Influence people

Friday, December 30, 2011

Spellbound

Consultant Kare Anderson, writing for the Harvard Business Review, thinks comparisons, not cold facts, are the secret to holding customers' attention.
"We are wired to draw connections between things, even where there aren't any," she writes. If you want to hold your audience spellbound, put that wiring into service.
When you compare your product to something your customers already know, you do yourself a huge favor.  Once you've drawn a comparison between your product and something familiar to your audience, Anderson says, "you have set the context in which people will view it and decide upon it, just as a general chooses terrain favorable to winning a battle."
Anderson offers these tips:
  • Swipe someone else's slogan. A California hospital increased blood donations by asking the public, "Got blood?"
  • Use numbers. Outdoor gear-maker REI's TV commercial depicts two women atop a mountain at night. The voiceover says, "Even the finest 4-star restaurant is no match for one with 4 million stars."
  • Try humor. A Cuban who couldn't serve decent food to his guests blamed Castro's revolution: "The three successes were education, healthcare and sports. The three failures were breakfast, lunch and dinner."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's that Smell?

It's true: America is exceptional. America is the only nation in the world where people's trust in every kind of institution declined in 2011, according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer.

But you already knew that (particularly if you've read my free report, Path of Persuasion).

What are most marketers doing about it? They're cultivating "trustiness," writes Seth Godin in his blog this week.

Trustiness stinks.

It's shabby.

And hollow.

And it stinks.

I
t's easier than ever to build a facade of trust," Godin says. Real trust, on the other hand, "is built when no one is looking."


I
n other words, trust is earned; trustiness is just clever BS. "Trustiness is what happens when you use trust as a PR tool," Godin writes.


The difference between the two is obvious, once you experience trust.
"Trust experienced is remarkable; trustiness once discovered leaves a bad taste for even your most valued customers."


O
r at least a bad smell.


2013 Update. Not long ago, the slogan of CBS News was Experience You Can TrustNow we learn CBS puts profit above free speech, as reported by ForbesHow's that for abusing trust?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why Trust Matters

In The Customer Blog, consultant Maz Iqbal asks: Why does trust matter so much to customers?

"We human beings do not like to be faced with uncertainty, vulnerability or risk," he says. "These three factors take an emotional toll on us. We prefer to work on 'autopilot,' which is simply another way of saying that we prefer to trust."

Trust functions in business relationships as the customer's "safety net," Iqbal says.

“In situations of perceived risk or vulnerability, trust has the role of a safety net, helping the customer to make a decision by minimizing uncertainty and risk."

Trust depends on three qualities: competence, integrity and benevolence.

"Customer trust is based on the expectations that the service provider can be relied on to deliver its promises, care for customer needs and demonstrate competence,” Iqbal says.

But those qualities are only part of the picture.

Trust also rests on an organization's reputation for good citizenship.

"Customers look for indicators like responsiveness, flexibility, willingness to compromise and act beyond the profit motive. This is where being known as a company that values both social good and profit matters."

How about your organization? Do customers trust you?

I'll bet they don't. To learn why, read my special report, Path of Persuasion.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Won't Get Fooled Again

Writing for Branding Strategy Insider, J. Walker Smith says the recession has taught consumers a harsh lesson.

"Consumers have concluded that the real trouble came not from those they didn’t trust to begin with, but from the very ones they were relying on to watch their backs," he writes.

Discovering they've been hornswaggled by bankers and brokers has them left them angry.

"As this crisis has unfolded, consumers believe that every new revelation has added yet more proof that the game wasn’t fair."

"Fairness" is the consumer's new mantra, Smith believes. 

"Consumers want to be treated equitably. They don’t want their interests betrayed by the furtive self-interests of the companies and brands with which they do business.  They want an exchange that is true to what it professes to be, and they want companies and brands willing to bear their share of the responsibility and sacrifice."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quilt Quotes


Journalists call semi-fabricated quotes "quilt quotes."

As the name suggests, quilt quotes comprise sayings that have been assembled from separately spoken or written texts.


I prefer the even more colorful term used by video producers: "Frankenbites."

Quilt quotes, unless intended to distort a speaker's message, aren't the worst of writers' sins. But often the original statements are far more interesting than the fabrication.
Here's a case in point. Last week, I visited one of the Occupy DC camps. (Side note: Critics of Occupy should consider doing the same. You won't find a more patriotic gathering outside an American Legion picnic.) DC, of course, has a thing for memorials, particularly inscribed ones. The Occupants have turned the camp I saw into a memorial of sorts.  The sidewalks are covered with placards. While a few feature anonymous sayings, most are like the one above. 

I was so taken with Thomas Jefferson's words, I had to look them up. I quickly discovered that Jefferson never quite said them.

The first two sentences come from a section of his Notes on Virginia, written in 1781. In the passage where they appear, Jefferson argues for securing freedom of worship in a bill of rights before the Revolutionary War ends and America's leaders turn "corrupt," its followers "careless."
The third sentence comes from an 1816 letter Jefferson wrote to his farming buddy George Logan). Jefferson actually wrote: "I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
The "example" Jefferson meant was Great Britain. Spending by the British government on foreign wars was so out of control at the time, Jefferson felt certain it would bring "the ruin of its people," especially the "hereditary aristocracy" responsible for those wars. He didn't want to see Americans make the same mistake.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Capitalist Manifesto

"A manifesto about the end of the mass market," Seth Godin's latest book, We Are All Weird, asks you to accept that "weird is the new normal."

Weird isn't a function of physiognomy (think Charles Stratton or Joseph Merrick). Nor is it a state of being self-styled (think Oscar Wilde or Paul Reubens).

Weird is simply a new waythe new wayto behave as a consumer:
  • To be weird is to demand a vast choice of products. Products so highly customized they appeal only to members of your tiny "tribe" of fellow weirdos. (Like Chia Obama, pictured above, which appeals to hard-core Democrats with a love of indoor gardening and The Mod Squad.) Demanding choice is, in fact, the essence of weird.
  • To be weird is to demand luxury. Only the rich can afford vast choice.  The rich can choose, for example, not merely among "31 flavors," but strawberry basil ice cream, candied bacon ice cream or goat cheese ice cream. The poor can only choose between chocolate and vanilla, if they're lucky.
The good news: everywhere you look, wealth keeps increasing (despite gaping income disparity).

Right now, Godin writes, "There are 10 million households with a net worth of over a million dollars. And there are millions (perhaps a billion people) who make enough money from their day job that they're able to pursue something they enjoy with their spare time. More and more often, the thing they enjoy is something weird."

Godin's advice? If you're marketing a product to the wealthy, it'd better be weird.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Influence is in Inverse Proportion to Distance

Consultant Alan Weiss devoted his Monday Morning Memo this week to the primacy of meeting people face to face.


"Influence is in inverse proportion to distance," he writes.


Weiss's point: If you really want to win friends and influence people, you need to get out of your cubbyhole and press the flesh.


Face-to-face enthuses and charms others.


"Yet so many in business default to email instead of personal contact.  No one has ever charmed me with an email."


Coincidentally, commentator Chris Matthews this weekend took up the same theme.


Matthews thinks the Obama Administration's failure to lead can be blamed on "little kids" who favor emails over getting out of the the White House to attend events.


My own word to the wise: Don't Tweet. Meet.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why Losers Lose

My latest post explained why winning companies win.

But why do losing ones lose?

The answer is simple.

Look at the ad on the right.

Instead of focusing on customers' needs, losing companies focus on their own.

They make the customer feel like a pawn in their game.

What's more, they brag about it.

John Wanamaker, called in his day the "King of Merchants," had it right.

"When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king."

Are you treating customers like kings... or pawns?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why Winners Win

Winning businesses win by innovating.

But innovation that isn't communicated doesn't cut it.

Winning businesses communicate their innovations to customers.

I pity the tens of thousands of truly talented technologists, engineers and managers who don't "get" the inexorable truth of that statement.

They will innovate. And they will still lose.

