A case for Redbox

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My family continues to enjoy renting movies from redbox as a low cost alternative for DVD rentals. I previously wrote about redbox making a splash in the video rental industry. Redbox has created a business with a unique model to meet an under-served market. Unlike the movies that go the dollar movie on the big screen, Redbox releases their rentals on the same day as other DVD rental providers. Consumer advocate Clark Howard wrote recently about a report that Redbox is suing Warner Home Video for wanting to delay release of videos for 28 days past other DVD rental providers. This is third such lawsuit created by Redbox against the controlling studios.

The issue at play here is that the studios don’t want their movies rented for a dollar because it brings down the perceived value of the movie and may hurt sales of DVDs. As Clark put it, why would you buy a movie for $15 when you can rent it 15 times for the same price? I think the studios are wrong in their thinking to delay product to Redbox and they should rethink their strategy. Consider these thoughts:

  1. Redbox provides the studios with greater reach because they can put a rental kiosk at more locations than a company using physical stores.  The more retail outlets there are, the greater the likelihood that a rental is made and the studio is collecting some royalty. I think the studios should be interested in the penetration rates of the kiosks and the impact the increased volume could have to their bottom lines.
  2. Redbox creates a new segment of customers. These customers are willing to give up a full service rental outlet for a reduced product price at a kiosk. Renting from a kiosk has trade-offs as customers may have to wait in a parking lot, wait longer in line as other customers self serve, or not be able to pick up other rentals such as video games in a single trip. This group of price sensitive customers was previously under served and should be marketed to so that it can be better sized for future offerings.
  3. Not all customers will fit into the price sensitive segment.  Some customers will still prefer to visit a store where they can leisurely browse titles, pick up drinks and candy, rent video games,or even get a full week rental. This group doesn’t care for parking lot kiosks and would rather deal with a real person behind the counter. They’ll pay $4 for a rental and not be concerned about the $1 price across the street.

My thought is that instead of fighting against the Redbox business model that the studios should embrace it as a new way to reach more customers. If they product quality content then rentals will follow. Customers will choose the type of rental that best fits their budget and preferences.

Top 10 reasons why you want your boss to read your blog

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A really weird thing happened today. My boss quoted to me one of my blog posts while we were talking shop. I was so taken off-guard that I didn’t have a quick witty reply for him. It took me a few seconds to recover and get back in the conversation. Are you kidding me? Boss man reads my blog?

DilbertBossBlog

As I thought about it later, I decided it was good thing for your boss to read your blog. So without further delay here are the top 10 reasons why you want your boss to read your blog: (Drum roll please….)

#10 – Jedi mind tricks rarely work on your boss. Maybe you can influence his thinking with a good blog post.

#9 – It gives you more credibility than Brett Favre saying he’s retired.

#8 – It helps to set the framework for healthy discussion and debate of a topic.

#7 – You can always plead the fifth if he questions anything you write.

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#6 – It’s revenge for all those weekday drive-bys to your cube.

#5 – Your blog can’t be graded or corrected. Comments are allowed, but will be made public.

#4 – You can say whatever you want.  OK, Well, almost anything….

#3 – One day your boss might quote you as a credible source to another group of people.

#2 – Your blog is an unedited version of yourself.

#1 – Blogging is a relationship based activity surviving in a business world driven by numbers.

Seriously though, I enjoyed writing this post. Some items in jest and some to bring out legitimate reasons that I and many others write blog posts. We’ll see what happens back in the office on Monday…..

Combining digital and print media. Go Braves!

Baseball is one my favorite things in life. I played the game as a kid and now have the joy of watching my son grow-up playing the game as well. We also go watch baseball games several times each year including youth, collegiate, and professional levels. Braves Game Day

Each time we go to the Atlanta Braves games at Turner Field I’m always impressed with the customer focus and game day experience. I’ve previously written about the customer focus of the employees at Turner Field. On my last trip, I took notice of how they combine the use of digital and print media to both drive sales as well as educate their customers.

