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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:

April:
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.

Mike:
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.

Ashley:
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.

Holly:
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.

Amanda:
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.

Frequent buyer programs are frequently misdefined as loyalty programs.   Zealotry is not about “frequency of purchase”.  Your best Zealots may not be heavy spenders or most frequent customers.  But, they remain extremely valuable in terms of referral.   True loyalty is earned by the brand, not bought by frequency of purchase.  Read on …

From Reveries.com

Let’s just get this straight once and for all: There is no such thing as brand loyalty. Each of us likes certain brands and may even love them. We may buy them most of the time, or perhaps even every time. But the idea that we have a true bond with any brand, like the kind of commitment we have in real life with our friends and family, is a farce. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to create that kind of loyalty; most of us tell ourselves that’s the end game and it’s always important to aim high.

What it does mean is that we should take a harder look at how we go about creating what we call loyalty. We need to admit that coupons, discounts, points and prizes are just beanbags. We ought to spend more time thinking about the stuff that really matters to people, and serve that up each and every day.

That means products and services that really and truly solve problems and help people live happier lives. Providing a helping hand when someone really needs it, and smiling because we truly mean it. It’s not because the customer is always right (nobody’s perfect). It’s because it’s up to us to make it right. We may not get the same kind of loyalty we enjoy with our family and friends, but we’ll have more fun, and so will everyone else. Loyalty is what we make it. Your thoughts? ~ Tim Manners, editor.

It may be amusing or disgusting based on your point of view. But, 5 people are zealots of bathroom matters enough to write blogs from the sanctuary of  portable toilets in New York City over the upcoming holiday season.   No less than brand maven Proctor & Gamble is.

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P&G’s Toilet Talent Search

If you love the loo, and we mean really love it, then P&G (Stock Quote: PG) has a job for you.

P&G’s Charmin toilet paper division launched a national job search this week to locate five “outgoing and enthusiastic people” to work in New York City’s Times Square Charmin Restrooms this holiday season for a salary of $10,000 each. The lucky five selected will interact with a multitude of restroom guests while getting paid to revel in their own “love of the loo.”

Yep, we’re serious. And don’t you call them bathroom attendants either. Charmin is referring to its new employees as “Charmin Ambassadors.”

Now that’s what we call spin. And it doesn’t stop there.

In its want ad, Charmin says “all candidates must really, really enjoy going to the bathroom.” Furthermore, applicants must be prepared to answer why they “enjoy the go” more than anybody else.

Believe it or not, this is not Charmin’s first potty promotion. This is the fourth straight year the company will provide tourists and locals alike with what it calls a “relief refuge” and momentary respite from the holiday rush. And Charmin is not being chintzy with its portable potties. The 20 deluxe and soon-to-be fully-staffed restrooms will offer additional amenities, including stroller parking, baby changing stations seating and a family photo area.

As to what kind of family would snap photos of its bathroom experience, we have no idea. But we are sure the five “Ambassadors” will fill us in on all the details part of their job will be to blog about their experience in the proverbial hot seat.

Source: Mainstreet.com


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The FTC recently updated its guidelines – taking dead aim at companies attempting to fake zealotry actions. Failure for bloggers to disclose their potential sponsorship or material gain is potential fines up to $11,000 per posting. “Bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

No payment was made to GRM by the FTC for the posting of this article.

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Blogola: The FTC Takes On Paid Posts

The Federal Trade Commission wants bloggers to disclose when they’ve been wooed with cash or freebies from companies they cover

Readers of Adventures in Babywearing, a blog for parents, got an up-close look at the Ergo, a $135 embroidered baby carrier in a shade called “organic blue” in a May 14 post on the site. Blog operator Stephanie Precourt was impressed. “The Ergo truly is now my first choice for long-term wear as well as nursing and doing chores around the house,” she wrote.

Money can’t buy that kind of advertising for Maui (Hawaii)-based ERGObaby. Or can it? As Precourt wrote in her blog, the company sent the carrier free, along with a matching pouch and backpack. Precourt says it’s legitimate to blog about a product she’s been given by its manufacturer. “I try to keep my blog filled with personal stories and real-life content so that when I do happen to write about something that I’ve been given, it’s credible,” she says in an e-mail.

But such back-scratching endorsements could become tougher under a coming set of Federal Trade Commission guidelines designed to clarify how companies can court bloggers to write about their products. This summer, the government agency is expected to issue new advertising guidelines that will require bloggers to disclose when they’re writing about a sponsor’s product and voicing opinions that aren’t their own. The new FTC guidelines say that blog authors should disclose when they’re being compensated by an advertiser to discuss a product.

Google Downgrades Paid Blog Entries

It’s the first revision of the FTC’s guidelines for editorials and testimonials in ads since 1980, and regulators say it’s needed in an era when consumers increasingly turn to blogs and other amateur Web sites for information about the goods and services they buy. The rules seek to clear up some of the tangled connections on Web sites that make it hard for readers to tell who’s getting incentives from whom. “The presumption is that we can apply traditional advertising principles like transparency and accountability to social media the same way as it would apply to traditional media,” says Rich Cleland, staff attorney for the commission.

Maybe. But the FTC is trying to legislate ethics in the wild and wooly blogosphere at a time when marketers and amateur writers are forming new kinds of partnerships that fall outside the traditional boundaries between vendors and consumers, say critics of the plan. And the Commission’s rules may be less effective at squelching behind-the-scenes arrangements between advertisers and bloggers than policies at Google (GOOG), which has been penalizing paid blog entries by demoting them in its search results. The FTC’s policy change mostly concerns the activities of independent blogs vs. posts written by journalists who work for news organizations.

As marketing budgets remain tight, advertisers are looking for cheaper ways to get their messages in front of shoppers. Many have turned to the blogosphere, offering cash and products to amateur journalists in exchange for glowing reviews about their products. “Bloggers are cost-efficient,” says Sean Corcoran, an analyst at Forrester Research (FORR) who wrote a Mar. 2 report titled Add Sponsored Conversations to Your Toolbox: Why You Should Pay Bloggers to Talk About Your Brand.

Nonbinding FTC Rules Have Wiggle Room

Often companies don’t need to disburse cash to win bloggers’ favor. Microsoft (MSFT) sent bloggers pricey Acer laptops loaded with Windows Vista to promote the software’s launch in 2006.

Blogger Jessica Smith of the lifestyle and product reviews site Jessica Knows got a free Ford (F) Flex for a year in April, plus a gas card for it. And readers of Shake the Salt, a blog for frugal moms, were among the first to hear about Banana Nut Cheerios when General Mills (GIS) released the cereal in March—after the blog’s author got free cereal and kitchenware from the company.

In some cases, bloggers disclosed the incentives up front. But there’s wiggle room: The coming FTC guidelines don’t define what’s meant by a “payment” and don’t specify what incentives—other than cash—must be disclosed to readers by blog authors. “That’s a real challenge, determining what compensation means,” Corcoran says.

The FTC says it wants to protect consumers, who may take a blogger’s opinion at face value without knowing it was influenced by an advertiser. But advertisers say the new guidelines don’t take into account nontraditional partnerships being forged between bloggers and their sponsors. The rules “really raise more questions than they answer,” says Thomas Cohn, an attorney with Venable, a law firm that represents the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and four other ad industry groups that have weighed in with the FTC on the policy change. Cohn advocates self-regulation by bloggers.

Advertisers’ “Obligation to Control”

Like other FTC guidelines, the new policies won’t be binding. But they may influence which cases the agency decides to bring to court, says FTC attorney Cleland. Two bloggers’ trade groups, the Word of Mouth Marketing Assn. and the Blog Council, have already adopted self-regulatory guidelines for how advertisers should work with bloggers. According to the FTC, however, the buck will stop with marketers who pay for favorable posts. “If it’s paid for by the advertiser, then the advertiser has an obligation to control it,” Cleland says.

Yet an even more powerful force on the Web—Google—may bring opaque bloggers and advertisers to heel. In 2007, Google began tightening restrictions on blogs that linked to sponsors’ sites, requiring them to insert software code that negates the value of those links when users search for those sponsors. In February, Google turned the rule on itself when it penalized Google Japan for paying several Japanese blogs to advertise Google software. “When you have large organizations like the federal government and Google coming at you, it deters you from being deceptive,” says Forrester’s Corcoran.

The world’s more ambitious bloggers like to call themselves ‘citizen journalists.’ The government is trying to make sure these heralds don’t turn into citizen advertisers.

Douglas MacMillan is a staff writer for BusinessWeek in New York.

Source: BusinessWeek.com


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Small businesses find it hard to compete with larger competitors particularly in media.   And marketing dollars are at an even greater premium.  Then, why are more than three-quarters of small businesses not taking advantage of social media – the exploding frontier of consumer engagement AND relatively cost free?

Small-business owners are not making the trek to social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, but are slowly dipping their toes into Internet waters, according to a new Citibank/GfK Roper survey.

The study found 76 percent of small-business owners polled were not using social media or finding it helpful in generating business leads during the last year, and 86 percent said the did not use such sites to get advice or information.

“Our survey suggests that small-business owners are still feeling their way into social media, particularly when it comes to using these tools to grow their businesses,” said Maria Veltre, executive vice president of Citi’s Small Business Segment. “While social media can provide additional channels to network and help grow a business, many small businesses may not have the manpower or the time required take advantage of them.”

Many businesses have already recognized their best manner of review, referral and activating their zealots is through social media platforms.   Because business owners do not have time to engage in these sites does not mean their best customers and prospects are not doing so.   Small businesses need to rethink their attitude to this new media or run the risk of becoming less competitive from a marketing standpoint.”

 

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Small businesses find it hard to compete with larger competitors particularly in media.   And marketing dollars are at an even greater premium.  Then, why are more than three-quarters of small businesses not taking advantage of social media – the exploding frontier of consumer engagement AND relatively cost free?

Small-business owners are not making the trek to social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, but are slowly dipping their toes into Internet waters, according to a new Citibank/GfK Roper survey.

