Greater Marketing Innovation In-House or Out-of-House? It is One Tough Question

inhouse - out-of-house

If you have been to The SocialSteve Blog before, you know I am extremely committed to providing marketing guidance and tips to help you in your professional success. But this blog post is different. I ask more questions than providing answers. I hope the questions that I raise make you think, rethink, and consider how we can drive much greater successes in the organizations we lead, manage, and work for.

So the question as stated in the title is whether there is greater marketing innovation that comes from outside consultants, agencies, and third party partners than in-house marketers? And based upon my experience as a current business marketing strategist and having worked in a digital marketing agency, I would say the resounding answer is yes. But I am not satisfied with my own experience. I have had discussions with a number of people to get their views. I have spoken to CMOs of Fortune 500 companies and much smaller companies. I have spoken to professionals that have graduated Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, other top and mid tier colleges and universities. I have spoken to high-level marketing and business development folks in leading sports, entertainment, retail, B2B, consumer goods, and other business. And yes, I have spoken to some very smart and talented people that have so much to offer but are untapped.

So granted, I have not done a scientific experiment, but I have gone much further than my own personal experience to get a perspective on the question, and further more, an explanation for the answer. And clearly most people agree … there is much greater innovation coming from outsiders than insiders when it comes to marketing. But is this to say that there is better talent in marketing consultants than client side markets? Absolutely not! So what is the issue?

I believe that existing organizations have rules (both formal and informal) that stifle creativity and innovation. Employees have set mandates and protocol they are expected to adhere to. Not that outside consultants have carte-blanche freedom to do whatever they want and are not held to specific tasks and guidelines, but they are not faced with the same rigor and formalities that often hamper innovation.

Now I am speaking as a consultant and so it may be difficult to say, but there is no reason why in-house marketing strategists, planners, and implementers should not be able to deliver the high-quality, highly impactful work of out of house marketers. I believe it is time for established organizations to look at their culture and reassess. I do believe that many start-ups have environments that promote and motivate creativity and innovation, but somewhere along the way businesses often loose this mentality and persona.

As a successful marketer, I find the need to constantly adapt and be agile as my environment and playing field evolve. Heck, I was around before there was any digital marketing, and now I would say a majority of my work, experience, and deliverables are in the area of digital marketing. So if successful marketers must demonstrate agility and evolution to continue to be successful, doesn’t the organizational environment where they practice their trade need to also morph?

As I said in the beginning – I am asking more questions than providing guidance in this post. I believe I have hit upon a couple issues – 1) Greater marketing innovation out-of-house, and 2) An in-house environment that clamps creativity and innovation. But I am not emphatically saying this is the case. My experience and initial investigation has led me to my conclusions. Go ahead. Tell me I am wrong. Give me your perspective. I want to learn from your experience.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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How to Count on Serendipity in Social Marketing

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

serendipity

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

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

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

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Content Marketing Series

content marketing series

Just a quick one to all … I have been producing a content marketing series for Appinions, a data driven content marketing platform providing clarity on content generation and distribution. The articles provide a step-by-step methodology for content marketing to yield great results. Please checkout the first eight entries …

Content 101: Content Marketing Goals and Objectives

Content 102: Determining your Target Audience for Content

Content 103: Leveraging Your Brand Position to Produce Compelling Content

Content 104: Social Audits to Drive Content Marketing

Content 105: Messaging Strategy Before Content Strategy

Content 106: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Content 107: How Do You Know Your Content Will Pay Dividends

Content 108: Content Marketing Metrics

The series will continue so please check the Appinions Blog for more great information on content marketing.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Marketers in a Time Warp

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

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

groundhog day

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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

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Marketers – Be There When I Need You

marketer helpWhy do marketers engage on social platforms? Why do marketers invest in content marketing? What does it mean for a brand to be interactive? There is an abundance of brand social presence. Why would anyone care?

The answer to these questions and rationalization for brand participation takes on numerous explanations. But there really is only one solid reason why brands should devote time and money. Brand marketers need to be ever present and interactive with their target audience because the existing and potential customer base need their help and assistance.

The emergence of digital technologies allows brands to have a voice that travels wider and faster then traditional media advertisement. But the mere fact that a brand can use digital to reach out is not a reason to do so. Simply throwing up content and posts in blogs, media channels, and social platforms are not only useless, but may be counterproductive as well. You may in fact turn off your audience by producing content they do not want to hear and value.

The magic of digital marketing is sharing something that your audience wants or needs at the right time they are looking for it. So how can you be sure you are accomplishing this?

It starts by listening; not talking. Know the sentiment and heartbeat of your audience. In the past year buzz words like real-time marketing and contextual content have been thrown about. But if you really deliver information that makes sense to your audience based upon their needs, desires, purchase history, and challenges in a timely manner, you are addressing their necessities. That is what it means to have successful real-time marketing and contextual content.

The next step after listening is engaging. Have conversations. Learn more. Build a relationship such that your audience begins to open up to you. If you build trust, your audience will tell you exactly what they want. If you have this information in your pocket, your marketing becomes easy. There is no guesswork.

Back in 2011, I wrote an article “The Most Important Word for Marketing.” The answer was and still is empathy. If you have any empathy for today’s consumer and business professionals, you know they do not like to be interrupted with blatant hard sells. As a consumer, don’t you hate pop up ads on the Internet? How many still watch live TV and actually listen to the ads (besides the Super Bowl)? How many of you on LinkedIn, get a request to connect, and then the first thing they do after you accept the connection is email you a letter offering to increase your leads? This is a complete turn off and no trust is ever won.

Digital technologies and its ubiquitous use allow us to communicate with just about anyone. But beware. Do not abuse this privilege. Don’t interrupt people in your marketing efforts. I don’t care if your responsibility is content marketing, social marketing, interactive marketing, inbound marketing, digital marketing, online marketing, real-time marketing or whatever your title means. If you want to capture an audience, you better know them and deliver to their needs. A brand that espouses their agenda fails. A brand that delivers what their audience needs wins.

Listen. Understand. Know. Deliver.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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SocialSteve Answers – Is Social Media Dead? Is Social Marketing Dead?

Given my name, Social Steve, you are probably thinking I will answer these questions from a very subjective manner. But let me assure you, that is not the case. I will answer the questions from the most relevant perspective – examining audience behavior.

social media marketing dead or alive

Recently I read an article where Fred Wilson (one of the sharpest Venture Capitalist on the planet) stated “the social media phase of the Internet ended.” He goes on to say, “This may have happened a few years ago actually but I felt it strongly this year. Entrepreneurs and developers still build social applications. We still use them. But there isn’t much innovation here anymore. The big platforms are mature. Their place is secure.” While technologists may have hit a saturation point, people use social media ubiquitously in some form. A VC may not see a need to continue to evaluate social technology, but should marketers continue to see strong opportunities in social marketing?

If you look at Facebook these days, it is easy to say social marketing is dead. Organic reach of brand posts is at an abysmal one or two percent. Yes there continues to be opportunities for paid social to allow brands to target specific demographics for their native ads. You have to pay to play. The days of brands doing daily postings may have reached the end of usefulness. But before you dismiss social marketing, let me remind you or enlighten you that half of Americans get product recommendations from social media.

I would take this one step further and say more and more people get recommendations before purchasing products. These recommendations come from friends, online reviews, industry experts, family, and colleagues. Social media may or may not be the vehicle for this product recommendation. While the exchange of this information may or may not be digital, digital technologies including email, text, blogs with product reviews, etc. have exponentially exploded word-of-mouth marketing.

I often do social marketing training sessions for companies. I start off by defining social marketing. As I prepared for an upcoming session to be delivered this week, I included a slide I usually deliver …

social marketing defined

But for this upcoming session, I chose to highlight the communication between social users talking about the brand as opposed to communication and engagement between the brand and individual audience members. This is because new social platform algorithms limit organic reach and hamper communication between brand and user. There needs to be greater marketing attention focused on motivating users to communicate and share the brand amongst themselves.

Social marketing is not simply the use of social media. Social marketing is the art and science of inspiring communication from one person to another (or group of people) on behalf of the brand. The successful outcome of social marketing is motivating word-of-mouth marketing.

Is there anyone out there that believes that word-of-mouth marketing is not extremely valuable in motivating lead generation? Social marketing is far from dead. Anyone who is dismissing social marketing either a) is not following their target audience, or b) is allowing Facebook to be the sole platform that represents social marketing.

We need to understand our audience and evolve as they evolve. People share product/service recommendations and information that cannot be monitored and tracked by marketers. Emails. Text messages. Reading an article and/or review to yield purchase decision. These actions (and many more) are called dark social. Dark social is the word-of-mouth marketing that happens but happens in the dark … it cannot be seen.

Social marketing continues to be an important aspect to spawn lead generation. Marketers need deep commitment to developing programs that motivate people to share recommendations of their product/service. There are new innovative tactics required in social marketing. It is not as simple as putting up Facebook or Twitter posts anymore. But the foundation of social marketing, that is, the strategy and plans to get your product/service shared, is still alive and most important today.

I will emphatically declare that social marketing is far from dead. Your turn. Chime in.

Make it Happen!
Social Steve

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Mastering and Scaling Personalized Marketing

personalized marketing

What is the buzzword for marketing as we head into a new year? The heck with buzz. I will guarantee that you will always be successful with your marketing endeavors if you follow your target audience … their behaviors and what turns them on and off. So let’s be clear on a marketing approach that will last forever. Not buzz. Not technology invoked. It is simply “Target Audience Marketing.”

Target audience marketing means that your position, communication, and entire user experience performs for your existing and potential customer base’s needs, wants, and desires. In the words of Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) you exceed expectations. In agency speak; we call this surprising and delighting the customer. Let your customers know you want them and value them.

Nothing makes a person feel more wanted than providing a personal touch. Something that says I recognize you as an individual with a unique lifestyle and interests. How does it feel when someone actually reaches out to you and shows they know something about you and crafts a message for you based upon this knowledge as opposed to mass marketing? It feels pretty good. It makes you feel wanted.

Today, you can capture information about people very easily. People unveil characteristics about themselves in their social profiles and their post. Take time to look at their social presence.

Intuitively, most people know this is a winning approach that will yield successful results. But a majority of marketers are scared off fearing that way too much time is necessary. I hear you. Scaling personalized marketing is definitely a challenge.

I can recommend how to scale personalized marketing. But first, let me ask you a question. Did you send out holiday cards this year? Did you send bulk cards or did you personalize them? Did you have time to write a note of personalization?

What if you committed to sending one, two, or even three personalized messages to individuals in your target audience per day? How much extra time would that really take out of your day? By the end of the year, think about how many people you reached out to as individuals. Think about the opportunity to convert sporadic customers to loyalists. Think about the opportunity to touch people such that they become your advocates and do a good portion of your marketing for you – for free – and most compelling given they are objective sources.

I am suggesting that a little bit of personalized marketing each day goes a long way. I can attest to the fact that it works. Think about what it means to network with people in your professional life. Networking means keeping in touch from time to time. Not looking for immediate payoff. But over time, keeping in touch with peers and professionals pays dividends in the long run. I am suggesting that you do the same exact thing in the marketing of your brand. A little bit each day will enhance users overall experience with your brand.

You can scale personalized marketing. It takes commitment day in and day out.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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