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Marketing Career: If you’re so good, why don’t they do what you say?

July 21st, 2011 No comments

You’re in a meeting. The CEO asks the CFO what he thinks about something. The CFO tells the CEO what he thinks, and the CEO nods. He accepts the CFO’s answer.

The CEO then asks the head of product development about something, and the same thing happens. Acceptance. Respect.

Then, the CEO asks you something. You answer. The CEO starts questioning you, listens half-heartedly to your answer, then turns to others in the room and asks their opinion – about a marketing issue!

Why does this happen? Why don’t you just “get the nod?”

Because you are making a fundamental mistake. You are basing your advice – and staking your reputation – on what you know about marketing, rather than how well you know your customer.

Who is your customer? How did that customer find you, and why did he buy from you? What does that customer tell others about you? Even more important, what does the customer wish your company would do for him? That knowledge is your only true source of power. You may think you know these things, but in my experience, you’re probably missing the mark. Everyone else does.

I’m going to teach you how to change this “no nod” dynamic for good, in my keynotes at the B2B Summit in Boston and San Francisco. I’m going to teach you how to get the information you need from customers, present it to management so they “get it,” and make the kinds of decisions – strategic and tactical – that will not only give you the nod, but give you the kinds of results that every marketer wishes they could deliver.

But before I put these presentations together, I am going to “eat my own dog food” as we used to say in Silicon Valley. I practice what I preach.

I want to interview you

If you’re coming to a B2B Summit, I want to talk to you to make sure that what I present will address your very specific concerns, and will give you practical, take-it-back-to-the-office-and-make-it-work advice.

As I interview you, you will have the chance to experience a proven, customer-intelligence-gathering interviewing process first-hand, as the customer. This will help you when you start to put those new, “get the nod” practices into action in your own company – and in your career.

I will only need to talk to about ten of you, so if you want to be part of this process, let MarketingSherpa know now. I only need your name and email address; I’ll contact you to set up a phone appointment.

Thanks, and I am looking forward to our conversation.

Related Resources

Marketing Career: How to become an indispensable asset to your company (even in a bad economy)

The Indefensible Blog Post: Forget Charlie Sheen, here are 5 marketing lessons from marketers

The Data Vs Creativity Debate: Is successful marketing driven by analytics or art?

Guided by Buyers: Four tactics to create a customer-centric sales and marketing strategy (Members-Only Library)

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Email Marketing: Three lessons learned at the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing LEAPS Advanced Practices Workshop

June 16th, 2011 No comments

I recently attended the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing LEAPS Advanced Practices Workshop in Boston (my supervisors let me out for fresh air once per season), and though these events are always good for new tips, tactics and ideas, I never expected to experience one emotion:

Surprise.

But, after sharing an enjoyable lunch with a handful of attendees, I felt just that. We were in downtown Boston, just a few miles from the regular site of Sherpa’s annual B2B Summits, where the world’s most tactical marketers come to polish their skills, network with similarly experienced professionals and share their stories of success. To boot, we were at an advanced practices workshop – a title that implied this was no introductory, 101-level path into the “deep end” of email marketing.

But, one bowl of chowder later, I learned that a good percentage of the day’s attendees were either new to email marketing, or – in one case – new to marketing altogether. At first, I was taken aback by the fact that these relative newbies were putting themselves in a position to be overwhelmed. And, while the table waited for me to stop making that confused puppy look, they explained how not only was the workshop giving them actionable items to bring back to the office, they were also gaining a stronger understanding of email marketing in general.

Then I went through the event presentations again, and soon realized they had a point. In email marketing (actually, all marketing), no matter how advanced a tactic or idea may seem, it always comes back to the basics. And I don’t just mean marketing basics, but rather the very cornerstones of communication and interaction.

Here are just a few of the things I learned in the LEAPS workshop that support this point:

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1. Relevance is paramount

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Chart: Most significant challenges to email marketing effectiveness,
by primary channel
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According to the MarketingSherpa 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, providing relevant content remains both a top priority and the most significant challenge facing email marketers today. No matter how much time or resources you invest in your email campaigns, it’s all for naught if these messages don’t find their way into a recipient’s inbox.

Relevancy can be defined as sending the right message to the right person at the right time. In order to improve deliverability, you must engage your audience with relevant content. If I sign up for email alerts after shopping for cycling gear, please don’t bombard me with emails about all-natural fruit juice. Maybe I’ll care, maybe I won’t, but this isn’t why I came to you in the first place. Email content needs to be targeted and appropriate, justifying a user’s opt-in and continued opens and clicks.-

Remember – it’s good to eat a little humble pie before creating an email program. As marketers, sometimes our egos lead us to become out of touch with the reality of a situation. We start thinking we know what the customer “really” wants before they tell us their needs. There isn’t anything more important than keeping the promise to deliver exactly what the subscriber requested and nothing more.

At the core of relevant communications is value exchange. The majority of email messages should contain valuable information in the form of reports, entertaining videos and insightful stories — not endless self-promotion.

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2. Respect your audience

I had no idea that my mother and Aretha Franklin were email marketers, but just as they instilled all those years ago, respect is paramount in this discipline.

I like choices. We all do. When attempting to retain subscribers, it’s imperative to give customers a chance to “opt down” rather than opt-out. Options for this include reducing frequency, changing offer types as well as subject matter topics. Also, it’s good to include links to “follow” and “like” options, as your customers may prefer communicating on social media sites. The goal is to let the user control the conversation, not vice versa.

And for the love of everything we hold dear, let people decide when they receive from you. For the last 40 years, the US Postal Service has allowed people to stop mail delivery for a set period of time, so overflowing mailboxes don’t invite the local burglars over for a buffet of your finer things. Yet, this option is rarely mentioned for email.

Remember – while it might seem enticing to send every possible offer and announcement to all of your subscribes, if you over-send to an unresponsive subscriber, you may harm your deliverability reputation and success metrics.

In short, if someone on your list leaves, let them go. If they don’t come back, they were never yours to begin with.

(Speaking of which…)

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3. Email marketing is based on relationships

In email marketing, a relationship begins the moment the user opts-in. Once this happens, you are responsible for ensuring that your recipients feel welcome, informed and satiated with relevant content. This all starts with the welcome message.

The importance of the welcome email message cannot be understated. For some consumers, this will be the first conversation they have with the brand. Hopefully, it will be the first step toward that person becoming a regular customer, if not an out-and-out brand evangelist. Remember to give them more than they may expect, in hopes that they will be looking forward to your next send.

You want your email to set the tone for the ongoing relationship, which is why it’s always good to start with a sincere “thank you.” Yes, just like your mother told you – manners are important. The words selected must support your brand’s voice, and successive messages must meet subscriber expectations.

Remember – like  high school romance, not all relationships last forever. Try not to take it personally when you realize how many subscribers go inactive. Subscribers don’t always give an official good-bye. Sometimes their interests change, they prefer a different communication channel, or simply change jobs.

Stay positive and believe they have just been too busy to interact with your brand. You can send a simple “we missed you” note to reengage the subscriber, but keep in mind that the special offer should not be over the top so as to sound needy or even desperate.

No 75%, “buy-one-get-five” discounts, folks.

To draw a parallel, if my wife and I have an argument, I may apologize (yes, let’s work under the assumption that I’m wrong in this scenario) by offering a gift as a show of remorse. If I come presenting extravagant diamonds, she may accept my apology, but the extreme, over the top gift may indicate that the argument was more serious than it was, not to mention entirely my fault.

Approaching a re-engagement email this way might just chase them away permanently, even if there’s a significant offer on the table. An over-the-top offer might even make users question your product’s overall value.

However if I give my wife a small bouquet of flowers to apologize I will show sincerity for possibly hurting her feelings, but the focus will remain on the apology and not the gift. This also applies to an email relationship; you do not want an idle subscriber to reengage solely for the prize, otherwise you will be in the same situation again, and will have started (or continued) a bad communication cycle.

Looking back at that lunch conversation, I shouldn’t have been so surprised that beginners were taking so much from an advanced practices workshop. Because, as we see in the LEAPS methodology, email marketing only serves to reinforce basic, evergreen marketing tactics.

If only I knew this stuff during my first heart-wrenching break-up.

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[Be sure to catch Jeff Rice and Adam Sutton on the next leg of the Email Marketing LEAPS Advanced Practices Workshop, coming soon to Seattle, WA and Washington, DC.]

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Related resources

Risky Email Marketing Paid Off

Email Marketing: LEAPS methodology for improving performance

MarketingSherpa 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report

Members Library — Marketing Research  Chart: Top tactics organizations use to improve email relevancy

Loyalty Marketing: How to get customers to stick around (and keep buying)

May 12th, 2011 1 comment

Quick quiz, savvy marketers.

What is going on in this picture?

A.      Their flights were canceled and all the hotels are booked up, so they’re camping out on the street for the night.

B.      They are pioneers of the latest fad – urban camping.

C.      They represent a new demographic – homeless yuppies. They bought a McMansion that was foreclosed on, yet took all the nice gear they bought at REI and now are forced to use it merely to survive.

D.      They are the natural consequence of some very impressive loyalty marketing.

The answer, of course, is D. They are camping out, on line at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store to be one of the first few people to buy an iPhone.

Polish toilet paper and well-designed telephones

“I remember once, a relative in France sent us three rolls of toilet paper. We couldn’t believe how soft it was. We were in heaven,” my colleague, MECLABS Research Manager Zuzia Soldenhoff-Thorpe told me recently. She grew up in Communist Poland, and her parents would wait in line for six hours in the Polish winter just to buy toilet paper. Scratchy, rough toilet paper. Not the fancy French stuff.

And that is understandable. Toilet paper is a necessity. Communist Poland rationed it.

But what would drive otherwise rational people in the world’s richest nation to wait in line for a telephone? Well, loyalty. In their view, they have solidarity with the brand.

So, what are the benefits of creating solidarity forever with your customers?

The value of a loyal customer

“A loyal customer is less price-sensitive and nearly immune to competitive entreaties. A loyal customer is often open to trying line extensions. Finally, a loyal customer is much more willing to forgive your inevitable small fumbles. (Does anyone seriously think Apple is going to lose core customers because iPad production delays due to the Japanese situation? Not likely.),” said Micah Solomon, author of “Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit.”

On the other hand, sometimes customer acquisition costs are so high that you need loyal customers just to break even. “It is estimated today that a large credit card portfolio has an 18-24 month window to repay the initial acquisition cost of that customer. Without loyalty and engagement you are losing money on every acquired customer,” said Mark Johnson, CEO, Loyalty 360 (the Loyalty Marketing Association).

A few data points to consider:

Of course, to benefit from that, first you must get the referral, and then you must keep them as customers for that long…

How to win and keep loyal customers

So, how do you instill loyalty? If your target audience is a dog, the answer is easy (Tummy Yummies). If, however, your audience is the jaded, savvy, demanding, rapidly evolving, skeptical, fickle, streetwise, cynical modern consumer, what then?

That’s no easy question to answer. So, I passed it around to a few industry leaders to see what advice they could give you to help you foster loyalty in your customers…

  • Be transparent – As Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS says “Tell me what you can’t do, and I might believe you when you tell me what you can do.
  • Be accessible – “Make your company extremely easy to reach via your marketing materials and correspondence,” Micah Solomon said. “Don’t – if you can avoid it – send out mass emails from a ‘do not reply!’ address; either have the address accept replies or have it extremely clear how to easily reply through an alternative mechanism.”
  • Deliver a rewarding experience, not just “rewards” – “Loyalty is MUCH bigger than just points, it is expanding to the process, techniques, software, ideas, communication mediums and interactions that create and engender engagement and loyalty. It is NOT ABOUT POINTS anymore,” Mark Johnson said.
  • Step out of your shoes – “You cannot treat others as you would like to be treated. Instead, you must identify what they want and treat them as they want to be treated,” Bob Lucas, Managing Partner, Global Performance Strategies advised. “Talk to your customers and solicit their opinions and expectations, then build marketing initiatives around them. This individualized approach to communicating with others is more likely to result in greater customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty.”
  • Less can be more – “Every day, we are bombarded with messaging from brands trying to hold our attention, and the ability to communicate a relevant, personalized message that appeals to your audience plays a crucial role in engagement and loyalty,” according to Rod Hirsh, Global Director, Brand and Content, Thunderhead. “Establish a baseline of what good communication practices are and make it a policy to exceed expectations. Aim to streamline and cut excessive communication while at the same time creating a better customer experience.”
  • Build a relationship, don’t just sell – “Relationships trump product. Anyone will tell you that,” said Andreas Ryuta Stenzel, Marketing Director, TRUSTe. “Sales and Marketing build and own relationships at scale more than almost any customer service organizations, especially these days with the more personal touches that automated nurturing and social media bring to the table.”

Here are a few thoughts of my own as well. And I’d love to hear what you’ve learned as well.

  • Be the customers’ advocate – Always ensure your company is delivering true value to your customers, not just a value proposition. You are the one making a promise to your customer with your innovative, creative, out-of-the-box marketing campaigns, so you also better be the one making sure your company comes through on that promise. Of course, that is no small task and likely involves Sales, Product Development, Manufacturing, Customer Service, and many more parts of your organization. But just because you cannot perfectly complete that challenge, doesn’t mean you’re exempt from trying. Or as Rabbi Tarfon said, “You are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
  • Don’t be shady – As marketers, we are always trying to be persuasive. But, c’mon, there are limits. Dishonest marketing breeds disloyal customers.
  • Radiate passion – You can’t expect passion from your customers unless you live it and breathe it yourself. Yes, we’ve all got bills to pay. Yes, we all need a job. But when and if possible, market things you are truly passionate about. Or spend enough time with your customers to understand why they really care about your products. Sure, it’s easy to do this if you’re a Harley enthusiast. But even a VP of Sales and Marketing for an industrial hose company can find a passionate way to communicate with the audience.

Related Resources

The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of Transparent Marketing

The Last Blog Post: Marketers must embrace change

PPC Ad Optimization: Testing, unique landing pages, and honesty

Good Marketing: How your peers brought joy to the world (and their boss)

Photo attribution: mikemariano

Marketing Strategies: Is performance-based vendor pricing the best value?

April 12th, 2011 No comments

Every advertising agency, SEO specialist, and PR firm likes to be seen as a partner, not a vendor. And that may well define your relationship. But, go down to accounting and explain that relationship, and they’ll laugh in your face.

And for good reason. While, hopefully, you do have that close knit partner relationship, at the end of the day, this is a financial arrangement and you must maximize the value of that arrangement.

On the face of it, performanced-based pricing seems like a no-brainer. You get a guaranteed result, or you don’t pay.

Is this a great country, or what?

Like many things, the devil is in the details. First of all, you have to keep in mind that the vendor knows the metrics far better than most prospective clients do. That means, in many cases, the vendor is selling the illusion of risk.  Second, and more importantly, you have to be sure the result you are paying for is the result you really want.

Let me show you what I mean. I’ll use a teleprospecting vendor as an example, and highlight the lesson you can get out of each example for the type of vendors you work with every day.

What intermediate metrics truly contribute to your success?

In B2B lead generation, a common result is defined as an appointment for sales people. The cost per appointment generally runs from about $400 to $800, depending typically on volume, your brand and the target.  If you can provide the vendor with the people your sales team absolutely, positively wants appointments with, you’re in business.

In my case, I would gladly take appointments with CMOs of B2B companies with $500 million or more in revenue. At least, that would probably be my immediate response. Of course, there might be a few CMOs in that target that oversee pure e-commerce plays, or highly commoditized, low-end products that do not require lead generation, my area of expertise (or, so I would like to think). Therefore, I might pay for some appointments that I don’t really want. So, the real cost for a qualified appointment might be a bit higher than I originally agreed to.

Then there is the hidden cost: sales productivity. The purpose of such services is to increase sales productivity. For these kinds of top executive-level appointments, the representative might very well expect to meet face-to-face with the CMO. So, you have to add to the equation the cost of the commuting time and meeting time. Loaded field sales costs for complex solutions often start at about $100 an hour and can be $500 an hour or more, for elite, high-end key account sales people.

Very quickly, a $500 appointment can become an $800 or even $1,500 appointment, especially if any serious commuting takes place. If the conversion-to-deal is high or the revenue-per-deal is high, then who cares? In many cases, however, buyers find out that 20 to 30 percent of the appointments are not a fit. Now the cost of the qualified appointment goes way up, and the soft cost of sales expense goes to the moon, not to mention the hit on sales productivity.

Unless you are absolutely certain that your sales team wants appointments with a particular set of individuals, then you really need to focus more on qualified leads, not just appointments.

LESSON LEARNED: Make sure you pick the correct intermediate metrics when paying for performance.

Are you helping  your vendors be successful?

OK, now you have learned your lesson, the hard way. You won’t do that again, right? So you negotiate a cost per lead fee structure. Before you do, you wisely work with sales to define BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline) lead criteria and structure the deal accordingly. Again, the devil is in the details. What if sales discovered, after further review, that what they really wanted was to get in to larger accounts before the prospect had finalized a budget? In those cases, maybe the deal takes longer but the win rate is higher and the deal size is higher. Happens all the time. Now you have to try to change the deal. At least for some accounts.

With leads, there is also often subjective information, open to interpretation. Is the prospect really acting with authority? Do they really have a budget? Even seasoned sales people can be mistaken about such things. In short, lead qualification is almost always nuanced, complex and evolving, as the teleprospecting operation figures out how to qualify leads precisely and the sales organization figures out what it really wants and needs. This reality often creates conflict with the vendor initially, because the fee structure negotiated is not really the right fee structure and so one side or the other loses.

Finally, if the vendor is taking all the risk, many people understandably put vendor support on the back burner. It’s human nature. In reality, teleprospecting operations fail, including those that are in-house, without proper support from marketing and sales. For example, from marketing, this operation needs lists, assets and tools, and an appropriate supply of reasonably qualified responders. From sales, the team needs training and mentoring on qualification and precise, rapid feedback on leads..

After all, the fee is fixed and the operation should run on auto-pilot. You also might not bother investing in effective demand generation that feeds the vendor or even list development, instead allowing the vendor to get by on cold-calling decaying lists.

Your program then becomes the dumping ground for new hires. The vendor might also park underperformers there before giving them their walking papers. In other words, both you and the vendor try to extract some value out of the effort. But, some of what matters isn’t getting measured, like the cost in the market place to your brand because of the quality of the calling.

LESSON LEARNED: A business relationship is a two-way street. Your vendor can’t help you be successful, if you don’t help it be successful. As Jerry Maguire said, “Help me help you!”

Is there transparency in your relationship?

So, what’s the right approach? It really depends on what you need and how clear you are about your needs. If you have a reasonably well-oiled, well-documented process and approach to teleprospecting, then asking the vendor to share in the risk and the upside can serve your mutual long-term interests.

If things are not going so well and you need to figure out the right approach, then pay-for-performance is going to create unnecessary conflict. You might be better served in that case to put your focus on determining the right model or strategy for teleprospecting and the parameters of a pilot. Insist on a level of transparency during the pilot and then use the pilot to optimize the approach. Then, after the production level has begun to plateau, start working on a shared risk model.

The right shared risk fee structures ensure that both the vendor and the client win if the program is working and lose if the program is failing. To arrive at such an arrangement, there must be clarity on both sides about mutual obligations and the consquences for non-compliance. Mutual trust and respect are also necessary, including a win-win approach to the fee structure.

To those who might argue that every dollar of profit a vendor makes is a dollar of margin that is lost to its clients, I would point to the free enterprise system. Everywhere in free markets, the quest for profits drives higher levels of efficiency (and losing money drives companies out of markets and out of business). If the vendor makes above average profits for driving above average efficiency, then its clients are the beneficiaries. And the profits that the vendor makes must always be tempered by what its competitors offer or what its clients believe they can achieve in-house.

LESSON LEARNED: A rising tide lifts all boats…as long as everyone is clear on how “tide” and “boat” are defined in the process. So, before you dive in, dip your toe in and start with a pilot that has flexibility to evolve over time. Once the proper success metrics have been discovered, and a working relationship is established, you can create a more successful payment model that truly shares risk and reward.

But don’t stop there. Look at this as an evolving fee model. Continue to optimize as you learn more about what creates a mutually successful relationship.

Related Resources

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

B2B Lead Generation: Why teleprospecting is a bridge between sales and marketing

B2B Marketing: The FUEL methodology outlined

Free MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter

Hoax Marketing: Your brand comes first, humor second, even on April Fool’s Day

April 7th, 2011 1 comment

A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar. And the priest says, “Hey, if we use FourSquare, we’ll save 50% off an appetizer.”

Ugh. It’s pretty hard to mix humor and marketing. It doesn’t mean marketers don’t try every day. Some are wildly successful (Mr. Rolling Cooler Cooler Roller), while others fall flat. Some are even worse…

How to lose customers and alienate people

Gilbert Gottfried was recently fired by Aflac because he brought disgrace to a talking duck. No small task. But the problem was, Gilbert Gottfried was thinking like a comedian, not a marketer. And perhaps Gottfried can be excused, because he’s not really a marketer. He’s been doing standup since he was 15. Job #1 for a comedian is to get the laugh. No matter how inappropriate the joke is, if it’s funny, it’s a success.

Not so for marketers. Job #1 is to sell the product. If you can make a funny ad that sells the product, that’s great. If you can make a boring ad that sells the product, that’s great too. But, never, ever produce anything that alienates your customers. Perhaps the hardest day to successfully walk this tightrope is on April Fool’s Day.

I had loads of fun viewing, dissecting and joking about all of the April Fool’s Day promotions, and I’m sure many of you did as well. But, after a few days, I tried to put on a sober face and a marketer’s hat and analyze these hoaxes – which are essentially marketing promotions – for their possible affect on their target audience. Here’s my Monday morning quarterback analysis of one classic, two recent high performers, and one I think is in serious need of improvement…

Taco Liberty Bell

Click to enlarge

The year was 1996. Back then, the national debt was a pressing problem (you may have to strain a little to imagine a time like that).

The Punchline: Taco Bell is buying the Liberty Bell to pitch in and help with the debt. Thanks to this purchase, it will also be rename this national icon “Taco Liberty Bell” and display it in Taco Bell’s corporate headquarters (Historic sidenote: Since the Internet wasn’t as widely adopted back then, Taco Bell used something our forefathers called a “print ad” to communicate this hoax).

Get it? Because… Taco Bell is at the forefront of groundbreaking marketing campaigns, and marketers will put their names on anything to turn a quick buck.

Analysis: I included this classic example so we could compare this year’s efforts to what marketers were doing before all April Fool’s hoaxes were essentially carried out online. See, it was still possible.

Also, because this was one of my all-time favorites. Probably because “Taco Liberty Bell” is just such a great line, and as a writer I’m a real sucker for great lines. (Writer’s sidenote: Supposedly, the sole reason Jerry Seinfeld made “Bee Movie” was because he loved the punny title).

But, upon thinking about this more, was it really effective? According to Wikipedia, “The campaign cost just $300,000, but it generated an estimated $25 million equivalent in free publicity, with a sales increase exceeding $1 million for the first two days in April.”

It even became a bit of a meme in its day, with then-White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry saying that the government was also “selling the Lincoln Memorial to Ford Motor Company and renaming it the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.” (Historic sidenote: Ya see, there used to be a Ford brand named Mercury…)

David Paine, Founder of PainePR, the public relations agency that executed the campaign, feels that the climate today is much more cautious and a comparable prank is not possible. Also, it’s harder to stick out with so many companies pulling April Fool’s Day pranks. It’s just become expected.

So, let’s forget those impressive numbers for a second, and try to decipher the messaging. The underlying joke is that Taco Bell is a great marketer. But, is that really its value proposition? My guess is that Taco Bell’s value prop is more along the lines of – “cheap, fast food that’s not a burger.” And this marketing hoax doesn’t convey that idea at all.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe Taco Bell would prefer customers focus on the marketing than what’s in the food.

