Category Archives: SocialSteve

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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5 Lessons I Learned at High School That Every Executive Leader Should Exercise

Fall is upon us, and brings new seasonal rituals. The start of the school year marks a time for greater regiment in family activities. Certainly this is the case for The Goldner family. The complexity of managing a tight schedule of sports, orchestra, and dance, rehearsals, and of course academics.

But this year started with a dark cloud hanging over our school district. One of the female teachers at the high school was arrested for engaging in sexual acts with five different 15-year-old students while on school property. Yes, you hear these stories all the time, but you never think it would occur in your town.

Last week was back to school night where parents get to meet the children’s teachers and briefly hear about the year’s curriculum and each teacher’s philosophy and approach. The evening started with a gathering in the auditorium with a brief speech by the principal. This was her first back to school night as principal. And while she appears as a petite mother next-door type, she has the power of a football linemen, the motivation of Steve Jobs, and the grace of a Lady Di.

leadership

After a few introductions, she immediately addressed the thousand pound gorilla in the room. She stated, “I have the pleasure of the most stress-inducing Back to School Night ever – that is, my first as principal. Under ‘normal’ circumstances, of course, such a night would be a milestone. But tonight, is more complicated for us as parents, teachers, and school leaders, as it comes at a challenging time for our school and larger community. The past two weeks at Columbia have been, as you know, not easy. We are saddened by the news from our building, and many of us – students, teachers, and families –have struggled with the loss of the happy anticipation that we started the school year with just three weeks ago. That sadness has been complicated by news coverage, by an ongoing law enforcement investigation, by social media, and by the struggles that we are experiencing personally and professionally as members of our school community around the arrest of a staff member.”

Lesson 1 – do not try to elude controversy that your entire target audience wants to be addressed.

She went on to state, “I assure you that we meet these challenges by committing to remain focused on teaching and learning and supporting all of our students. You have reason to doubt us – to doubt me – tonight. I recognize that. But I promise to you and our children – and our community – of which I have been a proud resident for 17 years – that the existence of that doubt only deepens my resolve to make Columbia the nation’s best performing high school – and I believe that is possible. We are already on that path. My belief that that is so is the reason I choose to work here.”

Lesson 2 – Not only make a challenge strengthen you and grow from it, but drive to make the end result even better for your audience that cares.

The principal continued, “The measurements of our students’ success – whether through GPAs, AP exam results, athletic, artistic, literary, and mathematical and scientific achievements, admission to top-tier universities and colleges – are the results of their, their teachers’, and your (the parents) hard work, and the conditions we create together to support their achievement. As you know, parenting is not for the faint of heart. Neither is teaching. We thank you for the work that you do to support your learners. When these impressive results are not being attained by all of our students – whether due to their family circumstances, academic conditions, disparities in our application of procedures or policies, experiences our students may weather outside of school that shape their daily lives inside the walls of Columbia – then it is incumbent upon each and every one of us, everyday, to assure that those outcomes are achievable and to eliminate any academic achievement gaps that exist. This is the work we are committed to at CHS.”

Later the principal asked for participation to make her audience part of the positive solution … “So I ask tonight for your commitment to me and to those who teach and work here to continue to work on building a culture at CHS that is collaborative and sustained by the education, skills, talent, and professionalism of our staff members, and the support and guidance that you give us. I ask that you work with us to show our students and your children by example that we are all part of the same team, with the same goals. We must work together, and not against each other. Though we may not always agree about decisions to make or steps to take, our mutual goals must be the success of all of our students. And our conduct, conversation, and communication with each other should always reflect these ideals.”

Lesson 3 – Rally your audience to participate in driving results you look to achieve.

The principal’s speech had many more excellent and inspiring statements, but I will skip to her conclusion where she said – “I will conclude tonight by promising you that we believe that all students are entitled to benefit from and achieve excellence in a Columbia High School in which race, family background, socioeconomic circumstances, or any other characteristic should not and will not determine a student’s experiences in a classroom, on a playing field, in how we manage school discipline, in how policy is implemented, or in how our students experience school and life in our building every day.”

Lesson 4 – Be totally inclusive.

OK – so that is four lessons I captured from our high school principal’s speech (and actions I fully expect to be carried out by her.) The last lesson is one of omission by her.

Lesson 5 – against popular claims, a leader should not be transparent. HONEST, yes. Transparent, no. Honesty means that everything you say and do has every ounce of truth and complete lack of deception. Transparency means that you are a complete open book. The principal’s involvement and participation in the ongoing investigation and case were not divulged and need not be. The principal’s plans for weeding out other “tenured” inadequate staff need not be discuss with her target audience. Politics do exist, to a very strong level, in our town’s school system. But it is time for her to use politics to her advantage to deliver winning results her audience demands. Transparency means that everyone sees everything in your strategy and plan – including the enemies or competition.

I will end by stating the following. Executives have an obligation to be leaders. Non-executives can also be leaders, but do not have that obligation. The bottom line is that successful businesses (and all organizations) need leaders that will truly inspire and lead. If you are a leader there are many more lessons to learn, but start here.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

PS – If you would like to read the principal’s entire speech, you can find it at http://villagegreennj.com/schools-kids/great-pride-deepened-resolve-aaron-vows-chs-will-soar/ .

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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

4 Tips for Winning Content

Most brands are challenged delivering compelling content continuously. They feel the pressure to come up with new content day-to-day or week-to-week. And when they do come up with posts, articles, photos, and videos, it often does not resonate with their audience.

So I have just one, most important tip for you, but it consists of 4 questions. As you develop your content strategy, plan, calendar, and execution ask yourself four questions. Find the intersection of the answers of all four to guide your content development.

Q1 – What are the interests of your audience? Independent of the product or service that you market and sell, understand the content that your audience is looking for and what they typical consume. For example, here is some data for content “moms” regularly look for and share …

content for moms (Source)

Q2 – How can I help? If you want to win your audience over, be as helpful as can be. Appeal to your audiences’ needs and desires with information and entertainment.

Q3 – What is relevant? Determine what the current and emerging trends are. What cultural events are happening? Oscar’s. Emmy’s. Grammy’s. Tony’s. Superbowl. World Series. George Clooney marriage … etc. Think about tying your content to something current that captures the interest of all.

Q4 – What is my brand position? Finally, we look at you, the brand. When you deliver content, you want that content to reinforce what your brand stands for. Not necessarily pushing a product, but rather support of your brand story.

Realize that you need to answer all the questions and find the intersection of all. Answering one and then developing content will not lead you to the correct destination.

content elements

Let me give you an example. Let’ say that you are a laundry detergent brand. (Pretty difficult to build a content strategy around laundry detergent, huh?) Consider the content moms care about – kids, vacations, pets. Consider how you can help your audience – laundry tips, time savings, “cramming it all in.” What is relevant – Halloween is just around the corner. What is your brand position – superior cleaning, environmentally friendly.

So a content idea is doing a story of Halloween 2014 where you provide ideas for kids’ costumes and suggestions for when your dog gets into the candy and has an “accident” on the laundry pile. Hopefully you get the idea. I intentionally picked a brand category that many would likely find difficult to develop content around. Heck, if compelling content can be developed for laundry detergent, you can certainly drive winning content around your brand.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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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