More is Not Always Better.

Think the way to win more customers is to offer more options on your products and services? Surprise. It’s not. And, it can seriously hurt your business to continue down that path.

“The belief that variety is good is not always true,” argues Harvard Business School professor John Gourville in “Overchoice and Assortment Type: When and Why Variety Backfires.” The research paper, co-written by professor Dilip Soman of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, demonstrates that sometimes offering too many choices prompts a confused customer to “run to the arms of a competitor” with less complicated offerings.

According to Gourville, when consumers go to make a buying decision, they can be overwhelmed by variety and start to question if they are making the right buying decision. The end result? Consumers simply give up or go somewhere else. In a sense, the consumer is saying, “I can’t decide which product to choose from the many offered by Brand A, so I will choose from the one or two products offered by Brand B.”

From my own experience with ecommerce and clients I can definitely see that the large number of options available make it almost impossible to move forward. It’s always a challenge to balance the “cookie-cutter” approach” to the custom one. It’s something that I constantly wrestle with.

Have thoughts? Why not share them.


Do you multi-task? It probably depends on how old you are. Really.

It’s rare that I take a phone call and do not do something else “behind the scenes” like answer an email, instant message, open mail, walk the dogs, even yes– drive.

It’s really not that unusual for my generation (Gen X’rs). We can actually walk and chew gum and any other number of things. It could be because we are an entire generation of ADD afflicted people, or we just have had so much thrown at us over the years due to new technology, that we’ve become immune to the affects.

Yes, some people, usually the Baby Boomers and older generations call it “rude”. Sometimes I agree. Sometimes I just can’t help it. The line for work and home life somehow got grayed out. I don’t think I’m alone.

According to BIGresearch, “The complexities of everyday life seem to be increasing, and as a result consumers are multitasking as a way of coping.” A recent study shows that 25-34 year olds are most likely to engage in multi-tasking, when using electronic media (TV, Radio, Internet) with almost 70% saying they do so regularly or occasionally. Not surprisingly, the 55+ age group multitasks the least.

Do you multi-task? What age group do you fit in? Do you agree with the study?

Chained to your email? You have no idea…

Feel like sometimes you just can’t get away from your email? It’s probably not just a feeling. Latest studies show that most people spend an hour or more a day on email and have multiple email accounts. To see how you compare, keep reading.

According to American Online surveys, conducted in partnership with Opinion Research Corporation, as reported by Emarketer, users rely on e-mail as much as the phone for communication, spend about an hour a day on e-mail and that 77% of them have more than one e-mail account. That translates to an essential part of everyday life, concludes the report.

The survey shows:

• 41% of Americans check e-mail first thing in the morning

• 18% check e-mail right after dinner

• 14% check e-mail right when they get home from work

• 14% check e-mail right before they go to bed

• 40% of e-mail users have checked their e-mail in the middle of the night

More than one in four say they can’t go more than two to three days without checking e-mail. And it’s checked everywhere:

• In bed (23%)

• In class (12%)

• In a business meeting (8%)

• At a Wi-Fi hotspot (6%)

• At the beach or pool (6%)

• In the bathroom (4%)

• While driving (4%)

• In church (1%)

The survey found that 61% of e-mail users employed outside the home check their personal e-mail at work,

• 47% check personal e-mail at work

• 47% check it sporadically throughout the day

• 25% check it first thing when they arrive at work

• 18% check it at lunchtime

• 8% during an afternoon break

• 2% right before heading home

Women are more likely than men to check their personal e-mail at work throughout the day, and 60% of all e-mail users check their e-mail while on vacation.

What about you? Leave a comment or two to commiserate with me!

How much to budget for Interactive Media?

It’s not unusual that I have clients ask me, “should I have a specific category for interactive media such as email newsletters, blogs, text messaging, pay-per-click advertising, social media, and other web  marketing channels in my budget?” Yes, is always my answer.

Then the next question is usually, “how much?” Between 5%-10% of your overall budget and up to 50% of your marketing budget depending on your type of business and your goals.

Quite a few people will get very wide eyes when I throw out those numbers. Many times they think I’m kidding. Rarely am I.

You see over the past ten years there had been a huge shift in how people buy and the most effective ways to market. New technology and the web have played a huge role in this. So, doesn’t it make sense that it should affect a company’s budget and tactics? I know so.

I agree with Seth Godin. Advertising is dead. Very little of it works. Only targeted marketing to people who might actually buy works. That’s why the web is such a perfect medium for this. A website “pulls” interested people to it. Unlike a TV commercial that usually “sends” people “away” to another channel or the bathroom.

