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Corporate Strategy

Three Ways Social Media Really CAN Help.

By | Communications, Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Social Media | One Comment

I just finished a really terrific interview with Ted Hissey, SVP and Director of Innovation, Consumer Planning and Global Marketing Services for Brown-Forman Co., marketer of brands such as Jack Daniel’s, Southern Comfort, Korbel, Chambord and Finlandia. Yum. Read it here.

In this interview Ted discusses how social media has really enhanced the way they both learn from and then re-target customers across a wide range of demographics. It’s really worth the read. I took three really good things from it that I think we can all agree are pretty excellent ways to justify and empower social media use in our own companies.

Social media brings some scale to word-of-mouth. If your brand is one that relies on recommendations and satisfied customers sharing your products with others, social tools can really help you empower those customers to do it. Hissey says “Word-of-mouth has always been critical in driving awareness of new and existing brands,” and social tools allow customers to reach many more influencers with a single post.

Most social media vehicles are very targetable. When marketing alcohol (like many other CPGs), marketers can encounter a broad range of customer demographics that respond to different marketing triggers. Social media platforms can allow messages to be targeted by location, age, interests, networks, job, anything. This makes each marketing effort that much more efficient.

You can’t be boring or typical. If you’re going to bother tapping into  a social network of consumers, you have to make your messages worth their effort.  As Hissey says, “if it’s just something boring that people can get anywhere, you’re wasting your time.” If you get someone’s attention and wow them, they will spread that word.

So what’s stopping you from realizing these benefits and addressing these opportunities?

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What Social Data Really Tells Us

By | Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Uncategorized | No Comments

This is a VERY interesting infographic from the geniuses at Pivot, presented by that other genius Brian Solis.  It highlights what Brian likes to call The Perception Gap, or the difference between what marketers THINK their customers want versus what the customers actually TELL us they want. It’s a fascinating link worth checking out. While I wait.

OK, now that you’ve seen it, here is what I took from it:

Businesses, regardless of how much they blab about wanting to use social platforms to really get to know their customers, still operate from a blind spot oriented towards their own best interests. 

Which is to say, they OVERESTIMATE customers’ interest in things that are easy for these businesses to provide, like “product information,” and woefully UNDERESTIMATE for things that are more difficult or expensive to provide, like discounts and rewards and exclusive content.

What’s the upshot? USE THE DATA, MR. MARKETER!!! Don’t hide in the sand, own the reality and give them what they actually say they want, not what’s easiest for you! That’s how you’ll get them to become loyal to you.

Happy marketing!

Want More Sales? Trust in Me!

By | Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Media, Social Media | No Comments

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sales and how social platforms and processes have affected them. Sales, in case we’ve all forgotten, is the mother of all ROIs. No matter what marketing or business development efforts you engage in, the rubber meets the proverbial road at sales. Did all our effort generate more closed business, or didn’t it?

The social, mobile web has unleashed a torrent of attention deficit issues. There are so many “opportunities” thrown at us everywhere, so many chances to “connect” and “share” anytime that it takes a LOT to get our attention, and the usual cold call or marketing drivel just doesn’t make the grade. At all. As soon as we see an ad, we’re out. To make matters worse (for the seller), we can get most of the information we need to make a decision online these days. To rise above the crowd, companies need a serious advantage, a serious leg up. So what is that leg up?

Trust.

Trust? Wow, OK. So how do you build that with perfect strangers when you’re under a lot of pressure to close new business from the higher-ups? Well, it’s not simple, but it’s well worth the effort. The good news is that one really great feature of all these amazing new social, digital and mobile platforms is that they provide an unprecedented opportunity to LISTEN and absorb conversations that may be taking place around your brand, industry, and process that were never previously available. That means that if you choose, you can start anticipating your customers’ needs by paying attention the conversations they are already having without you. It’s like 24-7 market research that helps you know when and how to interact with a potential customer so that your abilities are aligned with his needs.

Will this chair fit in my office? When’s the payback on that power purchase agreement? Do I need seven or eight generators to run my office? What’s the best way to select a delivery company? When you couple listening with a decent content development strategy, you can become the go-to thought leader in your space because you listened to these questions and created content to proactively answer them. Trust can be further established, often with people you haven’t even talked to yet.

So when you DO finally choose to engage in a sales call, you might have already provided the answers to a potential customer’s business problem via some other process like a white paper, tweet or an online referral. If you offer those solutions freely, in a consultative way, even more trust can be established. You have the proper context at the right time to sell successfully. At that point, it’s not even selling—it’s helping.

To win business these days, you have to be engaged in a lot more places, and over a longer period, to establish trust. Trust is the only way to hold a prospect’s attention in the attention deficit world.

Find Your Brand’s Cheerleaders

By | Corporate Strategy, Marketing, Media, Social Media | 4 Comments

Bye Bye BirdieI’ve been having some really interesting meetings today and my head is spinning with contradicting thoughts. Most of them have to do with the nature of “marketing” as we know it, and I’ll admit I find myself wondering if I can ever advocate for it again.

Most of my colleagues would react with something like “what, are you TRYING to get fired?”

But before we go too far, what I mean is that I doubt I can ever really advocate for it the way it used to be, when it was all top-down messaging from marketing departments flush with quantitative research telling them what to say and how to say it. Words like “convince,” and “convert” seem somehow antiquated, as if the era of command and control is just over.

“Dude, what is WRONG with you?” my friends will ask.

What’s wrong with me is that in this era of social software and ubiquitous mobility, a period of ever-present content and messaging has meshed almost completely with daily life. The inexorable move towards technology and digital footprints among even the youngest and poorest demographics means that content sharing is like talking. Hell, it’s REPLACED talking at my house. Some people are even convinced it’s maybe, sort of OK for computers to start doing the messaging without much input from humans at all!

I’ll pass, thanks.

So what’s my point? I firmly believe that in order for commerce enablers to continue to succeed, they are going to have to get human again. They are going to have to use all their smarts, tools, and capabilities to find groups of people who share their values already, who have personal reasons for wanting to consume or advocate for their offerings. They have to seek out and find their cheerleaders, their true fans, and deliver more than those folks expect on a regular basis. They are going to have to enchant them, because there are too many inputs all day long for anyone to give a brand a second thought unless they do.

Sure, the era of Big Data is just beginning. But to what end? My opinion is that it has to be to find those cheerleaders and make them happy, because the era of big marketing to folks who don’t share your values is on the way out, if it’s not already gone.

Discuss.

Dad’s CRM was named Shirley

By | Communications, Corporate Strategy, Marketing | 5 Comments

Growing up, I remember going into the office with my dad just about every Saturday morning. My grandfather started a kitchen and bath company back in the 60s, and it was a family business with my dad as Vice President of Sales. The office smelled like burnt coffee, printer ink and cigarette smoke. I’d tag along with my dad and draw pictures for the secretaries while he read through his messages and checked on construction schedules. File cabinets lined the back wall of each office, and the sounds of those metal drawers slamming, printers chugging along and faxes coming in created a background drone that I will forever associate with “business.”

After I graduated college and started my first real job, I remember asking my dad how he stayed in touch with all those suburban developers, construction crews, potential clients. “Whatd’you mean, hun?” he asked.

“How do you remember who to stay in touch with? And how often? What their upcoming projects are and when they start?” I asked, feeling overwhelmed by the volume of clients I was learning to manage.

The thing is, he just knew. He’d been working with the same clients for 20 years. The relationships he had with those guys were developed on the golf course and over dinners spanning dozens of projects. Plus, his secretary handled all the files. I think her name was Shirley. She’d talked to clients’ secretaries, and they set up lunches when it made sense. All those metal filing cabinets were filled with the details of every client and project since the company began, and those secretaries’ existence depended on knowing what was happening and when.

When I told him about the first Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM) I was working with, you can imagine his reaction. “Hmm, I guess that’s a good idea”.

I think the idea of a program telling you who to call just didn’t jive with a guy who knew his clients’ kids personally. Plus, collecting everyone’s sales numbers and projections to report at the end of each month was part of his job. How weird for it to be done automatically? I think it seemed a bit like a robot replacing his secretary. I can’t really argue with that. Over the years, I’ve used a few: ACT, Recruitmax, ZOHO. They are what you make of them. For me, it’s a nice reminder to have a conversation with someone. I follow clients on LinkedIn and Twitter to hear how they’re doing.

But oh! business before computers and smart phones and the internet, when secretaries greeted you with coffee and your schedule for the day. Have we lost something? How do you manage your clients? How do you keep in touch without sounding like a robot?