Tag Archives: Marketing

Social Media Step One – Go Where Your Customers Are

As more companies are embracing social media, instead of hearing “Should we participate in social media,” I’ve been hearing “How do we get started in social media.”

In regards to which platforms to participate on, I advise companies to be on the same platforms as their target audience.

For B2B companies, this usually means you’ll want to use LinkedIn and  Twitter.  Here you should be able to find and monitor your target audience.  If they are on these networks, you can use them as new channels for communicating with them.  For consumer-oriented companies, options to build your social media presence are expanded.  In particular, Facebook can be a good place to set up a page for your company or product.

Different networks reach different audiences and require different etiquette and dedications of time, so plan accordingly.  If your prospects and customers are using social media, you should too.

The first step of getting started is finding out where your audience hangs out.  Once you identify these networks, you can craft a social media plan of attack with maximum impact – one that reaches and interacts with and delivers value to your customers.  First things first, go where your customers are.

Where are your customers using social media?  Leave a comment with your experience.

Marketing Sync

Marketing messages and branding efforts for your products and services need to be in sync with your business.

If you promote the sizzle without serving the steak, no amount of marketing will overcome the negative perception your brand will engender in the minds of customers who’ve experienced a reality without any red meat. Be honest with your brand; find and promote what you do best and if your target market values this, promote it.

Walmart should never market itself as a retailer with exceptional customer service.  This doesn’t mesh with their business model.  But a message that promotes how they save shoppers money meets our expectations and works for those who want to save money more than they want exceptional service.

When you develop messaging, make sure your message actually resonates with what your customers experience.  Advertising can help lead your brand perception where you want it to go, but ultimately your business must deliver what you promise for it to be effective. It needs to be in sync with reality.

Advertising without proper marketing research is a waste of money.  Knowing the pulse of your customer’s needs and their perception of your brand is way more useful than crossing your fingers and hoping your hunch on what you do well and what your customers want pans out.

Match what you do well with what your customer’s want and the message you promote will not only resonate with your customers, but also build up the value of your brand and carve your business niche in your market.

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Five Ways to Recycle Marketing

In these economic times, marketing can and should be recycled when possible. There are many way to “recycle” marketing.  Here are five ways to recycle marketing:

  1. Copy proven marketing techniques
    When you see effective marketing methods being used in comparable marketplaces, why not try them within your marketplace?  For example, if your business receives a last minute cancellation for service, use a targeted email or Twitter to fill your unexpected vacancy. This gives your customers the opportunity to fill the vacancy, possibly at a reduced price, so they get a good deal and your slot doesn’t go wasted. Everybody wins!
  2. Share marketing resources
    Reach out to your network.  Team up with other companies in your community to pool resources for marketing purposes.  At the very least you’ll benefit from getting another (potentially more objective) perspective on your marketing ideas. It can be very helpful to share ideas.
  3. Barter your product for marketing services
    If your product or service is something a local marketing company could use in their business, try bartering your product for their marketing services.  I’ve bartered my services for many service providers, such as accountants and consultants.
  4. Re-use graphics or marketing elements
    Hopefully your marketing efforts are targeted.  If so, there could be opportunities to use parts of your marketing campaign for new target prospects/customers.  There’s no law against reusing graphics, images, or templates from previous campaigns, just make sure you change enough of your collateral so your marketing effort is distinguishable from past promotions.
  5. Re-distribute your content
    One of the most effective marketing tactics is providing relevant and useful content.  When writing content, you never know if that content will be a viral hit.  Redistribute popular content through other channels (e.g. – website, mail, email, syndication, speaking engagements) or package content in a new way (e.g. – offer a Top Ten Blog Posts for signing up to your e-newsletter or link back to past content as I did in this bullet).

There are numerous ways to recycle your marketing.  Use these suggestions to lower costs while increasing sales.  Hopefully, this post will help get you jump-started in finding your ways to do just that!

How have you recycled your marketing?  Please share your experience or send me a message.

Creating Buzz

The best way to get your company and product to grow is having evangelistic users spreading the word on your behalf.  However, don’t underestimate the effort it takes to get an influential person to find your product, use it, and endorse it to their followers.

Assuming your product is as great as you think it is, to create buzz, you’ll need to actively identify users who’ll share why your product is the next great thing.  If influencers don’t find your product, it might as well not exist.  Getting found by influencers is crucial to creating buzz.

Influencers may find your product through other means (e.g. – press release, product reviews, etc.), but to make things happen for your business you must, I repeat you MUST, actively reach out to influencers in your market and get your name out there. For more information on how to identify and reach out to influencers read this post on influencer marketing.

Learn what influencers think, continually improve your product, and make it buzz-worthy.  These conversations are key to planting the seeds that bloom into conversations that sell your product through word-of-mouth marketing.

If your product is great and you can identify/introduce/evangelize your product to influential people, not only will these influential voices help spread the word, those who listen and agree will continue the conversation.  Hooray!

What product or service are you buzzing about?

Dream Big, Narrow Your Focus

I dream big.  I also know that focusing on the key customer-driven components of my business solution and aligning my company’s processes around those elements is the best way to turn my big dreams into a successful business.

In a small business, it’s all too easy to get distracted by potential development opportunities that add breadth to your product or service line.  Don’t fall prey to this lure.  Ensure your success by selling a viable product or service before taking misguided steps that steer your attention away from your company’s mission.

Focus on one specific solution and deliver it better than anyone else.  This will lay the ground work to pursue more intricate business opportunities down the line.  Take a cue from 37Signals build a simple focused product like BaseCamp and parlay that success into other complimentary products that add additional value to your enthusiastic client base.

For entrepreneurs, it’s critical you define and stay focused on what your customer needs are and deliver your solution that is so focused on those needs that your customer’s alternative options become substandard in comparison.

Customer prospecting and marketing research upfront is key to accurately determine whether your solution meets your target market’s needs.  Once these needs are defined and you have your product mission statement, you can focus on developing your core product or service.

For example, let’s say I’m a window washer that’s discovered my customers want eco-friendly washing detergents and fast service. That’s great, but are they actually going to pay money for these proclamations? Be sure your prospect wants, is willing to pay for, and has the ability to purchase your product or solution.

As a window washer, If I find my prospects are more willing to pay for fast service then you better believe every decision I make will be guided by this need for speed, and my marketing efforts will position my services as the speediest window washer in town!

The takeaway from all this is when your starting out, narrow your focus, deliver a solution that meet your paying customers needs and parlay your success into developing complimentary solutions.  Dream big, but stay focused.  Your success awaits!

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Is Apple Evil? – Part One

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

The Apple brand has been racking my brain lately.  With their ongoing battles with Microsoft and others, I’ve been wondering how such a glorified brand is able to maintain their image in light of actions I’d describe as “evil.”  In Part Two of this post I outline why Apple is evil, but first I want tell you about my Apple Store experience last week and share the big news.

Apple has stopped selling it’s category-changing iPhone 3GS.

This past Friday, I took a trip to the Apple Store.  I decided I was going to join the “cool crowd” and get an iPhone 3GS.  I went to the store around 6:30PM and noticed a line outside the door.  I’ve seen this before when Apple releases a new product but this was a different story.  As I peeked inside I saw at most 50 people inside and caught a glimpse of the iPhones I was about to take home with me.  That was until I was stopped at the door by an Apple Store employee.

My conversation with an Apple Specialist (AS) outside the Apple Store

Me: “You guys are pretty busy today.  Huh?”
AS: “Yes.  The weekends can get pretty busy.”

Me: “I’m interested in getting an iPhone 3GS, but have a question. Do I get the AT&T plan when I purchase it here?”
AS: “Great! Yes you can get the AT&T plan with it right here or go online and fill out your info beforehand, I’d recommend doing it online so it’s quicker when you come back.”

Me: “Okay, cool.  I’ve been debating whether to get one, but I’m ready to take the plunge.  Can I buy an iPhone now?”
AS: “No. We aren’t selling the iPhone anymore today.”

Me: (Hmm) “Okay.  Are you out of stock or something, I think I want a white one.”
AS: (Interrupting me mid-sentence) “No.  We have every iPhone in stock. We just aren’t selling the iPhone at this Store location anymore.”

Me: “What?  You have the iPhone I want(I point inside the store to it), but I can’t buy it?”
AS: “No.  Sorry, we are only selling computers now, this line is for people buying computers.”

Me: “So how can I get the iPhone?”
AS: “You can come by tomorrow.  Just make sure you get here early enough so we can sell it to you.”

Me: “What? Are you sure I can’t buy it now?…  I have legal tender.”
AS: “No.  Sorry, just come back tomorrow and we’ll hook you up.”

Me: “Okay.” (Somewhat perturbed)
AS: “Have a good day.”

Me: (Walking away dejected, and talking to myself) “It’d be a lot nicer if you could sell me a freakin’ iPhone.  What the heck just happened??”

This past Friday was particularly busy retail day in North Carolina because it was a tax-free weekend.  In light of that, Apple made the decision to only sell their presumably higher margin computers, which from a bottom line business perspective makes sense, but from a customer service perspective stinks!  If I had traveled much farther than 15 minutes and was turned away, I would have been pretty mad.  If I driven an hour or more to the Apple Store to buy an iPhone and was turned away in this manner, I would be livid and likely considered boycotting the Apple brand.

Needless to say, the Palm Pre is looking much more attractive now.  Despite my bad experience,  I’ll be back to the Apple Store this week to see if Apple will actually sell me the iPhone this go around.  I’ll let you know how it goes and ask you to weigh in on whether Apple is evil.  Stay tuned, Part Two  of “Is Apple Evil?” should be up later this week.

UPDATE:  My second attempt to buy an iPhone was unsuccessful.  After failing to port my number, the Apple Store told me my number wasn’t eligible for porting; said I should to try to buy an iPhone at an corporate AT&T store, but implied it might not work there either due to porting rules.

My third attempt was successful!  AT&T ported my number in a snap and transferred my contacts from my Treo 755P to my new iPhone 3GS (something the Apple Store apparently can’t do).  I’m in business and enjoying the WordPress for iPhone app for this post. Hoorah!!

What do you think?  Should Apple have turned me away without an iPhone 3GS in hand?

Influencer Marketing for B2B Sales

Influence is one of the most powerful psychological drivers in sales and in belt-tightening times like these, influencer marketing is one of the most cost efficient ways to promote your business.  While this type of marketing has often been employed in the B2C space, opportunity abounds in the B2B space.

Influencer marketing, one of a dozen types of word of mouth marketing,  is an especially effective tactic in driving B2B sales.  To better understand what influencer marketing is all about, let’s define the players.

Effective influencer marketing is composed of three components:  the influencer, the follower, the business solution.

  1. Influencer – An influencer would be someone whose ability to motivate, change views, shift over from the status quo through their energy and passion and helpful knowledge over time.
  2. Followers – These people seek out the advice of the said ‘influencer‘ and will often listen and employ the advice to the extent they can implement it.
  3. Business Solution – While not directly linked to influencer marketing, the business solution is the most critical of the three parts of the influence puzzle.  Your solution needs to be relevant, meet the high standards of the influencer that share it with their followers, and be easy t0 understand (read: if an influencer can’t figure out why they or their community of followers should be interested in your product then you can bet they won’t give it the right type of influence to help it grow!).

Whether a follower of a influential person moves to take action on a product or service depends on the level of authority the influencer possesses.  Popular bloggers are very good at promoting their authority by developing thought leadership with their blog posts.

However, not all business influencers are created equally.  Selecting influencers that are best equipped to reach and influence your target audience will be a key component in your influencer marketing strategy.  To get started:

  1. Make a list of bloggers/writers/influencers who appear to reach your market.
  2. Assess their market reach by estimating their number of connections.
  3. Determine their though leadership (Do their followers hold the influencer’s opinion in high esteem?)
  4. Check their followers for the decision makers of your target market (LinkedIn is great for this).
  5. Rank your influencers according to their market reach, thought leadership, and ties to your target audience

Once you have your ranked list, I’d start connecting with a few who aren’t crucial to your influencer marketing success.  Incorporate your learnings from those approaches and craft a winning strategy for reaching out to the higher-ranked influencers who influence potential buyers in your product or services’ sweet spot.

When done right, influencer marketing is an effective and economical way to increase sales for your business.  If you can identify the right influencers, know your target customers (followers), and have a business solution worth talking about then influencer marketing needs to be included in your marketing mix.

Have you employed the power of influence in your marketing strategy?

Network to Give in Order to Get

Effectively networking has many benefits.  Ostensibly meeting new people, learning something new, marketing your company and potentially earning more business from referrals are excellent reasons to attend a networking event.  It’d be great if all you had to do was show up and everyone would be interested in you and your business, but the reality is most in attendance will be thinking about their own interests.

The Used Car Salesman
Image by TexasEagle via Flickr

When you attend an event, differentiate your own brand from what I’ll call the used car salesman crowd that primarily networks to “get.”  You know the type, the ones who only seem interested in selling you on something that is hardly related to anything you need or the topic at hand.  Don’t be like that.  Instead, learn as much as you can about the people you meet and the pains that they are trying to solve.  If you can alleviate their pain in someway, whether it’s related to your business or otherwise, make an effort to help them and distinguish yourself from the crowd.

By providing value and thinking in terms of the wants and needs of others, or in other words networking to give, you’ll be building a following of people who will want to help you out.  Building relationships requires effort, and some of your efforts may not pan out.  But if you put forth the effort, you’ll find that networking may be an extremely effective way to grow your business.

You may not be rewarded immediately, but the relationships you invest in now should pay off in a big way through future business, introductions, word-of-mouth, or knowledge you gain to solve pains in your own business.  At the very least you’ll learn something from the experience and if you are truly able to help, your efforts will be intrinsically rewarded.

So what are you going to do?  Network to get or network to give?  The next time you attend an event, network to give and see how much more fruitful and rewarding the experience can be.

Have a networking experience you’d like to share?  Leave your comment below.

Eight Steps to Creating Viral Content

Creating content that goes viral is the holy grail for marketers.  But why do some ideas flop and others spread like wild fire?  Follow these steps and improve your ability to make your content viral.

1) Find an interested audience.
For content to become viral, an interested audience must be able to find it. Social media is a great channel for content to get found, but don’t forget that a good SEO optimization of your content and building an audience with other useful content and tools will be a baseline to achieve before you can give your content the best opportunity to go viral. Expand your content’s reach by posting a teaser or a complete version of it on an industry site or searching for relevant articles to comment on that your audience will see and find the content you create relevant.  In short, you need to find a targeted audience for your content to flourish.

2)  Provide valuable content.
If what your offering isn’t useful, then it won’t be a viral hit.  Bring something to the table that your audience values and you’ll cross the minimum bar of getting the content in the hands of someone who might consider sharing it with others who’ll find it useful too.  Content must be valued by an audience before it’s shared by it.

3)  Allow your content to be easily shared.
Identify how your audience shares content and make it easy for them to share it the way they want to share it.  If you want to offer an ebook, slap a creative commons license on it and make it freely available to everyone to share however they want.  Consider embedding a hyperlinked share button or link to Twitter that spawns a tweet sharing the e-book in a couple of mouse clicks.  Links to social bookmarking sites through tools like ShareThis are an easy way to enable your content to be shared how interested consumers of your content want to share it.

Statistics show that email is still the most popular way people are share things online so don’t forget to include the ability for your audience to share content via email.  If your most interested audience includes executives that aren’t as computer happy, make your content easy to print out or requested to be sent by mail.  In short, make it easy for people to share your content the way they want to share it.

4)  Create relevant and original content.
Nothing inspires someone to share something with others than the spark of inspiration that a novel idea or resource that’s fresh and useful can produce.  Recycling a viral hit won’t have the same impact as the original unless you cater to a different audience and put an original spin on it.  Create unique, useful content and people will take notice and create buzz about it.

5)  Make your content pretty.
The last thing people want to read is a white paper without any formatting.  How boring!  Spice up your content with a clean layout and eye-catching visuals.  For example, use different fonts, colors, text sizes, and call out boxes for the key components of the content.  If you can layout content using the landscape view you’ll really open up your options for how the content is presented.  A good looking piece of content makes great content even better content and increases the likelihood it will be shared.

6)  Embrace social media channels.
Social media platforms like Twitter are designed for content to go viral.  This is really where marketing technique can come into play.  Ideally, you’ve identified where your audience is and if they are on social media channels, your potential for making content viral will increase tenfold.  Tweet about your content and encourage others who liked it to share it through there network.  Good content on social media channels spread fast, use them to make your content viral.

7 )  Connect with influencers.
While most internet users are passive readers that aren’t likely to engage or share content with others, influencers will create the word of mouth of your content to help it go viral. The right influencers have the ear of your target audience.  If your content is useful to them, their followers in your target audience will liekly follow suit and help spread your content to other interested parties.  Develop relationships based on value and influencers can help your content go viral within the circles you covet.

8)  Don’t get discouraged, try again and continue to offer new useful content
For every viral content hit, there are hundreds of would be hits that don’t pan out.  If there was a tried and true formula to identify pieces of content destined to be viral, that content would likely already exist.  That said, if you create enough useful, creative, original pieces of content that are valued by your target audience, you are bound to find a hit that will be well worth your investment in your content creation and delivery. And even if it doesn’t hit, your efforts should help your SEO and increase targeted traffic to your website.  Bottomline: Don’t get discouraged, keep creating content and attain viral marketing success!

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Social Media Tool from StumbleUpon is Su.pr

Tim Ferris of 4-Hour-Work-Week fame has been collaborating with StumbleUpon (a favorite time suck pastime of mine) to create a new social media management tool, Su.pr.

StumbleUpon Toolbar
Image via Wikipedia

From the looks of it, we are in for a real treat.  Su.pr promises to save you lots of time in your social media management routine and help improve your traffic too!

Tim Ferriss points out how in this StumbleUpon juiced blog post.  Here’s why he thinks Su.pr could become the hub of your social media empire.

Prior to SU.PR (pronounced “super”), I had to use ping.fm for updating Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn at the same time, bit.ly for basic analytics like click-through, scattered tools for viewing retweets, and nothing allowed me to schedule tweets well.

It was all a serious pain in the ass.

Enter Su.pr, which allows him to:

– Get suggestions for optimal posting times: get more traffic per post
– Schedule as many tweets or posts as I want, for any time
– See my click-throughs in real-time
– Post to Twitter and Facebook at the same time, with more platforms in the pipeline
– Use my own short URL (i.e. http://www.fourhourblog.com/ab123) instead of someone else’s branding

This is all really great stuff that will save a ton of time for social media content developers and publishers.  It remains to be seen whether the traffic for content improves, but the analytics that are included in Su.pr are what really get me geeked about trying it out.

The built-in analytics make this tool especially sweet for marketers not already using bit.ly.  Deploying measurable social media content should help improve your case for including more social media investments in your organization.

Now it’s just a matter of when this service will be available to everyone.  In the meantime, follow the StumbleUpon Twitter profile and keep your eye out for a claim code tweet for your own Su.pr account.
UPDATE:
After trying it out, Su.pr while potentially great for the reasons listed above, has framing issues that some might remember from the Digg toolbar.  This framing issue wreaks havoc on getting accurate analytics and can be a real pain to use when comparing traffic from non-Su.pr visits.  Another issue I’ve had is with the scheduled Twitter posting being significantly delayed. 

What do you think?  Is Su.pr going to change the way you manage your social media content?