Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top 10 of the Top 10 Lists

10. Ten Most Beautiful Social Networks- Stan Schroeder of Mashable

9. Top 10 Most Annoying Things About Facebook- Andrea Grimes of

8. Top 10 Mobile Marketing Campaign- Eric Wheeler and Gene Keenan from the Mobile Marketing Forum

7. Top 12 Tech Embarrassments in 2008 (because 10 just ain’t gonna cut it)- JR Raphael of

6. Ten Marketing Lessons from the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign- David Meerman Scott

5. Top 10 Signs That Your Online Marketing Has Hit the Wall- Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends

4. YouTube’s Best of 2006- The Huffington Post

3. Top 10 TV Ads: Time

2 . The Year in Tweets: 10 Most Memorable Twitter Moments of 2008- Doriano "Paisano" Carta of

1. Top 10 Viral Videos- Time

Monday, December 29, 2008

Saving Face: Online Reputation Monitoring

Admit it--you’ve googled yourself. The results were probably things you expected: some of your social networking profiles and things you published in the past, as well as links to someone fortunate enough to have the same name as you. But what if you did a search (of yourself or your company) and the results horrified you? And no, we’re not talking someone posting an embarrassing story about your teenage indiscretions. While that is enough to upset some, it can get much, much worse. An enraged former customer could launch a hate-filled campaign via a blog, a fired former employee could leak company secrets thanks to the relative anonymity of cyberspace… the possibilities can be enough to keep you awake at night. Before we make you paranoid, know this: there are steps you can take to protect your online reputation. And while you cannot do away with anyone’s right to post his opinions, you can handle such situations with dignity and care.

A quick google search of JB Chicago bring up the usual: our home site and our Linked In, Facebook, Behance, blogspot, Elance and MySpace profiles come up on the first page. Further pages have links to testimonials on our site and press releases, but so far, it appears we are in the clear. But there are many more ways to check what other are saying about you—and checking them is highly important if you care about your online image. The following are some of the best, based on the blog post titled “5 Free Tools for Personal Reputation Management” by Dan Schawbel (find it at

1) Subscribe for this service via e-mail or RSS, and updates about you or your company can be sent directly to your inbox.

2) This site, according to Schwarbel, is the “largest blog search engine in the world.” It can track any blog that links up to yours and send you RSS updates when someone is talking about your company.
3) If searching for your company amidst blog comments is your concern, this is your site.

4) Discussion boards are a go-to to people looking to vent—and have others share their similar experiences. Get an instant update if you and yours are mentioned.

5) The URL says it all: Use this to search for any tweets related to your business.

If a real-life example is what you need to make this hit home, take a look at one of the most entertaining companies of our time: Cirque Du Soleil. A powerhouse known for its innovative and visually stunning performances, it caught major flack when promoting Criss Angel’s “Believe” show. Though what crowds said was not slanderous or vengeful (for the most part), it could not be left alone. Granted, Criss & Co. were still working out kinks before it debuted in Vegas, but the majority of those who attended the performances were highly disappointed. According to an article by Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Doug Elfman, titled “Angel's 'Believe' Magic: Miffed Fans Disappear,” it was called a “waste of time,” a “dead end” and “appalling.” Cirque fans took to blogs, blasting the show and Cirque’s affiliation with it, and harsh feedback poured in throughout numerous outlets.

The company’s social media manager, Jessica Berlin, addressed this issue at this year’s PubCon conference in Las Vegas. She said some people felt they had “strayed from their core values,” and a charge like that was not something her company could overlook. They hired a social media marketing agency, which helped refocus the public’s attention as well as emphasize the fact the show was still in preview mode. Cirque Du Soleil also began to monitor some of the aforementioned “image-monitoring sites”—plus more.

In an effort to turn things around, they increased their activity on social networking sites. Blogging and releasing info via networking sites was encouraged for employees, which allowed the company to make their company seem more personal. Berlin says this helped them build a community by allowing others to provide comments and suggestions.

And while Cirque critics and advocates alike were providing feedback, Cirque was forthright in providing some info as well. Select bloggers were given access to company news, then encouraged to share it. So instead of fearing what was going to be written, Cirque realized since they cannot control public opinion, they CAN make sure bloggers and journalists alike have info to work with—info that came straight from the horse’s mouth.

This entertainment company is one example of how surviving and learning from a bad experience can create something great. Berlin said the company now strives for a sense of transparency because customers appreciate honesty—and the better the clients/customer relationship, the smoother things go when a crisis does hit. She also emphasized the fact that listening is a huge part of gaining this transparency, because the public opinion truly can make or break a company.

So use the above tools to monitor public opinion of your company. If someone has a problem, instead of simply taking offense and dwelling on negative comments, address them—and take the criticism for what it’s worth: a chance to grow and learn. And above all, see social networking (and the tools to measure and monitor it) as an opportunity to build trust and gain helpful insight into the way things are really going—then make changes accordingly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The P's and Q's of Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking, social networking, social submission: these terms are on the lips of anyone looking to build a community—and as a result, their business—online. The number of sites is growing every day as various niche sites arise, and their various uses are worth looking into. Whether you want to bookmark your favorite sites; see what others marketing-minded folk are viewing; add your own site to the mix; or any combination of the three, these sites are extremely cost-effective ways to showcase your prowess of your company. The following are some of the sites we feel are the most promising: This bookmarking site allows its users to save all their bookmarks online. It also allows them to share them with others in the community as well as see what others are bookmarking. will recommend new sites users might like, as well as the most popular. Users apply tags to the sites, which help when trying to find, share or categorize. It’s great for work-related info because you can access the sites from anywhere using your login info, and there is an ability to set some as private (i.e. client-related sites).

StumbleUpon: Users choose their interests (cooking, business, advertising, etc.) from a list, install the StumbleUpon toolbar and then a click of the “stumble” button takes them to a site they might like. Users also click a button to say whether or not they like the site, and StumbleUpon keeps track of the sites you think are worth seeing again.
Don’t use this site for bookmarking reasons, as organizing info can be better served elsewhere. Take advantage of the networking aspect—it comes into play because others can access your favorite sites by viewing your profile. Add sites you come across, tag them appropriately and others will see those as well—so make your presence known on the site and others will be more inclined to check out your faves.

Digg: One hundred percent of the news articles, videos, images, etc. on Digg are submitted by the community. Once something is submitted, other people see it and digg what they like best. If your submission receives enough diggs, it is promoted to the home page of its category—or even the front page.

Users can customize their home page and see only stories they would be interested in. However, there is no bookmarking capability to organize info, and no way to keep information private. You do not add tags; the site keeps track of your history and recent history, which is public record. This is another site that’s great for shameless self promotion.

Reddit: Much like Digg, this site aims to place what’s up and coming in front if its subscribers. Basically, users customize what they’re interested in. According to the site, those votes “train a filter,” so users only see things they might like. (You determine what shows on your front page by saying if things are “hot” or “cold.”) Also, Reddit has no advertising, which some people prefer.

Yahoo Buzz: The site, much like its name suggests, gets popular topics from searches Yahoo searches. Then it displays the most popular stories within those topics based on activities like voting (either “buzz up” or “buzz down”) and the number of stories e-mailed to friends. People can then comment on those stories, and the most “buzzed up” stories might end up on Yahoo’s home page.

According to the Yahoo Buzz FAQs, it’s different from StumbleUpon, reddit, etc. because the rankings “also take into account things like trends in search queries on Yahoo Search, the number of comments left on Buzz, and the number of times that content is shared with friends over e-mail from Buzz.”

Yes, the options can be overwhelming, but the good news is, there is no harm in choosing too many. The majority of these sites have the same purpose: to expose you to new material, which you then get to deem worthy (or not) of your attention. And you get to add to that new info, which means increasing your viewing audience exponentially. Add new content on a weekly basis (at least), and make sure it is nowhere near run of the mill—posted information that is seen as “cold” or not “dug” fades quickly. In a perfect world everyone would love your company info, but patience is key—as is participation. Making a name for yourself and establishing a good (i.e. not pushy or ego driven) reputation are two of the first steps. From there, it’s important to stay involved.

Network by checking out other’s favorites, and offer relevant comments whenever applicable. And be sure to check out submission tools such as Social Poster and Post Toaster, which allow you to upload your material to many sites at once. The odds of your material reigning supreme on any given site might be low, but just like mom always said, you never know unless you try—so get out there and explore.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rethinking the RFP

This is the time of year when people are rethinking their habits. It’s a time to reflect and improve—heck, you can even refashion what it means to be you. Whether it’s actually using that dusty gym membership, resolving to be more proactive or challenging yourself to become a model citizen in all facets of the word, the new year is full of hope and promise. But one change you might think about adding to your list is one that has yet uncharted potential, and it involves a fairly rudimentary practice within the marketing world: request for proposals (RFPs).
Intrigued? So were we. There is a small wave gaining momentum, and it requires taking a look at the supposedly tried and true RFPs. Some companies have found that upon examination, this systematic approach just might not be the best way to go. We all know the drill: company X outlines what it wants included in a proposal, and company Z does whatever it can to meet the requirements within the given price point. However, company Z is competing with others to provide the best options with the lowest prices. A winner is chosen and a contract is signed, then the process continues.
Some companies choose to veer off the path a little. We here at JB Chicago have sometimes opted to take a risk by coming back to company X and saying, “You know, we think we have a better way to do this.” Is it risky? Yes. Does it pay off? Sometimes. But does it allow for more creativity from the marketing end? Definitely.
However, this is not the aforementioned “wave.” A case study in October’s Marketing News (“Stop the RFP Madness” by Jeff Borden) highlighted how one advertising and communications agency, Fletcher Martin, is no longer seeking out RFPs. Instead, the Atlanta-based company now charges fees based on whether or not their firm delivers. This change was made after staff members realized none of what they felt were their best recommendations within the past 10 years were even put to use. Their new model now means clients pay Fletcher Martin to complete basic strategic summaries and assessments, during which they have full access to all employees, customers, research, etc. If they like what they see initially they can purchase the campaign, and fees are then based on the results.
Admittedly, this approach is not without its downsides. It can be intimidating and unfamiliar to those who see no problem with RFPs. And it also limits the number of potential clients Fletcher Martin can sell because, according to President Andy Fletcher, “Our assumption is that we’re not the right agency.” Time and research are essential before a right fit can be determined, but in once it is, the aftermath plays out fairly for both the agency and its client.
That perfect fit can make all the difference. When you boil it down, doesn’t every agency long to do what it’s great at—and doesn’t it pay off for everyone in the end? A speech by Blair Enns, delivered to the Annual Congress of the Bureau of European Design Agencies in Berlin, Germany on March 23, 2007, really drove the “question the method” message home. When addressing use of RFPs, she said clients ask for information in this format because they can. They have the power to demand your agency’s best work for free because you don’t say no—you want the work. And clients are also afraid—they don’t want to select the wrong agency, they don’t want to waste their money and they don’t want things to take a wrong turn after signing with the agency. They ask for as much as possible upfront because they do not want to make a mistake.
This all makes sense, but Enns has the real use of this method narrowed down to what she calls the industry’s “dirty little secret.” And what is that, you ask? Agencies have an “addiction” on the presentation. And by this, she means the unveiling of our work. It’s the moment of truth when we want to hear the magical words: “It’s perfect.” It’s the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning and it’s the thing that our dreams are made of at night.
So what is the solution? It’s never cut and dry, but for the most part, it involves some thinking outside the box. As Enns points out, “For an industry that is supposed to think differently at every turn, this creative thinking seems rare on the business side of the design business.” She says an agency’s “ability to win without pitching is an indicator of their strength in the marketplace.” Whether or not Fletcher Martin’s approach will work across the board has yet to be determined, but their forward-thinking model is enough to make one think. Yes, it is a time for rethinking our lives—could it be time to rethink our business practices as well?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Trying out

Alright, I've spent a lot of time trying to coordinate all of my social networking vehicles using everything from twitterfeed, feedburner, link splicer and facebook apps... but now I am trying the almighty This blog post is actually running through it as well... so lets see if she works.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Direct Mail- PURLs of Wisdom

Last Sunday we finally witnessed the Bears win with a well executed Orton two minute drill against the Falcons, only to see them lose in the last 11 seconds of the game... only in Chicago.

Variable Data
But enough dwelling on the sad state of sports in the Windy City; it's time to get down to business. Last week we chatted a little bit about traditional direct mail and running a matrix to test multiple components. Now there is a way to make the process even easier and more specific-- and get better returns. This can be done thanks for the advent of variable data printing. What this means is that I can run multiple campaign at the same time without worrying about how my jobs fit on press. Variable data printing doesn't need to run on a traditional press; it runs on a digital press that doesn't involve plates or film. Basically, I can run as many tests as I want on any given press run as long as I define the relationships appropriately. Using the breakdowns from our previous matrix, I can define Offer 1, 2, and 3 with my artwork and actually make it more specific by relating it to my demographics as well. This means I can send a different Offer 1 to folks out west than the offer I am sending the folks down south, and a different Offer 2 to mothers than the one I am sending teens... and even including their name and other personal info within the piece. This leaves me with a matrix testing 64 variable versus 16-- pretty darn good considering the cost really doesn't go up. And this also takes the Seth Godin approach that messages that are more personal and relevant will increase conversion.

Using PURL's
OK, so what next? How about purls? Check out one great example I received just this week (see above). Like variable data printing, PURLs (or personalized urls) give marketing a more tailored feel. Paula Andruss's article,"Personalized URLs" in September's Marketing News Magazine, delves into this a bit. PURLs allow a targeted individual or company to be directed to their own unique page. (In the example above, my site is This makes for a personalized experience and engages in ways other marketing techniques cannot-- and it can display information pertinent to their interests and lifestyle. And according to the article, PURLs are gaining ground because overall, consumers prefer to respond online, rather than making a phone call or going into a store. The use of PURLs can then track consumer behavior, which allows companies to modify their own behavior based on trends. And this approach works for the B2B realm as well; businesses can see who is using their PURLs and where they are spending most of their time on their site.

So, in a nutshell, PURLs are pretty cool. The only concern might be with those who are fearful of their information being stored online. This fear does not apply to most businesses, and as for consumers, a pass code can be applied in order for them to access the site any further than the landing page. This way everyone wins, and companies are able to access information like never before. Wow, how's that for accountability?

My thought for the day: Use the variable data printing and PURLs together, and you have a pretty darn good formula for a good mailing-- and better mailings to come!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Moving on with Direct Mail

And for Chicago sports today... [long, uncomfortable silence]. Enough said.

On that note, I'm on to research a little more on how social bookmarking and RSS feeds tie into the big ole social networking picture, but more on that later. I thought now would be a good time to bring up another cross-over marketing tactic; direct mail. It has been a pretty effective tool for a lot of our clients, whether it's B2B or B2C. Our approach has always been to test, test and test with the following components:
  1. Test the call-to-action- Every piece needs to relay a message or offer to the client that gives them a reason to react. With offset printing I can usually get three jumbo postcards up on a sheet... this means I can test three messages.
  2. Test target markets- I like to get my list and break it down into persona's. For businesses it might be verticals such as insurance or banking, where for consumer marketing it might be moms or teens.

  3. Test the geo-market- I also like to break my list down into geographic boundaries. For example I might test city versus rural.

By breaking my direct mail projects down in this facet, I can create a matrix to test each campaign and create some sort of coding to measure return. Obviously the return mechanism would be different for each client, but some low-tech solutions include placing a code on the direct mail piece and have the operator ask for the code or bring the piece in for redemption. Some of the high tech mechanisms in the past have included landing pages or RCF (Remote Call Forwarding) lines to track the return. Once the returns are counted and placed in the spreadsheet, you would get something that looks like the chart below. Well, shucks, it looks like Offer 3 was the big dog and it seemed to work the best with Target Market 3. And it worked even better in Geo Target 2. So, what did I learn here? Hopefully I received a good return overall, but more importantly, what can I do next time? In this case I'd know where to put my dollars for my next direct mail campaign.

All of this is fine and dandy and has helped us develop some pretty darn good campaigns over the years. But now there's something even cooler out there. Tomorrow I'll give a little shot out to purl's and variable data printing... where the "fit hits the shan."

You can Click Here to see a few direct mail samples to help you out.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

All right, the Cubs are out of it after deciding to not show up for the playoffs. As the line goes, there's always next year... Now my hopes and dreams are resting with the Bears. God help us. Now that the games are only once a week (versus the demanding baseball season), maybe I can get some work done, eh?

As I'm documenting the social networking relationships and processes, I thought I would share a few more traditional items over the course of the week. We are in the midst of a beta test to answer the more recent age old question, "Yellow Pages or Online?” Of course the quick answer to that is "it depends,” but we took it a step further with an existing client.

Yellow Pages have long since been the immeasurable marketing vehicle that would appear more like a crutch than an asset to most location-driven companies. In a 2004 blog post , Seth Godin referred to the Yellow Pages as the “Internet of its day.” Sure, the Yellow Pages got companies’ names out (and still do), but with advances in technology, business owners will opt for the medium with measurable results nine times out of 10. If most firms either doubled their Yellow Page spend or cut it in half, would they be able to tell me the difference? The typical answer is “no.”

Thus begins our little story. One of our clients has multiple locations and had a pretty big chunk of past marketing budget going toward Yellow Pages. When times were tough, they went from full pages to bold listings. This move had no rhyme or reason; it was based on somewhat of a gut feeling, with cost cuts leading the way. We wanted to bring some accountability into decisions like these by testing return. In order to do this, we set up five control locations in different regions of the US. With each location we ran a different size Yellow Page ad (to test placement size return) and IYP (or Internet Yellow Pages- to test online directory searches), as well as PPC (with Google Adwords- using our own system). For each of these tests we are running a RCF (Remote Call Forwarding) line to track calls coming from each vehicle. Once the results are in we can determine what works better and where, leaving room for regional differences. The next step will be taking the process nationwide. The test began in October and we should be getting the results later in November... stay tuned!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Road to Documentation

Alright, Notre Dame's a cookin', Illinois is getting kicked around and the Cubbies are on the backburner til this evening. I'm starting to document the relationships between the social media vehicles as well as a few tricks of the trade. Then I'm going to attempt to relate those to the other marketing vehicles we've been playing with for the past 10 years or so. For example tying social networking into PR, into Direct Mail... even in to tradeshows. It's fun to see the dust settle from digging in the trenches and to be able to put it into some sort of strategic sense. I have about three beta tests going on amongst friends/clients and I look forward to tying some case studies to the documentation.

Btw, here's an incredible link from Peter Kim that describes what 134 brands are doing in social media Click Here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Connecting the dots

Alright, so the Cubbies lost again... damn the goat. So back onto social networking I go. The goal today is to tie the blog with my facebook, myspace, linked in etc... as well as tie the puppy to delicious and to digg, etc. My aim is to do this whole exercise code free for the most part in order to keep the integrity in check. My developer is one of the best around, but I figure if I can determine the relationships between the vehicles then the overall strategy for our future clients will be in better hands. Or that's the theory anyways.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Test 123

Alright, this is the 2nd playoff game for the Cubbies, and with the anxiety I am already feeling... I thought it would be nice to figure out this whole blogging thing. Sure I've wrangled social networking, tackled twitter so now it's time to go retro. To the blog I go! Today I am messing around with rss feeds and twitterfeed and trying to tie the blog into facebook and maybe a few other sites. Be sure to chuckle at my blogging misfortunes and wayward adventures... it should be a hoot to watch.