Thoughts from the Executive Office

Maestro PR Blog: Naming Matters. Customers Have Clout. If They Want It.

Question:  What do all of these these terms have in common?  Airline Passenger, Medical Patient, Caller, Taxi Fare, Metro Rider, Restaurant Guest, Bank Patron….

Answer:  You can substitute the word “Customer” for each noun printed in color.Companies try to make customers feel special by using these names.  Instead, these euphemisms allow companies to step further away from us. By stepping away from the concept of a customer, they step away from the concept of service.   We are no longer special. We do not deserve courteous one-on-one treatment.  We become part of an unruly group to be managed.    

 

 

I’ve  been thinking a lot about the names that organizations use to address customers.  We used to all be customers.  Now if you phone a toll-free number, you are a caller in a virtual line.  If you try to negotiate with an airline, you are a passenger.  The doctor’s office calls those of us in the waiting room “patients”. And on it goes.  It’s been my experience that medical personnel never call anyone a ‘customer’.  I guess that’s because they see us as an insurance number.  Plus, do doctors really want to get too close to their customers?  I don’t think so.  Who wants to hang out with sick people? 

What I’ve noticed about these identifiers is how differently we are treated when we are no longer called ‘customers’.  In each of the terms listed above, we are individually and together customers in each scenario.  When you book a ticket and board a plane, you are not just a passenger. You are a customer of that airline.   And, for many of us, we are loyal customers if we have frequent flier mileage on a specific airline.  After all, we want the points that buy “free” trips.   

When you visit the doctor, you are that physician’s customer.  You choose that physician, and you stay with him as long as your insurance program lets you. 

When you walk into the bank, you’re the customer – and the owner of the money that institution holds for you. 

Interestingly, companies try to make customers feel special by using these names.  Instead, these euphemisms allow companies to step further away from us. They distance themselves in the way they have to treat us.  Instead of seeing us as an individual with purchasing power  --  and choices about where our purchases are made – they see us as a group.  By stepping away from the concept of a customer, they step away from the concept of service.   We are no longer special. We do not deserve courteous one-on-one treatment.  We become part of an unruly group to be managed.   

To illustrate what I mean, here are some one-sided conversations that I’ve been part of.

Doctor to Patient:  “Patients shouldn’t be on the internet. They should just listen to their doctor.”  (A doctor told me this.  Really.  I had mentioned a treatment I found on a website and thought my doctor might be interested.  Wrong. After all, I’m a patient.  Not a customer who might not want the treatment du jour being offered.) 

Flight Attendant to Passengers:  “Passengers have been TOLD not to stand up in the aisle or attempt to use the forward cabin lavatory until the Captain is finished in there and has returned to the cockpit.”   Everyone waited with baited breath until he finished, hoping that (a) the auto-pilot was working; (b) the co-pilot was awake; and (c) that  the captain had eaten something different from the meal we were given.

Caller:  “Your call will be answered in the order it was received.  Expect a waiting time of 3 – 10 minutes.”

Fare:  “Do you want to get into the City (NY) the fast way or the long way?” (Never choose the 'fast way".)

Re-Thinking Your RoleWhen we realize that we are customers, our role in a situation changes.  It’s subtle, but what I’ve found is that we realize that we have more rights. We deserve better treatment.  And by reminding someone that we are their ‘customer’, I’ve seen people actually change their style of communication.  The result is that customers have more control over what happens to them.  We have more control over decisions that are made for us.  And we have more control over the level of service that we will be given.  

Along with the replacement names for ‘customer’, we should remember three more:  “Voter”, constituent”,  and “taxpayer”.  By removing these euphemisms we can insert the word ‘boss’.  Government isn’t a we-them proposition.  Government officials are elected by the people, and they work for the people. As the boss of government workers, we have the right to fire them in the next election.   If we make the effort to vote.


Customers are Cads.While it is true that we are each a customer, as working professionals we are also on the side of the company provider.  We just don’t get to be the person demanding service.  We also have to give service.  Sometimes it’s difficult because some customers are absolute cads, beasts, and blighters.  But they are still customers.  

An old marketing axiom identifies the selling process in terms of where the potential customer is on the sales ladder.  A “Target” is someone who fits the profile of a potential customer, but who is completely unknown to the company.  This is one reason you get direct mail from a company you may never have done business with.    The goal is to turn that Target into a “Prospect”.  The Prospect has a profile that has been reviewed and looks promising.  The “Lead” is someone who has shown interest in a company.  Success here converts the Lead to a “Customer”.  But customers can purchase once and walk away.  If the Customer keeps returning for more purchases, and you can nurture the relationship, you’ve got a “Client”. 

The most successful companies have clients.  But this is best done when understanding that every client is in name and personality a ‘customer’.   And that name games are simply that.

-Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

Maestro PR Blog: Conferences Count. Editorial = Opportunity - A Calendar Date.

Conferences still count as one of the most efficient ways to sharpen skills, network, evaluate products, meet and learn about new companies, technologies, products that would otherwise be missed or simply not visible to you on the web. If you missed SEMI ISS, SPIE Photonics West, RTECC (Real-Time Embedded Computing Conference), or DesignCon, not to worry.  The next few months are loaded with conferences and trade shows where you can catch up with colleagues and get a fresh view of your profession, the industry and your company’s place in it. 

UPCOMING CONFERENCES. 

Here are just a few conferences that you may want to think about attending: 

ISSCC – February 8  - 11. San Francisco.  www.isscc.org.  ISSCC has a history making news with its ‘you-saw-it-here-first’ focus on introducing new semiconductor technology. 

Pacific Design & Manufacturing West. February 9 – 11. Anaheim, CA.  www.electronicswestshow.com.  This event combines several shows in one venue.  Very broad audience, but it offers a big picture of the industry from chip to packaging to applications. 

Strategies in Light. www.strategiesinlight.com.  Feb 10 – 12.  LEDs and lighting.  Don’t know anything more about this show, but included it because this is a technology to watch and adapt. 

Mobile World Congress. February 15 – 19. Barcelona.  www.mobileworldcongress.com.  Okay, who really needs a reason to visit Barcelona???   Bigger may not be better, but that’s beside the point.  This is the show to meet anyone and everyone.

Darnell CTO Power Summit.  Feb 15 – 17.  www.darnell.com. Small and you must qualify to attend. 

SPIE Litho – February 22 – 25. San Jose. www.spie.org.  Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about semiconductor manufacturing, lithography, processes, and pushing physics to make chips even more microscopic than they are now.  Presented by the people creating the technology.

APEC (Applied Power Electronics Conference), Palm Springs, CA.  www.apec-conf.org/.  Everything you’ve wanted to know about power and incorporating it into designs. 

Semico Outlook.  www.semico.com.  The Summit moves from Scottsdale, AZ, to San Jose, CA, this year, but the focus remains on evaluating today’s technologies, examining what customers want, and predicting the next new thing.  Networking, connecting with potential partners, and confirming your own ideas about what’s hot and what’s not are the purpose for attending. There are many more events than these listed – just about anything to suit your interests. 

In an earlier blog, I wrote about staying relevant in your profession. That’s just want these events offer. 

Note:  If you want data on the importance of events in a marketing budget, got to btobonline.com. They’ve got some of the best readily available data from their own research and others.

INTERNATIONAL EDITORIAL OPPORTUNITY. 

I plan to run these intermittently if they’re relevant to the Fab Owners Association and Maestro Marketing & PR clients, if I have the time, and if I get the notices in time to run them.  Regardless of how you view print versus web publications, sending news announcements is the lynchpin of a marketing program. Remember editorial deliverables a news release, key product features and specifications, price, availability, the url where the news release can be found on your company’s site, and a high-res photo or digital image to accompany the text. 

Electronic Product News (EPN) is featuring products in conjunction with Embedded World. This conference is not listed above. It will be held in Nurnberg, Germany, this year.  Products to be featured should be in the areas of smart systems, remote networking, programmable logic, and the ever popular ‘power’.  Send your product information to Mick Elliott at  melliott@reedbusiness.fr /  The deadline is February 25th.  

Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR, kkalkis@compuserve.com03Feb10 

Maestro PR Blog: Recycline, Inc Makes Green Manufacturing-Packaging Look as Easy as it is Effective

One of the most innovative green companies I’ve seen is Recycline, Inc., of Waltham, MA (www.preserveproducts.com/recycling).  They've managed to make recycling waste into stylish, functional, quality products look easy.  They offer a great lesson in green product design, manufacturing, and packaging.

 I happened to find their toothbrushes at Target because I wanted a brush with ultra-soft bristles. The Recycline one caught my eye because it’s made of recycled yogurt cups.  But I was also struck by their packaging.  The toothbrush comes in a clear plastic container that doubles as a travel case. The labeling is minimal but effective, giving the package a clean design with lots of white space.  This alone is refreshing, but also focuses the eye on what information is on the label.  Speaking of labeling, it's some of the most succinct but thorough information you'll find.  On a paper insert sized only at about 1.75”x7.5” they’ve crammed information about the company mission, their recycling program, their product design (by dentists), their product quality (BPA free), and how to follow-up with them and recycle other waste.  It's one of the most effective pieces of packaging of seen.  

