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Marketing, design, and technical resources for making your digital and print communications more effective.

Focus On Your Customer, Not Your Product

March 16th, 2007

I’m in the process of designing a PowerPoint presentation for a major technology firm, it’s entertaining to discover how the company’s engineers are fixated on describing every little detail about a product. To begin my design process, I researched some internally developed presentations built by the engineers so as to gain an understanding of the product virtues … let me just say the slides had more flying bullets than a war zone. These presentations were product-orientated smorgasbord of technical diarrhea.

Although I like to rag on engineers and their linear approach to life, companies often fall into the same mistake of focusing on product rather than market value, on top of over-messaging attributes rather than building a brand by emotionally captivating the customer by relating a solution to their need.

As Doug and I continue to learn and grow with our business, we’re finding out that the customer doesn’t care about how big, fancy, and powerful our product is, they only want to hear what we can do for them in terms of making their life better. Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way that my audience doesn’t have the time or interest in learning why I’m so great. And who could blame them? Their lives are complicated and busy, they want to cut to the chase so I better be ready with a strong, precise message that is emotionally appealing, easy to understand, and beneficial in terms of solving a problem or issue.

Going back to the technical engineers, I’ll be ingrained in a lengthy battle to shape these presentations into concise messages that actually mean something to the customer. My job is simply to communicate the three pillars customers look for in why they should consider a product; namely that it is available, easy, and affordable.

P.S. One last tip … avoid talking above your customers’ heads and boring them by using vague and uncommon terminology, your attempt to look smart will probably lose you the deal. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way.

My Letter to the Idaho Statesman

March 4th, 2007

Thank you Idaho Statesman for your informative article new window on blogging that was featured on the front page of the March 2 edition.

I was in agreement with almost all the insight and advice provided in the article other than one notable exception: “Most companies can start blogging for between $25,000 and $45,000.” As principle with a marketing company focused on providing blogging solutions this statement strikes me as absurd, even laughable.

The fact is, any business that has a truly unique message and a passion to share it can be successful at blogging regardless of their budget or lack thereof. For those who have no budget at all, companies like Google and FeedBurner provide advanced blogging, podcasting, and RSS services at no charge whatsoever.

Sincerely,

Douglas Case
CEO
RisingLine New Media Marketing

Epi’s Basque Restaurant in Meridian, Idaho

March 2nd, 2007

If you have ever eaten at Epi’s Basque Restaurant in Meridian, Idaho, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the experience is like none other. The food, ambiance, and service may be down home and arguably “unsophisticated,” but the charm and simple elegance of the friendly staff in combination with delicious Pyrenees-style cuisine are enough for me to make the 40-minute trek out to suburban Meridian.

As a native to the Treasure Valley, I have grown up surrounded by the Basque culture so Epi’s appeals to me from an emotional, nostalgic standpoint. However, Epi’s offers those unfamiliar with Basque culture and cuisine a fantastic venue to try exotic entrees of fish, mutton, beef, and pork along with a large selection of complementary wines that will certainly keep the curious and adventurous giddy with culinary excitement. Oh yeah, no Basque meal is complete without a generous appetizer serving of fried croquettes, absolutely delightful!

Although I’d love to continue on in regards to the wonderful attributes of Epi’s food, I’d like to devote the remainder of this post to how the restaurant thrives without having to advertise on television, radio, or print media.

In this day and age, just about everyone knows about word-of-mouth, referral, and guerilla marketing … but what so few achieve to comprehend is the fuel that drives these concepts. Although I could exercise my theoretical MBA brain and rattle off a litany of fancy words to impress you as to how Epi’s is conquering the universe through a 15-step approach, I will spare you the pain and narrow it down to these three simple principals:

1) Hard Work – Epi’s staff, from owner to line cook, go the extra mile to ensure the customer enjoys the ultimate Basque dining experience. This is accomplished by serving top quality food, complimented by outstanding staff members who bend over backwards to make sure you’re happy. On a side note, the restaurant is spotless in the sanitary department, which scores points with the wife.

2) Being Different – As I mentioned earlier, there is no dining experience quite like Epi’s. Not only is the customer treated to a unique and tasty menu, but the ambiance of the venue can only be described as comfortable and inviting. The facility and décor rush you back to a different Idaho era that existed long before Flying-Wyes, Cheesecake Factories, and sky-rise condominium projects. Without a doubt, Epi’s has become a one-of-a-kind Idaho establishment.

3) Making Meaning – Along with being different, it’s easy to tell within minutes of entering the establishment that owners, Chris Ansotegui and Gina Urquidi, sisters by the way, truly desire the opportunity to serve you not as a customer, but as a family member or a close friend. Entering Epi’s is like going back to your grandmother’s home where she always had that wonderful food prepared on the table, waiting there just the way you liked it. It’s not uncommon to be waited on by either Ansotequi or Urquidi, and if you’re blessed to meet their acquaintance, you will be treated to an evening you won’t soon forget.

It is my best estimation that Epi’s has established itself as a successful restaurant simply by employing these three principals; which in turn fuel customer loyalty and testimonial activity like this blog. Over the past six years, I would guess that I’ve referred at least 50 people to Epi’s as a premier Boise-area eatery. I know I’m not alone in this referral effort, as it is a good idea to call ahead and/or make reservations to secure a table before driving to downtown Meridian.

In conclusion, Epi’s has succeeded where so many have failed and they haven’t had to rely on gimmicks, promotions, advertising, or compromise to do so. As business owners, we must continually strive to work hard, differentiate, and make meaning so as to build a fortress around the heart of our customers. If you own a startup or a small to medium sized business, please take these principals to heart … and don’t forget to try the croquettes!

Digg and Del.icio.us

February 23rd, 2007

With the number of questions I’m getting from clients about why we included Digg and Del.icio.us tags on their site, I’m starting to realize that I’m not doing a very good job of explaining why upfront. So, in an attempt to reverse this trend, here’s a bit of an explanation.

Digg and deli.cio.us are two of the most popular services for social networking. As you may be aware, social networking is a huge phenomenon powered by the newest web technologies (aka Web 2.0). For more insight look up “Internet Social Networks” on Wikipedia, but the essence of social networking from a business perspective is that it provides an unique free opportunity for an organization to get their message heard and propagated.

Social networking is relatively new to mainstream but growing fast and many believe that it will play a key role in the future of the Web. In addition to providing a medium for referrals, it also provides a means by which your site can be more visible to the Internet as a whole through indexes and search engines. Sites with quality, well targeted and frequently updated content are good candidates for success using social networking. For example, Idaho Business Review recently deployed a Web 2.0 site on which they utilize social networking links prominently in each of their online articles (see
an example
). There are a lot of dynamics to be in place before a site is going to grow exponentially from its inclusion in social networks, but it comes down to a principle that an old sales veteran once told me, “If it can’t hurt, and might help, why not do it?” And of course, having Digg and Del.icio.us links make you look hip.



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