As fans enter the park, they are given a small print publication called “Game Day”. Atlanta Braves Game Day contains promotional materials for the Braves, stats and bios of the players, and a ballpark directory. Since the book is thin the amount of space given to any particular topic is limited. This is great because it forces the marketer to keep the message simple and on point. On the front of the booklet is the teams web address braves.com and then throughout the booklet are various additional addresses specific to the promotion or topic:

braves.com/phauction

braves.com/sideline

braves.com/tickets

braves.com/battingpractice

braves.com/birthday

braves.com/community

braves.com/bricks

braves.com/win

Game Day has several valuable marketing take aways for using digital and print media combined with a multi-channel strategy:

Use Internet addresses without ‘www’

I am a big proponent of printing web addresses without the ‘www’ because it shortens the print, makes it simpler to read, and draws more attention to the brand name. We come to a point now where when people see something like brandname.com they understand its an Internet address because of the .com suffix.  Make sure your web site will work with and without the ‘www’ prefix on the address.

Use Internet addresses with landing page designators for your target segment

OK, so creating customer segments is from marketing 101.  The job now is to create separate and distinct landing pages for each segment such as brandname.com/segment1. Doing this allows you to not only design a custom message for the target segment but to uniquely track the site usage through web analytics software. Designing landing pages is an Internet marketing topic unto itself. The basic principal is to make sure the call to action is clear and distinguishable. Don’t clutter the page with multiple options and distractions for your customer. Help them get to where you want them to be!

For the Braves they have created segments based on life events of their customers, baseball events with players, community service, etc. They are reaching people that want to watch baseball for the game as well as those that use baseball as more of a social event.

Use a multi-channel strategy to reach your audience

Multi-channel marketing offers the target segment more than one way to interact with a brand.  Certainly there are strategic considerations about how to message the target audience such as advertising in a single channel or multiple channels. The Braves are using the stadium, a printed brochure, and a web site to present messages to their fans. In addition to this, throughout the stadium and during the game, almost every written and audible advertisement has URLs with targeted landing pages. The messaging is clear and follows a consistent pattern of pointing customers to braves.com/keyword for information and ordering.

Use your main channel to sell and promote for future visits

Modern eCommerce sites always offer cross sell and upsell items for existing visit. But how do those brands promote future visits during your current session? The Braves use your current visit to show you things you could do on your next visit. Are you having a birthday? (we all do right?)You can get a free Braves ticket. Do you want to get on the field and watch the pros take batting practice? Do that by planning your next trip in advance and purchasing the extra ticket. Are you looking for seats with all-you-can eat food? Tickets for this type of experience are available for your next visit.

What’s your experience with marketing of professional sports as they compete for your entertainment dollar. Are there other lessons to be learned from this industry?

Social Media Experts? Your Employees!

Who should be running your social network operations? Who are social media experts? Do you bring in several interns because they’re young and know about computers and all that? Do you spend tens of thousands of dollars to bring in a consulting firm to put together your strategy and tell you what to do? The answer is quite simply ‘no’.  The best way to accomplish it, is to look within your own back yard.

Social Media Expert
Social Media Expert
Find out how many of your people already use Facebook, blogs, or other Internet communication tools. Chances are they are pretty passionate about it. Now imagine if you could marry the passion they have with their own personal use of social networking tools with the product/service knowledge they have of your products. Oh yeah, find out how many of your most valued customers are in the space. Those are the people you need to be talking to.

This is exactly what Catherine Mitros writes about in this article on corporate social network adoption. I enjoyed reading this because I’ve always supported the management model to empower those people who are closest to the customer so they can make decisions to grow and keep customers.  Remember all those lessons in Marketing class about the customer lifetime value? Well, if you’re a company that competes in the market place based on a strategy other than lowest cost provider (value added services, premium designs, differentiated service, etc.) then the relationship aspect of social media is for you. Involvement with customers through conversations, both electronic and face-to-face, keeps customers for the long term.  Building relationships is what your sales and client support team having been doing for years. So why wouldn’t you use a tool that provides another way to keep in touch with your customer? And why would you outsource that or let an intern who doesn’t know diddly about your customers or business do that for you?

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10 questions with Mike Cottmeyer

I recently met with Mike Cottmeyer of Leading Agile and gave him a few questions to answer about his experience and knowledge with agile development and the Agile Community. Agile development and its various subforms are not the typical subject matter for The Merchant Stand blog. However, the concepts and principals of agile development have application in both software development projects and non-software projects as well. As companies face the realities of a competitive marketplace and demands to produce results more quickly, they are moving towards agile team structures and process flows. My objective is to write about work methods that make organizations more nimble while also providing exceeding value to customers. Mike Cottmeyer has a passion for this idea and lives  it every day.  Check out what he had to say.

1. How did you transition from a PMBOK/PMP project manager advocate to an agile development evangelist?

I was never really an advocate of the PMI approach directly. Honestly, my early project management experience was pretty unstructured and undisciplined. As I learned more about the profession of Project Management, I came across many of the tools advocated by the PMI. Much of what PMI was saying about planning and structure never really fit my experience. Fortunately or unfortunately, most of my experience has been on projects with lots of changing requirements using technologies that we were figuring out on the fly.

When I was finally exposed to agile as a way of thinking about project management, it was a natural fit for how I already viewed the world. Now my goal is to bring some of the structure and discipline of traditional methods to the agile community.

2. How should a PMP project manager incorporate agile into a project plan for software releases?

I do whole presentations on this topic. The biggest thing a traditional PM can do is start focusing on measuring progress against real deliverables and stop focusing on intermediate artifacts and project activity. We need to start measuring progress against real project deliverables that create value for our customers. That means breaking requirements into smaller chunks and delivering software more frequently through the life of the project. Customers only care about intermediate artifacts because we have never given them a better way to assess progress…. working software is the only real measure of progress.

3. Where is agile gaining the greatest acceptance?

Agile as a project management methodology really only has significant traction in the software development community. There are folks out there that are using agile to run community organizations and marketing departments but they are in the minority. We have experience with folks using agile approaches in architecture firms and on construction projects. This just isn’t where the body of knowledge lives right now. It is worth noting that an Agile Community of Practice has just been formed in the PMI to promote greater understanding amongst their membership.

4. Where is agile seeing the greatest resistance?

People in general have a hard time changing. Even in companies claiming to be ‘agile’ there is tremendous resistance to actually making change real. Agile encompasses not only project management but also engineering practice and leadership. The hardest part about adopting agile is the change that agile is requiring us to make to our people and to our organizational cultures. Servant leadership… openness… transparency… trust… are attributes of agile that can’t be turned on overnight or made to happen by management decree.

5. What’s the next big step in the maturation process for agile?

I mentioned the Agile PMI Community of Practice. My hope is that we see the agile community influence the PMI… but also be open to influence by the PMI. We need to be able to express where and when agile is the right approach to project management and make sure that we have the proper controls in place to meet customer expectations.

6. Why should e-Commerce and Internet marketing professional care if their organizations are using agile development methods?

Agile is about being responsive to change. In the world of e-Commerce and Internet Marketing… we don’t have 18 months to wait for a project deliverables. We need our projects fast… and we need to be able to change them when we learn new information about the competitive landscape. We need to be able to change with as little cost and upheaval as possible. If we don’t figure out how to dramatically reduce the cycle time of our projects… if we don’t figure out how to respond faster… someone else will come along that can and we will lose market share. Agile gives us a way to deliver value faster and make changes when we learn new information.

7. Do you see agile techniques and concepts being adopted by other industries, standards, or methods? (Is agile universal?)

Agile can be applied anywhere requirements are uncertain and very likely to change. Sometimes the agile practices have to be adapted to a specific industry…. but in general we are talking about smaller requirements… smaller more frequent deliveries… just in time planning… rolling wave… progressive elaboration. Agile is not for everyone and it is not for every problem domain. That said… I do believe that many of the principles apply is most situations.

8. Does agile focus on processes, people, or results?

Agile is about delivering value… so I would have to say results… but that doesn’t mean we always deliver exactly what we set out to build. We want to focus on value delivered to customers. Results are defined in terms of customer value… not specific deliverables. We might have to change… we might have to inspect and adapt… to get the business value we set out to deliver.

9. What book is on your nightstand right now?

“The Goal” by Eli Goldratt and Jeff Cox

10. What can we expect to see from Mike Cottmeyer in the next year?

I expect that I will continue to write and speak on the topics of agile project management and leadership. You’ll see me continue to blog and consult, and if all goes well, by the end of next year I will have published my first book.