Monday, November 2, 2015

Four Rules for Winning in the Convenience Economy

There are several names for the shifts we're seeing in many industries today: some call it the rise of the Sharing Economy. They point to businesses like AirBNB and Uber as pioneers. The Harvard Business Review calls it the rise of the Access Economy and points to Zipcar as a trailblazer.

I call it the rise of the "Convenience Economy" and I've included three examples below. Here's my definition of the Convenience Economy:

Businesses winning in the convenience economy are adding convenience by eliminating friction in the buying process.

Four Rules
I see four rules for winning in the convenience economy. The most important one is the last:

  1. Convenience is more important than price.
    Customers have thus far demonstrated they are willing to pay extra for convenience. The cost of convenience hasn't been driven to zero... yet. Unlike many other industries in which costs have been driven to zero (free email providers, free news via websites, free shipping, etc.), people have demonstrated they are willing to pay for convenience.
  2. Convenience does not appeal to everyone.
    The convenience economy is not being brought to the masses. Approximately 16% of Americans live below the poverty line — defined as a household income of $24,250 for a family of four in the year 2015. And according to the US Census Bureau, the median household income in the US in 2014 was $53,657.

    In my very unscientific opinion, this means at least 16% and perhaps even more than 50% (the median) of Americans cannot afford the price of convenience, in general terms. The convenience economy appeals to the middle class and up. There are some people who simply can't afford to take an Uber ride or have their groceries delivered by Peapod.
  3. Mobile devices are powering the convenience economy.
    Smart phones are enabling new methods of consumer convenience. Businesses winning in the convenience economy are taking full advantage of mobile technology: voice, text, photos, videos, geo-location, etc. This isn't to say that the only way to add convenience is via a mobile device, but it's certainly a good way.
  4. The strongest brands will win.
    The Paradox of Choice tells us consumers cannot deal with an overwhelming number of choices — they need to pick from just a few options. So, while there has been a proliferation of businesses tapping into the convenience economy, only the strongest brands will survive. "Strongest" means many things, including most trustworthy, most unique, most consistent, and of course, most convenient.
Three Examples
Here are three of my favorite recent examples of companies that have added levels of convenience in order to make their customers' lives easier and increase sales:
  1. Artkive Concierge. Artkive is a cool app that enables parents to take pictures of their children's artwork, organize it, and then print picture books of the artwork. It's a great app if you have the time to take a picture of all of your little one's artwork. But if you don't have the time, you can take advantage of their Concierge service. Just pile all of little Johnny's artwork in a box of your choice — in any order — ship it to Artkive, and they'll take pictures of every piece, lay it out nicely in a book, allow you to give feedback, and then print and send you a book. They'll even return the artwork to you when it's all said and done. I've used the service and it was fantastic.
  2. Angie's List SnapFix. Sometimes you need some work done on your home and you don't have time to research the best company for the job. Enter Angie's List SnapFix. Members simply describe their problem with text, photos, and videos (most easily done via their app), add a date and time in which they're available for service, and Angie's List goes out and finds the best company to handle the job. I recently used the service for a hodgepodge of home repairs I needed done and it was great.
  3. Dominos. Many restaurants offer online ordering, but Dominos leads the way in convenience via their digital channels. Their mobile app is fantastic. And for their most tech-savvy customers, ordering via emoji is the most convenient way to order a pizza. While at first glance this seems like a gimmick, it truly is a very convenient way to order a pizza. It certainly reduces all friction in the purchasing process.

    According to their website, more than 50% of all Dominos orders come through their digital channels. Customers clearly like how convenient they make ordering a pizza.
Add This To Your To-Do List
How is your business taking advantage of the convenience economy? It's not too late to eliminate friction in the buying process and boost profits.

There's never a lack of ideas.

I'm not the first to call this the Convenience economy. In 2014, Box CEO Aaron Leevie Tweeted the first explanation that I've seen: "Convenience economy" formula: take a service that was previously cost prohibitive for most (due to friction) and bring to the masses." I love his use of the word "friction."

Saturday, September 5, 2015

To Whose Wagon Will You Hitch Your Star?

I've heard my fair share of sales pitches over the last nine months.
I've explained our marketing strategy to reps from all types of companies.

I've weighed the pros and cons of their proposed solutions.

And I've selected the best ones.
In making those decisions, it always came down to one question: to whose wagon will I hitch my star?

In other words: On what solution do I have enough faith to stake my reputation and my company's reputation?

If you're a marketing solutions provider, I hope you're trying to answer that last question.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

All Roads Lead to Vertical Integration

As companies mature and look for new ways to increase revenue, they inevitably look toward vertical integration.

Companies with great customer relationships move up and/or down the purchase path to increase revenue. Let's look at three examples of vertical integration in the travel sector: one historic, one current, and one I predict will happen soon.

Historic: Why Airlines Sell Vacation Packages
The majority of people planning to take a trip that includes a flight will start planning their trip by researching flights first. Before most people look into booking accommodations, a rental car, and/or activities, they look into flights.

Many years ago, airlines figured this out and started selling vacation packages. Since customers started planning their trip on an airline's website, the airlines realized they could sell other services while they had customers' attention. (They also make a lot of money by selling hotel rooms.)

That's vertical integration.

Current: Why Google Created Hotel Finder
15 years ago, Google started teaching Internet users that to find what they were looking for online, they should start by searching Google. Plenty of people still use Google, but when it comes to booking travel, some people turn first to sites like Expedia, Orbitz, or

As a result, Google has started providing more than just links as results from hotel-related searches. Google created to keep users coming back to Google to find hotel rooms. Google continues to improve this service and I think it's great (but I'm a little biased).

That's vertical integration.

Next Up: Airbnb
Airbnb is reportedly worth billions of dollars. While Airbnb has plenty of room for growth in its core business of connecting those looking for accommodations with those looking to rent out their accommodations, I think Airbnb will inevitably turn to vertical integration for growth. I see a future in which after booking accommodations on, customers are then offered deals on activities and tours near their rented room.
  • Want a private chef to come cook you dinner while you're on vacation? Add it to your Airbnb reservation.
  • Need an in-room massage? Add it to your Airbnb reservation.
  • Need a pet sitter for the afternoon? Let Airbnb recommend a few for you.
In a home away from home, Airbnb has an opportunity to connect people with the services they're used to or services they never receive at home.

That's vertical integration.

Add This To Your To-Do List
Is your business looking to vertical integration for growth? If not, maybe it's time to start.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Thick Skin

So you want to be a marketer? Then you better develop thick skin because critics are everywhere.

Recently, a restaurant chain with which I'm quite familiar started a new Birthday Club. The premise is very simple: register online with your birthdate and email address and you will receive a voucher for a free piece of chocolate cake on your birthday. Here were two of my favorite responses on Facebook about the Birthday Club:
  • "Pass. If I wanted to donate to the GOP, I'll do it directly. I'm not interested in funding the GOP via your restaurant's deep campaign pockets. Or at all. You keep your cake and I'll keep my conscience."
  • "Takes such little imagination to please people nowadays! Cake will bring me to your restaurant? Please I have integrity."
Add This To Your To-Do List
You can't please everyone, so don't even try. Critics are everywhere and let's be honest — some people are just crazy. Develop thick skin and ignore the haters. Stay positive and keep moving forward.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

You Can’t Say No To Everyone

Two years ago, when I wrote the book on setting marketing priorities, inherent in the book, but not specifically discussed in detail, was the need to ignore a lot of marketing opportunities.

In theory, it's easy to do this. But in practice, it's more complicated — at least, for me.

When I was in college, applying for marketing internships in extremely creative ways but never hearing anything back, I vowed that when I was a marketing professional, I would always reply to everyone who contacted me, even if only to say no. "Saying no is better than saying nothing at all," I thought.

But then I became a professional marketer and realized that's just not possible. There just isn't enough time in the day to respond to every opportunity. From marketing vendor inquiries, donation requests, and people looking to network or land a job, I could easily spend my entire day just saying no.

This is Hard for Me
I struggle with this. I'm a nice guy and I want to pay things forward.

My instinct is to reply to everyone about every opportunity. Some people are good at ignoring opportunities and requests. I am not. It has taken practice.

Sometimes I break down and call or write someone back who is really persistent — just to tell them no. Almost every time, I regret that decision.
  • "I just want to meet you for coffee for 30 minutes. You can spare 30 minutes for a fellow alum, right?"
  • "Our cancer foundation really needs your help. A donation of any size makes a difference." 
Nearly every time I respond to say no, I end up spending even more time explaining why. Nobody wants to hear no.

Add This To Your To-Do List
As a marketer, you need to feel comfortable in ignoring opportunities that aren't critical to your business or your professional development. (Struggling to know what marketing opportunities are the most important? Read my book.)

On the flip side, if you're a person whose job it is to get marketers to say yes (like my job at Google was for four years), you need to make your pitch relevant and impactful.

Much more on that in future posts.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Porta Potties: Hilarious Product Names

I think the most entertaining product names in any one industry belong to the portable toilet industry. Porta potty names are hilarious! Here are eleven real portable toilet companies I found:
See how much I love my readers? I researched porta potties for a long time to find these companies. You're welcome!

Add This To Your To-Do List
Am I right? Are porta potty names the most entertaining? Or is there another industry with even better names? It just goes to show you — sometimes the stinkier the industry, the better you'll stand out with a clever name.

There's never a lack of ideas.

PS If you're in the mood to see some hilarious slogans from septic tank businesses, check out this Reddit.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Happy Sixth Birthday to My Blog

Another year is in the books and I've still been able to blog once in a while. My blog has never been viewed more than in the past year, so thank you for your increasing interest in what I have to say. And now, according to tradition, I'd like to highlight my favorite posts from the last year:
Add This To Your To-Do List
Enjoy my favorite posts!

There's Never a Lack of Ideas