Great Marketers are Perpetual Students


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


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

In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience


Throughout my marketing career, I have been focused on the target audience of the brands I represent. I have been working with many companies to make them more vigilant to their audiences’ wants, needs, desires, and motivations as opposed to simply espousing product communication and advertisement.

For example, I worked with a company that had strong SSL (secure socket layer) technology. They would talk about how their SSL solution was superior using technological terminology. One segment of the target audience was the financial services industry. But they were not buying SSL technology, they were buying payment card authorization solutions. Yes, SSL is a key part of that solution. But successful marketers speak in the vernacular of their audience. Not their own language.

So yes, target audience focus is essential. But as brand representatives, don’t we want more than an audience of customers and potential customers? Wouldn’t we love to have “members” and advocates? A community member is a deeper relationship? What if we created a community of like-minded people that support one another? What if this was accomplished under the moniker of a brand? Not using the community as a place for brand agenda, but a community focused on some kind of an alignment with the brand category. That is something people would gravitate to.

How do you actually develop community? It starts by providing outstanding original content that helps your audience in an area that is relevant to the brand category. Augment that original content with curated content that reinforces what your brand stands for and is valued by your audience. Then provide an area for people to discuss topics. Engage with people and give them a platform and opportunity to converse amongst themselves. Seed conversations. Set up subgroups for various topics.

When you build a community, you naturally assent to a leadership role in your brand category. When you build a community, you naturally build relationships that spawn advocates for your brand. People share the content you develop and conversations that are happening in your community.

Yes, building a community is hard work. People are not going to suddenly flock to your nest. A community will be a small subset of your target audience. But look at it this way … wouldn’t you be happy to have five new people sharing your brand; standing up for your brand? Five people are a start. Then it becomes 15; 40; and 100. Even if you developed a community of 100 active people – that is 100 more people to advocate for your brand content and solutions.

I stress building a community. Not only does it produce deeper relationships with your audience, but it forces marketers to truly think and act upon audiences’ needs and engagement. Even if a small set of your target audience becomes part of your community, the marketing efforts to build a community are effective for the entire audience. People want brands to help them. Be there for them. They don’t want advertorial content pushed upon them.

Think of your audience as a potential community. Act as you would as a leader of a community instead of an advertorial spinster. Your target audience will most certainly be more receptive to your brand presence and exposure.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

PS – If you are interested in building a brand community, also see “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, community, 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.”


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

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Filed under leadership, Social Steve, SocialSteve

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

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

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

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

experiential marketing plus social marketing

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

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


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

Anyone Can Lead Marketing – Right?

Twitter just answered the question – “Anyone Can Lead Marketing, Right?” You would think that is their perception given their latest move. The man, who orchestrated the Twitter IPO and current Twitter CFO, Anthony Noto, now has Twitter’s marketing department under his control. “He took over marketing after months of fruitless searching for a chief marketing officer,” according to The Verge. Now in all fairness to Mr. Noto, he was a brand manager at Kraft Foods from 1995 – 1998 as indicated by his LinkedIn profile. All other years of employment and experience have been in the financial management and investment domain.

Twitter was once a very strong company that literally changed the world. Think of the Arab Spring and other worldly events that one could say would have never happened without Twitter. And now Twitter has petered out to something that amounts to a ticker tape of both meaningful and meaningless headlines, inspirations, rants, showboating, etc.

Marketing drives the audience perception of a brand. Can that responsibility really be in the hands of a bean counter?

head of marketing

A good 18 months ago I wrote an article “What Does It Take to Deliver Superior Marketing?” It you read through that article, you will notice that I did attribute some “left-brain” characteristics to superior marketing. Today, marketing requires a strong analytical and number-minded person. It requires someone that pays much attention to detail and operational excellence. But it also requires someone `that is intuitive, creative, and thoughtful of their audience – a right-brain dominant person.

I have been a marketer for long enough to recognize that when times are tough for a company, marketing is usually the first organization to get whacked. Accord to Wall Street, Twitter is definitely heading in the wrong direction. But is it really going to change course with the direction of a CFO? Will a CFO have the creativity to capture brands’ attention and revert Twitter to a strong marketing platform while at the same time not disenchanting the audience of Twitter users? I find this highly unlikable.

Now granted. I have been one that has been critical of marketing leaders in the past. I have found a void of marketing leadership that truly understands and has experience in traditional core marketing methodologies that align to corporate KPIs (key performance indicators) and at the same time have kept up with modern technological and digital advancements that cater to target market usage and behaviors.

But come on Twitter, should you really be paying a CFO $70 million and leave marketing control to him? Have you really exhausted your search for a true marketing leader? Take a mere $1 million and spend it on a competent marketing leader. To you and other companies in a similar predicament, all I can say is, “Give me a call. Drop me an email. I’ll show you how to drive results. Let your CFO manage the street and I’ll manage your partners and audience.” Yes, I can drive successful results, and there definitely are a handful of others that can as well. Yes, you need someone to manage the books and investor relationships, but you also need a different person to manage your brand and the reputation at that brand held by various stakeholders.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, brand reputation, company organization, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve, Twitter

Fantastic Opportunity for Marketers and Snapchat

My kids take selfies all day long and then snap it away. Yes, they represent the general population and behavior of teenagers and young adults. 400 million “Snaps” get sent each day and 77% of college students use Snapchat each day. Sadly enough, only 1% of marketers use Snapchat (Source).


In order to understand a marketing opportunity, you need to first understand the target audience you serve. If younger generations are part of your target market and you are not leveraging the social media and other communication platforms they are addicted to, shame on you.

Second, you need to understand how different platforms work and how to take advantage of their features. Very simple and straightforward, Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to send and receive “self-destructing” photos and videos. Photos and videos taken with the app are called Snaps. The sender determines how many seconds (1-10) the recipient can view the Snap before the file disappears from the recipient’s device. But I think the greatest opportunity comes if you dig a little deeper and understand some platform features. While doing so, make sure you look at your audience’s behaviors. The intersection of the two yields marketing opportunities.

I see great opportunity with Snapchat’s geofilters. According to Snapchat, geofilters are special overlays for Snaps that can only be accessed in certain locations. Artists and designers are encouraged to use this tool to bring their one-of-a-kind style to the Snapchat community. Simply choose the geographic area you want your filter to be available in and upload an image asset. All images must be original artwork and have to be approved by the Snapchat team.

I have watched my kids use geofilters. First off, they think it is a creative way to add something to their Snap. The geofilters also play right into their hand showing off where they are and what they are doing. Last weekend, we were walking around a particularly happening street in Brooklyn and my daughter made a Snap that looked like a postcard with her in it with the use of a geofilter.

One of the great marketing levers to pull (especially for younger audiences) is FOMO (fear of missing out). Marketers should be able to use Snapchat with geofilters for their store, their product/service via a virtual store at specific locations. For instance create a geofilter that says “Shopping for a Prom Dress at Macy’s” and a number of other references of the sort. Restaurants, bars, and clubs could run their own geofilters. Converse sneakers, Obey clothing, and others could establish pop-up store locations.

To date, Snapchat has not opened up geofilters to businesses and logos and trademarks cannot be used. But if you look at user behavior, opportunities for marketers, and revenue potential for Snapchat, I think the planets align … there is a great opportunity for a business/user/platform to eclipse.

In order for marketers to truly be successful with measured results for their brands, they need to understand audience behavior. They need to understand how their audience uses different technologies that hit the market. It is not about interrupting people and pushing brands in people faces, but rather creating a use-case that is not only acceptable by their audience, but motivates individuals to actually act and share. Yes, Snapchat has not opened up geofilters to businesses, yet … I think it is a matter of time. (Snapchat – are you listening?) But brands need to use Snapchat now, because their audience is addicted to it. Simply start posting creative pictures and content that inspires your audience.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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

Bold Marketing

“Bold marketing” – that sounds nice, doesn’t it? Would you like to be known for bold marketing? For leading a brand that captures the interest of the intended target audience. Well I challenge you to be bold in your marketing. I can tell you exactly how to do it.

bold marketing

I guarantee that if you really take the steps I recommend here within, you will have stronger measured results in your marketing. The most important ingredient to bold marketing is to have a bold marketing objective. So here is the exact objective you need:

Be the first place people think of going when they want information on _____ where _____ represents the subject or category that your brand competes in. Be the subject matter expert and demonstrate to your audience that you are the best place to get helpful content, commentary, and engagement on a particular category. How do you accomplish that? You do that by continually producing four types of content that reinforce your knowledge and commitment to the category.

The four types of content are original, curated, user-generated, and earned media.

First, you need kick-ass original content. Does it really need to be kick-ass content you ask? Well do you think people are going to want to read or view something that is just okay when there are a plethora of other places they can go to get the desired information? Your stellar content creates a reason for getting one’s attention and deepening the individuals’ attraction for your brand and builds affinity for you.

You also need to share curated content that reinforces what your brand stands for. If you really want to be the reference point for a topical area, you must not only have great original information, but also provide coverage on the subject by others. You want your audience to believe you have the topic completely covered from all sides (as long as they support your brand position and personality).

Next, consider opening your digital presence to your audience. The best way to get an audience engaged is to share their content – user generated content. Provoke the audience and literally ask then to share content on the particular topic. Not only does this get them engaged, but it is also likely that they will share the content that resides on your brand’s digital channel.

Earned media is when someone else talks about your brand. You win earned media by engaging and interacting with topical influencers. Aim to build relationships with them. Provide information that makes them better at their job and more successful with their audience.

I started this piece by saying that you should work to “be the first place people think of going when they want information on your brand category.” This past week I was doing consulting for a stealth start-up. I told them these exact words. Now I do not believe that they could possibly be the number one site for information on the brand category they are in, but I am absolutely sure that working with that mentality will deliver powerful empirical results for them. As we laid this down as an objective we talked about a marketing strategy that did not push the solution they offer, but rather how their brand was a key supporter of the industry they serve. It made us really think about how we were going to get people’s awareness. How we would educate them and how this education naturally pointed to the solution they offer. But we were not selling “the product” in our marketing. We were positioning the company as a leader in ___. This approach changed some of the marketing messaging, positioning, and communication. It literally drove us to a point of deeper empathy for the audience to be served and how we would capture their interest and consideration.

This is bold marketing. Letting your strategy, plan, execution, and overall user experience be driven by the goal of being the best source for useful, entertaining, and engaging information on the brand category, not your product/service. Being bold enough to work to win over an audience without directly selling. Winning inbound sales and leaving additional sales to sales folks. But I am not saying marketing does not have a sales responsibility. (See “A Brutally Honest Discussion About the Responsibilities of Sales and Marketing” ) Marketing has to makes sales better. Marketing starts by winning an audience over, not only in awareness, consideration and conversion, but loyalty and advocacy as well. And the way to do this is to work to become the go to place for information, news, and entertainment on the topic you represent. Like I said to my client, it may not be feasible to get to that number slot due to budget constrains and size of current players in the market today. But I guarantee you that if you stick to the bold marketing objective and do everything as if you were aiming for subject matter expertise leadership, that your marketing results will yield very strong numbers in all your key performance indicators (KPIs). Then one day you will own the market’s attention, respect, trust, and pocket share as long as you stay committed to the bold marketing objective.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve