May 072013

I admit it. I’m lazy. I don’t want to fill out long forms (on paper or online) to sign up for email newsletters. You might not want to either.

20130507-193840.jpgWith that in mind this caught my eye at the ImpactCR table at the Corridor Welcome Reception at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance on May 7, 2013.

This is so easy. Leave your card in the bowl to stay in touch. No lengthy sign-up required.

The easier the sign-up the more likely I am to get on the list, especially if I’m on the fence on whether to sign up or not.

Full disclosure: I’m on the ImpactCR Board, staffed the table that night but had nothing to do with the set-up. Thanks, Mallory Mohwinkle!


(Filed from my iPhone)

Jan 122013

I like the fun language Groupon uses in its communications. Especially when Groupon wants you to do something, like talk about its products. (See an example in the picture below.)

Many companies want consumers to talk about their products, but what’s the right tone to use to remind people?

That depends on the specific brand, of course. I like Groupon’s tone because it’s casual, made me smile and Groupon wasn’t pushing too hard to get people talking.


Dec 052012

Here’s an update on my March 2011 post (below the second headline) on The Daily.

The iPad news magazine is now shutting down, according to this article.


I hadn’t been reading The Daily daily, which is how my consumption started in 2011, in recent months after they made some changes. You could only read it vertically, for example. But I still think that I enjoyed my initial experience with it.

Paying for The Daily?

(Originally published in March 2011)
Interesting read here on why The Daily iPad app isn’t worth paying for.

I don’t want to argue every point made there here (heck, I agree with some, though perhaps not as passionately) but I wanted to take this as a jumping off point to explain why I pay for The Daily.

1) Edgy and well written articles. They keep my attention and answer questions that I didn’t know I had.

2) The photos are great.

3) The videos are great. If I don’t want to read the story, I just watch the video. If I want to read the story and watch the video? No problem. The video doesn’t just repeat what’s in the story.

4) Intimate and meaningful interactive design. When I have to click on something, I get something I actually wanted to know. It’s a good user experience – at least for me.

Not trying to endorse The Daily too much here, but it didn’t take me too long to decide I wanted to keep consuming it after my free trial.

One thing, most (if not all) of the reasons I like it are and have been cornerstones of good journalism for years. They’ve just been moved to a new medium.


Posted from WordPress for Android

Oct 132012

I sometimes used to write a request or question in an email or other electronic message and then would type “just wondering” at the end of it. I also sometimes get messages that say the writer is “just wondering.”

Why? Just wondering. See. It doesn’t add much. Really, it doesn’t add anything. I wonder if I used to add it to appear less questioning.

For example, “Dear vendor, do you have an update on when you’ll deliver the product. Just wondering.”

Does the phrase make it less questioning? Less threatening, perhaps? I’m not sure. I sometimes think it’s one of those phrases used to try to emphasize that this is NOT a pushy questioning message. Hey, no worries, this is not a big deal, hardly worth asking. Thing is, it was worth asking. Plus, it’s OK to ask questions.

You know, sometimes the tone of written messages – including emails – can be hard to decipher. Maybe we use the phrase to appear friendly or less questioning. (Though a question remains a question, if you know what I mean.) So, if that is the case of why we use it maybe a different communication would be more effective.

“Dear vendor, do you have an update on when you’ll deliver the product….”

“I just wanted to make sure I know when to expect it.”


“I’m not sure I made a note of the date and wanted to doublecheck.”

or … if there’s an urgent reason:

“I need the product by the end of the week because of (this scenario) and was hoping we could hit that date. Is that a possibility?”

Either way, “just wondering” wouldn’t add much and surely wouldn’t add the relevant context. If there’s a reason to soften the message there are better ways.

What do you think?

Just wondering…. See. :)

Aug 052012

It always baffles me when I answer the phone “Christoph Trappe” and the person on the other end says “Hi Chris…”

Why shorten my name if I just said it the way I did? Probably, because the person has never heard the name Christoph (it is the German version of Christopher) and everyone else he knows goes by Chris. So, he just assumes that it must be Chris.

I think this falls into the listen (or not listening) to your audience category, which can be an issue when meeting new people and also when analyzing user data, like for a website. (I think these are related.)

Sometimes we (marketers included) hear or see what we want to hear.

“Everyone else I know goes by Chris,” for example. Or: “I use my mobile device like this so most everyone else does the same.”

Of course it’s easy to let our own biases cloud our listening and analytical skills.

But still it’s important to get to the bottom of things especially when it could mean building a new relationship or improving user experiences.

So how do we get there?

Keep an open mind: Does this stat really mean this is what users are doing?

Ask follow-up questions: Do you go by Chris? The answer is no but asking is better than just assuming. This is a bit harder when analyzing user data online where it might not be as easy to ask follow-up questions. But we can keep watching for trends and could even make design changes to see if a theory holds up.

Remember that we don’t know everything …. or better, yet: Try to know what we don’t know. For example, I know how I use mobile devices but I surely don’t know (at least not just on that knowledge alone) how every other consumer does. How can I find out? Who should I ask? Keep an open mind!

This reminds me of the video below. It’s not what it appears to be!

Jul 192012

Ben Smith, over on Technology of Community, talked about the ease of mistaking understanding for agreement.

