Category BLSG

Year-End Assessments Aren’t Enough

It’s the time of year when businesses look back at the year that was and evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

This time of year also brings with it predictions for the new year.

While many experts put forth some very good educated guesses about what will work for businesses in the upcoming year, it is important for everyone to keep in mind that what works for most businesses won’t necessarily work for every business.

In fact, businesses that have multiple locations around the country (and the world) might find that what works in one region might not work so well for customers in other geographic regions.

Also, keep in mind that we are living in a time where the business environment is changing so fast that the predictions that experts make might become obsolete days (or even hours) after they are made. (This is particularly true if a new technology is introduced to the market that the experts weren’t aware of or if a vendor is bought out and is subsequently shut down.)

It is therefore of the utmost importance that businesses test and evaluate their business decisions at more frequent intervals and pivot based on what the data is telling them.

It might actually be the case that what they thought would work just doesn’t and that the actual business opportunity might be in another area.

If businesses are only evaluating their results at the end of the calendar or fiscal year, it might be too late.

Photo credit: Bill David Brookson on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Only Half the Story: Instagram Now Has More Daily Active Users on Mobile Than Twitter

You may have read the Mashable article that reported that Instagram now has more daily active users on mobile than Twitter.

Yes, it’s true, according to comScore Instagram had 7.3 million daily mobile users in August, compared to 6.9 million for Twitter.

However, Twitter enthusiasts need not worry at all. After all, the numbers that were reported by comScore are only based on mobile users and many of Twitter’s users access the site via its website on their PC.

In fact, according to eBizMBA Inc., as of September 2012, Twitter is the 9th most popular website.

Furthermore, I think it’s misleading to compare Twitter and Instagram, because they are two very different types of social networking sites. In fact, even though Facebook now owns Instagram, Instagram and Twitter currently have a very symbiotic relationship. That is, many Instagram users use Twitter to share their photos with other people in their network—particularly those who aren’t using Instagram. This benefits both Twitter, as its users can share additional content, and Instagram, as its users can have their photos reach a larger audience.

Therefore, the fact that Instagram has more daily active users on mobile than Twitter is only half the story.

In fact, I don’t think that it’s a story at all.

In the end, Twitter is still a great place to for advertisers to focus when trying to generate buzz about their products or services. As I plan to point out in the next post, this is particularly true when used in conjunction with some other event or as a part of a larger marketing or public relations campaign.

Photo credit: eldh on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Although Social Media Is Great For Qualitative Research, It Shouldn’t Replace Other Methodologies

For last few years, there has been a lot of talk about how social media can be used to gain insights into the wants and needs of your customers.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is a lot of great information that can be gained by monitoring and interacting with your customers and potential customers on social networking sites.

In fact, after reading “No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing,” (affiliate link) by Jason Falls and Erik Deckers, I’m an even bigger fan of using social media for research & development purposes, as the book is filled with many great case studies that highlight some very interesting success stories among major brands.

However, there have also been some extremely intelligent statisticians who have made the claim that the data gleaned from social networking sites like Twitter can be used to make predictions about major events.

I have always been skeptical of this notion based on four main arguments. 1) Not everyone is using Twitter, or any other social networking site, therefore there is a built-in bias. 2) Even if everyone was online, not everyone is going to be talking about the topic. Therefore, only the most vocal people will be heard. 3) There are a lot of false rumors that are spread online that can negatively influence the predictions. 4) In some cases, specific training is required that can influence the outcome of events or there might be information required that the general public is not privy to.

A recent article on TechCrunch gives some evidence that supports my first two points.

While I won’t go into each point in detail in this post, I do want to point out the shortcomings of using social media for making predictions about events when more tried-and-true methodologies, namely surveys with proper wording of questions and representative random samples, are available.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is a lot of great information that can be gained by monitoring social networking sites and interacting with your customers online.

However, I feel that it is best to think of social media as a huge focus group that should be used in addition to other forms of market research.

Photo credit: 13stock on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Every Interaction With a Consumer Is Marketing

Others have said it before, but I will say it again. Marketing is not handled by just the people in a company’s marketing department. Marketing is everyone’s responsibility.

I was reminded of this yesterday, when I was at the post office.

I arrived only 15 minutes before the post office closed with enough items to ship that it required two trips to the customer service counter.

The lady who was in front of me during my first trip to the customer service counter was clearly angry. However, she wasn’t angry at the people working behind the counter.

She was actually angry at the company that she had purchased an item from.

I didn’t hear all of the conversation that she had with the postal worker, but what I did hear her say was that she was having a hard time trying to return the item, and that only after she talked to someone in the company’s marketing department did they give her permission to send the item back.

My guess is that the person in the marketing department who gave her the permission to send the item back was worried about the brand’s reputation and the effect that this transaction could have if she let others know about the bad customer service that she had received from other parts of the company.

In the age of social media, every time a person has a bad experience with a company creates an opportunity for a public relations disaster.

At a minimum, if an angry customer lets others in his or her network know about the bad customer service that he or she received, there is a chance that the people hearing about the incident will think twice before using that company the next time they are looking for a similar product or service.

If enough people have bad experiences and let others know about it on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, or any other site where people can voice their opinions online, there is no doubt that it is going to be noticed in the future when potential customers are doing product research online.

And, if the person receiving the bad customer service is a celebrity, it can really create a headache for the brand’s marketing and public relations teams. Just ask United.

Today, word of mouth has a greater significance thanks to social networking sites, review sites, and search engines like Google or Bing. Therefore, providing great customer service is more important than ever.

As the tagline of my blog states, “Every interaction with a consumer IS marketing.”

On a side note, because I got to the post office so late, I just got my second set of boxes to the counter as they were closing. The postal worker stayed a little late on a Friday night in order to get my boxes delivered on time without any grumbling or complaining at all. For that, I thank them.

This, by the way, is the upside of word of mouth. That is, when you provide great customer service, many of your customers will let their friends and family know about that, too.

Photo credit: truds09 on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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You Can Learn A Lot in the Margins

The way that we live our lives is constantly changing as a result of advancements in technology.

In some cases, the changes have been subtle. In others, the changes have been far more dramatic. Either way, it is hard to question that most of this change is for the better.

However, sometimes there is a tradeoff that is taking place that you might not even be aware of.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at the way that businesses administer questionnaires to respondents when they are looking to find out what their customers and potential customers think about their products or services.

In my career, I’ve been involved in survey research studies where the questionnaires were administered via the telephone, the U.S. mail, online, and face-to-face. However, most my research experience involved two of these methodologies: U.S. mail and online. (Note: I worked in survey research when online surveys were still in their nascent stage.)

There are pros and cons for all of the survey research methodologies. With that said, many businesses have moved to online surveys as a way to collect data, because they are faster and cheaper to administer.

However, I’d still recommend mail surveys (or telephone surveys) over online surveys in some instances, because of two of the drawbacks to online survey research.

The first is the most obvious—not all people use the Internet. Therefore, if you survey customers or potential customers online, the data is only going to be based on those consumers who use the Internet. As I pointed out in my last blog post, this is going to exclude about one in five American adults. And, if your product or service is targeted to older, less educated, and less affluent consumers, the problem only gets worse.

The second issue with online surveys is that there is less flexibility for respondents to offer input as to why they answered the way that they did, unless there is a follow-up question that specifically asks them. That is, when a survey is administered via a paper questionnaire, they have the ability to clarify their answers in the margins.

While this seems like a very minor drawback, there have been many cases where this input has led to some key insights that we could give to the client. Or, in some cases, it made it impossible to report the data to the client without some clarification, if the data was reported at all. Without this input, the client might have gotten the wrong impression as to what was actually going on in the marketplace.

Keep in mind, I am aware that the benefits of online surveys often outweigh the drawbacks.

The point of this post is to highlight the fact that with each advancement in technology, there are some tradeoffs. And, as people enter into the business without ever experiencing the old processes, they might not even think about these particular issues at all.

It should be noted that this is not limited survey research. In fact, I’m guessing that this is occurring in all areas of our lives, to a varying degree.

They key is to try to identify the pros and cons of each particular option, in advance, and make a decision as to whether the tradeoffs are acceptable.

Photo credit: ReillyButler on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Difference Between Possible and Probable

People often use possible when they should be using probable, and vice versa.

While similar, possible and probable have very different meanings.

If you don’t buy a lottery ticket, it’s not possible to win.

Once you buy a lottery ticket, it’s possible that you will win, but not probable.

If you bought 90% of the number combinations (who would do that?), then there would be a high probability that you would win the lottery. (If you purchased all the number combinations, then you would be absolutely certain that one of your lottery tickets would match the winning lottery numbers, although I don’t know if you could call that winning.)

Like the example of buying a single lottery ticket, many things in life become possible with very little effort. However, it often takes much more effort to change possible into probable.

If something is possible, it could happen. Possibility means that there is hope. This is where most things begin.

If something is probable, it is likely to happen. Things that are probable are often a direct result of hard work.

Photo credit: bionicteaching on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Never Stop Questioning the Answers

Maybe it’s my market research background. Or, maybe it’s just something that I have learned from experience.

No matter where it’s coming from, I think that one of the most important things to remember is to always evaluate the way that you are doing things and verify that there isn’t a better way to accomplish whatever it is that you have set out to do.

In the online marketing world, it is highly suggested that you continually test to see if even a slight change might yield better results. This means testing everything from the call to action to the color of the landing page to the time of day that the ad is run.

Sometimes the things that work best are the exact opposite of what you would expect.

This holds true in other areas of business, as well. For example, does the packaging that your product is sold in have a positive or negative effect on sales? Or, does the new dress code policy have a positive or negative effect on employee morale?

This concept can even be applied to your personal life.

Keep in mind, I’m not arguing that constantly changing things will yield better results. Sometimes doing things the way that you have always done them is the best way to do it. (Coca-Cola learned this lesson in the mid-1980’s when it introduced New Coke, only to reintroduce Coca-Cola Classic 77 days later.)

What I am saying is that you should always think things through and test and measure the results to see what works best.

In other words, never stop questioning the answers.

Photo credit: mikecogh on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

On Monday, I went to the post office to ship a couple of items that I had sold on eBay last weekend.

During the transaction, the postal employee working behind the counter asked the usual questions about the contents of each package and how I wanted to ship each item (i.e., Express Mail, Priority Mail, Parcel Post, etc.)

What I usually do is ask how much it will cost to ship the item via Priority Mail versus Parcel Post. If the item can be shipped Priority Mail within the amount that I charged the buyer based on my estimate, I go with that. Otherwise, I ship it Parcel Post, as I mention in the listing. Either way, I insure the package for loss or damage.

In this case, I mentioned that I wanted to send the items Parcel Post based on the amount that I charged each buyer.

After hearing that I was selling items on eBay, the postal worker offered some friendly advice on how to ship the items. She said that other customers who sell on eBay skip the insurance and just get delivery confirmation to save some money. According to her customers, USPS insurance is not necessary because eBay will cover the cost of a lost or damaged item.

As luck would have it, I ended up being waited on by the same postal employee when I returned on Wednesday.

Upon hearing that I wanted to continue shipping the same way that I had in the past, the postal worker again reminded me of the advice that she had given me on Monday. When I politely stated that I wanted to continue doing it my usual way, she got somewhat argumentative and stated that it is better to skip the insurance and use the money I’d save to ship each of the items Priority Mail.

Nevertheless, I shipped the items the same way that I had in the past. However, I was left scratching my head, wondering why she seemed so upset about how I ship items that I sell on eBay. My only guess is that it made her mad that I had dismissed her advice.

Keep in mind, I’m not one who will drink the Kool-Aid. That is, I don’t believe someone’s argument without having some sort evidence to support it. And, the only evidence that she supplied was information that she received from her other customers. However, just because other people say that something is true doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.

In the end, I’m the one who is accountable for the transaction. Therefore, the decisions that I make are going to be based on facts, not hearsay.

After researching this issue further, I found out that eBay does offer what they call ShipCover insurance. However, you have to pay for it (something that the postal employee either didn’t know about or forgot to mention.) Furthermore, although it costs less than USPS insurance, in some cases you actually pay more when you add in the $0.75 for delivery confirmation.

The takeaway from this post is that whether in your personal or professional life, don’t make a decision based on what someone tells you unless they can give you solid evidence to support their argument.

On the bright side, I know that one of the packages that I sent on Monday arrived safe and sound and that the customer was very happy, as he gave me a positive review on eBay. This goes to show that the United States Postal Service is very good at delivering packages to people all over the country. And, for that, I want to thank them.

However, I’m glad that I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Photo credit: jasonlam on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Importance of Knowing Where to Look

When I was just starting out in my career, my former boss, who I also consider a friend and a mentor, said something that has remained with me ever since.

In talking about the work that we did, she said, “We don’t need to know everything; we just need to know where to find it, right?”

Keep in mind, she wasn’t saying that expertise isn’t necessary, because it definitely is.

The point is that it’s impossible to know everything, even within your given field of study. That’s why it’s important to know who you can turn to in order to get answers to questions that arise each and every day.

This can include knowing who in your company you can turn to for advice on how to solve a problem, as well as knowing what books, websites and other resources are available that can provide the answers to specific types of questions. (In some cases, social media has even given us access to thought leaders who we might not otherwise be able to contact.)

But, if you don’t where to look in the first place, it is going to take a lot longer to find the answers to your questions.

For that reason, knowing where to find the information needed to answer a question might be as valuable as knowing the answer to the question itself.

Photo credit: timetrax23 on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Blogging Like Seth Godin

If you have read Seth Godin’s blog, you know that he is one smart dude.

His blog posts are filled with useful observations and insights from the business world.

And, as you might have noticed, many of his blog posts are short and sweet. They get to the point and then end. He doesn’t use a lot of words to express something that could be said with fewer.

That is part of the beauty of his style of blogging. And, I think that it is very effective.

Therefore, I’m going to give it a try.

On Tuesdays, I plan to blog in my usual style. On Fridays, I’m going to try to blog like Seth Godin.

Photo credit: Peter Bromberg on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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