Gmail’s new tabs: A new hurdle for marketers

When the new Gmail tabs appeared in my inbox, I first found it interesting. Yes, I know news was out there months ago about a big change coming to Gmail but honestly — feh — I don’t read many articles about exciting new changes to mail programs (yawn). Also, my Gmail is not my business email account.

However, as soon as I started using the tabs, I immediately noticed Gmail was doing a horrible, horrible job distinguishing between what was “Promotion” and what belonged in “Primary.” In fact, it was nonsensical. I could not spot the logic Gmail was using.

Here’s what occurred to me though: Glad I’m not in the business-to-consumer email marketing biz (I’m in business-to-business marketing) because Gmail just threw a huge roadblock in their way. To people outside the marketing business, they may not have recognized the importance of this and its implications.

You see, Google makes billions and ka-billions of dollars off of … marketers. Who do you think writes all the checks for AdWords campaigns and advertisements?

It’s kind of like this: Let’s say newspapers decided to take all the display ads (all the ads that run next to news stories) and put them in a separate insert. And label that separate insert “Useless Non-News Crap.”

What do you think the advertisers would say? And if you’re thinking “well the subscribers pay for the paper” – you’d be only partially correct. Subscriptions account for only a portion of newspaper budgets (in most cases). Advertisers make up the bulk of the income. In other words, marketers are Google’s and Gmail’s true clients/customers.

By introducing tabs that make a distinction (and an erroneous one) between “Primary” and “Promotion” they’ve devalued some marketers’ efforts. When the default is “Primary” what you are doing to “Promotion” is to make it optional viewing. You are making it much harder for that message to get through to the customer. You are making it harder to even see that email – let alone have any potential interest to be opened.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “But I hate all those ads and promotions in my inbox.” Well … are you not aware of unsubscribe links? These are MANDATORY in all legitimate email marketing due to the CAN-SPAM Act. It’s federal law. It’s easy to unsubscribe — in one click.

People like me, for instance, don’t have a single email come in that I didn’t approve of. I unsubscribe quickly to any I don’t. Yes, I knew when I gave my email over to Johnston & Murphy I would get “promotion” about shoe sales. I don’t care that I’m not shopping there every month (though I wish I did); the point is I’ll pay attention when I want to buy a new pair — and yes that may be because of a sale I wasn’t aware of.

Luckily – you can edit and remove the new inbox tabs easily. But … they still appeared as a default. Thanks nanny Google.

I also find something else disturbing in this: If Google can in this instance effectively screw over the ones writing them checks for tons of money, what’s next? As a former business journalist, I can tell you one of the sure signs of a company’s decline is a company culture that no longer values the customers who write the checks and pay the bills. I’ve seen companies divest themselves from income streams from loyal customers just because the company lost interest and wanted to strike out into new and unproven territory.

In other words, they gave their loyal customers the finger so they could stroke their egos. When companies forget who is paying the bills (and for all the cushy offices, executive compensation in the multimillions, etc), it’s time to reconsider their worth.


Making your customer the star: Using interviews for content marketing Part 3

Photo Credit: edenpictures via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: edenpictures via Compfight cc

In this final installment of my series of posts about using customer interviews or profiles (see part 1 and part 2), I’ll discuss using this content to maximum effect.

There’s no shortage of ways to use this content in your content marketing efforts.

Post it and tie to social media

The first step is to get the customer article up on your site as a searchable piece of content – either as a blog post or a stand-alone article page. By all means be sure (even if not using a blog with easy social plug-ins) to include plenty of social links to the article.

You should also encourage the interview subject or the subject’s company to make full use of these links and their own social networks. I recall doing one article that resulted in a fairly big count of social endorsements – all started when then subject of the interview used his Twitter and LinkedIn account to promote the article. A little self-promotion can go a long way. This is important too: Always include a picture of the subject whether it is blog or article post.

If posting as an article rather than a blog post, make sure the content sits on its own page – don’t “paste” it into a page of other existing copy. A new subdirectory on your site (/customer profiles/ for example) is also recommended if you’re doing a series.

The next step is to redistribute the posted article via all of your company’s social media outlets. Profiles tend to do especially well on Facebook, perhaps because of the more-personal format. Don’t just paste the link, either, on outlets like LinkedIn or Facebook — say something interesting about the profile subject in the update box before linking to it.


Another key step is to distribute the profile by incorporating into existing email campaigns. There are many ways to do this:

  • For companies with existing blogs, there’s a good chance they also have an auto-generated RSS-based email promoting the most recent articles.
  • For companies that don’t have a blog promoted by email (and why don’t you?), use an existing company email to promote the interview. However, this actually is not my favorite option because adding a type of content to an existing email often means it’s an afterthought – and sometimes not highlighted well enough.
  • I fully recommend doing a single-purpose email to your company list promoting the interview. If you are committed to doing more interviews, this really justifies setting up a new email campaign promoting solely the interviews alone.

More onsite uses

None of this, of course, precludes you company from promoting these interviews/stories throughout your site in many other ways. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Have a page listing your clients? Create a sidebar promoting the profile or profiles that link to the article or blog post.
  • Have a rotating box of feature content on your home page (an increasingly popular design)? Post the interviews there too.
  • Have an FAQ about your services or product? Here too adding a sidebar promoting the article will help give what’s usually fairly sterile information some personality.

Sales collateral

And finally, if you’ve really been energetic and committed to producing several of these customer interviews/profiles, you can put all of them into a well-designed PDF to use as an additional piece of sales collateral to be given or emailed to new prospects. This is not direct “word of mouth” endorsement of course, but it is akin to it – and it adds personality and color to collateral (which can be dry and impersonal).

You may find, however, that there are some intangible benefits to profiling a customer. It does act as a kind of endorsement, so expect the interview subjects company to make a lot of hay of the interview/profile. That’s all to the positive side of the ledger.

However, this does make it important when you’re choosing a profile/interview subject to be sure you are choosing someone your company does, basically, endorse.

In any event, you’ll find a lot of upside to this idea – and by adding a touch of “color” and humanity to your content marketing, you help position your company better in the eyes of potential customers.

Making your customer the star: Using interviews for content marketing Part 2

Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB via Compfight cc

In the last post I explained why it’s a good idea to use customer interviews or profiles for content marketing.

Now I’ll explain how to do it – and it’s surprisingly easy.

Step 1. Select a subject

The first step is to go to your sales or even business development staff and ask if they know of any good customers who would be a good candidate to interview. Sales people tend to remember good customers – so that’s a good place to start.

Do not choose someone in the marketing or sales department as an interview subject. Why? Because then the resulting interview will sound all “markety” to the reader – thus negating its authenticity.

Next, pitch an interview or profile in an email that contains these main elements:

  • A friendly, personal greeting
  • A brief explanation of the interview or profile, something like this: “We would love to talk to you or someone in your company for a brief 20-minute phone interview and feature the interview on our .”
  • Explain that the interview will only be posted or published with the interviewees’ full review and approval.
  • Include a brief mention of why you chose a particular interviewee or company, something like: “As one of our largest customers in the Northeast, we’d love to get your perspective on our solution.”

If you get a positive response, follow up with a brief call to arrange a time for the interview. A phone interview is all that’s required. So long as you are decent at typing-and-talking to keep notes, a phone interview is fine. You can also Skype or video conference – though I think a phone call is best.

Step 2. The interview questions

This is where the process becomes truly easy. I’ve found by far the best practice with customer interviews is to write up your set of interview questions before hand, and share with others to get their input.

Your interview questions do not need to be extensive by any means. Focus on the following main points:

  • Bio: Basic bio information: name, age, title, years at company, etc.
  • Bio: How did the subject get into the current industry and/or position?
  • Bio: Any relevant prior work history?
  • Product question: How did the subject hear about the solution/product?
  • Product question: First impressions – why choose it as a solution/product
  • Product question: Over all experience – the good the bad the interesting.
  • What would you say when recommending the solution/product?
  • Just for fun: What did they like the most about the solution/product
  • Just for fun: What do they like the most and least about their job.
  • Just for fun: Wildcard questions.

So, you can see here, the basic idea is to ask about 1.) bio, 2.) product/service and 3.) “just for fun” – questions meant to add color/personality. Think of the “Wildcard questions” like a version of “Actors Studio” questions at the end of the interview (while skipping the “favorite curse word” question of course).

You can expand or elaborate on any of these basic questions as you please – even tailor them to your specific industry or market.

When you contact your subject for the interview, be sure to share the questions ahead of time. So long as you insist on the phone interview and not an email response, you’ll be OK. An email response is a last resort – these are just far too stilted to pass muster.

3.) The interview

For the interview, if you follow your list of questions, most of the time you’ll end up with good results. I can’t count the times I’ve done an interview, hung up and thought “wow, that was a lot of nothing” … and then read my notes and discovered there was plenty to write about.

Also, try to keep the interview to about 20-30 minutes max. This is a good practice so you can move quickly through all questions. You can circle back to any unanswered questions later – but remember, you’re imposing on your subject’s time, so use it wisely.

4.) The write up – and format

So you have your list of question, your notes, now you’re ready to write it all up. If you want the easiest format possible, just write it up as a Q-and-A. And yes, you are perfectly free to clean up the subject’s quotes for style and consistency.

Personally, I find Q-and-A format a bit constricting. If I had my choice of any format, it would be more as a profile, complete with a pull quote and photo of the subject. These elements will fit into any online article or blog post format.

The pull quote can be particularly useful. An image of the subject and a nicely highlighted quote will give the text personality.

The next phase, of course, is to send the interview to the subject for review and approval. Here, too, I’ve found that if your notes are accurate, there is very little to fear.

Some times an extra layer of approval is needed from the subject company – but always (and I mean always) send the interview first to the person interviewed. This is a practice I insist on. It saves a lot of time and effort on approvals if the subject is the first one to approve it.

The next step is how to take advantage of this wonderful piece of literature you’ve created in all your content marketing efforts. That’s in the next blog (Part 3).