Category Archives: marketing

5 Marketing Musts for a Successful Year Ahead

5 marketing mustsIt is the end of the year and many are making their predictions on marketing trends for 2015. Yes, I am sure those trends like mobile, content marketing, and big data will make many lists. Heck, I think some prudent blogger will even say smart small data will be bigger than big data.

But I don’t think it should be about trends. I think it is about taking what you have learned about your target audience and putting that to work for your brand. If you want your business to thrive, you need to understand the people you serve. I am often quoted for saying “marketing is the psychology of business.” How do you get their attention? How do you gain their interest? How do you get them to buy your product over the competition’s? How do you make them enthusiastic and loyal to your brand? And most powerful, how do you turn them into your brand advocate such that they share the supreme value of your brand with their friends, family, and colleagues. A business psychologist knows how to motivate people.

So if you take this mentality and examine people’s shopping and purchasing behavior (both B2C and B2B) in the past year you will know what is important and imperative for your marketing strategy and execution. Understand the psychology of your audience. Understand how you appeal to their emotions. Taking this approach I have identified five marketing musts for the coming year.

1) Storytelling – disruptive advertisement is out. People do not want ads thrown in their face. They react negatively and many now ignore ads. 86% of people skip TV commercials. 44% of direct mail is never opened. 91% of people have unsubscribed from company emails they previously opted into. On the other hand, people love compelling stories. “Storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences. Stories are universal in that they can bridge cultural, linguistic, and age-related divides… Storytelling can be used as a method to teach … Learning is most effective when it takes place in social environments that provide authentic social cues about how knowledge is to be applied. Stories function as a tool to pass on knowledge in a social context.” (Source) One thing has not changed since the beginning of mankind … People like stories. People remember stories.

2) Holistic User Experience – Consider how your audience captures information. Who their influencers are? How they become aware of products and consider them for purchase. What path do they take on their journey to purchase and how do they remain loyal. What motivates them to become an advocate? Aim to get your target audience emotionally bound to your brand by having deep empathy for them. And then leverage that knowledge of empathy by delivering a user experience in every company-customer touch point that is truly appreciated and valued by the target audience. (By the way, if you want some excellent suggestions on integrating storytelling with your user design, checkout Adam Kleinberg’s article “Storytelling and User Experience Are on a Collision Course” in AdAge.

3) Personalization – people are rejecting brand communication because they are inundated with uninteresting and irrelevant correspondence being thrown at them. Companies need to use information sources to better understand their audience. Companies need to deliver meaningful engagement based upon social listening and profiles, purchase history and other CRM data. Individuals are much more likely to accept brand communication if it is relevant to them personally.

4) Community – A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. Don’t be preoccupied with the number of community members. Rather, think of each community member as a potential brand advocate. Your brand should not only demonstrate that it shares common values with its audience, but also be the source for people to engage with other likeminded individuals. If the conversations between people with common values happen in the brand domain, the brand is further associated and valued to each member of the group. Learn more about the business value of community in the articles “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community” and “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.”

5) Advocates – Nothing is more influential then an objective person telling another about the greatness and value of a brand. The word of friends, family, and colleagues clearly trumps a company marketing their brand. So what if a brand focused on a finite relatively small group to engage with to get them to love their products and brand. What if the marketing strategy was to then unleash this group to rally support for the brand? I am not suggesting forgetting about the mass target audience. It is not an either-or brand-marketing proposition. Do both. But recognize the results you can drive with a set of advocates. Make advocacy one of your marketing pillars.

And there you have my marketing suggestions for the next year. It is not a list taken from assessing technology wizardry. Not a list based upon trends and hype. It is customer centric. Always going back and understanding the behavior and motivations of your audience will drive success.

Marketers need to evolve because their audience is smarter and has more control than in previous years. Marketers’ brand position and reputation is now partly defined by the democratic people. I believe that marketers now need to think of themselves as running a successful media company. That is, they always ask themselves, “How do I get the audience to consume my brand, my story, my video, my picture, my article? What will make them share it with their friends?” If you follow the five areas I outlined, you will get there with measured success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, content marketing, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

9 Factors Separate Social Marketers that are Ready to Kick Butt

It was seven years ago that my marketing career took a new turn to the world of social marketing. I noticed early, that brands would lose some control of their position and reputation as dictated by the democratized public. The people had a strong set of platforms to share their likes and dislikes for companies, brands, and products. In fact these objective opinions and declarations trump brand-marketing communication. The audiences’ voice is loud and moves fast.

Then I felt like I was pushing a boulder uphill in social marketing. But now I see the struggle easing and a good deal of the smoke clearing. I see that brands want to plug into their audiences’ behaviors and actions. Companies have a strong interest in leveraging digital and social technologies. Trepidation has been replaced by exuberance and to outsource or employ knowledgeable and experienced social marketers. And now I see that there are a number of social marketers ready to kick butt and make a real difference in empirical results that align to companies’ KPIs (key performance indicators).

social marketing success

So what are those successful social marketers doing that set them apart from wanna-bes? There are nine factors or social marketing practices that when executed together distinguish social marketers that will rise to the top.

1) Strategy – A while back I wrote an article “Where You Start in Social Media Strategy Defines Where You End Up.” You cannot just “do social.” You must start with a mission, goal and objective, and follow up the documented strategy with a plan.

2) Listening – When it comes to social marketing, I know you are talking, but are you listening. A key element to building a relationship is listening. I always liked the line; “we have two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as mush as we talk.” Social marketing champions listen to people talking on the brand’s digital and social assets and the ones that the brand does not own. They listen for brand mentions as well as keywords that are relevant in the brand category.

3) Empathy – probably the greatest factor in social marketing success is having complete understanding and empathy for your audience. Successful marketers understand their audience. They know what turns them on and turns them off as well as what motivates them to deliver word of mouth marketing for the brand.

4) Messaging Strategy – this is a function straight out of marketing communications 101, but at the same time not an area the social marketer always tackles. Shrewd social marketers know exactly how they want their brand to look and sound in social channels. They make sure all communication and correspondence uphold the brand image they desire in social communications.

5) Content Strategy and Plan – In order to have a successful brand social presence, you need to have a continuous and compelling stream of content. Brands need to think like media companies. Many marketers find it difficult to shift from an advertorial mentality to a softer content marketing approach. (Required as a function of target audience perception and behavior.) To help here, I have offered advice. Start with three articles from this year – a) “4 Tips for Winning Content,” “Delivering the Content Your Audience Wants,” and “The Content Development Plan Every Marketer Should Use.”

6) Sharing – the best social marketers understand and plan how to get their brand content shared. It is more than simply having social widgets attached to a blog article. Rich relationship building and seeding various calls to action spawn greater brand sharing.

7) Personalization and Engagement Plan – in the day and age where just about every brand is going to partake in social media, successful brands need to be most relevant to their audience. Relevance comes from understanding individuals through engagement and personalization. Leading social marketers increase relevancy to their audience by having personalized communication and well defined engagement plans and then fine-tuning them based upon executional results.

8) Community – More and more social marketers and community managers are learning from the strengths and shortcomings of having a brand presence on Facebook. They are learning the true value of having an online community of loyalists and advocates that can be unleashed to do marketing on behalf of a brand. Now, Facebook has practically abandoned non-paid brand presence. At the same time, brand communities activate loyalists to produce advocates. Given these circumstances, I recommend you check out “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”

9) Know How to Measure Results – I do not care what role anyone has in any line of business. You have to show results that are meaningful to the executive team. For social marketers this means going beyond “reach and engagement” because most executives I know cannot translate “reach and engagement” to their KPIs. If this is an area that still has you befuddled read “Here is the ROI for Social Marketing.”

So yes … I think there is a fair share of movers and shakers in the social marketing arena. And yes there are still a greater number of fakers out there. But the point is that you now have a large enough talent pool to go after to make a difference in your business. Drill into your candidates and make sure they have experience in the 9 areas I outlined above. And as always, if you have a question or need some help, contact me.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brands, community, content marketing, Facebook, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social media ROI, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

consumer in control

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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