Most important, the toothbrush is just what I wanted!  The toothbrushes come in festive colors and have a unique curved handle. The brush is not as harsh on the gums as other brands.   It’s great to see a company that is smart in terms of making green manufacturing a part of their existence and culture.  Their packaging is innovative, sleek and stylish, while being green in its simplicity.  And of course, what could be better than seeing they have their roots right here in the USA.  Looks like Massachusetts sets the record for yet another revolution.

 -Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR

Maestro PR Blog: Tech Publication Closures

If we decide we do value industry publications and journalists, then we need a collective solution for protecting this news broadcasting medium. 

 Q:  What do these publications have in common?  Nikkei Microdevices, Semiconductor International Japan, and Industrial Distribution.

A.     As of January 2010, they have all suspended publication.  Those who proclaim that print publishing is dead and that the web is the answer to news journalism are getting their wish.   

Companies targeting Japan’s semiconductor manufacturers , equipment makers, and materials suppliers must now direct their news to a few remaining relevant industry publications like Electronic Journal or Dempa Shimbun, or to smaller outlets, or larger outlets that are horizontal and less focused in terms of readership profile.     

In the USA, Industrial Distribution, a US publication that was preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, is also gone – a victim of both the web and the weak distribution industry sector.  Semiconductor-industry readers can change their subscriptions to Purchasing Magazine (www.purchasing.com).   Computer industry experts can check out the old VAR Magazine at its new home, crn.com.  In the area of market research, Electronic Trend Publications was acquired by New Venture Research Corporation (http://www.electronictrendpubs.com/).  ETP president, Steve Berry, is off to pursue other interests but, happily, ETP packaging expert, Sandra L. Winkler, is continuing her work at New Venture. 

The Macro View

Last August, Media Buyer Planner (mediabuyerplanner.com) reported that American Business Media’s  (ABM) Business Information Network  stated a 30.2% drop in 1st half 2009 business-to-business (b-to-b) ad pages compared to the same period in 2008.  Total ad revenues in the first 8 months of August dropped 26.5% to $3.7 billion.  All 21 magazine categories tracked by ABM showed double-digit declines in ad pages.  Among the worst declines were – you guessed it – computing, telecom and software, down (-40.7%) and electronic engineering slipping down -36.7%. Media Buyer Planner’s October issue updated the pulse of publication health with a report from MediaFinder.com.  The diagnosis is that closures are outpacing new publication launches due to the economy. (http://www.mediabuyerplanner.com/entry/45761/top-10-magazine-closures-this-year/) 

Ads, PR, Search Engines, and Marketing Your Story 

Despite best efforts to find other ways to supplement income, advertising still provides the primary source of revenue for publications – whether print or online.  Sponsorships help, complementary marketing programs, such as webinars and events, help too, but the bottom line is that advertising is the biggest boost to revenues. 

 

For the semiconductor industry, the question is really this:  Does an industry with a CAGR of about $260 billion need or want its own industry media?  If no, then the current direction in publication health can continue and companies will find other ways to reach their very narrow target audiences.  Some avenues are blogs, but these also depend on ads or sponsorship to survive. 

 

Company publications are another news source, as long as your company works with the publisher.  News wires, portals and search engines are other news distribution sources. Hmm, fees are involved there, too, and those sources reach everyone, not just a targeted audience.  You need a lot of time and money to enhance search engine marketing. Plus, search-engine optimization is not a push strategy.  You need to massage your message and key words, just like you do in an ad, and hope someone comes to you.  Event marketing, direct mail, web marketing:  also great, but they don’t have the reach or impact of publications – and, of course, they’re not supposed to. They have a different – and valuable – purpose.

 

  If we decide we do value industry publications and journalists, then we need a collective solution for protecting this news broadcasting medium. 

 Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm) 

Maestro PR Blog: Remaining Relevant in Your Personal Brand

Q.  Do you think age has anything to do with your ability to find a job?A.  If your skill set, knowledge, personality, and pace are not relevant to your profession and industry, you won’t get hired.  Age has nothing to do with it.   

Chats on various social networking sites last year batted around the old (no pun intended) question about age in the work place.  It’s a common enough query, especially in the semiconductor industry, which still thrums   with a vibrancy lacking in other industries hitting the half-century mark. The questions posed to the universe on LinkedIn, for one, went something like this:  Do you think that age has anything to do with your ability to find a job? 

 

With 2009 being a tough year, many out-of-work engineers were asking the same question in conversations, email threads, and personal notes.  Many of them already had formulated their own answer:  Yes.  They would pass muster in a telephone interview, but when they met with hiring managers who were younger than they are, they lost the job. “Why didn’t I get hired? They took one look at me and decided I was too old.” 

 It’s a tidy reason and a tidy answer.  But, I’m not sure it’s that simple.  I think the real answer lies in the concept of relevance.  If your skill set, knowledge, personality, and pace are not relevant to your profession and industry, you won’t get hired.  Age has nothing to do with it.   

 

Skill set.  If you’ve been out of work for a year or more, your skill set is out of date.  The disruptive technology of the Internet, fierce global competition, the scramble for new business in countries off the marketing map just a year ago, have changed all high-tech and business-to-business professions.    Think about it.  How is your job being done today?  If you can’t answer the question, you need to do some research, take a friend for coffee (lunch is so yesterday), and get busy networking. 

 

Knowledge.  Let’s say that you know that Brazil and Vietnam are important markets in your industry sector.  Great.  Now, what do you know specifically about the market size, TAM, tier-one leaders, and customer demographics?   How should marketing efforts be tailored to these different cultures?  It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about marketing, PR, chip design, or chip fabrication, we all need to know how these jobs are being done differently now.  And how they must be done to win new business going forward. I spoke with a start-up recently.  They want to build their brand, attract customers and, of course, get orders.  They want to do press tours and meet with market analysts to do this, because they feel sure that the media is interested in an innovative new product.  (Yes and no.) 

There are two flaws in this old marketing line of thought:  First, the market is already full of devices that this company is making. The current products may not be as innovative in their technology, but they beat this company to the cash register and so own the market the start-up wants to be in.  However much you may love your company’s new product, you need to be brutally realistic and understand that competitive products are available.  And you need to be brutally realistic about what makes your product better than anything else out there.  The folks at the start-up haven’t worked with a marketer or PR agency in several years, so they were still approaching their job in an old-fashioned way.  “Old-fashioned” relating to 2005, of course. 

 

The second problem with the start-up is that they are thinking about press tours as they were done long, long ago – that would be 2001.  Thanks to the Internet, industry journalists work out of their home. Many are now blogging and writing their own online publications.   Many are now working in other fields, victims of journalism’s waning importance in the commoner-journalist culture we find ourselves in.  

 

Personality.  Industries and their members have common personalities.  Semiconductor people, for example, seem to be Type-A personalities.  This is an industry where companies produce new product versions several times a year.  We want change and we want it now.  If your personality doesn’t match your old industry, it’s time to find another profession.  It’s not a judgment call; it’s simply finding the kind of people you like to be around and work with. 

 

Pace.  This pretty much goes with ‘personality’.  There’s a pace to every industry.  My retired friends often comment that they couldn’t keep up with the workload when I describe it to them.  They are happy not having to wear a watch; reading the newspaper – all of it – over coffee in the morning; having lunches that stretch over a few hours; and scheduling activities between commute hours.  In the semiconductor industry, we complain about how busy we are; how often we have to fly somewhere; and so on. But, put us behind a desk for any stretch of time, and we’re like George Clooney in Up in the Air:  wondering when the next flight leaves. 

 

The economy has played havoc with jobs in the USA. And the ease of releasing workers here is easier than, say some European countries.   Some jobs are simply obsolete.  Some, like journalism, are victims of a communications and technology shift.  These are also reasons for losing a job. But as individuals, we can’t do anything about these macro issues.  What we can do is focus on our own strengths and sharpen them; find our own weaknesses and make them strengths.  Then head out into the marketplace and clear a path for ourselves.  It’s not easy, but it’s doable.  Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)

Maestro PR Blog: Canada Funds Its Tech Future. Will the US Do the Same?

On 30 November, the Canadian National Research Council (NRC) announced its investment in an attosecond laboratory at University of Ottawa.  The announcement was made in a news release with comments by Royal Galipeau, Member of Parliament for Ottawa-Orleans, on behalf of Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear.

 

For those wondering what an attosecond is and why it is important, the release defined it by saying,Attosecond research provides the ultimate window into what's happening at the molecular level and helps scientists study the fastest processes in atomic and molecular physics.”  Explained on a more mundane level, the NRC and University of Ottawa said, “Research at the Joint Laboratory for Attosecond Science (JASLab) may lead to scientific breakthroughs in health care, diagnostic medicine, quantum computing, nanotechnology, environmental science and energy.”  (See the entire release on the NanoTech Café site at http://www10.NanoTechCafe.com/nbc/articles/view_article.php?section=CorpNews&articleid=766053). 

 

While the creation of an advanced-research lab is nothing new, it is significant that Canada joins the long march of governments backing research and development in advanced technologies.  Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Germany, Belgium, France, Scotland and numerous other countries are parading their funding, policy support and resource investments into activities that can pave the way for technology leadership.  

 

Where does the United States stand in terms funding research in the technologies that will shape our future prosperity, business development, jobs and lifestyle?  President Obama’s commitment to supporting clean energy development is one step.  More steps are needed.   Or, are we content to be a service economy -- whatever that means? 

 

Last spring, President Obama named Vivek Kundra as Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Aneesh Chopra as US Chief Technology Officer (CTO), but the primary responsibility of both those jobs seems focused on aligning information systems within and amongst government agencies. (See http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/04/obama-appoints-virginias-aneesh-chopra-us-cto.ars). True, Chopra is also supposed to work on a technology and innovation policy, but there are two problems with that.  Getting government agencies to cooperate is a full-time job on a good day.  And, how can you write a policy on innovation on any day?? 

 

Americans today seem willing and able to take opposite sides on almost any topic.  Are we smart enough to band together and lead the technology innovation parade? 

Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm) -ends-

Maestro PR Blog: MEPTEC Semiconductor to Solar Conference - Opportunities Await

For attendees at last week’s MEPTEC Semiconductor to Solar Conference (www.meptec.org), there were numerous opportunities for new companies, start-ups and semiconductor companies looking to make the leap into the solar-PV industry.  Pitfalls exist in this market (nothing new there), but the consumer demand for new energy sources make PV-solar technology rich with opportunities and opportunities that can make your company rich. 

There’s a Mary Engelbreit illustration captioned with a saying that goes something like, “Opportunity doesn’t knock; it’s waiting when you open the door.”  The concept behind the saying is golden for those with the mind of an innovator and the heart of an entrepreneur.  Opportunity doesn’t only knock, sometimes it sits and waits for someone to grab it.    

For attendees at last week’s MEPTEC Semiconductor to Solar Conference (www.meptec.org), there were numerous opportunities for new companies, start-ups and semiconductor companies looking to make the leap into the solar-PV industry.  Every speaker on the agenda outlined opportunities based on industry needs as they’ve experienced them.  It wasn’t pie-in-the-sky hype, but thoughtful, objective insight into a market that Kyocera keynote speaker Steve Hill termed, “the oldest newest market around.”  The bottom line to each presentation was this:  Pitfalls exist in this market (nothing new there), but the consumer demand for new energy sources make PV-solar technology rich with opportunities and opportunities that can make your company rich. 

Showing a graph taken from National Geographic  Magazine (www.nationalgeographic.com) [although I couldn’t find this chart in my issue], David Hochschild of Solaria  pointed out the sun’s potential to dominate power generation with an estimated 470,278 TWh, but it only accounts for 0.02% of energy sources today. 

Keynote speaker, Steve Hill, president of Kyocera Solar Inc., framed the day’s discussion by addressing key factors for market growth:
  • Cell/module efficiency gains
  • Manufacturing cost reduction
  • Installed cost reduction
  • Test/certification
  • Next-generation technology


Mr. Hill noted that companies are consistently pulling in costs and improving efficiencies as part of their business model; that the semiconductor industry has the knowhow to help the solar-PV market improve test/certification standards; and that the recession took a bite out of venture capital infusions, but that this scenario will change because people essentially want renewable energy sources. Mr. Hill pointed out opportunities for solar technology, such as the new Toyota Prius with their solar panel roofs.  He also noted that Kyocera is the sole supplier of the technology, but that this was just the start of integrating solar technology into consumer applications. 

 

Although the solar industry is “immature” from a technology perspective, Mr. Hill stated that there are immense business opportunities for people who can accomplish tasks in a structured, disciplined manner; that system quality, reliability and efficiency must be improved; and that test and certification methods needed to be addressed to help products become certified and enter the market more quickly than today’s pace.   The semiconductor industry has 40-plus years of experience in every one of those areas, and expertise in implementing those requirements probably better than any other industry I know of. 

 

Besides showing solar technologies utilized in buildings today, Mr. Hill showed many off-grid applications where solar is the only means of bringing electricity to some poorer countries.  The most novel one was a solar-powered refrigerator being transported by a camel.  Shaded by a solar panel that was suspended above the camel’s head, the animal marched stolidly across the arid landscape with the powered refrigerator bobbing off its side.  Contents?  Medicines for a traveling physician.   

 

Some  soundbites that I thought were most intriguing from the day-long event:

1)      INCENTIVES ARE NECESSARY.  USA federal incentives have been key in jumpstarting the solar industry and will remain important if the industry is to grow.  The incentives help innovative companies reduce the cost of PV energy and enable them to improve efficiencies of the technology.

2)      SUPPLY CHAIN EFFICIENCY.  Efficiency must be improved throughout the entire supply chain, production, standards, etc.  Here’s where the semiconductor industry shines.

3)      LEARNING = SUCCESS.  The PV learning curve must be accelerated in order for PV-solar to become a competitive renewable energy source.

4)      COLLABORATION NECESSARY.  SEMI (www.semi.org) spokesperson, Bettina Weiss, highlighted the need for collaboration and SEMI’s accomplishments in building an international infrastructure.  IMEC mirrored the collaboration concept in terms of R&D.

5)      FRAGMENTED MARKETS.  Jim Hines of Gartner research (www.gartner.com) reminded attendees that the USA is not one market, but rather a nation of state markets, each running at its own pace.

6)      POLICY OVERRULES SUNSHINE. Building on Jim’s point, David Hochschild of Solaria (www.solaria.com) said that leadership in the US solar market is not relative to the amount of sunshine in a state but by the policies of the state; thus, the reason for New Jersey’s second place in this country’s solar market.

7)      DEFINE “GREEN”.  Mike Silverman of Ops a La Carte (www.opsalacarte.com) told the audience to define “green” if we want clean technologies to succeed.  Don’t get  bogged down debating global warming.  Instead, focus on filling the need for energy and fill it.   

There’s not enough space here to list all the business opportunities for semiconductor veterans and/or their companies, but the opportunities are there.   The USA can lead in this area.  The only question is whether the USA will open the door and grab them or leave them on the doorstep for someone else to claim. 

You can get more information from MEPTEC president Bette Cooper at info@meptec.org, or by phoning +1 650 714 1570.--

Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm).  -ends-

MAESTRO PR BLOG: WORLD CITIZENSHIP, CHILDREN, AND YOUR CUSTOMERS

Last June I was in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, waiting to board my plane back to San Jose.  As the plane unloaded its passengers from the incoming trip, I was astonished to see that the first 9 passengers off the jetway were kids ranging from about 6 or 7 to 13-or 14 years-old.  All wore backpacks, and the older kids were fully wired like professional road warriors:  cell phones hung from their waists, white wires dangled from their ear pods, and they all carried some electronic device – game, CD player kinds of stuff. The kids entered the boarding area and walked into the arms of parents, grandparents and family members waiting for them.  From snippets of conversations and welcomes, it seemed that these young travelers were arriving for visits following the end of the school year. 

That scene has stayed with me over the past several months. Every time I’m in an airport, it is amazing to see the number of kids traveling alone.  It’s become routine for young people to live in two places with divorced parents or relatives who care for them during holidays and summer vacation. 

Then there are the children of professionals living outside their home country.  My niece’s children have lived in the Netherlands with their parents for the past four years. They are bilingual, switching seamlessly between Dutch and English depending on whom they’re speaking to.  They can speak and understand snippets of other languages and have traveled to nearly every country in Europe.  They are world citizens. 

You can study history or simply watch a TV documentary and know that international travel is nothing new:  The Phoenicians roamed the known world of their ancient universe.  Pre-Christian Romans traded with Egypt and other African nations, as well as China.  The Norsemen cruised the North Atlantic.  Irish fishermen cultivated mussels off the coast of France.  And some of the most famous trips date from the 15th century with the famous explorers boating to the Americas and the Pacific Rim in search of rare spices, gold and silks.    

Becoming World Citizens – Starting at Infancy 

The big difference between then and now is the age of the travelers.  These ancient travelers were professional sailors, or criminals looking for a way to escape the confines of prison, or explorers, or the wealthy seeking their next adventure, or business people looking to find a new market.  Yes, Christopher Columbus, Vasco DeGama, Hong Bao, Ferdinand Magellan and others were among the first marketers in their search for new trading partners as much as they were explorers. 

But I digress. 

Today, children stow their teddy bears and iPods in a backpack and board planes to cities and countries that were once the destinations of business people or families on holiday.  They are world citizens comfortable – or at least accepting – of life lived wherever they happen to be. 

The same lifestyle transformation is commonplace among adults.  Students spend a semester in other countries, taking immersion language classes to fit into the local culture.  Americans live short-term or long-term in other countries.  Websites offer home exchanges so you can spend a few weeks or months in the city of your dreams.   Last April, a friend and I lunched at a Paris sidewalk café down the street from the D’Orsay Museum.   Americans sat at other tables.   Americans live in RVs and winter in Texas or Mexico and travel the continent, following the sun to have as much summer as they can. The marketing implications are enormous. 

Marketing to World Citizens

The lifestyle of the world citizen creates a new market that demands a new business conversation. We all still search for new markets, products and trading sources.  Marketing to world citizens means a new approach in everything from the personal interface to marketing collateral, public relations and communications practices, and new approaches to the sales process. 

1)     Language and Culture.  People from different nations may attend a conference and all speak English, but our home culture guides our thinking.  Language patterns, speaking styles, and even views on topics need a cultural and verbal consideration.  World citizens see things in a different light.  Talking the same language is not the same as thinking the same idea. 

2)    Customer sophistication.  Customers are now younger and more sophisticated in terms of their personal experiences. That changes the way they view products and services being sold to them.  Remember that when you write to a design engineer, you are writing to someone who may be out of university 3 – 5 years.  But his/her life experiences may span several cultures. 

3)    Value.  Some marketing variables never change.  With the knowledge of multiple cultures and lifestyles, customers still look for the value they receive from a product.  The key here is offering value that meets the needs of a person whose life is more nomadic than those rooted to one location, lifestyle, job and culture.    

4)    Keeping up with the Websters.  I’ve blogged about how the term “keeping up with the Joneses” needs to be changed to “keeping up with the Websters”; ie, web-savvy people.  When marketing to world citizens, web skills are more important for doing your research, expanding your understanding and knowledge of where your customer is coming from – literally and figuratively.  If you are not using search engines and mining data online, you need to catch up, or you are part of history. 

The world citizenship dynamic holds myriad other changes for us as marketers and business people.  We are all becoming world citizens by design or influences around us.  In some ways, these changes are daunting.  Our comfort and encouragement come from the fact that this is the way the world has always been.   

The above remarks are the personal opinion of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm).05 Nov 09.

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Maestro PR Blog: Crowdsourcing – the Web’s Newest Marketing Tool Takes Hold

If you are not familiar with crowdsourcing, you need to be.  Like so many trends, it’s a concept that’s grown out of our electronic lifestyles and is now being rapidly adopted by innovative businesses.  

Crowdsourcing – What is it?Wikipedia™ defines crowdsourcing as a neologism for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to a group (crowd) of people or community in the form of an open call.” (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing).    Wikipedia credits Jeff Howe for coining the term in a June 2006 Wired Magazine article.  However, the concept of sourcing information from a crowd is familiar to all of us, even if we don’t know the word for it.  Think of all the news broadcasts that now feature cell-phone videos…of controversial arrests, storm damage, or the US Air plane being gracefully landed in the Hudson River.   


It’s not just a local phenomenon, either.  Bombings in Pakistan, election protests in Iran, the tsunami in Indonesia – many video images on the news shows came from quick-thinking witnesses who grabbed their cell phones and started shooting video.  Another example of crowdsourcing is the Amber Alert™.  When initiated these child-abduction bulletins are posted on highway electronic signs, over TV and radio, wireless devices and via service organizations. 

Once, I was driving a freeway in California and saw an Amber Alert flashed on the LED board above me.  A few hours later, the alert was called off because the kidnapper had been caught.  It was one of the finest instances of crowdsourcing – and I didn’t even know what crowdsourcing was at the time.  I simply knew that when the sign flashed above me, I took a mental note of the car and license plate that were being sought. So did every other driver on the highways, it seems, because the California Highway Patrol stopped the incident before it turned into a disaster.     

Could the police have ended this situation as quickly or with such happy results on their own?  Maybe, but I don’t think so.  Think of the power of the search with the entire community working together to solve the problem.  That’s the power of crowdsourcing.  

Crowdsourcing as a Business Tool 

Companies are starting to utilize crowdsourcing to help them evaluate and enter new markets, gain customer feedback (the new edition of the old ‘trial balloon’), and understand trends.  For specific technology applications, take a look at the excellent article in PC Magazine at http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=crowdsourcing&i=57732,00.asp.  

You can also check out a summary report on the LISA (Localization Industry Standards Association) website (http://www.lisa.org/Crowdsourcing.1280.0.html). 

LISA states that Facebook® was able to go from 0 to 16 localized versions of its website in under 6 months, and is now at 60 and rising – thanks to crowdsourcing.  People in these 60+ locations were willing to translate content for free, for whatever reason.    

Think of crowdsourcing as a means of gaining feedback quickly, from your target audiences, from stakeholders, or third-party interested observers who may simply give you an idea you haven’t thought of before

  

Crowdsourcing Caveats.

The old saying “you get what you pay for” applies in capital letters to crowdsourcing.  When you receive random input from random sources, it has to be verified, checked and re-checked again.  It may be solid gold, or solid junk.    Some companies will toss the idea of crowdsourcing as just a consumer tool or a fad.  It’s both right now, but it is also a tool that taps into the power of people to give their opinion on topics that interest them.  

 And the web lets the feedback be immediate and even blunt, because people type messages in distractive environments, like the airport, or in a Starbucks line, or a restaurant while waiting to meet someone.  

You will need your traditional professionals in marketing, research, operations, etc, to filter through information and interpret it for best results, but crowdsourcing provides the potential for massive input that may otherwise go lacking.  Many times, I receive an email request from a company to take a survey.  The query hits the in-box over and over again, indicating that the surveying firm cannot reach their quota of answers for a reliable sample.  Crowdsourcing can avoid that cycle.  

Like any new web tool, you need to tread cautiously to start.  But the best time to learn this new medium is -- now! – when everyone else is learning it and experimenting. New marketing methods are tried and repeated before they become common practice.  That means you have time to make mistakes and refine your processes.  Then you can be ready to implement larger-scale programs when the time comes.   Even if crowdsourcing is a fad, you can bet that it’s simply a precursor to something else that will leverage pieces of crowdsourcing skills, giving you a leg up on your competitors for fast implementation.  

Like a 49er miner, you can sift through the dirt and come up with, well, dirt, or you can hit gold.  There’s no guarantee either way, but those who struck gold weren’t sitting on the shores of the river. They had their picks in the mud. 

The above comments are the personal opinions of Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR(sm). -ends- 

Maestro PR Blog: Journalists, Journalism and Keeping Up With the Websters

The old saying of “keeping up with the Jones” is obsolete if you spend any amount of time on the Internet.   Today, we need to be talking about keeping up with the Websters, those people who live on the web and seem to know all its ins and outs.  It’s a phrase that embodies the frantic pace imposed by the Web in general and email, RSS feeds, electronic newsletters, daily/weekly and monthly business communication updates, search engines, Twitter, LinkedIn, and, yes, even spam, in particular.  

 

Put  aside the amount of time it takes to weed out spam and to check the spam filter.  It takes a massive amount of time just to wade through the information you need to work on now, let alone keeping up with the news you need just to stay on top of your game in your field, career and home.

 Meet the Web-sters.

It used to be impolite to say how busy you are and leverage that as an excuse for not staying in touch with someone.  Now it’s a common conversation starter.  The litany of things to do on the web or because of the web has become the Internet Age’s answer to keeping up with the Jones.  It’s no longer a matter of how many ‘things’ you own.  It’s a game of who is busier, who receives more emails, and who has more to do – all on the web, of course.  Those who are the busiest and know the most websites for finding any tidbit of information are the “Web-sters” (or, “Websters”).   Need information about the latest semiconductor market statistics, packaging advancements, company collaborations?  The Websters know it.  Want to find out if the H1-Ni /swine-flu vaccine is safe?  Ask the Websters.  They can give you a site and summarize the warnings.  Need a site to help your kid do his/her homework?  The Websters already used it and their kid got an “A” on his paper.   Want to share your latest knitting or crocheting project?  The Websters know it and can tell you how many people are on the site and who has posted over 100 of her projects of wearable art.  This list can go on and on, but it’s too boring.

 The Websters and the Professional Journalist.

The point is this.  Everyone is so down on print and so up on the web that we may be in risk of throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water.  The web is wonderful, but it is also overwhelming.  You can drown in useless stuff just as easily as drowning in the useful information.  And while the

Websters seem to have all the answers, you may have different questions.

 

This is where the need for journalists and journalism enters the picture.  Journalists have been aggregators of the news. Now, there is no aggregation – other than search engines with pages and pages of possible answers to your question.  And you have to sort them all out.  Or, you can rely on journalists to sort through the fluff and aggregate what is important to readers, and direct you to the information you need on the web.

 

Journalists are masters of identifying news stories that would otherwise be missed, or never brought to light.  We count on journalists to tell us when a company has been unethical or dishonest in its financial reporting or successful in creating a trend-setting market;  when a politician has over-stepped his boundary of expected behavior as a public official, or when the community is at risk and needs an alert, or when there is a community success story.

 

Journalists also find those obscure stories about topics we need to know but may not be searching for.

 

A Journalist Learns the Truth about Dry Wall.

A couple I know own a 3.5-year-old rental home.  One Saturday while the renters were out, the water pipe inside the wall of the second-storey bathroom broke. When the family returned home, the house was completed flooded. The water-logged dry wall boards of the entire house were bloated and ripped from their moorings; the furniture was ruined, and the house was completely unlivable. 

 

While still reeling from all the steps needed to make the house inhabitable again, our friend noticed an article on dry wall in the International Herald Tribune (www.iht.com or www.nyt.com/iht).  The story commented about health problems allegedly related to dry wall imported from China during the housing boom a few years back.  It was the kind of article you’d never look up on the web, unless you specifically needed to research dry wall.  (How many of us do that?)   The article alerted the couple to check the source of  materials that will be used when the home is remodeled and ensure that the materials are from reputable suppliers known for quality. 

 

Does anyone have time to do all this checking?  Not many of us do. But some journalist took the time to research a problem, write this story, and make this couple think about something they would’ve overlooked.

 

That’s one reason why we need journalists.

 

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Barbara Kalkis, Maestro Marketing & PR (sm)