Category Archives: leadership

Great Marketers are Perpetual Students

learning

In my career, I have been on many job interviews. There is one question that is often asked … the usually uncomfortable “What is the area that you need the most growth or development in?” I am not sure that the interviewer gets a real answer to the question, because the one being interviewed often takes the question as “What do you suck at?” No one wants to answer that in truth on an interview.

A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewing with a company and I was asked that probing question. My answer – “Everything. As a marketing executive driven to produce true product awareness, value, and advocacy, I am constantly learning. The audience behavior has changed dramatically. Technology has changed, and more than being wrapped in technology, I need to assess how audiences react and use these technologies. In order to deliver excellence, I need to be constantly growing and learning.”

Now I might be preaching to the wrong choir here. If you are reading this article, you probably have read a number of industry newsletters and blogs to keep up on marketing. But simply reading is not enough. Marketing is a contact sport. You cannot just read a playbook and go out in the marketing field and be successful. You need to practice on field and get your repetitions and experimentation in and executed. You need to really engage and see how people react.

It still astounds me that many seasoned veterans avoid perpetual growth and development. At one point in my career, I worked for a Chief Strategy Officer. She was well read and educated. But she did not participate on digital platforms she was including in clients’ strategy. How could you really get a true feel for how people participate (or don’t) if you are not active in these playing fields? Far too many senior marketing executives have lost touch with today’s audiences. These senior executives have a wealth of marketing experience that is absent from junior marketers. Especially as it relates to driving CEOs KPIs (key performance indicators). This is a skill set junior marketers do not possess yet. But at the same time, “senior” experience is wasted if it is not complimented by continuous learning AND practical participation.

Just short of a year ago I stated the following in an article “The Dramatic and Fundamental Change in Marketing and What You Need to Do” …

“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.”

This technology change has fueled the greatest change in consumer (and B2B) behavior. If senior marketers are just going to leave “digital” knowledge and experience to “digital natives” there will continue to be a great hole in delivering marketing excellence that yields empirical results.

On another interview, within the past couple of weeks, I was asked if I was a strategist, or a strategist that also executes as well. I answered the latter. A successful strategist must get their fingernails dirty and get into practical execution. Top marketing strategists can deliver recommendations that yield 85% effective results at of the gates at best. They must then launch their strategy and dig into engagement and execution to see how their strategy and plan plays to the audience they look to capture. And then use empirical results to tweak the strategy and plan. People’s attitudes and behavior change quickly. You need to be active and engaging to stay on top of your target audiences’ reactions.

So I urge you, whether you are senior, junior, or somewhere in between. Metaphorically, go back to school. Get back in training. Get back into hands-on practice.

Make it Happen,
Social Steve

4 Comments

Filed under change management, leadership, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

The Changing Style of Successful Leaders

In my career, I have seen significant change in successful leadership styles. (I’ll get to that in a bit.) The first thing I do when wanting to address “leaders” and “leadership” is to establish a base line. What is a leader? What is leadership?

Naturally, I Googled “leader” to get a definition. The first definition that came up in the search is very poor. It states, “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” That’s great, but want does in mean to lead? What is leadership?

The second source, Wikipedia, does a much better job with the definition … “Leadership has been described as a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. For example, some understand a leader simply as somebody whom people follow, or as somebody who guides or directs others, while others define leadership as motivating and organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.“ This definition pretty much covers the crux of “The Changing Style of Successful Leaders.”

Leader

About 15 years ago, I was part of an elite group of professionals that were groomed as the future executives of a large corporation. The company provided special getaways and training for some select company directors. I remember a particular session where the CEO came in to do a talk on leaders. He started the session off by asking everyone in attendance for the definition of a leader. Finally he said, “A leader is someone that everyone wants to follow.” … An answer no one provided. We then talked about different leadership styles throughout history ranging from fear-induced motivation to charismatic leaders and everything in between.

Today, a successful leader does not simply have followers. They deliver successful results. Let’s name a few continuously (for the most part) successful businesses – Apple. Coca-Cola. Google. Amazon. Starbucks. Disney. Nike. Procter and Gamble. And the list can go on. There is a common thread among these companies … they have all stayed innovative in some manner throughout the years. So to deliver successful results, a leader must keep his/her company innovative.

If we go back to the Wikipedia definition for leader it says that a leader is “somebody who guides or directs others, while others define leadership as motivating and organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.” Now I will categorically say that innovation comes from motivating and organizing people to achieve a common goal as opposed to simply guiding and directing others.

What I am saying is that innovation must be directly tied to leaders and leadership. Leaders need to produce innovation in the name of increased sales, increased profits, increased market share, introduction of a new product or service, or any other company objective. I dare say that innovation needs to be the source of every successful objective and outcome.

This past week, I read an exceptional column titled, “Nine Behaviors That Drive Innovation” by Jack Zenger. I highly recommend reading the entire article, but to summarize Jack suggests that successful leaders drive innovation as follows:

1. Leaders jointly create a vision with their colleagues.
2. They build trust.
3. Innovation champions were characterized by a willingness to constantly challenge the status quo.
4. Leaders who fostered innovation were noted for their deep expertise.
5. They set high goals.
6. Innovative leaders gravitate toward speed.
7. They crave information.
8. They excel at teamwork.
9. They value diversity and inclusion.

Thus successful leaders are not simply followed. They are collaborative team builders that leverage diversity within a group and use empirical data to make keen decisions. When I think back to a number of executives I have worked for I stop to ask myself, “How did they ever get here?” I also remember a handful that were true leaders that always challenge the status quo. They are successful because of their own desire to make positive change (innovation) and not intimidated by others. Now I am sure there will be a number of company leaders that land where they land due to politics and other obscure reasons, but true leaders are distinguished by success via the innovation they bring to fruition yielding strong business results. Thus you can be a leader no matter where you sit in the company organization chart. Work in a collaborative nature and capture the expertise and views throughout your organization. Grab different information and make decisions based upon subject matter experts in your organization. Move quickly and be prepared to deviate based upon measured results.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

1 Comment

Filed under leadership, Social Steve, SocialSteve

The Corporate Culture Trait That is Perfect for Social Marketing Success

I was interested in pursuing a professional position that I thought was an excellent match for me. The position was leading the service group for a social media platform company. Coincidentally, at the same time, the company’s VP of Marketing was engaging with me on Twitter based on an article I was quoted in. I thought it was a good opportunity to ask if he knew anything about the position and whom it reported into. He said he did not, but then followed up with a tweet that really resonated with me. He simply tweeted …

How can I help?

how-can-i-help

Now isn’t that the mentality you want from all companies, all brands you patronize.

I was a bit surprised. I thought about how it would feel if I was a potential consumer or client of a business. Should brands have a social media presence that says “Here, I want to help you”? I had a most favorable image of this company leader by his simple tweet. Now what if I had the same perception of an entire brand? That they were there to help me.

I do believe that social media presence of brands needs to feel more like you are hearing from a person rather than hearing from a company. People feel more comfortable listening to and talking to people than a company.

As you think about your brand’s participation in social media to drive measured results in awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy, always think from the perspective “How can I help.” Your audience does not want blatant selling and product push from companies in social media. If your audience is to gain respect, value and trust from your brand on social media, they will get it in the form of entertaining and helpful information.

When you execute brand social marketing, help individuals and the mass audience. You help individuals by listening and responding to their needs and wants. You help a mass audience by having deep empathy for them and delivering content that is valuable to them. Make them feel like you are a media company addressing their interests rather than a company pushing and selling.

When I talk about the perfect trait of corporate culture for social marketing, the “how can I help” attitude should be a characteristic that exudes internally in addition to external social activity. Social media managers need help from their internal organization to be successful. Company leaders need to be a proactive resource for social managers. The various company subject matter experts need to feed the social managers compelling and valuable information that appeals to the brand’s audience. The social manager needs to respond to the audience quickly and thus individuals within the company must help and support the social manager. Look at the social manager as the front line of audience development and engagement. But at the same time the social manager requires the full support of an entire corporate cast.

So I ask you … do you think your company can really win over it’s audience in social marketing? Does your company have a “how can I help” mentality through and through? Internally and externally?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

2 Comments

Filed under corporate culture, leadership, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

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/ .

Leave a comment

Filed under CEO, leadership, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Getting Social to Work at Your Company

I think one of the most difficult things for true social marketing professionals is to implement a successful social strategy and plan at their company. As I engage and converse with a number of social professionals I hear frustration from them. There is a significant delta between what they want to accomplish to be innovative and what their company is comfortable doing. Social professionals often look to do something different however their companies often look for proven social marketing and validation by asking, “who has done it.” If someone has already done “it” in social media marketing, “it” is not likely to capture a big audience and get a strong response.

So what do you do?

change

This week I read a great article from Bruce Turkel “Being Relevant, Empowering, and Significant.” The article reminded me of my career experiences. At times I was frustrated by doing what the company was comfortable with compared to doing what I knew would drive success. I would consider myself someone that has always pushed the envelope and years of experience have taught me how to be an innovator even in the eyes of innovation paranoia and business as usual mentality.

If you have read my blog before, you are likely to know that I am not a follow the pack guy. I call it like it is even if it bucks the masses or is short on corporate political correctness. This is my own branded persona in the digital marketing world. Yes, like the views of Bruce Turkel, I look to be relevant, empowering, and significant in my own social space. But truth is it takes a delicate approach when working with companies (both full time and consulting). As a thought leader you need to be bold and provocative. When working with companies that need to change you need to be bold, but less provocative. You need to get people to buy in and be comfortable.

“Getting Social to Work at Your Company” is really an exercise of successful change management. It is very difficult for any company to change the way they do things, and yet the audience behavior and technology demand companies do so.

I have two change management philosophies that have worked well for me in the 12 years of my marketing leadership career …

The rubber band approach – Everyone can be stretched beyond their comfort zone a bit, but when you push too hard they get to their snapping zone to the point where they do not trust you at all. This is the exact scenario with a rubber band. They all have elasticity, but when expanded too far, they snap. I do believe that as a person responsible for driving a new endeavor must take their stakeholders to some uncharted territory. And this means taking people to an uncomfortable place. Do so gently and not with a sharp push. A slow stretch and not too abrasive to cause a snap.

Positive viruses – virus are caused by passing a condition from one person to another. When you want to drive positive change, you need to first find the person or people that will likely go where no man or woman has gone before. The special person who really wants to change for good. Work with them. Make them the hero. Let them take the front of the stage and get the adulation. Be content being the director behind the seen. Once the effort is successful, shine a beaming light on them. Rally their success. Most people want to follow success. It is human nature. If you really want to drive positive change, allow others to shine and be content knowing you are the behind the scenes person that really throttled success. This is how you cause positive viruses … by planting a seed in one place, nurturing that seed and then letting the desire of continued success blossom and spread.

As we look to win over customers through long-term social commitment and strengthening relationships, we must do the same in the organization we work for and with. Build relationships and build trust. This is how social media success needs to be carried out. Not by a fantasy of revolutionary change. The same mentality must be invoked at changing your organization, company, and/or client. Hit singles and bring runners around to score. Don’t count on home rums. Yes, they come … be joyous when they do happen. But most likely, you will score by hitting a number of small hits in a continuous string.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

2 Comments

Filed under change management, leadership, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

4 Investment Musts for Social Media Success

As I talk to many new and potential clients I am constantly reminded that most companies do not know what it takes to be successful using social media. I think we are finally at the point where most believe they need to incorporate social into their business, but it feels likes the early 90s once again. In the 90s, most companies (and investors) knew that they needed to get on the Internet bandwagon but had little idea how to make it work for their business. Jump forward to 2014. Most companies know that they need to leverage digital and mobile technologies to increase their social capabilities with their target audience, but few know exactly how to invest.

Do we still think social media is free?

Social Media Investments

As I thought about the content for this article this week, I came across a headline “Marketers Lack Social Budgets, But Investments Growing In 2014.”

According to a Forrester study, “Some 28% of marketers surveyed by Forrester admit not allocating a budget to social in 2013, and an additional 55% allocated a mere 1% to 10% of their total budget, followed by 28% who invest zero, and 11% who allocate between 11% to 20%.” Empirical data supporting my experiences.

Before I get to the 4 musts, let me just say leaving any of them out destroys the possibility for success. Look at each of them as a single base hit in baseball. If you do three of them (or have three singles) and not the produce the fourth, you leave three runners on base and do not score. All four investments produce a winning run – don’t fall short.

1) People – Probably the most important aspect of a successful social effort at a company is having the right social leader and supporting cast. With regards to a social leader, companies must invest in an experienced hybrid digital and traditional marketer. Far too many organizations put leadership in the hands of a young digital millennial that has no experience driving business objectives, or in an experienced marketer that has not kept up with emerging new media. As I wrote a while back, “When Looking for Your Company’s Social Media Marketing Leader, Consider …” a dual skill set and experience is a must. Once the leader is in place, you then determine other support staff required to meet needs and synergy.

2) Content – Brands must invest in the production of great content. Content should include articles, photos, and videos. If you want your brand to stand out and be shared, stellar content is your must valuable asset. Brands need to think like publishers and producers. Great content pulls your audience to your brand’s digital assets. As I have stated before, “Content Marketing – Social Marketing – You Can’t Have One Without the Other.”

3) Tools – One of the biggest challenges is scaling social. Social requires human intervention. While we look for human interaction, it is presumptuous to think that companies can engage with every member of their target audience. Marketing automation should not be used for social engagement, but I am bullish on using technology to assist in social execution. There are an abundance of great social tools to help companies with their social programs. I suggest staying on top of new technologies, as the social tool space is making great advances. But for starters, you need to invest in three types of social tools – a) social publishing which helps you plan content calendars, manages content distribution on your social channels, and provides analytics with regards to post click through, reach, engagement, and shares; b) social monitoring and listening tool that allow you to monitor brand and category mentions; and c) influencer tool that allows you to determine top influencers in your brand space to prioritize for engagement.

4) Integration – Social cannot be in a silo. Every marketing effort and every business initiative needs to have a social component. As you develop business initiatives, the social leader needs to be involved to determine how each element can be socialized to promote brand value and motivate sharing and advocacy. Social needs to go across all business strategies.

I have outlined the four investment musts for social media success. Now the question for you … are you ready to invest in all needed social elements to drive winning results or are you just dabbling in social because you feel everyone else is? Success demands commitment and investment.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

1 Comment

Filed under content marketing, leadership, marketing, social business, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Top 7 Reasons Why Brands Fail at Social Media

“Well, the results are in. Social is doing a pathetic job of turning readers into customers. After all the hype has settled…after all the stock clamoring has died down, the truth is staring us in the face: People don’t want to be customers on social media.” Such was the opening paragraph on Entrepreneur.com’s post, “Here’s the Big Problem With Chasing Customers on Social Media.”

success or failureHow many times do you read articles that state something similar? What really gets me is that so many brands continue to approach social media incorrectly and then reports indicate social media failures as opposed to companies’ failure on social media.
So as a first step, I strongly suggest we all get social media right before we start assessing the success of companies’ social efforts. And here are the top 7 points of failure for brand social screw-ups.

1) The wrong person leads social efforts – “66% of CMOs surveyed said their companies are unprepared to handle social media, where the ‘rate of change seems faster than many can cope with.’” There are two types of people responsible for social efforts at a company. a) A young digital millennial that does not have experience driving company KPI (key performance indicators) results, and b) chief strategy/marketing officers that do not understand nor participate in social platforms. This presents a problem where you either have someone that understands social media user behavior or someone that has experience delivering business results … but not both qualities at the same time. What is needed is a hybrid of both and there are few that can bridge both worlds.

2) Going straight to tactics before having a strategy and integrated plan – how many social efforts start with an objective of building a Facebook and Twitter presence? Far too many. A while ago I wrote an article “Where You Start in Social Media Strategy Defines Where You End Up.” It highlights the problem of thinking tactics before strategy. Start by addressing integration of social efforts in overall business strategy. Then build your social strategy followed by a plan, which includes tactics.

3) Measuring the wrong thing – today, most social reporting is done by indicating “reach” and “engagement.” Yes these are important factors. But how many executives can relate reach and engagement to their KPIs? The typical response from an executive is likely to be, “Yeah, but does that increase my sales?” And at the same time, I have often stated that social is poor at direct sales. So what you really need to measure are those areas that tee up sales. Think of the sales marketing funnel where awareness, consideration, and post sales loyalty and advocacy parameters are important functions of sales. For more information, see “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.”

4) Selling instead of being a valued source – users are immediately turned off by brands that use social presence to sell product. Social should be used to develop long-term relationships and build a reputation as a valued source of information and engagement. This approach will create sustainable loyalty and advocacy. The result is long-term sales, but ironically done so by avoiding a sell mentality.

5) The content is not exceptional – I remember making this point to a boss of mine and he asked, “Does the content really need to be stellar?” Case in point – are you ever wowed by mediocre content? Would you ever share so-so content? There is so much noise in the digital space and you really need to standout. Think like a publisher or a producer who is only successful when they deliver killer content.

6) Talking and not listening – the strongest relationships start by knowing your audience. And the best way to get to know your audience is to listen to them. I love the line – “We have two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we talk.” As far back as 2009, I raised the issue of a lack of social listening, and the problem is still pervasive.

7) Lack of a social business culture – social success does not come from one person or one group. Ultimate social success will come when sharing, engaging, and commitment to the brand audience comes from every part of the company. I expect to see “social business” be an evolutionary process within companies. This will not just happen overnight and progressing to this culture requires executive leadership.

So as step one, I urge everyone to take their social media efforts seriously and not just wing it. Do the right thing. Then, when we can get enough companies and brands actually delivering a sensible and meaningful social media approach that is compelling to their target audience, let’s evaluate success/failure. Are you ready to…

…Make It Happen?
Social Steve

3 Comments

Filed under brand marketing, brands, change management, company organization, content marketing, leadership, social business, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve