Category Archives: marketing

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

Why Personalized Marketing is Twice as Good

personalized marketing

Marketing is the psychology of business. As marketers we need to truly understand our audience. What does it mean to understand your audience as a marketer? It means that you can define behavioral patterns and describe the cause, effect, and actions related to those behaviors. Only with this understanding can you obtain your business objective. The objective of creating awareness, consideration, and purchase; and then post purchase loyalty and advocacy for your brand.

For years, marketers have done research to best understand their target audience. I think this is most valuable as a starting point for marketing. But notice I said starting point. In order to really have an understanding of your audience you must converse with them. Not only do you need to converse with them, but you need to record characteristics about them in your database. Before you get freaked out about a big-brother-like society that knows too much about people, let me suggest that you start by simply capturing purchase intent and purchase decisions.

I have just stated the first important factor of personalized marketing. Personalized marketing leads to true audience understanding. Consumer research may be somewhat accurate, but nothing comes closer to target audience empathy than individual engagement and collection of data on how people use your brand and the channels of your brand.

I can tell you that as I prepare for my company’s launch I spend about 50% of my work time monitoring for social chatter on key topics relevant to my brand. I listen to what people are saying. I identified the influencers in the brand space. I engage with people and start to build a relationship trying to focus on helping them in lieu of pushing brand product. As I try to help them, I am shaping their perception of my brand. I am working to create the absolute best user experience by the audience’s rules, not my brand agenda.

This engagement definitely helps me uncover certain aspects of my target audience. Yes, market research tells me some, but engagement uncovers deeper pertinent information.

But while this engagement is important to the brand knowledge, I think personalized engagement is even more important in shaping a great user experience. I think user experience is the most important aspect of brands winning individuals. Even more important than product differentiation. People buy brands either sporadically or with loyalty. A great user experience creates an emotional bound between brand and individual, and produces brand loyalty.

If you create an emotional bond of your brand to audience members you are likely to have them tell their friends how great your brand is. Advocacy is the ultimate in marketing. If you can have others do your marketing for you, you have reached the pinnacle of marketing. Objective people spreading brand love.

The magic number in personalized marketing is two. It takes two people to engage with one another. There are two great benefits to personalized marketing – best market knowledge for the brand, and best user experience for the brand. Now that should be double incentive to get on the personalized marketing bandwagon and execution trail.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Can Marketers Learn Something from The Pope?

The Pope

Yes. I actually asked that question with sincerity. This might be my most bizarre blog article yet. I am not a Catholic or Christian. Heck, I am not even religious. I am a non-practicing Jew that is more spiritual than religious. And with that preamble, I have to tell you that I found some statements from The Pope this week, truly amazing.

In his weekly gathering in Rome, The Pope said that The Church need to embrace people who are divorced as well as their children. “No closed doors!” This is truly remarkable given that The Church has shunned people of divorce for centuries.

And there is a big takeaway for marketers here. Let me ask you … are there any corporate doctrines in place that make your offering closed to a segment of your potential audience. I certainly hope not. But let me take it a step further. Is there anything you are doing in your persona, messaging, or engagement that is potentially repelling people? Here I think the answer could be yes. I am not suggesting you do so on purpose, but there is likely some facet of your marketing that is turning off some.

We need to look deep and hard at the way our brand messages affect our audience. The scrutiny is well worth it as there should be “no closed doors” for our audience.

It is no secret that The Church has been losing followers in part due to their strict, nonflexible doctrine. The Pope’s message this past week says he is willing to ease The Church’s persona, messaging, and engagement with the people a bit to increase his audience. But in doing so, he did not water down his message for the core of his target audience.

This is key. When you develop your brand’s position, you need to appeal to that small group of ideal customers, but at the same time you want to attract a large enough audience to meet the required scale for business profitability. Look at the bull’s eye diagram below. The challenge is determining how far off the center circle you need to go to win the right number of customers while not watering down your position such that it is not compelling to the ideal customer.

Target Market Audience

Consider listening to the entire target audience mass. Understand what they are saying and based upon their behavior, think about tweaking your position. (This is exactly what The Pope did.) Then make sure your brand messaging resonates with the outer most segment of customers and certainly with the ideal customer as well.

I think this is what the modern day Pope accomplished with one of the most historical and oldest market segments. If he was able to stretch the doctrine of an old inflexible institution, you certainly can with your brand.

Make it Happen!
Social Steve

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Digital Marketers Should Start to Build Relationships Off of Their Home Court

digital marketing

A good part of my working day is spent thinking about how I am going to build an audience from zero to one million and beyond. I have recently started at a new company where I am responsible for social marketing and audience development. (DivorceForce is an Online Community for those in a divorce, contemplating a divorce, or seeking knowledge to better plan their future… launching August 3rd) So as I have the responsibility to grow and cultivate the audience, I want to share with you my strategy for doing so.

I am lucky to have an exceptional digital platform with stellar content and forums for engagement as a starting point. You cannot have a mediocre home base and expect people to value your offering. Likewise, yon cannot build the field of dreams and just expect people to show up. This is the reality and challenge for all digital marketers.

I go back to a concept I have been preaching for well over five years. Some of you might be familiar with my A-Path methodology. If you want a full explanation of the A-Path, please see the “Holistic Social Marketing” section in the piece titled “Three Social Marketing Fundamentals”. For now, I want to concentrate on the beginning part of that path where you get people’s “Attention” and get them “Attracted” to your brand and its digital presence.

In the referenced piece I take you through the theoretical steps. But here, I will share with you the exact operation I am practicing. My objective is to collect followers and drive people to our site. BUT while that is my objective, my execution has to be externally driven, not internally driven. Thus my approach is to find people in my target segment that I can help. This is key … helping people. Try to captivate them by simply helping them. Aren’t you automatically interested in someone if they truly help YOU? Marketers are often handicapped at this, as they are often too caught up in their professional responsibility. This clouds their strategy and execution to the detriment of attracting people.

The first step of my execution is to select a limited number of keywords. The keywords are used to search social platforms, blogs, and other online media sources. I use the search to better understand people’s behavior and communication on the topic of interest. First I listen. Then I plot how I can get engaged in the conversation. It is not just about helping people… flattery goes a long way. I want to reinforce people that represent a similar position to that of my brand. I want to tell them thanks, great job, and what an inspiration they are. This emphasis must be authentic. At the same time I still want to find people that need help. I want to be there for them. I forget about my internal objective for a while, but really just want to find the right people and determine the best ways to engage with them – either reinforce what they are doing or support them in some manner. This is the essence of social marketing relationship building. At the same time, I start to determine which people have the greatest reach and influence on my potential target audience.

As I start to engage with people, I find the right moment to mention my brand and possibly our online assets. This must be at an appropriate time. Not forced. Not pushed. Following the A-Path approach, I want to make sure that I am attracting people (not being pushy with them). I want to introduce them to my brand digital assets when I really have their interest and start of trust.

Once you get people to your digital assets you must wow them. You only have one chance to make a first impression. You can further read the A-Path approach in the section recommended above to learn about building affinity, your audience, and advocacy. For now, I just wanted to share with you how you get audience development started. Often, that is the hardest part. Even if you are not starting at zero, don’t you need to build your audience? Think about the approach I have recommended here and …

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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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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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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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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