’”

Consider your chief competitors, and companies that provide high-end services in your industry. What are the most attractive elements of their offers, and how can you integrate those elements into your business in a realistic, manageable way? Take the best of both worlds and you’ll make your customers feel like they’ve hit the jackpot.

Lesson Two: Design is king

From the basics of product selection to larger decisions about its marketing campaigns, Target takes design very seriously.

Tupperware chairman and CEO Rick Goings: “I think they are looking for brands that really draw people into Target stores.  If you compare them to some other retailers, they have a fairly narrow product line that they show in any category in Target, but it’s usually brands or product categories where there’s a panache to it, or a design element (On Target, p23).”

Following the iMac model of “show, don’t tell” Target ads and commercials are visually compelling, with very little text. The bulls-eye logo is so strongly branded that the Target name is usually not even included in advertisements.

“This is the ultimate emotional connection,” says Mark Gobe, founder of the branding and design firm Desgrippes Gobe Group, “when your message is so powerful and so unique that visual expressions can stand alone (On Target, p58).”

Lesson Three: Partner with people who are experts in their fields

The “do-it-yourself” method seems like a frugal choice for home owners, but it isn’t always the best financial decision for a business. So when Target decided to join the e-commerce market, it turned over its Web operations to Amazon.com.

“’I think [the Amazon deal] gives them an edge,’ said Cynthia Cohen of Strategic Mindshare. ‘You can create your own infrastructure for e-commerce, hire people, teach them—but that is expensive and time-consuming, versus going to somebody whose core competency is e-commerce. Amazon already has this knowledge—so [Target is] buying the knowledge—their dollars versus their time frame, their risk. This isn’t entirely risk-free, but Target is reducing risk by using knowledge from a company whose core competency is e-commerce (On Target, p76).’”

Whether you’re trying to break into e-commerce or start a custom publication, partnering with an expert can increase efficiency, reduce risk and optimize results while sparing your company the cost of internal time and resources.

Visit Laura Rowley.com

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May 31, 2007 in award winning blog, award winning design, blog publish, Blogs, Brand enhancement, build credibility, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, business credibility, Business Marketing, Business relationships, Corporate Blogging, Customer Intuition, customer retention, E-Marketing, Email Marketing, email marketing solution, grow relationships, Marketing Communication, marketing solutions, nurturing relationships, online marketing, publish, Strategic Internet Marketing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Refreshing Your Customer: An Ocean of an Idea

Posted on April 20, 2007 by Vinnie Lacey.

Blue Ocean Strategy, as its title suggests, is a book of big ideas.  In the business arena, the image of the blue ocean conveys a sense of endless possibility and profitability.  And just like a real ocean, that same body of water becomes much more manageable in the larger context of the universe.  In the business arena, this is the “strategy” part: the definable set of boundaries that makes creating an ocean an attainable goal.

Inherent to Blue Ocean Strategy is dissatisfaction with the status quo of business behavior in the marketplace. This is not the book of a comfortable middle manager; entrepreneurs, however, will feel right at home. The thesis is essentially this: In an increasingly competitive and homogenous-looking marketplace, companies wishing to hit a home run must abandon the traditional rat race.  Instead, they should seek to “create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant.”

Authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne root the blue ocean strategy in the concept of “value innovation”: that a company only truly creates a blue ocean when it pursues differentiation and low cost simultaneously. A company cannot embrace innovation for the sake of innovation, lest it find itself in a“bloody” red ocean with the competition—a zero-sum game of one-upmanship.

To back up their findings, Kim and Mauborgne took the strategic move as their unit of measurement, studying companies and their relevant business players in multiple industries from 1880 to 2000.  The stories behind these real-life examples give legs to their findings and subsequent theories.

Three principles of the blue ocean strategy

The creation and implementation of the blue ocean strategy may at first appear a daunting task.  It certainly requires turning a critical eye inward, challenging practices that an organization has always done and takes for granted.

For your convenience, I enumerated three principles of the blue ocean strategy—along with real-life examples—that I found the most fascinating. Hopefully they inspire you to create your own blue ocean of uncontested market space.

1. Simplify, simplify, simplify. As part of the strategy for creating a blue ocean, a company must not only look at what it can add to an industry, but also what it can subtract.  In creating its approach a company must ask, “What factors can be reduced or eliminated from what the industry takes for granted?” 

Case in point: Cirque du Soleil.  This innovative entertainment hybrid not only offered a theatrical twist to the usual circus visit, it also cut down on the most draining and unattractive features of a typical circus.  By eliminating animals (too expensive to maintain), star performers (too unfamiliar compared to movie stars) and expensive aisle concessions (too poorly perceived), Cirque du Soleil created a wholly different and efficient entertainment option that attracted customers in droves.

2. Find Non-customers.  When a company looks to maximize the size of its blue ocean, it must venture outside of existing demand. This challenges the status quo of focusing on existing customers and driving for further segmentation among target audiences. 

This is exactly what took place with Casella Wines’ [yellow tail] brand of wine.  Casella examined why people chose not to drink wine (perception of pretension, complicated choices, price) and formulated a streamlined offering of two simple wines with a basic, hip branding and design.  The focus wasn’t on capturing existing wine drinkers, but rather converting beer and liquor drinkers into Yellow Tail aficionados.

3. Get a Leader.  “Tipping point” leadership—that is, the internal person or persons who can inspire fundamental changes on a mass level—drives a successful blue ocean strategy. 

Take the case of New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton, who faced seemingly insurmountable odds against rising crime rates when he was appointed in the early 1990s.  Bratton was able to recognize certain areas of “disproportionate influence” that were contributing to the bulk of the city’s problems. 

Despite being trapped in a cash-strapped public sector, Bratton executed fundamental changes in these key areas.  This required doing things very differently, calling into question some long-standing practices, and working under tight time constraints.  But it’s hard to argue with success: New York became the safest large city in the US under his leadership. More importantly, he set into motion policies that continue to be used (and copied) in policing districts today.

Blue Ocean or puddle in disguise?

Ironically, what I found most attractive about Blue Ocean Strategy was also what I found most frustrating.  While the book supposedly outlines a “new” approach to strategic thinking, I would hesitate to say it breaks new ground in that arena.

The book does offer a systematic way to think about the process of creating new, uncontested market space—but great companies have also been innovating around the underlying principles for years.  And it is, of course, impossible for me to test how creating my own blue ocean from scratch would actually play out.  The authors do not offer examples of blue ocean strategies sinking.

That may not, however, be the relevant lesson. As I said from the beginning, this is a book of big ideas.  Big ideas are not always easily categorized. Nor are they inhibited by silly little things like budget numbers or consumer trends—or long explanations in books. The value of Blue Ocean may simply be the realization that one can look at an industry, and in turn its own company, in a very different light.  Only you can determine what the spark of an idea is really worth. Cue the dramatic violins.

Perhaps the cleverest thing about Blue Ocean Strategy is that I walked away from the book inspired by the success stories.  Pet concepts like “value innovation,” “visual strategy fair,” and “six paths framework” remained on the tip of my tongue.  Suddenly I remembered that despite the hype, Starbucks still sells coffee, Borders sells books, and iTunes, music.  Blue Ocean Strategy has sold over a million copies worldwide; yet hundreds, if not thousands, of newly published business books sit idle each year, never to see the light of a best seller list.  And that’s the genius of creating the blue ocean of blue ocean strategies.

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April 20, 2007 in award winning newsletter, Award winning publications, Blogs, Brand enhancement, build credibility, Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, business credibility, Business editorial, Business publications, Business relationships, E-Marketing, Email Marketing, Interactive Marketing, Marketing Communication, marketing solutions, mass email, money magazine, Newsletter ROI | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Measuring ROI, What a Pain

Posted on April 04, 2007 by Kevin G.

It seems like it gets harder and harder to measure ROI with marketing campaigns.  John Federman explains the pains and potential with measuring ROI.  It may be easier than you think, just think beyond convention and more customer-centric.

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April 4, 2007 in Blogging Tools, build credibility, Building B2B Relationships, bulk email marketing, Business Marketing, Business publications, Company publication, E-Marketing, e-newsletter, Email Marketing, email marketing campaign, email tracking, How to do a Newsletter, marketing solutions, Newsletter Marketing, Newsletter ROI, newsletter solutions, online marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Women Watch

Posted on April 02, 2007 by Kathryn Regina.

A recent eMarketer post reveals that though women comprise the majority of internet users, they make up a minority of online video watchers. Why don't ladies like YouTube? While the blog post doesn't speculate on reasons (I can think of a few...) it does provide a breakdown of the content that both men and women say they are most likely to watch.

His Tube?

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April 2, 2007 in Building B2B Relationships, Building Customer Community, Building Customer Intuition, Business Marketing, Corporate publications, E-Marketing, Marketing Communication, marketing solutions, nurturing relationships, online marketing, Strategic Internet Marketing, web publish | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack