LogoSpotting: Sushi Time

Sushi Time LogoThis Prague sushi joint (though originating in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia) has one of my favourite logos of recent years.

So simple (4 vector objects) yet conveying so much. The red sun from the Japanese flag, a plate, chopsticks, a cross section of a maki roll and the hands of a clock. Perfect.

Now I need to find out what came first, the name or the logo.

Learning from Others’ Mistakes

Prague Food Festival took place for the 4th time back in late May of this year. It had been in a number of different locations over the four years and this year it was in arguably the most prestigious – the Royal Gardens of Prague Castle.

The weather co-operated and the sun shone throughout. Many of the city’s top restaurants were there serving tasting-size portions of their best dishes.

All sounds great apart from the fact that the organisers made some basic mistakes that led to much disgruntlement amongst visitors to the festival. As opposed to previous years there was very little in the way of ‘built-in’ furniture for sitting on at the venue. The grass was off limits even for walking on and there were nowhere near enough tables. Nobody thought to co-ordinate with the restaurants leading to lots of places serving very similar dishes. When the whole point of such an event is to try out lots of different things this was a disappointment for many. Other organisational mis-steps were cited, such as requiring advance ticket purchasers to go to one specific entrance, where the queue was longer than for people purchasing on the day, and a lack of toilet facilities. These concerns were all posted on the PFF’s Facebook page (some of them were removed to, a whole other level of fail) along with annoyance at how the prices for dishes had become excessive – though they were little changed from the previous year. The overriding criticism was that the organisers of PFF were only in it for the money and didn’t care about the visitor experience.

Marquees at Prague Food FestivalThis weekend saw the first FoodParade – an alternative to Prague Food Festival, featuring some of the same restaurants as PFF and whole load more from outside the central square mile of the city – up and coming places, or places with strong followings of locals but with a desire to expand their customer base. The festival was located out of the centre of the city but still just as accessible by public transport. As a visitor to both the difference can only be described as like night & day:

  • The odd PFF practice of giving you a set of chromed plastic knife & fork when you enter, that you are supposed to re-use (or find somewhere to wash, incidentally not very easy), gave way to an altogether more sensible ‘metal cutlery available at every stand’ approach.
  • The festival currency, “chefs”, had a conversion rate of 1 chef to 10 crowns, which was printed on each ‘chef’ whereas at PFF, each “grand” was worth 25kc, which you had to remember. A little touch that was aimed to be more transparent about how much dishes were costing you.
  • Tables were conspicuous by their abundance not absence.
  • All the restaurants and food retailers were treating the event as they should – a marketing exercise rather than trying to make out like bandits. Some even gave coupons for money off when you go to their restaurant.
  • The weather forecast on Sunday predicted rain. In anticipation of this the organisers put up marquees and posted pictures of the marquees to their Facebook page so people could visit without worrying about getting rained on while they ate.
  • FoodParade’s Facebook page is full of enthusiastic compliments from visitors, already looking forward to next years.

Without a doubt FoodParade’s organisers saw what was wrong with PFF and have put together an enjoyable event that stands as a true festival of food.

The marketing takeaway?

Keep an eye on what your competitors’ customers are saying in social channels:

  • Watch their Facebook pages (you can subscribe to a Page’s updates as an RSS feed)
  • Create saved Twitter searches
  • Set up Google alerts for their company names or product names + words like review, complaint, feedback.

And of course you’ve already got this kind of monitoring set up for your own brands and products haven’t you?

If you’re going to use QR codes…

QR Code at metro stationPlease don’t make the mistake these people made. That QR code goes to their homepage. Not the product detail page for the camera they’ve clearly spent a lot of money advertising. QR Codes finally give you a metric of success for your offline advertising (whether you use them to compare different placements, or different media types, as long as you’re doing a fair comparison, this data can be incredibly useful). Here’s a quick three point checklist:

Does the QR code get the user to the right page – a landing page that is relevant to the product being advertised?

Have you included tracking variables in the URL (such as Google Analytics utm_medium, utm_source and utm_campaign parameters)?

Are you paying attention to the statistic being generated?

Because otherwise, you’re just perpetuating the same problem of offline advertising of not knowing for sure what works and what doesn’t.

What’s your Groupon Strategy?

Businesses are falling over themselves to get featured on Groupon and its clones.

Prague alone, a city of just over a million people, has a double-digits number of group buying deals sites. I’ve taken the opportunity to buy a number of deals myself from several different sites. The curse of the marketer is to evaluate every experience they have as a customer from the other side. So this is the “here’s how I’d do it” post.

A while back I wrote about the pros and cons of using group buying deals sites as a marketing tactic. Since then there was a very interesting first hand report by the owner of a cafe in Portland, Oregon about her experience running a Groupon promotion and how it nearly put them out of business.

Even if the site you’re looking at working with doesn’t take 50% (or 100% if the deal has a sticker price of less than $10 – yes seriously!!) as Groupon does, you’re looking at drastically reduced revenue, so you’d better do your sums and be trying damn hard to make the deal worth your while long term, because short term it’s very likely to be in the red. If you’re not sure, don’t jump into it because everyone else is, there are plenty of cautionary tales out there. Still set on it? Here’s my take on what a business should do when they run a Groupon…

Be smart about the deal

The last thing you want to do with a deal is lose money or damage your business’s long term viability by attracting bargain hunters that won’t come back or training customers to buy only when there’s a special. Think about what you could offer very carefully. Consider offering something that by its nature is likely to lead to return business. It might not even be part of your regular offering, it could be an introductory class if you teach something or provide a service, restaurants can make their deals exclusive of drinks (usually the highest profit area anyway), or for a special event (tasting evenings perhaps) rather than offer a discount that can be used anytime within three months. Retailers should consider long and hard what they’re offering – half off $50 worth of any goods means you’re left with $10 or so to pay for the product. The best option for retail would be to offer a single product or range of products which normally have enormous margins (maybe talk to the supplier about running the promotion), to make sure they cover their costs, and that they put into action the rest of these suggestions.

Before

  1. Do your sums. I know I’ve said that already but this is the fundamental ‘no money, no business’ part. If you’re losing money on every sale you’re not going to be in business for long. Work out how much you need to make extra from each customer. What extra products or services can you sell? Deals that can only be used one at a time, for a partial amount of a bill give you the best chance of making full ticket price revenue on the rest of the order. Most of all, don’t try and sell more than you can handle. If you’re a service provider (say a fitness instructor) don’t try and sell 3000 hours of your time for a tiny sum, you’ll end up resenting the customers.
  2. Keep it quiet (publicly) – you’re about to run an offer at a dramatically cheaper price, don’t damage your revenues in the days leading up to it by tipping anyone off.
  3. Tell your team. Make sure everyone who works for you is aware (but sworn to secrecy) of the impending deal. Explain the conditions so everyone is clear.
  4. Get a commitment from the site for how long the expired deal will be published for, at a well keyworded URL – but not including your business name. Make sure the links to your site on the page are not nofollowed and if possible, use valuable keywords, not ‘click here’ or ‘website’.
  5. If you can, find out if the site will let you follow up with buyers of the deal by email, and if you can identify redeemed and unredeemed deals.

On the day

  1. Tell your network – tweet it, post it on your Facebook wall, your blog and website. Consider emailing it to your list. You might think this contradicts point 2 above, and goes against the whole ‘group buying deals are about getting new customers’ line but as Joseph Jaffe teaches us in Flip The Funnel, your existing customers deserve to be treated at least as well as new customers. If you don’t tell your existing customers it’s like you’re hiding it from them. And hiding the truth is like lying, and lying is bad (see, I learnt everything I needed to know about marketing in kindergarten). Plus if you’re running this offer, you want it to ‘tip’ (become valid) and you want it to spread. Your existing customers are the most likely to share the deal with friends because they already know you.
  2. Be staffed well enough to handle the enquiries. Even if the deal doesn’t start till the next day, expect phone calls, emails and personal visits.

When the deal is being redeemed

  1. Schedule demand, if you can – if you’re a service provider, try and spread out the bookings so that you can be available for full-price paying clients.
  2. Stand by the conditions, but don’t be a stickler – in the story of the cafe owner, she was prompted to write the blog post to tell her story because she refused a longtime customer’s Groupon because it had expired. It would take a really understanding customer not to feel mistreated. Most customers aren’t. Saying ‘we have to stick by the rules because other people took advantage’ doesn’t cut it. The cafe had received the money (what little there was) from that customer’s Groupon, expired or not.
  3. Get something out of the interaction – assuming most of the buyers of the deal are new to your business, take the opportunity to grow your email list (tag it if you can, that information is going to be useful), Twitter followers or likes on Facebook. Print up some fliers to hand people when they present their deal coupon – taking a ‘what next’ approach. Suggest places they can write reviews, or connect with you further. Consider that these are value-conscious consumers and for many any loyalty they have is to the deal site, but if there’s something you can do to capture future business, now’s your chance. Have a loyalty programme? Tell them about it. High-tech with plastic cards? Give them a form to fill. Low-tech with paper cards and stamps for each visit? Hand them their card with the first stamp on.

After the deal has expired

  1. Go for the final squeeze – if you segmented your mailing list with new signups from the deal now is a perfect time to go for a final squeeze – what action would you like these people to take? Remember this group aren’t quite like your organically grown list of existing customers, so tailor the ask to that. If the deal site allow it, write to deal buyers through them.
  2. Measure – if you planned well, you had metrics that you would judge against. Now’s the time to do that – take the scores for whatever you were pushing for – revenue? Facebook likes? Email signups? Repeat visits?
  3. Evaluate – take the numbers from the last step – did it make sense for you to do it? What could have been done better? What did you learn? Would you do it again?

I’m pretty sure I’ve missed several nuances. If you agree, let me know in the comments.

Update: If you want to run the numbers, I recommend downloading the Groupon profitability spreadsheet helpfully prepared by Rags Srinivasan.

Image credit: NCReedPlayer

Make your customers look good

Here in the Czech Republic it’s a long weekend. And by long I mean very long; there are two bank holidays, on Monday and Tuesday.
It seems like the whole city’s shutting up shop right now (Friday afternoon) and heading out of town but not everyone will be able to get out of the city for the 4 day weekend.
My gym has taken the opportunity to offer an “Open Holiday” to members’ friends. From Saturday through Tuesday you can take a friend who is also stuck in the city to the gym with you, free of charge. Fact is their 4 gyms will be deserted over these 4 days anyway, why not give members the opportunity to share their gym with friends. Maybe those friends will like it enough to join up too.

Action Item

What can you do in your business, at minimal marginal cost, to encourage trial by flipping the funnel and have your existing customers help out with your acquisition and allow them to give something to their friends too?

Think Guerilla

Last weekend, with beautiful blue skies overhead, I went to the Prague Food Festival held in the gardens below the castle.

It seems I mistimed my visit however. The Festival’s version of crowd control was to close the gates for up to 2 hours at a time. They’d used this tactic before, last year, too. Imagine what an opportunity 200 hungry foodies standing in a line represents to build good-will (or even earn money) for an enterprising restaurant with some spare capacity.

Whenever there’s an event taking place on your turf, don’t just think you’re limited to playing by the organiser’s rules and spending money on buying a stand, stall or what have you. Some of the most memorable advertising around world sporting events has been by non-sponsors – freed from paying out vast sums to the event organisers, more budget can be directed to the creative and the media buy. We’ll be seeing the same again for the World Cup in South Africa. So-called ambush marketing is the big brands’ advertising version of guerilla marketing. If you’re a small business marketer, try thinking guerilla.

Banding Together

Is your local retail business going well? Some of your (not ‘really competing’) neighbours doing worse?

I wrote a piece last year about why you might want to help out those who you might consider competitors. I’ve just seen first hand what can happen when a company’s neighbour goes out of business: a much more serious competitor can move in.

My local sandwich shop, a small independently owned business has been serving baguettes, salads and paninis for over 5 years. Later this month a sandwich-shop chain is opening up in place of a cafe, just three doors away. They should have them beaten on price, unless the new shop gets aggressive and goes after their loyal customer base of office workers from around the area. As it stands they’ll attract business just on the basis of curiosity.

Now is the time for the little guy to raise their game, whether they broaden the menu, encourage loyalty (the chain already has a loyalty discount card) and raise their service level: offer delivery, take pre-orders – all the things the chain isn’t willing to do.

If that situation sounds familiar to you, now might be a good time to reach out to them and work on some co-marketing efforts – banding together to ward off a bigger threat.

Image credit: Chiceaux via Creative Commons on Flickr

Who needs social media when you’re too busy being awesome?

fiber optic cableCatching up on some blogs this weekend, I found this post about Comcast’s usage of Twitter by Lisa Barone over at Outspoken Media.

Not living in the US I don’t have the opportunity to try Comcast’s service. My overall opinion of the way Comcast use Twitter is that it’s great for the people who get help that way, though it creates a two-tier support system – people savvy enough to turn to @comcastcares get ‘premium hotline’ support. Those who aren’t so connected (if your internet connection is out, you’re probably using your iPhone) are subjected to phone trees and hold music. If the team that use Twitter in some way can generalise problems and drive organisational improvements then I can see the up-side. Otherwise @comcastcares is just an insiders’ priority support channel.

Anyway, to my point. I’ve been in the Czech Republic since 2001. Over that time I’ve used numerous internet providers (cable, ADSL, Wi-Fi), but the one that’s always my first choice if it’s available (a few years ago we even paid to have a building wired up) is UPC‘s cable internet service.

Every year since I moved here their offerings have got faster, when their infrastructure could take it, or cheaper. They’ve driven a stake through the ADSL internet provision business of Telefonica O2 (previously Czech Telecom) by always beating them on price AND quality of service. They were the first ISP here to get rid of FUP limits. They don’t have blanket coverage of the city yet but where they offer service, you’d be crazy to go with anyone else.

UPC don’t do Twitter, getting support from them involves calling in, or filling in an online form, though as it’s impossible to outsource a Czech-language call centre any further abroad than Slovakia, UPC handle support internally. If you have a problem that they identify as a physical fault they have an engineer out the next working day. If you want an install, lead time in my experience has been 2-3 days. When I moved apartment a couple of months back we had internet the day after we moved in.

Business customers (the people paying a fair sum for 100Mb upstream/10Mb downstream connections) get priority support but there’s no way to queue-jump just by using a different support channel – everybody gets the same efficient service.

If UPC asked me what they could improve, I’d be at a loss for an answer.

If your service is awesome you don’t need to apply a band-aid.

Image credit: Stavros G. via Creative Commons on Flickr

Price Discrimination in the clear

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There’s something about this ad that strikes me as just plain wrong.

It’s a billboard at Prague airport, in English, offering up to 49% off local Czech prices if you’re in the military, a diplomat or just an expat working abroad. Quite how your average Czech Volvo customer feels about what appears to be some pretty extreme price discrimination I couldn’t say. Wouldn’t amuse me much though.

Here’s the tip: if you’re putting something in small type because you think it might offend some people, perhaps it’s time for a rethink.