Category Archives: marketing plan

Why Your Budget Must Include Website Re-Investment

Yes, it is that time of the year. Sure the leaves are falling and nature reinforces her beauty, but I am not talking about that. It is budget season and everyone is looking at what they have done in the past year and tweaking allocation numbers.

But before you finalize your budget by simply modifying last year’s budget, you need to take a fresh look. What will truly yield growth of brand awareness, consideration, sale, loyalty, and advocacy? I’d expect website revitalization was not on last year’s budget. I will also bet that many say, “websites – oh that is so ‘90’s,” but I will tell you a “correctly designed” website is so 2020’s. Let’s explore why.

website reinvestment

First, let me state that I am very bullish on social marketing as a way to win over an audience and turn them into your most valued customers – advocates. But if we look at social media platforms today, we see that the platform evolution now hinders brand engagement with target audiences. Just look at Facebook. They have practically eliminated organic reach of brand postings. And you know just about all social platforms main objective is to optimize their own monetization. They also look to appeal to their audience. Not the brand’s audience. Social platform’s first concern is their success; not marketers success. Don’t be naive.

Second, I always state that marketers must have complete empathy for their target audience. Culture has been transformed by digital technologies. More people get information online (social networking, mobile, and the Internet) as a primary source. This consumer/client behavior means your website would be extremely compelling if it was a) dynamic with continuous content updates (posts), b) more interactive and social, and c) mobile ready.

The first step in revitalizing your website is to start thinking like a media company. Think about being the “Buzz Feed” for your brand category news, information, and entertainment. Produce original content regularly. Curate relevant content and include it on your website. Think about what it takes to be a resource for your audience such that they want to go to your website daily to get up-to-date information.

The next step in revitalizing your website is to make it more interactive and social. If we look at human behavior, we see that they do want to engage with brands. That is, if the brand makes it worth their while. Converse with your audience. Listen to your audiences needs and wants. Produce compelling content based on their input and comments. Build sustainable relationships. Facebook and other social networks have clamped your ability to engage. So bring that functionality to the digital platform you own and you control – your website. Consider building a community integrated within your website. True, you may not get as many subscribers as Facebook likes or Twitter followers, but certainly you will get individuals that want to remain engaged and are likely your best customers/clients.

At the same time, various social platforms do continue to be an important part of your marketing mix. They should be used to proliferate the content on your website. Additionally, paid media of social platforms is a very important budgetary consideration. The greatest value of paid media on social platforms is the ability to target specific demographics. I have seen paid media deliver very strong click through results (back to your website).

I hope it goes without saying that your website MUST be mobile ready. More and more people access the Internet via mobile device. Do you really want to eliminate access of your website to a majority of the population because you have not made the investment to make it mobile ready?

I have given you the three areas to focus on with regards to the revitalization of your website. Staying consistent in numerology, there are three reasons why website revitalization must be part of your 2015 budget:

1) Audience use of digital is not only ubiquitous but their individual use is very strong,
2) Your website is something you completely own and control … you do not have to worry about the usage rules being changed, and
3) Your website is likely the strongest digital source to monetize your brand.

Make sense? Can do?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under community, content marketing, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve, website

The Power of Audience Trumps the Power of Your Marketing

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

audience power

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

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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

3 Motivators for Interaction in Social Marketing

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

social interaction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Does Experimentation Belong in Social Media Marketing?

It is really not a question of if experimentation belongs in social media marketing, but rather a question of where experimentation belongs in social media marketing.

social experiment

As I have stated many times, social channels are a very busy place for brands to be heard and rise above the noise. Just about every brand now has a social presence. So the question becomes, if everyone is doing it, how do you make sure your brand is seen, heard, and stands out. “Me-too-ers” will never be successful due to the abundance of brands vying for audience attention on social channels. Thus, innovative experimentation is required. But do not just throw things out there in a wild adventure of experimentation. There are some steps you should take to create some boundaries for experimentation. Let’s review the fundamental steps to deliver successful social implementations.

Social success really comes down to the intersection of two factors. First and foremost, you need a complete understanding of the target audience you want to reach. This understanding is a combination of a) a set definition of the target audience demographics, b) deep insights to the audiences’ behaviors and usage patterns in digital, and c) constant listening to the targets to gain a timely perspective of what is relevant in their daily lives. Social success starts with a customer centric mentality.

The next step in developing a successful social implementation is capturing the brand position, value proposition, and communication tone. Re-look at the marketing definitions of your brand.

Once you have the target audience and brand persona formally documented, look at the intersection of what the audience is looking for, and what your brand wants to communicate. This defines content memes for your social brand. Make sure you stay customer-centric. Too many brands push their agenda. If you want to be successful capturing awareness and building advocates in social media, you must be sensitive to your audience motivations as opposed to pushing corporate agenda.

Now that you have the basis for your social strategy, plan, and implementation, you should experiment with clear differentiated content and engagement approaches in social media. Doing the pre-work prescribed above provides calculated boundaries for experimentation.

I started this article by asking if experimentation belongs in social media marketing. Let me say that the answer is a resounding yes. You will never stand out in a crowed space unless you are seen as innovative and different. I have worked with many brands (big and small). When a client asks me for a business case supporting a recommended strategy and plan, categorically I know the client will never accomplish success in social. This request identifies a me-too-er that is implementing social because everyone else is doing it as opposed to truly focusing on winning over an audience. The most successful social implementations were not driven by previous business cases. They were innovative by first understanding their audience, and then doing something not previously done. Case in points – Old Spice, Dove, Red Bull, and Skittles. All of these brands experiment and buck the norm to produce compelling approaches that captivate large audiences and receive positive responses.

