Thursday, August 21, 2008

Springtime for Twitter

Unless you happen to be Mel Brooks, the idea of using Adolph Hitler as a comic foil would sound like a bad idea. And—at first—you might not approve of this video posted at the Fallon Planning blog. But as you read the phony subtitles composed for a scene borrowed from a German-language movie, you might find yourself laughing at the angst of a despot who wants to share the heartache he feels on the news that a car struck and killed his dog Blondi. (Achtung: It includes a few four-letter words.)

An emotional Hitler confesses, "You know … I loved that dog. I need to tweet this."

And a General responds, with serious trepidation: "Twitter has been down since last night. Apparently Robert Scoble overloaded the servers."

Then, after clearing the room of those who "think they're too cool to use Twitter," Hitler launches into a frustrated tirade. "I have 2,000 followers who need to know every minute detail of my life! How else am I supposed to convey my sadness to so many people simultaneously?"

It doesn't matter that the premise for this monologue is a technical failure, or that the video pokes merciless fun at narcissistic users—rather, it reflects how indispensable Twitter has become to people who had never even heard of it a year ago. Your Marketing Inspiration is to create such passion for your product or service that customers can't imagine life without it.

More Inspiration:
Elaine Fogel: Why Are Some Webinars So Bad?
Paul Mininni: One Man's Trash …
Paul Barsch: Behavioral Targeting—Where's the Fine Line?

Open Me. Now.

YES! Thanks for clicking! Question: Did you open this because the subject line was just too good to ignore? That's what every emailer hopes for, anyway. After all, an email campaign can live or die with its subject line, correct?

LaTease Rikard certainly thinks so. "Fifty characters could be all that stands between you and success in your next email campaign," says a post at her Teasa's Tips blog. The post outlines 15 rules for getting subject lines right. Some highlights:

Read the newspaper. According to Rikard, headline writers face the same conundrum as email marketers—using limited space to entice and accurately describe content. You can learn from their expertise.

Front-load key information. Most email clients allow at least 50 characters—including spaces. Even if you think you're in the clear, it's best to put critical data like prices and keywords at the beginning.

Remember that open rates don't always measure subject line success. Study your web analytics for campaigns with low open rates, but high sales-per-order rates. "That could mean something in the subject line strongly appealed to a narrow segment of your list and could point the way to a more lucrative segmentation," she notes.

Sadly, there is no formula for writing the perfect subject line, Rikard concludes: "What works in one campaign might bomb with the next."

The Po!nt: Learn by writing. According to Rikard's post, the best strategy for subject line success is to think smart, test continually, and use the results of each effort to improve the next.

Source: Teasa's Tips. Read the full post here.

Problem and Solution Marketing‏

I came across an interesting article at Small Business Branding by Ed Roach, who discusses selling your product by marketing through "pain points".

The concept while certainly not a new one is still an effective strategy. Basically, you're just figuring out who your target market is, and considering what gives them the biggest headaches, and that's your marketing angle. Thoughts on this strategy?

You need to make them understand that they have a problem, and you are the solution.

It kind of ties into the scare-tactics marketing strategy I touched upon here, but perhaps not quite at such an extreme level. I guess that would really depend on what the customers' problem was.

The point is that customers need a reason to buy what you're selling. If you can make them understand why they need your product, you will have a better chance of making the sale.

Customers don't always realize that they have the problem that requires your solution, even though they do in fact have that problem.

For example, pest control company Orkin offers termite inspections. It is possible that if you had not seen their ad about termite inspections, it would have never even occurred to you that you should have one done. All the while, termites may have been destroying your home from the inside out.

They have presented a problem that you have, and right along with it, they are giving you the solution.

Even if you decide to shop around for the best deal on a termite inspection, they have put the idea in your head, and their business is right in front of you, which even if it doesn't land them a sale directly, it has accomplished some degree of branding in your mind.

Do you utilize this type of marketing strategy when it comes to your business? Do you think it is effective?

About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network. Subscribe to SmallBusinessNewz RSS Feeds.

Google Is Everything - Or Is It?

By Bill Platt

As an article marketer, I say things that I believe will help other people accomplish their goals. As a widely published article writer, I am often criticized for the words I write. ;-)

In July of 2008, I wrote an article about meta-search engines called, "Look Beyond Google: Meta-Search Engines Can Help Online Marketers". In this article, the basic concept I was trying to share was that Internet Marketers should look beyond the presence of Google, to find more ways to drive traffic to their websites.

The Google Religion

This article apparently struck a chord of truth with a lot of people, as its reprint results are much larger than even I expected.

The article was also reprinted on the Link Referral website by someone who seems to have appreciated the article.

The first response to the post at the Link Referral website read as follows: "Thanks for the useless post. Google is everything. If you cannot be found on Google, pray for MSN and Yahoo. Anything else will give you 1 hit in 100 years. Link exchanging and buying ads would be so much more effective than buying into that article."

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not the least bit annoyed that someone criticized my article. The fact that someone criticized the article is only a testimony to the fact that my words touched the nerve of someone who worships the Google religion. I don't want to offend anyone's religion... That would be wrong...

Of course, this is not the first time I have offended those who preach the tenets of the Google religion. I also wrote about this subject in an article about Creating Page Rank, which can be read at: This article also drew criticism by those who mocked my assertion that people can truly generate substantial traffic from sources other than Google and that Google PageRank is not as important as many claim.

Answering My Critics

I will admit that if a website is not listed in Google, the task of trying to make monëy online is made more difficult.

But if a website is not ranked in Google, and it does not possess links to it from anywhere else either, then you might as well be working at McDonald's for extra money, as opposed to trying to make monëy online.

Honestly, Google is only "everything" when you have "nothing but Google" on the table.

The Proof Is In The Pudding

This is not just an opinion I hold. I can back up what I am saying with real data, from a real website that does not rely upon Google for its salvation... The statistics shown here are from my primary website:

Even though I do not rely on Google for traffic, Google delivers a great deal of traffic to my website. I actually do quite well in the Google game. I get lots of Google Love for my website, as described here:

Nothing But The Facts

The following data reflects the traffic for The Phantom Writers for both 2007 and 2008 (through Aug 15th):

Total Unique Visitors
* 2007: 244,000+
* 2008: 169,000+

Total Page Views
* 2007: 1.2+ million
* 2008: 1.0+ million+

Unique Clicks from All Search Engines (59 in 2007; 58 in 2008)
* 2007: 119,309
* 2008: 129,749

Unique Clicks from Google
* 2007: 61,923
* 2008: 75,750

Unique Clicks from Yahoo, Windows Live, Ask, and MSN Search
* 2007: 49,291
* 2008: 50,148

Unique Clicks from Other 54/53 Search Engines
* 2007: 8,095
* 2008: 3,851

Important Data Analysis

In 2007, with 244,000+ total visitors and 61,923 visitors from Google, I would have had to turn away 182,077 visitors or 74.6% of my traffic in 2007, if I had relied solely upon Google to drive traffic to my website.

In 2008, with 169,000+ total visitors and only 75,750 of those visitors coming from Google, I would have had to turn away 93,250 visitors or 55% of my traffic, if I relied solely upon Google to deliver visitors to my website.

With 61,923 visitors from Google in 2007 and 93,250 visitors from Google so far in 2008, it is sure that Google is important.

I wonder how many of my critics are actually seeing 61,923 visitors per year? I suspect that many of those who claim that my advice is bad would be tickled pink to see my Google traffic to their websites. And I bet they would be shocked to realize that non-Google sources account for more traffíc for my website than their Google God does.

Beyond Google

In 2007, my website receíved 119,309 total visitors from all of the search engines combined, but only 61,923 of those people came from Google. That leaves 57,386 people who arrived on my website from the 58 search engines that are not Google. In the search category, Google accounted for 51.9% of my total search traffic.

The top five search engines accounted for 93.2% of my search traffic.

Had I ignored those unknown search engines, as my critics suggest others should, I would have been forced to turn away a full 8,095 people or 3% of all of my visitors in 2007. That is a far cry from "one hit in 100 years".

So far in 2008, Google has accounted for 58% of my total search traffic and only 45% of my global traffic.

The top five search engines have accounted for 95% of my search traffic. Those itty-bitty search engines have delivered 3,851 visitors to my website so far this year, accounting for 2.96% of all of my gross traffic in '08.

Itty-bitty is historically worth at least 3% of my yearly traffic. If you want to ignore that 3%, then that is your business. But myself, I am happy to receive traffic from anywhere that I can gain that traffic.

Beyond The Search Engines

As the owner of a professional article marketing company, who practices what he preaches, 90% of my advertising budget is spent on article marketing alone.

This is where the following two pieces of data come into play:

Unique Non-Search URL's Sending Traffic
* 2007: 9,036
* 2008: 5,811

Unique Visitors from Non-Search URL's
* 2007: 27,397
* 2008: 23,907

The remainder of my website's traffic comes from articles published in newsletters and on other websites, recommendations by other websites, bookmarks and name recognition.

In 2007, my website receíved 27,397 visitors from 9,036 verifiable links to my website from articles that we wrote or from recommendations people made for my website. Of course, I am willing to bet that many of the 97,294 visitors who were untrackable in 2007 were the result of the many articles of mine that were published in newsletters.

In 2008, my website has so far pulled 23,907 visitors from 5,811 verifiable external URLs. There have so far been another 15,344 visitors that I receíved from untrackable sources, many of which were probably from the articles that we have successfully had published in newsletters.

The article marketing that we do provides a lot of verifiable traffic to our website, and potentially a lot of our untrackable traffic was also derived from the article marketing we do.

In the end, we credít article marketing for our great search engine placement, for hundreds of keywords, and our substantial search traffic as well.

One Quarter Million Reasons Why Google Is Not God

If I believed the poster who said that "Google is everything" and I had followed his advice for the last several years, then I would have had to turn away 275,327 additional visitors to my website in the past 20 months!

OMG!!! To think that I could have turned away a quarter million visitors or 67% of all of my websites' traffic, if I had simply followed the advice of my critics.

Wow! Some of my critics are absolute idiots!

Yes, Google is important. But, is Google really "everything" ? Only if you want to fail...

About The Author
As the owner of, Bill Platt has been providing article ghost writing and article distribution services since 2001. In recent weeks, Bill overhauled his website format, in a way that improved navigation and simplified the process of finding the highest ranked authors and most popular articles on his website. You will also find a lot of great information in Bill's article marketing blog, which can be seen at:

Phone It In

You might scoff if someone were to suggest that phone support was obsolete, but Sarah Hatter of 37signals makes the argument that you no longer need an 800 number. "We get requests every day from people who don't think email support will cut it and demand a phone number to call us," she writes in a post at her company's blog. "Their worries are assuaged when they get a reply from me in less than 15 minutes that is informative, helpful and obviously written by a human being. It's absolutely 100% possible to provide excellent customer care without a phone or phone number, and our company proves that daily."

The Service Untitled blog adds a "yes, but … " to that claim. "A lot of times, a 10 or 15 minute phone call can resolve an issue that would take multiple days of going back and forth via email to resolve," they say. And with the concession that the online-only model works for 37signals, Service Untitled concludes that it probably isn't feasible for most companies.

Here are the key questions they think you need to ask:

-Can you afford phone support?
-Will phone support increase the speed and efficiency of your company's customer-service?
-Do your customers expect phone support?

The Po!nt: The idea of conducting all customer service online is intriguing, but think hard before abandoning phone support. "Sometimes it is just necessary to pick up the phone and work with your customers live," says Service Untitled, "regardless of how efficient the medium is."

Source: 37signals and Service Untitled. Please click here and here to read the full posts.

You Woo Me, But Can You Win Me?

The attributes and benefits of your brand can vary in how tangible they are to consumers. And that can affect buying decisions.

A product's intangible attributes are abstract—like quality, prestige, sentiment—and can't be experienced directly. For example, a new wine's ads can speak of romance; its label can evoke a feeling of exotic adventure.

Its tangible attributes are concrete—those that can be seen, tasted, touched, and smelled. The wine's taste and color fall into this category—and so does its price.

Research shows that each attribute plays a different role in customers' evaluations (what they like) and decisions (what they choose). Specifically:

1. Customers tend to place more weight on a product's intangible attributes when deciding what they like.

2. But they place more weight on its tangible attributes when they're choosing what to buy.

So, what's a marketer to do? Well, it seems the right formula might come down to this: Woo them, then win them over. Set the mood with the product's intangible attributes; then, when it comes down to making that sale, clearly state its tangible benefits.

The Po!nt: Consumers want to be woo'ed and won. Their preferences may not always predict their choices. To make sure you close that sale, stress the product's concrete, tangible attributes.

Source: "Stating Preference for the Ethereal but Choosing the Concrete: How the Tangibility of Attributes Affects Attribute Weighting in Value Elicitation and Choice." by Horsky, Dan; Nelson, Paul; Posavac, Steven S. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2004.

The Dummies Prove a Point

How well does your subscription process handle improperly entered—or clearly malicious—email addresses? If the findings presented in a whitepaper by FreshAddress are any indication, the answer might be: not so well.

For its study, the email marketing service created 13 dummy accounts that replicated typical errors. In addition to those with obvious red flags (eg, and misspelled domain names like yahoo and hotmial, they included basic syntax errors like:

-A comma instead of a period
-A missing .com
-An extra @ sign

Ideally, a website's sign-up system will recognize these problems and respond to the user with a prompt to try again, and brief suggestions on how to resolve the specific issue. But FreshAddress found that major online retailers accepted nearly twice as many invalid addresses as they rejected—a full 63.4 percent made it through to the list. Even the strongest performers blocked only 6 out of 13 bad addresses.

FreshAddress notes that these retailers did a better job of identifying syntax errors. What really tripped them up, though, were misspelled addresses, dead accounts and—worst of all—bogus accounts.

The Po!nt: Sloppy sign-ups can cost you. According to the FreshAddress whitepaper, “It is estimated that the typical Internet retailer who emails to its house list loses almost $7MM per year in net revenues due to invalid email entry on their websites.”

Source: FreshAddress. Download the whitepaper here.

Don't Look Past Your Local Internet Audience‏

When it comes to Internet marketing for small businesses, it can be easy to get caught up in the enormous number of tactics and resources available online.

You might even forget about the good-old fashioned local media that has been working for businesses for ages. What types of local sites do you advertise on?

I'm talking of course about local television, local radio, local newspapers, etc. You can still look to these resources for advertising in the online world, because chances are, most of these outlets have web sites that offer advertising opportunities, providing not only a chance to have your message appear to users across the web, but have it targeted to local residents at the same time.

You've got your obvious local audience looking for local news and items of interest, and thanks to blogs, social bookmarking, and news aggregation like Google News, stories will be linked to and picked up all over the place.

This will translate to more eyeballs on your ad. Think about it.

On WebProNews, Mike Sachoff talks about a study that finds how consumers trust advertising on local newspaper, magazine and television Websites take action after viewing ads on these sites.

According to that same study, the following percentages of consumers taking action correlate with ads on each type of site: Local Newspaper Site: 46%

- Local Television Site: 44%

- Local Magazine Site: 42%

- User Review Site: 39%

- Portal: 37%

These are not small numbers.

When you are evaluating the different pieces of your own Internet marketing puzzle, it is not wise to count out the sites that hit closest to home for your most likely customers.

About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network. Subscribe to SmallBusinessNewz RSS Feeds.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Another Advertising Option: Product Placement‏

Visit the backpack and lunchbox section of a major retailer and think about what you see; Hannah Montana this and Batman that will be on display everywhere and getting snapped up at an impressive rate. So for the sake of a huge sales boost, imitating this phenomenon seems worth a try. What do you think?

It's unlikely that you'll create a marketable and/or iconic figure, of course, and even getting Miley Cyrus or Christian Bale to hold something and smile is pretty much out of the question. What we're talking about is product (or service) placement.

Show something to enough people and some of them will want it. "Sex and the City" did wonders for a type of drink and several clothing designers (or so I'm told). White Castle was only too happy to accommodate the makers of the first "Harold and Kumar" movie. And even if these examples are still large-sounding and expensive, there are smaller scales at which product placement will work.

MG Siegler has a post discussing a book's mention on the show "Mad Men." He writes, "Apparently it went form #15,565 on Amazon's sales list all the way up to #161 after the episode in which it was placed aired. Again, this is a 50-year-old book." A book of poems, too - not exactly something that's a traditional hot seller.

So consider seeking out something that appears approachable, whether it's a local television personality or a minor blogger. A contract will offer a sure thing, while freebies might get mentioned or shown following nothing more than a minimal effort on your part.

Or feel free to go wild and investigate the commercial viability of Small Business Guy and Local Company Girl.

About the Author:
Doug Caverly is a staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz.

Why Are You Asking Me This?

Josh Nason knows why someone who clicks on your subscribe button—with every intention of joining your list—has a tendency to disappear a few seconds later. "It starts rather simply," he says. "You're setting up fields for your email signup form and instead of grabbing just the [basic]…information, your mind starts to wander." Pretty soon you're requesting everything from mobile numbers to IM addresses. "Sure, you don't make it required that all the fields are filled in," he notes, "but while they're there, why not offer it, right?"

Wrong. In fact, you're scaring them off by asking for too much information, or making it hard to find the salient fields. Instead, keep your sign-up page simple, and try other data-collection strategies:

Build trust by sending content-rich newsletters. Subscribers are more likely to volunteer information for an event like a contest when you've earned the right to ask.
Award prizes in a recommend-a-friend campaign. If they're willing to give you a friend's info, they might also trust you enough to give more data about themselves on a sign-up page.
Ask subscribers to participate in a quick survey. If you say it'll only take a minute and it actually does take only a minute, you also increase the level of trust.
But first things first: If a prospect has opted to give you their email address, says Nason, "you've ... achieved your goal. Stop right there."

The Po!nt: Don't get greedy. Be happy to accept a prospect's opt-in. Get more info over time—by making it worth their while to provide it.

Source: MarketingProfs. Click to read the article.

10 Key Things to Look for in a Good Web Designer‏

By Gary Klingsheim

The pace of business today is positively supersonic. There doesn't seem to be enough time for anything anymore, and businesses of all sizes are working harder and faster all the time.

It's important to work smarter, too. And that means when you have to choose an important vendor for an essential service, you need to slow down and make a deliberate, careful decision. This is particularly important when you are getting ready to put your company's face on the World Wide Web in a new or newly-refurbished web site.

Before listing the ten key things to look for in a good web designer, let's define a few terms. Even though you may encounter variants on the name – like web developer, web artist, webmaster and so forth - we're talking about an individual who, alone or with some assistance, is going to "get you up and running." This means more than simple design.

You may need someone who can help you conceive and write copy. You may need someone who can plan smart site structure. You may need help getting a domain registered, files uploaded, e-mail accounts set up, and other technical details. You will definitely need someone who can do just about anything, or quickly find out how, or have an associate who can at the ready.

With these caveats, and serious encouragement to shop around for price and professionalism, here are the ten things to look for, in rough order of importance:

1) Experience
You will need someone with all the techniques, tools and tricks that will help you prepare your web site and accomplish your online goals. You should confirm that the candidate knows the entire alphabet soup of protocols, web markup languages and coding utilities: HTML, XML, CSS, PHP and so on. Ask all prospects for a portfolio, ask if they can "hand code," find out how many years of experience each has, etc.

When you interview designers, on the phone and/or in person, you will get these answers swiftly enough. But take due time to get more important insights as to the individual's character, level of expertise - and how well your personalities mesh. You will be working closely together, after all.

2) Customer Service Orientation
As important as experience is a mindset and attitude of making customer service a priority. If a designer/developer is too busy to answer e-mails or phone calls, will they be able to keep the production schedule? Ask for references, and make a point of actually calling them. Ask the prospect's previous clients if the web developer was responsive, on time and effective.

3) Original copy and Graphics
Creating professional and 100% original web graphics separates the adults from the kids every time. Most anyone can do some "quick and dirty" copy writing and slap it on a page with some pictures and hyperlinks. On the other hand, a talented and veteran designer will demonstrate knowledge of page layout, have a way with color and know how to place elements on a page for best appearance and web site performance. Take a good look at a number of the sites each prospect has built, and make sure no one is using "templates" or "starter pages" that come with some software programs or are available (even free) on the Internet.

4) Creativity
You need to decide right away (before you even start talking to designers) just how much the designer you find will be involved in the conceptual process. Your designer may need to help you with some of the "big picture" questions, such as marketing, web copy writing (for search engines) and how to generate traffic. You want someone creative, but not a "diva" who won't follow instructions or work with your ideas to bring them to fruition.

5) Marketing Experience
The easiest way to find out if your prospective web designers are good at marketing web sites is to view their site and their portfolio. That you are considering selecting them to design your site is a good first indicator that their designs convert. You'll further want to ensure that you can find what you're looking for on their site quickly and easily and that you can do the same on some of the sites in their portfolio.

6) Cost
Pricing for a professional web site of 10-15 pages with the standard features runs all the way from $500 to $5000. It may be that your idea is so complicated that you might have to pay for an estimate. For a full picture of all the costs involved in the project, ask for all the costs to be broken out individually - domain name and hosting, graphic design work, marketing fees and web development matters.

You may need to place a deposit if the job is large enough, and you should have all payment terms worked out before work starts. You can work out an hourly rate, a flat fee or some combination of the two. Leave nothing unstated or assumed: Get every detail in writing, including deadlines and how many revisions are included.

7) Job Timeline
After you ask the developers how long the process will take, make a point of asking references if the project was, in fact, completed on time. A basic web site may take as little as a week, while more involved and technically challenging sites could take a month or more. You need to know what the real-world turnaround time is for the specific people you are considering.

8) Communication Skills
Don't hire anyone who insists on speaking to you in "computer-ese" or won't explain unknown terminology. You have to communicate with this person about things that are important to your very survival, so you need to be clear at all times. If you cannot establish a good working relationship, it won't matter if you have Leonardo Da Vinci working on your code, it just won't work out.

9) Full Service
There may be one or two things that your designer/developer cannot do, but for the most part you should be able to find a reasonably-priced professional who can handle just about everything. If the designer needs help installing a particularly complicated shopping cart, or your site requires some heavy database programming, it is reasonable to expect that your designer might need some assistance. All of this should be spelled out in the pricing, of course (see #6, above), and you shouldn't be surprised by anything your designer is telling you. If you are, you overlooked something in this list!

10) Availability
Are these prospects full-time web professionals? Or are they moonlighting from some other job, even a completely unrelated one? It may be that a part-time web designer who's working at McDonald's really can do a great job for you, but will he/she be available to meet with you during normal business hours? No matter what decision you make - full-time pro, part-timer or student - you must be able to get hold of your designer.

Finally, do you homework before speaking with anyone. You don't need to be an expert - after all, you're hiring help, because you're not - but you need to know enough to know what you're hearing. If you are uncertain of your ability to keep on top of what's going on, get a fríend with at least basic web knowledge to help you locate, interview and assess candidates.

Use all of this "head" knowledge to narrow down your list of candidates, but don't be afraid to use your intuition ("heart" knowledge) to get a feel for each person's honesty, integrity and character. Using this mix of study, inquiry, discussion ,and feel, you will start to develop judgments about the candidates. Following this procedure thoroughly should result in your finding a good match for your Internet needs.

About The Author
Moonrise Productions is a full services San Francisco web design company. They provide complete design services, web application and ecommerce development and more. With New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles web design presence – no matter where you are, we've got people to serve you.

I'm Rubber, You're Glue

Imagine you're Alissa Bayer—owner of the upscale milk + honey day spa in Austin, Texas—and a client has directed you to the Church of the Customer Blog, where a post by Jackie Huba takes your business to task for selling gift certificates with a $1.50 "handling fee." You scan through the comments and see a number of people denouncing the practice as a rip-off.

There's a sinking feeling as you realize your company is getting bad press because someone at your front desk goofed up. The $1.50 surcharge is for an upgraded gift card—it's not a standard fee. In other words, if Huba wanted a free card, she should have gotten one.

Bayer, however, handles the situation with finesse by explaining her spa's actual policy, noting she's grateful for the feedback and offering this honest analysis: "I'm sure you're not the only gift certificate buying customer who has been given bad information about the optional upgrade and is understandably peeved."

She goes on to say the upgraded cards—which cost substantially more than the $1.50 she charges—were added when her customers asked for them, but that she had year-end plans to discontinue fee-based certificates.

"Looks like I shouldn't wait any longer," she concludes.

The Po!nt: Bayer's candor and even tone earned her a prominent update that clarifies her company's policy in the main text of Huba's post. And she leaves the experience with helpful—if rattling—feedback.

Source: Church of the Customer Blog. Click here for the full post.

What You Can Learn From Starbucks' Mistakes

Comedians used to make jokes about cities with a Starbucks on every corner. It seemed ridiculous at first, but we've gotten so used to their ubiquity that the closure of 600 stores came as a surprise to many customers. And in a post at Harvard Business Online, John Quelch argues that the Seattle juggernaut made a few key errors in the management of its premium-priced brand:

Losing the loyalty of early adopters who appreciated personalized service and a relaxed coffee-house atmosphere. "To grow," he says, "Starbucks increasingly appealed to grab and go [sic] customers for whom service meant speed of order delivery rather than recognition by and conversation with a barista."

Introducing a bevy of new products that appealed to a broad audience. Customizable drinks were conceived to draw those grab-and-go customers, but diminished in appeal when they took longer to make. The pricey concoctions also seemed expensive when compared to premium alternatives from budget-minded competitors like McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts.

Creating artificial growth with new stores. "Eventually," he notes, "the point of saturation is reached and cannibalization of existing store sales undermines not just brand health but also manager morale."

"None of this need have happened if Starbucks had stayed private and grown at a more controlled pace," says Quelch. "To continue to be a premium-priced brand while trading as a public company is very challenging." And we think the concept of moderating growth to protect your brand is pure Marketing Inspiration.

More Inspiration:
Cam Beck: Superior Air Power: How the Airlines Can Win
Valeria Maltoni: Blog Council Unveils Disclosure Toolkit
Paul Dunay: Is Social Media for the Young ... Or Is It More of a Lifestyle?