Category Archives: behavior

The Power of Audience Trumps the Power of Your Marketing

It is a reality all brands and marketers must come to. Who has stronger influence on the awareness, consideration, purchase, and loyalty of your brand? You the marketer or others telling friends, family, and colleagues about the positives and negatives of your product or service? It is time to stop drinking your own Kool-Aid and recognize that the greatest power of brand conversion lies in the hands of the audience you target. The power comes from them advocating on your behalf.

audience power

More than ever, the entire user experience shapes the value and “goodness” (or lack there of) of your brand as perceived by the audience you wish to capture. All the elements of a user experience (corporate positioning, product positioning, product/service value, sales process, brand engagement, and customer support and service) must be integrated and orchestrated.

The next contributing factor to the power of your audience is their (not your) use of digital and social platforms. People talk about brands without being prompted by the brand to do so. This sharing and word of mouth marketing is usually instigated by user experience – either a positive one or a negative one.

All of this change in customer behavior does not mean that marketing is any less important than the days prior to the Internet, digital technologies, and smart mobile devices. It just means that marketers need to form strategies and plans differently. First off, the responsibilities of the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) need to expand to that of a Chief Engagement Officer (as I have written about before).

Second, marketers need to have strong empathy and complete understanding of their audiences’ needs, wants, desires, motivations, and turn offs. Social media monitoring tools enable much greater listening to individuals, but most companies use monitoring merely for sales opportunities as opposed to shaping their product position, roadmap, and go-to-market strategy.

The last point I will make is that marketing approaches must change due to audience behavior and their influence of brand reputation. You can no longer simply develop Hollywood-like advertisement and be content that will grab your audience. Marketers need to pre-plan how the creative will support and enhance the entire user experience. You need to think about how the content will be shared in a positive light. You need to think about activating your audience to become a brand advocate. And this brand advocacy and activation should be the pinnacle results you aim for. Remember – the power of your audience trumps the power of your marketing. So motivate and activate your audience to do your marketing. Think audience first.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, influence marketing, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

The Dramatic and Fundamental Change in Marketing and What You Need to Do

I am not a digital native. I remember when there was no Internet. I remember when brands used to put out advertisements and assertions that were not necessarily believed but difficult to refute or validate.

The Internet and digital communications allowed a shift of control of brand reputation to the consumer and purchasing business. Make no mistake. Brands can no longer make bogus claims. There is a democratized public that now plays the role of judge and jury. Technology enabled a behavioral change. Digital allows a new way for people to communicate – faster and to a larger audience.

consumer in control

The dramatic and fundamental change is that brands have lost power and control. It is now slanted to their audience. It used to be that brands could show up anywhere and push their agenda. Now, their target audience is in control and figuratively says, “I’ll let you market to me if you make it worth my while.” This changes the way brands must market to be successful. And there are still numerous brands spewing outlandish advertisements and claims without sensitivity as to how the democratized public will react.

So let’s examine two new mentalities for successful marketing in our changed world.

The first that I want to (re)introduce you to is a term that was popularized by Seth Godin – permission marketing. While the term was not originally defined by Godin, he certainly thrust the significance to a large audience. Permission marketing takes the place of interruption marketing. Marketers can no longer shove their agenda down their audience’s throat without negative ramifications and results.

From my perspective, permission marketing needs to move a gigantic step forward. It is not that brands need to literally ask their audience for permission to engage and converse, but the brands must have a strong degree of foresight as to how their communication and programs are going to be received. What this means is that brand marketers must have complete empathy for their audience and have a deep understanding and perception with regards to how their programs and communications will be received. If their audience believes that they are being sold BS, the audience will react, loud and fast. If the audience feels that they are being intruded opinion, the audience will react, loud and fast. It is as if brands need to truly understand the outcome of their marketing and ask, “Target audience – would you approve of what we are doing?” The challenge is that this permission marketing must be a validated premonition. Permission marketing means knowing your audience and how they will react ahead of time and proceeding appropriately. You cannot look at success of other marketing efforts and say, “Hey, we should do that. Just look at how many ALS Ice bucket challenge videos were made.” Is your audience really going to react the same?

The second element of change given the evolved consumer/purchasing business behavior is the supreme importance and value of word-of-mouth marketing. People believe others they can trust. Is it more likely that compelling communication of brand value will be come from a (objective) friend or the (subjective) brand? If you can motivate your audience to do your marketing for you, in there own words, you will definitely see positive results of awareness, consideration, and conversion.

