Category Archives: 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

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

Social Media is NOT Social Marketing and Why It Matters

social media not equal social marketing

If you are running a business, do you want good social media results or good business results? Social media results are things like “likes,” “followers,” “reach,” “engagement,” and “impressions.” If you are a marketing professional, you are expected to demonstrate increased awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy. So this might give you a bit of a hint of the difference between social media and social marketing, but let’s drill into a bit more.

Social media are a number of platforms that allow people to post, share, and comment on communications. Communications that are conversations, stories, or other content. The content/conversations can consist of articles, photos, and videos. Social media examples are Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, SnapChat, and a host of literally hundreds if not thousand more. Social media has attracted just about all companies because it is the digital access to a great number of people. A digital and mobile culture has evolved and is now ubiquitous so brands want to be involved and influential where the numbers exist.

Social marketing has two parts … social and marketing. Lets start with the later. Marketing is the act of creating awareness and consideration to yield sales. Marketing activities should not stop with sales. They should include post sales activities capturing loyalty to create brand preference, and advocacy sparking word of mouth marketing by objective sources. The social part is that you look for your brand message, story, positive experiences, and value to spread throughout your target market. Social marketing looks for increased awareness and advocacy by influencing the general public to proliferate the brand marketing on behalf of the representing company. Digital makes the brand content spread faster and wider.

So now comes the important question. Should a company/brand look for individuals that understand social media to drive business results? Can someone who understands social media take the job at hand far enough? Or rather should experienced marketers that have stayed atop of user behavior, digital technologies, and social platforms be the one to lead? Granted, not all experienced marketers have kept up with the times. But brands/companies can no longer put “social media experts” in a position to drive marketing and business results unless in fact they know how and have experience doing so.

For the past year and a half, I have been delivering digital marketing results as a consultant for numerous clients as I also scan the job market. While I am a freelance consultant now, I am ultimately looking for a strong match in an organization where I can drive strong growth and success. As I look at various job descriptions and placements, I continue to be amazed by false and irrational expectations. Many organizations look to place a “social media expert” with limited or no marketing or customer/client experience in social leadership positions. They do not experience delivering business KPIs (key performance indicators). And guess what types of results they yield.

If you are truly looking for someone to drive social results that align your business KPIs, do not put the responsibility in the hands of someone that is not capable of doing so. I’ll give you one extreme example … I literally saw a listing for “social media manager and executive assistant.” Hopefully you get the point.

Here is my suggestion … start with a definition of the end game. What do you look for this person to accomplish? Do you know what you want out of a social implementation? (Suggested reading – “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like” … If I was to write that story today, it would have been titled, “Know What Successful Social Marketing Looks Like”). Can someone tell you and show you how social efforts will lead to business results? Social marketing is an integration of everything done in marketing and beyond. It must be a customer centric discipline that motivates your audience to do your marketing. It is much more than managing a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and pinning some pictures on Pinterest. Yes, those are probably some of the activities, but there are also many other strategies, plans, and integration points with other business functions that are necessary to yield business results.

So back to the beginning …Social media is NOT social marketing and it matters because you need to understand the outcomes from the different skill sets and experiences required for both. Make sure you are putting your company’s social efforts in the hands of someone that will drive business results, not social media results.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under marketing, social business, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve