Is Cold Calling A Marketing Technique?

The BBC have reported on a Which Magazine survey says that most of us think that Cold Callers Should Be Banned. Ceri Stanaway Which Magazine Telecoms expert says “At best a nuisance and at worst an intimidating intrusion into our lives”. So doesn’t this beg a question. Is Cold Calling a Marketing technique? The answer of course depends on what you mean by ‘marketing’.

If marketing is about understanding and responding to the needs of customers then it seems not. Cold Calling is about the need of the selling organisation to make sales regardless of what the customer wants. No matter how Cold Calling is rationalised by the people who do it Cold Calling isn’t about informing the customer of offers they wouldn’t have found out about, it isn’t about providing a better service, its about wringing every last penny out of the customer in a high pressure win/lose tussle.

The intrusive nature of early evening cold phone calls is deliberate and contrived. It gets people at a time when their psychological defenses are low after a long day. It gets past our psychological defenses because we are ‘at home’ and not in an alert buying mode. And from personal experience with my father companies don’t seem to care that they are trying to brow beat elderly people with complex and irrelevant service offers.

Cold Calling is not a marketing technique because it doesn’t care about the customer. To protect yourself why not use the Telephone Preference Service.

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Event Management: The Essentials

One of the most high profile aspects of an enterprise’s customer facing activity is Event Management. I remember going to the Paris Air Show once and being amazed at the scale and size of the exhibition stands, some of which included a full sized Patriot Missile system! Get an event right and it makes a huge contribution to the reputation of the organisation and it serves as a platform for making and reinforcing relationships. Given the importance of Events it is often surprising how the responsibility for their management is delegated (dropped on?) members of staff who have limited experience and expertise in really leveraging the event opportunity.

Philip Crowther and John Perry colleagues of mine at Sheffield Business School have developed a short two day course on Event Management Essentials. Whilst events, as we all know, might be a fun day away from the office, they have a serious and important role in the overall competitive strategy of any enterprise. They cost alot of time and money and a return on that investment is required. For some that might mean quick win sales, for many the returns are likely to be less to instantaneous and perhaps more qualitative. Either way understanding more about how to make your event more effective has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Marketing Orientation?

I have to say I really enjoyed the first three episodes of the BBC’s Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. From a social research perspective we are told that Sherlock uses ‘deduction’ , although it seems that the great detective creates his theory of ‘who dunnit’ from evidence so isn’t this inductive reasoning? If we dig a little deeper it seems more probable that he does a bit of both. He speculates and accumulates. He uses abduction, or what Charles Sanders Pierce called ‘guessing’ based on likely correlations of the facts, but saying that Sherlock was a great ‘abducter’ probably wouldn’t go down well for a character who is meant to be on the side of the Law!

The tv series seems to have captured the Zeitgeist by tapping into a detective approach that moves away from the scientific rationalism that dominates C.S.I, Waking The Dead and the like by appealing to the creative pattern spotters in all of us. Is it stretching it too far to say that is echoes the difference between Plato and Aristotle? The Platonic appeal or Sherlock versus the Aristotelian appeal of Horatio Caine and his colleagues. If Sherlock was in Marketing he’d certainly be a rule breaker than a rule taker, he’d kick back against fromulae, he get frustrated with prescription. As for the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle he seems to have had interesting take on Marketing and maybe this seeps into his characterisation of Sherlock Holmes.

A client is to me a mere unit, a factor in a problem.
Arthur Conan Doyle

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Worried About Selling In The Value Of Social Media?

One of the key tasks of senior management is to notice and make sense of emerging events. This is a crucial aspect of dynamic capability (Teece) and something that Bob Garvey refers to as an ability to manage to ‘approaching events. The key issue of course is what happens when you delegate that job to others in the organisation. Invariably where they sit affects what they see.  So don’t be surprised what you are told about the purpose and value of Social Media and Networking if you abdicate your sense-making to geeks and technophiles.

As we know the business world is in a frenzy about social media and networking. There is fraught debate about how to prove R.O.I. however it seems the problem has been solved. Managers simply need to become skilled at Social Media buzzword utilisation. I came across this great post from the blog Passionate – Creating Passionate Users. I hope you find it as amusing as I did.  Just as a taster:

“With our shawdows aware API we can stay in perpertual alpha thanks to the user content eco-system”

You’ll also find posts with titles like:

  • You ARE the marketer. Deal with it.
  • Stop your presentation before it kills again
  • Brain death by micro management

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Is A Brand Sorcerer Driving Your Business?

The CEO of any enterprise will no doubt ask themselves the question “who am I delegating responsibility for my organisation’s marketing to?” Like kings and leaders through the ages they are sometimes drawn to mystics who profess powers of understanding and influence. There is a type of marketing professional that might be described as The Sorcerer’s Saussurer’s Apprentice.