So, the next time you are looking over your budget, give it a good hard look. If there’s not a “web” category or a significant portion of dollars going into your website, SEO, online promotions, viral marketing, or other forms of interactive marketing, I’d think hard before putting it into action.

Building your business 101

It surprises me how easy it is sometimes to see other people’s problems.  Of course, since that’s what we get paid to do, I guess I’m in the right business.

I was talking to a business owner this morning.  He was complaining about the success of some of his competitors compared to his company.  He said he couldn’t understand what the difference was.  He did EVERYTHING the same way they did.  Yet they seemed to get more business than he did.

I listened for awhile and finally asked the question that kept running through my mind, “If you do everything like they do, why would I as a customer choose you?”  It stopped him for a few minutes.  I told him my point was not to be disrespectful, just to point out the obvious–

Build your business on what your customers want, not what your competitors are doing.  Yes, staying in-tune with them is important.  But, if they are already doing something, it’s too late for you!  You need to go and find out what your customers need that no one is addressing.

Further probing brought out that actually this business owner was still running his business like he did 10 years ago.  No clear business plan or marketing focus.  While his competitors had actually expanded into new services area, offered new products, and generally had tried to stay ahead of the curve.

I pretty much tell it like it is.  Good or bad.  So I told him, “you need to change what you are doing.  Look at what your core skills are and listen to what your clients have been asking for.  You need to get a recovery plan in place.  Only if you are willing to make some large changes in how you do business will your situation improve.”

I can’t say anyone faced with that observation is thrilled.  But he took it fairly well.  He knows there is a problem.  Now, it’s just a matter of if he will act on it.

We all have choices.  He can choose to be the mouse that stayed behind (Where’s my Cheese book reference) the mouse that starved but eventually made it, or the one that accepted the situation and decided to do something about it.

Stay tuned, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

What is a social media expert?

I’ve seen quite a few things recently written about “social media experts”.  It’s my turn to chime in.  Since social media itself is pretty new, the way it is being used is even newer and constantly changing.

In the traditional world, to become an expert you would go to school, earn a degree and have defined proof that you were able to master many of the nuances of a topic or field.  With the lightening-speed arrival of the Internet and web 2.0, most people didn’t wait for a degree or for the curriculum to be built, they became experts by doing.  This same concept applies to social media.

Since there are few standard to gage by, the rules are being made up as we go along.  That has caused a few “self described” experts to take it upon themselves to create their own definitions.  I find this a somewhat narrow point of view.  Kind of like creating a club and then only inviting the people you want to it.

I was talking recently to a client.  He said that he was approached by a social media company to help them manage their social media brand.  He asked them what their company page was on Facebook.  They replied that they had individual pages and client pages but not a company page.  He dismissed them as “not experienced enough”.

Ok, so I understand that there are some different nuances to managing a corporate page on Facebook than a personal one.  Some of the options do work differently.  But why penalize a company for how they market themselves?  Shouldn’t it be about what they do for their clients?

I guess it did hit a nerve with me.  Does nxtConcepts have a Facebook page?  Yup.  Do we do much with it?  Nope.  I think because we frankly run out of steam when we get done updating all the other networks we are on such as: Twitter, Plaxo, Friendfeed, mySpace, Technorati, SecondLife, TripIt, TalkBizNow, Digg, Kiva, LinkedIn, Yahoo, YouTube, Zazzle,  eBay, Reddit, Blogger, Twitpic, Flickr, Squidoo and others.  Not to mention the work we do for clients in these and other spaces.  The other point is that Facebook may be critical to many of the ski resorts and other clients we work with in a business to consumer relationship but frankly in a business to business situation it sucks.  So, why devote considerable time there, when other social networks are more in-line with our corporate marketing strategy?  Just to say we can?

I digress.

Another writer says there are styles of social media experts including:
the “Power User” (someone that has built an established following over a long period of time),
the “Content Creator” (create and launch content tailored to the social world’s desires),
the “Salesman” (tout ways to make money or blatantly try to sell you something) and
the “Famous” (comfortable with the brand, the person or know of their accomplishments).

So that’s it?  Is social media just a popularity contest?  Is this why businesses have a hard time justifying a portion of their marketing budget to it?  I believe it can be so much more.  The goal for business is to engage with the people that are interested in what you do.  Not to spend extraordinary amounts of time to interact with a world of uninterested people.  That to me is what defines a social media expert — the person or team that can pinpoint who you need to engage, on what networks, and with what content.  And, it is our job to keep expanding the definition and finding ways to make it work for our us and our clients.

My Thoughts of ResortXpo: First Day of the First Show

It’s great to be able to see a year’s worth of worth come together.  I am SO lucky to work with such a great team.  They humor me on my crazy ideas like Virtual Conferences!  I am so glad we decided to take on the challenge of creating and hosting the first ever Virtual Conference for the Ski Industry.

Did everything go seamlessly?  No.  We had a few bugs.  But, it was totally worth it!

–Trade Show Booths.  At the last minute we realized that the Trade Show was hard to see on some computer screens.  Although we tested it before it went live, it wasn’t until the day of the  show and comments started coming in, that we realized it was not as “user friendly” as we had hoped.  A few tweaks and changes later and it was fixed.  But, the design suffered a little bit on large monitor screens.

–Sending messages.  One of the biggest aspects to a social networking site is to be able to send messages to friends and others on the site.  This morning we realized that the message pop-up box had technical issues and was not fully visible in any browser other than IE6 and IE7.  We’ll limp through this show with that.  The change means updating some code, which we are not very excited to do while the show is open.

–Training.  Sometimes being ahead of the curve means you not only have to train your own staff, but the vendors, and attendees of a show like the one we produced.  That’s been the biggest challenge…helping people see the big picture and how to use technology to interact with other people.  We knew we had to create Training sessions for the seminar speakers.  But, then at the last minute, we also needed training materials for the vendors at the show, and even the attendees.  Once people get the hang of what’s available, they do get excited and even addicted to all the options available.  It’s just getting them to that point, that is the challenge.

–The Seminars.  Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I ended up being the first speaker of the show.  After a last minute issue with the upload of my presentation, we finally got the seminars off with a bang.  If you want to see an on-demand viewing, check it out here:

All-in-all, we accomplished quite a bit.  We were able to prove that a Virtual Show can work.  And work well.  We proved that speakers, vendors and attendees even with NO technical expertise (just a bit of training) will participate and interact.

I look forward to tomorrow.  It’s the second day of the show.  But, interestingly not the last.  Unlike a traditional show that closes down after the speeches have been given and the booths wrapped up, will stay online until the next show which will be in November.

ResortXpo Snowsports Virtual Conference and Trade Show

Live on July 15-16, is the first ever ResortXpo.  Join in

Where can you network and discuss industry issues?
With all the marketing and technology choices out there, what’s the best strategy for your resort?
How can you come up with new ideas and programs for the coming season? will address these questions and more!  The event is designed to help solve marketing, sales, and IT challenges by bringing compelling conference sessions, Base Lodge Chat’s and product and solution exhibits to the convenience of your desktop.

We know that you want the latest updates but need to get them in a convenient and simple way so we’ve designed this expo with your needs in mind.  We’re doing it online and we’re bringing the experts to you!

Top 5 Things You Will Get at this Event and Nowhere Else

Sessions with industry leading executives including: Samantha Rufo, President, nxtConcepts, Joy Spring, VP/COO, Leisure Trends, Steve Pope, Owner, ePop Studio; Milena Regos, Marketing Director, Diamond Peak Ski Resort; Eric Hoffman, Interactive Marketing Manager, Park City Mountain; David LaPlante, CEO, Twelve Horses; Michelle Evans, Marketing Services Manager, Grouse Mountain; John Siewierski, Owner, Siewierski Consulting

-Lessons learned from your peers in the Connection Cafe Forums with scheduled Base Lodge Chats.

Updates on the latest technology developments that are shaping the future of resort communications including text messaging, email marketing, social media, and websites.

Real time networking with product and solution experts.

-Virtual Welcome Reception brought to your by Captain Morgan (Please Drink Responsibly).  Get unprecedented access to the brand team while enjoying some of the Captain’s favorite recipes.

If you have ever missed a seminar or Convention due to travel or cost, this is the show for you!

It’s all happening July 15-16 and right on your computer.
No travel.  No expenses.  Just great information.
You can attend a major conference without leaving your office!

Attend the live event and Enter to Win:
ResortXpo exclusive give-aways.  Including: Captain Morgan Prize packages (jump drives and other cool swag), $500 Kick Start Mobile Marketing Program from nxtConcepts, Kelty two-man backpacking tent valued at $149 from Leisure Trends, Win one of 4 Descente or DNA jackets from RSN Resort TV &, and more.  Winners notified through their online profiles.

Exhibitor Hall hours: open 24 hours with live chat’s available between 11am-5pm EST (10am-4pm CT/9am-3pm MT/8am-2pm PT)
Conference Session Hours: 11am – 2pm EST
And the entire event will be available for on-demand viewing for 10 days afterwards.

Brought to you by nxtConcepts, Ltd; North Pole Design; Selectus Consulting; and Captain Morgan