Tendo Dev Blog

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A sure way to make customers cringe

I was reminded recently of a Web site faux pas that’s possibly one of the worst. A colleague sitting across from me suddenly cringed, crumpled in her chair, and then angrily tore off her headphones. Not knowing the cause, I was a bit startled. But no sooner was she cursing the computer screen, than the culprit was revealed. That obnoxious auto volume feature.

It’s one thing to knowingly subject yourself to painful music on MySpace profiles, but another thing when a commercial Web site (that presumably wants visitors) blasts music at you without notice or permission. Think about it. It’s like the proprietor of a brick-and-mortar store blasting music in your ear just as you enter.

Using audio to engage customers online is a perfectly fine and useful feature. Just make sure it’s muted and the audio is easy to find and control. A good model for user-controlled audio is YouTube. Bill Golden, managing editor

February 22, 2008 Posted by | Bill Golden, blog, Customer Care, Multimedia | Leave a comment

Three takes on customer engagement on the Web

Yesterday, two colleagues and I started the day at BtoB Magazine’s NetMarketing breakfast down the street here in San Francisco.

The event featured three high-tech marketing executives who spoke about how they’re engaging customers on the Web. Aside from a sponsor’s painfully long pitch at the outset, which ironically led to quite a few people suddenly spreading out their free copies of the New York Times, the well-attended event was worth checking out.

Speakers included Scott Anderson, VP of customer communications at HP (our very own client and by far the most impressive); Martyn Etherington, VP of worldwide field marketing, Tektronix; and Stephanie Dillard, global media manager, integrated marketing group, Intel. While they didn’t have time to outline their entire Web marketing strategy, it was interesting to see the differences in each company’s approach. They each shared more than a few nuggets of good information. Continue reading

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Bill Golden, Content Strategy, Customer Care, Web Content | Leave a comment

The lessons of improvisation

This week, I returned to work at Tendo after a five-year hiatus.

For the last several years, I served as executive director of an improvisational theatre company. Like any field, “improvisational theatre” is rich and complex and I could talk about the nuances for hours … but at cocktail parties, I usually just explain it as, “It’s like that show ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’”

Improv is creating theatre without a script. And while I wouldn’t recommend improvising your company’s marketing strategy, there are some lessons from the improv stage that can help you connect with your customers.

SAY YES – One of the cardinal rules in improv is to “say yes” to the offers made by your fellow performers. By accepting what has been suggested and building on it, you are able to create something new together. If you say “no” to an offer, you stop the scene and are unable to move forward.

Is your website “saying yes” to your visitors and potential customers? Are you building on their interest to lead them to new information? Do you engage them in a way that allows you to create something collaboratively?

LISTEN – Lots of people think improv is about being funny. But good improv is less about being clever and more about listening to what’s said and building the story with your partners. And since you are creating something from scratch with no script or roadmap, the only way forward is to listen to the contributions of others and use them as building blocks for your scene.

Do your marketing communication efforts provide an opportunity to listen to your customers? Does your website approach your partners with a pre-conceived idea or do you provide a venue where clients can engage in a two-way conversation?

BE FLEXIBLE – An improv actor may be required to play many different types of roles without preparation and must be able to construct a character on the spot. For example, if the scene calls for 80-year old grandmother from South Dakota who lost her arm in an alligator accident, you transform yourself into that character and step on stage.

Are your communication strategies nimble enough to respond to different needs? Do you have a “one size fits all” approach or do you tailor you tactics as required?

HAVE FUN – If you’ve seen the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” you know that the players look like they are having a good time. In fact, many people don’t believe the show is unscripted because they look so loose and relaxed. Aren’t they worried about making a mistake?

No, they’re not. There is no script, so how can anything anybody says be wrong? They know that if everybody is working together, “a mistake” is just a new offer—an opportunity to go in a new direction.

Few businesses believe that mistakes are gifts, and I’m not suggesting that you instruct your marketing staff to screw up on purpose. But does your marketing communication work have a sense of fun? Are you willing to try new tactics and techniques, or is your fear of a mistake limiting your reach? Do your customers enjoy their engagement with you?

Another improv lesson: Know when to end the scene. I think I’ll end this one here. ―John Kovacevich, VP, Marketing Services

April 18, 2007 Posted by | Content Strategy, Customer Care, John Kovacevich, Tendo View | Leave a comment

Keep it on the download—managing expectations

The media often latches on to a new, “revolutionary” technology long before it becomes available to the public. What this means is that for a long time people are excited about an idea—like downloadable movies—but then when it finally comes out the service is much more limited than the hype would have you believe. At times like these, a good communications strategy is key.

Take Netflix. Some people say that DVDs will soon go the way of the eight track and that Netflix is operating with a business model that’s yesterday’s news. Until recently, lots of people were wondering why Netflix didn’t move to a download-on-demand model. Sure, the movie studios are resistant, and not everyone has the bandwidth required—but if the iTunes store can do it, why can’t Netflix?

Well, Netflix recently answered with a video-on-demand feature initially available to only a small number of customers. The service will be rolled out, for free, to all Netflix subscribers in the coming months.

Netflix is definitely moving in the right direction—but already there are gripes that the catalog is so small, that the service only works in Internet Explorer on a Windows computer, and that downloads are only available to a small number of Netflix subscribers. Yes, it’s childish because Netflix is doing this for free (but not out of the kindness of their hearts, we’re sure), but imagine your neighbor gets this feature you’ve been yearning for—and you don’t.

The lesson here is that when your customers are really excited about something, make sure you communicate the “how” and “why” around your product launch. Netflix could have managed expectations better—the company only offered customers a vague message saying it plans to roll this out to all customers by June 2007.

Expectations from Netflix users are sky high: The company has a huge catalog of movies, it already has relationships with movie studios, and, most importantly, what took them so long? Netflix was once a shining star, and if anyone can pull out a second act, they can. In the entertainment business, it’s not what you’ve done, but what you’ve done lately.

February 22, 2007 Posted by | Content Strategy, Customer Care, Tendo View | Leave a comment

Freedom of speech?

As the Web becomes more and more interactive, news organizations and others may be shifting away from interactivity. According to an article on KFMB-TV’s website in late January, "Yahoo quietly pulled a discussion feature from its news site in recent weeks. Before, readers were allowed to post comments on individual news stories. The message boards were suspended, according to a note from Yahoo’s general manager for news, Neil Budde, because they allowed "a small number of vocal users to dominate the discussion."

The article goes on to say that most news organizations don’t allow readers to freely publish comments on their sites. I did a quick search and found that some news blogs, and also corporate blogs, do still publish comments. Whether readers can "freely publish comments," however, is another question.

As readers, we may never know what’s been weeded out, but a quick peek can be telling. For example, NBC’s Meredith Veira has a blog called "Behind the scenes with Today’s leading lady." After my unscientific perusal of the comments, I’d say they run the gamut from gushing to highly critical.

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz blogs regularly and Sun is courting responses. The February 6 home page asks readers to "comment on what Sun’s CEO is blogging about." Readers are complying, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the comments are being screened, and not just for language or appropriateness. The 21 comments in response to Jonathan’s January 30 blog posting are either positive or somewhat neutral. Is that possible? I have my doubts.

Reader feedback is key to a blog’s success. Comments are often interesting to read, they can spark debates, and they show that the blogger is touching on topics that spark interest. But how does a reader’s right to express opinions co-exist with a company’s right―or desire―to control messaging on its own website? ―Julie Jares, managing editor

February 12, 2007 Posted by | Customer Care, In the News, Julie Jares, Web Content | Leave a comment