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Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 1.33.06 PMClient CURE Childhood Cancer has a lot of amazing supporters. And one of GRM’s favorites is NFL Linebacker Gary Guyton. For Gary, watching kids fighting cancer truly touches his heart. He’a a Zealot for sure. That’s why Gary has rallied some of his NFL friends and joined forces with CURE for their May 5th event Lauren’s Run & CURE Annual Picnic.

Lauren’s Run (the annual 5K, 2K, and Tot Trot) begins at 8:00am at Concourse Office Park in Atlanta, GA. Following Lauren’s Run, all race participants are invited to the CURE Annual Picnic. There, your family will enjoy lunch and an abundance of games – including the Gary Guyton Flag Football game. Just look for the Flag Football registration table at Lauren’s Run check-in to sign up for a time to play. The football game is free – all you need to do is register for Lauren’s Run. Click here to sign up and support this worthwhile cause. Keep your eyes peeled for GRM – we’ll be there on race day!

Check out some of the great commercials we filmed with Gary and 11Alive. It was a fun day on set for all of us – and the kids.

Much is written about dealing with customers at the front end of a relationship or transaction. Now there is evidence that an open and liberal return policy also has a tangible payback.

Most people have a built-in “radar” to detect how someone feels towards them. Seemingly insignificant words or gestures can have a large impact. For example, with a return policy based on the goal of minimizing fraud, customers will emotionally detect that they are not trusted. Conversely, if the company’s underlying assumption is that customers are honest and fair – and that when they need to return something they have a genuine problem – then their policy will make customers feel cared for and valued.

A research study recently published in the Journal of Marketing reflects the longer-term financial impact of return policies. And it’s not good for those strict policies. Customers who paid for the return of a defective or unwanted items decreased subsequent spending at that retailer by 75 – 100%. On the other hand, retailers who offered free returns to their customers saw subsequent spending by those customers at 158% – 457% of pre-return levels.

Short-term actions have long-term consequences to your Zealots. Zealotry actions should demonstrate ongoing “appreciation” to customers.

Let’s think about typical marketing examples that do just the opposite. Nickel-and-dime charges. Fine print exceptions. Exaggerated promises. In every research group we’ve conducted, participants voice their disdain over such practices. If the goal is building loyalty, ignoring these fundamental issues while spending heavily on so-called loyalty programs is not only wasted dollars, it is counter-productive.

Julie Schlack of Communispace says it well: “True loyalty exists when a company has made its customers feel safe, appreciated and smart. These emotions are the anchors that will keep your customers close whenever the next guy comes along with a better deal.”

Guest Relations Marketing has long advocated a more personal, authentic and cost effective approach to igniting your “Zealots.” Coming in January, we will be launching a program that any company can implement. An authentic alternative to traditional loyalty programs. One that builds loyalty the right way.   Stay tuned for ZealStorm. Get ready to ignite your Zealots in 2013!

A year ago, childhood cancer was a totally foreign subject to me. The disease hadn’t affected my family or friends. It didn’t have a face or a name. It wasn’t real.

Then I met CURE’s Kids.

I began my internship at Guest Relations Marketing in August 2011 and my first project was to read, edit, and upload the stories of the children participating in the September promotion CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time.

Some children were survivors. Some were currently in treatment. Some had lost their battle. The stories were both heartbreaking and inspiring. After researching CURE, I soon realized that childhood cancer is much more common than I ever imagined and that government funding for the disease is almost nonexistent.

Since its inception in 2009, CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time has raised more than $600,000 for critical research aimed at finding cures for childhood cancers. All this was accomplished by simply sharing the stories of children whose lives have been affected by this horrific disease.

CURE’s goal this September is to raise another $250,000. Seems like a daunting task. But as soon as you read the story of a child like Laura, the reason CURE needs our support is crystal clear.

Are you a Zealot for CURE? I certainly am.

If you follow Guest Relations Marketing, you know we are usually discussing three things: how to build brands; finding and developing more Zealots for your brand; and how to build Zealotry actions through Social Media. While those three things may seem a little odd and not well connected, they all fit nicely (at least in our minds) under this umbrella concept called Zealotry Marketing.

Our term is Zealots. Others may refer to these select customers as advocates, referral agents or extremists. We prefer Zealots. The word Zealot has an edge. There is an energy – a passion – that we believe more accurately fits the notion.

Our definition of Zealots: those who are passionate about a brand’s products or services, enough to freely share their enthusiasm and experience without provocation or compensation. In marketing terms, Zealots are willing to participate, often at their own expense, to further the brand because of their belief in what it stands for.

Because Zealots are the most authentic form of referral, it is only logical to build marketing programs from their perspectives.

Doing so is simply more profitable.

Here at Guest Relations Marketing, we love coming up with campaign ideas. Brainstorming promotions, giveaways, and contests? One of the most fun parts of our job. The only downside – we aren’t allowed to participate. But instead of pouting about the awesome prizes we’re missing out on, we decided to spread the word about one of our client’s current promotions.

We’re just that generous.

Our most tasty client is Smoothie King Atlanta. Hands down. We just kicked off an exciting promotion around their newest product, Lean1. Lean1 smoothies come in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry and help you burn fat 68% faster.

Yeah, they’re magical.

