Monday, December 15, 2014

Branding 101: Get Personal

In my last blog, I talked about the importance of letting your customers know who you are, not just what your business does. Because I am all about helping your brand be successful, I wanted to show you how being personal helps you connect to your audience.

It's December 15. 10 days until Christmas. I force myself to wait to turn on the holiday channel on satellite radio until Thanksgiving when my family and I put up our Christmas tree so right about now the music is getting redundant. We'd turn it off, but somehow it is enhancing the excitement of the downhill slide between now and next week; you know, it's like it's Christmas week at school anyway. So Christmas music is the soundtrack playing quietly in the background.

My son is a freshman in high school so this is a year of firsts. He We survived marching band season and the first indoor band concert of the season is tomorrow night. I was given a piece of paper letting me know that the uniform is "dress blacks", black, collared, long sleeve button-up shirt, black dress pants, and black dress shoes. I was not given this piece of paper Friday night when my son brought it home, but instead tonight, the week before Christmas. Another thing to know about my son is that he is 6'4" and 140 lbs so finding clothes for him any time is difficult, but with less than 24 hours notice and the week before Christmas-- well, this is why I have a flexible job. Today it's to flex to meet my son's needs, next time it'll be to meet yours, even if that is helping you find a pair of size 14 men's dress shoes with 12 hours to spare.

That crisis was averted when we found the needed clothing in the closet; it may be a bit too big, but it'll do. Instead I am working on keeping this fire blazing.
You can probably guess that I am not doing so well while I'm writing this. But, alas. This is how it works. I give you a little and then I can go back to making merry.

Speaking of which, my fire really is slowly dying and I think you can see how a little storytelling can help your audience connect to you.

Now, who has a blowtorch? (Humor helps too!)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hello, My Brand Is

In case no one has told you, marketing has changed since the Mad Men days. People don’t want the businesses they interact with to push propaganda about their product. Customers today want to know the deep stuff about what matters to your brand. People want to do business with brands who are committed to making a difference.

The internet has put information at people’s fingertips and made the business world smaller. Your customer can research what they are looking for, all the places to find it, make payment, and be ready for service in the time it takes to finish a cup of coffee. Cost difference can be a big influence but customers are also interested in who they do business with. The desire to support a local business, or at least a regional one, can be seen in the success of Small Business Saturday. Besides helping stimulate the local economy, people enjoy being able to have their needs met with products and services that are locally sourced. Even more important is that people enjoy the connection with the business. They want to ask the business owner about a product, greet the receptionist with a lively conversation about their mutual support of the same university, and other seemingly little things that add up to make the customer feel their contribution to the company’s bottom line is worthwhile.

The catch 22 here is that when you are introducing yourself to clients in the virtual environment of social media, your website, or a blog, it is more difficult to demonstrate places for your clients to connect with you. Brands which revert to the outdated method of trying to gain customers by touting business achievements are finding they are losing out to competitors who are committed to making a difference. A recent article in Co. Exist reports that in North America, 42% of “people are willing to pay extra for products and services that they believe come from companies committed to making positive social and environmental change”. This is where you can use your virtual spaces to share how your brand is helping. Share a link to the local newspaper’s story about your company’s gift (of time and/or money) to a local non-profit organization. Blog about your brand’s giving goals for the year and tell why the organization(s) you designate giving to matter to you. These are the places that people will connect with you and make them want to help you fulfill your social commitments. Even if they never step foot inside your business, they can feel good about contributing to your success.

Customers don’t care about your business goals, in fact, those kinds of figures make them cynical. They want to see that your brand is genuinely interested in making a difference with any profit you make from them. Share the contributions you’re proud of in your online spaces. This is what makes customers want to do business with you. Be sure you are showing them how your brand is committed to making positive changes, not your bottom line.

Of note: This is not an endorsement of corporate giving as a marketing strategy. I choose to do business with brands who are truly interested in embracing the kind of responsibility that online marketing has encouraged. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Out of Office

I am taking a December sabbatical. For awhile now I have been looking to build a business I am proud of, but there is a lot of work to do that so I am taking a sabbatical. That doesn't mean I am not interested in your business, quite the contrary! Having spent the last year with a Fortune 500 company learning about corporate content and social media strategy, I am getting back to basics: attending webinars, reading scholarly articles, posting blogs, and working to fill my tool box with more tools. Goodness knows that content strategy is not one-size-fits-all and I don't want to continue working with a corporate marketing strategy when your brand can be better served with a smaller, boutique strategy.

I started this blog as a place to keep myself and my clients up to date on the information I am collecting. I encourage you to leave a message, that is comment or email, about what I'm putting up. I hope it will lead us both to a great relationship that in the end benefits our clients.

Don’t be a Virus, Be a Disorder

Why engagement, not going viral, should be your strategy

It’s only natural to want people to like you, but if you’re measuring the success of your social media by the number of likes you have, then you’re missing the point. So many people would give their texting thumb to have the next viral internet sensation, but think about what we know about true viruses: they come quickly, shake things up, then go away and get back to normal just as quickly. If you are serious about your social media, e.g. if you’ve put someone in charge of your social media presence, what you need to be thinking about is how to be a disorder, that is, how to get create an ongoing need within your audience.

Undoubtedly you have a friend who has a bum knee. They have a story from back in the day when they twisted it, heard a pop, and from then on they have to take their knee into consideration when performing activities (or when the weather changes). This is what your social media strategy should model. You pop with your audience, your customers, when they initially like you. If you are giving your audience what they want, meaningful content, you will turn that pop into a need that has to be attended to on an ongoing basis. Say your product is therapy for said bum knee, if your online presence provides content about maintaining stability, reducing pain, and gives information about new products you have, all things that are beneficial to their bum knee, your customer is going to keep on liking your page.

The long-term like is good news, but even better is your customer’s sharing of the information you are providing. When they hear of a friend tearing up a knee, hopefully not you in a weird surfing incident, they will share your latest article on pain management or tell them about the new product their therapist just talked about—the kind of free marketing we all get excited about. We’ve known for years that personal endorsements are the key influencer on consumer behavior. People trust their friends and your customers will trust you if you engage with them. The key to this is listening to them to find out what they will like and I will cover that in another blog. The article you share on their Facebook page gets noticed by someone whose wife was thinking about getting therapy for the ankle she broke in college… and on and on until your brand is a trusted expert in the area.

The importance of engagement is so well known to seasoned social media strategists that many times we forget to educate businesses who think the key to success is to be the next viral sensation. A viral hit is wonderful for initial impact, but you do not want your brand to be something that can be treated quickly and returns the user to life as usual. Your brand’s social media strategy should continuously ask “and then what” to be successful. You’re going to pop—and then what? A successful response should be ongoing engagement with the audience.