Category Archives: change management

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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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brands, change management, company organization, customer service, marketing, sales, Social Steve, SocialSteve

The Company Organization Messes Up Social Media

social media organizationWhere social media resides in the organization continues to be problematic. I have written about this issue and made suggestions in the past. But today I am writing to suggest that social does not fit into any department based on how companies are organize today. In fact this scenario hinders social media success.

Let’s start with a telling question. How many companies have a group that’s sole objective is optimizing and winning over the brand’s perceived reputation? Forget simply solving problems like most customer support organizations. Forget loyalty and lead generation as in marketing. Does any organizational group solely focus on great customer relationships and customer love? This goes beyond customer services. This is the social media marketing objective. When you take social marketing disciplines and place them in an organization that has other objectives the success and value of social gets diminished, maybe squashed.

While it is the goal of every company to generate strong revenue, different groups need to act and be motivated by other parameters beyond sales and lead generation. Sales and lead generation are certainly important, but they are short-term objectives. What about long-term objectives that drive sustainable business? Do businesses focus on this long-term sustainability anymore or are they just quarter to quarter driven. I can only think of a few companies committed to long-term success.

Consider the paramount value of social marketing – advocacy. Not only is advocacy leading social marketing outcomes, but it is also the strongest form of marketing. To have others market and suggest your product is far more effective than having the brand market the product. Different strategies and tactics must take place to spawn advocacy than the strategies and tactics to generate sales and lead generation. And yet, the residual effect of advocacy is revenue increase. The marketing group typically has lead generation and advocacy objectives. But somehow short-term objectives (lead generation) always overshadow long-term (advocacy). Thus, when social media sits in the marketing organization, the success of social is hindered because short-term objectives trump long-term objectives.

Marketing is always going to have objectives of sales and lead generation. Can marketing also be committed to post sales-conversion of loyalty and advocacy? Can the same person/group have sales/lead generation and loyalty/advocacy? The issue is that marketing has all these objectives and at the end of the day sales is what trumps all.

So when we look at social media success, understand the target audience behavior. Users are turned off by blatant sales. They want to feel comfortable with a brand. They want a great user experience. Then they will buy. So if the behavior has some precursor steps that must be accomplished in order to get to sales, should we make sure someone, some group acts in an appropriate way and gets measured on their success there?

Bottom line – marketing must change. Change is difficult and sometimes impossible at companies. If your company cannot change, then the responsibility of relationship building, customer engagement, building loyalty, building advocacy – all must be assigned to another group than your current marketing group. Change or move it somewhere, but get it done right.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand reputation, change management, social marketing, social media, social media organization, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Getting Social to Work at Your Company

I think one of the most difficult things for true social marketing professionals is to implement a successful social strategy and plan at their company. As I engage and converse with a number of social professionals I hear frustration from them. There is a significant delta between what they want to accomplish to be innovative and what their company is comfortable doing. Social professionals often look to do something different however their companies often look for proven social marketing and validation by asking, “who has done it.” If someone has already done “it” in social media marketing, “it” is not likely to capture a big audience and get a strong response.

So what do you do?

change

This week I read a great article from Bruce Turkel “Being Relevant, Empowering, and Significant.” The article reminded me of my career experiences. At times I was frustrated by doing what the company was comfortable with compared to doing what I knew would drive success. I would consider myself someone that has always pushed the envelope and years of experience have taught me how to be an innovator even in the eyes of innovation paranoia and business as usual mentality.

If you have read my blog before, you are likely to know that I am not a follow the pack guy. I call it like it is even if it bucks the masses or is short on corporate political correctness. This is my own branded persona in the digital marketing world. Yes, like the views of Bruce Turkel, I look to be relevant, empowering, and significant in my own social space. But truth is it takes a delicate approach when working with companies (both full time and consulting). As a thought leader you need to be bold and provocative. When working with companies that need to change you need to be bold, but less provocative. You need to get people to buy in and be comfortable.

“Getting Social to Work at Your Company” is really an exercise of successful change management. It is very difficult for any company to change the way they do things, and yet the audience behavior and technology demand companies do so.

I have two change management philosophies that have worked well for me in the 12 years of my marketing leadership career …

The rubber band approach – Everyone can be stretched beyond their comfort zone a bit, but when you push too hard they get to their snapping zone to the point where they do not trust you at all. This is the exact scenario with a rubber band. They all have elasticity, but when expanded too far, they snap. I do believe that as a person responsible for driving a new endeavor must take their stakeholders to some uncharted territory. And this means taking people to an uncomfortable place. Do so gently and not with a sharp push. A slow stretch and not too abrasive to cause a snap.

Positive viruses – virus are caused by passing a condition from one person to another. When you want to drive positive change, you need to first find the person or people that will likely go where no man or woman has gone before. The special person who really wants to change for good. Work with them. Make them the hero. Let them take the front of the stage and get the adulation. Be content being the director behind the seen. Once the effort is successful, shine a beaming light on them. Rally their success. Most people want to follow success. It is human nature. If you really want to drive positive change, allow others to shine and be content knowing you are the behind the scenes person that really throttled success. This is how you cause positive viruses … by planting a seed in one place, nurturing that seed and then letting the desire of continued success blossom and spread.

As we look to win over customers through long-term social commitment and strengthening relationships, we must do the same in the organization we work for and with. Build relationships and build trust. This is how social media success needs to be carried out. Not by a fantasy of revolutionary change. The same mentality must be invoked at changing your organization, company, and/or client. Hit singles and bring runners around to score. Don’t count on home rums. Yes, they come … be joyous when they do happen. But most likely, you will score by hitting a number of small hits in a continuous string.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under change management, leadership, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

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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Filed under ads, behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, change management, digital media, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Digital Ignites the Human Economy – Brands Must Act

More and more people have displayed a strong disdain for corporate acts done with the sole interest of revenue and profitability. Whether it is unjust labor acts, environmental flaws, or unacceptable political positions, individuals are holding companies accountable for their operations. People want to stand by a company that shows concern for issues beyond its financial well being.

On the flipside, many consumers are seeking information and supporting companies that show strong support for communities, needy groups, and the earth preservation.

Human Economy

While I am not the first to use the term human economy, I will define it as a business condition where individuals are loyal to brands that demonstrate commitment to causes of interest and importance to them. Conversely the individuals may propagate and disseminate information on brands that take inappropriate actions against people and causes that they support.

Digital technologies have literally changed our society. We now seek and have access to an abundance of information that includes corporate activities and behavior of business leaders. It is virtually impossible to hide as more and more companies become (willingly or unwillingly) transparent.

I find it ironic that while many blame social media for the degradation of human communication and relationship building, that the exact opposite is prevalent for brand-audience relationships. People want and look for a deeper connection with the brands they purchase. They take the stand that if they are going to give companies their money and support, they want to know the brand is worthy of their contributions. The degree of (positive and negative) emotional bonding has increased as a result of digital and social media.

Shrewd companies recognize this cultural change and have incorporated relevant programs to their corporate or marketing agenda. Take the Dove “beauty from within” campaign. Think of Paul Newman’s corporate philanthropic commitment and activities. Whether these are true heart felt endeavors or not really does not matter, but rather the perception of the audience is what matters.

And now that digital and social use is the norm, corporations would be wise to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and/or adopt a social movement and utilize a social strategy to proliferate information and gain recognition.

While I would like to think that all on earth look beyond their own well-being and show a strong regard for all inhabitants of the earth, I am not quite so naive to believe this is the case. But independent of your personal convictions or not, I will tell you that corporate development of social cause is a business imperative. Our world has moved to the human economy. The people of the world are demanding more from corporate leaders. If businesses are to attract a target audience that cares way beyond corporate profits, business leaders need to change their image. And while companies work to market the new image, they need to consider how digital and social platforms will be used to listen, engage, communicate, and unleash their audience to share the brand in a most positive light.

I remember the early days of social media where most corporations were afraid to use social media because they were afraid what people would say. Well we are well past that day. Business leaders recognize that people can say what ever they want independent of the companies’ participation or not in social media. Executives must recognize the power of the human economy and adapt appropriately. Even if it is for their own selfish reason.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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3 Steps to Fix Marketing Now

97% of marketing endeavors do nothing to move their audience. OK, that is not from a study. It is my own perspective. But consider the abundance of articles you see day in and day out noting marketing’s malignant state. For example …

Joe Marchese compares the state of advertising to the subprime debacle in 2008

• Joseph Jaffe hints to “The End of Advertising.”

90% of marketers are not trained in marketing performance, ROI

CMOs are missing the boat on what it means to be a modern CMO

• “While 74% of global businesses have a digital strategy, only 33% believe it’s the right strategy, and beyond that, only 21% – or less than one-fourth – believe they have the right people setting the strategy.”

needed marketing changeI could go on and on with the list above, but hopefully you have a bad enough taste in your mouth already. It would be great to talk about marketing innovation, but marketing innovation is an oxymoron. I’ll give you an example. I am an advisor to a new 1:1 brand/user content distribution company. We are a startup. How many CMOs do you think want a case study before proceeding? First off, every company that delivers case study has some spin to it. (If you want to gain some deeper insights into the flaws of case studies read what @augieray has to say about them.) And secondarily, don’t true innovators do something different rather than being me-too-ers.

According to Wikipedia, “Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, in-articulated needs, or existing market needs.” And that is exactingly what marketing needs. A better solution to meet the new changing requirements dictated by audience behavior. Audience behavior that is defined by digital, mobile, social, and the ability to validate, refute, or ignore brand advertising and communication. Marketing has done an extremely poor job at keeping up with their audience’s behaviors and usage patterns.

So what are you going to do to fix this? I have three recommendations:

1) Completely change your marketing mentality from being a sales-tangent to focusing on customer relationship building. Marketing needs to lead relationship building and demonstrate brand worthiness in the form of delivering continued value and optimization of the entire user experience. If you build a strong relationship with your customers, they will be loyal buyers and advocates. If you merely concentrate on a sale you open the door for another brand to win over a fickle customer. This change of mentality will actually yield greater success of your sales objective in the long run. Don’t be so short sighted.

2) The CMO must change or the CMO needs to be changed. An overwhelming number of top marketing executives are not active on digital, mobile, and social channels that their audience engages on. How can the emperor understand the common people if he/she does not participate where the audience does and engage with them? How can anyone put together a digital strategy that yields success if they are not a regular user in digital? Far too many CMOs (or Chief Strategy Officers) do not have digital skill sets. Far too many CMOs/CSOs do not understand user digital behavior.

3) Move to a zero-based marketing budget. Just throw out everything you’ve done in the previous year unless you are certain that it has returned positive measureable results. If we agree that marketing needs a major facelift, how can all marketing line items you do year in and year out be correct. Start clean. Your audience behavior has changed so much, it warrants a complete revamp.

I know I have brought up a number of contentious recommendations. Change is tough. No one really likes change. But as the audience behavior has dramatically morphed over the past number of years, too many marketing executives have stayed stagnant. Too many believe they can just hand digital marketing over to a young digitally sharp user and think they have things covered. Well results say this is far from true. So while company marketing leaders’ skill sets have not changed much over the years, a significant void has emerged. And it is going to take some strong willed people to make changes that are required.

Are you ready to step up to what is truly required?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, change management, digital media, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Top 7 Reasons Why Brands Fail at Social Media

“Well, the results are in. Social is doing a pathetic job of turning readers into customers. After all the hype has settled…after all the stock clamoring has died down, the truth is staring us in the face: People don’t want to be customers on social media.” Such was the opening paragraph on Entrepreneur.com’s post, “Here’s the Big Problem With Chasing Customers on Social Media.”

success or failureHow many times do you read articles that state something similar? What really gets me is that so many brands continue to approach social media incorrectly and then reports indicate social media failures as opposed to companies’ failure on social media.
So as a first step, I strongly suggest we all get social media right before we start assessing the success of companies’ social efforts. And here are the top 7 points of failure for brand social screw-ups.

1) The wrong person leads social efforts – “66% of CMOs surveyed said their companies are unprepared to handle social media, where the ‘rate of change seems faster than many can cope with.’” There are two types of people responsible for social efforts at a company. a) A young digital millennial that does not have experience driving company KPI (key performance indicators) results, and b) chief strategy/marketing officers that do not understand nor participate in social platforms. This presents a problem where you either have someone that understands social media user behavior or someone that has experience delivering business results … but not both qualities at the same time. What is needed is a hybrid of both and there are few that can bridge both worlds.

2) Going straight to tactics before having a strategy and integrated plan – how many social efforts start with an objective of building a Facebook and Twitter presence? Far too many. A while ago I wrote an article “Where You Start in Social Media Strategy Defines Where You End Up.” It highlights the problem of thinking tactics before strategy. Start by addressing integration of social efforts in overall business strategy. Then build your social strategy followed by a plan, which includes tactics.

3) Measuring the wrong thing – today, most social reporting is done by indicating “reach” and “engagement.” Yes these are important factors. But how many executives can relate reach and engagement to their KPIs? The typical response from an executive is likely to be, “Yeah, but does that increase my sales?” And at the same time, I have often stated that social is poor at direct sales. So what you really need to measure are those areas that tee up sales. Think of the sales marketing funnel where awareness, consideration, and post sales loyalty and advocacy parameters are important functions of sales. For more information, see “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.”

4) Selling instead of being a valued source – users are immediately turned off by brands that use social presence to sell product. Social should be used to develop long-term relationships and build a reputation as a valued source of information and engagement. This approach will create sustainable loyalty and advocacy. The result is long-term sales, but ironically done so by avoiding a sell mentality.

5) The content is not exceptional – I remember making this point to a boss of mine and he asked, “Does the content really need to be stellar?” Case in point – are you ever wowed by mediocre content? Would you ever share so-so content? There is so much noise in the digital space and you really need to standout. Think like a publisher or a producer who is only successful when they deliver killer content.

6) Talking and not listening – the strongest relationships start by knowing your audience. And the best way to get to know your audience is to listen to them. I love the line – “We have two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we talk.” As far back as 2009, I raised the issue of a lack of social listening, and the problem is still pervasive.

7) Lack of a social business culture – social success does not come from one person or one group. Ultimate social success will come when sharing, engaging, and commitment to the brand audience comes from every part of the company. I expect to see “social business” be an evolutionary process within companies. This will not just happen overnight and progressing to this culture requires executive leadership.

So as step one, I urge everyone to take their social media efforts seriously and not just wing it. Do the right thing. Then, when we can get enough companies and brands actually delivering a sensible and meaningful social media approach that is compelling to their target audience, let’s evaluate success/failure. Are you ready to…

…Make It Happen?
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brands, change management, company organization, content marketing, leadership, social business, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve