Customer Service / Online Marketing – One Rock at a Time

How to move mountains – eCommerce & eMarketing strategy for success!

I just came across the term “Internaut” and thought it so encapsulates the pioneers of online information technology and exploration that it should be a more standardly used buzz word (in fact I’m mandating it’s use from now on).

The suffix naut originates from the Greek language. It is a derivation of the Greek term nautes which means sailor when translated into English as in nautical. Thus this word is used in connection with the act of sailing. An astronaut is thus a person who sails space and a cosmonaut is a person who is the sailor of the cosmos. Thus this suffix is a term that is closely related to travel. attributed

What else epitomizes the spirit of discovery and innovation more than ‘sailors in space’ (in this case cyberspace)?

Word of the week: Internaut

“Daddy?” Big 8-year old brown eyes accompany an innocent question, “What did you do before the Internet?”

How do you answer such a straight forward question?

Personally I lived, breathed, worked and generally did most of what I do now, with one big difference… far more of my day 15 years ago was spent in research; library, dictionary, newspapers, books, the Yellow Pages – mediums and information resources that I used on a daily basis in the early 90’s at the Agency where I worked have become relics as the Internet – with Google leading the charge – replaces most ‘non digital’ ways of research.

For those with internet-savvy children, try explaining why it’s better to use a paper dictionary to look up a word as opposed to where the word is pronounced for you, and one click away from synonyms, rhymes, etc.


Another key difference between then and now is where the availability of information is found.

Whereas research in the ‘old days’ meant a trip to the library, a meeting / event or being tied to your desk flipping through books or catalogs, the availability of portable handhelds or kiosk devices in many different venues gives research more of a relevance to location, situation and need. e.g. we were discussing Greek Gods at dinner last night and could instantly search for and review a website on an iPhone to compare Greek vs Roman gods (who knew that Cupid was actually a god!)

This kind of relevance to purpose at the point of need means capable users can research quicker and in more depth to gain information and opinion that much easier, with far less expertise than days of yore.

So when my son asks me again, “Dad, what did you do before the Internet?”, I’ll probably answer;

“Hold on a minute, son… I’ll have to look that up on Google!”

In planning any web presence, a lot of focus goes on design, technology and usability (we hope!)

In pulling together a proposal for a prospective client this week the only thing that appeared to be missing from their plan was the actual content for the site!!

In many projects I’ve been asked to take over, often, a ‘cart before the horse’ approach has left a website structure and platform waiting for the actual, final content (or a rewrite of content in hand because the realization is that it won’t work as is.)

Whoa there partner!!

Content (as mentioned) is king! Content is such an integral part of most development that it can (and does) drive site maps, wireframes, page layouts and even the resources needed to maintain and serve the site.

One of the first items on any development agenda is a cataloging of available content, identification of necessary content, review of content management options and discussion of a content acquisition strategy (all of which can affect timelines and deliverables.)

If you want to ensure timely delivery and less headache in web project management, ask the right question(s) at the outset.

Specifically you can take some poetic license with the Burger King classic commercial and ask “Where’s the content?”

For those fans of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy the answer to the “ultimate question of life, the universe and everything” is finally revealed as being 42, which begins the much more time-consuming task of finding the question!

Recently, many businesses I’ve consulted with appear to face the same predicament. They have arrived at the answer – “success is online”, without having a firm grasp of the question, justification, process, or support needed to make it a profitable, practical or sustainable reality.

Grantism #89 – Answers are easy. Question everything. Including this.


I am the most important person in the world!

At least I should be to any business where I spend a buck. I am a customer and I should be treated as if their business depends upon my satisfaction because ultimately, it does!

So here I am in a particular today and nature calls. Actually nature yells and I answer her with a quick trot to the mens room. (Note, this is probably too much information, but I’m painting a vivid picture, I hope.)

This particular establishment perhaps encourage dalliance with advertising and marketing posters in the little boys room (great brand association??), and after skimming over their messages I reach out and gingerly feel the bathroom tissue. With my eyes closed, it could be mistaken for medium sandpaper and, after a quick shudder, it got me thinking about what this roll of one-ply brand messaging says about customer appreciation and service.

I won’t bore you with the details of what happened next but afterwards, at home, I looked up the relative cost of one-ply vs two-ply bulk purchase;

one-ply = 0.114c per sheet

two-ply = 0.144c per sheet


Doing the math… net 0.03c per sheet savings by using the one-ply variety.

Let’s say this equates to an approximate net savings of 2-3 cents per customer per “visit”

Net pain in the butt (figuratively) experience for customer, a helluva lot more.

I’m certain an accountant somewhere is adding up these pennies and rubbing their hands gleefully, but at what price?

