Define Your Ethical Boundaries Now

If you spend any time in business, you are bound to come up against ethical quandaries. Inherent in most business roles is the decision making process. And in most major decisions, ethical factors come into play.

You run into ethical questions in determining how much to charge people for your products, how you structure your relationship with employees and partners, how and where you develop the things that you sell, etc.

And very few businesses have perfect ethical records. But the reason some companies get themselves in trouble is because they don’t plan ahead. There is no guide, or no overarching principle against which all decisions are made. And so the person making the decision relies more on personal judgment than anything else.

That’s a recipe for disaster – if not now, then somewhere down the line.

Every business would do well to discuss ethics now, and bake it into company culture. Everyone in your organization, from the CEO to the sales and service reps on the front lines, should know what lines will never be crossed.

For Uber, this might mean never charging a higher price to people in danger. For United Airlines, this might mean never asking law enforcement to drag a paying customer off a flight. For Wells Fargo, this might mean never opening accounts for customers without them knowing.

Failing to build ethical boundaries into employee training means asking for trouble. And when the inevitable ethical violation does it occur, blame should go straight to the top of the organization.

Will Google Price Extensions Lead to Dangerous Price Wars?

For the uninitiated, Google has been slowly rolling out a variety of “search extensions” over the last several years in an effort to give searchers more information on the results page and increase their likelihood of clicking on an ad.

One of the latest extensions is called “Price Extensions”. Price extensions are exactly what they sound like – they give advertisers the ability to showcase prices (up to 3) within ad copy.

See an example here.

Is this a good thing? It depends on who you ask.

Google is a public company with a profit motive, so the move is an attempt (above all else) to increase clicks on ads, which is how they earn the majority of their money. If it does this, it’s a good thing for Google.

For searching shoppers and advertisers, the question is not so easy to answer.

To understand why, we have to think about the concept of pricing, and where it fits in the marketing or selling strategy. Price is an important lever that marketers have in order to increase demand for their products and services, but it is not the only one. That’s why you don’t see every company out there actively advertising their price. They advertise those things that make their offering unique.

When one advertiser in a market starts using price extensions to show their prices to searchers on Google, it may benefit them initially. But when their competitors start copying them, and all the ads show prices, the consequences could be dangerous. Suddenly, consumers are picking a company or product based on the prices listed in the ad instead of fully comparing the benefits that each offer.

Price becomes the one thing that consumers shop on (more so, in my opinion, than it is right now).

That favors the lowest priced competitor, obviously. The lowest price extension will get the most clicks, which may cause the higher priced products to consider lowering prices to match or beat, attracting more clicks.

This is a slippery slope for advertisers, who will feel pressure to “keep up” with lower prices and may adjust their offerings to match the need for a lower price. And this hurts consumers, who suddenly have worse options (cheaper options) to choose from.

Lower price does not mean better value. And I fear that price extensions, while they might be a short-term boon for Google, may do damage to the marketplaces they are used in most.

Related: While not the same topic, this article on ecommerce pricing is a thorough and fantastic analysis of pricing in the digital world as it stands today.

Why Marketers Make Great CEOs

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There are many experts out there who will argue, based on their own research or experience, what makes a great CEO. So what follows is simply one person’s opinion.

Let’s start by defining to the role of CEO. The Chief Executive Officer is solely responsible for:

  1. Defining the strategic direction and priorities
  2. Managing capital and resources in pursuit of those priorities
  3. Shaping company culture
  4. Leading and growing the senior leadership team
  5. Delivering on overall company performance

At the end of the day, the CEO must be accountable for the overall success or failure of a business. He is the ultimate manager, responsible for all the resources within the company and how they are used in pursuit of the company’s goals.

So what makes marketers so good for this role?

First, company performance is inherent in the marketer’s job. Senior-level marketers have spent years holding themselves and their teams responsible for revenue growth. Knowing how to grow a company is at the top of the marketer’s resume.

Second, a good marketing leader has strong understanding of the marketplace. This means understanding both the competitive landscape as well as the customer. These are crucial areas when it comes to strategic decision making.

Third, today’s marketers are well-schooled in data and analytics. When it comes to managing priorities and making decisions based on projections, models, or past performance, a marketer is on familiar ground.

And finally, marketing is at the core of telling the company’s story. Both internally (with employees) and externally (with customers), a marketer can work to define the brand, the mission, and the values that go into creating and communicating a corporate culture.

