Archive for the ‘Archive 2009’ category

Wanted: Passionate Advocacy in Response to Cynical World

July 20th, 2009

Ever seen a really creative ad that has no connection to the product brand. Chances are that the real reason is that the creative director had no connection to the product that they were selling and decided to showcase their creativity instead of communicating passionate advocacy of the product. Welcome to the marketing equivalent of “the paycheck player.”

We are seeing it show up everwhere in marketing… earnest promotion of products and services intent on connecting with potential buyers replaced with snarky, cynical, disconnected, shock marketing. I am not saying that humor doesn’t have a strong place in marketing; it is critical. But, humor without the central components of marketing is cynical: passion, authenticity, empathy, & connection.

Passion -you need to believe in your product or service. We all struggle with tasks that we need to do, but don’t feel passionate about. Changing diapers was definitely that for me… but, when you string together a series of client or projects that you cannot emotionally connect long enough; you can wake up one morning and no longer be passionate about anything that you do in work. You are a mercenary with no loyalty or connection, but doing it for the money. Hence, the creative director scenario above. The movie Jerry Maquire was about that… “Show me the money” and “We live in a cynical, cynical world”.

I have been “lucky” in my career to have chosen the path sometimes less travelled focusing on being passionate about the product, sometimes to the detriment of security or financial success. But, I can’t see just going through the motions of marketing and then saying “Let’s throw a clown into the ad, people like clowns…” I think this is why people are gravitating to social networking and away from advertising. They are looking for authenticity.

Authenticity- As a father of a young child (with one on the way), I am constantly reminded of the wonder of the world through a child’s eye. I also feel the constant tug for delivering a really great experience, but cognizant of how commercial children’s marketing has gotten. There are some shows that I have seen with him that look like one big product placement. I have begun to appreciate the trade-off between polished production and authentic experience. As an adult, I get tired of the canned ads, fake testimonials, and the clearly manipulative “buying process”.

Empathy – I think sometimes that the science of buyer behavior forgets that the buyers are actual people. I am for automation and buyer behavior modelling, but I reject the win-lose value proposition behind some of the science. I think that there is a difference between optimizing the shopping cart process to make it easier for buyers to check-out versus pop-ups to “convince” them that they really wanted to buy. My fundamental belief is that if you have done a good job of understanding your target audience, understood their motivations and circumstances, clearly articulated a value proposition that they understand, and developed your offering to meet that buyer’s needs; you will close more business than if you had missed the mark, but follow all of the “buyer behavior” techniques. Connection is the art that I still believe trumps the science.

Connectivity – Part of the rise of the social networking sites is that search engines are logic based and people are emotional based. Search is algorithmic; eventually everything has to get back to 1′s and 0′s. We, as humans, don’t think like that. We are messy, inexact, curious, and irrational at times. “Social search” allows for the emotional side to take over. When you ask a friend for a recommendation on a product, you are weighing that person’s opinion over all of the experts that you can find out on the web. Rational, not really. Authentic, trusted, connected, and passionate; definitely. Search engines can be very efficient, but the force ranking of items does not take into account the different motivations or the intelligence of the individual.

In my opinion Social “Search” fills a hole in search that search engines cannot fill. It works for a basic reason; finding a passionate evangelist who has already done the unbiased research for you is priceless when it comes to buyer support.

Social (Marketing) Must Evolve to Survive

July 15th, 2009

A friend of mine recommended yesterday that I rewrite my BIO to reflect my expertise in social marketing. I appreciated the feedback, but it also highlighted an identity crisis that I have been struggling with since before I started this blog.

I am looking for a strategic marketing role that leverages my experience over the last few years in product managing, evangelizing, and consulting around social media platforms for marketing. I have also been consulting in social marketing and I am getting considerable recognitition for my thought leadership in the space, but I never saw my future as an independent social marketing consultant. I haven’t figured out the consultant’s dilemna; balancing sales with delivery.

Here is my real dilemna… although I am consulting on social marketing, I really see that social marketing as an independent discipline will eventually go away. If it is succssful, I believe that ALL marketing disciplines will be socially enabled thus social marketing as a term will become redundant. I suspect that it will take a while. So for my social marketing colleagues, you can rest easy that you will have jobs for a while.

I see that Social Marketing will be elevated in the marketing portfolios to become a strategic discipline reporting to the CMO akin to Product Marketing, Product Management, Marketing Communications, Marketing Operations, and even Web Marketing. But, I also see that each of these discpilines will need to become proficient in social marketing and understand how the changing dynamics on the web will impact their individual disciplines. I think that social marketing represents a fundamental shift in buyer behavior which will require a rethinking of the marketing function at large. Social media is a catalyst, but it isn’t the actual change. Buyer expectations around information, relationships, and the very nature of transactions are evolving. I see this as another phase (in a long line) of the changes driven by deeper internet integration and evolution.

Product Marketing & Brand Management - Today, the product value proposition is designed for multi-channel, but how do you design for user generated content where you cannot control the location, context, or delivery? Social media and marketing represent a shift in the direct communications of marketing messaging to the indirect. Product Marketing will have to package product messaging to become more compact (sound bites), reusable, and repurposable to ensure sufficient distribution through social media channels; ie. blogs, social networks, digg, delicious, Youtube, etc.

Product Management – We are already seeing the trend in Web 2.0 product management to build “lite”, component applications that are driven more by adoption that overwhelming features. These applications are built to be a point solutions, but can be scaled easily and as modules. The reasoning is that for many potential users, more is less… attractive. We are so overwhelmed with information that taking time out to learn a complicated application is not attractive. Building just-in-time functionality to meet specific pain with the ability to add more functionality later is attractive. In reality, you are seeing agile manufacturing of web applications. We are also seeing that happen in manufacturing, services, and distribution across society. This puts more pressure on Product Management to understand the customers, identify the segments, build targeted functionality prioritized to their needs, and delivery the right experience. A much more complicated and fluid environment made more difficult when the potential markets can self identify and congregate virtually. You can miss the mark and it will be much more readily visible.

Marketing Communications – Advertising is in full retreat from the recession, but also from the fact that more messages do not translate to more sales. Actually, the inverse. SPAM has overwhelmed our email infrastructures. The key to marketing communications now is multi-channel, targeted, and coordinated messaging that catches attention, engages, and provides a specific call to action. Social media empowers the audience to tune in or tune out the message as they see fit. Marketing communications needs to adjust to the power shift in this relationship. Marketing Communicatiosn firms are even more vunerable as many of them are transaction oriented (campaigns) where the newer channels are relationship oriented (long-term, one-to-one mass customization of relationships). Marketing communications needs to evolve to more of a pull strategy versus a push strategy.

Marketing Operations – CRM, Multi-Channel Marketing, Enterprise Content Management, Measurement and Reporting, etc. all get impacted. When does a lead start? How do you measure a fluid environment? How do you manage corporate information assets that aren’t in your posession which are designed for reusablility and redistribution (blog posts are an example)? How do you measure all of the activity to develop an ROI? (This one I can answer: you should build the ROI based upon your traditional metrics. Force social marketing to justify why these activities will lead to more effective marketing, not create justification as to why you should do social marketing)

Web Marketing – Where does Corporate Online Communities come into the equation? SEO and SEM? How do you balance the shift from search to social media? How do you manage the transition from social networks to your own onlne community? Engagement, Interaction, Adoption, Momentun?

Ironic that a social marketing evangelist is advocating the end of social marketing as a discipline. However, as a marketing executive first, I believe that social marketing is really about applying the fundamentals of marketing to a new environment.

Mashable.com's Chart on Social Marketing Benefits

July 9th, 2009

Check out this chart from www.mashable.com below which provides survey results of the benefits companies are seeing in social marketing. I think it provides a great overview of the potential for social marketing. The only thing that I would add is the value of connecting with influencers (call it indirect communications) to reach a broader audience is not captured. I would add that as a category the next time they run this survey. I think they will be surprised how well this category results.

Also, social marketing is not just about social networking, but developing an online community into your existing website, building social profiles into your CRM efforts, and extending your multi-channel communications. Finally, it is about rethinking the customer experience to better orient around the 360 degree referrential buying process this is becoming the norm.

http://mashable.com/2008/12/29/benefits-of-social-media-marketing/

Why Fortune 1000 (All) CEOs Needs to Understand Social Media and Marketing

July 7th, 2009

The reality is that very few Fortune 1000 CEOs (or even Divisional CEOs) will read this post. Actually, very few will read any posts. BUT here is why they should…

  • Marketing – Traditional marketing activities are getting diminishing returns; social marketing leveraging social media represents a shift to lower cost, higher return activities. Ecomomics is the driver. Mantra should be “Find more cost effective ways to drive revenue”.
  • Competition – The competitor that can figure out how to leverage online social relationship networks to drive customer acquisition at a faster rate grows faster.
  • Employee Productivity - Your employees can be much more productive leveraging these web 2.0 tools. Problem is that most organizations approach these tools at a tactical level and therefore only get marginal results. Some of the real innovators are using it to rethink and realign their value delivery systems.
  • Cost of Sales – Used to be that vendors that could short circuit an RFP could command higher margins. If your prospects are doing research on the web, you need to short circuit that process OR at least get in early enough to influence the process. You will lower your aggregate cost of sales.
  • Customer Relationships – Customers are demanding better information and better interaction throughout their lifecycle. Every major company has customer retention and referral programs. How is your organization trying to provide a better customer experience?

Could you cut lead generation, customer acquisition, or customer support costs leveraging social media? Can you demonstrate a ROI?

The short answer is “yes”, but having a Corporate Facebook page is probably not the right answer when someone on your board asks your CMO about how you will leverage social media …. or how you will drive sales growth over the next 2 quarters when you are also cutting marketing budgets. You could probably flog the troups to work harder to get the short term results, but the reality is that a lot of smart companies are crafting strategic approaches to social media to help change the market dynamics. If you are not getting the sales growth that you would like even in the face of a myriad of corporate initiatives, you may want to rethink “Social Media is a Fad” or isn’t really for <insert your market here>.

Why? Social Media represents a fundamental shift in the way people interact on the web. As a result, this impacts the way customers and employees interact in business. We all have B school case studies where innovative companies leveraged innovative technology challenge the established market order. There are just as many examples of where the established market leader crushed an upstart competitor by leveraging the same innovative technologies to maintain their market lead.

Your organization spends a great deal of money and time around preparing strategic plans, why aren’t you taking the same approach to social media? Could be a game changer for your business… or your competitor…

If you don’t have people in-house who can build and articulate real strategy with a Roadmap, Business Case, and ROI around social media & marketing, then I suggest that you acquire that talent post-haste. Even if you decide that you need a slow-roll approach to leveraging social media; having a strategic gameplan that is well thought out and justified is priceless. Especially if social media represents a fundamental paradigm shift in the way businesses interact with customers.

Social Marketing Needs Collaboration

July 6th, 2009

The title sounds a bit redundant, but if you are like me, trying to maintain the volume of content for my blog, twitter feeds, linkedin groups, and facebook chats is difficult at best. Social marketing activities need to be collaborative to produce the quality and volume sufficient to “move the dial”. I will share some anecdotes:

  1. I made a recommendation to a handful of personal contacts that they needed to create a blog to give their marketing efforts a boost ( a mix of marketing and management professionals who were either doing it for their company or doing it for a job search). They needed to demonstrate their thought leadership in their particular domains. Out of the 5, they produced a grand total of 2 posts….. I couldn’t reasonably expect all of them to produce content, but I was curious to see how difficult it was for them to get started. I will share my alternative recommendation to them below.
  2. I read one of Guy Kawasaki’s posts about leveraging 4 assistants to research news to produce his twitter tweets. First, I have twitter assistant envy. Second, his name is really is a brand at this point. Third, he is leveraging a small community to produce sufficient content because there is no way a single person could produce that volume of content, let along original content.
  3. I have had coffee as of late with a number of people who are active participants in in social media, but choose not to produce original content, but rather are comfortable with the relationship building and redistribution of content. I think this is the right way to get started in social marketing. You can always introduce your own commentary and content once you have established a relationship network.

Having done a significant amount of consulting around building corporate online communities as an extension of the corporate website, I have had lengthy discussions around content creation. Most of the issues were of the “how do we actually create enough content?” with a close second in “How do we encourage participation?” The short answer is participation begets more participation….

I call it the empty restaurant syndrome. You go into a large, cavernous restaurant with multiple rooms with a capacity for hundreds and you see a small cluster of tables in the middle of the restaurant with more staff than patrons. Your impression is that the caliber of the food isn’t good. Take the same number of patrons and line them up outside of the hole-in-the wall pizza joint AND you are congratulating yourself for this amazing find.

It is the same with online participation. If you go into a group and there hasn’t been any post updates in months, you assume that the content isn’t worth your time because no one else is participating. The alternative is you see a long list of posts, but no real threads or connectivity. Volume does not equal collaboration either.

Very few people on the web can sustain the volume of unique content production to build a momentum and readership. Even fewer can do it part-time while maintaining a full-time position or run a business and personal life.

Beyond the basics of needing other people’s input to spark the creative juices, we also need the real time feedback to give us that tactile response and immediate gratification from someone commenting positively about ideas that you express. Whether you do it in 140 characters, in groups on the social networking sites, in your own corporate community, or as collaborative post swaps with other bloggers. The reality is that it is easier to respond to someone’s commentary than sit at a computer and toil away on your own.

I will also add that in my experience with building online communities, it does not take a large core group of participants to create a large volume of compelling content, but rather a leader who provides the evangelism, focus, and leads the topic discussions. Rather like a good MC on a panel discussion; seed the conversation, encourage participation, moderate discussion, and summarize the discussion to bring out the major points.

Now back to what the people above should do alternatively to starting a blog…. the short answer is that it depends. I would recommend that they participate in relevant topic groups in the various social networking sites (communities), provide commentary on the content they find online through twitter, and get comfortable with participating and writing versus trying to maintain the regular production schedule of a single publisher blog.

Or alternatively, if there is a sufficient number of internal people in their company, I would recommend that they create a group blog (mini-community) until they have sufficient content and discussion to warrant opening up to outside direct participation in a larger community. They should bring in articles, blog posts, tweets, videos, white papers, interview customers, etc all focused around the key messages and take-aways that you want to communicate to your target audience.

Bottom line is that we all need inspiration and collaboration for writing whatever form it comes in.

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