Archive for October, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from BluePoint’s unofficial mascot Daisy! If you’re in Lexington Center today, make sure you stop by and say “hello”- we’ll be doing our part by handing out candy from 2-5 to all the kids in Lexington as part of the town’s annual Trick or Treat Celebration.

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Help Is On The Way….Help Is On The Phone

An interesting story ran today in Red Herring on a freshly funded Israeli startup called SupportSpace. The company is going to deliver online consumer-based technical support for the home user. Think Support.com but for the living room or home office, etc. And think more broadly than the PC. My first reaction was “hey, this is a good idea.” Then it caused my blood to boil when I realized that Dell’s support is so bad (and so expensive) that I never get around to calling them whenever I happen to be on working on my home PC. Same can be said for TiVo, but their woes are of a different stripe – you simply cannot get anyone live on the phone; it is usually a minimum of a 20 minute wait. You might get someone for whom English is actually a first language. And, while I am on my rant, DirecTV’s hold times aren’t exactly brief either. SupportSpace will compete with Geek Squad and small companies of that ilk, but will not involve on-site support. For the most part, this is a good thing considering its hard enough to schedule the cable guy or the phone guy or the DirecTV guy during the 9-5 slot for most working adults. I give Support Space a good shot at succeeding, as long as they price the service right and their agents don’t further frustrate U.S. users with language barriers. They are going to set up shop in Silicon Valley initially, and I, for one, hope they make their way to the Boston area soon.

VeeDubs Rock: Kinda, Sorta….Well, Not Really….

By now I’m sure everyone has seen the ads featuring guitar players (John Mayer, Slash and that-guy-from-spinal-tap) plugging their axe into their Volkswagen car stereo and rocking out. Being a guitar player myself, I was amazed by these at first. Seeing Slash plug into a double stack 3 GTIs high is pretty amazing (Mayer’s Beetle convertible “amp” isn’t nearly as cool) but then it got me thinking…..is a $600 piece of wood and steel really going to make someone plunk down around $20k for a car?

Volkswagen’s reliability woes are (supposedly) a thing of the past, with basically every model undergoing a full redesign except the Touareg SUV, which was in the top 10 least reliable luxury cars available according to Forbes.com. It would seem that these things should really be selling themselves on their newfound quality and Audi-like designs. Their “Safe Happens” ads for example, showed a more grown up VW, one that wasn’t trying to skid by on its hip credentials alone, seemingly a step in the right direction. It’s unfortunate that they are back to their old tricks.

Now, about that $600 piece of wood and steel. The guitar is built by Boston based First Act, a company that seems to have made the decision to dump tons of money into fancy new digs on Newbury St. and marketing programs like this one to make consumers forget that the same guitars you can buy from their Newbury location can also be found in the aisles of department stores like Target. I can’t fault them for trying to reinvent them selves, but I can imagine it would be hard to go up against the likes of Fender and Gibson with inferior products selling at the same price points.

For the most part, this new ad campaign echoes the “gimicky” feel of VW’s old Jetta Trek and Jetta K2 ads, offering free bikes and skis with the purchase of a new VW, it didn’t really work then, why should it now. I think most consumers would rather see that $600 go back into their pocket, or at least into an iPod that plugs into the dash, something that was briefly offered on the Beetle a few years ago.

Volkswagen, I’m sure Steve Jobs would love to hear from you again.

Marketing vs. Sales

I just read a great article from this month’s Multichannel Merchant magazine that I felt was valuable to share called “Getting Sales and Marketing to Play Nice”.

The main gist of the article is that the entire organization suffers when sales and marketing not only don’t get along, but don’t collaborate with each other.

A recent survey of 300 companies found that only 20% of respondents said that their sales and marketing departments were integrated and worked well together, and 95% said that their firm’s revenues would increase in the two departments worked more closely together.

The golden rule here is that marketing’s main priority is to generate leads and revenues for the company in concert with building the brand, increasing the company’s visibility, and harvesting long-term customer relationships.

Marketing is a lead generator for sales. Marketing uses public relations, direct marketing, advertising, Websites and other methods to generate leads for sales. Sales then reaches out to the qualified leads to reinforce the message that marketing has communicated.

An article on About.com sums up the relationship nicely by saying that “marketing is everything that you do to reach and persuade prospects, while the sales process is everything that you do to close the sale.” Likewise, ClickZ says that “once marketing has created opportunities for sales to succeed by defining the product and creating the sales tools, it’s up to sales to drive the success or failure of the company.”

A common practice that we do with our clients when we’re planning marketing efforts for the year is to meet with sales to determine what the revenue objectives are. From that figure, we back out how many sales are needed to close in order to meet the objective, how many leads need to be brought in to close X amount of sales, how many people you need to reach to generate X number of leads, etc.

Look at your options for lead generation programs – whether it is direct mail, email, or a Webinar – and figure out which options will bring in the greatest number of qualified leads for the cost, and use the above formula to see whether those programs will bring you closer to achieving the sales objectives for the year.

The bottom line is that when both sales and marketing are working together, the entire company wins, and each function needs the other if the company as a whole is going to succeed.

Markoff on Carly’s “Tough Choices”

So I read John Markoff’s piece on Thursday about the debut of Carly (Your So Vain) Fiorina’s book “Tough Choices” and then read it again. And, then looked at it a third time and I am still confused about one thing. I get the point about the main point of the story, which is that HP, under Carly’s watch, began to initiate the initial investigation around leaks to the press by members of the HP board. Markoff gets a few other points across too, mostly Carly’s resentment toward HP’s directors.

Where I’m scratching my head is this: According to Markoff’s piece, the book is “embargoed for release” until next Tuesday, which is October 10th. However, HP made the book available to reviewers if they were willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Markoff is obviously a news reporter, not a book reviewer so he was not given this opportunity. Yet Markoff writes that a New York Times reporter purchased the book at a bookstore Wednesday, Oct. 4. So what I am wondering is why sign an NDA if you ca pick it up already? And, why is the book is on sale ahead of the alleged release date? Did a clerk at a single store goof here, or is yet another example of an “intentional leak” by HP? Incidentally, a quick scan of the NYT web site’s book review section reveals that their Book Review desk has yet to pen anything on “Tough Choices.”

Finally, some what ironic is that opposite Markoff’s story and Carly’s mug on the site is an ad for HP blade server systems. I’m sure Carly isn’t engaging in much blade server talk these days.

Busy Circuits

Remember when popular reporters would not answer their phones (they still don’t) and told folks that email was the best way to reach them? Well, don’t hold your breath if you are trying to reach the likes of David Pogue of the New York Times. David reports cheerfully on his web site that he gets about 120 emails per day, not including spam. And he is not fan of MailBlocks either!


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