Author Archives: Steve Cummins

5 Ways to #Fail with a Survey

Thanks to Amtrak, I was treated to a great example of how NOT to survey your customers.

A few days ago, a plain white envelope, looking a little bill-like, appeared in my mail box. Normally, I take the time to complete these surveys – call it a professional courtesy from one Marketer to another. But this one left me scratching my head.

Here are the five #fails:

Amtrak customer service survey

1) Too Late. I took the trip on September 25th. The survey arrived on November 5th. Six weeks after the service – how valid will my comments be?

2) Too Long. 55 questions. 3 pages. Seriously? We’re in the Twitter age. You can never assume you have that much attention from a customer.

3) Too Old.  No online option. “Please return in the pre-addressed, postage paid envelope”. Hmm.

4)  Too Many. I received two of them, identical, on the same day. Never a good idea to look disorganized and incompetent at the moment you’re asking for feedback.

5) Too Late (#2). I was booked on the non-stop Acela Express from Newark to Boston, a 4 hr trip. In reality, I had to change at New York, sat on the floor until a seat opened up, was stuck in Connecticut for an hour plus, and finally got to Boston 2.5 hrs late. And the first communication I had from Amtrak was a satisfaction survey. I’m not suggesting that you exclude known bad experiences from your survey. But at least acknowledge the issue before you ask for feedback.

So, there you have it. The 5 things Amtrak should do to fix their survey?

Be timely; Be brief; Be mobile; Be smart; Be…well, smart

What’s the worst survey you’ve seen recently?

Are PCs Dead?

It’s not a new discussion. In fact, it may be a little tired. But I was asked to comment on the subject for InformationWeek recently. The assertion, which I agree with, was that tablets aren’t really a replacement for PCs – at least not in every case.

Tablets can’t – and won’t – replace personal computers inside most small and midsize businesses” was the sub-head for the article. That matches my personal experience as I look to integrate tablets in to certain aspects of our business at Dittman Incentive Marketing.

There are many instances where the tablet performs a function that is not well suited to a PC or laptop, and is therefore creating a new category, not replacing the PC. Similarly, in some situations a PC is still the preferred tool due to stability, flexibility or just plain familiarity.

Read the full article on the site

The Tsunami Test (or Keeping it Simple)

Sometimes we get caught up in being too clever.

A witty tag line…

… a 3D-rendered image..

… a QR code leading to a cartoon video….

… or one of a hundred other “clever” marketing tricks.

But I was reminded of the power of a simple, understandable image recently  when I traveled down the coast of Oregon.

Tsunami Warning – Keep it Simple

Wherever we went, we saw these ubiquitous signs. Most of them simply had the image and an arrow – the obvious message

“If you see a tsunami, run this way“!  

[The one shown above was "OK, you should be safe here"]


So the next time you design a banner ad or a tradeshow booth, try the Tsunami Test. Ask yourself “If I had 5 seconds to read this and act, would I know what to do”?

Do You Live Up To Your Brand Promise?

Shanghai Jazz is a Chinese restaurant in Madison NJ, but not your everyday Chinese joint. As the name suggests, they pride themselves on bring live Jazz to suburban New Jersey – and top quality Jazz at that. Their philosophy is “warm hospitality, gourmet Asian cuisine inspired by the seasons…” per their website, and I’ve always felt they’re on a mission to provide top quality service and a memorable evening. The owners, David and Martha, are always visible, and are polite and friendly hosts.Martini

Last night was a classic example of a company living up to their Brand Promise. I was half way through my martini (my first one, honestly…), when the waiter pointed out a fly in the drink, whisked it away and replaced it with a fresh drink within a minute. Impressive!

And that’s it. I just love it when a company lives what they do.

Any examples you’d like to share?

What B2B Marketers are Talking About – BMA Blaze

Integrating Marketing with Technology; The Battle for Attention; Realtime Marketing. These were the three most talked about subjects at the recent BMA Blaze Conference in Chicago, attended by 750 leading Business-to-Business (B2B) marketers.

In the last few years, there have been a lot of “new” marketing issues to discuss – migration to mobile; the rise of LinkedIn and Facebook; Content Marketing, and others. This year, “new” was lacking – but more importantly, the focus was on the major trends that are impacting the marketing industry.

Integrating Marketing with Technology. No longer can IT be the folks who run the infrastructure, and are never seen. They now have a critical role in the systems and devices that are needed to enable efficient sales teams,great customer satisfaction and data-driven decision making.

Eduardo Conrado the National Chair of BMA , embodies this first trend. Eduardo was recently promoted from CMO of Motorola Solutions into the role of Senior VP, Marketing and IT.

Whether it’s CRM, Marketing Analytics, Web services, e-commerce or mobile sales enablement, the IT function is now a critical component of the Sales & Marketing function, to ensure that the systems are robust, current and cost effective. And now that consumers are accustomed to the world of shopping on Amazon, banking on their phone and watching streaming movies on their tablet – they are beginning to expect their B2B purchasing experience to live up to that level of ubiquity.

The Battle for Attention. If Content Marketing was the watchword of recent conferences, the pendulum has now swung too far. The common concern was that there is now too much content – and how do you break through the noise to make yourself heard. Much of the coffee-break discussion at the conference seemed to center on how to make Content Marketing more effective, and how to get noticed amongst the clutter.

In fact Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute gave a talk on “Please Stop Creating More Content”. With the basic pitch of “quality, not quantity”, Joe implored the audience to create a Content Marketing Mission Statement, to ensure that the content creation process is effective. The statement should include (1) The Target Audience, (2) What will be delivered and (3) The outcome for the audience [Joe's presentation is on Slideshare].

Realtime Marketing. The news-cycle as we knew it no longer exists. The information flow is constant, and Marketers need to be ready to react. David Meerman Scott, who popularized the idea of Newsjacking, lead a panel session to discuss “How and Why to do RealTime Marketing” – namely, how to take advantage of current issues to promote your B2B brand. The surprising consensus was that...planning is essential.

Although the headline-makers, such as Oreo’s triumph during the SuperBowl blackout, appear to be spontaneous, they are typically the result of a well-planned strategy and set of guiding principles, that allow people to make quick decisions when events happen. Jeff Beringer of Golin Harris described “the Bridge” – effectively a newsroom in their office that allows a team to monitor global events. This team is aware of the types of stories their clients would like to associate with, have branding and messaging guidelines prepared, and can then act quickly when “news happens” [See video below].


So, as with all conferences, now the challenge is to take these trends, and apply them to your own business. In my case, this means taking a fresh look at how technology can be more closely integrated in to our travel programs; making sure that our content creation process is focused on the true needs of our customers; and laying the groundwork to be able to react quickly to any news situation.

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