One mistake can ruin a QR Code experience

A QR Code for a burger campaignWhen a campaign is not fully tested, it can completely destroy the experience for some or all of the people who experience the campaign.  Today, I decided to scan a QR Code located on the front of the to-go bag from a burger franchise.  I was impressed – there was a decent call to action, an alternate URL to visit, and they even warned me that data rates may apply ;)

I’m on a phone when I scan a QR Code,
yet the redirect took me to an embed link for the youtube video.  It tried to play “full screen” in my mobile browser and here is what the experience was like:

1) My Phone looks like my desktop when I full-screen a youtube video.  There’s a play button in the middle of a cheesburger picture.
2) I click the play button.  Nothing happens.  I click again.
3) That little spinning thing starts to spin in the middle of the cheesburger picture.
4) After 20 seconds, I heard 1.5 seconds of audio and the picture changed on my screen.
5) Another 20 seconds, and now I see and hear about 2 seconds of video.
6) I see a warning message: “This video is not optimized for mobile”.
7) Another 20 seconds goes by, I see and hear another 2 seconds of video.  I now give up and close my browser.

The QR Code itself was not a failure,
nor was the message on why I should scan the code.  The failure was in the execution of the mobile experience.  My guess is that this was tested on a desktop, ipad, or a phone that was connected to wifi.  Luckily, the QR Code goes to a redirect, so the company could try and fix this experience before they disappoint too many more people.

Test!  Have someone test!  This was not a failure of the QR Code, but rather a failure of the team executing the campaign.  Let’s learn from this failure so we don’t make it ourselves, OK?


QR Code Experiences on Facebook

QR Code Inventor Denso ADCYesterday, Denso ADC created a Constant Contact Social Campaign where they announced their “new” Facebook page.  Denso ADC is the Americas sales arm of DENSO Wave Incorporated, inventor of the QR Code® and created their Facebook account November 29, 2011.  Although they have been posting examples of QR Codes here and there, activity on posts picked up in March and April of this year.

The announcement is meant to invite a community of QR Code enthusiasts to share QR Code ideas, success stories and marketing strategies.  With sites like WTF QR Codes and a Google search for “bad QR Codes” generating over 16,000,000 results, it’s about time someone tries to stay positive about QR Codes.

It will be interesting to see how Denso ADC handles their “community” page.  I’d love to be a fly on their Facebook wall in order to count the number of negative shares and comments vs. positive ones.  20 hours after their campaign, I don’t see much new activity at all.  No user generated content, and not many new likes and comments.

Does this signal that no one cares anymore about QR Codes, or is it that Denso is the one asking for community involvement?  What do you guys think? My QR Code Rules can be found here.

QR Code® is a registered trademark of DENSO Wave Incorporated.

A few (or 6) ways to capture creative ideas

I was chatting with a group of community managers last week in the Community Manager Hangout hosted by Tim McDonald and the topic of creativity came up.  We discussed whether or not you had to be creative as a community manager and also where the best content ideas come from.  Everyone had some great tips and tricks about getting creative, but we all agreed that capturing them when they come unannounced is key.  Here are just a few of the ways to make sure you’re ready to capture a creative idea when it surfaces:

1) is all about lists – creating them and consuming them.  They also have an awesome way to embed the list into your site/blog.  Lists are a great way to capture ideas as well as get ideas by reading other people’s list creations.

2)  Voice recorder
You have one of these on your phone.  Add a shortcut to it on your home screen.  Capture your ideas when you’re driving, cooking, or having a conversation with someone else.  Capture the passion when you just need to rant about something.  It’s also a crazy fast way to start the capturing.  Some people sleep with the phone next to them – so if you sleep alone, feel free to talk to yourself and record it.

3) WordPress Drafts
What better place for blog ideas than your blog drafts!  Bang out a quick title and a few sentences if you have an idea for a post.  Don’t worry about finishing it right away or editing it.  Capture the raw thoughts flowing from your brain into your fingertips.

4) Evernote
Install this on everything you own.  Your phone, your tablet, and your desktops will all be synced – so you can capture a thought on the ipad and edit it later on your phone and finish it on your desktop.  Never throw away ideas.

5) A notepad (non virtual)
Every once in a while, you’ll be without battery.  Carry an actual notebook and attached pen (with string and tape) in your backpack or briefcase or purse.  It can be any size.  Get in the habit of writing in it each morning when you wake up – about whatever it is that’s currently on your mind.

6) Video
Record a debate or discussion on some topics with friends.  Go back and watch it and take notes – there’s bound to be a blog post or two that you can formulate.

See that comment area below?  Share what you use, so we can all learn. Thanks!

Don’t Argue – A/B test with Visual Website Optimizer

Affiliate link to Visual Website OptimizerStop wondering about performance tweaks.
Have you ever wondered how a page on your website or blog would perform if only you did X instead of Y?  What about the time that you got into the huge argument with your designers or programmers on what a button should say, or where it should go?  Let’s face it: people who are good at what they do (or not) have very strong opinions when it comes to exactly how things should be.  This has always frustrated me, because although I believe there are some strong guidelines, I don’t believe there’s always a hard and fast rule when it comes to the psychology of everyone out there.   I’ve always wanted a way to easily test those arguments and “hunches” and I finally found something not only affordable, but extremely easy to use.

I’m super excited about digital A/B testing.
In direct marketing, especially direct mail, A/B testing is one of the most powerful practices to employ.  Great direct mail marketers often end up with not-so-attractive mail pieces that outperform anything you could ever imagine.  I’ve even seen cases where adding nice design elements start decreasing the performance of the piece.  I don’t know if this is true about websites, because I’ve just recently started obsessing over A/B digital testing, but I can’t wait to find out.

The example…
Our homepage had a very light green round button that says “Join Now”.  We’ve had many arguments about this button – from the design of the button to what it should say.  We’ve never changed it in fear that it might actually decrease our signups.  We had no real easy way to test it until one day I discovered Visual Website Optimizer (affiliate link).  I signed up for a free account without a credit card, pasted some supplied javascript into our site (exactly the same amount of skills needed for Google Analytics tracking javascript code) and started using their Visual Interface.  I set up an A/B test, created 2 new buttons in photoshop, and created 2 variations of our homepage.   It was super easy!  I just right clicked, chose the change image option, and gave it my new image.  I then tracked how many people got to our sign up page, and also how many people got to our thanks page  (proving they spent money with us).  I let it run for 2 weeks.  I now have proof on what works.

The results:
A/B testing with Visual Website Optimizer 
 As you can see from the image above, the “Get Some” smaller green button had a 116.49% improvement over our control.  Since I also tested the results of both signups and complete orders, I was able find out that we sell 64.95% more packs of cards using that new button.  Interestingly enough – the smaller Join Now green button resulted in more signups, yet less purchases.

What’s Next?
I’m going to make more tests, and continue to try and boost the performance of the traffic we’re getting to our site.  I highly recommend you give it a go.  It’s easier than you’d think.  You don’t need to be a developer.  The plans are affordable.  The service is amazing (I get prompt responses to my inquiries when I have problems).

Got any testing experiences you can share?  I’d love to hear about them, and I’d love to share anything else I’m learning while experimenting.

Note: I did sign up for the affiliate program with Visual Website Optimizer, but I was not asked by them to write this post.  If you know me, you know I like to learn, and share what I learn.  I’m also learning about affiliate marketing and running a program for Meet-Meme, so participating in different affiliate programs is helping me get a better feel for how that all works too :)

A Camp Experience You Won’t Forget

I like conferences.
They give me an opportunity to meet new people, give hugs and handshakes to those I’ve already met previously online, and they also expand my thoughts as I listen to the range of content topics.  Every once in while, I experience a conference that I can’t shut up about.  If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me tweeting using the #PRSCamp hashtag.  I may have missed SXSW this year, but I wouldn’t let anything stop me from attending Summer Brand Camp.

Let me tell you about Summer Brand Camp.
To start off, this “conference” is focused on breaking the silos between HR, Operations, and Marketing when discussing the topics of employees and brands intersecting in this new digital age.  This is a “conference” where you don’t have to worry about wearing your Sunday best in Dallas in June.  This camp is tons of fun, but you’re also going to walk away with new knowledge, new connections, new friends, and new a outlook on business.  This will be my second year attending, and I’ve been longing for Summer Brand Camp the moment I checked out of the hotel last year.  The conference includes community involvement (we’ll be going to Bryan’s House and helping kids), a talent show fundraiser (for ProStart), Campfires, Smores, and plenty of sing-a-long fun.

I could write pages upon pages on why I would call this the must-attend-event of your career, but I’ve tried to summarize it in a top 10 list.

Top 10 reason to attend Summer Brand Camp

  • #10 – You never went to camp as a kid, and wouldn’t mind experiencing something like it as an adult
  • #9 - You want to connect with HR, Marketing, or C-Suite people from the chain foodservice industry, retail, grocery or healthcare industries
  • #8 – You’ve checked out the attendee list or the speaker list
  • #7 – You’ve always wondered what people meant when they said “..this one time, at brand camp”
  • #6 – You’re ready to consume content that will shift the way you think about business
  • #5 - John Gilbert, CEO of Vermont Teddy Bear headlines #PRSCamp
  • #4 – You’ve heard rumors about someone wearing a pink dress
  • #3 – You have a talent – like spinning plates, and want to share it with everyone
  • #2 – You’ve always wanted to hang out with industry leaders and speakers
  • #1 – You’ll build friendships that last a lifetime

If that’s not enough, follow the conversation on Twitter.  Oh, and there’s a Buy one get one free offer that’s about to expire.

Questions?  Comments? Past Experiences to Share?  Comment Away!


When your brand talks back

I don’t care whether you’re a Twitter newbie, or a Twitter veteran: it’s an AWESOME feeling when a brand “tweets” you in 140 characters or less. I’m not just talking about fielding your complaints either, although that’s important too. When you mention a brand and that brand talks back to you, it makes you feel good.

Let me break it down for you…
We’re talking about one-to-one communication. The print industry has understood the value of this for some time. The more personalized you make the piece of direct mail you send, the higher the response rates you’re going to receive. I’m not talking about a fancy mail-merge-Dear-John-letter either. You can swap out images and paragraphs based on your data. This is all the good practice that we do on the web, in email marketing, and in print. If you can master the art of one-to-one communications, your messaging seems as if it was just a personal note meant for one person.

Just don’t look like a machine…
See, the more your business can communicate like a human, instead of a robotic marketing machine, the better off you’re going to be.  When someone says they are flying on your airline – thank them for flying and wish them a safe flight.  When someone checks into your restaurant and Tweets out to their friends – welcome them and suggest a sandwich.  Do what you would do if you saw a note from your best friend come across your screen.

Be a friend.
I’m not going to lie to you: it’s a ton of hard work to communicate one-to-one with your audience.  But if we strip away the technology for just a second, it should be obvious to you how you need to interact with people.  You welcome them.  You compliment them.  You ask them how their day is going.  You become their best friend.  You use technology to do this because that’s where they are.

So think about this: the next time you’re about to do a Facebook update or send out a Tweet – you can keep creating your commercials that people continually tune out, or you can interact with your friends.

Palm Springs Tram – Fruition is worth the climb

Palm Springs TramI had the priveledge of taking the Palm Springs Tram, which is the largest rotating tram in the world, up 10,834 feet to the top of Mount San Jacinto. The view was breathtaking on the way up, and the experience is one I will never forget. My wife and I climbed through 5 climate zones on our way up, and we were able to watch the moon rise over the lit up city of Palm Springs.

The Palm Springs Tram trip
was amazing for sure, but the story on how this “eighth wonder of the world” was built is motivating. In 1935, an electrical engineer named Francis F. Crocker had a vision. He enjoyed hiking up Mount San Jacinto in the hot summers because of how much cooler it was as you climbed up the mountain. He wanted to share this experience with everyone he met. As he climbed with his friend Carl Barkow, a local newspaper publisher in Palm Springs, he shared his vision: to build a tram system that would let everyone “go where it’s nice and cool” at any time.

Back in 1935, everyone thought Crocker was off his rocker, and his idea was dubbed “Crocker’s Folley”. But Crocker kept pushing his vision forward. It took him 15 years of difficult work and hardships, but by 1950 he had raised $8.5 million in private bonds which paid 5 1/2% in interest (these were finally paid off in full by 1996). In July 1961 construction on his dream began, and in Septmember of 1963 it was completed.

Since the first Palm Springs Tram ride in 1963,
over 12 million people have rode to the top of the mountain and back down again. Because Crocker never gave up, and kept pushing his vision forward, millions of people have been able to benefit by “going where it’s nice and cool” while visiting Palm Springs. I’m glad that there are people like Crocker. I was able to experience something amazing while traveling, all because Crocker didn’t give up on his vision of the Palm Springs Tram.

I hope this story about Crocker inspires you to keep pushing your vision forward. Got any other awesome fruition examples to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below :)

Photo Credit

Delete Your Inbox in 5 steps

Delete your inbox
It’s time to delete your inbox.  Sound scary?  For me it is a very scary concept.  How can I delete my inbox, when it contains so much important information?  There’s unread email I need to check out.  And what about the files, the passwords, the notes, and everything else about my life dating back to 1996 when I opened up my first “grownup” email account? I have 3 email boxes: 2 different corporate accounts and a personal account.  2 in gmail, and 1 in Exchange server. So here’s my plan:



Steps to delete your inbox:

Step 1 – combine accounts:
Combine accounts if you can.  I’m going to have all of my Exchange email automatically forwarded to my corporate Gmail account.  I’m considering forwarding my personal account there too.  That way, I have one system to work from.

Step 2 –  Install Evernote on all of my devices:
I’m making sure that whatever computer, phone, or tablet I’m currently on is running my synced Evernote account.  I’m going to store everything important in that system so I’m not relying on my email as an archive of every piece of important information.

Step 3 – Install Dropbox on all of my devices:
Files will no longer  be kept in email.  I’m going to take attachments that I need and store them in Dropbox, which is also installed on everything I use.  I’m also going  to use SendtoDropBox so I can forward emails with attachments and easily get them store in that cloud. From there, I can manage where those files might need to reside long term.  No more depending on my inbox for file archiving.

Step 4 – Play the Email game:
I’m going to play the email game four times a day until I’ve gone through my entire inbox.  Try it out: it’s awesome!  After that, I’ll play twice a day, and turn off email notifications on my portable devices.  If there’s an emergency, I can’t rely that email is the quickest way to get in touch with me.  That’s what we have Twitter, texting, and *gasp* phone calls for.  I’ll be replying, archiving, storing files and notes, and using the delete option with FURY for everything unimportant.

Step 5 – Unsubscribe:
I have way too much crap that goes into my inbox.  I’m going on a diet and unsubscribing from everything I find myself deleting more than 80% of the time.  I’m going to limit myself to 3 email subscriptions, which will be Marketing Profs, Chris Brogan, and Social Media Club.  I will remove myself from as many lists as possible, and mark “as spam” for those I can’t.

So that’s my plan.  It’s not a complete delete, but I believe this will put me on the right track.  Do you have any other suggestions or tools that help you battle your inbox?


Is every day Groundhog Day for you?

February 2 is Groundhog Day, a day when we watch to see if some groundhog somewhere sees a shadow.  If it’s a sunny day, and his shadow is prominent, he retreats back into his hole and we say that there will be another six more weeks of winter weather.

Groundhog Day – The Movie
I’m sure you’ve all seen the movie with Bill Murray that takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania which happens to be the largest Groundhog Day celebration each year.  What’s interesting about the movie, is that the term “Groundhog Day” means something different to me now.  I don’t think of it as the day I find out whether we’ll have more winter or not.  I think of it as a series of events that seem to repeat over and over again.

How to stop Groundhog Day
Think about it for a minute.  What events or actions seem like a beaten dead horse to you?  Do you find yourself saying “This sure feels like Groundhog Day.”?  Well, you, and only you have the power to stop it.  Break out of the bad routine by forcing change.  No one person is going to do it for you.  Change is good.  Whether it’s something around the office, something in your personal life, or maybe it’s just another one of those days when you feel stuck.  Be part of the solution – don’t add or ignore the repeating problems.

It’s time to wake up.
In the final day of his never-ending Groundhog Day, Phil has already befriended everyone in town, and then gives Rita a lifelike bust made of snow.  After a kiss, it starts snowing.  The time loop is broken, and Phil awakes the next morning to February 3rd.  He finally made the change in his life that he had been searching for.  He never gave up (although he didn’t really have a choice).

If  your first attempt at change fails: readjust and persevere.  Don’t ever give up, and don’t accept your Groundhog Day events.  It’s up to you. What are you going to change?

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What can you finish today?

Finish your todo list

If you’re anything like me, your days are full of starting stuff.  You might use an old fashion pad of paper to keep track of your tasks, or maybe you use something digital like Ta-da Lists or Remember the Milk.  Some days, I find myself starting more items than I finish.  This can be an overwhelming feeling, as you see your task list grow.  Whether it’s stuff to do around the house, around the office, or for other stuff, it’s just a simple fact.  Starting things is a hell of alot easier than finishing them.

What should I get done today?
I’m in deep debt when it comes to my todo list.  In fact, my todo list is out-of-date.  I have piles of unfinished or half started things in my inbox, my WordPress, on pieces of paper, and in Word documents.  Sound familiar?  Do you have so much on your todo list that you don’t even know where to start?

Stop consuming and stop starting.
This what I’m going to try today.  I’m going to close my social streams.  I’m not going to read anything I don’t absolutely have to.  I’m allowing myself only one break today (to watch Kitchen Table Talks Live) .  I’m going to create today instead of consume.  I’m not going to start anything.  I’m just going to finish things today.  If I owe you something, there’s a great chance you’ll be seeing it today.

So how about you?  What are you going to finish today?

photo credit