Category Archives: behavior

Digital Marketing Must be a Hell of a Lot More “Real” than “Virtual”

Get Real

“Digital marketing is an umbrella term for the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the Internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.

The way in which digital marketing has developed since the 1990’s and 2000’s has changed the way brands and businesses utilize technology and digital marketing for their marketing.” (Source)

Many brands and companies view digital marketing as a vehicle to spread awareness and generate sales to the masses. The technology allows them to do so. While these last two sentences have validity, they restrain brands from capturing the pinnacle success of digital marketing.

I suggest brands look at digital marketing from a behavioral perspective rather than a technological perspective. Look at your target audience’s behavior using digital channels. Digital is a way of life for all. Thus, it is natural for marketers to reach their audience within the channels they use regularly. But marketers must go deeper into audience behavior to drive success. How does the target market use the various digital platforms? What are they looking for, asking for? Monitor conversations as they relate to your exact brand name as well as keywords that relate to your brand offering. Listen. Observe. Learn.

So what exactly do I mean by “real” versus “virtual”? If you do a Google search on “virtual,” you see it is defined as “almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition,” and “not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so.” “Appear to do so” – that is death for capturing users, awareness, customers, loyalists, and advocates. People are looking for real engagement with brands. Automated messaging and responses, and bots turn them off.

Let me give you some examples of real digital marketing:

1) I actively searched, followed, and engaged with subject matter expertise as it pertains to the brand I represent. I have connected with these people – online, email, on the phone, and in person. I figure out how they can promote my brand AND equally important, I learn what they are looking for in a partnership. What do they want to accomplish for their brand? We work together to drive positive results for both sides and remain relevant and valuable to the audience we serve. This is the essence of “influence marketing.” I have asked my “partners” to promote various content from my brand. I have asked them to engage in my brand’s community. And when I do so, I also ask them, “How can I help you?” We establish a real relationship. Not a virtual one.

2) You need to actively monitor people who are asking for help as it relates to the solution your brand provides. Determine keywords and use a social monitoring tool. Engage with these individuals. Try to offer help. Then you can subtly promote your brand. Once again – real engagement.

3) Monitor activity on all digital platforms. Make sure to thank people for their participation. Thank them for their mention of your brand. Like their posts. Make sure you respond to their comments. Have real conversations pretty much the same as you do in your own personal life.

So you might think this all makes good sense in theory. But what type of results does it drive. I track numerous KPIs (key performance indicators) for my brand. Look at the various charts below.

results

Every KPI is trending upward. If you look at “weekly mentions” and “site engagements” you will notice up and down results week to week. This should not worry you. What is important is looking at a normalized trend. Even though there is zigzag fluctuation, the normalized results trend upward.

Yes, there are some digital marketing functions that are less “real” and more technologically driven. Examples are SEO and targeted paid media. These are definitely important as well. But I will guarantee you that you will not get compelling results if you implement these “virtual” digital marketing technologies without “real” digital marketing efforts. There is strong synergy integrating both.

The bottom line is you need to implement “real” engagement, connections, and conversations with your potential influencers and target audience. Then invest time in listening to them as well. Provide solutions and advice they are looking for.

Get real!

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, digital marketing, digital media, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Successful Marketing – Here It is in a Nutshell

successful marketing in a nutshell

At the end of the year, many bloggers and/or self accredited experts put out their end of the year lists. These lists most often start with titles that entice readers to click through. Titles like, “8 Best Ways to Make Viral Content,” or “5 Biggest Marketing Trends for 2016.” As we have learned from digital marketing data collection, starting a title with a number provokes user behavior. And furthermore, the promise of unveiling information in a list is very compelling to users.

While I question the validity of the content in so many of these articles, I am guilty of producing similar titles (not here but certainly have in the past). But hopefully, you trust that the information I provide you leads to well thought out and proper marketing strategies and implementations. (Trust – we will revisit that issue shortly.)

I’ve looked at the 60 plus articles I have published (here on this blog and elsewhere) and I find particular themes for winning marketing solutions for the new consumer/client –driven world. There are 2 paramount evolutionary characteristics that have caused the need for marketers to morph their approach and tactical executions. 1) The consumers/clients control your brand reputation more so than you do. Brand position is reinforced and rejected by your target audience in full force and outcome. 2) Technology has changed allowing customers/clients to have a dominant role in brand marketing AND allow brands to market to consumer/client behaviors in a most accurate way.

Early in the year, I penned an article “5 Characteristics That Define The Future of Successful Marketing.” Successful marketing lies in a brand’s ability and commitment to

• Listen (to the target audience)
• Understand (their needs)
• Engage (on a personal and broad scale level)
• Deliver a great user experience
• Build trust

Listen, Understand, Engage

The key to marketing success is to truly know your audience. What turns them on, turns them off, and motivates them to take action. Think about it – your audience’s behavior literally says “Marketers – Be There When I Need You.” If you are there when your audience needs you, there is a very strong likelihood that the audience will support your brand with both purchase decisions and advocacy. You can only be there for your audience when they need you if you listen to them (by monitoring what they say about your brand and topics important to your brand), understanding their wants, needs, desires, and then engaging with them.

It is extremely important that your marketing communications are not old school broadcasting. You need to engage with people directly. Consider the recommendations defined in the article “Mastering and Scaling Personalized Marketing.”

Great User Experience

One aspect that truly makes a brand standout and win audience, customers, and advocacy is a great user experience. We look to create an emotional attachment between brand and target audience. The best way to accomplish this is to create an awesome user experience. Think about extending your product/service differentiation by providing an absolute stellar user experience. The user experience should consider every aspect of consumer/client – brand interaction. Interactions online, offline, experiential. Digital and experiential marketing should intersect. This is touched upon in the article “Here is Why Social Marketing is such a Vital Part of Experiential Marketing.”

If you are not convinced of the importance of a great user experience checkout “ROI (Return on Investment) of a Great User Experience and Social Marketing.”

Trust

Marketers can no longer make bogus claims. The general public is now the judge and jury via their communication proliferation using reviews and social conversation. In this past year, I really emphasized “Successful Marketing is a Matter of Trust.” In the referenced article, I highlighted ten ways to build trust. The end result becomes “In Brands We Trust, Or Maybe Not.” If you want to increase trust:

• Review regularly
• Show empathy
• Talk naturally
• Act fast
• Become the hub of the issue

Learn more about this.

Ultimately, you want “Magnifying Business Integrity to Market Brand Trust.”

Building an Audience

Remember, there is a slight nuance between sales and marketing. Marketing is really about building an audience. An audience that is queued up for sales conversion. An audience that continues to value your brand. An audience that becomes an advocate for your brand. There are “5 Keys to Audience Development” :

1) Monitor and listen
2) Engage
3) Find influencers
4) Have a content strategy
5) Use paid media

Social marketing is a key to audience development and “Understanding Social Marketing Means Understanding Audience Development.” But if you implement social marketing to build your audience, “Digital Marketers Should Start to Build Relationships Off of Their Home Court.” In this referenced article, I highlight the importance of engagement and audience development on social channels, forums, and blogs that are not your brands digital assets. Go where the conversation is happening and engage. Do not expect to have all conversations on your brand’s digital assets.

But marketing should go beyond audience development. Audience development is step one. Step two means developing something a bit deeper than an audience. Work to build a community. Community is a deeper connection than an audience. If you want to learn more about this see “In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience.” Here are some suggestions on “Building a Strong Community.”

Two other points I think you should consider to up your marketing game. The first deals with connecting with influencers to strengthen your marketing reach, perception, and overall reputation. Many think they can just find subject matter experts with a large audience to get them to push their brand. Wrong. My recommendation – “Stop Looking for Influencers, Find Great Partners.”

The second key point I want to make is that “Great Marketers are Perpetual Students.” Are you doing what is required to stay on top of changing audience behaviors and new technology? If you want to be successful, this is a must.

So there you have it – The Social Steve yearly summary. A summary that should help you to be most successful in the coming year. Not a list of unfounded trends. Recommendations you need to consider and implement. Make it a great year. Make it a successful year.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under audience development, behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brand trust, brands, community, experiential marketing, influence marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve, user experience, Word of Mouth Marketing

The New Way of Getting People Motivated to Do What the Brand Wants

motivate audience

I get it – marketing is all about getting your target audience to move in a direction that is beneficial to the brand. It is a company initiative that must turn measureable results. It is a business function that must be accountable to company goals and objectives. It is not an altruistic function.

But something has dramatically changed. Your audience is skeptical of your marketing ploys. Your audience rejects your marketing push if it is interruptive and lacks relevance. Remember, your audience engages with their own network. They often market for your brand and also against your brand. Your audience’s behavior and influence of your brand success has changed, so you must change your marketing approach.

In marketing, we aim to have our audience respond to brand “call to actions.” But we can no longer go straight for desired brand outcomes. We must first build relationships, build trust, and cultivate our audience. Old school marketing communication no longer works. Marketing communications cannot push brand agenda and be a way one pushes brand content. Audiences no longer react positively to this form of brand marketing.

Look, I know I go by the pen name “Social Steve” so you would expect me to push the importance of social media, social marketing, social media marketing – call it what you want. My recommendations and actions are driven by one facet – audience behavior. Current audience behavior dictates the need for you to change your marketing approach. Not social media hype, but mainstream audience behavior.

Last week I presented to 60+ top level executives at an executive forum. I stressed the importance of their need to change their understanding and participation in social marketing. I would say my message resonated with about 1/3 of the audience. The other 2/3’s of the audience seemed very uncomfortable with my push for them to change their marketing approach given current audience behavior. Far too many seasoned professionals are stagnant in their leadership approach. The need to change makes them uncomfortable. All I can say is “shame.” If you are a leader, you must lead based upon the behavior of the audience you want to capture.

So what is the change that must occur to “Getting People Motivated to Do What the Brand Wants?” From a theoretical approach that is easy. You want to build relationships so that your target not only loves your product or service, but they love your brand as well. They love what you stand for and your commitment to customers. The hard part is the execution of this because it takes times. There is rarely love at first sight from a customer to a brand. You must earn their trust, love, and commitment to your brand.

I’ll give you an example. I currently head up audience development for a start up. I am constantly under pressure to increase the number of subscribers. I understand that is the company’s main objective. I get directions from my executive management to communicate, “respond by signing up today.” I know that I cannot ask for that call to action until I have built up some trust from the individuals I look to convert. While my management measures my success on number of sign ups, I must stay committed to building relationships with my audience. I cannot give in to the pressure of pushing for sign ups too early. That will not turn winning results. So while everyone wants results immediately, I have been cautious not to push my audience too early in the relationship. Now, four months into my stint at the start up I am seeing inertia and momentum. I am building strong relationships with the target market and our audience is responding most positively.

Moral of the story, it is easy to give into the objectives and KPIs (key performance indictors) of your company. But in the long run, the results will not be successful. Patience and commitment is required.

If you want to motivate your audience and drive brand objectives, understand your audience first. Play to the audience’s whims and do not be myopic to your company goals. This may sound trite, but play nice, make friends, and then ask for what you want to accomplish. Think about it.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, brands, change management, leadership, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Why Companies Should Eliminate Marketing Positions

As a marketing professional, I have found that the marketing departments of companies around the world (and at agencies) are in continuous flux. People join; people move on; people get laid off. In good times the marketing department grows; in poor times it shrinks. Companies’ quarterly and annual revenues most often dictate this. And at the same time marketing is not sales.

So what is it about marketing that makes it so vulnerable within a company’s organization? Today, marketing is way too company self-absorbed. Companies build brand stories without enough consideration about and feedback from their target audience. Marketing needs only one objective – audience development. Audience development is outward focused; not inward.

Social engineering concept

Thus, what used to be called marketing should now be called audience development. This is not just a cute label de jour, but rather a complete representation of focus and purpose. Every “marketing” activity should be directly related to audience development. “Marketing” has become a company inward focused position. Most people in marketing emphasize corporate communication, advertisement, and other activities that attempt to highlight who they are and what they stand for. I propose that these activities be put on the back burner. Yes, it is very important for companies to have a well-defined position and know exactly who they are. But now this is ONLY important to help define how they communicate and engage with their target audience. Audience behavior and response MUST dictate brand communication. Brand position and definitions are the starting point for communication. Know who you are, but modify communication based upon audience behavior.

If we change all marketing positions to audience development positions, we must make sure that we balance both long-term and short-term objectives. Let’s start by using the traditional sales-marketing funnel as an initial guide for audience development objectives. Audience development means that you create brand awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy. If you actually traverse your audience through these stages, you are driving real meaningful results.

social media marketing funnel

The secret is to build a strategy that includes long-term brand development that is most compelling to your target audience while executing tactics that drive the five stages of the sales-marketing funnel.

I want to drive the point that the difference between marketing and audience development is that the first is inward and the latter is outward. As people have more and more control and influence on brand reputation (due to the prolific social and digital world), brands must transition from their historic “this is who we are” communication “push” marketing to audience empathy, focus, and engagement.

Changing marketing to audience development is not window dressing. It is the first and most important step in changing your brand focus on your audience and to drive real “marketing” results. Maybe if brands make this change, the “marketing department” will not be in such a flux.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under audience development, behavior, brands, change management, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Understanding Freedom of Expression

freedom of expression

Do you take freedom of expression for granted? Think about countries where the public is stifled – North Korea; women in many middle-eastern countries; and other people oppressed throughout the world. I believe that freedom of expression is an essential need of all individuals. If you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, freedom of expression might fall within “safety needs.”

Maslow's Hierarchy

If we lighten it up a bit, I’ll share with you something my father used to tell me. His father (my grandfather) lived by the motto “children are meant to be seen not heard.” And today, teens express themself louder and wider than ever before thanks to social platforms (Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr … the list goes on). Sometimes their expressions are not appropriate, but the power is there to do so if they wish.

Everyone wants the power to express themself. And most people in the world can. People can express themselves in far greater capacity then even 10 years ago.

So what’s the point? The point is that as a marketer you must have empathy for this need. You must find ways for people to express themselves on your digital properties. You must allow comments and engagement on your social channels, your blog, and your site. You must have a user-generated-content strategy and plan.

Some brands are afraid to open the lines of communication for their audience. They are afraid people might say something disparaging about them. Well guess what … if you think stifling your audience is going to keep them from saying things you do not want to be said, you are wrong. They will find other avenues to share their concerns and it is likely that their comments will be harsher if you try to shut them down. Learn something from the Arab Spring as a pinnacle example.

It is time for your social marketing efforts to get social. This means “audience social” at least as much as your “brand social.” You need to do what it takes to not only enable audience communication, but also to motivate and encourage audience expression on your properties.

Get your audience to talk and do a bit more listening. You will likely learn something that helps your brand to be more successful.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, customer relations, marketing, social marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Key Issue Making Technology Work for Your Marketing Efforts

digital communication

A few weeks ago I crafted an article that got a very strong positive response – “Great Marketers Are Perpetual Students.” Having your antennae up and looking at human behavior is part of being one who is constantly learning. This week, I saw something very interesting play out in my own family.

I witnessed two very different ways of communication by my daughter, a freshman finishing up her first year of high school. Maya was preparing for final exams; more specifically she was studying for a math final. She was confused about finding the angle size of a shape. To no surprise my wife and I were not able to help her, so she texted a question to a friend. The answer she got back added more confusion. She asked me what she should text back. I said, just pick up the phone and talk it through, that will be much faster than a million texts going back and forth. She would not oblige. She only felt comfortable texting with this “friend.”

In a second interesting instance, she was doing extra credit for a history project. She was video conferencing with a close friend. What actually surprised me most was that she let me witness the entire call as I was in the same room. (Well actually she did not invite me to watch, but the fact that she did not run off to her room and shut the door is surprising from a teenage daughter.) Anyway, her and her friend spent the conversation in a typical teen-like multitask way … part casual conversation, part sharing ideas and advice on the project, and part doing their own thing in their own physical environment. I was quite impressed how the two got so much accomplished and at the same time demonstrated a caring, bonding relationship.

Now I know you are probably wondering what this has to do with marketing, the subject I usually address in my writings. Well it has everything to do with marketing. In the first scenario, my daughter contacted someone she did not have a strong a relationship with. Someone that was not part of her everyday care. The communication between the two was poor. My daughter half-heartedly threw the first friend a question only to look to get back what SHE wanted out of the communication. In the second scenario, my daughter and the other friend had a very strong relationship. The communication was strong and they accomplished much. They got the assigned task completed and at the same time continued to build on their relationship.