Now on to three examples from April Fool’s Day 2011…

Gmail Motion

The Punchline: No longer are you confined to a mouse and keyboard, great inventions at the time. You can now improve productivity and increase physical activity by typing email with your body motions.

Get it? Because… Google is coming out with so many new, free, cool beta products, you never know what they’re going to come out with next.

Click to enlarge

Analysis: To me, this one is the flat out funniest. I love the main video. The deadpan guy dancing around to write his email messages not only cracked me up…but my daughter as well. Plus, I noticed one of our developers had the Motion Guide posted on his wall. If you can get a writer, a developer, and a 2nd grader, that is a pretty wide demo you’re appealing to.

Overall, I think this prank ties very nicely into Google’s main value prop, which I would guess is “But we, somehow some way, keep coming up with funky cool technology like every single day.” And I think supporting the brand and the main value proposition is essential for everything a marketing department produces, even a prank.

If I had to find fault, though, this perhaps draws some attention to the technological prowess of Google’s main competitors – Apple and Microsoft.

After all, developing a product so you no longer have to use “outdated technologies like the keyboard and mouse” could also refer to touch screen technology, where Apple’s iOS and iPad seem to be beating Google’s Android touch screen operating system pretty handily.

Also, what Google is treating as so difficult and science ”fictiony” as to be an outlandish joke is a reality for customers of Microsoft’s Kinect, “a controller-free gaming and entertainment experience,” in a quote that must have been written by a team of lawyers in Redmond. It’s actually a pretty cool-looking response to the Wii from Microsoft’s Xbox gaming system, a sensor device that picks up motion for a whole-body gaming experience.

Of course, Kinect is just for games, right? Well, some hackers at USC gave Microsoft some nice press off of the Gmail Motion prank by combining Kinect with software they’ve developed to make what seemed ludicrous on April Fool’s Day a reality just a few days later.

Starbucks Mobile Pour

Click to enlarge

The Punchline: Can’t wait to walk to the next corner to get to a Starbucks? You can use a new smartphone app to have a barista on a scooter deliver your cup of coffee to you.

Get it? Because… There is no spot on Earth that is more than 12 seconds away from a Starbucks location. We’re almost too convenient.

Analysis: This ties in very nicely with Starbucks brands and reinforces the main value prop of “much cooler than the average cup of coffee and you can find us everywhere.” Plus, the underlying theme without saying it is…really, you’re getting your coffee at McDonald’s? Would their headquarter people even know what a smartphone is? Or a scooter? Or a decent cup of coffee?

If I had to find fault with this…it’s just not very funny. Yeah, the overall concept is amusing. But they didn’t spend much time on the execution. I think Starbucks was a little nervous about going too far out on the limb. This was even posted by “April F.”

And now, on to a bad attempt at humor…

Insects Raised with Compassion

The Punchline: There’s not one main joke, just a fake Whole Foods Market homepage with headlines like “Insects Raised with Compassion,” “Save Money With Refurbished Spices,” turning the lights off in the store for Earth Day, etc.

Get it? Because… I’m stumped. Best I could come up with is – You’re an idiot forpaying so much for our foods and your environmental leanings should be derided as well.

Click to enlarge

Analysis: To me, this one is a huge fail. I’d say Whole Foods’ value prop is nicely stated right under the logo on their website “Selling the highest quality natural & organic products.” This prank totally undercuts the value prop…and the brand.

I may be harsh because it cuts a little close to home. I shop at Whole Foods. I’m dead center in their target demographic. They make nice margins on food because their customers have deep-seated, eco-friendly values and are looking for healthier food than they could find in the supermarket. Also, occasionally, a little something special, more artisan than Kraft Mac & Cheese at a normal grocer.

And yet, Whole Foods undercuts all of this. This April Fool’s Day prank mocks environmentalists by saying it will shut off all the lights in its store on Earth Day, so you better bring a flashlight or buy one of its “torches of 100% reclaimed wood.” This is clearly based on Earth Hour, a very serious attempt by the World Wildlife Fund to prod action on climate change.

“Insects Raised with Compassion” belittles anyone who would buy more expensive meat because it was raised under more humane conditions. Refurbished spices with “favorite flavors that won’t break the bank” makes me think I might as well buy McCormick in a regular grocery store than fork over the extra bucks to Whole Foods. And the joke about artisan cheese lip balms…maybe artisan cheeses are ridiculous? Maybe I should just stick to the Publix deli?

Look, I can take a joke. I’m not seriously offended. But, remember, the point of marketing is to push product, not to get people to laugh. If this was a standup comedian like Gilbert Gottfried, he could rightly say, “It’s funny. Get over yourself.” But Whole Foods’ job isn’t to be funny; it’s to sell expensive food. This marketing hoax does not do that. It undercuts the brand Whole Foods has worked so hard (and spent so much money) to build.

It’s “The Simpsons” job to make fun of Whole Foods customers, not the Whole Foods marketing department.

Of course, it’s easier to burn down a house than build a new one, so what do I think would be a good marketing hoax from Whole Foods? How about joke that they’ve opened a new organic factory farm where they can now mass produce organic products? Show videos of workers assembling artisanal foods on a Detroit factory assembly line? This would underscore Whole Foods brand, not undercut it. They would be saying, “The joke is on the people who buy the mass-produced ‘food’ product and don’t buy our stuff.”

Laugh with your customers, never at them.

Related Resources

Marketing Wisdom: In the end, it’s all about…

Marketing Career: You must be your company’s corporate conscience

Top Online Marketing Lessons of 2010: What worked and what didn’t in the last 365 days of experimentation –Web Clinic Replay

Free MarketingSherpa Newsletters

Informed Dissent: The best marketing campaigns come from the best ideas

March 18th, 2011 1 comment

“There are no bad ideas.” When I was an advertising copywriter, this is the line we would always use to enter a realm of, essentially, suspension of disbelief and start concepting our next ad. The idea being that, even if I come up with the absolute worse idea, it might spark a concept in my art director partner that would eventually lead us down the road to riches for our client and our names engraved on a gold One Show pencil.

But, of course, there are bad ideas. And according to an article in Ode magazine about research into ways to spur creativity and innovation, those bad ideas are…well…bad…

“These revelations are all the more potent considering that many organizations continue to embrace the ‘brainstorming’ technique developed by advertising executive Alex Osborn in the 1950s. According to Osborn’s now debunked system, criticism and conflict squash new ideas and should be discouraged; in hindsight, those brainstorming sessions of yore were more likely to act as echo chambers in which bad ideas were amplified by fake enthusiasm.”

“In praise of dissent” by Jeremy Mercer

A dissident is here

In essence, to get better marketing work, you must not be pulled into the groupthink.

And, while this is the first time I have personally heard anyone admonish the idea of reality-free brainstorming, dissent shouldn’t be a radically new idea, right?

More than 50 years ago, General Patton said, “If everybody’s thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking.” More recently, we’ve heard the bland embellishments to “think outside of the box.” And yet…

So many times we don’t. From the financial crisis to the heap of blasé, color-by-numbers marketing that proliferates across the Web, so many people don’t pop their head out of the cubicle and say, “Our current way of doing things isn’t a good idea.”

Why?

Hang on, Voltaire

It’s not easy now, is it? It’s hard to be the outsider. It’s hard to tell the group, “You’re all wrong and I’m right.” It’s hard to, perhaps, put your job on the line by separating from the pack.

As Voltaire said a few hundred years ago… “Our wretched species is so made that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road.” Pretty harsh. Can you imagine how much more biting those words would be if he ever had to ask for a LinkedIn Recommendation from a former co-worker that he publicly disagreed with?

But, perhaps, as with marketing itself, it’s all how you communicate your dissent? Both your attitude and approach? To wit…

So, how do you disagree agreeably?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this as well, but here are a few ways I’ve learned to buck the status quo in my career…

  • Ask questions – “That’s a horrible idea, our audience will hate us for it.” Or… “That’s an interesting idea. How do you think our audience will react if we sell our list to Viagara salesmen from Nigeria?” When you disagree, the last thing you want is a battle of wills, head-to-head confrontation.

    Put your ego away for a moment, and serve simply as the advocate for the idea. The best (and most non-confrontational) way to bring someone along to your side is by giving them gentle triggers to aspects they may not have considered. This way, they are discovering why an idea won’t work, instead of having you ram it down their throats. This also helps them (and you) save face. After all, no one wants to lose a head-to-head battle.

    As in the movie “Inception,” you can’t plant an idea in someone’s head, only introduce the seed, nurture it, and hope to watch it grow.

  • See things differently – In the famous “Think Different” TV ad, Richard Dreyfuss talks about those who “gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels.” You don’t have to be quite that visionary, but simply looking at everyday things in a new way can help.

    Take data, for example. I was very impressed by a comment by Greg Sherry, VP, Marketing and Business Development, Verint Systems. During his MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2010 presentation, he mentioned that he invested in direct mail because he read in a MarketingSherpa Benchmark Report that less marketers were investing in direct mail. He figured he’d have less competition. How counterintuitive.

    Or in a recent article by Adam T. Sutton about the origin story of Orabrush’s YouTube sponsor channel, which is second only to Old Spice. This small business sponsored market research by a college class and found that 92% of people wouldn’t want to buy this product online, so the class advised against it. One dissident student raised his hand and said, “That means 8% might be interested in buying it online. That’s millions of people.”

  • Let others challenge you – Here’s what Jeremy Mercer advises in the above-referenced Ode magazine article:

    o Have executives lead by example by allowing subordinates to challenge their positions
    o Hold meetings at which diverse perspectives are welcomed
    o Surround yourself with people who think differently than you do.

  • Be right – There’s nothing worse than putting yourself on the line for a cause and being wrong. Don’t create “facts” that support your decisions, base your decisions on the facts. A great way to do this is with real-world, real-time online testing. In this way, you can experiment with your dissident idea as well as the ideas you disagree with and let your customers be the judge. Just make sure you know what those test results really mean.

In the end, you have to be a little bit Patton (the hard-nosed general shepherding an idea past any obstacle), and a little bit Voltaire (the outspoken writer finding creative means around strict censorship to criticize your organization’s dogma).

Related Resources

Marketing Wisdom: In the end, it’s all about…

The Last Blog Post: To understand life is to understand marketing

From Corporate America to Entrepreneur: Giving up steady pay for a steady say

Free MarketingSherpa Newsletters

Marketing Career: Free salary guides for direct and online marketing

March 11th, 2011 4 comments

How much money do you make?

For whatever reason, that’s a question most of us never ask our peers. It’s such an uncomfortable topic to discuss. Yet, you’re curious, aren’t you? And well, you should be. How can you benchmark your salary without knowing what other VPs of Ecommerce, Search Engine Marketing Analysts and Advertising Agency Copywriters are earning?

That’s why I was so intrigued when I received a “Dear Editor” email from Wendy Weber, President, Crandall Associates, with two marketing salary reports attached (the DMA directs inquiries about salaries to Crandall). I gave Wendy a call, and she was kind enough to share these guides – for free – with the MarketingSherpa audience. So, here they are:

“The guides were compiled using salary data from conversations with over 1,100 direct and online marketing professionals, including both hiring managers and job seekers,” Weber said. The executive search firm, which specializes in the direct and online marketing industry, chose not to conduct a mail survey, as they generally have a bias toward larger companies and are never random, as respondents select themselves.

So, aside from the fact that there is a Corporate Copywriter banking $135,000, what else can you learn from this data? Here are two points that stuck out (and we’d love to hear your takeaways as well):

  • Digital marketing salaries continue to grow The average annual salary for digital marketing positions has shown a steady increase, according to Weber. For example, the average salary for Web Analytics Manager has grown 2.8% since 2010 to $78,200.
  • Optimization is a valuable skill – The top-paying Internet jobs require knowledge of optimization. For the VP of Online Marketing ($169,300-$198,200 with 7+ years experience), the job description calls for the ability to “manage and merchandise…site navigation and shopability, transaction processing, onsite promotion management…” And the Director of Ecommerce ($146,200-$168,700 with 7+ years of experience) specifically asks for “landing page optimization.”

In fairness, since we just announced our new Optimization Summit, I may have optimization on the brain – so I’d love to hear your takeaways as well.

Related Resources

Optimization Summit 2011 – June 1 -3

From Corporate America to Entrepreneur: Giving up steady pay for a steady say

Marketing Career: You must be your company’s corporate conscience

Marketing Career: Can you explain your job to a six-year-old?

“How to Become Indispensable to Your CEO” Special Report

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MarketingExperiments Careers

The Last Blog Post: To understand life is to understand marketing

March 4th, 2011 No comments

(Editor’s Note: When we first conceived of The Last Blog Post experiment, we thought it would be another way to learn from successful marketers and thought leaders. What we never imagined is how harrowingly close life can imitate marketing…as Scott explains in this post.

So while we’re a few weeks past The Last Blog Post experiment, I wanted to publish this one last insight since successful marketing must imitate life. And while, from my perspective, Scott has always had an impressive ability to understand people, businesses, processes and systems at their core, I believe his recent experience has further clarified that knowledge…)

Just prior to my 45th birthday, our editor asked me to provide a contribution to a blog event titled “The Last Blog Post.” He stated the idea came from the concepts of the book entitled The Last Lecture,  that I had recommended to him.

As sharing things I have learned along the way is a passion of mine, I could not help myself but to say yes. My assistant, the best assistant anyone could ask for in the world I might add, argued that with my current focus and only two weeks lead time, there would be no way for me to complete the assignment on time. However, much to her chagrin, I took the task and added it to my long list.

The only thing I asked of our editor was that he provide me with some questions to get myself thinking along the direction he wanted this to trend, which he gratefully did. I carefully planned my writing time and set off to complete this assignment, as part of the many things I had taken on.

Little did I know that a few days later, on my 45th birthday, I would get that wakeup call we all fear. Just after the kind group of people that I work with and serve presented me with some wonderful cupcakes and a gift, I realized that the constant pressure in my chest and shortness of breath would not go away. At first, I said, “Hey, it’s my birthday; I will deal with this tomorrow.”

But, thanks to Lisa, my wonderful persistent wife, I decided to give myself a different kind of present. I went to the hospital, just to get cleared, before I headed off to celebrate. Well, a few days later, which included having to be jump started (as my children called it) once along the way, thanks to the great care of the staff from the Jacksonville Heart Center and the Baptist Hospital, I got a second chance.

Now, with a new diet (thanks to my family and everyone at MECLABS ), some new pills and a few more cardiac procedures to go staring me in the face, I was told I did not need to worry about trying to hit the deadline to produce my Last Blog Post, since, well, I came all too close to it actually being my very last anything. So, I tried not to think about it and focus on catching up on my major projects. While I did not hit the deadline, I could not help but put a few of my thoughts on paper.

I wanted to focus on three areas in particular: 1) Good vs. bad people, 2) Short-term vs. Long-term approaches, and 3) Balancing work and life.

Good vs. bad people

With respect to good people vs. bad people (in fairness to my editor, the question as he posed it was more along the lines of what makes a good/bad leader and/or employee), I find it quite easy to state it this way. Most people are fundamentally good and it is simply their behavior that is bad.

More specifically, I define behavior that considers one’s own self-interest at the expense of other people’s interest as bad. The reality is that we are all guilty of “bad” behavior from time to time. The goal is therefore to prevent it first.

However, on those, hopefully rare, occasions when our behavior fits this definition of bad, it is incumbent upon us to admit it, apologize for it, make our penance and be darn sure we do not repeat the act. See a parallel to customer service and public relations here? I hope so.

At the end of all our days, the only thing that will really matter is the relationships we have and have had along the way.

Short-term vs. long-term approaches

We often hear people define others by whether they are thinking short term or long term in their strategy. Especially in today’s world, the short term, that is instant gratification, has become what we want.

However, I have watched people and businesses continue to fall flat on their faces with this short term approach because they lose their raison d’etre (the long term). What I try to help people understand is a simple adage that a mentor from my college days shared with me; don’t confuse fun with happiness.

He was not trying to say don’t go out and have fun. What he meant was – don’t let having fun get in the way of achieving the short term goals you needed to achieve in order to meet your long term objectives, which will leave you feeling fulfilled and happy.  For a deeper study of this concept, I recommend Spencer Johnson’s The Present and Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Likewise, a splashy advertising campaign is certainly fun, but is it serving your customers in the long term? Are you building a sustainable business or a flash in the pan?

Balancing work and life

The concept of working on short-term goals that will allow you to achieve your long-term objectives is how I build my approach to “balancing work and life.” Let me first explain that you cannot have “work-life balance” from my perspective. It makes the flawed assumption that your life and your work are two distinct and mutually exclusive entities. I argue that your work is a subset of your life, just as your family, schooling and time spent with friends are subsets.

The key to balancing them comes down to understanding the purpose you have dedicated your life to fulfilling and understanding how each of the pieces moves you closer to the life objective you have set out to achieve.

I will never forget the first short on the companion DVD to The 8th Habit. It defined life with four key elements: living, loving, learning and leaving a legacy. There is no reason that work you do cannot contribute to your living, your loving, your learning and the legacy you leave behind.

Consider those elements in every campaign you create. Does that campaign represent your best efforts for both your company and your audience? After all, there is no “work you” and “home you.” There is only “you.” Ask yourself…do you, all of you, truly stand behind that latest campaign?

And in the end…

So, at the end of it all I will say that you simply have to do the following:

  • Find a purpose that moves you and will improve the lives of others
  • Understand how what you are doing today will help you to achieve that purpose and
  • Realize that without other people to share our journey you may as well just stay where you are.

Related resources

Marketing Wisdom: In the end, it’s all about…

The Last Blog Post: Marketers must embrace change

The Last Blog Post: 5 Lessons I’d Leave Behind

The Last Blog Post- What Marketers can learn from The Last Lecture

The Last Blog: It All Begins with Trust

The Last Blog Post: How to succeed in an era of Transparent Marketing

Marketing Wisdom: In the end, it’s all about…

February 15th, 2011 2 comments

At MECLABS, we’re constantly trying to learn more about what really works in marketing. Through research. Through reporting. And by simply asking marketers like you.

And we’ve written about what we’ve learned… a lot. The MarketingSherpa site has 33,000 pages according to a recent Google search. MarketingExperiments has 1,980 pages.

That’s a lot to digest. But what if we had to simplify that down to just one blog post for the busy marketer? Well, that’s exactly what I tried for MarketingExperiments discoveries. And Todd Lebo, Senior Director of Marketing and Business Development, attempted for MarketingSherpa’s research and reporting.

Even better, other knowledgeable marketers performed a similar exercise with their content as well. It was all part of an effort dubbed The Last Blog Post. It was a community-wide attempt to pass on knowledge and expertise. It was a tweet up, a meeting of the minds. It was a mix of fun and inspiration. And it was one more way for us to ask leading marketers what works for them.

You can see everything marketers had to say by searching on Twitter for #LastBlog (depending on how long Twitter saves these tweets. It has varied lately. Buy more servers @ev and @biz!)

In an effort to help you on your career (and perhaps life) journey, here are a few of my favorite takeaways…

Pursue purpose
“True entrepreneurs will never be satisfied with riches. They have to affect change, and will risk everything to make their vision reality.”
The Last Blog Post: 5 Lessons I’d Leave Behind by Paul Roetzer, PR 20/20

Exciting but intimidating times
“As a marketer we have no choice but to improve what we are doing. Embrace change.”
The Last Blog Post: Marketers must embrace change by ToddLebo, MECLABS

When there is an elephant in the room, introduce him
“It’s in the flaws of our products that our customers really see the personality of our company.  So, let’s agree that instead of hiding the elephant in the room that we find ways to show how our companies go above and beyond when our products aren’t perfect.”
The Last Blog Post- What Marketers can learn from The Last Lecture by Maria Pergolino, Marketo

Give value, build trust
“When you give people what they value, without expecting anything in return, you build trust.”
The Last Blog: It All Begins with Trust by Brian Carroll, MECLABS

Delight
“When writing I try and ask myself, “Will this be fun to read? Will the audience be delighted?” If the answer is no, then maybe it’s time to take another crack at it. The important thing is not to forget that I am writing for people, not just suits.”
The Last Blog Post: The 4 Metrics That Matter by Jesse Noyes, Eloqua

Take time to help customers, coworkers and even competitors.
“Market research is a rich intellectual discipline, shaped by the contributions that thousands before us have shared. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, and we should all seek to lift those around us by sharing what we’ve learnt.”
My Last Blog Post by Jeffrey Henning, Vovici

Honesty and earnest people and companies are long-term
“Loyalty is a two-way street and as a person, a company or a brand, you have to apologize when you screw up. Don’t focus on yourself, rather focus on how that mistake affected other people.”
The Last Blog Post by Ilona Olayan, Social Strategy1

Use your gift for the common good
“Speak loudly when statistics are being interpreted too strictly, too loosely, or just plain incorrectly. Speak loudly when surveys are too long, too boring, or poorly designed. Speak loudly when samples are selected with little care. Speak loudly when charts and illustrations are being used to entertain instead of educate. Speak loudly when you see our market research industry being wrongly trod upon.”
The Last Blog Post: Speak Loudly My #MRX Friends #LastBlog by Annie Pettit, Conversition Strategies

Be honest, be fearless
“Though not always easy, I’ve found the fearlessly honest approach in life and business invaluable. I’ve seen many individuals and companies who have not always followed this path. Even for shorter periods, the cost of not doing this is high. Realize it’s often much easier to fool yourself than others.”
The Last Blog Post by Tom H.C. Anderson, Anderson Analytics

Don’t go to bed angry
“It’s not worth holding onto anger. Let it go, and go to sleep with a sound mind. You’ll feel better in the morning.”
– The Last Blog Post
by Martin Lieberman, Constant Contact

Do something
“Just step away from the monitor and do something.  There’s nothing I (or any other ‘marketing expert’) can say that’s nearly as important or interesting as rejoining your life, already in progress.”
The Last Blog Post (And The Most Recent Ego Trap) #LastBlog by Joe Chernov, Eloqua

Not one second
“I would not use one second of my last moments to write a blog post. I would spend as much time as I could with my wife and children—and maybe grandchildren if it’s that long from now.”
The Last Blog Post by Guy Kawasaki

Now that we’ve bared our marketing souls, we’re turning to you. If you had one last blog post, what would you say? Feel free to write your own and begin the title with “The Last Blog Post:” Or one last tweet? Share it using #Last Blog. Or one last comment? That’s easy, just leave it below.

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Social Marketing: Will you monetize social media and measure ROI in 2011?

February 1st, 2011 3 comments

Social media continues to have a profound effect on marketing, and the use of this channel for marketing purposes is rapidly evolving. This week marks the fielding of our third annual Social Marketing Benchmark Survey to determine exactly how this important new marketing channel has evolved and which strategies will work best going forward.

Last year’s study revealed how social marketing was maturing, resulting in a shift from tactical to strategic thinking. However, we found that most organizations, even those in the strategic phase of social marketing maturity, had not yet figured out how to measure the return on their social marketing investment.

Without the ability to prove ROI, social marketing budgets were, and in most cases still are, being driven by perception. What is the perception? As this chart shows, only 7% of the 2300 social media marketers responding to our last study thought social media was producing ROI and, as a result, were willing to budget liberally. While 49% thought it was a promising tactic that will eventually produce ROI, nearly the same numbers (44%) are much more skeptical and unwilling to invest more.

But social marketing has evolved significantly in the past year and many marketers are not only promising ROI, they are proving it.

So, in our new survey we examine how organizations are overcoming the challenge of social media monetization, and which tactics are most effective for achieving this important objective, in addition to the comprehensive coverage of social marketing topics in general.

To share your insights on social media marketing, please take our third annual Social Marketing Benchmark Survey. This survey is being fielded now and will only remain open through Sunday, February 6, 2011.

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Social Media Marketing: Turning social media engagement into action at Threadless

Measuring Social Media’s Contribution to the Bottom Line: 5 tactics (Members’ Library)

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