Insights to Action™ resumes with a
redesigned format and some interesting new topics. Thanks to all who
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design of our website. Look for our new website May 1, 2002.
Mike Ellsworth joins our team and also becomes a
contributing author, taking over the Technology Insights column.
Mike's an expert in technology strategy and a natural to give
insights into how to leverage technology for marketing
Are you making promises you can't
Dave Harkins examines how we break customer
Using intelligence when selecting a
Business Intelligence tool. [
Randy Taylor gives tips for selecting what can be one
the most critical tools for your company.
A golden goose for marketers. [ Read ]
Mike Ellsworth explores how instant messaging could give
us a competitive edge with customers.
Are you making
promises you can't keep?
I’m sure you’ve all read the news about the few
bad apples at one leading consulting firm who have cost the jobs and
pensions hundreds, if not thousands of people. Both the consulting
firm and its client have lost large numbers of customers, again,
because of the actions of these few individuals.
To read some
the press reports, we apparently should be surprised by the customer
defections, but losing those customers isn’t unexpected is it? After
all, a relationship with a customer is based on trust—trust that’s
built on a series of promises that a company has kept. Break a big
promise and you’re immediately history. Not unlike our consultant
friends above, whose primary promise was to assure shareholders that
their client was financially sound.
On the other hand,
breaking a small promise usually doesn’t result in the immediate
termination of a customer relationship. Rather, it takes breaking
several small promises to erode the relationship to the point of no
return. Why would anyone want to do business with a company that
doesn’t keep it’s promises? As the television character Gomer Pyle
says, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on
All it takes is a “wrong” word or inconsiderate action
by one individual to start the ball rolling. How many customers have
you lost due to broken promises brought upon by the actions of one
or two individuals? Do you know? I would suggest you will not know
many of them if you’re breaking the small promises. These customers
aren’t going to complain, they’re just going to gradually slip away
to your competitors. You’ll likely never know what promises you’ve
broken or how often you’ve broken them, so repairing the
relationship will be difficult, if not
Fortunately, fixing this mess will be easier for
you and your company than it will be those firms we mentioned
earlier in this article. But, before we talk about how to “make
things right”, let’s look at some of the biggest causes of broken
businesses deliver on promises each and every day and have the loyal
customers to prove it. Those who break promises
regularly—intentional or not—may find themselves waging a constant
battle for new customers. It’s easy to know which of these
businesses you’d rather be, the more important question is which
business you are now.
External messages. What literal promises are you
making in your advertising, marketing or customer service
messages? Are you promising 24/7 service, or satisfaction
guaranteed? Maybe your promises are more subjective, like State
Farm’s “Like a good neighbor…” tagline. Are you fulfilling these
promises? Can you fulfill these promises?
Next, look at how
your messages can be perceived by your target audiences or the
public at large. Can an implied promise be read into your message
that would lead someone to believe that you’re not keeping your
promises? This can be especially true if your promise results from
the ambiguity of a great tagline that is so subjective there’s
little chance you’ll be able to fulfill everyone’s
Actions of staff. More often than not, the reason for
broken promises has more to do with the actions of people, rather
than the message presented. In the case of State Farm’s neighbor
tagline, it’s the subjective interpretation of “good neighbor” by
the agent and the claims staff that play a large role in
determining if the promise is kept…or not.
neither messages nor taglines—implied nor literal—break promises.
People break promises. Make sure your staff understands how their
actions affect the fulfillment of your company’s
Misunderstanding customer NVEs. As always,
understanding the Needs, Values and Expectations (NVEs) of your
prospects and customers is very important. In this case, however,
values and expectations are paramount. A business is not built
solely on the products and services that it sells to meet the
tangible needs of customers. It is perhaps more important that the
company demonstrates value (and values) and delivers on
expectations with each and every action.
Dave Harkins can be reached by
email at: mailto:%email@example.com
note: This is a new series of articles on The Customer Promise™.
Beginning with the next issue, we’ll address what it takes to
prevent broken promises and how to “make things right” when the
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intelligence when selecting a Business Intelligence
--Randy Taylor, Co-CEO
often asked to identify the best business intelligence tool (B. I.)
by business acquaintances. They are often surprised when I answer,
“I don’t know!” But the reason for this response has everything to
do with not yet having a full understanding my acquaintances’
business needs and not with my knowledge of the available
The B. I. Tool
So what is a B. I.
tool? While there are many definitions, most of us remember the old
days when these were called query and reporting tools. If you were
an analyst from a couple of decades ago, you might even think of B.
I. as a hand-held calculator and a chalk board!
B. I. is the application that helps companies formulate, display and
disseminate corporate or departmental measurements on an ad hoc or
periodic basis. In most cases, B. I. tools make it easier for this
information to be obtained, and in some cases, for novice analysts
to gain knowledge previously only obtainable by someone with a
doctorate in computer science or statistics.
There are many
companies that make and sell B. I. tools. Some of these tools are
stand alone applications (purchased and implemented as a separate
system), while others are integrated with services or applications
(such as with service bureaus, built into a general ledger or into a
campaign management application). Regardless of type, most companies
need B. I. to efficiently and effectively conduct
Steps for selecting the Tool for your
There are several steps that one should take to
fully evaluate B. I. tools and depending on the amount of time
available certain steps can be overlooked. This process is based
purely on a business user’s process for selection and does not
address the level of details in which an IT person would be most
Once you’ve agreed
internally on the two applications to consider, document your
detailed needs and expectations. When you do this, you will want to
describe examples of challenges and specific processes for which
your tool will be used. This will not only help you evaluate the
tools on an even playing field, but also help the demonstrator key
in on the tools abilities to serve your specific needs.
The first step is to identify the objective or objectives you
are trying to accomplish as part of implementing a B. I.
Just the thought of considering a tool has probably been
drawn from challenges or unpleasant experiences that currently
occur within the company.
Once you have determined the objective(s) you are trying to
meet, map out the current process for gathering information and
analyzing it. For the purpose of this article when
we discuss analysis we mean interpretation, which could be
completed by simply reading a report and making a judgment call.
However, there usually business processes or rules, written or
unwritten, which will define how information is
After current processes are mapped, you’ll want to identify
user desires, or needs and requirements for how the end users
believe the process should work. Hopefully, this
doesn’t mean they want to talk to their computer and all of the
answers are spit out at them using the voice of their favorite
actor/actress. Undoubtedly, you will find at least two types of
users for which you can define core needs.
At this time,
you’ll also need to find a list of companies that provide B.I.
tools. There are several means of discovery--search the
Internet, talk to friends, hire a consultant, or call the
psychic-friends network, are among the ways. Your goal is to find
four or five tools that look like they might be able to support
your list of needs.
Now it’s time to get to work! Call the
companies, find the local sales representative and ask for a
two-three hour demonstration for each tool. Once you have set up a
demo schedule, take a knowledgeable peer or contributing team
member to review the tools in each demo. You will want to have the
list of core needs along with some real life examples of tasks you
would do on the tool. Your primary objectives for conducting the
demos at this stage are to 1) steer the demonstrator off the
standard course just enough to see if the application is easy to
use in an ad hoc manner, and 2) easily be able to eliminate all
but two applications to really consider.
your documentation is complete, schedule the final two contenders to
spend a day with you at your office. This will give you a chance to
evaluate several areas revolving around the vendor and the tool.
These areas are:
The results of this
effort are truly beneficial. By following these steps, you will
ensure that you have sufficiently evaluated tools and chosen the one
right for your company’s needs.
- Demonstrate the application. Get demos to a
broader range of potential users. Make sure they have evaluation
sheets to make notes and provide accurate feedback to the decision
- Obtain a higher comfort level. While no one
ever wants to admit to this, many tool selection decisions come
down to likeability and fit. Who wouldn’t want to make sure that
the people who will be supporting you with a tool and helpdesk
services are likeable and a match with your organization and
- Get a flavor of the vendor’s personnel. Find
the extent of their experience and knowledge, and be sure that
they relate to your situation well.
Randy Taylor can be
reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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A golden goose for
--Mike Ellsworth, Executive
What if you had a marketing venue in which
you could directly target users, knowing for certain that they’re
interested in your product? What if there was a built-in community
function in the venue that allowed users to ask you questions about
your product in real-time. And what if you could create an automated
response service to answer the most frequently asked questions
What would you do if you could find such a golden
The record industry has discovered such an animal, but
may not yet realize its good fortune. Do you know what the record
industry is doing? It’s trying to kill its golden goose—which you
may know better as Napster, Morpheus, Kazaa, or any of the music
file trading services currently popular.
Think about it. If
you’re sharing your music collection using one of these services, a
marketer can tell an awful lot about you. For example, let’s say I’m
sharing music by Bela Fleck, Dave Mathews, Paul Simon, and Sting.
Already you know I’m much more likely to be a boomer than a GenXer
or a preadolescent. You know not to target messages about the newest
Britney Spears video to me. You can be fairly confident I’ll be
interested in the latest Tom Petty CD.
The music file-sharing
services typically have a very powerful marketing tool built right
in: Instant Messaging (IM). Any user of Napster can IM another,
ostensibly to discuss music. Last year, marketer BigChampagne ran a
couple of campaigns to target messages to Napster users who were
fans of Aimee Mann and Glen Phillips, the singer of the now-defunct
band, Toad the Wet Sprocket. Their technique was to search the hard
drives of music trading users and send targeted Instant Messages to
fans of an artist/client. For example, at the beginning of the year,
BigChampagne sent more than 100,000 music sharing Aimee Mann fans
IMs advertising a free download at Mann’s Web site. Mann got 1,700
new email addresses for her mailing list as a result. BigChampagne
also did a promotion for Phillips, which yielded 20,000 new fan
registrations on his Web site. Many fans were delighted to find out
that Phillips was still making music.
With the demise of
Napster and the fragmentation of free music file-sharing services,
this technique has become less effective. But other marketers are
seizing the opportunity IM provides, using AOL Instant Messenger
(AIM) service to promote products as diverse as Intel’s Pentium 4
processor, Cheez-It crackers, and Sprint phone
These clients used a service called ActiveBuddy
an automated IM software agent that answers users’ questions via
AIM. For example, eBay users can use AIM to ask questions and get
English responses. Naturally, the agent’s question repertoire is
You can see an actual transcript of an
ActiveBuddy session here.
- eBay How To
- Cool Stuff
- Item Search
BigChampagne’s IM push service, ActiveBuddy is a permission-based,
pull service; users must be aware of the service and take an action
to use it. Thus, although traditional promotion techniques must be
used to build awareness, if the ActiveBuddy is truly useful, users
will help spread the word (dare we say it) virally.
would you do if you could reach qualified prospects using Instant
Messaging? More important: are there golden geese in your market
headed for the slaughter? We’d like to hear your thoughts. Drop me a
line at my email address below and I’ll address your comments in
next month’s issue.
Mike Ellsworth can be reached by
e-mail at: email@example.com
reading on this topic:
Read more about peer-to-peer
technology and marketing in CTOMentor’s white paper, Peer-to-Peer
Computing and Business Networks: More Than Meets the Ear, available
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Insights to Action™ is a
bi-monthly publication of Taylor Harkins Group.
2002, Taylor-Harkins Group. All Rights
Taylor-Harkins Group is a professional services
firm specializing in revenue acceleration through improved marketing
effectiveness. Using structured, time-tested proprietary frameworks
and best practices, we produce high-impact results by leveraging the
optimum mix of people, process, and technology in refocusing
marketing toward activities that generate results.
information about Taylor-Harkins Group, visit our website http:///
or call Dave Harkins at 630.820.2087
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