Tag Archives: marketing

Grown-up Marketing Strategy

14 Jan

My latest musical crush is Austin, TX singer-songwriter named Bruce Robison. I discovered him as the songwriter behind a heart-rending tune by the Dixie Chicks called “Travelin’ Solider“, and last year he put out an achingly awesome album of duets with his wife, the slightly better-known country artist Kelly Willis.

What’s cool about Bruce Robison is that he writes songs like a grown-up for grown-ups. In his song “Just Married“,  a travelogue from beginning to “now” of a thoroughly loving and real marriage, the “now” verse goes:

They say everything changes, and no one’s to blame
But the more things change the more I stay the same
And everything about me that she loved before
Are the same damn things she can’t stand no more.

Right? But just when you think he’s getting all cynical on you, he finishes with:

When my friends ask me how I am today
I just smile and say
It’s like when we were just married

There’s a tension in our lives — between wanting everything to be like it was — bein’ a kid for as long as you can — and adapting to the way life changes. While it seems like every other movie, song and self-help guide glorifies childhood that lasts forever, growing up is complicated, it’s messy and it’s hard. You know the world’s changing…and you may not want to change but you want to adapt, and at the same time hold onto what’s right, or in the song, to ‘a love so true’.

Marketing has this same tension over adaptation and change. Staying the same while everything changes in marketing isn’t just sad, they say, it’s contemptible. There’s a rush to the new, a drive to disrupt. Skim the marketing chatter and you’ll quickly discover that whatever you’ve been doing, you should be doing the new thing, and if you’re doing the new thing, you’re probably doing it wrong. Oh, and someone else is doing it in ways much more awesome than you could ever hope to do, unless you Innovate! Disrupt! Tear it all down and start over.

Here in the real world, the challenge of change isn’t just a matter of rushing to the latest fad. Everyone is busy. Swamped. Overworked. Underpaid. A lot of problems could be solved with one more new hire, and as soon as we finally get the [Marketo-Eloqua-Salesforce-new website-more technology-more budget] approved and finished. We need more leads in the top the funnel, more nurturing in the middle, more demand, more sales lit. The channel needs more attention, the blog needs more content, the media needs answers, we need more case studies, we should be doing more with LinkedIn and Twitter, and are our customers really on [insert hot new social network here], and who knows what else they are saying about us out there?

The reality of our changing media landscape is that it is more additive than disruptive. Every marketing communications channel has it’s place, and we need to drive them all. Web? Check. Solution sheet? Check. Case studies? Check. Daily social posts? Check. Blog? Check. PR? Check. Email marketing? Check. Webinars? Check. Ads? Check. Trade shows? Check. I’m sure we’re forgetting something…check check check.

Grown-up marketing is about more than checking boxes.  Grown-up marketing recognizes that you have to build a foundation from certain universal truths, forsake excuses and easy answers for hard choices about priorities, and adapt. Here are mine:

  • Customer insights drive the business. You’re in business because you understand something about what customers need, and have a unique ability to deliver. But customer needs have a habit of changing. There is a continual need for customer insights to drive strategy; it can come from frequent interaction with key customers, surveys, user councils, analyst reports, focus groups, insightful sales and service personnel, and directed, in-depth interviews.
  • Business objectives drive brand positioning. The brand strategy should flow organically and creatively out of who you are and — more importantly — who you want to be as a business. And the brand should be a platform to drive growth.
  • Brand positioning drives your marketing strategy. Brand positioning is more than a logo and a list of messages. It should express who you are and how you act with your customers. A good brand positioning platform will help you make choices and prioritize how you communicate to customers to drive awareness, preference, demand and sales.
  • Marketing strategy meets the customers where they are. Should you focus on getting into the media? Email? SEO?  Website? How about working with analysts? Facebook? User conferences? Trade shows? Super Bowl ads? The answer is: go where your customers are and give them a clear path to come to you.  It all comes back to those customer insights — how will the market know they need you? Where will they go to meet that need? Who will they ask for advice? This is where you need to be — with the right brand, positioning and message.  Oh, and if they have no place to go — create one!
  • Don’t take it on faith. Measure everything to know if it’s working. When I started out in communications, the most dreaded question you could get was, “how do you know if it worked?” You had to take it on faith that audience reach equaled minds changed and hope that sales or other action backed you up.  Today, we are in the golden age of analytics. If someone asks you if it’s working, you can answer. You can watch web visits rise and fall, and see what they saw and how long they stayed. It’s easier than ever to get direct feedback — through social networks or low-cost surveys or even phone calls and customer visits. Most importantly, use the data — know what’s important, know if it’s working, and adapt.
  • Invest in what’s working. Stop or streamline what doesn’t. Here’s where the hard decisions come in. Because at some point, if you’re checking all the boxes, something has to give.

Stay true to these principles and you won’t chase fads. Your strategy will have a foundation. When everything changes around you, and you find yourself staying the same, you’ll take a breath and remember what’s true, and adapt. Because grown-up marketing isn’t just about being a grown-up. It’s about growing.

5 Principles for Creating a Great Brand Promise

14 Oct

I’ve been thinking brand promises of late. Here’s what I believe goes into a great brand promise:Handshake

  • Singular Expression of Value: A brand promise is a singular expression of what makes your organization — or its offerings — uniquely valuable to your customers.
  • How You Want to Change the World: The brand promise shouldn’t just describe what you do and how you deliver it. It should express how you want your customers’ lives or work to be improved as a result of what you do.  How do you want them to feel before, during and after they choose you?
  • Build from Customer Insights: As a result, the brand promise should grow organically from insights about your customers. This is a combination both of what you believe, and what people outside the organization believe about what you do.
  • Be Aspirational: A good brand promise should reflect both who you are, and who you aspire to be.  It’s OK if you’re not meeting every aspect of the promise today…as long as you’re committed to getting there.
  • Put it up on the Wall: Your brand promise may not be a company tagline, but it could well be your mantra — and that of everyone in the organization. Put it up on the wall — it’s what you’re trying to live up to each and every day.

These are my principles. Your thoughts?

One Facebook to rule them all, one Social Inbox to bind them…

16 Nov

One member of my family  informed me that they find Facebook so useful and convenient that they, essentially, only share family news via Facebook.  Which would be great, except that many members of that same family don’t check Facebook regularly, or (horrors!) don’t have Facebook accounts.

In other words, because it’s convenient, it’s OK if the communication itself is unsuccessful.

Which brings us to the new Facebook Social Inbox. As reported by Christopher Heine at ClickZ,

The Social Inbox will include regular Facebook messages, e-mail sent to @Facebook.com addresses, mobile phone messages (SMS), and Facebook Chat discussions.

Not only that, ClickZ reports,

When a brand sends an e-mail or direct message to a “liker” on the Facebook Messages platform, it will appear in an “Other Messages” section that sits directly below a “Messages” folder. In simple terms, the “Messages” folder will house conversations with friends while “Other Messages” will hold messages from entities that users have “liked.”

There is a part of me that suspects that I’ll find this insanely useful and part of me that asks, “what’s the point?”

The “insanely useful”  side sees how bringing email and Facebook comment threads together could be a lot of fun…and a way not to “miss” those vitally important family updates.  This is what my relative wants…has been begging for, in  fact. The Social Inbox is a people-centric system — your messages publish to them they way they want them — whether it’s SMS, email or Facebook chat. You don’t have to keep family and friends’ communications preferences in mind when you communicate.

On the other hand, what’s the point? Facebook already is a big ‘ol social inbox.  Would an enhanced Social Inbox that keeps me abreast of  the stream of social conversation throughout my day enhance my experience of life … or replace it?

I watched the video and I was moved…and I’m impressed.  And a little creeped out. Facebook’s Joel Seligstein talks about how with Social Inbox a couple can have a virtual shoebox of every communication they ever share — from, to paraphrase — making dates over texts to love letters to picking up the kids.  What he doesn’t say is that it’s all supported by the brands you “Like” — friendly folks from cool and useful places that you bring into an ever closer circle in your social orbit.

In the end, I’ll try it out because that’s what I do. Businesses and brands would be foolish not to want to be Facebook Liked, and thus to gain a spot in the social lives of their fans.