If you want to be a successful marketer in today’s changed world, you must have a much greater understanding of your audience. You not only need to understand what they want and need, but you need to understand how to pre-assess their reactions. And you need to think how you will motivate them to deliver actions beneficial to your brand. This means a mentality of permission marketing is required. It also means that you need to rely on your audience to do your most compelling marketing – word-of-mouth marketing. Are you prepared for this change?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

Why You Need a Chief Engagement Officer

Who is the most important person in your business? I hope you answered the customer or client? That’s right … you can take anyone out of your company and you will survive, but if the customer(s) is not there, you have a hobby, not a business.

So if the customer is the most important person, why aren’t you forming an organization around their wants, needs, and desires? Why don’t you have a point person responsible for all interactions with that imperative individual(s)? A person who is responsible for attracting them, building trust with them, selling to them, developing brand loyalty, and building a relation so rich that your customers will both rally for and defend your brand.

That is the role of the Chief Engagement Officer. Think of all the touch points that potential and existing customers have with your company. If we look at your organization today, the role and the responsibility of a Chief Engagement Officer is part marketing, sales, billing, and customer service.

Time for Chief Engagement OfficerNow you can say all the touch points I have defined and all the areas of responsibility I have listed have been in place for 100 years. So why do we need a Chief Engagement Officer now? The answer is simple. There has been one dramatic aspect that has changed the way business is done. That is the evolution and now ubiquitous nature of our digital world.

Digital technologies and cultural adoption uses have flipped the playing field completely whether you like it or not. The customer has far greater control of a brand position and reputation than the company behind the brand. There is no more making pretend this is not so and denying it. If you are, your business will soon be dead.

I recently read through an excellent presentation by David Meerman Scott titled, “The New Rules of Selling.” David details how buying behavior and actual purchasing has changed. Before they go into the car dealer, for example, they already have researched and have decided what they want to purchase. From my perspective, this means that engagement and proliferation of valuable information are paramount. The Chief Engagement Officer needs to manage all aspects of content, communication, customer service, and motivating loyal customers to advocate on behalf of the brand. I have come to the conclusion that marketing is the new sales. At bit confusing, yes, but think about it. You need to put valued information in front of your target audience to help them make buying decisions. This information and stories come from both your company and your existing audience.

As I mentioned in the beginning, “There has been one dramatic element that has changed the way business is done.” Similarly, Meerman Scott rightfully declares, “Now BUYERS are in charge of relationships they choose to do business with.” And given this reality, companies don’t require a head of sales, marketing, and customer support. They must have a Chief Engagement Officer that covers the entire gamut.

Now I know you can look me up on LinkedIn or see my bio here on my blog and see that I am the Chief Engagement Officer at Social Steve Consulting. Sure, you can easily say, “Oh Social Steve, that is so self serving to write an article covering Why You Need a Chief Engagement Officer.” But think about this … I have been a marketing executive for 20 years. I have my own consulting practice. I could have given myself any title. But I am a Chief Engagement Officer because the responsibilities that go with that title are driven by the needs of brands through out the world. Customer behavior and current business environment dictate needs to change organizational leadership structure. And organizations require a new type of leader if they really want to win customers and spawn word of mouth marketing. How much longer can brands continue to be stagnant and avoid organizational changes that must happen to drive success?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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3 Motivators for Interaction in Social Marketing

How many times have you discussed a social marketing program that asks your audience to where you look for your audience to take a picture or make a video to rally some UGC (user generated content) and sharing? If you are in marketing, I will bet this is suggested (and maybe attempted) many times. And then you do it and the outcome is poor … so few participate. I am sure And now I’ll bet everyone is looking at the ALS Cold Bucket Challenge and wishing they could have the success of would be thrilled to capture even 10% ALS’ results.

social interaction

Before you try to do a social marketing program and aim for even a fraction of the success of the ALS Cold Bucket Challenge, you need to understand three motivators of interaction that has made this so productive from your audience.

1) WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) – In order for someone to actively participate in your social marketing program, they need to believe something is in it for them. No matter how much someone loves your brand; they need to believe there is a compelling reason for them to act.

2) Passion – There are few brands that people get passionate about. But certainly there is an opportunity to create a reason to be passionate about what a brand stands for. A great example of this is Dove. It is pretty hard to get people excited about a cleansing soap, but if you look at the various programs they have developed for women’s self esteem, you can see how a social movement creates brand passion.

3) Make People Feel Good About Themselves – This area could actually fall under the WIIFM umbrella, but I explicitly separate it out because this is more of a subconscious user action.

There are a couple more attributes of social interaction that the ALS Challenge highlights. First off, the ALS challenge has been extremely successful because it was designed it in a way that they (the brand) did not ask people to participate, but rather had friends challenge others to act. This not only motivated people but shines light on the second important attribute. That is social pressure. When challenged to do something by someone you know, there is a societal pressure that you must act upon.

Look how emotions drive desired marketing behavior. Tech Crunch ran great article this week titled “Startup Marketing And How Emotion Drives Customer Action” by Kobie Fuller () that has some very interesting psychological information for marketing for all companies. I quote …

Psychologist Robert Plutchik discovered eight basic, primary emotions that guide all behaviors: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger and disgust. These emotions are product-agnostic, and over time, establish brand-to-consumer relationships that transcend traditional boundaries of engagement.

The question is, which emotions should marketers target, and how do they solicit these emotions? Elbert outlines the following correlations in emotion with user behavior:

Intrigue and mystery – creates a curiosity that drives initial exploration and clicks; important for advertising and emails
Desire and aspiration – stokes consideration; helpful for site imagery, product pages and lookbooks
Urgency and fear – provokes a feeling of missing out, which triggers a purchase
Surprise and laughter – drives sharing, as seen on April Fools’ Day

(Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/08/20/startup-marketing-how-emotion-drives-customer-action/)

So when you are thinking about an audience participation program consider ways THEY (the audience) are motivated. There are a few more considerations I suggest:

1) Make sure the task you set up is easy to achieve.
2) Consider share-ability – that is, make it a task that people want to share with others.
3) Audience development – form a task that naturally builds an extended audience beyond your initial targets

The beauty of social marketing is that your marketing comes from objective people as opposed to the brands subjective team. Getting user interaction is an excellent marketing tactic – if you plan accordingly and do it right.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Surveillance of Brands

community surveillanceThere used to be a time when brands could say anything and get away with outlandish lies. There might be some group like Consumer Reports that would protect the consumer by validating claims and unveiling mistruths as appropriate.

Then this thing called the Internet came of age and shortly thereafter digital technologies became ubiquitous and available anywhere. Without a doubt, this is the greatest cultural life change in my lifetime. I am not a digital native and can remember times when marketing was pretty much limited to advertisements on TV, radio, print, and in-store displays.

Now the funny thing about this is that some brands now use digital marketing techniques, but their mentality has not changed from the old days. What I mean by this is that the brands use new technologies, but do not examine the effect of the technology on society as a whole and act accordingly. The cultural change that is missed is that EVERYONE is using the technology and LISTENING and a good majority of the society is PARTCIPATING in social and digital technologies. When you evaluate what this means, it really comes down to three things:

1) a greater degree of support and loyalty to brands,
2) a greater degree of calling out brands for missteps and lies, and
3) inflammatory statements about brands that are unsubstantiated and unwarranted.

Lets make sure we understand this. Brands, you are being watched. There are users that performing informal, but systematic surveillance. Some things that come out of this surveillance will be positive; some things will be negative; some truth will come out; and some lies will be launched. Yes, it is the Wild West for the consumer, but you can win over the audience by unleashing advocates in a time of need if you go about digital participation correctly. Here are some guidelines:

1) Always be honest, authentic, and transparent – the first time you break confidence of an audience, it will be extremely difficult to win them back. If they are participative they will make sure everyone knows you are wrong if you lack honesty.
2) Understand that many digital users want to share. They want to share your good and your bad. Work at presenting the best brand (honest) face. Think of tactics to use that make it easy for users to share your content.
3) Don’t get in a debate you cannot win. People will attack brands even when they are wrong. If you can have advocates and need their support ask them.

I find it most ironic that a band by the name of Smog would have a song titled “Live as if Someone is Always Watching You.” Well brands, forget the smog (and smoke) but remember the title. In the digital world someone is always watching you and talking about you. Behave accordingly. Listen. Make friends; make advocates. Motivate them to come to your rescue when you need them.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Time to Rethink Social Media

As I shared with you a couple of weeks ago (and many others have covered) Facebook is changing the way it treats brand’s posts and their distribution (or lack thereof).

rethink socil media

Should anyone really be surprised? Does it not make sense to monetize the accomplishment of being the number one social network? Sure, you can get ticked off, but can you really blame Facebook.

And you know what … you should take some blame yourself. Does it really make sense to put the control and success in the hands of another platform? What has kept you from putting control and destiny in your own hands?

So if you agree that you need to keep control and manage your own destiny, this means that you, the brand, need to have your own platform. Here is what I mean by this …

Every brand should have its own “home court.” This means that brands should have a content repository where all their content is housed. This content repository should sit on the brand’s website. Often the content repository takes the form of a blog. Brands should not place their content on a platform that someone else controls. You should control this platform.

Now this does not mean that I think brands should not use social media, but the social channels should be used to proliferate content. Social media should also be used as an extended channel for brand engagement with their target audience. A brand should put together a content strategy for the owned digital asset (their website) and then think about using social media channels to distribute abstracts of the content such that digital traffic is driven to a platform they control.

When a brand builds success driving traffic to their website, the next step is to think about building a community there. About two years ago, I indicated “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.” Now some may say, why should I bother to build a community? Why would anyone come to my community when there is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others? Can I really get a crowd developed? Well, think about this. If you truly deliver content that is interesting, entertaining, and/or compelling, you will capture a crowd. And if you are worried about the size of your community, simply look at each individual as a potential ambassador of your brand spreading your content and brand value. Give them a reason why they would want to join your community. Even if you had a handful of ambassadors, that is a major accomplishment. Earlier this year, I provided a play book describing “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”

I am certain there are some that will say they don’t have the resource or budget to do what I am suggesting. Heck, I’ve heard it from the companies I have worked for and clients I provide strategy and plans to. My answer to this is simply … if you truly care about your customers and potential customers you will find the budget. I say this not because this is the business I am in, but rather because the audience behavior demands it. I am a marketer first and foremost. I got into digital and social media because I followed the audience behavior.

And now new Facebook procedures demand change. Change that I recommended even a couple years back. Change that demands you keeping up and adapting your marketing skill set.

And needless to say, other social platforms will change. So here is the question … are you going to stay stagnant with your digital, social, and overall marketing? Or as the title suggests, isn’t it “Time to Rethink Social Media” and your whole digital approach. Audience behavior, technology, and platform operations demand you be adaptable. Don’t get comfortable. Put your seatbelt on and drive the course to success. If you expect a straight road you are fooling yourself.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Digital Technologies and User Behavior Change What it Means to Be a Brand

If you look on Wikipedia for the definition of a brand, you find that it is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” But as a marketer, I think it is much more important to think of what it means to be a brand in terms of your target audience.

Thus, I define a brand as a promise made from a company to its target audience with regards to the product(s) it sells. A brand is defined by characteristics such as quality, features, availability, and overall user experience. When done right, every single aspect of the brand definition is lived by and delivered by every employee of the company.

brand and digital

But a funny thing happened along the way. Knowledgeable marketers started using poetic justice of communication and claims of the product/service sold by the company and stretched the truth. All this in an effort to increase sales. In some cases, this resulted in members of the target audience reacting and purchasing the brand. If shoppers were unhappy, they would stop buying the product, and maybe even tell a friend. The user did not believe “the promise” and reacted. As this plight has continued throughout marketing and advertising of brands, it has spawned an overall skeptical outlook by people with regards to company claims and advertisement belief. This cynical perception did not happen overnight. It took a good 50 years or so of “Mad Men” to drive this behavior.

Fast forward to today’s world. How do people react when they feel they have been misled by product claims? How do they react when they have a bad user experience? More and more users are sharing their product experiences. Whether it is sharing with their entire network on a platform like Facebook or broadcasting it to the world on a platform like Twitter.

The promise is still part of being a brand, but it is exponentially more important today.

So now that you understand the change, let me describe for you the gigantic immense problem this creates. The stretching of the truth that companies get caught in is a big problem, but it really is not the biggest problem. The key problem today is that companies have lost their ability to build brand AND engage appropriately in the digital world, simultaneously. Too many companies treat branding as one activity and digital/social marketing as a separate implementation. Company executives need to take responsibility of this detrimental scenario.

How many companies have a responsible leader in place with experience, business knowledge, and creativity to build and retain a brand COUPLED WITH experience, business knowledge, and creativity to drive successful digital marketing? The answer to this question is very few. And even worse, the fact that brand marketing and digital marketing are siloed exacerbates the problem.

The debacle up from this problem shows its ugly face daily. There are numerous companies that do not reinforce brand positioning through their digital implementations. The people running the digital channels are most often blind to what it means to carry out a brand voice and imaginary through social engagement. Many companies do not have a digital engagement strategy that centers on upholding the brand persona.

And adding to the challenge is the fact that brand position is equally in the hands of the audience as well as the company’s hands. The audience has a voice that is stronger and moves faster than ever before. You need to have a strategy and a plan that addresses how to leverage this audience rather than ignoring their voice and power that is carried in the digital world.

I think it is imperative to understand how the world of a brand has changed due to the technology changes and more importantly, human behavior. Every company needs a leader that has the skill set to address the change. Through my experience, I have worked with companies that do not want to address the change head on. Working the corporate environment and being a positive change agent has become a slippery slope. I would not go so far as to call the two a dichotomy, but together they are definitely challenging.

It takes bold, strong, experienced leaders to navigate a company due to the real and significant changes that technology and user behavior have created. The outcome of these changes cannot continue to be ignored or swept away. Whether it is fear, lack of skill set, or don’t rock the boat corporate mentality, it is no longer acceptable to keep brand marketing and digital marketing siloed. The future of your business depends upon it.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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