Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Combat a Social Media Crisis

Are you prepared for a social media crisis?

In the event of one, Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, in The Now Revolutionrecommend these eight steps:

Acknowledge the crisis. Right at the onset, let customers and social media onlookers know you’re not asleep at the wheel.

Fight fire with fire. It’s imperative to communicate through the vehicle where the crisis started.  If it broke out on Twitter, respond first on Twitter.

Apologize. If you made a mistake and want the healing process to begin quickly, start with “We’re sorry.”

Create an FAQ. List the prominent inquiries about the crisis and provide your responses, even if you don’t have complete answers to every question. Update the document in real time.

Build a pressure-relief valve. Open your blog to comments and your Facebook page to discussions. Consider creating a dedicated discussion forum.

Know when to take it off line. Engage people who are extremely upset off line. You can usually reduce the toxicity.

Arm your army. Provide your team with the same information you provide the public. Often, communication professionals are so busy during a crisis they fail to keep employees in the loop.

Learn your lessons. Once the crisis has abated, document it, so you reconstruct and learn from your response.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When Customers Don't Care

Are you struggling to get new customers and keep old ones?

In his book The New Experts, adman Robert Bloom offers seven ways to build customer preference in a pitiless world where "buyers no longer care who they buy from."

Benefit.  First and foremost, you must offer your customer an immediate, personal advantage that's different from the ones offered by competitors.  It must be real and "cannot be something that the customer considers trivial."

Website.  No matter your business, besides a benefit, an easy-to-use Website is today's single most powerful buying influence.

Likability.  As salespeople know, customer preference is also about likability.  Customers seldom buy from someone they can't stand.

Trust.  One of the most powerful buying influences, trust (unlike likability) takes time and sincerity to build.

Guarantee.  Warranties provide a form of trust, but the key to them is simplicity.  Complex guarantees backfire.

Best option.  Customer preference can stem from a tiny detail that makes your business the best choice.  You're always on time.  You're always courteous.  Your'e always neat.  You're always cheerful.

Brand.  Preference can boil down to what your brand says about your customer.  "I feel respected as a client."  "I feel good when I buy green."  "I feel elegant when I shop there."

Now for the best news: it isn't easy, but any organization, of any size, "can create customer preference with big ideas and small ones."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Forever Young

I'm always frustrated by marketers who say they need new tactics, but reject every recommendation with the expression, "We tried thatit doesn't work."

Marketers like these are "old men," no matter their age or gender.

The Trappist monk Thomas Merton once wrote in his journal, "For the 'old man,' everything is old: he has seen everything or thinks he has.  He has lost hope in anything new.  What pleases him is the 'old' he clings to, fearing to lose it, but he is certainly not happy with it.  And so he keeps himself 'old' and cannot change: he is not open to any newness."

In the words of Bob Dylan, "May you stay forever young."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Love and Marriage

Remember the old song?

Well, lead generation and lead cultivation go together like a horse and carriage, too.  Or at least they should.

Eight of 10 marketers plan to ramp up social media spending this year, in the relentless pursuit of leads.

But unless they marry lead cultivation to lead generation, all the social media in the world won't boost the bottom line.

In her blog, B2B e-marketing guru Ardath Albee explains why.  "Without the nurturing, generating leads is merely an exercise in trying to scrape the 10% who may be ready to buy and then dumping the rest into an afterthought category."

To succeed, you have to engage people who opt to follow you.  (Social media marketing is a lot like marriage, isn't it?)

And engagement requires consistently useful content.  "The perceived value of the content is what you're being judged on every time," Albee writes.  "In all cases, just showing up is not going to work."

Don't believe it?  Look at the divorce rates:
  • 49% of prospects have unsubcribed to an email series
  • 43% have unliked a company on Facebook
  • 52% have unfollowed a brand on Twitter
The figures suggest that marketers should rethink the role of social media, putting lead cultivation first. 

"Perhaps the ramp-up strategy for social media should actually be customer nurturing instead of new lead generation," Albee says.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reviews Rule, Blogs Boogie

A new study by GroupM confirms marketers' sense that customers are behaving differently than they did a few years ago:
  • 86% of customers say search engines are important to their buying decisions.
  • 58% begin their "buying journey" with online search.
  • 45% continue to use search throughout the journey.
  • 40% who use search go to social media as the next step in the journey.
  • 30% use social media to create a buying "short-list."
  • 28% believe social media builds brand awareness.
And what do customers most value?  Reviews and blogs.

"The data suggests the two most important subsets in social are user reviews and category blogs, rather than sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube,” says Chris Copeland, CEO.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How to Avoid Spam Filters

Here's a quizz for marketers who rely on email for lead generation and cultivation.

Q. Who's your worst enemy?
A. The spam filter.

Eighty percent of email actually is spam.  That's why businesses set their filters on maximum.

How can you avoid spam filters?

  • Title your email
  • Use complete and correct HTML code
  • Omit redundant code
  • Send your email both in plain text and HTML
  • Match the plain-text and HTML versions
  • Avoid red-flag phrases like "money back guarantee," "risk free," "no obligation," "no catch," "Dear Friend," "click here" and "order now"
  • Avoid repetition of key words
  • Avoid misspelled words
  • Avoid full capitalization
  • Maintain an even image-to-text ratio
  • Use font sizes no smaller than 8 points, no larger than 14
  • Don't use Flash, Java or rich media
  • Don't use light grey or red fonts
  • Don't use "invisible fonts"
  • Don't use non-ASCII characters
  • Don't use embedded images
  • Don't use forms
  • Don't send attachments

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Facebook Can't Compete with Facetime

Here's good news for event organizers: Facebook can't compete.

There's science to back it up.

Edward Glaeser, in his book Triumph of the City, cites a University of Michigan study in which researchers organized groups of people and asked them to play a game requiring cooperation.  The researchers organized one set of groups that played the game face to face; and another set of groups that played by communicating electronically.

The face-to-face groups thrived; the e-groups collapsed.

Togetherness magnifies people’s strengths, Glaeser concludes. 

That's why companies located in the geographic center of their industries are more productive; why workers who live in cities see their wages grow faster than others'; and why inventors are inspired by other inventors who live in the same community.  And it's why, far from failing in the Internet Era, cities are blossoming.

"Humans communicate best when they are physically brought togther," Glaeser says.

Wired columnist Jonah Lehrer points to a second study by Harvard Medical School that asked whether physical proximity affects the quality of scientific research.

The researchers analyzed 35,000 peer-reviewed papers, mapping the location of every co-author.  The results showed that, when co-authors were located close together, their papers tended to be of the highest quality (as measured by the number of subsequent citations).

"For whatever reason, electronic interactions are not (at least not yet) a substitute for the real world," writes Lehrer.  

"Our most important new ideas typically don’t arrive on a screen.  Rather, they emerge from idle conversation, from too many people sharing the same space."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Staying Power of Real Events

Virtual events may be sexy, but they're no match for their face-to-face cousins, says Margit Weisgal, executive director of the Trade Show Exhibitors Association, in the latest edition of BtoB.

"Webinars, virtual events, Twitter and Facebook status updates all have their value," she writes.  "But getting in front of someone, face-to-face, in-person, creates an immediacy of interaction, a responsiveness of active dialogue that cannot be replaced with technological tools."

Not only is the immediacy of face-to-face irreplacable, Weisgal argues, but so is another crucial aspect of real-world encounters: serendipity.  

Unlike live events, "virtual events don't allow you to connect with others in spontaneous ways," she writes, because they "demand that you purposefully 'sign in,' search out and interact with 'avatars' through the use of a keyboard."

Weisgal cites adman Spencer Jarrett, who made her case succinctly when he told Business Week, “Asking if virtual meetings will replace live meetings is like asking if singles chat rooms will replace real dating.”

Disclaimer: Trade Show Exhibitors Association is a client of mine.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Direct Mail Makes a Comeback

The best days of e-mail marketing are behind and that's given good old-fashioned direct mail a chance at a second life.

According to David James, president of Bethesda List Center, the quantity of postal mailing lists rented by his firm increased 20 percent during the second half of 2010, as compared to the first half of the year.

The surge comes as the result of “a wonderful opportunity for direct mail marketers,” he says.

Direct mail has all but disappeared from in-boxes during the past decade.

“The disappearance of direct mail from in-boxes has created a huge void that marketers should take advantage of,” David says. “It’s almost a novelty to get a piece of direct mail nowadays and that scarcity is creating an unprecedented boost in response rates. All marketers should think hard about testing postal right now.”

The surge in the volume of direct mail marketing has prompted David and me to co-author a new how-to primer, The 3-Minute Guide to Direct Mail.

If you feel the need to become better acquainted with direct mail fundamentals, our new primer's for you.

Want more good news?

The new primer is absolutely free

Feel free to share it with colleagues!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bizy Buddy

My buddy Gary Slack is about to launch Bizy, a new Website offering small businesses the same bargains on business products and services you'd find on consumer goods and services on Groupon.

Businesses can procure things like payroll services, janitorial services, trucks and vans, meeting rooms and retreat facilities, smartphones and more.

The projected average savings will be 50 percent. 

Gary heads the Chicago-based B2B marketing firm Slack & Company, which helped launch eBay Business. 

So he knows what he's doing.

When launched, the site will serve Chicagoans, although most of the deals offered will come from national companies.  It will roll out beyond Chicago afterwards.

Bizy will be a great way for B2B sellers to introduce themselves to large numbers of buyers.

Good luck, Gary!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Got Marketing?

BNET columnist Steve Tobak provides a peek inside Apple in his article "10 Ways to Think Different."

"Apple’s culture is like a genetic mutation of the corporate America genome," Tobak writes.  "A mutation that should be studied and replicated wherever possible."

One way Apple thinks different?

It "gets" marketing.

"Marketing is the one great weakness of the technology industry.  For some reason, high-tech CEOs don’t get it, understand it, or value it as they should."

By that, Tobak means the company devotes real resources to dreaming up better mousetraps.  "Apple spends a great deal of effort divining the next big thing—figuring out what people want—even when they don’t know it themselves."

Apple also "gets" highly orchestrated marcom.

"Few companies truly get communications and PR the way Apple does," Tobak writes.  

"A big part of its formula for creating a buzz like no other company is its famous secretiveness.  Considering the sheer number of people, companies, and news outlets that would give anything for a tip, virtually nothing leaks until Apple’s ready to spill it."

Got marketing?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Children of Neglect

In her blog, Ardath Albee (my favorite B2B marketing guru), laments marketers' obsession with lead generation.

Leads are like kids.  Generating a bunch means little, if you don't nurture them as well.

"Lead generation is a hello and a handshake," she writes.  "Lead nurturing is the art of building a relationship with purpose.  Big difference."

Albee cites new research from Marketing Profs that shows marketers consider their primary goals to be (in order) branding, customer retention and lead generation.  Lead nurturing is the last goal on the list.

Marketers are missing the boat.

As Albee notes, someone who "opts in" isn't really a "lead."  She's just a gal who's interested in information you're offering.  She'll never become your customer unless she's cultivated. 

That's because, at this early stage, she isn't "sales-ready."  She's just educating herself.

"The evidence exists that buyers spend more time self-educating via the Internet than they do in conversations with salespeople.  There's also proof that, due to this change, sales is only invited into the last one-third of the buying process."

If you're not providing the continuing education she needs, you're not cultivating that gal.

Worse, if you're tossing her name to sales, mixed in with a bunch of other so-called "leads," what do you think happens to her when sales discovers she's not ready to buy?

The short answer: like a lot of children, she's neglected.  That's sad.

"What's the benefit of spending all that budget to let non sales-ready prospects languish unattended?" Albee asks.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Purposeful Storytelling

Times are tough.  Nothing's certain.  Fear is rampant.

On the blog for Harvard Business Review, movie magnate Peter Guber warns that "if leaders don't tell and sell a purposeful story that incites their employees, partners, investors, boards of directors, and other stakeholders to manage fear, confront uncertainty, and collaborate with change, someone else will write their future."

So what is a purposeful story?  Guber defines it as a "a vehicle that puts facts into an emotional context." 

A purposeful story is "built to create suspense and engage your listener in its call to action."

But a purposeful story also lays to rest your audience's fears, Guber says.  "Leaders must tell a story that makes fear an ally, not an adversary, ultimately conveying the message that fear—F.E.A.R—is 'false evidence appearing real.'"

By way of illustration, Guber recounts how he convinced Loews to build super-mulitplex theaters in Manhattan in the early 1990s.

Loews resisted his idea for the mammoth movie theaters, afraid the city was already overbuilt.  So Guber turned to storytelling.

"I first engaged them with a question.  I asked: What if a group of hungry people went into a large food emporium?  If one particular food was missing or sold out, there was so much else there they could choose from.

"We should make movies that people consume emotionally with the same availability as a food court.  If the movie that brought you to the theater is sold out, there were 15 or 16 other movies to consume and enjoy."

Loews bought Guber's tale and built the theaters, which became "an enormous success."

Guber believes purposeful storytelling provides people a form of "emotional transportation" that can move them from Point A to B. 

"Your story and its supporting facts transport the people who hear them to carry your story forward," he writes.  "Good stories, well told, turn people into apostles and advocates of your brand, service, mission or cause."

Do you have a story to tell?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The New Social Network

In his blog this week, social media maven Chris Brogan crystal-balls the future of online communities.  

Brogan believes tomorrow's communities will be:

Wide-ranging.  "People refuse to talk about you all in one place," Brogan says.  As a result, marketers will have to invest a lot more time monitoring multiple communities.  Keeping up with all of them will be "the hardest thing to manage in the future."

Mobile.  They have far to go, but location-based apps will eventually be all the rage, especially for "tribes" of like-minded nomads.

Loyalty-based.  Today's loyalty programs are annoyances.  "Sign up and we’ll bother you until you buy."  But tomorrow's will feel like genuine relationships and provide a "feeling like you’re on the inside."

Cause-oriented.  Marketers will build cause into communities in the future.  "Putting a bunch of people together who love Snickers bars isn’t all that interesting," Brogan says.  "Putting people who love Snickers together to work at a soup kitchen to feed the homeless would be a lot more interesting."

Single-identity.  People will stop supplying each and every platform a separate biography.  Instead, they'll use identity-sharing tools that allow them to port one profile across all the platforms.  

Two-way.  In the future, marketers will have to become measurably more engaged in the virtual conversations taking place everywhere.  If they don't, "things will go poorly for other efforts to build relationships and sell," Brogan warns.  But the added investment won't come easily, because "there’s a lot of time and effort involved, and it’s not directly tied back to obvious or instant revenue."
Powered by Blogger.