In part he said:

Deep listening and open questions are invaluable tools for understanding people better and making them feel understood. This is great because those feelings foster genuine trust and compassion in relationships. One potential problem, however, is that understanding can be misinterpreted as agreement, and this can get tricky where there is shared interest.

A very interesting read.

My comment to Ben:

Very interesting, Ben.

I wonder how much of this people taking understanding for agreement has to do with that they are looking for agreement … not understanding.

For example, if I really want to go buy something, am I really looking for my wife to understand my point? Probably not. Am I looking for her to agree so I can buy the item? Yes!

(Ben used a similar example in his post.) For example, what’s the value in you understanding your wife’s point? If you understand does that get her closer to purchase? Unless she buys without agreement, only agreement does.

Now, I realize you just chose that as an example and I see that some conversations can be very valuable when you can understand each other – without agreement. But, for some conversations there might not be much of a value.

Keep building, my friend.

Jul 072012

20120707-091241.jpgTwice each month during the summer I like to enjoy the downtown Cedar Rapids Farmers’ Market.

Sometimes I volunteer for the Metro Economic Alliance, which runs the market; sometimes I help with the United Way booth and at times I enjoy it as one of the 18,000 visitors.

While doing that today (7/7/12) I couldn’t help but notice some of the marketing messages that worked well throughout the market, in my opinion.

Just like non-farmers’ market marketing unique messages stand out. Here are some of the messages I noticed: (This of course is not an all-inclusive list.)

  • The Early Bird coffee shop advertised its air conditioning. (See picture). The sign was right by where people were walking. Great idea and who doesn’t want air condition in this 100 degree weather.
  • “We accept credit card” signs. I hardly ever carry cash anymore and I appreciate the thoughtfulness. With iPhone apps allowing merchants to run credit card transactions just about anywhere this should be easy enough for many to offer.
  • Riley’s Cafe and the Blue Strawberry surely have name recognition in Cedar Rapids. They had large banners at their booths to make sure people know it was their booths. Nice way to use name recognition.
  • 20120707-101610.jpg

    Filed from my iPhone

    Jun 162012

    Sometimes marketers are said to be working on messaging a product.

    Perhaps that might looks like this:
    Here’s the product.
    Let’s put a message around it to spice it up, then sell it.

    Oh wait, here’s some negative news coverage. How could the response (the message) be spun? Let’s work on some messaging, if you wish. What’s the tagline, the buzzwords to use?

    But perhaps, that’s not the best – not saying “not the correct” – way to approach marketing in today’s market. Things move so quickly nowadays with Tweets, blogs, etc., that there really isn’t much time to think about “spin.”

    Another option, perhaps a better one maybe, is to be transparent all the time.

    What does that mean? My definition of this is: Know what you stand for, what you do and you freely interact with your customers/audiences/etc.

    Instead of thinking about messaging a product, the process could go something like this:

    • Define your product: What is it that your selling? For example, let’s say you own a store that sells used sporting equipment. What’s your product? Used stuff, of course, but what else? Is there some other experience that goes along with this? It could be: The feeling that people got a good deal?
    • Define what you can always say publicly: Let’s stick with the store scenario. I would think that you can always talk about what’s for sale, what items you might buy and also offer tips surrounding equipment. With customers’ permission you can probably talk about customer stories – if you were doing an ad you might call them testimonials.

    When I started writing this I wasn’t actually thinking about Play it Again Sports but ended up Googling used sporting equipment stores and, of course, ended up on the chain’s website. While I was there I noticed a link to the Is Your Bat Legal website. Now, Play it Again sells used bats as far as I remember – but offers this tip to customers and potential customers. I’d say that’s transparency. And people might even talk about the positive experience.

    OK, back to the process:

    • Have things to say! Then say them in a way that offers insight, tips or at least is mildly entertaining. (This skill might take some time to develop. Here are some tips.)
    • Be honest. If this is done correctly, customers know what a brand, business, etc., is about. Wouldn’t it be great if people can almost guess the answer. And that their guess isn’t: “Oh great, another screw up. They said “no comment” and didn’t explain why there is a problem.
    • Admit mistakes that happen while you are being transparent. People make mistakes. It happens. If it’s a minor typo, just fix it, but if it’s an accuracy issue that has been out there a while it’s OK to fess up and fix it and then move on. Your audience will appreciate it. I’ve seen it happen and it helped strengthen relationships. Now, if mistakes happen over and over and over that’s probably a different story. But hiding them is probably not a good idea. With cached sites and some services taking screen shots of who knows what sites mistakes are hard to hide. We’ve all seen the reports that said: “Super star X tweeted Y. He has since deleted the tweet, but here’s a picture.
    • Allow yourself to change your opinion. Make the best decisions with the information currently available. It’s OK to change your opinion later on if you learned of new facts or opinions. Really!
    • Be fun. Sometimes topics are serious, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun in your transparent messages at the appropriate times.
    • Engage people: Don’t get discouraged because people aren’t responding with comments on your website. Many people just engage by reading.

    Now, that sounds like a lot of work and it is to some extent, but it also can help brands stand out. And in today’s marketplace I would think that’s important.

    Rohit Bhargava in the book “Likeonomics” says that many products are very similar to their competitors. So, why do people buy from one business over another? Often it comes down to customers liking one business better than the other business.

    Transparency can help with that.