Smoothie King Atlanta and 680 The Fan, Atlanta’s Sports Station, have joined forces for the Fall Fit Giveaway. Just head over to Smoothie King Atlanta’s Facebook Page and click “Vote Lean1 & Win” on the left. Pick your favorite Lean1 smoothie flavor, enter some contact info, and you’re done! Once you’ve entered the poll you’re eligible to win a trip to King & Prince Resort, a $150 gift card to Big Peach Running Co., a 1 year membership to Massage Envy, and a 1 year supply of Lean1 smoothies from Smoothie King.

Now you see why we’re so jealous we can’t win.

But because we’re zealots for Smoothie King Atlanta and because we’re zealots for amazing giveaways, we just had to fill you in. If we can’t win a year’s worth of delicious Lean1 smoothies, you certainly deserve to. Good luck!

Here at Guest Relations Marketing, we all have strong opinions. We challenge one another’s ideas to ensure that we provide our clients with the best solutions possible. Sometimes this means we have to agree to disagree. However, as different as we may be, there is one thing we all have in common:

A love for all things Apple.

The news of Steve Job’s death was a popular topic of conversation in the office today. The discussion of our zealotry for the Apple brand quickly turned into a discussion of our zealotry for the man behind the brand. Here’s what we had to say:

Steve Jobs was the Thomas Edison of our time; what he accomplished in his lifetime impacted every single person in the entire world. He once said he wanted to strive to be remembered for changing the world. I’d say he achieved just that in the most profound way possible.

It’s a sad day for Steve Jobs and the Apple family. On the other hand, this man offered a tremendous legacy that can inspire all businesses. The power of radically looking at the competition and the category and truly offering something different. Of understanding the mindset, not simply the demographics, of customers. But for Guest Relations, we take away from Jobs the understanding that it takes both a distinctive product and a superior customer experience. At every touchpoint. Someone said it well in an article I read last night: Jobs had the creativity and insight not simply to dream up products that never existed, but he also could visualize how to package, promote and deliver them to consumers in a simple, yet integrated manner. Steve Jobs was simply the best Zealotry Marketer of our time.

Apple products have become an essential part of my life from the day I was introduced to them. I remember learning at a young age on an early Apple desktop, and am now connected at the hip via laptop, iPad, iPhone and iPod – all of which keep me up to date and connected to the world. The innovation that Steve Jobs developed has inspired a legacy of amazing things to come for the future.

Steve Jobs made Apple a company that completely changed the way the world communicates. His passion for innovating technology made the world a better place. There’s no question that the world just lost one of the true greats.

Steve Jobs envisioned products that simply make sense. They fit seamlessly into our lives. They’re easy to use. They’re beautiful. Jobs set the standard for what all companies should strive to achieve: he was loyal to his high brand standards and Apple customers were loyal to him. Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Let’s all strive to be that yardstick.

I felt it was only appropriate to honor the founder of the products that each one of us at Guest Relations are Zealots for.  If you have not read Steve Jobs Commencement address to the students at Stanford in 2005, you should take a moment and soak in his words of wisdom.  You will always be remembered as one of the greatest innovators of our time.  Rest in Peace, Steve.


This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Here at Guest Relations Marketing, after working with a client, we can’t help but become zealots. We research the client, we research their customers, and we think about their brand everyday. It becomes a part of our lives.

After working with Swoozie’s this year, we have become zealots for all-things-Swooz. We don’t just go into the store for client meetings. We pick up our favorite teams’ tailgating supplies. We Ooo and Ahh over new products. We order Holiday cards.

Now through October 9, 2011, Swoozie’s is hosting their Annual Customer Celebration event. Swoozie’s wants to let their customers know how much they love and appreciate each and every one of them by offering a 25% discount.

We’re just a little excited.

Not only that, but Swoozie’s wants to get to know the people behind the “OOs” by highlighting the creativity of their customers on Swoozie’s blog. To encourage customer creativity, Swoozie’s has placed a printable copy of “OO” glasses on their blog. You simply print them out, add some “pizazz,” and post pics on Swoozie’s Facebook page.

Like I said, we’re zealots for Swoozie’s. So we couldn’t resist.

Marketing program measures have traditionally been discussed in terms of reach, awareness, GRPs, and market share.

Of course, sales should not be the ONLY marketing objective.  But, as secondary indicators, consider some old measures in new language or skin:

Credibility vs. Trusted Source
Referral vs. Pass-Along
Viral Impact vs. Creative Impact

Zealots – referral agents – are themselves a valuable form of media.  And, they are simply more credible than any other form of media available to marketers. Factor credibility into your marketing planning and see if you don’t look at referral and social media in a new light.

Your most valuable customers – those that drive referral, not spend the most. While old-school types laugh this statement off, they may not be accounting for the integration of referral as a media touchpoint.

An excerpt of an interview with Shiv Singh, VP and Global Media Leader at Razorfish and author of Social Media Marketing for Dummies:

How would you recommend businesses that are new to social media marketing get started?

“The cliché response is to say that they need to start listening but that’s obvious. I believe rather than dipping their toes in the water with listening efforts alone, businesses must also quickly ask themselves whether they are willing to commit to participating in a world that has truly gone social. They need to quickly figure out whether their core products and services can benefit by becoming more social. They must ask themselves whether their products need digital extensions. And they must determine whether they know who their most valuable customers are – not the ones creating the most revenues but the ones bringing in the most other customers.”

Zealots – referral agents – are themselves a valuable form of media.  And, they are simply more credible than any other form of media available to marketers. Factor credibility into your marketing planning and see if you don’t look at referral and social media in a new light.

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