Category Archives: marketing

A View for Executives: Why Social Marketing Is a Must

This past weekend I presented at The Executive Forum. My message to the top level executives in attendance – “Why You MUST Understand and Use Social Marketing.” I am concerned that seasoned executives are not staying current with their audiences’ behavior and the ways they learn about and adopt brands.

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The presentation keys on four areas:

Audience Behavior – audience behavior dictates the need to have a social marketing strategy, plan, and execution.

Connecting Social Marketing to Company Goals, Objectives, and KPIs (key performance indicators) – you need to understand how social marketing aligns to overall company goals.

ROI and Measuring Effectives – First you need to understand what social marketing can accomplish in a realistic manner. Then define the parameters that should be measured.

Audience Development – Successful social marketing equals successful audience development.

Check out the presentation for more detail.

Hope this helps.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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5 Keys to Audience Development

audience developmentMarketing must change because audience behavior has changed. Customers and clients are skeptical of brand claims. They no longer accept brand advertisement and most of their communication. Brands must build strong relationships with their audience in order to build emotional connections, convert customers/clients, and motivate advocacy.

Recently I suggested that “Companies Should Eliminate Marketing Positions.” I emphasized that marketing communication aimed at the push of brand messages is obsolete. “Marketing” (as it is practiced by an overwhelming number of companies today) must change. A marketing approach must now be aimed at audience development. Commitment to audience development yields winning long-term brand success.

Audience development takes time. Everyone wants to have a million followers that connect with their brand on multiple social channels and convert (sign up or purchase) on their brand site. The reality is that people are not going to just connect on the channels that you want; they will connect on the channels they want. Thus, you must be active on all the key channels that your audience participates in. And audience development will not happen over night. (That is why it is called “development” as opposed to “conversion.”)

There are five key elements to audience development. Invest and stay committed to the following:

1) Monitor and listen. We have two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as much as we communicate. Monitor all digital platforms, channels, and forums for keywords within your brand category. Listen to what people say. Learn about their needs. Make sure you monitor for your brand name. When people mention you in a positive light, make sure to thank them. If someone says something negative, take the high road. Apologize and whatever you do, do not try to win a debate. There comes a time to just let it go.

2) Engage. When you find someone that mentions a topic applicable to your brand category, reach out to him or her. Offer help, information, and/or inspiration. Be congenial; do not push your brand agenda. Make a friend.

3) Find influencers. It is great when you have others helping you to build your audience. But remember, influencers are not compelled to build your audience; they are compelled to build their audience. Thus you need to find a reason that influencers would want to work with you. For more on this see “Stop Looking for Influencers; Find Great Partners.”

4) Have a content strategy. Content helps to get the word out of your brand. Brand content serves a number of winning purposes:

a. It helps to establish the brand as an authority in a specific category.
b. With the use of social marketing it is a way to proliferate valuable information that gets associated with your brand.
c. It allows others to share your brand.

Get more information on setting up a content marketing strategy and plan here. Consider the different types of content you need to manage here.

5) Use paid media. Consider using digital paid media such as Facebook ads and SEM (search engine marketing – Google ads). These types of digital ads integrate well with your organic audience development endeavors. They are low cost ad vehicles that can be implemented in a non-user-intrusive manner.

I believe that marketing communication has reached its useful end. While brand communication remains important, it must be executed with the objective of audience development. Not as a method to pound brand position. Customers/clients behaviors drive the need to change this mentality. Brands need to change and have a build audience mentality, strategy, plan, and execution.

Make it Happen!
Social Steve

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Here is an Example of Why I Love My Social Marketing Job

One of the things I love about being a professional social media engager is that I get to connect with people. There is nothing better than getting the feeling of helping someone. Are you doing this with your social presence?

social media helpThe best way to win people over is to help them. This seems pretty straightforward and obvious, but how many brands actually do this. Social platforms are a strong enabler for helping people and not enough marketers are leveraging social in the proper way.

As some of you know from my recent blogs, I head up audience development for DivorceForce. DivorceForce is a safe and supportive community for people navigating all aspects of divorce. Recently, I was monitoring Twitter and other platforms for people looking for help as it related to their divorce. I came across one user that merely mentioned she was pursuing her divorce. My response is below:

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A simple, “wishing you the best” type of response. A small expression of caring. She then responded with a “thanks”, but the second response really surprised me …

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Friends were not there, but she thought the response was from a bot. I quickly replied …

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Once she followed DivorceForce, I DMed her my email to contact me. This opened the door for a more personal engagement, opportunity to help an individual, and shine as a brand. I love this! What more could a professional look for? An opportunity to help people and at the same time represent a brand in a positive light.

Now I know that DivorceForce has a natural social mission of helping people. Not all marketers have this luxury with their brand as it relates to having a most positive social presence. But I do believe that EVERY brand has an opportunity to make a positive difference for their audience.

If you want an example of a brand that does not have an inherent social mission, but creates great care and value for their audience with their social presence, check out Dove. Just Google them. Look at what they do for self-esteem for women.

Now, I want to give you a challenge. We are approaching the end of the year for 2015. How about you make a commitment to using social to help people for the rest of the year. How about you use social, not to push your agenda, but to help your audience. I will bet that if you take this challenge you will hit 2016 with great momentum building your audience and building advocacy for your brand. Are you ready?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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The Theory of Relativity – Marketing Relativity That Is

theory of marketing relativity

Albert Einstein defined the theory of relativity by stating that measurements of various quantities are relative to the velocities of observers. So for example, if you are riding on a train that is going 50 mph and another train passes right by you at a speed of 75 mph, your perception is that the train passing you is going 25 mph. If someone is standing on the side of the track they see the train going the true 75 mph, which is substantially faster than the perceived 25 mph.

The point is, as it pertains to “marketing relativity”, that marketing communication and claims are interpreted differently dependent upon where your audience member stands.

Every brand must do a deep and true assessment of their target audience’s perception of their brand as well as the industry the brand competes in. Having this understanding will allow brand marketers to evaluate the messages and claims they make to the target audience. Marketers will understand what messages will be perceived as accurate and compelling.

While every brand wants to make the bold communications filled with superlative adjectives and superior positioning statements, these claims may not be believable by the people you are attempting to attract. If you are an unknown brand, the first step is to create awareness. If people are not aware of your brand you may not be able to successfully claim your superiority straight out of the gates. Remember, we are talking about the Theory of Marketing Relativity here. Your audience needs to start to build trust before they will believe all your communication.

This is the crux of Marketing Relativity – BELIEVABILITY and TRUST. You need to understand where your audience members stand in order to craft compelling communication and engagement. If you met someone for the first time and they said, “I hold the record for …,” wouldn’t you be skeptical? Even if it was true? This is what so few get when it comes to marketing. You must build relationships and condition your audience before you make all your superlative claims. Even if they are true.

If we go back to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the example I posed at the beginning, the person on the train traveling 50 mph does not “feel” that the train passing them on the left is really traveling at 75 mph. They do not “trust” that the train is traveling 75 mph even though it is the truth. Their own perception causes subjectivity.

If you understand your audience’s subjectivity, you will have a much greater appreciation of what they are willing to believe and how much trust they will give to your brand. If you have a strong degree of empathy established, you are much more likely to develop a communication and engagement plan that resonates with your audience. This is the foundation of “The Marketing Theory of Relativity.” You must always be must sensitive to the subjectivity of your audience and whether what you say is believable by them – even if it is the truth. Build trust first. Then you are in a position to make bold statements that your audience believes. If you have earned your audiences’ trust, they will not only believe what you have to say, but they will share it with their friends, family, and colleagues.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Two Realities No One Wants to Admit about Excellent Marketing

MARKETING TIME AND BUDGET

Let me start off the article by asking, “How important is marketing to the success of your product or service? Do you need marketing to create brand awareness? Generate leads? Build loyalty for your offering? Produce advocates for your brand?”

If you have answered yes, let me ask you one other thing. When you look for results, are decent results good enough or do you want stellar results? I know all of these questions seem a bit rhetorical. But I am laying them out for a purpose. The questions point to two realities that no one wants to hear or admit. Excellent marketing takes time and money.

We are in a culture where we want everything today or if not today, then certainly tomorrow. It takes time to build an audience. Look at any major market shareholder – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and the list goes on. Every one of them had challenges and hurdles to overcome. Their massive success did not happen overnight.

Brands should definitely measure results. But the expectation of results should be realistic. Look for continuous incremental growth. Companies that experience sustainable and long-term success usually start out by seeing incremental success for a decent amount of time. Then something happens where they see a “hockey stick” curve if they are lucky. But is the hockey stick curve growth really luck? Or is it the result of continuous focus on strategy and execution? The latter of course. A hockey stick curve growth and with continuous sustainability takes time.

I believe it is imperative that you work each and every day to understand your audience, your competition, and your brand core competencies. You continue to tweak a strategic formula that takes all these factors into consideration. Your brand journey must be a continuous learning one. It is rare that a brand sees immediate massive growth and maintains their market share in the long term.

So one of the realities of marketing excellence is that it takes time. One marketing campaign will not yield long-term brand success. The other reality is money. It cost money to build awareness, consideration, sales, loyalty, and advocacy.

Now I realize no company has an endless budget. In fact I have made some tough decisions with regards to marketing investments. Just this past week I decided to use a “cheaper” marketing platform than one that really was far more robust. It is like comparing a Mercedes to Hyundai. I would much rather have a Mercedes, but the Hyundai serves my purpose for today.

But I find way too many companies making an economical decision before a rational value decision. I will eventually invest in the “better” platform. Today, based on my audience size the “cheaper platform” (and less valuable) suffices. I have told my executive management that I intend to purchase that more expensive, greater value platform when we reach a certain audience size, revenue plateau, and number of employees. We will spend when we need to.

I find that this issue of company budget is especially true when it comes to the hiring of digital marketers. I have seen a number of companies hire inexperienced digital marketers just because they use digital and social platforms well. The question is whether they know how to use them to develop an audience. Do they have rich marketing experience that allows them to develop marketing strategies and apply them in execution to a digital world? Here, I have seen many companies opting for less experienced, cheaper solutions rather than investing in individuals that will drive strong results for their company. Yes, maybe the personnel and solutions they deploy are less expensive, but the brand rarely experiences results they seek.

I think I have just scratched the surface with regards to the reality of time and money required within marketing to drive superior results. But for now, I just want to touch a subject that few are comfortable discussing. If you are compelled and brave enough, please chime in. Add your perspective.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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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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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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