Why? Because they'll skimp on marketing or—worse—leave the job to juniors.

The solipsist asks, "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

The marketer asks, "If a business comes up with an innovation and no one hears about it, does it have a real innovation?"

Steve Jobs (as quoted in the new biography Steve Jobs) said it well.

"You can't win on innovation unless you have a way to communicate to customers."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How to Handle a Rick Perry Moment

Bowing to the neuroscientists, The Washington Post calls Rick Perry's forever-famous senior moment a "retrieval failure."


I asked professional speaker Thom Singer what advice he'd offer the luckless governor.


Rightly or wrongly, "People are judged by how they speak in public," Singer says.  "We determine the level of a person's intelligence by the way they perform on stage."  


Thinking on your feet is learned skill, Singer insists.  But, because a moment like Rick Perry's "can happen to anyone," he offers public speakers these three tricks of the trade:


Never "wing it."  "Any time you wing it, you're likely to fail.  So don't.  Practice, practice, practice.  The best way is to role-play with someone else."


Keep your written talking points handy.  This is especially wise for times when you have to go "off script."  "If you get derailed, your talking points can get you back on track easily."

Take ownership of your gaffe.  When you have a Rick Perry moment, "don't try to avoid it.  Take ownership of your slip-up right away.  Poke fun at yourself and your audience will judge you favorably."


Postscript: At least one neuroscientist, Dr. David Langer, recommends coffee.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Cheap Vindication

    If you work in a creative job, you learn quickly to accept rejection.

    If not, you don't last very long.

    Some of my own favorite creations have, in fact, never seen the light of day. 

    They were rejected by clients.

    No big deal.  There's always more where that came from.

    Still, sometimes, deep down, the rejections bother you.

    As Lance Armstrong said, "A boo is a lot louder than a cheer.” 

    Once you're past the sting, you're left harboring the feeling it's them, not you, who's missing something.

    So it's consoling to read, about a third of the way through Walter Isaacson's new biography, Steve Jobs, that Apple's board of directors detested the now-legendary TV commercial "1984" when Jobs first showed it to them.

    They insisted it be trash-canned.

    Jobs and his ad agency defied the board (as chairman, he could afford to).  The spot aired during the Super Bowl. 

    The rest is history.

    Relishing the fact that "1984" almost never aired because a bunch of stodgy executives didn't "get it" is cheap vindication.

    I'll take it anyway.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Word Limit

    I enjoy consultant Alan Weiss' monthly e-newsletter Balancing Act.

    Weiss is the Andy Rooney of the corporate boardroom.

    In the current edition, he bemoans our poor command of language.

    "I’ve always believed that language controls discussion, discussion controls relationships, and relationships control business," Weiss writes.

    Ain't it the truth.

    "As I listen to interviewees on talk shows, protestors on the streets, politicians on the stump, and athletes on a celebratory high, I’m aghast at how poorly they reflect their conditions and circumstances," Weiss writes. "Many are functionally inarticulate. It seems like those with the least ability to express themselves miraculously and insidiously wind up with the opportunity to face the largest audiences."

    It's ironic that business professionals (salespeople, in particular) spend most of their time every day talking.

    But how much time do they devote to sprucing up their verbal "tool bags?"

    "How many new tools are you acquiring?" Weiss asks.  "Or do you still have the same old, tattered bag you had ten years ago?"

    As the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    From the People Who Brought You the Wall Street Collapse

    From his grave, the late novelist Joseph Heller must be giving direct marketing advice to JP Morgan Chase.


    Today my wife and I received a letter from Deb Walden, Chase's executive vice president of cardmember experience.


    The letter opens with good news: "Currently, our records indicate that you are not being mailed any offers from Chase."  Thank God for small favors.


    It then informs us that, in order to continue enjoying this privilege, we must respond.  If we fail to respond, Chase will begin mailing us offers.


    The list of offers comprises things like insurance, investments, credit cards, home equity loans and annuities.


    Deb even includes a deadline (December 15) and warns us that, by failing to respond by the deadline, "you may begin to receive offers in the mail about these products and services."


    May receive?


    So let me get this straight, Deb.


    Unless your customer opts out, he will automatically receive direct mail offers from Chase after December 15.  That is, unless Chase opts not to send those offers.


    So, to be clear, we must opt out or Chase will send us direct mail offers.  That is, unless Chase opts out, in which case it will not send us those offers.  Or it may send us some, but not all, offers.


    Deb concludes her letter with a waiver.  (Deb can't help herself; she's a banker, after all.)


    "Responding to this letter will ensure that the mailing options you select will remain in effect for five years after we receive your request.  After five years, or if you move to a new residence, you'll need to renew all of your mailing options."


    Well, Deb, you've succeeded in one thing at least.  


    You've erased any temptation we might have had to move in the next five years.

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Tom Edison, Asshole

    The strong reviews of the new "exclusive" biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson have spurred me to buy a copy.

    In reading themas well as the hundreds of other tributes and op-eds that have appeared since Jobs' recent demiseI'm struck by the countless times he's been called an "asshole."

    Jobs applied the label to himself, so maybe there's cause.

    But I'm troubled by the fact that so many people are willing to go "on the record" this way.

    Did critics of Thomas Edison so readily toss around the same harsh language in his day?

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    Fabula Interruptus

    Okay, I admit it.

    I'm helplessly hooked on The Walking Dead.

    If there's one storytelling technique the series' producers have mastered, it's the cliffhanger.

    Why are cliffhangers so seductive?

    The Zeigarnik Effect.

    Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik in the late 1920s discovered that people are twice as likely to remember something that's been interrupted.

    So if you want to seduce people with your storytelling, leave a few untied ends.

    Your audience will naturally rememberand crave—more.

    And if you really want your audience to pay close attention to your message, there are four other things you should do.

    To be continued...

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Are You a Challenger?

    I've been following with interest a series of blog posts by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, authors of the forthcoming book The Challenger Sale.

    They make a compelling case in favor of a "type" of salesperson they call the "Challenger."

    The Challenger is a "teacher," a naturally studious individual who likes to question the status quo.

    "Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers' business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation," they write. "They're not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive—with both their customers and bosses."

    Dixon and Adamson contrast the Challenger to the "Relationship Builder," who labors to create strong personal ties to customers and "resolve tensions in the commercial relationship."

    Measured by results, Challengers are 13 times more effective than their relationship-loving counterparts.

    The bottom line: Challengers, si; Relationship Builders, no.

    "There's only one way to be a star," Dixon and Adamson write.  You gotta be a Challenger.

    "Challengers win by pushing customers to think differently, using insight to create constructive tension in the sale. Relationship Builders, on the other hand, focus on relieving tension by giving in to the customer's every demand."

    Their argument makes sense to me.

    What doesn't is the shrillness of most readers' comments.

    If the backlash Dixon and Adamson receive is representative, then, clearly, most salespeople like to please. They don't like to challenge.

    How about you?

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    The Importance of Good Copy

    How important is good copy to the overall success of a campaign?

    I was asked that question in a recent interview with Gordon Nary, editor of AboutFace, published by Trade Show Exhibitors Association.

    My answer: good copy is the only way to rise above the sea of competitors and their parity products.

    You can read the full interview here.

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Just Conversing Won't Convert

    On B2C, Web marketer Chad Pollitt busts a Twitter myth in "The Uncomfortable Truth about Social Media Marketing."

    Twitter is no "magic pill” and "will probably fizzle out over time" unless integrated into more robust social media marketing efforts, Pollitt writes.

    That's because, at its core, Twitter is just another way to push out content.

    And as marketers know, success isn't bred by pushing out content.

    Success is bred by creating excitement.

    Excitement, and only excitement, "determines whether or not someone converts or is compelled to take action," Pollitt says.

    Do your Tweets solve customers' problems? Do they entertain customers? Or do they just try to promote online conversations?

    If the latter, they won't help you. They're just not exciting enough.

    To excite customers, your social media program needs to deliver useful, entertaining and original content through blog posts, video, audio, photos, graphics, white papers, e-books, guides, case studies and Webinars.

    "High quality content," Pollitt says, "provides the best chance to capture leads, gain new customers, and grow revenue."

    To assure that your content converts leads, you need to supplement it with other Web platforms, including your Website, blog and landing pages.

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    Metaphorically Speaking

    On BNET, angel investor John Warrillow tips his hat to the "strategic metaphor."

    A strategic metaphor is powerful not because it's apt, but because it's handy. 

    Swamped by inbound messages, consumers need a convenient hook to hang yours on.

    Provide that hook, and they're more likely to listen to you.  

    "A strategic metaphor gives people a cheat sheet for understanding what you do," Warrillow says.

    He cites as examples:
    • A start-up that offers a "deal of the day" on chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists is "the Groupon of alternative medicine.”
    • A classy car dealership is “the Ritz-Carlton of Ford dealers.”
    • A manufacturer of sexy sportswear is “the Victoria’s Secret of cycling apparel.”
    • A retailer of furniture for the corner office is "the Mercedes-Benz of office furniture.”
    It's easy to find your strategic metaphor, Warrillow says.  Decide what you want your brand to stand for; go to Interbrand’s list of the top 100 brands; and choose one that represents your aspiration.

    So, within your niche, if you want to represent "the most reliable," you're FedEx; "the speediest," McDonald’s; "the most rigorous," McKinsey; "the most upscale," Rolex.  And so forth.  

    Find your strategic metaphor, Warrillow urges, "because the faster you can describe your business to new customers, investors, and employees, the better your chance of holding their attention long enough for them to buy what you’re selling."

    My strategic metaphor?

    I'm "the Jaguar of copywriters."  

    What's yours?

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    How to Get More from Marketing Automation

    Marketing and sales are notoriously independent.

    But when the two team up, the results can be the stuff of legends.

    One golden opportunity for teamwork between the two is the adoption of marketing automation.

    Marketing automation uses software to qualify, score and nurture leads on an individual basis until each becomes “purchase ready.”

    To pay off, marketing automation demands that marketing works with sales to perfect the “handoff” of purchase-ready leads; and sales works with marketing to perfect the “take-back” of not-yet-ready leads.

    But merely introducing the software doesn’t mean marketing and sales, after years of acting like Lone Rangers, will suddenly partner up.

    Mac McConnell, writing for Marketing Automation Software Blog, identifies three reasons organizations “get stuck” after adopting marketing automation—and how to tackle the issues:

    Lack of fresh leads. Many organizations that adopt marketing automation soon discover they simply don’t have enough leads to fill the pipeline. In such cases, the marketing department should “go back to the drawing board,” McConnell advises, revisiting lead-generation activities that may have been discarded because they were thought to be low-yield. Tradeshows and rented direct marketing lists are prime examples. “Cast a wide net and revitalize tactics that have fallen out of favor.”

    Lack of content. Other organizations can’t kickstart marketing automation because they don’t generate enough content—the gas that makes the engine run.  The correction here is simple: the marketing department has to get on the stick.  “Start working on fresh content that actually helps your buyer meet their goals, not yours,” says McConnell. Research reports are ideal. Buyers also crave short pieces, like checklists, executive briefs, industry overviews and glossaries.

    Lack of a lead-scoring model. Marketing automation’s “secret sauce” is lead scoring, but many organizations never enjoy the recipe because marketing and sales can’t agree on definitions. The solution? Bring the two departments together, McConnell recommends. Insist they reach consensus on which attributes of a lead are important and which behaviors represent “buying signals.” That’s the only way leads can be scored.

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    How to Torpedo Your Marketing Efforts

    I have a confession to make.

    I love to watch movies about submarine warfare.

    Especially the parts where the sub is forced to play cat-and-mouse with the enemy destroyers on the surface.

    That's when the sub has to "run silent" to avoid being blown to smithereens.

    If your organization occasionally runs silent, I have a warning.

    You're sinking your chances of closing more sales.

    On B2C, Drew McLellan describes this all-too-common marketing error.

    "Too many organizations go hot and cold with their marketing," he writes.

    "They’re aggressive or at least active one month or one quarter and then are dormant for months at a time."

    Organizations guilty of "running silent" market only when sales are weak.  

    When sales are strong, "marketing falls off the radar."

    That's foolish, as McLellan makes clear.

    "But we know our customers," you insist.  "And we know the buying cycle in our industry.  We like to time our marketing efforts to cooincide with it."

    The simple fact of the matter is that, "unless you sell Christmas trees," you can't know when a prospect will begin her buying journey.

    She'll start it when she's good and ready.

    And if she starts her journey while your marketing is on hiatus, you'll probably never convert her when she eventually does buy.

    "In most cases, a prospect isn’t going to give you their time and attention for more than a few minutes," McLellan says.  "So you have to go with the 'be present all the time, so when they need/want you, you’re there' model."

    Got that?

    Be present all the time.

    No more running silent.  

    Full speed ahead.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    What Makes a Good Slogan?

    After headlines, slogans are my favorite kind of copywriting assignment.

    A good slogan, like a good business card, is one of the least expensive marketing tools you'll find.

    If nothing else, a good slogan will make buyers a wee bit more receptive to your firm. 

    At best, a good slogan will make you more memorable.

    Slogans can connect the dots between your goals and buyers'.  They can act as shorthand guarantees.  They can crystallize your brand's "essence."  They can put into a phrase your buyers' dreams.

    Good slogans aren't always short, dramatic, edgy or even original.

    But good slogans are always authentic.  The communicate what you're really about and slip safely past buyers' built-in BS detectors.

    And good slogans are always distinctive.  They help buyers tell you apart from competitors.  That's why a pedestrian slogan like "Organic supplements for ethnic grocers" can be spot on.

    In fact, distinction is the ultimate purpose behind using a slogan and the reason the device caught on in the first place.  

    The slogan became the signature weapon of advertisers in the late 19th century, when factory-made goods began to flood America's retail stores. 

    Advertisers found they needed something besides a name and package to distinguish what were, for the most part, commodity products.

    Evocative slogans (like "Ivory Soap. It floats.") helped do the trick.

    Below are just four sample slogans, culled from recent magazine ads.  

    While none has quite the magic of "Breakfast of Champions" or "Just Do It," consider in each case how much these few words add to your impression of the advertisers.

    For a manufacturer of tractors for sheep breeders:

    Kioti. Run ahead of the pack.

    For a manufacturer of broadcaster's equipment:  

    NewTek. Innovative Solutions for Graphics, Film and Television Production.

    For a manufacturer of skin care products:

    Origins. Powered by Nature. Proven by  Science.

    For a nonprofit:

    The Nature Conservancy.  Protecting nature. Preserving life.

    What do you think makes a good slogan?

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Are Hybrid Events for Real?

    I've been researching the subject of hybrid (part physical, part virtual) events recently, because I'm compiling a workbook on the subject.* 

    My conclusion?  Hybrid events are for real.

    Business marketers think so, too.

    According to research by Unisfair86 percent of them believe hybrids will represent half of all events within five years.

    Why are hybrids so appealing?  

    Hybrids enlarge a marketer's social media footprint.  Hybrid events add a thrilling new dimension to a brand's social media presence.  Hybrids aren't just "one more outpost," but immersive, targeted, community-centric platforms.

    Hybrids increase the value of physical events.  Hybrids open physical events—no matter their location—to a worldwide audience, a big plus for exhibitors and sponsors.  Experience also shows that, over time, hybrids boost the attendance of physical events.  They transform them into pilgrimage sites.

    Hybrids fill gaps.  Budget pressures are driving a lot of corporate customers to skip physical events.  They want to learn from them, but lack the means.  The virtual complement restores the means.

    Hybrids enable multitasking.  Time-deprivation is often the reason people can't travel to a physical event.  Hybrids allow them to participate and get their work done.

    Hybrids do a big favor for small businesses.  Small businesses are typically starved for both time and money, yet they're the largest group of employers and the engine driving innovation.  Hybrid events help them compete effectively with their Fortune 1000 counterparts.  Hybrids also appeal to green-minded folks.  

    Hybrids help preserve industry knowledge.  Producing a virtual complement to a physical event automatically creates an archive of the content and conversations, many of which might otherwise have been lost.

    Hybrids keep improving.  The extension of real life into virtual life gets more compelling with advances in technology and producers' skills.  It won't be long before the online experience they provide matches TV news and talk shows for quality.

    * It's for the EastVirtual Event Workshop, May 18 in Washington, DC.  Disclaimer: I'm co-producer of the event.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    In the Year 2020

    Here's a startling prediction: according to Gartner, by 2020, corporate buyers will manage 85 percent of their supplier relationships without once interacting with a salesperson.

    Salespeople used to serve as the face of a companya prospective buyer's first contact with the brand.

    No more.  As Jon Miller, CMO of marketing-automation provider Marketo, writes in his firm's blog, "Today, buyers create their own brand preference by conducting research online, particularly within their own social networks, before they even touch base with a sales rep."

    What does the trend mean?

    Companies have to change how they use both marketers and salespeople.

    In a few years, online content will be the only way to reach nearly 9 out of 10 prospects.  So marketers, for all purposes, will present the "face" of the company until the crucial moment of decision, when salespeople step forward (and, with luck, cinch the deal).

    "Unless companies begin to sell the way their customers want to buy," Miller warns, "they might as well write a prescription for their own failure."

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Transparency in Social Media

    Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said that, while he couldn't define pornography, "I know it when I see it."

    Defining transparency in social media is equally difficult.

    Writing for Social Media Today, Elissa Nauful tries to do so anyway in "What Does It Really Mean to Be Transparent?" 

    She defines transparency in social media five ways:

    You gotta be "you."  Transparency rules out any fudging or posturing.  Being true to thine own self entices customers.  "Your authenticity will translate as both honesty and integrity."

    You gotta be tolerant.  Transparency means you'll accept praise and criticism.  That tolerance "will immediately build brand trust."

    You gotta be generous.  To be transparent means to share, openly and often.  Not top secrets or tawdry details, but enough hard news to keep people interested.

    You gotta be forthright.  Transparency demands that you disclose commercial interests in anything you're plugging.  (The Federal Trade Commission demands that too.)

    You gotta be chatty.  Transparent companies socialize.  "They reply to comments, they retweet funny ideas, and they treat their customers like new friends."

    How do you define transparency?  Or do you only know it when you see it?

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    Approximating Authenticity

    The term "authenticity" is a social media shibboleth.

    After all, consistent promise-keeping is the real rule of the authentic organization (think Amazon).

    But we can at least be approachable in our social media exchanges, according to online community consultant Richard Millington.

    In his recent blog post "Interact With Your Community Like a Human Being," Millington sets out his codes of conduct:
    • Write in the first person.  Phrase questions as personal ones. "Has anyone had experience with ....?"
    • Engage first, tell second. Lead with a question, not content.  Only if others reply should you respond with information.
    • Begin with a story. Why are you asking for others' opinions? What's your opinion?
    • Speak with emotion.  "Don't default to a customer-service tone for engaging members of your community," Millington advices.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Social Media News

    Social Media Examiner has released its annual report on marketers' use of social media.  

    The key findings:

    • 90 percent of marketers say social media is important for business.
    • 88 percent say it drives brand awareness.
    • 72 percent say it drives Website traffic.
    • 62 percent say it drives search engine rankings.
    • 58 percent spend 6+ hours a week on it.
    • 34 percent spend 11+ hours a week.
    • 77 percent plan to increase the use of video.
    • 28 percent outsource at least part of their program.
    According to the report, 2011's top four social media marketing tools are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs.

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Duh, Selling!

    Ad Age reports that big brands are spending countless hours every day scrubbing spam from their Facebook pages.

    According to Facebook management software vendor Vitrue, 15 percent of posts should be deleted, because they're offensive or represent promotions unrelated to the brand.

    Spammers target big brands' Facebook pages because the exposure is vast, even if the messages remain visible for only a few hours.

    This so-called "page spam" can tarnish a brand's image and drive away fans.

    Page-spam cleanup is costly because it has to be performed by humans.  Some brands are hiring outside firms to do the work, spending as much as $20,000 a month.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    TMI

    Mark Twain once quipped, "Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation."

    USA Today recently reported that business professionals receive 110 messages a day through such channels as email, SMS, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

    "People are drowning in a deluge of data," the paper concludes.

    As a result, executives are witnessing a rise in employee burnout, errors and miscommunication.

    TMI.  Too much information. 

    As a marketer, your path forward is clear:

    Less is always more.  Most readers will only browse the first few lines of any message.  Break up large ideas into small, digestible chunks.

    Give readers signposts.  Use headlines, subheadlines, photos and captions to guide them.

    Start with the desired action.  Satisfy overtaxed readers by beginning with your "call to action."

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Social Media Marketing Done Right

    On Social Media Today, blogger Sherryl Perry describes her exchange with one company's social media manager.

    It's a prime example of using social media marketing the right way.

    After linking in her blog to Grasshopper (a B2B provider of phone service), Perry received a hand-written thank-you note from the company's "ambassador of buzz."

    Included were the ambassador's business card and a Starbucks gift card.

    Grasshopper reps also commented on Perry's blog and Tweeted about it.

    The upshot?  Perry now has "a new Twitter friend and an even warmer and fuzzier feeling about Grasshopper."

    Was the company merely soliciting Perry's business?  Not really.  In fact, Perry had recently cancelled her contract with Grasshopper, because she no longer needed its service.

    Grasshopper was simply using social media marketing the right way.

    "Obviously, this is a company that has a process in place," Perry writes.  "When I left them as a customer, they sent an automated email.  When I blogged about them, someone Tweeted my post (good move on their part because of the backlink to them) and left a comment for me.  It could have stopped there but it didn’t."

    Does your organization have a social media process in place?
    • Do you habitually thank readers who comment about your blog posts?
    • Do you follow links left in comments and leave comments for readers?
    • Do you thank readers who Tweet about your blog?
    • Do you go the extra mile and reach out to readers off line?

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    How to Drive More Attendees to Your Webcast

    If you've ever produced a Webinar, you know a ton of effort's required. 

    So it's hugely disappointing when a mere handful of attendees show up.

    Marketo's resident blogger Andrew Spoeth recommends these five ways to boost attendance of your next Webinar:

    Give attendees access to the speaker.  In your promotions, emphasize that attendees can chat with the speaker.  And encourage them to send questions to the speaker in advance.

    Hold a drawing.  The promise of a prize can be the incentive that turns a registrant into an attendee.  Offer an item related to the topic, such as a book.

    Help attendees connect with other attendees.  Have a Twitter chat after the Webinar or invite attendees to join a LinkedIn group.

    Make an exclusive offer.  Provide an e-book or special report that's available only to attendees after the Webinar.

    Phone ahead.  A pre-recorded "reminder" sent automatically to registrants will increase attendance.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Social Media Eludes Executives

    New research by IBM indicates business executives hold some false beliefs about social media:
    • According to the study, 70 percent of executives think their organizations will be “out of touch” if they don’t engage customers through social media. But 55 percent of customers say they don’t engage with brands at all through social media.
    • Of the 45 percent of customers who engage with brands, 66 percent say they must feel the organization is communicating honestly before they’ll interact. But 33 percent of executives feel lukewarm about transparency.
    • Executives think “getting discounts” and “purchasing products” are the two least likely reasons customers engage with brands through social media. But customers say these are the two most likely reasons.
    • Executives are three times more likely than customers to think customers want to be part of an online “community.” Customers want to interact when it’s to their direct benefit.
    The researchers urge executives to think like customers. “Recast social interaction strategies to focus on giving customers the value they seek and the customer intimacy will come,” they suggest. 
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