While other functional areas may produce strong CEOs, for these reasons I feel strongly that marketers are best-positioned for success in the top spot

2017 Marketing Trends to Keep An Eye On

2016 is on its way out the door. Did you blink? Did you miss it?

Worry not, because next year is almost certain to bring as many new possibilities to grow your business through more effective marketing. Before we get it started, though, I wanted to quickly discuss just a few of the marketing trends on my radar that I think we will see a lot more of in 2017.

Chatbots

You may or may not have heard of chatbots before, but they are quickly becoming the “it” thing for technology-focused companies. And they come with some pretty exciting possibilities for marketers and small business owners across a wide variety of industries.

Essentially, a chatbot is a service that allows a user to “chat” with a company in order to accomplish something, using a messenger service like Facebook Messenger, Slack, or SMS. But the company does not have a human on the other end, instead it’s all powered by simple AI. It is programmed to recognize patterns of text and respond in certain ways.

Already, you can order a pizza or book a flight with chatbots. The smartest companies are investing in bringing this technology only rapidly and training consumers on how to take advantage of the ease they create in customer service or purchasing.

VR/AR

Virtual reality and augmented reality have arrived. From Facebook to Samsung, the hardware is available and getting cheaper as the technology advances. Currently, the primary use for VR and AR technology is in the gaming field. But that will change soon.

Already, companies are exploring with delivering “real world” experiences in VR. For example, in the tourism space, it would be great to see what it would be like to “be somewhere”. VR makes that possible.

We will see virtual shopping, virtual “try before you buy”, and the like take off next year. We will see product placements in gaming and new ways for companies to interact with consumers in these virtual worlds.

Hypertargeting

We have gone from mass marketing to experiences that are more targeted. And where we are headed are completely personalized marketing campaigns. Advertising and experiences created for an individual person, at scale.

Technology makes this possible, and eventually it will make this less expensive. Right now, only very large companies have the ability to come close to anything like this.

But areas like addressable TV ads, where companies can target commercials to individual households, are already disrupting the marketplace.

Pushback on Mobile and Social

Mobile and social are not going anywhere. More and more web traffic is coming from mobile devices, Facebook and Pinterest continue to grow, and those trend are not likely to change.

But the businesses who have spent the last few years throwing every strategy at the wall, hoping some would stick, are going to stop. Call me crazy, but I expect that 2017 will be the year most companies begin to recognize what works, and what doesn’t. And they’ll pull back in those areas that don’t work.

The old, “we have to be mobile” and “we have to be on social” will give way to real strategies and level headedness.

What do you think? Am I right? Did I miss any?

Is Donald Trump a Great Marketer?

A rather interesting debate unfolded in my office the other day, and its premise was the question posed in the headline of this post.

Before we attempt to answer the question, let me say that this is not political commentary. Regardless of your feelings on the Republican nominee for President, the question is still real. And we don’t have to agree with his politics to answer the question.

Is Donald Trump a Great Marketer?

Donald Trump is a marketer. His name is perhaps one of the most widely known brands in the world. Does that make him a good marketer?

It is difficult to tell, based on who you trust, how successful his many companies have been. Many of been bankrupted. One is being sued for false claims in their sales and marketing activities. But I imagine that Donald himself was not the one in control of the marketing for many of them, given how hands off he seems to be, simply attaching his name to things and waiting for the royalties to roll in.

How about the campaign?

His campaign has tapped into an emotional undercurrent among a seemingly large population in the United States. He is exceptional at stoking their fears, and people truly feel that when he speaks, he speaks for them. Most marketers would love to be in that position.

Whether it’s on purpose or not, he is an expert at persuasion. He uses textbook principles of persuasiveness, such as confidence and certainty, purpose-driven anger, repetition of key points, speaking at a lower reading level, etc. Good marketers know how to persuade.

If you believe that all press is good press, than the Donald is the best PR man in the world. He can’t eat chicken without it being the subject of about 1 million news stories. Sure, he seems to get press for the wrong reasons more often than the right ones, but the question remains whether or not that matters.

Debate aside, he incites passion in people on both sides. Not many people have passive feelings about Donald Trump. You either love him or you hate him. And while most of us would rather people not hate our companies or brands, we would love to get them the kind of attention Donald Trump gets.

So the debate continues… Tell us what you think. Is Donald Trump a great marketer?