When I spend a penny at a place when I spend my bucks, I’d like to be treated like royalty from top to bottom (pun intended) and at every customer touch point (still going with the puns).

Before you attempt to save pennies with one-ply customer service, think of the net effect and spend the extra time, energy and possibly money to deliver a two-ply experience.

Customers appreciate the little ‘extras’, and that’s sure to help your bottom line! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist it!)

A few years ago, I presented a series of workshops that hoped to educate and entertain called “What’s your problem?”

The ultimate goal was to get business owners to look at their business goods or services and match them up with their clients’ and prospects’ problems, and answer the question; “Why the hell would I want to buy your product or service X if it doesn’t solve my problem Y?”

More often or not businesses approach their product development, offerings and marketing around features and benefits – one necessary component of marketing – rather than look at customer issues, and the potential to solve them, as core marketing strategy.

With online business opportunities, this becomes even more relevant as prospects are often searching specifically for their problem or a solution to their problem:

“Hair salon Las Vegas” “Watch repair New York” “Cheap wedding coordinator San Diego”

For businesses online, the opportunity is obvious. By optimizing their efforts to specific problems, issues and specialties (and keyword research to see if these are areas of need) online marketing becomes less of an eProblem and more of business funnel of targeted customers who found you!

So when people ask you “What’s your problem?”, tell ‘em, then focus on providing your eSolution!

Heard of the phrase / advice / direction “Don’t reinvent the wheel”?

I agree most of the time, especially when it concerns time and cost (and money you – or the clients – don’t have). But what’s wrong with thinking out of the box and reinventing a wheel every now and then?

Nothing. It’s called innovation. Reinvent… reinnovate something today.

I’d like to apologize in advance for the deception in the title. Even though Plymouth, MN comes close (it just won best place to live in America)  there is no ‘perfect’ community either on or offline. But there are certain similarities in almost perfect communities that contribute to their success that we can look at as components to include in our “community building for success 101” projects 🙂

The Cornerstones of Community Building

#1 Empowerment

The community is the people and the people are the community. A community must give citizens the ability to define how the community operates and evolves.

#2 Relevance

The community must attract citizens by providing interest and an environment of relevance to their own needs. A community must be unique for them, yet allow many of the same to feel uniqueness through personalization and adaption.

#3 Discovery

The community must allow people to explore, discover and connect with each other, and themselves, through identification and leveraging of similarities, differences, interests and human nature.

#4 Participation

The community must illicit, encourage and support involvement so that citizens understand that they are the integral part of the community, the “raison d’etre” for the community’s existence, and to realize that without their participation the community potentially withers and dies.

Looking to build the next Facebook or LinkedIn?

Integrating these four components may not guarantee 5 million users overnight (you’ll have to invade a small country for that!), but they will lay a solid foundation for community building and increase your chances of success.

Welcome thoughts and comments!

It doesn’t matter how simple a project appears to be, it’s always the small things that can potentially end up disrupting the flow and impacting the final timeline, deliverables and success.

Before I start on any project, whether it’s a six-figure branding event or a digital marketing campaign for a local organization, I grab a note pad and write down everything that can potentially go wrong, then back track to what may cause the meltdown and finalize a list of those “little things” I never would have thought of otherwise.

Grantism #88 : By anticipating failure, one can avoid it.

First, apologies to diamond lovers everywhere.

A recent engagement as VP of Global eCommerce at a company with ‘diamond’ in it’s name had me looking for an easy way to describe the roles and goals of the department whilst tying into the name and brand of the company.

For those in the know, the traditional 4 c’s of consumer evaluation of diamonds are:

• color
• carat
• cut
• clarity

and a few “we want to be different” folks have thrown in a fifth, either cost, confidence, corrupt etc.

So… without further ado, I present

The 6 C’s of eCommerce clarity!
Digital marketing efforts should introduce, improve or enhance:

• Connectivity
• Community
• Collaboration
• Commerce
• Credibility
• Competitive advantage

Different projects / clients have different needs, so there’s a sliding scale on priorities / order of the above, plus overlap in some cases… but I’ve found that measuring against these goals leads to great results!

—Have anymore c’s to add to the mix?

I admit it. I’m a victim (or rather my wife is)

This summer we bought my 8 year old son a back pack for the new school he’s attending.

It’s not his first school so we bought him a cool Jansport backpack with army motif and straps that look like they’d support a Sherman Tank (should he every need to lug one of those to school.)

Day 1: Wife arrives at new school and is amazed by sea of colorful and multihued wheeling backpacks from Zuca. Heard of these guys? Maybe I’m not “hip”, “cool”, or “with it” (my kids say I’m not anyway), but I had never seen or heard of this brand until my wife comes home that day.

Wife “ALL the kids have these Zuca bags, they wheel them around, they’re cool, our son should be cool, he needs to have one too, I don’t want him to feel left out”

Me “How much”

Wife “Well they’re kind of expensive, they’re used for ice hockey and stuff”

Me “We live in Las Vegas, I doubt if ice hockey is going to be a popular outdoor sport this winter, does he really need a bag to carry ice skates? How much?”

Wife “Well they start at $150”

Me I have fainted.

Day 2: I take my son to school and trip over about 350 Zuca bags like a minefield of multi-rainbow cubes

I ask a parent if the bags are practical and worth mortgaging the house to buy.

Random parent “Well everyone has them” 

Day 3: Pick my son up from school

Son “Dad, can I have a Zuca? Can I? Can I? Can I?”

This “Can I?” tirade continues relentlessly on the 3 minute walk to the car, that actually takes about 5 mins because I trip over 3 Zucas on the way.

Day 4: Wife comes home with Zuca and lighter wallet.

Day 5: My son beams as he drags a colorful cube with a handle to school, struggling to pull it up the curb, with the little LED lights flashing with every roll.

It’s so nice to see my 8 year old grow up into an easily influenced consumer. Makes a marketer happy to know we can catch them earlier and earlier.

What does this mean to you?: Have a product aimed at pre tweens? Give it away to 10 and see if another 90 (or nine thousand) coming knocking at your door… the viral power of youthful youth is more infectious than a sniffle at recess.

“If I had a million dollars for every time…” – sound familiar?

I’ve had the privilege to work with very smart people, in clients, colleagues and folks that snuck in the back whilst I wasn’t looking. Often in brainstorming sessions or over a cuppa, someone says something that leaves mouths agape and eyes wide open. You can almost hear the cogs of brains turning.

It’s the “million dollar idea!”

As this has happened to me, occasionally when I’ve been consulting with multi-million dollar clients, I woke last night wondering what the true value of these flash of genius might be.

Early this morning I wrote on the note pad I keep beside the bed (a pad of million dollar ideas folks!);

“A million dollar idea is worthless or priceless”

Before my avid readers tune out with confusion, let me explain.

Million dollar ideas have zero value if not acted upon, but purely by bringing them to light there is inherent value (I hope so, because clients keep paying me to come up with them!)

By the same token, a million dollar idea could be worth multiple millions if realized, nurtured, guided and given the resources, opportunity and sometimes necessary luck to grow.

For all those folks out there with an ‘ah ha’ moment, write it down, look at it two days later, and see if you can pull together the 3Ts: time, tools and talent to make it happen.

As for my next million dollar idea? Screen hoods for Toyota Prius navigation / info panel.

Anyone with the 3T’s, I only want 5% of net sales, now that would be a million dollar idea I can take to the bank


At the risk of repeating myself, the world is full of followers (not the Twitter kind)
Following has little risk, and less of a chance of higher returns.
It never ceases to amaze me the amount of businesses who look to their competition for solutions as opposed to looking for solutions unique to themselves.
Grantism #87 “Only by being different will you stand out. Only by standing out will you succeed.”

It still amazes me that some companies (large and small) don’t have a consistent and cohesive online strategy for attracting and / or informing prospects and clients.

Would you give someone a blank business card? (Might be making a point if you do!)

Often when I’m researching a company, concept or idea I discover a URL that is essentially bereft of any signs of life (Monty Python sketch springs to mind). I am stunned in this connected era that someone at the company involved hasn’t looked at some kind of website that will at a bare minimum let a visitor know a little about the company they’ve found. At bare bare minimum, put a contact number or email address. At bare bare bare minimum put your company logo there with one sentence about what you do.

It may not be the “consistent and cohesive online strategy” I alluded to, but neither is marketing effective when you give out blank business cards (though I did do exactly that at a meeting once to make a point!!)

For those of you “hiding” out there… get something in place for your (possible) visitors (TODAY please!)

Serious today, and rightfully so.

It’s been 7 years since that day and I believe people are forgetting.

It’s my parental responsibility and social duty to remind everyone today, especially my kids who are too young to remember, that we should never forget what happened 9/11/01

My recommendation? Every year we should add one minute to our respectful observance of over 3000 innocent people who died that day.

I took my 7 minutes out today to remember. Will you?

My world is not flat, your world is not flat, and I’m certain based on the speeches I’ve heard over the past two weeks neither Obama or McCain is part of the flat earth society.

So why do clients want to focus on one aspect of online marketing – SEO - when there are so many other effective methods and madness to promoting an online presence for success?

A quick wake up to these folks… when promoting an offline business do you try one thing e.g. a postcard campaign, then sit back and wait for the clients to come rolling in? Maybe some folks do, but a multipronged attack is always better because:

a) I like saying “multipronged” 😉

b) you may not reach all of your desired demographics with one medium or concept

c) prospects are fickle and you need to touch them in different ways (nicely)

d) my mum told me not to put all my eggs in one basket (and your mum probably told you the same thing!)

There are many ways to drive traffic (qualified, focused traffic) to a website, relying just on one method doesn’t leave much room for error, and certainly doesn’t guarantee a higher possiblility for success.

Listen to your mum, won’t you?

Yep.. I’m stating the obvious, but I just got off a 2 hour conference call that had me tearing my hair out. Why? (grasshopper, are you back in town?). Because the most simple of issues were handled like the future of mankind depended on the right answer – when there was no ‘right answer’.

The whole point (pun intended) of “One Rock at a Time” is that everything is inherently simple, at least if you break it down into logical elements. A pricing model can depend on marketplace, consumer buying patterns, availability, uniqueness, brand awareness etc. Packaging may depend on the item, shelf considerations, FDA requirements etc. Each can be addressed to create a full picture of strategy and necessity. Nowhere does it mention, in any book I’ve read, that one needs to solve the big problem without solving the little problems. It would be like trying to build a house without having a supplier of bricks or wood identified.

One of the biggest mistakes I observe is macro-management of big project issues with ignorance of the foundation that supports the project itself. In a nutshell, time spent on groundwork and research pays off in the long term with better outcomes.

A “One Rock at a Time” approach can move the project mountain. Patience grasshopper.

Or ernest.

A friend and old client of mine is seeking riches (who isn’t!).

He’s in a rock band of celebrities (he’s not a celebrity BTW) and is glad when a little of their fame rubs off to get him some PR for his business.

So is that important? The old adage any press is good press obviously doesn’t always hold true (talk to Enron), but for a small business where knowledge is the main product the “Guru Effect” is often the only differentiator between landing a project and the “Dear John” letter some companies seem obliged to send out – please, don’t get me started on that, if you’re not going to give me the business, at least have the common decency to call me in person.

Being perceived as a Guru, the “all knowing sage” of your specialty, certainly helps so any press that can underscore that point also helps.

A little thought of ‘bonus’ in this age of connectivity and Internet, is that often these articles also end up online and spidered by the search engines. articles, press releases and/or forum posts all help in helping people find you, and with eleventy billion (thanks Lee) searches a day, someone is looking for you and what you do, so make the most of it.

Being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but if it adds to the bottom line, count me in!

I was talking to a successful friend of mine today who was inferring that to be successful in business all one has to do is deliver perfection, (or better than anyone else) on time.

I agree to an extent, this is, after all a brand promise – “We deliver great product, within your timeframe” – a great brand promise that if achieved should keep customers happy.

I hear Grasshopper in the back saying “but what about price, isn’t that important too?” – sure, but price (in the ideal world for the businessman) should never be a deciding factor – note, I said in an ideal business world.

Now we come to my slant, and it has nothing to do with price. A good brand promise means nothing without good brand marketing. And good brand marketing is nothing without good brand comparison.

Grasshopper: “What do you mean? And are you saying price doesn’t matter?” – Author {Grasshopper has been known to have a one track mind!}

First, a brand promise is all about positioning, and postioning is all about finding out where you fit in the marketplace, and finding that fit is about identifying & exploiting your strengths or differentiating your competitors weaknesses. And that’s brand comparison. Phew, glad that’s out. And price is one of those comparisons, but not the only, or most important. If it were, what car do you think everyone would be driving? That’s right… Hyundai. (Or one of those little Chinese things that is made the same size as a coffin on purpose – especially on Los Angeles Freeways).

So my contention is, getting back to the premise of this piece, is that “Delivering perfect product, on time” is for naught if that is not communicated effectively or is not different (or different enough) from anything that the competition is doing or delivering. (In the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king!)

Grasshopper rolls over in confused daze, “So it’s not about price?”

No Grasshopper, and BTW your Geely is double-parked.

For a ‘marketeer’ nothing feels so good as when the result exceeds the clients’ expectations.
A client of Simmonet called me this week and said a big thank you for turning around his company from two years wallowing in the ‘marketing mud’ to a renewed brand and message that has thus far closed a number of meetings with key clients.

For any company that relies on results to prove the point, and for referrals to fuel the pipeline, this kind of non solicited “thanks” is just what the Doctor ordered. For those grass hoppers out there, remember that a phone thanks makes you feel good, but getting a testimonial on your website, in your literature and in writing (and actually asking for referrals) goes a lot further in self marketing to new and existing clients.

I’m smiling 🙂