Category Archives: brand communication

4 Musts for Your Social Marketing This Year

It is the beginning of the year and you want to make sure you kick off your marketing to drive success in your company. With this in mind, let me give you four musts for your brand social marketing.

must do social marketing

Throughout my entire marketing career, I have continuously examined brands’ audiences to drive strategy, plan, and execution. I label marketing as the “psychology of business.” And with this in mind, I have identified four areas that you need to focus on with regards to your social marketing efforts to drive audience adoption, brand preference, loyalty, and advocacy.

1. Listening and Responding

There are three types of social marketing listening that are required.

a) People talking to your brand – there are going to be people that use your brand’s social channels and other channels to talk directly to your brand.
b) People talking about your brand – while not directly speaking to your brand people will mention your brand in the vast digital world.
c) People talk about a subject relevant to your brand – while not mentioning your brand, people touch on a subject area that speaks directly to a topic that is relevant to your brand.

You must monitor for all the cases listed above. In the first two cases, you must monitor and respond. The best way to tell your audience you don’t care about them is to not listen to them, or not respond to them. Only respond to mentions if you care about their business … that should include every mention. In the third case, you have an opportunity to expose a new audience to your brand. Do not respond with product information, but rather valuable information. Gain awareness and start to build a great reputation by delivering unexpected help.

2. Content

The way to keep your brand in the minds and hearts of your target audience is produce content they value. The way to prove you are worthy of people’s business (beyond having a truly valued product/service) is to be helpful and entertaining. Brands are often shared between people via content. Thus your brand needs to think like a publisher and produce weekly content (at a minimum). But your content plan should not be limited to original content. Consider how your content strategy will include curation from other sources as well as UGC (user generated content). Your content strategy should also include a plan to capture earned media. This leads to the third focus area …

3. Influence Marketing

In influence marketing, first you identify those individuals and publications that influence your target market. Once you identify the influencers, you work to build a relationship with them by providing them information that is valued by THEIR audience. It is not about pushing your agenda, but finding the intersection of what your brand represents and the information that identified influencers want to deliver to their audience. Influence marketing will continue to gain importance because objective advocacy is much more compelling than subjective brand communication.

4. Personalization

I touched on personalization when discussing “listening and responding.” But personalization needs to go beyond listening and responding. Users are tiring of email blasts and other brand communications that are nothing more than an extension of advertorial programs. What if the brand communication was driven by consumer intelligence? What if you integrated digital behavior and purchase history to deliver contextual relevant communication to your audience? Certainly your audience will feel “special” if you deliver communication and content relevant to their history, interests, and behavior. Personalization means that brands deliver contextual relevant communication and content. Look into tools that allow you to correlate and integrate different data points to produce a data driven view of your consumers.

The four areas of focus I suggested above are not driven by technology or marketing hype, but rather by examining user behavior spawned by new digital technological advancements. Far too often predictions are driven by technology hype rather than user behavior driven by new technology advancements. If marketing is the psychology of business, understand your target audience behavior and implement social marketing accordingly.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, content marketing, influence marketing, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

All You Should Know About Social Marketing to Be Successful

I have been blogging now for five years on the topic of social media and social marketing. I have shared a great deal of information with regards to social best practices, case examples, integration, and organizational implementations. There is a wealth of information contained here within The SocialSteve Blog. But wouldn’t it be nice if it could all be pulled together in one article? (Really – that is impossible.) But I will attempt to give you a “Cliff Notes” version of what you need to know about social marketing that I have covered in my blog.

All You Need to Know About Social Marketing

So lets get cracking and I will refer you to some key highlights from The SocialSteve Blog …

The first thing to realize is that brands need to use social media to enhance their brand image as covered in the article “Brands in the Age of Social Media.” Some brands were initially apprehensive to get involved in social media because they believed that they lost control of their brand position. Certainly, objective audience postings are more believable than subjective brand communication, but administration of good traditional marketing practices and utilization of social marketing highly increases company-driven brand influence.

Social media has put brand reputation in the hands of the democracy of users. Thus, brands must build strong relationships with users. And the way to do this from the start is to have complete empathy for the target audience. Yes “empathy” is “The Most Important Word for Marketing.” And once you have empathy for your target audience, “Connections and Relationships are No Different for Social Media” than in “regular” social situations.

So far, I have mentioned some of the general mentalities required for successful marketing, but generalities are not enough. You must understand the “Three Social Marketing Fundamentals.” The first fundamental starts with a strong and inseparable link between content and social marketing. A content strategy and social marketing strategy must be determined in unison. The brand definition is the center point of marketing strategy and content must reinforce what the brand is about without directly referring to the product. The social marketing strategy must then address how the content is to be proliferated such that readers/viewers/contributors share the content and some even become advocates. Throughout my blogging career (really not a career but a platform to share), I have given much coverage to content. It is imperative – crappy content, crappy social marketing; stellar content by the perception of the target audience, damn good chance of winning social marketing. Consider reading through some selected content article highlights:

Content Marketing – A Must for Marketing Communications
4 Ingredients to a Winning Content Strategy
7 Tips for Blogging – Maybe Your Most Important Social Media Activity for Business
The Power of UGC (User Generate Content) for Social Marketing
Evolving Social Media Marketing – From Content Marketing to Contextual Content Marketing
If a Picture is Worth 1000 Words, What is the Value of a 6-Second Video #Vine

The next social marketing fundamental is far too often missed. Social marketing is not about building the social field of dreams and having people show up. Social marketing starts by going to relevant conversations where they exist as opposed to expecting a crowd to show up on your Facebook page or simply following your Twitter feed. You need to go beyond your own social assets and go where the existing conversation exists and start to engage there. Early on, I coined the social media A-Path. The A-Path allows social marketers to traverse their target audience through a sequential path increasing commitment to brand at each stage. The A-Path starts by getting brand Attention, followed by Attraction, then Affinity, Audience, and Advocacy. The early part of this path is accomplished on social channels other than the ones the brand owns and manages. As you progress your audience through the A-Path you slowly wean users to brand-owned social channels. This method is described in “Executable Game Plan for Winning Ultimate Customers with Social Media.” When using this approach, marketers need to understand “When to Ask for a “Call-to-Action’ in Social Media.” Following this approach provides an understanding of how “Social Media Highlights the Important Difference Between Marketing and Sales.” You will also see the relationship of “Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel.” And one other note on this holistic approach to social marketing … Do not jump to a conclusion that your Facebook “likers” are your audience. Understand “Where ‘Audience’ Fits in Social Media.” It is likely different than you assume.

And now the last imperative social marketing fundamental is to “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.” Specifically, I am talking about social media marketing measurement. The referenced article outlines that awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy should be measured. Not sales. Parameters to be measured in the four categories are covered in the article. When it comes to measurement and “Social Media ROI – Don’t Be So Short Sighted – Think Longer Term.”

So you have the fundamentals down, right? Now, where do you start? “Before You Start with Social Media” you need to apply marketing basics. The referenced article explains the need to understand the brand and its position, defining a communication or campaign objective, as well as defining a communication plan. A presentation deck is provided to take you through the steps. The deck was later updated in a more recent post, “University Social Marketing Presentation.” And when you put together your social strategy, you must pay attention to “Marketing Demographics and the Ramifications of Social Media.” Consider psycho-demographics as well as standard demographics. Psycho-demographics identify various segments of the target audience’s state of mind. When you identify the various states of mind, you can then deliver contextually relevant content.

Now that you have the fundamentals and a game plan, you cannot stop there. Far too many companies make errors with regards to organizational issues for social marketing. Here are some very important issues …

CEO understanding and support
Social Media in Your Company – Guidance for Where It Fits In
When Looking for Your Company’s Social Media Marketing Leader, Consider ….
Why the “Social Media Person” Needs to Be More than Just the Social Media Person
3 Helpful Tips when Hiring for Social Media

Social media gives the target audience a strong voice. Brands can no longer put out statements and advertisements and expect the audience to simply accept what they are saying. Brands need to listen to their audience, engage and build relationships. Brands have an opportunity to build an emotional bond with their audience. Emotional branding will yield loyalty, word of mouth marketing and overall, long-term brand preference and sustainability. Social marketing is a must in today’s consumer driven world.

You now have the definition of how to drive social marketing success. Let me know what else you need or do not understand.

Make It Happen,
SocialSteve

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The Greatest Hits on The SocialSteve Blog – 2013

Thanks for being a reader of The SocialSteve Blog (named one of the Top 50 Global Influential Marketing Blogs). Here are the articles that were the greatest hits on The SocialSteve Blog in 2013 …

SocialSteve Greatest Hits

#10) Why PR Agencies Should be Great at Social Marketing, But So Few Are

#9) A Facebook Page Every Marketer Should Learn From

#8) How Often Should You Post?

#7) 2013 – The Year Social Media Will Be Measured Correctly

#6) Activation Marketing via Social Media

#5) Social Media Highlights the Important Difference Between Marketing and Sales

#4) Know Your “Ps” When It Comes to Content and Social Marketing

#3) The Successful Social Marketing Framework

#2) What is Social Marketing? (Make Sure You Really Know)

#1) Why Are We Doing Social Marketing Anyway?

Strive for social marketing excellence.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, content marketing, digital media, Facebook, marketing, marketing plan, PR, sales, sales conversion, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social media ROI, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized, website, Word of Mouth Marketing

Who Gets Your Brand Persona?

A brand persona is the social role or character your brand plays. Does your brand have a (formally) defined persona? Before I even ask if your audience gets your brand persona, let me ask this … Does your entire company get your brand persona? And most importantly, does your social marketing person or team thoroughly understand the brand’s persona? The social manager needs to live the brand persona more than anyone else in your entire organization. Your brand’s social presence must be a total reflection and reinforcement of the brand persona.

persona

I always knew the great importance of an established and solid brand persona, but it really hit home this past week … My son and I were watching the TV show “The Voice” (a guilty pleasure for both of us). The show was eliminating two contestants. There were eight singers from the previous days sing off and the three with the least votes from the television audience were in jeopardy. On the night we were watching, one contestant would be saved and continue in the competition. The show’s host asked the viewing audience to tweet “#thevoicesaveyourchoice“ within the next three-minute period and the contestant generating the most tweets would continue in the competition. Both my son and I thought one contestant should be the obvious one to be saved. I said Max, “Why don’t you tweet to save Matthew?” He said he agreed but that he did not want that on his tweeter stream. The indirect point he was making was that tweeting something in reference to The Voice was an infringement on the persona he wanted to portray on his social presence. In fact, I felt the same way. That is why I did not tweet a “#thevoicesaveMatthew” because it did not support my musical persona. (As I said, The Voice is a guilty pleasure.)

Subconsciously, both my son and I were totally tuned into our individual brand persona in our social presence. Not that we actually took time to think about “marketing” and “branding” when it came to ourselves. It was just a natural reaction. But we instinctively knew what type of postings support and deviate from the social presence and persona we wanted to portray.

Now let me ask you a question. How close does your brand’s social person or team produce a reflection of your brand’s persona on social channels? Every post, every engagement, every exchange in your brand’s social presence must fit your brand persona. Your social manager needs to be as sensitive as that teenager who worries what everyone will think of his/her post. The social manager needs to stop for a second before every social exchange and ask, “Does this reflect the personality and voice of our brand.”

While I recognize that what I am saying here may not be new to you, I am challenging you to make sure you REALLY execute.

1) Have a formal brand persona defined and distributed to everyone in your company.
2) Reinforce to everyone that if you are to get your target audience emotionally attached to your brand, the company as a whole must act and present itself in one unified personality and persona.
3) Train your social manager. Make sure he/she completely understands the brand position, personality, voice, values, and persona. Test the social manager from time to time to make sure they represent your brand presence 100% correctly.
4) Listen to your audience and insure your brand persona resonates and appeals with them. Make modifications to optimize the intersection of your brand position and your target audiences wants, needs, desires, and motivations.

Strengthen your product/service with an outstanding persona that creates an awesome extension of the brand user experience.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Social Media Posting vs. Winning Brand Preference

Are you just aimlessly posting or are you working to drive brand preference in your social marketing efforts?

brand preferenceLet’s be clear. The objective of social marketing is to create brand preference such that when individuals are ready to make a purchase decision in the brand’s category, they repeatedly prefer your brand. Brand preference can be measured by a Social Brand Index that considers awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. (Note – I developed and use the Social Brand Index when working with brand clients.) Social marketing success is measured by the degree of brand preference you capture. You need to “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like” before you start your social strategy, plan, execution, and collection of data.

So if you are responsible for your brands social presence, recognize that each posting is a small opportunity to create brand preference. Many can come up with a cute or humorous post, but how many can pull together a social presence that:

1) creates continuous brand preference, and
2) integrates across all other company activities?

Let’s take these one at a time. First, what does it mean to create brand preference via social marketing? It means that

• every posting,
• all the listening on brand social platforms and elsewhere in the digital space,
• every piece of content production,
• every digital conversation, and
• all promotion opportunities

are aimed at

• influencing positive brand perception,
• brand loyalty,
• brand love, and
• growing word of mouth marketing for the brand.

How many social effort areas are truly choreographed to accomplishing this? While social marketing posts must by timely and spontaneous (real-time marketing), opportunistic content and postings must still be aimed at achieving and deepening brand preference. Before you post something, simply run a litmus test … Ask, “Is this post aimed at further creation of obtaining brand preference?” This is what I mean when asking what the difference is between social postings and creating brand preference.

But the social marketing effort is not done there. It must be integrated with all other company areas that affect and touch the target audience … That would most likely be the entire company. Remember, the job of social marketing is creating brand preference. Thus, social marketers must collaborate with direct marketers (advertisement, promotions, PR, email, event, SEO, display, etc.), executive branches, customer service, and all other support services. The collaborative nature with other functional areas in the company must be give and take. That is, social marketers must deliver target audience information and perception to the company as a whole as a function of social listening. Social marketers must also capture activities (plans, strategy, stories, programs, thought leadership, etc.) from the extended company functional groups that should be shared to the target audience to help shape brand preference.

Far too often, brands take on social marketing because they think it is a must for their business without understanding what the objective should be and how to measure the results. From a strategic perspective, this means developing a plan, activities, and metrics that will yield true brand preference. From a tactical perspective this means stopping for 5 seconds before posting to ask, “Is this post incrementally helping to yield brand preference.”

Brand preference is established by having (at a minimum) a satisfactory product/service, but that offering is then supported by unwavering commitment to the buyer. Social media is a prime opportunity to demonstrate target audience commitment. In social marketing, the commitment shown by production of superior content (valuable information and/or entertaining media), listening and taking action on applicable posts on a variety of platforms, and engaging in conversation with socially active users (especially influencers).

What are you doing in your social marketing activities to create brand preference?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Content Marketing – A Must for Marketing Communications

Everyone is talking about content marketing like it is the new messiah of marketing. Hasn’t marketing communications been producing content for years?

Marketing communications are messages and related media used to communicate with a market.” The key point of this definition is “communicate with a market.” What type of communication grabs the interest of the market? The behavior of today’s consumers and b to b targets dictates that the communication must evolve and change. As a function, marketing communications can no longer simply rely on press releases, corporate styled marketing brochures and web presence, and pitching their goods to media outlets. Yes, these are still important activities. But if you look at the way most are attracted to information about products and services, brand marketing communication needs a new approach.

