Author Archives: Peter Buechler

Your Opinion is Very Important to Us (really)

Like many businesses and households, I’ve been shopping a lot on line, and not just on CyberMonday. After the checkout or in the confirming email, we’ve also noticed a proliferation of “customer satisfaction” surveys.

The Stones still have this one nailed:

Neither you nor your customers will get satisfaction, if you imitate many of the ham-handed requests for feedback, which increasingly follow online ordering.

It is now very easy, and often free, to create a web, mobile, or email survey or feedback form with tools from bizrate, SurveyMonkey, SurveyTracker, and many many others. The ease of creation is perhaps part of the problem.

In principle, gaging the quality of your customer’s experience is desirable. But not at the expense of creating a poor experience. The effort to add an extra question or page of questions of nice to know information is negligible. Since you have your attention, you might be tempted to ask you about other suppliers, products they didn’t buy, or try to sell them something else. Don’t.

Incredibly firms, whose web sites enable a customer to find and buy a product in 2 or 3 clicks ask the same customer to spend ten or more extra minutes completing a satisfaction survey.

Four Ways To Irritate Your Customers:

I’ve seen multiple examples of all of these in the last two weeks:

  1. The Long String-Along. Unless you have a deeper relationship with your customer and are compensating them in some way keep it short. Avoid pile on “nice to know” questions. Sending your respondents to a survey with a continue button at the bottom of the page, and the following page, etc. can lead to the customer abandoning the survey or speeding through it and giving unconsidered responses.
  2. Require answers to all questions, regardless of whether they may pertain to a given customer or your offerings. For example a seller of camping equipment included questions about categories it does not and never has sold.
  3. Require identifying information, such as an email address. If you want to identify a respondent, offer to send them some sort of tsatske. You’ll have to mail it to them and hence need contact information. Of course, this does not give you the right to pester them.
  4. Over Quantification. You are an expert on your product and believe you can distinguish nuances such that a 10 point rating scale makes sense. This pseudo-precision not only makes your surveys difficult to read, it also reduces the reliability of your results.

Instead keep your interaction to what fits on a postcard. Or shorter. Ask less upfront and you will learn more as well as keep the goodwill of your customers.

I recently had to call the tech support line of my ISP. I was asked if I would stay on the line to rate the service I had just received. It consisted of a single automated question – rating the service on a five point scale with a single press on the phone keypad.

Now I got satisfaction.

Bull Reaches New Heights

On October 14th, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner set several records including:

  • the highest balloon ascent
  • the longest skydive
  • the first man to break the sound barrier in free fall

Baumgartner didn’t float silently into the Guinness World Records on his logoed parachute. The feat garnered front page mention in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and leading world newspapers. It was featured on major broadcasts, while some 8 million viewed the jump streaming live in some 50 countries. In PR speak, it got a lot of ink.

Don’t try this from home:

Felix Baumartner about to jump

The big jump was more than the work of a stuntman and a few of his buddies going for bragging rights. It was the joint effort of a sizable technical and scientific team, which has been working on the project since 2007.  Who funded this effort? Fellow Austrian company, Red Bull, the maker of the caffeinated and sugared “energy drink,” seen in skinny 8.4 oz. cans.

Privately held Red Bull, won’t disclose the cost of this project, but from the roster of equipment and experts, it would have had to been eight figures. Whatever the budget, it could have bought Red Bull could have bought a lot of traditional advertising and sales promotion.

Red Bull sponsors sports and games such as skate boarding, BMX biking, and surfing. Events it believes will appeal to its aspirational target – young, , cool, active, male. In this case, it both connected with core customers and transcended conventional marketing to creating a phenomenon. The positioning and messaging were as on target as Baumbartner’s flawless landing. No amount of advertising alone could have done so.

We may never have the resources to stage such an event. Instead of being yet another sponsor at yet another show, we can still strive for promotions, which are relevant and remarkable.


The World’s Best Blog Post

Leading tech columnist David Pogue begins his review  of Amazon’s latest line of tablets with, a decidedly not technical sentence:

I’m not exactly sure what’s been seeping into the water supply at Amazon’s Seattle offices, but it’s making the executives a little loopy.

His point is that Amazon’s claim that new Kindle is “the best tablet at any price” is so exaggerated at to be delusional. Seriously?

I haven’t tried the Kindle (I am writing this on a iPad), to which Pogue gives a generally positive review. What’s surprising is that he’s surprised by Amazon’s accompanying hype. It reminds me of the classic scene in the movie Casablanca, in which Captain Renault (Claude Rains) is “shocked” to find gambling in a casino.

As long as there have been commercial products there has been puffery. From World’s Best Cat Litterto the world’s best cannoli, over the top claims abound. What makes them puffery instead of fraud is their vague and general nature. They are inherently meaningless and hence not verifiable or refutable.

Does anyone old enough to have a credit card believe these or think anyone else does? Not even the courts?

If all Amazon had were blanket claims of superiority, the Kindle would be a non-starter. Their campaign does not hinge on claims of world’s best. More often than not, a marketing campaign based on puffery makes its sponsor look silly. Don’t worry about competing against the Best In The Universe.


Who’s listening to the call to action?

The recent Republican and Democratic National Conventions (RNC/DNC) consumed much air time and resources for what were in essence three day infomercials. Did they advance the Romney and Obama brands and who, if anyone won?

Some data are suggestive. Nielsen estimates that Romney’s acceptance speech had 30.3 million viewers vs. 35.7 million for Obama’s. The DNC also garnered more Twitter and Facebook mentions than the RNC. So Democrats had a bit more reach, but to what effect? After the speeches were over and the balloons deflated, did either party gain uncommitted voters?

The Conventions no longer choose the candidates and so offered neither drama, suspense, or surprise. This is a competitive disadvantage for Romney as a newer and less familiar product. Both parties, but especially the Republicans have benefited from unprecedented funding. While this could be an advantage, it has resulted in a series of disparate messages without a unifying theme.

If we try to distill the value proposition, positioning, big idea, or packaging – we, and such voters who are in play, have a hard time. Neither side seems able to resist adding disparate benefits into the mix. From a content analysis of such Romney and Obama collateral, as were easily available we get distinct, though not distinctive messages.

For Romney it’s his banner phrase “Americans deserve more jobs and more take-home pay, or “I’m a mom for Mitt,” or “We believe in America,” or “We built America” and its cousin “Built by US.” These are anodyne to the point of being soggy. Only the last has bumper sticker potential, whatever it might mean.

In 2008, Obama hit the sweet spot with “Hope” and “Yes We Can.” This has been vitiated with the liked of “We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up.” [homepage banner 9/7] and “Forward.”

Neither campaign has yet articulated a theme, which moves undecided voters.

The content from speeches to web is professionally written. That’s the problem. As Elmore Leonard observed:

“If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”

How Mobile Do You Look?

According to the latest research from the Pew Internet and American Life project, 46% of American adults 18 and older own smartphones. This has grown from 35% a year earlier. Desktop computer ownership, on the other hand, has continued to decline. Only 55% of adults now own desktops.

As these data show, the country is going mobile. Many of your customers probably are accessing your content through their phones. This begs the question – how does your site look, and more important work, through a mobile browser?

Many larger companies and organizations seem to have figured this out. The website of IBM, HP, Home Depot, Whole Foods, REI, and Harvard University are fundamentally different when visited from a desktop or laptop vs. when visited from a smartphone.

On a mobile aware site, a graphically busy multicolumn layout festooned with badges and banners can become a simplified and cleaner single column display. Now how does your site look?

Not every large organization seems to have considered the mobile visitor and the results can be unsightly not to mention unusable. If you need to get some information from the IRS or Chase Credit Cards from the browser on your phone, you’re in for a lot of pinching, panning, scrolling and zooming.

Small firms often lack mobile aware sites. If they are your competition, being mobile aware could give you an “unfair” advantage. As a smaller firm, you may have fewer marketing and web development resources, but going mobile can be easier than it might appear.

An emerging company called dudamobile offers one straight forward solution. It converts an existing site to one, which is mobile ready. I’ve been testing its service for a number of clients and find it works. It’s also easy.

To make a companion mobile site, you visit and follow an onscreen wizard. You can modify the overall look of the mobile site by choosing a number of design templates and otherwise tweak your site, without knowing any web technology. The only technical skill required is the ability to paste a few lines of code in the head section of your homepage.  The service doesn’t work if your site uses framesets, which are obsolete technology, or Flash. Otherwise you should be good to go.

Compare the versions below, of a retail website below. Which one would you be more like to spend time on? Once you’ve implemented the service, visitors on a computer will see your traditional site. Those on mobile will automatically see the mobile version. Dudamobile charges $9 per month for this but it is currently offering a free one year trial. This may mobilize you to “mobilize” your site.


      Before Mobilization

             After Mobilization