Monday, 29 March 2010

Going face-to-face with technology

It’s the age of technology where most of us expect to leverage multiple e-mail addresses, dueling text messages and voicemails, and a collection of hardware that goes out of style as fast as each new American Idol. Our business conversations include decisions such as whether or not to ‘tweet,’ how to best monitor the daily online chatter, and how to change the company avatar to better reflect the organization’s personality.

It has never been easier to stay connected in 24/7 fashion without ever leaving your favorite wi-fi hot spot. So why is it that terms like personalized service, high-touch programs and client experience continue to grow as part of some of the most poignant value propositions and customer satisfaction ratings?

Given all of the fantastic technical tools that drive our modern business lives (and they are fantastic), we seem to have lost sight of the fact that technology was meant to enhance our ability to communicate…not replace it. And never has it been able to produce the same feeling as a spirited collaboration topped off by a hearty handshake.

Building strong relationships with clients is difficult when reaching out solely in a virtual world. A study released by UCLA stated that an astounding 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by non-verbal social cues. There needs to be a sense of connection in order to appear trustworthy and credible and to have your message heard. I think the generations before us got it right. In an age when you couldn’t take your phones with you or share conversations via on-line links, it was all about that personal touch and face-to-face interaction.

Of course, the reality is that companies need to stay current with technology in order to leverage the most cost-effective, time-efficient means of conducting more business with fewer resources. Just remember – business is personal. As technology has advanced, clients are seeking opportunities to interact directly with their vendors. So carve out time to go face-to-face when you can…and leave both hands free to enjoy happy hour.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Sushi Economy

I have been reading a book called “The Sushi Economy.” It’s a very interesting look at the evolution of sushi and the globalization of this modern delicacy. What really caught my attention is how the global market for the highly revered bluefin tuna began. In the United States the only market for bluefin tuna was making cat food. Once served to our pets, it is now considered a delicacy that can be found in restaurants across America.

The transformation of the tuna market began when Japan Airlines (JAL) searched out cargo that could fill empty cargo holds on return flights from the U.S. At this point, Japan was exporting many goods to the U.S. and JAL handled most of the shipping overseas, but was not importing goods back into Japan to fill the planes on return flights. JAL figured that, if they were making the trip already, they should find cargo to increase the profitability of each flight. This task was assigned to one man known for his ability to find solutions to unusual problems and his lack of willingness to be told no. Searching various markets and industries, he discovered that there was more demand than supply for fresh tuna in the Japanese markets. He began a search to see if he could find a supply of the fish in the United States to import back into Japan. The answer? Alaska. His search was far from over, however. Now he was faced with how to convince the Alaskan fishermen that there was a market other than cat food for tuna and they could actually make a profit catching the fish. There was also the issue of getting the fish to market while it was fresh enough to be useful and receive maximum prices. It took many trials and failures over the space of a couple of years, but he finally did it. Singlehandedly, he created a new market in the U.S. for tuna exports that eventually played a major role in the evolution of a product that has exploded in popularity and demand.

Maybe you’re asking yourself after reading all this, what any of this has to do with marketing or business? Here’s the deal – every company has an empty cargo hold somewhere waiting to be filled. All it takes is one person who won’t give up or give in, to find it and fill it.

• What is the one service that you are not marketing to its fullest that could be what skyrockets your company to the forefront of its industry?
• Do you have an employee with untapped potential who could be your next star salesperson with a little attention?

The empty hold is there, you just have to figure out how to fill it. Tuna used to be used for cat food and is now sold for hundreds a pound. One determined man transformed empty cargo holds into a thriving global economy. What are you waiting for? Go find your empty hold and transform something.

Friday, 19 March 2010

You know more than you think you do

The vast amount of experience within your organization. Surprisingly, there is a lot more there than you knew of and it’s right under your nose.

A client needed to know what kind of SAP knowledge our organization has. With our focus heavily in other areas, we thought we’d fall short. But with a simple email asking our team "what do you know about X?" garnered a HUGE response. We were floored.

Your company, when you combine all that existing knowledge together, is far more powerful than you could even imagine.

So let US know what you find out when you ask your colleagues what THEY know. Bet you'll be surprised.

Friday, 5 March 2010

What's a picture worth?

I love a good photo, don’t you? Recently, I ran across some research that provided some insight on why we are drawn to images. Gerald Zaltman is the author and editor of 20 books, most recently How Customers Think (2003) and Marketing Metaphoria (2008). In 1997, he founded a market research consulting firm that patented the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET), a method used to delve into the subconscious thinking that drives behavior. ZMET was born during a trip Zaltman took to Nepal in 1990. He gave cameras to locals who had never taken photos before and asked them to take pictures of important things and events in their lives. He returned two weeks later, gave copies of the photos to these newly-minted photographers, and interviewed them about the meaning of their photos. Zaltman then understood just how powerful the use of images was in gaining a thorough understanding of their meanings and beliefs. For example, Zaltman noted that the Nepalese photos often cut off the feet of people appearing in their images. It was discovered that this was deliberate, as the Nepalese did not want to embarrass their friends and neighbors by showing their bare feet - a sign of poverty.

Zaltman coined the term “Deep Metaphors” to describe the subconscious thoughts that affect how people process and react to information or visual stimuli. Deep Metaphors can be used in a marketing context to help marketers communicate more effectively to their customers about a brand, product, or topic that they're already using with the same theme. In Marketing Metaphoria, Zaltman outlines the most basic and most recurring Deep Metaphors: Journey, Balance, Container, Connection, Resource, Control and Transformation (and the less common Force and Paradox). This short video explains more.

It seems the meaning of any photograph lies less in its visual facts and more in what details are evoked inside the mind (and heart) of the viewer. What Zaltman’s Deep Metaphors are telling us is that we can accurately predict an intended response from the viewer. Supposedly, metaphors engage both the left and right sides of the viewer’s brain simultaneously, which means it makes a more impactful impression.

Which brings me to the point of my blog…..Are the photos in your publications, on your website, in your multimedia presentations and even in your workplace, sending the messages you want to convey? Many of us choose photos based on a color scheme, a layout style, or an aesthetic scene, but we might want to pay more attention to the implied meaning of the photo. When we better understand the mind of our customers, we can guide them to focus on and emotionally connect to visual metaphors in images when thinking about our brand, product or service, leading to successful buying practices. A picture then, is worth at least a thousand words.