So the bottom line is that you must experiment in social media marketing. Have an umbrella methodology as described in this article to take calculated risk. Be innovative and do something not done before. Stand out. Measure results and tweak implementations based upon audience results. Experiment. Be different. Stand out.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Understanding the Place for Always On Social Media and Promotional Social Media

Does your company have a set, defined social marketing strategy? One that addresses growth or promotional times AND also includes a plan for keeping users engaged over the long haul. You see, driving significant likes and followers is completely meaningless unless those people you have gotten to like and follow you have actually stayed engaged with your social property and get your brand’s posts. If you keep up on Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm you will know that is it getting more and more difficult to get your brand post to show up on users’ newsfeed. That is unless you are willing to pay for a promoted tweet. And is it really appropriate to pay for a social engagement? As a brand sometimes yes, but definitely not as the norm.

Social Marketing Success

With this in mind, let’s breakdown social marketing to two sub categories – always on social and promotional social.

Your social strategy should start with a definition of continuous always on listening and monitoring, content production, distribution of content, and engagement. Who is your target audience? What do you want to convey to them and discuss with them that is most compelling to keep them engaged? How will you make sure that you get information to them on a daily bases (or most of the time)? What is your messaging and content strategy? It is important to have a plan of keeping your audience connected after they have opted in to your social channel.

Let’s review some terminology. For Facebook, they are moving away from the “People Talking About This” parameter and moving to “People Engaged.” People Engaged (found in the People tab for Facebook page administrators), is the number of unique people who’ve clicked, liked, commented on, or shared your posts in the past 28 days. “Other Page Activity” (in the Visits tab), includes Page mentions, check-ins and posts by other people on your Page. “Engagement Rate” is the percentage of people who saw a post that liked, shared, clicked or commented on it.

These are the numbers that really matter. Not the number of likes for a brand page. Yes, you need a decent amount of likes for the important evaluation parameters to shine. But “likes” is just a starting point. If you have a strategy for keeping your audience compelled and interested, you will see strong engagement numbers. You will also see nice continuous incremental growth of followers.

Thus, social promotion is the start of execution for social marketing. Not the start of social strategy. Your execution has to be well planned and executed after you do a social promotion.

So promotional social does come with some cost. Usually, a sweepstakes, giveaway, significant discount, or donation to a worthy cause (as perceived by your audience) is used as a promotion to have a high impact lift a brand’s social following. Paid media is also required to help promote the program. Social promotion is best used when the brand determines a significant event is about to happen. For example, a product launch, new packaging, seasonal drive period, etc. Social promotion should be used as an extension of an overall marketing promotion.

Social promotion is likely to drive some sort of spike in your followers. This will definitely make executives happy. But you should not be content with these results. Your success should be significant fan growth followed by continuous high levels of people engaged and engagement rate. You should be looking for quantifiable success of “always on social” following social promotion. Not just success from promotional social. In the words of a very successful media tycoon, “win big or go home.”

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Footnote – I know many of you reading this article, a) get it, and b) are frustrated that others in your company do not. It has been hard for you to get your point across and find the right words to explain. Suggestion … please share this article … maybe it will help to get your concerns across from an objective source.

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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

Integrating Advertisements and Social Marketing – Why it is a Must

integrating ads and social marketing

This past week I read an article that sited a study claiming that only 20% of Super Bowl ads actually resulted in a sales increase of the product. In one way, this surprised me … how could brands continue to dump that much money into a non-performing endeavor? And in another way, it did not really surprise me at all … does a catchy ad really get hoards of people lining up to buy? (I think all of us marketers would like to think so.)

The reality is that more and more consumers, and more and more clients are becoming skeptical and cynical about advertisements. But let me plainly state that advertisements are still very important in a successful marketing mix. It’s just that their role and performance objective must change. And social media is the reason why. Brands no longer have complete control of their position and value proposition. It is the democratic public that holds control of brand reputation and outward postings can affect brand position and intended value proposition.

This being the case, integration of advertisement and social marketing is imperative. We must realize that seeing an ad (in print, on TV and online) is not the end of winning the consumer over. It should be perceived as the beginning.

For quite some time now, I have been defining the three fundamentals of social marketing. One of these elements is “Holistic Social Marketing” where I explain the social marketing A-Path and execution channels for the various stages.

A-Path Onsite-Offsite 3

I suggested that “Attention” and “Attraction” were best achieved by going to the existing digital channels where the existing conversations are ongoing and start there. Then work to subtly pull the audience to the brands’ own digital assets (their website, blog, social channels). But maybe a quicker way of gaining attention and attraction is via ads.

So let’s reconsider the objectives of ads. Maybe the best ROI for ads is a sustainable and continuous long-term profitability rather than short-term, one shot sales increase.

The ultimate goal of marketing is to create an emotional bond between brand and target audience. A bond that has deep loyalty and actionable advocacy. We need to view ads as the start of this journey to get brand attention and attraction. But we do not want to stop there. We want to turn the attention and attraction gained from the ads to continue to move the target audience to affinity, audience, and advocacy.

Thus, start to think of the connection points and follow through of ads to convert to affinity, audience, and advocacy. This is most relevant for digital paid media but also applicable for paid print, TV, and radio media.

The target audience perceptions and behavior are changing. So we need to change our approach to marketing to fit the changing audience dynamics. Advertisement and social marketing integration is key to brand success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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