So ask yourself as a marketer, are you just throwing something up on the fast moving digital marketing train without really knowing your audience and having no concern for their interests? Or are you using digital marketing technology to strengthen relationships and to drive brand objectives at the same time? An overwhelming number of digital marketing serves no value, no brand marketing success. And this is due to two main factors. First, not understanding the audience that you are speaking to and lack of empathy for that group. Second, I ask a very decisive question to you. Now be honest with yourselves … Do you really care about the audiences’ needs like they are in fact a true friend or are you only looking to satisfy your objectives?

Let me state something that is likely obvious, but yet often gets ignored in practice. You will only be successful using technologies if you really work to build strong meaningful relationships at the same time. You cannot simply post and expect people to react in a favorable way unless you are putting up your end of a relationship and reinforcing thoughtfulness for them.

People want their brands to care. They do not just want to be sold to. Are you executing in a way that demonstrates to your audience that you really care?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, digital media, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Magnifying Business Integrity to Market Brand Trust

business integrity

Last week, I wrote an article, “Successful Marketing is a Matter of Trust.” I suggest reading it, but the general tone is that creative advertisement is worthless unless there is truth behind it. In fact today trust may be the most important factor in winning over customer/client audiences.

As social marketing has evolved and become a key element of a brands marketing mix, many people are talking about building relationships and trust. Having strong relationships ultimately leads to a strong pipeline of sales. Establishing trust motivates initial consideration, sales, loyalty, and word-of-mouth marketing. But relationships and trust are not attributes reserved for the marketing department. Maybe it is the marketing department that looks to develop and leverage customer relationships and trust. But it is everyone’s job in the entire organization to increase relationships and trust.

What really surprises me most of all is that with all this blabber of relationship and trust building that social marketing spawns, no one is talking about the pinnacle prerequisite. That is integrity, or business integrity. Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Business integrity is doing right by your target audience. It really comes down to doing something for your customers as opposed to being in business just to satisfy a corporate agenda. How many businesses live in this culture? Yes, I believe all businesses should strive for strong revenue and profitability, but they should do so by delivering value to their target audience. I think most companies start out this way. But for some the lure of money acts like an addictive drug and reshapes focus and true goals somewhere down the line.

Now don’t get me wrong. Please do not read me as a naïve businessperson looking for companies to be actors in a Disney fairytale movie. Today, there is a much greater need for business integrity than in years past. It comes down to two audience expectations. First, as the customer characteristics change, business integrity has become not only more important, but paramount. More than 85% of millennials correlate their purchasing decisions (and their willingness to recommend a brand to others) to the responsible efforts a company is making. (Source – Millennials – The Next Generation of Consumers) The second reason that business integrity is a must is due to changing social behavior. People pass judgment on companies’ operations, practices, and commitment. The democratized public has a strong voice that travels wide and fast in our new digital world. The general public has demonstrated that they will speak their mind about worthy brands and questionable one. More and more whistleblowers have emerged because they digital world gives them power they lacked prior to the emergence of digital technologies. We have two types of whistle blowers now – both employees of a company and the brand’s target audience.

So lets assume you buy the importance of business integrity. As a marketing executive, you should magnify your company’s business integrity. This is for one simple reason – people judge companies on perceived integrity and demonstrating it wins customers. Here is an old cliché you should consider executing – “We do what we say and say what we do.” That’s right … go ahead. Make sure your corporate communication is actually reflective of your true business culture. If you have policies and procedures crafted for delivering excellence to your customers, make sure you really adhere to them. If you are committed to delivering value, stick to it. Don’t squeeze out dollars for operational costs at the expense of customer user experience. Use social media, content marketing and other digital platforms to amplify what you are doing. Your audience wants to hear how you are helping worthy causes, solving their problems, and generally leading business operations that are worthy of their purchase and loyalty.

Marketing is easiest when you don’t need to make something up. It is easiest when you have a product or service that is truly valuable to a target audience. It is easiest when you don’t have things to hide and worry about. It is easiest when your company has true integrity to deliver value where revenue and profit are the outcome. It is easiest when you have true business integrity. So go ahead. Don’t be bashful. Flaunt your business integrity and why you deserve to win the hearts and minds of your target audience.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand trust, brands, corporate culture