November 10, 2008

Substance

Some of you are taking time out of your day to communicate to me that you feel the message I am communicating is punitive or unfair to individuals or organizations that do not deserve such a message.

I apologize if the message comes across that way, because I do not intend to be punitive or unfair.

You may have noticed that there is a sense of frustration in my voice ... not frustration with the economy, but frustration with our response to what is happening in the economy.

I try to read every single article I can about catalog marketing, e-commerce, retailing, multichannel marketing, paid search, web analytics, e-mail marketing, you name it. I don't care if the content comes from blogs or trade journals or press releases or from 10-K statements.

What I read, save for a few gems out there (and there are some genuine must-reads), lacks the substance required to move the needle.

When I speak to you, folks who are working in the trenches trying to save your business, I observe a resilience and optimism that gives me faith in the future of our business.

But when I read what our industry leaders communicate to us, I do not see enough substance.

Everybody knows that it is important to cut expenses right now, so I don't need to read something about this in a presentation from folks looking to preserve cash previously invested in other companies. Nor do I need to read something from a vendor that suggests "... leading brands proactively mitigate expense to ensure the long-term survival of the brand". We already know that!

Or we read about "... brands that seamlessly integrate channels experience breathtaking increases in share of wallet". And yet, Circuit City filed for bankruptcy protection today, an industry leader in the field of providing a seamless experience across physical and virtual channels.

We're told that we must have a social media presence, yet if you ask a hundred people outside of the maybe five or ten million folks using Twitter what "Twitter" is, you'll get blank stares from 94 of them.

We're told about the nine best practices to offer discounted merchandise "during these challenging economic times". We already know that these are challenging economic times, and we're not going to improve in 2009 or 2010 if we focus on best practices for offering discounts and promotions in 2008.

We're told about breakthrough methods for being customer-centric, but we must click through the ad, at which time we're asked to give up all of our personal information for the right to learn about these breakthrough methods.

We're seldom given facts. We're given pretty language " ... multichannel brands have never faced a confluence of factors that utterly demoralized a debt-laden consumer." That sounds good, right? But there's no substance there, nothing that moves the needle, nothing that you can use to improve business performance today.

If you feel I'm being punitive, then let's change things. I'll focus more on positive messages and solutions. In exchange, here's what I'm asking for from you.
  • If you're a reader of this blog, working in a B2C or B2B brand, use the comments section to point out articles or thought leadership that you believe pushes the needle.
  • If you're a vendor, blogger, trade journal writer, etc., up the ante. Move beyond the well-written scripts that sound great but don't offer solutions. Provide my readers with needle-moving solutions. Use the comments section to point to examples, so that my readers know where to go. Send me examples of breakthrough strategies that truly move the needle, maybe I'll publish them for this audience to consider. Offer our readers something meaningful for free, like Zip Code Forensics --- do something that genuinely helps our audience, our industry, without any expectation of future compensation.
Come back to this post during the week, and check out the comments section. With 1,400 subscribers and more than 200 visitors a day, there should be a lot of quality articles/links put in the comments section for us to consider. I'll pull really good stuff out of the comments, placing it in a separate post so that everybody may learn from it.

So contribute!
Offer substance!