Content marketing has become a must for marketing communications. There are those that say say mar comm people have been producing content for years and that is true. But the stylization of the content they have produced is corporate speak and insufficient. Audiences are not motivated by this flavor of content and do not react to produce desired business results. I will get to the change required in a bit.

If you believe that content marketing has been around for years consider what others are saying. Forbes asks the question “Is Content the Future of Marketing?” And another recent article claims “Content Marketing Goes Mainstream.”

So let’s just agree that content marketing has been around for some time, BUT requires a dramatic change if brands want to provoke desired outcomes and measurable results that contribute to their companies’ KPI (key performance indicators). As I have said for a number of years now, brands need to think and produce like a publisher.

What is Your Story

This exact mentality was captured well in an article in AdWeek titled “Genuine Brand Publishing Needs to Trump Generic Content Marketing.” There is some great advice provided there. They state, “The first step is to switch the language and change the content marketing moniker to brand publishing. A valuable piece of brand content doesn’t exist in a vacuum, despite what some publishers would have you believe. In fact, content is an effective medium for brands because it maps back to a broader narrative—the story a brand is telling about itself.”

The story – this is the key change. A brand story is not product speak. We see brands getting caught up in this mistake over and over again. And marketing communications must stop this approach because it is turning off their audience more than turning them on.

When you think of brand stories, think about how people use your product/service. How did the brand get it’s start? What are the people like that manufacture the brand and bring it to market? What stories do your users want to tell? Let them tell their stories. How is your brand supporting a particular community? What are special rituals within your company? These are the types of stories that resonate with today’s audience.

If you want to keep your brand top of mind of your potential marketing, tell great stories. Doesn’t everyone want to hear a great story?

How high can you reach? How far can you see? How big can you dream?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Aim for Earned Social Media

Brand LoveIf you are a marketing professional or student, you have probably heard of “earned media.” Earned media is a powerful aspect of a marketing plan. “Earned media refers to favorable publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, as opposed to paid media, which refers to publicity gained through advertising. Earned media often refers specifically to publicity gained through editorial influence” (Wikipedia).

Well over two years ago, I covered the importance of “Integrating Owned, Earned, and Paid Media.” That article is the most visited post on The SocialSteve blog. Here, I want to cover something as equally important – capturing earned social media. I am kind of surprised that earned social media is not a prevalently used term. I’ll define earned social media as favorable publicity gained through word of mouth referrals by objective users of digital and social platforms.

When it comes to earned social media, don’t believe the hype. Go with empirical data. One of the most telling statistics I often highlight in presentations is that there is “71 percent more likelihood to purchase based on social media referrals.”

When people think of social media engagement, they most often consider conversations on their social channels where users are “talking at them.” But “talking about them” on non-brand digital assets may be even more serving to companies’ bottom lines as depicted in the statistic above. Thus, marketers must aim to win earned social media.

There are a number of ways to motivate earned social media:

1) It all starts with having a great product or service. To quote the cliche, “you can’t put lipstick on a pig.”
2) Produce content that is not about your product or service, but delivers valued and entertaining information to your audience. People often refer and share great content.
3) Reach out to influential users and bloggers and give them something they value. Don’t push your product.
4) Actively participate in communities and forums relevant to your product/service.
5) Search for people “talking about your brand” and engage with them. Thank them … Thank yous go very far.
6) Ask people that have told you that they have had a great experience with your product or service to share it with their friends, family, and colleagues.
7) Run UGC (user generated content) marketing campaigns.

The overall best way to win earned social media is to show sincere care and appreciation to your audience. If you have the right mentality and follow the tactics highlighted above, your loyal customers will become your most powerful marketing and sales team.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, loyalty, marketing, owned-earned-paid media, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

A Facebook Page Every Marketer Should Learn From

This past week my son turned me on to an awesome Facebook page – Humans of New York … maybe the best Facebook page I have seen.

Before I share with you why this page is so great and what you should learn from it, let’s quickly review some Facebook fundamentals. Most people focus solely on Facebook “likes.” Likes by itself is not telling. You need to look at the “talking about this” parameter in conjunction with “likes.” Facebook defines “talking about this” as

the number of unique users who have created a “story” about a page in a seven-day period. On Facebook, stories are items that display in News Feed. Users create stories when they:

• like a page
• post on the page wall
• like a post
• comment on a post
• share a post
• answer a question
• RSVP to a page’s event
• mention the page in a post
• tag the page in a photo
• check in at a place
• share a check-in deal
• like a check-in deal
• write a recommendation
• claim an offer

The reason why “talking about this” is so important is that it basically defines how many Facebook users see the brand’s posts on their newsfeed. Thus, I always emphasize that the percentage of likes relative to the number of talking about this is the Facebook metric you need to look at.

HONY FB1

Now, back to Humans of New York. To start, look at the number of likes and number of talking about this. 1.5 million likes and 600K talking about this. 40 percent of the “likes” are “talking about this.” I have never seen this high of a percentage. As a comparison, entertainers run about 20 percent and commercial brands run about 1 to 2 percent.

HONY FB2

The magic of Humans of New York is pretty simple … great photographs and great human interest stories. So while Humans of New York is not a commercial brand, I still believe that marketers can learn much from their approach. Marketers – understand their content strategy. Pictures and human stories are most compelling to digital and social audiences. Find a way to humanize your brand. Feature the people behind the brand, the company team. Highlight the loyalists and the people that support your brand. Open your digital channels to UGC (user generated content). Brands’ Facebook presence must be more about people and stories than product push.

I do realize that Humans of New York is not a commercial brand where their success is measured by units sold. Granted, they have the luxury of posting whatever they want without concern for sales. But brands must have this mentality on their social channels as well. Let me put it this way … Marketers, don’t you want your posts to make it to your likes newsfeed? Don’t you want your audience to love your posts and engage? Don’t you want your brand to stay top of mind?

Make It Happen,
SocialSteve

Footnote … While I am an experienced marketer that stays current on new and trending digital environments, it was my son that alerted me to Humans of New York. I constantly talk to my kids about their digital and social experiences and preferences. Even if you are an experienced marketer executing you need to learn from the people shaping the current and future behavior of digital usage.

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Why Don’t We Re-launch Social Media Marketing as Relationship Marketing

Social media marketing is still so misunderstood. Executives see a strong wave of people using social media and determine that they need to launch a social media program. But this approach is flawed for two main reasons. First, social is not a program. It needs to be a long-term commitment. Second, your target audience does not want to se selling on social channels. They consider social platforms to be a place where they engage and interact, and get information they value. Furthermore, if a brand does nothing but sell on their managed social channel, they are not likely to gain much traction and engagement.

Thus, I recommend that you re-launch your social effort to be a relationship marketing long-term commitment. Yeah, I know … I am wordsmithing here. But maybe calling your efforts relationship marketing is what you need to reinforce to your entire organization what needs to be done, hint what success looks like, and drive the correct execution.

In my article last week, I suggested that the objectives of social marketing are:

1) To get in front of your target audience and establish interest, value, trust, and interactivity.
2) Generate brand preference.
3) Provoke referrals and word of mouth marketing.

relationshipThe reason why I stop short of aiming for additional company goals (such as sales) is driven by recognition of what users want from their brands in the social space. It is almost like brands need permission from an audience to “participate” in social channels. If brands do not play by their target audiences’ rules for engagement, they will be ignored on social platforms.

So lets talk a little about brand relationships for a bit. Relationships take time to mature and grow. As in one’s personal life, brands need to recognize this. Thus brands must be committed to a long-term social commitment. And why are strong relationships important for brands? Simply put, strong brand relationships define long-term sustainable success. Relationships that create brand loyalty and brand advocacy. And if you can get your audience to truly love your brand, they will do just about anything for you. They will be your greatest advocates. If your loving customers and advocates market your brand (word of mouth) you have the strongest and most authentic form of advertisement.

You would be amazed at how simply changing the labeling of social media marketing to relationship marketing adjusts and realigns your use of social channels to focus on what needs to be accomplished to drive successful results. And while I concur that all marketing efforts need to deliver value to a company’s top line revenue, I would argue that the way to get there with social media is not by aiming for direct sales. It is almost exclusively geared at relationship building. After all if you “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like” you will be committed to strong relationship building. Now all you need is to make relationship marketing part of your strategy and tactics. Don’t fake it …

Make it Happen!
Social Steve

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The Plight of a Customer Centric Company

Let’s face it. Brands have lost some degree of their perceived position as a result of social technologies that allow the target audience to strongly affect brand reputation. More than anything else, social media is the motivation for companies to change and truly be customer centric. The true substances of companies are unveiled. People see the difference between what companies say and what they do. And at the same time, there is an abundance of companies claiming to be customer centric while only giving it lip service.

Customer Centric

To start, a customer centric company must have complete empathy for the target audience. This means that you need to understand everything about your audience … what motivates them, interests them, turns them off, and causes them to take action. And once you understand this, you need to determine changes required in your company.

Let me give you a simple example. For a longtime, I worked for various technology companies as a traditional marketing executive. I found that most technology companies suffer from what I call “technology testosterone.” They all would claim, they are bigger, faster, stronger, more secure, and claim other technological superlatives. One company claimed they had the greatest SSL (secure-socket-layer) technology. And they probably did in fact have a great SSL technology. But the main target audience for this SSL offering was financial institutions that look to purchase payment card authorization solutions. You see, too much of the company focus was on “what they did” as opposed to “the solutions they offered their customers.” In a customer centric organization it is all about what you do for your customer as opposed to your offerings. Yes, this is a small variance of go-to-market positioning, but the nuances affect brand perception and success.

While brand positioning is important to becoming a customer centric business, it is only a start. Maybe the strongest example of a customer centric business is Amazon. Jeff Bezos’s declares that Amazon.com is “the most customer-centric company in the world.” Is this lip service? Consider all of the following points:

• Amazon determines their customers needs, and then works backwards to deliver solutions.
• In the beginning at Amazon executive meetings, there was often a chair left empty and unseated. This is symbolic of the ever-present customer. Now specially trained employees represent the customer, called “Customer Experience Bar Raisers.” “When they frown, vice ­presidents tremble.”
• Bezos requires that mid-level meetings include one person serving solely as the customer advocate. This person has the power to veto actions that undermine customers’ interests.
• Amazon reorganizes often. The reorgs are always done so with a focus to better serve their customers.
• Bezos requires everyone on staff to be able to work in the call center.
• Bezos states, “In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts.””
• Bezos vetoes snarky ads that mock customers.
(Sources – How Great Leaders Communicate and Amazon Technology – Jeff Bezos Gets It)

The points above briefly highlight what it takes to be a true customer centric company. Amazon is a great example of a customer centric company. They walk the walk as opposed to talk the talk. The result, the most successful online retailer. I expect Bezos to take The Washington Post and revamp success solely driven by a keen focus on the audience. Don’t expect this to happen overnight. Bezos is willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time only to ultimately change the way business functions in the most successful way.

Social media is the current rationalization for evolution to becoming a customer centric company. I got involved in social media early on because I follow customer behavior to influence my marketing approach. I did not get bullish on social marketing because of hype. I follow the audience actions and act accordingly. Learn to follow your audience and fully act accordingly. Audience behavior is very important in the marketing of your brand, but that is not enough. You must allow customer opportunities, issues, and solutions to drive your company organization and actions. Traditional company organizations must change and inherent silos must be dismantled. True leaders will recognize these fundamental success criteria and change the DNA of their company. Are you ready?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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