The study found 76 percent of small-business owners polled were not using social media or finding it helpful in generating business leads during the last year, and 86 percent said the did not use such sites to get advice or information.

“Our survey suggests that small-business owners are still feeling their way into social media, particularly when it comes to using these tools to grow their businesses,” said Maria Veltre, executive vice president of Citi’s Small Business Segment. “While social media can provide additional channels to network and help grow a business, many small businesses may not have the manpower or the time required take advantage of them.”

Many businesses have already recognized their best manner of review, referral and activating their zealots is through social media platforms.   Because business owners do not have time to engage in these sites does not mean their best customers and prospects are not doing so.   Small businesses need to rethink their attitude to this new media or run the risk of becoming less competitive from a marketing standpoint.

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A hilarious video example.

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Let me start by saying that I’m a Zealot for Publix, so posting on Kroger is certainly not something I’ll plan to do often. However, this article on loyalty got my attention.

They say the cost to acquire a new customer is five to ten times more than keeping a current customer. Kroger has done the math and dedicated themselves to creating loyal customers by creating more than people just looking for a discount.

Read the below excerpt from Tim Manner’s “reveries” blog. What do you think? Is Kroger creating loyal customers? Are they building Zealots for their brand?

“We don’t need to draw in others who don’t shop with us because the biggest opportunity is with our loyal customers,” says Kroger chief David Dillon in a Cincinnati Enquirer article by Laura Braverman (10/8/09). David says Kroger realized this almost ten years ago, and has been on a path ever since “to put the customer first, and permanently.” Most famously, Kroger engaged with London-based dunnhumby to build a database of 45 million shoppers, using the data to “create advertising campaigns and provide targeted coupons to its most loyal customers.”

Click here to read the full story

For more on Zealotry Marketing, visit us at GuestRelationsMarketing.com

While there are many differences between not-for-profit and for-profit businesses, there is one thing that remains the same – they both require funding for programs and both face increasing competition for those dollars.

September is designated as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Historically, CURE Childhood Cancer has done little to promote this to their followers or local market.

Despite the terrible economic times of 2009 and no budget for external media, Guest Relations Marketing developed a fund-raising program for CURE to coincide with the national promotion.

The Promotion

The aim of the CURE fundraising program was simple: to honor 30 kids, one for each day in the month of September, with each committed to raising $1,000 to benefit CURE Childhood Cancer. The promotion centered around capitalizing on the momentum of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness and money for CURE to help fund their mission, as well as honoring children who have personally had childhood cancer.

CURE reached out to families and received an overwhelming response to those wanting to participate, share their child’s story and reach out to their communities. In total, we honored 57 children throughout the month of September – some had beat the disease, some were in the midst of treatments, some had lost the battle.  Each family shared their own touching story and child’s photo.

Online and social media drove the promotion from a marketing standpoint. A page was created on the brand website, and each child featured on the homepage for “their day.” A personal fundraising page was created for each child on FirstGiving (an online donations website), where their personal story & photo was shared with the world. On their day, each child was also featured on the CURE Blog, as well as on Twitter (@CUREchildcancer) and Facebook Page.  The families also had the option to submit a list of email contacts to receive a series of 3 emails leading up to their child’s day to further help keep it top-of-mind.

The Results

The results were overwhelming! By identifying and activating the Zealots for CURE Childhood Cancer, we were able to engage new groups of people in a personal & connected way. The communications and participation was personal and motivating. And, the fact that it was driven purely by social media is truly a testament to the power of referral and creating viral communities.

  • Children honored: 57
  • Funds raised: +$171,000 (nearly 5.5 times more than our goal of $30,000)
  • 2,204 individual donors in the month of September alone (nearly as many as for 2008 in total)
  • September 2009 the most successful month of all-time for individual donations for CURE
  • Brand website Visitors grew by 30%
  • Page Views were 7.25 times higher
  • Facebook Fans increased by 27%
  • Email database grew by 41%
  • Twitter followers increased by 6.5 times

We know that activating “zealots” is the surest practice of marketing.  It is gratifying to see it come to fruition for such a noble cause as CURE Childhood Cancer. See more at curechildhoodcancer.org.

You can visit us online at Guest Relations Marketing.

The bottom of our office building houses several good, locally-owned restaurants. While our choices aren’t exactly endless, they all certainly have two things in common – they’re convenient, quick & all serve Coca-Cola products.

Not unusual for Atlanta, but Coke has done something clever to help promote themselves and support these local restaurants at the same time. When you walk near any of the restaurants it is quickly apparent that Coke is the beverage of choice. They have branded umbrellas, signs, fountains, counter tops, menus, tablecloths, drink coolers, even Specials of the Day that include your favorite contoured bottle of choice.

Great for Coke, surely more than just a splash of branding. But, also great for the restaurants, who I’m certain got these things complimentary for serving Coke, or at least deeply discounted where they would have to go find them & pay more otherwise.

Especially in a tight economy, finding mutually beneficial ways to support your customers is a great way to build Zealots for your brand at the same time!

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Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

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