I did something yesterday that I haven't done in a long time. I ate at McDonald's. Something about the Monopoly promotion going on that lured me in. So, I'm a little weird, and after ordering my cheeseburgers minus the meat, I asked for sweet and sour sauce for my fries. "That will be 24 cents."
What??? Since when does McDonald's charge for sauce? Do they also charge for ketchup? The guy standing next to me look at me and said "you should just cancel your order." If I wasn't in such a state of shock, I probably would have. However, like an idiot, I paid the 24 cents and enjoyed my sauce. I guess that is how they get away with charging for it, afterall I did pay for it.
My friend Capuchin told me that even though she never eats there she knew that they charge extra for sauce. Apparently, if you order chicken mcnuggets or selects, there is no charge. This was a first for me.
So, here is some food for thought (pun intended): If a customer is willing to pay extra for something should you make them? I won't be visiting McDonald's again any time in the near future. I was willing to pay extra at the time, but the experience made me think twice about returning.
Thanks to Sara Burns for sharing this one.
The True Event Planning Timeline...Proceed With Caution
Weeks 52 to 8 before conference = Do nothing, because no one mentioned it to the events planning team.
Weeks 8 to 6 before= attempt frantically to get some guideline from your client as to number of attendees, acceptable locations, budget, flow, agenda, gifts, speakers, print collateral, invitations, registration....
* source 10 locations in the northeast, then 10 on the west coast, then 5 in Chicago as your client changes their mind.
* bug the chain of command to sign off on the meeting so that you can actually book one of the 92 locations who now have your specs.
* Develop your ability to say key phrases like "Of course I can check New York for this December - you're ok with a $550 room rate, right?" without flinching.
Weeks 6 to 4 before = repeat above
* give up on your client making decisions about the speakers because they're focused on the design of the invitation and the $3 giveaway.
* automatically hit "delete" on the 324 emails that come to you from potential attendees asking when they can register, because you have nowhere near enough information to setup your online registration.
Weeks 4 to 2 before = change your diet and sleep habits radically (you are now the sole reason that the Starbucks employees across the street got a bonus this month) because you are working 18 - 20 hour days.
* to avoid those pesky phone calls, work early in the morning and late at night as much as possible, since you have no answers for the hotel on when you'll have the contract signed or the deposit paid, much less rooming lists and beos; your creative group wants your head for asking for (500) 300 page spiral bound books of presentations produced in 3 days, since that's approximately how much lead time the presenters will give you; your tchotchke vendor calling to say that there's no way that they can produce and ship in time the 700 logo-d replicas of the Brooklyn Bridge and yak-wool slippers that your client's committee finally decided on.
Week 2 to 1 before = your coworkers will find you alternating between a weeping, huddled mass under your desk and bounding around the office with the optimism and energy of Superman, because you have finally gotten to the point where it's going to happen or it's not.
Less than 1 week before = a strange calm decends; you're either feeling back in control and relaxed that you've got everything handled and a contingency plan in place, or you've mixed up your sleeping pill with your No-Doz.
In today's game of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours," the meeting gurus on MeCo have been sharing their favorite meeting planning hot spots. Here are a few to check out:
Tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com
Makes long web addresses short.
Diagram rooms on the fly
You Send It: www.yousendit.com
Send large files without clogging up anyone's inbox. Great for sending graphics intensive Powerpoint presentations.
APEX Glossary: www.conventionindustry.org/glossary
Event Management Body of Knowledge
Use this to check spelling and accent placement on menu words.
Blog Search: http://blogsearch.google.com
Not only looks for blogs, but finds postings from keywords.
Search Engine: www.google.com
No explanation needed
You can look up any aircraft flown by any airline and it will show you the configuration of the cabin, best & worst seats, recline angles, legroom, and where galleys, restrooms, drop-down screens and seat power ports are located.
I ran into an a marketing director yesterday that I haven't seen in a long time. She told me about just "coming off a high" from just finishing her firm retreat. She said it was a great event, lots of team-building, etc. Before I had a chance to ask her, she said, "you know, it's always a debate whether or not marketing should get involved in firm retreats." She went on to explain that this retreat was in celebration of a new office and new branding initiative. It made sense for marketing to take a lead role to gain exposure and credibility in her law firm.
This is a debate I hear everyday. The question always revolves around the role of marketing in recruiting and recruiting events, employee incentive and morale programs, and a whole bank of other "not-really-marketing-exactly" activities.
I am a believer that yes, marketing should be involved. I also think human resources, finance, IT, and other departments should work together to help build better companies. Otherwise, why have companies and not just outsource job functions. Marketing gurus have expertise is areas that are different from human resources or management. They can bring this expertise to an initiative such as a corporate retreat and enhance the program.
Of course, like everyone, there is only so much one can have on their plate and still be productive. It's a matter of prioritizing. Would working on a retreat help employees better understand the corporate goals, feel better about the the company and their co-workers and therefore, project a better image to clients and prospects? If they answer is yes, this sounds like a priority to me.
I was glad to hear my friend was involved in planning her firm's retreat.
I am not a fan of grocery shopping. It's a combination of crowds, waiting in line and people. Because of my work schedule, it is difficult for me to shop during less busy times. About a year ago I looked out of the window and saw a Peapod delivery truck. This changed my life. For the majority of my food shopping I use, Peapod, an online food delivery service, that after a slow start, partnered with other major grocery chains and now successfully delivers groceries, right to your door.
For a delivery charge of $6.95-9.95, Peapod allows you to schedule your grocery delivery for the next day at a specified 2-hour interval. Peapod's selection, while not as extensive as going to the store, has increased over time. Their drivers are very courteous and always on time. They accept coupons and give you credit on items that are not satisfactory.
Every month or two, Peapod send customers a survey asking how they can improve. I have seen real results since they have begun doing this (increased selection and more specials is very apparent). From my perspective, Peapod listens to their customers and acts on the feedback they get. They also give credit to customers who recommend then to their friends.
When I first started using Peapod, my friends laughed at me. Is this taking online shopping a little to far? The most common comment has been "I like to make sure my produce is fresh and high quality. I don't trust anyone else to pick the best selection." I have actually found that the produce is nicer than the produce in the store. I suspect that less hands touch each piece. The people that have tried Peapod have stopped laughing at me. Besides being convenient, Peapod makes the customer experience enjoyable. No hassles, no headaches, but yes, they do make substitutions (if you request that they do).
So what does this have to do with marketing? Peapod uses their customers to bring them referrals through word of mouth and rewards them for it by offering discounts to those that do. They ensure that they will continue to get referrals by providing a high quality service and by acting on the recommendations of their clients.
Yes, I believe that word of mouth marketing works. Just ask Peapod.
While we are often questioned, asked for statistical information and ROI to support our ideas, sometimes it's just easier to ask ourselved, "does this fit into the company's strategic plan?" If the answer is no, a great idea for someone else may not be the best fit for your organization.
Many time it's senior management that is asking that very question. Sometimes, marketers and planners should pose the question.
No matter what kind of event idea you have, even if you have a grand budget to implement it, always double-check what type of peg you have.
Sue Pelletier posted some great lessons that were presented at a meeting she attended. She referred to these as the 10 Commandments.
These "10 Commandments" really can be modified and applied to many things, especially those that are event and marketing related. I tried to pick out my favorite, but this was difficult. These really go to the core of how and why we perform and event planners and marketers. If I had to pick one, I think it would be #3. "There is no excuse for poor quality. ‘Nuf said."
The quality of what we produce is a direct reflection on us, not just our company. Whether someone is CMO, Senior Meeting Planner or an assistant, our product is our work. Your company may be judged on the quality or the products or services that they produce, the same goes for individuals. Many times people do things based on other people's standards. What are your personal standards for quality?
Yesterday I received a thank you gift from a new vendor. In the package, among other things, was a plastic egg containing Silly Putty. This was very exciting - one of my favorite toys (from my childhood of course).
Isn't it fun to relive that feeling of excitement that childhood experiences brought to us? I suppose this is why I felt a sense of sadness when I heard last week's news that Pluto is no longer considered a planet. I realized that this was very silly of me, but I realized that I am not alone after reading Seth Godin's theory on why we care about Pluto "Because we grew up with it."
Wouldn't it be great if we, as marketers, can create the same feelings for our prospects and clients through our own marketing and branding efforts? Can we create an experience worthy of real emotion for years to come?
Is it better to spend 2 1/2 days soaking in as much knowledge through in-depth, high-level seminars or to spend time getting to know other attendees at a conference? The value of the latter is that these new "friends" can serve as a continuing source of real-world knowledge.
I have made many friends that have helped solve a problem or told me how they handled a similar situation. These friends, as they truly have become, I met at a conference or trade-show. In similar roles at their companies, they face the same challenges as I do. They are an excellent source of real knowledge.
When planning events for my own association members, I often ask which is better. It is important that the attendees and their powers-that-be feel that they are getting real value out of attending an event. The members often say that the best value is by talking to other members, rather than having formal, in-depth presentation.
Susan Bird addresses this same issue in her blog, Bird's Eye View . Sue Pelletier poses a great question in response on her blog face2face"I know, it’s not easy. But wouldn’t you love to be at a meeting where every takeaway was not only practical and applicable, but also inspired you to think differently about what you do and how you do it by showing you how others have made the whatever-it-is their own?"
My answer is, yes, not only would I love to be at that sort of meeting, I would love to be the one responsible for making it happen.
Of course, I agree with Susan. A little mix of great content and stimulating conversation can produce a strong event and positive feedback from attendees. Practical or not.