February 22, 2007
Launching first flyer survey at RAC Flyer Symposium
We are pleased to announce that we will be at tomorrow's RAC Flyer Symposium to start collection of data for our flyer research. The first study will start this week and will focus on the current practices of retailers in measuring the effectiveness of their flyer programs.
Upon completion of our report, aggregate results of this research will be sent out to RAC members, survey participants and those who attended the symposium. If you wish to participate in the research or receive a copy of the report, please send an email to email@example.com
Click here to read my previous comments on the flyer symposium.
February 16, 2007
Topics for flyer research
Some initial thoughts on direction for our research into retail flyers are recorded below. The specifics of each study will be refined in conjunction with industry peers in order to ensure that the information gathered will be as useful as possible. If you have any suggestions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Financial Management Processes
How do retailers make decisions regarding the financial elements of their flyer program? Do they do the work in-house, or outsource, and why? How are co-op funds allocated?
- Measurement of effectiveness
What is the nature of the interaction between marketing and merchandising? How do retailers manage the trade-offs between their own goals and those of their vendors? How does a flyer program affect the buying process?
- Selection of advertised products
- Distribution to support flyers
- Special buys for ad periods
- Regional pricing and product selection
Creative & Production Processes
What processes do retailers use to take a flyer from a list of SKUs through to a printed advertisement? What technology is in use, and how has has it improved the workflow? How have changes in prepress and printing technology affected flyer programs?
- Page Design
- Page Layout
Media Management & Distribution Processes
How do retailers decide where flyers will be sent and who will deliver them? How do they manage the communication of these details with suppliers in multiple markets?
- Distribution planning
- Media selection
- Media management
What do retailers do in their stores to support and enhance the flyer program? Is store signage and merchandising changed? How is inventory managed and what is done if the store runs out of product?
- Staff levels during flyer period
- Educating staff about specials
- Inventory management
- Special merchandising
- Rain check policies
Research on retail flyer publishing
As a retail marketing manager, I found it difficult to find information and advice about flyer advertising, despite the $20 billion spent on this form of advertising in North America. Anything I did not learn from watching colleagues, I had to suss out for myself.
That is the impetus behind our decision to launch a series of studies on current practices in the retail industry. Areas that will be covered over the course of this research include:
- Financial Management Processes
- Product Processes
- Creative & Production Processes
- Media Management & Distribution Processes
- In-Store Processes
Please click here for more detail on the topics included in each of these areas.
By carrying out studies on the current practices of the industry, we hope to develop a body of knowledge that will help current practitioners to improve their flyer programs and provide guidance to new publishers as they define their processes.Those who will be helped by this research will be individuals who find themselves in the same place I was: trying to stretch their advertising budget while meeting the demands of stakeholders ranging from the vendors who supply co-op advertising funds, to the store managers and franchisees (who are the direct link to customers).
If you would like to participate in the research or receive a copy of published reports, please send an email to email@example.com
January 21, 2007
Why flyers deserve some love
Retail flyers are the pariahs of the advertising world. Nobody loves them, everybody hates them, why don’t they eat some worms?
Because they work, that’s why. Most retailers believe that flyers are one of the most effective means of retail advertising, providing a high degree of consumer awareness, and more importantly, above-average return on investment.
What’s the secret?
It’s all about the money.
It’s a lot easier to get a high return on your advertising investment when you don’t invest your own money. Most flyer programs are funded from vendor co-op advertising funds, making the vehicle a no-cost option for the retailer.
Why do they work?
Flyers are a highly efficient way of using small amounts of co-op funding from a multitude of suppliers. They are highly visible, and despite the “no flyers” signs popping up on some doorways, customers actively seek out flyers for categories of interest to them, because they see them as valuable sources of product information.
Junk mail is only junk when you’re not in the market for the product being advertised. When you are, it becomes information.
So why do marketing people hate them so much?
Because most creative people like to come up with new campaigns using this season’s hot colour palette, and measure success by the number of awards they get from their peers. Flyer programs, on the other hand, are driven by vendors' co-op dollars and measured in sales – numbers, numbers and more numbers, and nary a GRP in sight.
There may be little difference in effectiveness between an attractively-designed flyer and an ugly one, and it’s beneficial to have a consistent look from month to month and year to year in order to get customers’ instant attention when the flyer arrives at their door. It's important to note, though, that even though it may not matter if your flyer is ugly, it's not a requirement.
So give flyers the love they deserve
Love them just the way they are - don't try to make them something they're not.
Focus on integration with the rest of your marketing. Spend time working with all stakeholders in the process, be it buyers, store managers, customers or warehouse staff. Work with industry suppliers to improve your processes. If you or your customers are concerned about environmental impact, work on optimizing your distribution through geodemographic targeting and/or arrange for offsets like tree planting.
A well-planned, well-executed flyer program is a thing of beauty, at least in the eyes of this beholder. I hope you can see it that way too.
January 20, 2007
Focus on Flyers
Those who know me know that retail flyers, for whatever reason, fascinate me. That's why it's good to see others dedicating some time and attention to understanding the work that goes into creating flyers and recognizing those who do an oustanding job of publishing them.
The Retail Advertising Club of Canada is holding its 3rd National Retail Flyer Symposium on February 22, 2007. I've been at the last two and it is well worth it for anybody who works on a flyer or is thinking about adding it to their marketing mix.
October 1, 2006
Communication directly between your customers is easier than ever now, and one of the main things they're going to do is call you on your bullshit. Seth Godin:
Catherine sends us to Mouse Print, a website focused on the sleazy things marketers will do to trick people.
Instead of spending your money on lawyers to make the weasel words in the fine print more lawsuit-proof, try actually improving the product.
May 5, 2006
User tagging on delicious - hear the voice of your customer, for free
It doesn't matter what business you think you're in, you're in the business your customers think you're in. And companies spend a fortune on focus groups, surveys and other feedback mechanisms to try to figure that out.
Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures makes a point about how user tagging (like on delicious) is fundamental to internet infrastructure and the valuable information that publishers can get out of that:
User tagging is vastly superior to self tagging because it is the consumers who are navigating and trying to find the stuff. The way they describe it is the same way they will try to find it. And it's really hard for publishers to figure out all the keywords up front.
I think it goes beyond just publishers, though - businesses of all kinds can learn from the way that users have tagged pages about their products and services, and those of their competitors. And you get to hear their voices without paying for it, because they've done the tagging out of self-interest.
All you need to do is listen.
Posted by kenking at 1:36 PM
April 12, 2006
Yes, it CAN be done, you just don't want to do it
There's nothing that pisses me off more than hearing the words "it can't be done", especially when it's patently obvious that it can be done.
My example this morning: it's surprisingly difficult to change one's email address on file with newsletter subscriptions. I tried with three companies this morning, with three very different results.
In the first case, there was no obvious way to change my address. However, the signup form was very simple, consisting of email, name, company and title. It was easy enough to just set up a new account and cancel the old one, so I did so. Not ideal, but not too painful either.
With the second company, things were a little more complicated because the registration included tying a company payment card to the account so setting up a new account would have required entering the card information along with my home address, and a bunch of other things. I decided to find out if there was a not-so obvious way of changing the email address. Their contact feedback form had "updating or removing my email address" as a category, which when selected gave the following warning:
The e-mail address for [website name deleted] accounts cannot be changed or updated. If you need to change your e-mail address, please feel free to create a new [website name deleted] account. If you have further questions, please submit your inquiry below.
The programming work that went into displaying that warning when I selected the message category could have been put to use creating a simple change of address form.
Like the one offered by Apple. Their emails include a link leading to a simple form that let me accomplish the task in about 5 seconds.
Posted by kenking at 9:24 AM
April 5, 2006
Wait 6-8 weeks because we don't give a damn
Why do you have to wait 6-8 weeks to get your first issue when you subscribe to a magazine? When you give a damn about picking up a new reader, you go the extra mile, as described in this quote from a reader's email on Grant McCracken's blog:
Music Week for the "culture and economics" world: "When you subscribe, online or by subscription card, you get the current issue in the mail about 3 days later, in a hand-addressed envelope. No ‘please allow 6-8 weeks’: this isn’t a big corporate mag. While they put together a top-rate, slick publication with great cover photos, it’s obvious even from the transaction of the subscription that there’s a room somewhere in Philly, filled with guys (sic) who love this music and want other people to love it, too."
Posted by kenking at 6:43 AM
March 17, 2006
All the stuff I would have liked to write about, Part II
I came across the idea last year of using the occasion of the new year to clean the slate and publish all the notes contained in draft posts. In fact, there was so much stuff hanging around in draft form that I couldn't get a summary post out in a timely fashion - hence part II. ;-)
How Loyalty Cards Can Cost You Sales
Loyalty programs are generally engineered to reward your best customers and to reap the benefits of tracking their activity. However, some retailers have done too good a job of selling the benefits of their program.
There's no question in my mind that having the card influences my buying decisions – although I probably would buy almost as many books without it, I have definitely picked up titles because of members' only promotions in the store. However, the flipside is also true - I'm much less likely to pick up books that don't have a hefty members' promotion.
And that sense of entitlement can damage the relationship altogether: I tend to buy books in batches, and in a quick tour through the store had about $150 worth when I went to the counter. As usual, I'd forgotten my loyalty card at home, but in the past cashiers had always looked it up for me. This time, however, I was informed that the store had instituted a policy of not doing so anymore. I abandoned my purchase and left because I felt cheated out of my discount. To make matters worse, I found out from another location that the policy was not chain-wide, but simply the decision of the specific store's manager.
Big Egos Are Good For Business
Being full of yourself is good for business, according to researchers at the University of Maryland. BusinessWeek interviewed Brian Wu about how Ego Makes Entrepreneurs? The key point in this is that entrepreneurs see risk differently than most people - if something is dependent on your own abilities, then the risk is simply in your own ability to execute, and having an inflated sense of your own ability allows you to overcome risk aversion.
I think there's a related issue here too - entrepreneurs deal with a constant stream of negativity. Mention to someone that you're starting a business, and they'll quote stats about how many businesses fail, express their doubts about the market potential for your idea, and generally try to convince you that you're crazy. Having a strong ego helps to get you through all of that.
Logo Development Process
This article on creating a business logo provides great insight into the communication process between designer and client.
The Dunbar Number
Christopher Allen tackles a popular misconception about the Dunbar number being the average size of of a successful community, when it is actually posited as the maximum size. There are a bunch of good examples in the article, along with some cool charts and graphs.
Most importantly, there's some thoughts on the effect that group size has on company effectiveness, especially the pain that comes with growth. I've deliberately set out to keep my business at a small size precisely because I want things to stay personal.
Posted by kenking at 9:33 AM
January 30, 2006
email subscription via FeedBlitz
I finally around to adding a Feedblitz subscription to my blog, which will allow those who don't use an RSS reader (or who simply prefer to receive stuff by email) to receive site updates.
The process was very easy with a moderate knowledge of HTML, and it was very satisfying to undertake and complete the task in 4-5 minutes.
Posted by kenking at 7:40 AM
January 26, 2006
All the stuff I would have liked to write about, Part I
I came across the idea last year of using the occasion of the new year to clean the slate and publish all the notes contained in draft posts. So here we go:
Managers, Not MBAs
This NYT article on George Bush came out at the same time as I was reading Henry Mintzberg's Managers, Not MBAs. There were lots of interesting things spinning through my head, so many that I never wrote the post. ;-)
"Bush has been called the C.E.O. president, but that's just a catch phrase -- he never ran anything of consequence in the private sector. The M.B.A. president would be more accurate: he did, after all, graduate from Harvard Business School. And some who have worked under him in the White House and know about business have spotted a strange business-school time warp. It's as if a 1975 graduate from H.B.S. -- one who had little chance to season theory with practice during the past few decades of change in corporate America -- has simply been dropped into the most challenging management job in the world." - The New York Times Magazine > Without a Doubt
Store design makes a big difference - although you want to make maximum use of every square foot of expensive retail space, it's also important to ensure the design delivers the desired customer experience.
I recently visited a store specializing in storage and organization products - plastic bins, shelf dividers and the like. The reason for my visit was to find products that would help to reduce clutter in my home (including my home office) and thereby reduce stress. I presume that my goals were similar to those of many other shoppers.
The in-store experience was anything but serene. The aisles were narrow, and oriented across the store so that, once I'd progressed halfway down the store I no longer could see the exit. It was visually overwhelming and claustrophobic, exactly the opposite of the solution I sought.
It seemed that the design was intended to give the impression of a massive selection. On that front it was successful, but only to a point: with the product categories split into short aisles across the store width, one was only able to see 1-2 categories at a time. A longitudinal design would have allowed customers to view the entire selection of the store at once from the doorway, and would still have provided exposure to the broad product selection.
I'm constantly amazed at how little effort most organizations put into giving people teamwork skills, especially since they simultaneously put a ton of emphasis on working in teams. I will probably come back to this point again, as I see the consequences every day.
The Fallacy of the Golden Rule
One of the most common mistakes made is managing by the golden rule. "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" may be good social behaviour but it falls short as a management philosophy.
This article in Fast Company addresses a specific way the golden rule can steer you wrong. However, I think the story here is more about dealing with differences in relative power, which I may address at a future date.
The article did remind me of a more general problem: it's still relatively rare for first-time managers to receive much in the way of training. Sure, most companies will include some task-specific training such as payroll processes and maybe even some touchy-feely techniques. But from talking to a lot of people about their first time as a manager, it's become clear to me that the first mistake everyone makes is to manage by the golden rule.
The problem is that everyone reacts to different stimuli - for example one member of your staff may need frequent praise, while another may devalue the praise because of its frequency. Depending on which camp you're in, you're not going to get the best out of the second person. Enlightenment comes when you realize that you need to do unto others as they would have done unto themselves. This of course takes a lot more work, but it's also very rewarding.
Dave Taylor published an article about why you should "never outsource your business plan", some of his reasoning being as follows:
Why would this be the case? Because it's the process of creating the plan that's important not the end document. When you share your business plan with an investor or venture capital firm, they want to see something coherent and learn about a smart business, but just as importantly, they want to know that your team can sit in a room and hammer out a single, unified vision of your company, one that covers all the major bases, from marketing to defending your intellectual property, cost of sales analysis to partnership ideas.
I think it's even simpler than that - even if you aren't trying to raise a ton of money, the process of writing a business plan forces you to think through your options, and make choices. And when some of those choices turn out to be wrong, you will be up shit's creek without a paddle if someone else wrote the plan. If you did the work yourself, on the other hand, you'll know the assumptions that went into the choice you made, and will be in a position to retrace your steps and take the road not travelled.
Investing in Personal Relationships
Roger McNamee said it better than I could - this is why I go way out of my way to maintain relationships and form new ones. Enlightened self-interest aside, though, it's just fun to have a pint with an old friend.
A J-curve runs through the New Normal. That’s when you invest more than you reap in the early stages, but in the long run you get paid huge dividends. You won’t be able to predict when a relationship will be valuable to you—or even if a particular relationship will be valuable to you—but if you invest in enough relationships, the payoff will be huge. - The New Normal - Invest in Personal Relationships
Protecting the Workgroup
A short article in Fast Company about protecting the workgroup reminded me of the going away party when I left my first management gig.
My team gave me something that's still one of my favourite gifts ever - a custom-made certificate for "excellence in buffering", reflecting the fact that I spent a great deal of my time dealing with all of the office BS so my people could focus on doing their thing. It is also reflective of my philosophy that you work for the people "below" you - if managers spent their energy on figuring out how to help their direct reports to do better work instead of currying to every whim of their bosses, they might actually achieve something.
Posted by kenking at 8:52 PM
October 3, 2005
Putting the cart before the horse: branding
Fast Company published a smart article on the obsession with branding that has overtaken the marketing world.
"Part of the problem is that everyone's doing it. Bill Schley, author of Why Johnny Can't Brand (Portfolio, November 2005), says branding 'is not what you say but what you do.' But what a company does is already, well, what it does! To brand, in a corporate sense, is no more a verb than 'to gorgeous.' A brand is a result, not a tactic. One cannot go about branding an organization or a product or a service; the organization, product, or service is what creates the brand. In a brilliant twist, the experts have bottled an end and sold it as a means."
I really love the comparison of "to brand" with "to gorgeous", which also neatly points out the idiocy of turning nouns into verbs. Besides the verb "to brand" already had a specific meaning related to the searing of flesh by hot metal.
So if you want to do branding, don your chaps and go west young man. If you want to own a strong brand, take care of business: have a strategy, hire good people, take care of your customers and have a story worth telling. The rest will take care of itself.
Posted by kenking at 7:33 AM
September 8, 2005
The importance of the customer experience
Many retailers have bought into making a trip to their stores an experience, not just an exercise in hunting and gathering. However, it's difficult to translate that same experience to a website.
Freitag is the creator of the mancipation line of murses (man-purses) and their store in Davos, Switzerland set up a webcam so that remote clientele can interact with a salesperson live over the internet. How's that for a special way to engage your clients over the web?
This came to my attention through Diego Rodriguez' blog, metacool.
Posted by kenking at 10:30 AM
July 11, 2005
More on financial fiddling
Co-incidentally to posting my thoughts on fiddling with financials in your business plan earlier today, I came across Startup 101, a mini-site created by Dave Taylor and Stephen Fowler to provide entrepreneurs with some basic advice on building their business.
Their section on business plan financials includes the following comment:
Although the most critical element of your financials is your revenue projections, it might not be for the reason you think! Savvy investors and business people will study your financial information because they want to understand your underlying assumptions.
BTW, Dave Taylor is involved in publishing several other interesting blogs, including what I think is his main site, The Intuitive Life and a Q&A column that deals mainly with technical issues but also with business management.
Posted by kenking at 8:55 PM
May 28, 2005
Say it loud, we're small and we're proud!
When the Bank of America chooses to pretend that it understands small, it becomes evident that the tide is shifting.
Instead of working so hard to look like the big guys in the hope that it makes us appear more professional and more legitimate, realize that the big guys are spending millions of dollars trying to look like us in the hope that it makes them appear more human.
It works for us: all our clients know we work from home. They also know that I have the freedom to do things that I cherish -- like playing lunchtime hockey. They're even jealous, a little.
Posted by kenking at 8:47 PM
February 20, 2005
Fake personalization makes you look like idiots
My wife and I received a direct mail piece recently that led off with the following:
Dear Deborah & Ken King,
We know you love [popular ski resort], so we want to make sure to keep you informed of the latest...
The problem: neither of us skis, nor have we ever been to the hill in question and, while I won't speak for Deborah, I know I don't "love" the resort. It leaves me wondering how they know.
That sentence might make sense if they had records showing that we'd skied there every weekend for the last five winters. That sentence might make sense if we'd responded to a customer satisfaction survey and indicated that [popular ski resort] makes us tingly inside. It does not and cannot make sense to send that letter to everyone whose name ends up on a mailing list somehow.
I am left with the impression that the resort's managers are idiots, either because they looked at this piece and thought it was great or because they weren't paying attention. And then there's the ad agency - do they show this crap to prospective clients?
What is your direct mail saying about your company?
Okay, if you think this is bad, check out this example of bad mail merge execution.
Posted by kenking at 8:45 AM
February 7, 2005
Wish I'd Thought of This category
Sometimes you come across things that are just so clever, simple, elegant, exciting or all of the above, and you wish that you'd thought of it. I know I do. This category is for giving credit where credit is due, to the dreamers/innovators whose creations inspire me.
Posted by kenking at 3:33 AM
November 1, 2004
How well does your info flow upstream?
I confess, I have a bad habit of telling people how to run their business. But it often leaves me wondering: How well does information flow upstream inside companies?
If frontline employees want to act on customer feedback, how easily can they make it happen?
I called a US-based manufacturer of trade show exhibits on Friday, and got help selecting an appropriate package. Part of the decision-making process will be the cost-benefit comparison between purchasing a new, easier-to-carry display rather than updating graphics on the old one.
While doing the math, I noticed that the current Canadian/U.S. exchange rate is quite good, and remarked to the sales rep that it might be a good time for them to call back dormant customers in Canada. He (verbally) nodded, but didn't currently have any customers on his list that he could call. While I directed the comment to him, I meant it as a general suggestion for the company.
If something like this happens at your company's call centre, what systems are in place to spread that information?
If there isn't a system, would a sales rep be rewarded for finding a way to communicate, or would they be punished for the "distraction" from their job?
And what are the consequences for your business if your systems (or lack thereof) ignore direct feedback volunteered by customers?
Posted by kenking at 2:33 PM