But my prediction is two-fold: 1) that heavy Facebook users are going to embrace this and will become even more deeply emeshed  in the Facebook ecosystem; and 2) the intensity of centralizing nearly all social interaction around Facebook will intensify the backlash…hastening the launch of “what’s next” … because you know it’s coming.

What say you?

Applying the tourniquet

7 Jun

There’s a comfort in metaphors.  The gulf oil spill is or will soon be “Obama’s Katrina,” as if there was something heshould, or could, be doing.  Maureen Dowd says that the problem is that:

“Oddly, the good father who wrote so poignantly about growing up without a daddy scorns the paternal aspect of the presidency.” (via Clive Crook)

Clive Crook remarks at The Atlantic that, “Apparently it’s a great idea to elect a president who is calm in a crisis, except when there’s a crisis,” noting that we’re all acting like little Malia Obama, waiting for daddy to put a Band-Aid on the Earth…or maybe a tourniquet.

Leadership — in government and in industries — is about more than giving comfort and simply being there. It’s about mobilizing people around solving problems and achieving a vision.  Where there is a leadership crisis in the Gulf today isn’t that the government can’t convince people that it is doing everything it can to address the crisis, or that the President isn’t sufficiently comforting.  It’s that there is no vision for addressing the crisis.  Like in the wars of the past decade, we don’t know what success looks like — if it is even possible for us — that is, BP, the government and “humanity” — to cap the well, protect the coasts, and undo the damage that has been done.

But in many cases, leadership is a chicken and and egg question. Are leaders successful, or does success breed and create leaders?   Can a leader mobilize people around a vision while the crisis bleeds — and no one knows how to apply the tourniquet? Or will having a solution confer the opportunity for someone to lead — and define their own vision of success?

Which communications matter most?

7 Apr

Do some communications matter more than others?  Well…yes.

There’s the big speech by the CEO to the industry group that positions you as a leader.

The message to employees that cutbacks are coming, but we need to continue to focus on the mission.

The blog series explaining your position on emerging industry standards.

The news release that expresses how this technology will change the market.

The employee magazine article on the new line of business…that has to inspire without disheartening those that work on the old stuff.

The customer letter announcing elimination of support for discontinued SKUs.

The whitepaper for the technology crowd.

The email to the disgruntled customer.

The conversations with reporter and bloggers on your latest news.

The online app that you hope goes viral.

The response to the Twitter user who wonders why no one is picking up your phones.

The quarterly earnings report.

The answer to the question, “So, what do you do?”

The invitation to join a user group.

The letter that closes a plant, or cuts back on the health plan.

The words that guide and inspire visitors to the new website.

The email to the latest potential “whale” of a prospect.

The product ad.

The investor presentation on your startup as the ‘next big thing’.

The analyst interview.

The how-to tips for the weekly podcast.

The copy on the packaging…

Maybe a better question would be, “Which communications don’t matter?”

What Should I Do Today?

8 Mar

I’m reading Amber Naslund’s post on how to do ‘hard work‘ as I try to decide how to start two quite distinct proposals while it’s still morning.  Worth reading if you need a little inspiration and a reminder to get focused, get to work and push the results beyond simply what’s expected (incidentally, it’s also worth a click for the photo of Spider-Man ambling along the sidewalk with his duffel).

This has me thinking once again about one of my favorite client questions on managing communications in a world where there are just too many ways to reach customers — how do I find the time to do social media when I barely have the resources to get the basics done?  The answer, of course, is to rethink “the basics.” But how do you do that?

One of my maxims for clients thinking about establishing their social media and online presence is to re-cast their thinking from “what I have to get done today” — the newsletter, the brochure, the article, the trade show booth, the website redesign — to “what’s going on out there today, what do I have to say about it, and how can I help?”  These questions are likely to lead you toward your audience via communications media and tools that are much more immediate and direct.

For example, the corporate communications to-do list might include:

* Each week, review company news, topics and themes with corporate, marketing, sales and service: what do you want to say today?  Where should we say it?

* Scan industry news, blogs and social chatter — how can we be relevant? What can we learn from customers and influencers today?

* Determine whether and how to respond to social chatter, blog posts, news articles. Respond or elevate where needed.

* Post your news on your website or blog, and on networks where customers and influencers can find and follow.

* Meet with internal stakeholders to ensure in-depth awareness and understanding of what’s happening inside the business. Adjust the message. Take time to review the strategy. What are the tools, media and materials you need to make the message work?

Do all this along with creating corporate presentations, participating in meetings, handling ad hoc high-priority executive requests, communicating across the team, juggling deadlines and actually writing and producing the stories your organization has to tell.

(Are there enough hours in the day?)

If we keep asking questions, the answers should become clear — what works? what doesn’t? what does the customer need? what moves the needle? what are we doing because we’ve always done it?

If you could start over, what would you keep? What would you drop?

Five Communications and Marketing Lessons I Learned on My Vacation

1 Mar

Last week, the kids were on a school break, so we took them out to California for 10 days of fun and family. I’m back now, shifting once again into the world of deadlines and commitments (what to leave in, what to leave out…).  But since my mind keeps drifting back to vacation, and they say that you should learn from any experience, I thought share a few vacation memories, and what we as communicators and marketers (or I, at least) can take away from the experience.

  1. Crying over spilled milk. On our first day, we ate breakfast at San Diego’s famous Hash House A-Go-Go.  Amid the giant plates of griddled, fried and scrambled food, my 5-year-old reached stretched his arm for another chomp of pancake and doing so elbowed a glass of milk onto the table. It was refilled; he did it again.  A second refill, another elbow and another spilled milk.  Finally, my wife and I started laughing, at which point our son began to cry, thinking we were laughing at him.  We gently explained that we weren’t laughing at him
    Lesson for communicators: When confronted, remember to take customer issues as seriously as they do.

  2. Ah, Legoland. Our kids love Legos. I mean, they really love Legos. So the main reason for our trip to San Diego was to see the legendary Legoland theme park (the theme being Legos, of course).  Lego had told us about thepark many times, sent us coupons and generally made us feel wanted. We arrived 15 minutes before the park opened and stayed about 30 minutes after it closed.  A good time was had by all.  Since apparently our break doesn’t coincide with anyone else’s break, the crowds were small and the lines were short.
    Lesson for communicators: Embrace and encourage the passion of your biggest fans.  And, instead of the big event or trade show, choose the odd time to make your news. You’ll stand out more.
  3. Getting help. Before  our trip, we forced friends to recount their So-Cal journeys, did loads of online research and scoured the ‘Net for coupons…and quickly found ourselves in a state of information overload.  As my wife notes, we might never have gone on the trip if she didn’t call a travel agent to help us figure out where to stay and how to get safely from Southern California to the North. Yes, we could have figured it out ourselves, but sometimes, finding a real expert can make for a much happier experience.
    Lesson for communicators: Be a real expert, one that helps get customers and influencers where they want to go, and your reputation will grow.
  4. Plan for the unplanned. Some parts of our vacation that we’ll remember best weren’t planned at all: Driving toward the ocean and spotting the USS Midway — then spending hours touring the old ship.  The little donut shop in Leucadia. The twisted trees of Torrey Pines. The Italian Bistro in La Jolla. Stumbling upon an odd little memorial to Bob Hope’s USO tours. Taking an early morning stroll after an evening rain and discovering a sidewalk strewn with snails.
    Lesson for marketers:  Be open and ready to take advantage of serendipity.  It’s the good stories you don’t arrange that stick longest in people’s minds.

  5. The inevitable crises. Over the 10 days we were away, I count it a blessing that only three of them involved someone throwing up. The first time was in a Mexican restaurant in San Diego’s Old Town. In an impressive feat of self control, the afflicted boy, hand clamped over mouth, scooted to the restroom before creating a scene. The second was on my parents’ couch, where, while too late to completely spare the couch and the carpet, a quick-thinking grandma reduced the damage by a) providing a large pot and b) urging us to get the dog away from the mess. The third time was in the lobby of the Foster City Red Robin restaurant, and there was no hiding any of it. The staff smiled and smoothly moved in to help, while we smiled and calmly headed for the parking lot, where a jacket conveniently left in the car allowed me to replace my shirt.
    Lesson for communicators: No matter what the crisis, stay cool and use your best judgment. Also, when traveling with children, keep an extra set of clothes handy.

Next time, back to our regularly scheduled communications and marketing wisdom.

%d bloggers like this: