Say NO to Marketing Gimmicks

As a consumer and marketing professional, I’m not a fan of marketing gimmicks. In my opinion, they are the pornography of marketing: hard to define, but you know them when you see them. Teaser offers on credit cards, no money down home purchases, ROI studies that promise 400% returns.

marketing gimmicks, Joe Izuzu

Do you remember Joe Isuzu?

If you’re like me, you make a mental accounting of businesses that overuse marketing gimmicks and think twice about doing business with those companies and brands.

Before continuing my rant against gimmicks, let me acknowledge something important: sometimes gimmicks drive results. And because they can work, they deserve a place in the marketing toolbox.

Unfortunately, too many of us marketers lack the discipline to reserve gimmicks for the rare occasions when they might be effective. They are such a large part of marketing folklore that they overshadow the important long term efforts behind building sustainable brands and companies. As a result, I council my clients to take gimmicks out of the everyday toolbox and put them in the dark and dank storage room of once-in-a-blue-moon tactics.

Protect Your Brand from Marketing Gimmicks

Here’s why gimmicks can hurt more then help:

  • Gimmicks place tactical expedience ahead of strategic advantage. The products you worked hard to build over many months, that solve real problems, that create business value are trumped by the output of a 20 minute conference room brainstorm.
  • Gimmicks attract the wrong kind of attention. Instead of demonstrating that your product has value, they showcase that you are willing to make your sales team dress up in an egg salad sandwich costume and play “Let’s Make a Deal.” All too often your silly gimmick becomes more memorable than your advantages. And desperation is hardly attractive or persuasive.
  • Gimmicks are unfocused and defocusing. By their nature, gimmicks are loud and attractive. They’ll generate measurable results like new web site visitors or crowded trade show booths. Like a sugar high, the results are short lived without setting you up for medium and long term success. Instead, you would have been better served by focusing on measuring actionable sales opportunities.

In the process of creating something new, it’s crucial to engage customers on multiple fronts. Instead of solely focusing on grabbing attention, channel your marketing expertise into articulating the intrinsic value of your business and positioning yourself as a reliable and trustworthy partner. Unlike short-term marketing gimmicks, these endeavors demand time and dedication, yet they offer enduring value. Incorporating effective SEO strategies into your marketing approach can further amplify the visibility and long-term impact of your business, check the website linked here for more info.

Winning Customer Reference Programs in the Internet Age

Virtually everyone can agree that customer references are critical tools for B2B sales efforts. In my career I’ve headed up numerous customer reference programs, interviewed a number of heroes at customer sites and written a lot of success stories. The sales team could never get enough customer stories.

Did these programs drive sales results? Yes. Were they what the prospective customer wanted? No.

The plain fact is that prospective customers want to hear directly from current customers…without any vendor involvement, filtering, positioning or influence. None. Nada. This is simply because:

  • End users generally trust each other
  • Customers are far less trusting of vendors

Can you earn a prospective customer’s trust while you are selling? Of course.  But that doesn’t change their preference for communicating directly with each other. With social networks and other Web tools, it has never been easier to bypass the vendor when checking references.

Try Peer-to-Peer Customer Reference Programs

Peer to peer conversations between prospects and customers isn’t a problem to solve but a fact to accommodate. Below are best practices for leveraging your installed base to create a winning customer reference program:

  1. Keep publishing success stories on your web site. They are extremely useful for establishing the facts around the business you serve and problems you solve. Accept the limitations of written endorsements and do more.
  2. Embrace transparency. Enable customers and prospects to share their experiences. Affinity groups on social network sites like LinkedIn are a start, but public forums and wikis running on your web site are better for customers, prospects and your brand.
  3. Don’t fret a few negative reviews. Everyone knows that your company and product aren’t perfect. Negative reviews give your prospects a chance to see how your business relates to customers. You may also use the Delighted platform if you want to create free customer surveys.
  4. Keep things lively. Nobody likes to show up to a dead party. Assign a community leader who contributes authoritatively and consistently, and who inspires reciprocity from your customers.
  5. Achieve critical mass. You want to get to the point where there are enough customer “ambassadors” who can and will respond on your behalf.

Points 3, 4 and 5 are very important as a whole. The biggest negative for any peer-based customer reference program is indifference.

A Fresh Look at Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is the one of the most critical macro-level statistics and trends monitored by Web marketers. Simply put, conversion rate is the relationship between two easily measured quantities:

conversion rate formula

Tools like Webtrends, Omniture and Google Analytics simplify the collection and calculation of raw Web traffic and conversion rate. Investment decisions on lead generation campaigns and programs are now based on hard numbers such as conversion rate and program cost.

The easy job for the marketing team is establishing a “natural conversion rate” for your brand, products and company. Just implement an analytics tool, create conversion forms on your site or e-store and measure the results. The harder job, and the true measure of marketing success, is to steadily improve your conversion rate over time.

Improving your conversion rate at the macro level means that you’ve improved your effectiveness in one or more of identifying prospective customers, creating affinity with your brand and changing the individual behavior of Web visitors.


Conversions happen in buyers’ heads and are only measured on your web site. Changing people’s behavior by getting them to consider and purchase a new product is a difficult and worthy marketing task. Think about it: do you give out your email address and name with each and every site you visit? Do you want site owners to contact you after your first visit to the web site?

Improving Conversion Rate: the Real Job of Marketing

Knowing your conversion rate is one thing. Having the skills to improve and optimize conversion rates over time is the real job of marketing. Communicating information of value, establishing trust and persuasion are the critical and harder tasks that require significant attention, deliberation and skill. Without an analytics tool hard-wired to customer brains, skill, experience, artistry and tenacity remain essential marketing skills.

Creating (Healthy) Workplace Conflict

A recent study by Psychometrics Canada of 350 human resources professionals confirms that workplace conflict is ubiquitous. The study reports that the “most common causes of conflict are warring egos and personality clashes (86%), poor leadership (73%), lack of honesty (67%), stress (64%), and clashing values (59%).”

Violations of norms of civility and respect are negative forms of conflict that beg for immediate corrective action. The report suggests that leaders should quickly address toxic behavior by increasing supervision of problem personnel, providing additional clarity about expectations and modeling appropriate behavior. These findings are obvious but not always given sufficient management attention.

Healthy Workplace Conflicts Contributes to Improved Outcomes


Even more interesting was that 87% of survey respondents believe that conflict can lead to positive outcomes such as

  • Better understanding of others
  • Better solutions to problems
  • Improved working relationships
  • Higher performance in teams
  • Increased motivation
  • Major innovations

I can’t agree more. When there is clear evidence to multiple people in the organization that things are off course or sub-optimal, conflict is a powerful tool to focus collective attention on the root cause and inspire improvements. The key is to focus on the evidence and potential solutions, not the personalities or behaviors.

While it’s easy to talk about the benefits of conflict, leading teams to embrace conflict, generate positive outcomes and avoid personal attacks is extremely difficult. The report concludes with several useful techniques for managing conflict such as understanding the situation in detail before acting and remaining positive amidst problems.

Thanks to the team at Psychometrics Canada for it’s insightful research on the beneficial aspects of conflict.

Learning from Tech Companies that Grew in Q4 2008

Despite all the gloomy economic news, there are a handful of companies that grew revenue in Q4 2008. Consumers and businesses are spending money, albeit a little more selectively. Below are a few notable tech companies that got more of their fair share of revenue in Q4 2008 (the third quarter in our ongoing worldwide economic recession):

Q4 2008 Growth
Callidus Software

First off, I want to congratulate these companies for their strategies, operating plans and teamwork that resulted in positive outcomes despite uncertain conditions. In addition to revenue growth, many of these companies created new products and avoided mass layoffs in the past period.

Here are a few statements from the corporate executives (emphasis is mine):

Sybase chairman, CEO, and president John Chen: Sybase’s success “…is the result of judiciously investing in our Unwired Enterprise strategy, together with our ongoing efforts to streamline operations and prudently manage company assets. …I am optimistic in our continued ability to execute well.”

Informatica chairman and CEO Sohaib Abbasi: “Our results…demonstrate the operational discipline of the Informatica team to navigate the economic turmoil. We are well prepared to pursue our strategy and continue to focus on operating income in the quarters to come.”

Callidus Software president and CEO Leslie Stretch: “We entered 2008 with just over 20% of total revenues being of a recurring nature, and we exited the year with almost 40% of total revenues coming from the recurring category. I am also proud of the effort we made to streamline the business and bring operating expenses in line with our profitability goals.

ShoreTel chief executive officer John W. Combs: “ShoreTel continues to build momentum with strong sequential international revenue growth and continued focus on developing innovative solutions that help our customers cut costs without compromising performance.”

VMWare president and chief executive officer Paul Maritz: “We are making solid progress on our three key initiatives to build on our virtualization leadership in the datacenter, the cloud and on the desktop. We are executing on our product roadmap, strengthening our ecosystem of partners, and bolstering our management team – both globally and operationally. VMware is well-prepared for the opportunities and challenges ahead.”

What can we learn from these businesses? A lot. No, I don’t expect these companies to disclose details of any draconian tactics they employed to hit their numbers. But all of the executives are signaling the sources of future success. Some of those signals include my favorite themes: strategic focus, execution excellence and optimism.