Their platform of managerial knowledge and experience is the study of signs and their meaning.  Semiotics.  This field of knowledge is interested in ‘The Sign’ and ‘The Signifier’.  The Symbol and its Meaning.  It is grounded in philosophy’s Linguistic Turn, and the evolution of post modern thinking about the nature of world and how we understand it. Rich territory for a Brand expert. After all that’s what Brand means isn’t it? A sign.

Knowledge from the arcane world of Semiology underpins communications studies and in its turn (sic) this knowledge underpins marketing communications management.  For people unfamiliar in its workings, semiotics is a beguiling subject that offers an explanation of how and why people respond to communciation. It is a short step from explanation to normative prescription.  From this is what seems to be happening to this it what you should do.

The Saussurer’s Apprentice knowing there is a difference between Brand Sign and Brand Meaning offers the magic of being able to change the meaning of any sign.  S/he will Re-present re-position the image and language associated with your brand. With special incantations (more commonly known as straplines) and mystical symbology (more commonly known as a brand identity) the Saussuer’s Apprentice will give reassurance where there is fear and uncertainty and after all we all know that fear sells.

I fear my competitors. I fear my loss of revenue. I fear my inability to compete.  Miller Heimann call this ‘being in trouble’, and being in trouble is a mind set that is open to a sales pitch. The charlatan smells trouble. S/he recognises and seeks out the ignorance of others because s/he can be sure that there will be no critical thinking and probing of  ideas.  S/he is skilled at seeking out the fears of the powerful because they need new ways to control an uncertain destiny.

“Once upon a time in the Land of  Aitchtoo-Oh the ruler was becoming worried, he wanted an heir to the throne but no one wanted to marry his daughter the princess. She was known throughout the world as the Ugly Princess.  In the eyes of the King his daughter was a symbol of  beauty, the prettiest and most attractive person in the world. This is not what his subjects thought,  and there wasn’t a Prince in the world who could bring themselves to ask the King for her hand in marriage. An uncomfortable reality was beginning to dawn on the king. His daughter was nothing like the beauty he believed her to be.

One day the King heard of a Sorcerer who was travelling the land. He came to to King and told him that he was wise in the ways of the mind and that he had a magic spell that would make his daughter irresistable to anyone who saw her.  “I will pay you handsomly” said the King. The Sorcerer cast his spell. The Kings daughter became known as the Princess of Magical Dihydrogen Monoxide Land. “We need to get rid of any association with Aitchtoo-Oh” he explained. “A fresh start requries a fresh name, something that conjures up mystery, a sense of the unknown. A new name a new beginning.” The sign had been re-signified. Anyone who saw her would fall instantly in love with her beauty and charm. The problem was solved. A Prince from the faraway kingdom of Adland married her and they were all about to live happily ever after (as people always do in Adland) when the spell wore off. The Prince saw that he had married the ugliest princess in the world and was very upset.  The Sorcerer hadn’t told the King the spell wouldn’t last. Furious at being made to look a fool the king sent his soldiers looking for the Sorcerer and they never found him. He had simply disappeared in a puff of hot air.”

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Gulf of Mexico – America’s Magical Waterland

The brand challenge facing BP runs deeper than any logo and strapline.  These examples come from a post titled Rebranding the BP logo.

As subversive rebrands they reflect the perceptions of some important stakeholders. No matter how BP would like their brand to be thought of their brand meaning is owned and controlled by others.  These logos shed light on how brands are really built. They are built on performance and experience.  Yes they are creative, they are eye catching and salient and they are grounded in a reality. Until the tragedy of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill BP could make the case that it acted in accordance with the green sunflower eco-friendly promise, and the power of its public relations machine could successfully rebut any counter claims. However no PR department packed to the roof with gurus could  put a positive spin on destroyed livlihoods, managerial gaffes, and ruined eco systems.

How will  BP overcome their brand challenges? How will they ‘reposition’ their brand. Reiss and Trout called this task the ‘battle for your mind’.  How will they persuade the people of Louisiana and Florida to think differently of them? Will the board of BP decide to invest in a new logo and strapline? If you were running BP what would you decide to do?

Positioning and its marketing cousin re-positioning are pieces of marketing jargon.  Part of a lexicon that often generates more heat than light.  Words used to impress.  The words frequently imply a capability to change people’s minds. What is rarely mentioned or explained is that like many marketing concepts positioning and re-positioning have two connotations.  One implies an almost mystical and hypnotic  capability to transform how people think. Imagine if it could do that! (wink)  The other is a strategic management task that makes real changes to products and services; the essence of the value proposition.  When brands are truly ‘re-positioned’ they are tangibly moved away from one status towards  another through direct action on product and service attributes (qualities).

BP is re-branding through decisive management actions. Senior management changes, effective capping of the leak, financial compensation, and changing its working practices. It is on a journey of moving its brand away from the current negative perception that many people have as Black Pest towards something in time more positive. Something actions can do and Sophistry can’t. Unless of course you take sophistry to mean genuine,  profound and educated managerial insight.

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