Category Archives: change management

Experimental Marketing and the Importance of Being First

If there is one question I have faced in my marketing career that truly bugs me like no other it is “Who else has done this?” When asked, and it has happened more than a few times, I know I am facing a person that will disrupt success.

experimental marketingI am not going to push experimental marketing for the sake of a desire for creative expression. As always, my marketing strategy is motivated audience behavior. The vast consumer base is significantly more advanced in the use of social and digital platforms than brand marketers. This is driven, but not limited, by millennials adoption of digital and mobile technologies. For so long, marketers have viewed themselves as more forward thinking individuals than the audience they serve, but today, this is far from the truth. How sad is it that the general public is more innovative and creative with their use of digital/social technologies than marketers?

Trepidation and an inability to be innovative due to a lack of agility are the reasons why brands find themselves behind the eight ball in successful use of digital marketing. Marketers must cease to be so cautious and take more calculated risk. Do not always look for a case study validating a creative endeavor that taps into the emotional acceptance and loyalty of your brand. Think of the most successful marketing ploys in the past few years. Did Old Spice do something that was copied? Look at your audience. Understand them and do something unique. Arby’s successful marketing ride with Pharrell was the result of listening to the audience and reacting in real time.

In order to stand out in an extremely competitive and crowded space, brands must do something different. Something that has not necessarily been proven. The early marketing movers on Facebook. LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and other platforms reaped greatest success before the platforms became saturated. Even if they did not win over massive numbers in these platforms, they attracted early adopters and influencers.

I’ll give you a personal example. LinkedIn opened their platform to postings of articles, much like blogs and industry journals. I’ve been writing weekly articles on my blog for about six years. I figured LinkedIn was a good way to repurpose some of my stronger articles to a larger audience. I posted a number of articles and early on the number of people who read these articles was strong. The LinkedIn platform is now saturated with posts. The fact that I was an early adopter of this feature allowed me to increase a following and gain a significant audience before everyone else was on the bandwagon. There were no guarantees of increasing a following by extending my writings to LinkedIn, but I experimented.

The point I really want to drive home is that marketers (and their executives they report to) must be brave enough to drive programs that do not have a given track record or business case of success. Marketers must define programs based upon their audience behavior. There are far too many marketing organizations stagnant in their ways … just used to doing it a certain way. If we take time to understand how to win over customers as their knowledge, access to information, and influence has changed dramatically, we might see that doing things the same old way is a dead end. Who has the guts to step outside of the lines into the new playing field that the audience has defined?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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3 POVs That Define the Future of Brand Business

My professional mentality has been pretty simple for the past 8 years – evolve business marketing and strategy to follow the target audience. I bring that to my job day in and day out. I also bring that to my blog in my weekly writings that I share with you.

My blog is generally devoted to articles that are meant to help marketers be more responsible and effective at their roles. In the past month, I have written three articles that should be the guiding anthem for marketing. I did not plan it that way, but simply aiming for my blog objectives, the residual effect was writing a point of view (POV) trilogy that should define the future for successful brand business.

building a brand

Everything should always start with your target audience. It is all about them, not your brand. The democratized audience now has great control of brand reputation and position. Thus understand “The Dramatic and Fundamental Change in Marketing and What You Need to Do.” The article points out how to deliver marketing success in the age where consumer/client control has outpaced the power of businesses.

The next important change for brand marketing is the power of social marketing. Not social media, but social marketing. This means engagement with your target audience to increase awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. Not hard sales, but relationship building. You should really understand that “Social Media is NOT Social Marketing and Why It Matters.”

The changes and issues raised in the two previous referenced articles tee up “Why You Need a Chief Engagement Officer.” Your organization needs to take on change. Not for change sake, but as driven by the evolving nature and power of your target audience. While there are a few organizations making changes by adding the role of Chief Customer Officer (which is a good first step), I believe this role needs to go deeper by placing the responsibility of “engagement” with customers.

Companies are naturally resistant to change. But the current business environment demands the three changes as proposed in the three POVs, the articles mentioned. I categorically state you must make these changes to keep your brand relevant and your business successful. What is keeping you?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, change management, company organization, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

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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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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