Category Archives: brands

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

There Are Only Two Things People Want from Your Brand’s Social Presence

brand social presence

How many brands’ posts’ get added to social channels in a given day? Some massive number close to a gazillion. (Now that is some empirical data for you :)) But how many of those posts actually resonate with the intended target audience and get shared. Unfortunately, the number is the inverse of a gazillion. That is because only a small minuscule percent actual gain traction. If you stop to think about it, you might get appalled at how much time, money, and effort are meaningless for brand social marketing.

So stop. Get back to basics. And at a high level reflect on why anyone would give any care to your brand’s social presence. It comes down to two simple mentalities. They want compelling content and they want a connection that makes sense for them, not you. Lets break these down a bit.

Compelling Content
Compelling content (from the audience’s perspective, not yours) must consists of educational and/or entertaining information. That is it. Forget all the other junk. Your audience wants to learn something important. And when I say your audience wants to learn something from you that does not mean product/service features. Give your audience something that enlightens them.

Content need not always be informational. It can be entertaining. If you go this route, think of your brand as a media company as part of a billion other media companies in a market. How is your entertaining content really going to stick out in a very crowded field?

It is worth noting that content can be both informative and entertaining. If you want more information on producing stellar content for your audience, I have written a number of articles on this topic. Some suggested pieces are:

Think of Content Marketing as Gift Giving All Year Round
4 Tips for Winning Content
Delivering the Content You Audience Wants
A Content Marketing Approach That Works

Connection
Yes, some people really value connections with brands. But that is only the case if you make it worth their while, not yours. Forget about connecting with customers. Your mentality should be to connect with friends that happen to patronize your business. Friendship mentality. Not customer mentality. If you connect with people in this approach, I guarantee that you will build strong relationships that pay dividends. Friendship means being there when someone needs you. This is how brands must treat their customers. Put your agenda on the back burner and the needs, wants, and desires of your target audience at the forefront. Have empathy for your target audience and be proactive to their wishes. Stay engaged.

You need both a winning content and connection strategy, plan, and execution.

I have painted a very competitive and crowded environment where it is tough to stick out. But the fact is I am still most bullish on social brands. Nothing can build stronger brand love than a great social presence. It is just a matter of doing it right or not doing it at all. Right by your audiences’ terms. Not your agenda.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, community, content marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Understanding Social Marketing Means Understanding Audience Development

audience development
It still astounds me when I see an article questioning the value of social marketing. (Notice I said social marketing and not social media. Social marketing is a strategy, plan and activity that use multiple channels to connect, communicate, and engage with a target audience. Social media is a technology platform.) Many have questioned, and some have addressed, social marketing ROI. I myself have written a number of articles on the ROI question here and here. But the value of social marketing is not something to measure in terms of ROI. It should be measured in terms of audience development.

Lets start by defining audience development as it relates to marketing and such that it can be aligned to company KPIs (key performance indicators.) Audience development means that you begin by getting people’s attention and get them attracted to your brand. Once you have them aware of your brand, you want them to have deeper interest in what you offer. You want them to look for and desire more information as it relates to the product or service you offer. You not only want them to purchase your product, but to be a repeat buyer and develop loyalty for your offering. And ultimately you want people to love your brand and do objective marketing on behalf of your brand (make recommendations about your brand to others).

Now if you understand audience development in these terms, I would hope that it is easy to see how social marketing can work for you. What if brands really had friends? Think about how you develop friends. You have some common interest. You communicate and share. It is not just about you. Friends look for you to be there when you need them. Thus, you are there for your friends when they need you. So if we apply this mentality to common business objectives, isn’t it valuable for brands to have friends? Friendship is a relationship. A partnership of some kind. And partnerships are only valuable and last if both parties get something out of the relationship.

So brands need to give more than they did in the past. Brands need to do more than just have a great product. They need to be there for their audience in more ways than simply selling. They need to develop their audience.

It was exactly six years ago that I shared my perspective on audience development. Back then, I addressed it in social media terms, but I soon came to the realization that social media was a platform and that I would use various platforms to strengthen my marketing efforts. I talked about capturing “the ultimate audience,” but it really was not about “capturing” an audience, but rather developing and evolving an audience. I came up with what I have termed “The A-Path.”

As a brand, I first want to get the attention of a target group. Then I want them to be attracted to my brand. Over time I look for them to build affinity for my brand. At some point, they like my brand and user experience enough to opt-in and become a member of my audience either by email sign-up, joining my community, or following the brand. A subset of the audience members are power users and I look to develop very close relationships with these individuals in an attempt to create advocates.

Attention to Attraction to Affinity to Audience to Advocacy. That is audience development. And social marketing should consist of a strategy, plan, execution, and measurement aimed at these five stages of audience development.

So forget social marketing ROI in terms of sales. Your objective of social marketing should be audience development. Audience development in terms of the A-Path. You can build a strategy, plan, execute, and measure each stage of the A-Path. Go ahead. Develop your audience and see measured results. If you do so, I guarantee you all your executives’ KPIs will be realized.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Here is Why Social Marketing is such a Vital Part of Experiential Marketing

This past Tuesday I was watching the news on TV and learned about the horrific train derailment just outside of Philadelphia that killed 8 and injured hundreds. Now I do not mean to be insensitive making light of the chilling event to tell a social marketing story, but something extremely poignant played out. The various news stations could not get the story out. They did not have their team there yet. They were actually getting the story and bringing it to their viewers via social media monitoring of the public’s Twitter and Instagram posts.

That’s right, the public was their feed and source to re-share with their audience. Isn’t that exactly what marketers want to do to create the most effective and honest story telling of their brands? Get the audience to experience the brand, share the experience, and then amplify the information.

Marketers need to look at human behavior. They need to leverage what people naturally do as opposed to creating a story that does not resonate with their audience. Marketers cannot shove interruptive advertisement down the throat of their audience. Marketers need to create experiences that their audience want to share.

experiential marketing plus social marketing

Yes, experiential marketing includes events that everyone wants to share with their friend. Those are the big hits. But a brand cannot put on a Coachella-like event every week. Brand’s most successful marketing efforts come from developing and implementing a continuous series of small customer experiences. This can be as simple as stellar customer service or friendly and helpful engagement.

If we go back to the point I made about understanding audience behavior, you will release that people do not share mediocre or average stuff. They share extremes. Like the cases of the train derailment. People shared this because it was horrific. Your audience will share horrible experiences they have with your brand. But they will also share outstanding experiences with your brand. So marketers (and the entire company organization) must strive to create awesome customer experiences. They must then strategize ways to incentivize people to share these experiences.

You see social marketing is not so much about a brand posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat … (the list can go on forever). It is more about activating a happy and compelled audience to share your brand on the audiences’ preferred social platform. Social marketing is about motivating positive word-of-mouth marketing from their audience. That is power, because their word and accolades are far more believable then claims coming from the brand itself.

In order to accomplish this persuasive word-of-mouth marketing, brands must focus on the entire user experience. This is how experiential marketing must grow. Experiential marketing must focus on ALL the little customer experiences and not just a grand event.

Experiential marketing and social marketing can be a brand’s most effective integrated discipline. Give your audience amazing continuous experience and motivate them to share it with their audience.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brands, experiential marketing, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

5 Characteristics That Define The Future of Successful Marketing

future of marketing

For the past number of weeks, I have been reading many contradictory articles talking about the future of marketing. Some say content marketing has no future; some are bullish on it. There is controversy on programmatic ads, big data, live streaming, and many more forms of technology that are driving marketing innovation. But if you really want to know what will work you need to examine your target audiences’ behaviors. All real marketing experts recognize that the future of marketing is in the customers’ hands. By their actions, the target audience decides what are acceptable practices to gain their awareness, consideration, sale/conversion, loyalty, and advocacy.

The power of the audience and their behavior drives the success of marketing. If you can see how true this really is then take it one step further and understand the five characteristics that define the future of marketing. Here they are:

Listening – Back in 2009, I wrote an article, “I Know You’re Talking, But Are You Listening?” In it I said, … “Know your target audience and find the existing places and communities where they are talking, tweeting, blogging, commenting, etc. Spend some time there and just LISTEN to what they value and need. Understand the way they talk and their vernacular. If you want to be a valued member of the club, you got to talk their talk, not yours.” This is so true, but in today’s world add the fact that everyone wears his or her heart on a social channel. By listening you gain crucial information. People actually tell you what they want, like, dislike. What inspires them? Listen, absorb, and learn.

Understanding – In 2011, I proclaimed that empathy was “The Most Important Word for Marketing.” Empathy is ‘the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.“ How many brands understand their audience to this extent? The successful ones do.

Engaging – I have followed the evolution of ecommerce. In the beginning, ecommerce was merely a way to purchase a product online providing no engagement with the brand. While there was a digital connection to the brand, the personal connection with the brand was as cold as could be. Then brands like Zappos redefined the meaning of engagement with their customers. Ever talk to a Zappos rep as you are trying to figure out something? Do it. Learn what it is like to have a team that truly engages and really cares. Engagement is not limited to online experiences including social channels. Think of multiple touch points and ways you can engage with your audience to deliver assistance and value with a friendly disposition to your potential and existing customers.

Delivering a great user experience – A great user experience starts with engagement, but goes much further. Have you ever stayed at a hotel where the concierge there truly helped to make your stay in the hotel the city you visited enjoyable? Companies, beyond marketing, need to take this approach. They need to cater to the desires of their target audience and make their connection with the brand as grand as a superb concierge does for a hotel guest.

Building trust – We often hear that value is more important than price when it comes to winning customers. Nothing could be more important in the value chain than having a company behind a brand that people trust. Trust is not established short-term. It comes from continually delivering a product and service that is appreciated and respected and then going the extra mile. By going the extra mile, I mean the company works to establish itself as a leader in the industry with every great intention displayed and directed at their customers, partners, employees, and general public.

So remember, the future of marketing is not in the hands of gurus. It is in the hands of your audience. The key attribute to successful marketing is having solid relationships with your target audience. I have defined the five characteristics that get you to strong and binding relationships. Keep your ear to the ground, your vision to the sky, and go drive some killer marketing results.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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ROI (Return on Investment) of a Great User Experience and Social Marketing

This past week, I actually was looking forward to running an errand to pick up food at the market. How many of you can actually say that? I needed to go to Trader Joe’s for some fill in items. I always like going there for a quick short cup of fresh brewed coffee – free. It is a small cup so I treat myself to the half and half they have out.

Yes – this is a great example of a customer or user experience. Now I wonder … did anyone in the Trader Joe’s Executive Team sit and wonder, “Well if we give out free coffee to our shoppers, it cost us X dollars, but we will see an increase of Y dollars.” I highly doubt it. It would be near impossible to track.

Customer experience – how important is it to individuals’ purchase decisions? Doesn’t a user experience help to define the persona of a brand? How vital is a brand persona to our purchase decisions?

user experience

Now, let’s relate this same scenario to social marketing. Social marketing should be used as a brand tool to strengthen user experiences. Use it to understand your audience by monitoring them. Use it to engage with your audience. Make them feel comfortable with your brand. Win trust. Build relationships. There is no doubt that social marketing can optimize your audience’s user experience.

So lets stop and ask the same question as in the Trader Joe’s example. What is the ROI of a great user experience? What is the ROI of social marketing? Shouldn’t every brand look to make their customer experience fantastic? So fantastic they win customers. So fantastic that get customer emotional bond to their brand. Fantastic such that the customers want to share their experiences with their family, friends, and colleagues.

As the use of digital technologies and mobile devices continues to increase, social marketing is another imperative touch point for target audiences. Think about how you can enrich user experiences with social marketing.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Marketing 2.0 – Is There Such a Thing?

Marketing 2 point 0

In my first marketing class, many years ago, I learned about the principles of marketing. What I remember most was that a marketer defined their marketing strategy around the 4Ps: product, price, promotion, and place.

As today’s marketers define brand positioning, value propositions, and go-to-market campaigns many say that marketing has changed. Things like automated media buying, social media, big data and digital and mobile technologies have changed the face of marketing. I contend that if these technological advances have changed your brand you merely have a facade on the face of your marketing. You are still trapped in the same marketing I learned about in graduate school.

There is a Marketing 2.0. Marketing 1.0 at the core is about defining your product or service in terms of the 4Ps. It is very “us” centric. Marketing 2.0 looks at the target market customer or client at that core. It is very “them” centric. Steve Jobs once said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology – not the other way around.” I would say the same thing except replace the word technology with the word marketing. “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the marketing – not the other way around.” Marketing is about winning the hearts and minds of targeted segments. You have to know your audience and have empathy for how they receive brand communication, advertisements, outcomes of PR, and how they get positive and negative information about your product or service.

Something struck a chord with me this week. I viewed an article/video this week that highlighted one of the panels at the Changing Media Summit on the topic of whether there was a reinvention of marketing. Whether it was fact or fiction. The panel was discussing whether marketing technology had changed the way we do marketing. A number of the marketing leaders on the panel talked about the way they were using new technology. In my view, only one panelist nailed the issue. Mark Evans, Direct Line Group said, “programmatic can get in front of the right people, potentially at the right time, but what it doesn’t have is the human intelligence and the storytelling ability to engage you with the right message.” This is the fundamental piece of Marketing 2.0. Human intelligence and empathy for your audience is the core of Marketing 2.0.

We talk about storytelling as if it is something new. Marketers have been telling stories about brands forever. Think about the Marlboro Man, Mr. Clean, and the Service Master Repairman. These are stories made up by advertisers. But are they true stories? Do they resonate with the audiences they attempt to attract? Do they show up in a manner that is acceptable to their audience or are they intrusive?

Customer and client behavior has changed because technology has allowed it to change. People can skip over ads and if not, they have conditioned themselves to ignore them. The way you get a brand message, awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy through to your target audience is driven by their behavior. Not your brand agenda. This is what Marketing 2.0 recognizes and achieves.

So we go back to the title of this article … “Marketing 2.0 – Is There Such a Thing?” The answer to the question is yes … there is definitely a Marketing 2.0. But that doesn’t mean that the vast majority of marketers have evolved to a Marketing 2.0 mentality. Many are still stuck in a Marketing 1.0 mentality. Maybe the “new marketers” are using new marketing technologies, but if the approach is locked in a Marketing 1.0 mentality, they are not going to capture their target audience. Successful Marketing 2.0 must be driven by a customer/client centric approach. It is about them, not you.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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