« March 2012 | Main | September 2012 »

2 posts from June 2012

06/27/2012 Listening has never been easier. So why don’t we do it?

I was at a meeting a while back when someone exclaimed “I think we’re doing great. Why can’t everyone see that?”

It’s a common enough sentiment. You can hear that on the client side or on the agency side. It’s what happens when people become so highly focused on their own work that they lose any outside perspective. At work we concentrate on getting our work done, perfecting our internal systems, navigating through internal politics and improving our products. Most all of that is within our control, or at least it feels like it is.

The challenge is that most other people can’t see you doing that because they’re either not that interested or because they’re focused on their own needs. But if what you’re “doing” is supposed to meet the needs of other people, you may be in trouble. One thing that continues to astound me is the lack of interest or desire in actually listening to what your audience needs and says.

Listening has never been easier than it is today. Social media has turned into a powerful tool to connect with and listen to people. The brands that stop overly obsessing about selling stuff on Facebook and use the channels to listen and to build stronger connections to their customers end up doing better. We’re (thankfully) moving past straight-up focus groups and market research as a way of gathering intelligence and moving toward design-thinking and ethnographic collaborations with customers instead.

The super power of social is that people love receiving attention and love knowing that someone is listening to them. That’s a human super power too. It doesn’t take much for companies to take some time and listen to their clients or customers; to ask them what matters to them; to inquire how you’re doing serving them. 

Why don’t we listen more? Probably because we’re afraid of hearing bad news. “I think we’re doing great” might be code for “I don’t want to hear what I’m doing wrong.” Face it; we’re all people here, with our thin skins and sensitive egos.

Rather than desensitizing yourself, cloak yourself in “listening” disguise. Pretend you’re putting on a lab coat and geeky glasses, or a pith helmet and jungle boots. Pretend you’re a scientist or an ethnographer out on a mission. Whatever you hear and see, you probably won’t take it personally.

Here’s what I’ll guarantee: Even if after asking and listening you don’t hear anything earthshattering or breathtaking, you will hear enough from customers that will cause you to rethink at least a few of the things you’re doing in your normal, day-to-day work. Those things might help you improve a service or product, or might allow you to improve the way your company deals with customers.

Listening changes people. It changes the person telling and it changes the person hearing. After listening you won’t have to “think” you’re doing great, you’ll know.

06/12/2012 David vs. Mega-Goliath

A few months ago a friend of mine approached me about a business his wife worked at. The business was a local bookstore that was planning on expanding (not moving) into downtown Burlington, Vermont. When Borders closed its doors, it left our city center without a new bookstore. When Borders moved in, it helped doom a great local store, Chasmen and Benn.

The store owners Renee and Mike were looking for PR help to get the word out about the new Phoenix Bookstore. They also wanted to see if they could sell store memberships, kind of like a CSA or Farm Share for business, to support their expansion.

After speaking with them, they agreed to try something different. We would develop a focus for their store launch marketing that they could use in their store, in the media, and online.

Renee and Mike were very aware of the effect Amazon has on local bookstores and local stores in general. At their Essex, Vermont store, they’ve created an oasis in a shopping mall of outlet stores.  When they talk about Amazon, let’s just say they’re not always so friendly.

We decided to explore how could leverage this. A David vs. Goliath strategy can be fun. What we found, though, was that the people we were trying to attract were a little uncomfortable with a confrontational approach. They wanted to support local stores, but they liked ordering lots of different things from Amazon.

Out of that was born our “A Little Less Amazon” approach with our tag line: “We’re not asking you to stop loving Amazon. We’re just asking you to love it a little less.”

We created a series of posters to take advantage of the store windows and attract attention. We developed print ads for our local papers since they reached our target audiences. We ran some Facebook ads and helped organize the grand opening. 

Source: digalicious.com via Rich on Pinterest


We drove everything to either the store or a registration Website, JoinPhoenix.com.  At the site you could sign up for membership and send a Dear Jeff (as opposed to a Dear John) e-mail to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos where you tried to let him down lightly. 

Nate Orshan, the friend who originally connected me to the Phoenix Bookstore, wrote and performed a song at the grand opening “Get Along Amazon.” The last time Burlington saw Nate perform was when he provided some serious mojo to now Mayor Miro Weinberger.

Here’s the best part of this story: All of the people who worked on this took their payment as a membership. We knew that Renee and Mike didn’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing but we wanted to help in a unique way. We also wanted to put our money where our mouths were. Since we were asking people to sign up, we felt we should all be members too. So all of us put in lots of time without charging for anything except a membership.

Bill Drew of Cottage 10 was the Creative Director, Jason Routhier was Art Director, Dave Barron was Graphic Designer, Eric Olsen was Web Developer, Borealis PR did the PR and Leigh Samuels provided Business Strategy.

It just goes to show local business here in Vermont what you can do when you approach a challenge with a high level of talent and creativity.

And wouldn't you know it, only a few days went by before reporters from our hip, local weekly Seven Days spotted and wrote about the posters. It showed our "coupon" offer - bring in an Amazon box and get 25% off of your first book.


My Web Sites