Category Archives: behavior

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

Successful Marketing is a Matter of Trust

trust marketing

What are the brands you patronize and continually purchase? I’ll bet they are brands you respect and trust. Creative advertisements can get your attention, but if the brand generates unsubstantiated claims, their trust is lost. How many brands do you support and purchase that you do not trust?

Marketing is about winning over customers. If you accept this objective and goal then stop and think about your marketing activities. Is strategy based upon outlandish hype, sizzle, and claims, or are you really understanding your target audience and developing communications and establishing engagement to build relationships and win trust? Fewer than 25% of U.S. online consumers trust ads in print publications, and the numbers are even worse for digital media. (Source) 84 percent of millennials not only don’t like traditional advertising, but even more importantly, they don’t trust it. (Source)

Trust-based marketing focuses on customer advocacy tactics that help the target audience make informed purchase decisions based on knowledge of marketplace options and objective advice.

Now I am not saying that creativity does not play an imperative role in marketing. Creativity is paramount. But creativity aimed at trust is much more productive and rewarding than Super Bowl – like sensationalism. People have a great appetite for relationships with entities they understand and trust. Brands need to have empathy and understand this emotion in order to win the heart and minds of consumers.

So how do you build trust? Here are ten ways …

1. Develop marketing activities that aim to win the relationship. Not win the sale. If you succeed in winning a strong relationship, you will not only win the sale, but win an advocate as well.

2. Make promises you can and WILL keep.

3. Work to get your clients and customers to vouch for you.

4. Consider corporate social responsibility and adopt a cause.

5. Commit to and develop clear and straightforward content. Include facts and customer anecdotes.

6. Allow customers to post reviews and don’t vet the reviews.

7. When you make errors, be honest and admit your mistake.

8. Develop, maintain, and demonstrate your brand personality. Highlight people behind the scenes.

9. Promote earned media that validates your brand.

10. Respond promptly to questions directed to you and those that mention your brand in social spaces and digital spaces.

If you do all these things first and foremost, then sprinkle some creative dust on top of your operations. Far too often, brands start with a creative direction and go from there. Then end up producing something that is aesthetically impressive, but lacks brand realism and is disjointed from the brand personality. Work your trust issues first. I guarantee you will see winning marketing results.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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How to Count on Serendipity in Social Marketing

Ok – that title may seem a bit twisted and strange. How can you count on serendipity if “Serendipity means a ‘fortunate happenstance’ or ‘pleasant surprise?’“ (source)

serendipity

So what is serendipity in social marketing? It might be as simple as networking and finding that partner (professional or personal) that is the yin for your yang. When we look for business goals and objectives of social marketing awareness, lead generation, and advocacy are likely to be at the top of the list. What if you had a plan in place to accomplish these objectives? At the same time you need to understand that results will not be accomplished in a short period of time. What if you were committed to being a helpful valuable resource to your audience for a lifetime, not quarter by quarter in a given year? Maybe that approach produces good karma. Maybe that approach produces serendipity. Maybe luck is the residue of design.

Let me share with you a bit about my own experience in social marketing. In 2007, I was working for an Israeli technology company as the VP, Product Marketing. When my boss, the CMO of the company left the company in the US, my position was relocated to Israel and that was not an option I considered. I got involved in social media because I saw a change in how customers/clients reacted to traditional marketing. Social media gave people a place to voice what they really thought about particular brands – good and bad. I began to share my thoughts and experience. Over time, I have built up a small, but important audience. By continuing to be active in social and contributing to the evolution of marketing strategies, methodologies, and approaches, I have been rewarded. I have had opportunities show up as “pleasant surprises.” I am at the point where my participation in social is part of my ongoing marketing for my professional brand. It is difficult to know exactly when a new opportunity comes, but I have become accustomed to serendipitous projects and introductions to new people as a result of my commitment to helping a targeted audience. Social marketing has become part of a practice within my life. It is natural part of my professional existence and daily rituals. And making content production and social sharing and engagement part of my MO (modus operand) pays serendipitous dividends.

A quote I found on Wikipedia really nails my perspective on social marketing serendipity – “Serendipity is not just a matter of a random event, nor can it be taken simply as a synonym for a ‘happy accident’.” If you as a professional, or your brand is committed to helping your audience long term, good things happen. Opportunities pop up. It is hard to plan exactly when openings will emerge, but it is something you count on happening. Is this serendipity? Is this a happy accident? Is it luck? In some ways yes due to the impossibility of planning when it happens. But in other ways, definitely not. Your serendipity is the outcome of a solid social plan and execution. You can count on it.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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

Marketers in a Time Warp

Groundhog Day – one of the most important holidays of the year. Okay, maybe not. But forget the holiday for a minute and think about the stellar comedic movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray. Murray plays Phil Connors, a TV meteorologist, covering the Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, PA. He is stuck in a time warp reliving February 2nd everyday he wakes up. Nothing changes. Eventually, he uses the repeating scenario to learn. He takes time to understand the people he encounters day in and day out. He reexamines his life and recognizes flaws. Finally he makes changes as a result of learning and evaluating what he has done well and not. And then magic happens … he moves forward with a new outlook on life. He finds happiness and success as the calendar finally turns over a new day.

Hopefully you see where I am going with this. Some marketers are looking at their audience and learning how to appeal to them. But still there are an abundance of marketers stuck in their old ways and they cannot get out of a rut.

groundhog day

This past week, I read a very interesting article titled “The Evolution of Marketing & the Future Retail Model.” The article examined consumers changing behavior (driven by the millennial segment) as it relates to shopping habits and the retail stores landscape. The way people shop (B2C) and make purchase orders (B2B) has changed significantly as I captured in the article, “The Dramatic and Fundamental Change in Marketing and What You Need to Do.” And for the first time I can remember, marketers are lagging consumers/clients. In the past, marketers drove purchase behaviors and audiences reacted. Today, people are driving purchase behaviors and marketers (for the most part) are not reacting quickly enough to their shifting actions.

We have seen too many examples of industries staying stagnant while their audience behavior and actions change. Take the music industry. The record industry did not change its distribution model in the face of digital streaming and downloadable music fast enough. New music distribution companies have emerged and have won over consumers. Another example is the print media industry. I lived it as I found magazine brands acting like a deer in headlights to the emergence of user preferences moving to digital content. Are shopping malls on a dead end street as discussed in the referenced retail article? How much did online purchases grow year over year for holiday shopping? The flags are up.

Yes, digital technology has spawned significant behavioral changes. Old school advertorial interruption used on TV, radio, and print does not work in digital media. Marketers cannot take their old methods and approaches to digital. If so, they are just stuck in an inadequate time warp of misery as Phil Connors was stuck in Groundhog Day. Marketers need to observe and understand their audiences’ behavior in order to get out of a rut of poor results.

Do yourself a favor. Watch Groundhog Day and determine how the movie is a metaphor for your marketing efforts. Don’t just wing it and do what you have always done. Learn, adjust, and move forward with happiness and success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

PS – If you think I am wrong about the stagnation of marketers, please share some innovative, audience driven examples. I would love to hear about your success or other brands you think standout as role models.

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, change management, digital media, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

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

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

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