June 30, 2010
Who knew that my last post (You Don't Need A Social Media Strategy) would get such a viral response? It touches a nerve for social media enthusiasts, marketers and brand managers. And it should.
I've thought quite a bit today about the conversation going on via my Twitter feed about this post, and more explanation is obviously necessary.
1. Have a brand strategy and channel tactics - Every company or product must have a brand, a promise of an experience or result. It differentiates, increases perceived value and decreases decision making time. It is the essence of a strong business model. The brand strategy is composed of three elements: The Promise, Fulfillment, Monetization. What do you offer, how will operations deliver it consistently and then how will you leverage it to drive profits. You MUST focus on those three at a strategic level and NEVER let communication channel opportunities take priority, they are tactics. If you make an island out of any channel (say TV, Twitter, or even trade marketing) it is very easy to lose focus on the three elements of the strategy. So I'm not saying that you ignore social media, just don't let it drive the agenda.
2. Social media tactics must be coordination with mass media, direct sales and customer service to be aligned with the brand strategy. Remember the pressing need for an eCommerce strategy for retailers in 1997-2002? I do. I worked on it with leading brands from Victoria's Secret to Amway. (Read Love Is the Killer App for the narrative). In too many cases, boutique agencies and rogue corporate groups (dedicated eCommerce business units) schemed without comparing notes with traditional channels - often pitting them as the old-timers that don't get it. Today, in many of those cases, the winning companies have folded all things E back underneath a centralized brand focus with tremendous results.
3. It's not just the conversation, it's the strategy - So many social media consultants and users declare that social media is a conversation, like never seen before. True/Not True. Companies have had suggestion boxes, research panels, conferences, hotlines and feet on the street for decades ... social media makes it more scalable. Really. Often, the conversations are one-off on social media, fractured snippets of threaded thoughts that flurry up for a minute, then disappear as quickly as Twitter purges it's too-expensive-to-store data every 10 days. If the tactics don't tie into the strategy, then what do we do with the former users of Twitter and Facebook (there are tens of thousands of them created every day)?
4. Here's the best tactical approach I recommend to brands in my consulting (which is strategic marketing consulting always done in partnership with corporate marketing and the agencies of record): Listen in on the buzz about your brand (Twitter, Blogworld and YouTube). This is best done by setting up a social media monitoring system that can capture, define and distribute comments to brand managers. For one of my clients, it's an early warning system for detractors with big influence. For another client, it's a great focus group that gives additional insight to traditional ad/brand success metrics such as Nielsen data or focus groups.
Once you've listened and analyzed, then you need to respond or integrate the insight into the larger strategy. I've set up systems for 'whale detractors' (people ticked off at a brand with big social media influence) where executives can directly reach out to them and increase the conversation quality to phone (tone of voice is 500% more effective at conveying intentions than words on screen). In other cases, you might adjust your mass media or trade media campaigns based on insight without directly responding.
Again, here's the takeaway: Never lose focus on brand strategy. There will be many more tech innovations that will shake up communications - especially in the mobile arena. Each one of them can derail you if you treat it on a standalone basis, condemning old-school methods along the way. For those of you that offer social media advice, this doesn't mean you aren't REALLY IMPORTANT, it means that you need to spend at least half your time in client work coordinating with non-social media brand components, instead of just focusing on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc. They are big, no doubt, but the brand group's leadership will always be bigger.
Strategies on top of strategies equal dis-coordination ...
June 28, 2010
While in Cape Town for the World Cup I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Chris Kirubi, Chairman of Coca Cola Nairobi - he's smart, witty and very forward thinking.
We talked about my internet background and the conversation eventually moved to social media, which is growing throughout the upper middle class in Africa. When I asked him what his social media strategy was, his answer surprised me:
"You don't need a social media strategy - You need a brand strategy that leverages social media. Don't get off the brand strategy just because there's a new communications channel, that's how you lose the plot as a brand. Technology is the tail, not the dog."
Wow. He's spot on. I saw this back in '97 when companies had to quickly create an "internet strategy," often wasting tons of money on agencies, consultants and painful meetings. What they eventually realized, was that they needed to integrate this new communications channel in their brand promise/fulfillment approach to their customers. Those that did, succeeded wildly in the coming years.
So here's the takeaway: Don't let social media glam you out, causing you to waste time and money on 'keeping up' - Confirm your brand promise and how you fulfill it, and find ways that social media can complement it. Just ask @chrisbrogan, it's about being human, not techy.
NOTE: This is the most retweeted post I've ever had in my blog's history. Some agree, many social media consultants make clarifications, and my mind races to extend this idea into a useful tactic for brand. See Part 2 of this post for much more.
June 25, 2010
Yesterday, on my author Facebook page, I posted a note about the power of self-image. It's worth reposting here: Master or Merely Human?
NOTE: I'm sharing section by section snippets of my 2011 release at my author Facebook page - join in!
There are several great reads in this area, my favorite two are:
* Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz
* See You At The Top by Zig Ziglar
I know they are old, but I like them because they don't rely on NLP and aren't affected by modern psychotherapist-babble speak.
June 23, 2010
The first few minutes of you day sets its tone.
What's the most important meal of the day? Breakfast. Why? Same reason!
Do you jump out of bed, grab the paper, turn on the coffee pot and go onlineIf so, you might have wildly inconsistent early morning moods -- often driven by your inbox or the day's headlines. Don't leave your attitude and mood to chance, they are important! When you are in a great mood, filled with gratitude, your day will be more effective (and enjoyable).
Last year, I put myself on a new wake-up plan that's changed my life. When I first wake up, I lay back down and close my eyes and concentrate on three people I should be grateful for from the previous day.
It could be a helpful co-worker. My wife. A friend who gave me good advice. I think and think until I've come up with three people. I focus on their positive intentions to help me be successful or happy. I say outloud "Grateful for ____." Then, I get up and over coffee, write down one sentence to capture my gratefulness for those three people. In the beginning, I struggled to always find three helpful people from the previous day, especially if I was writing in seclusion. But soon I realized that everyday is filled with people helping us along. Now, I struggle to limit myself to three.
Start tomorrow off with this exercise, and you'll see how deeply it colors your mood. Filled with gratitude for those who intend to help you, your total confidence will swell and you'll feel like you've got a strong tailwind for the day.
Sure beats reading the newspaper or checking out the weird news of the day on Yahoo!
This is one of several pieces of advice to come in my next book, Today We Are Rich! (March 2011). I'm sharing advance excerpts from it as I write, and having a conversation about the concepts in the book on my Facebook Author Page. Go there, like in and join the conversation!
This is a concept that's included in my book, Today We Are Rich. Visit the book page and you can order a copy and receive a free eBook excerpt with an entire principle! You can also visit its facebook page too.
June 21, 2010
In late 2008, I sat down with author/radio host/biz owner Dave Ramsey for an interview. In this case, I interviewed him about his business values and practices. We were backstage at one of his public seminars where I was about to appear as a special guest.
I'd visited his company headquarters in Tennessee earlier in the year, and was impressed by the family-like culture of his group. The company, Financial Peace University, offers financial management teachings for people via churches. I spoke at a morning devotional they have every Friday (they call it DEVO), and observed how loyal and energized employees were.
During my video interview, I learned why. Check out this interview to take away valuable employership values from Dave's simple-yet-profound point of view.
June 17, 2010
Today I gave a talk at the Board Of Trade in Vancouver.
The theme? Community synergy for companies. The point of my talk was that when a company makes a contribution to its community, it benefits all parties - including itself. "When they do well, we do well," is a mantra of companies that build-in community service as part of its value system.
One point: Obey the Law Of Reflection if you want to get this right. This law states that companies should contribute to communities or cause as a reflection of its values, and if possible, from its core assets and capabilities. Examples in shipping: UPS has a value of education and training opportunities. In its shipping hub (Louisville), the company invested in a school-to-work program for high schools students as well as a university for full time employees. Fedex, with a core value of safety, built a successful "Walk This Way" program for kids to learn pedestrian safety.
Meanwhile, Enron's involvement with the arts in Houston was driven by Kenneth Lay's passion for the arts, not the company's values - and was promptly cancelled when the economy started to go soft. Moreover, it didn't 'make sense' to employees or Houstonites as it didn't come from a logical place.
Here's the other side of the Reflection idea: Give from your core assets and it will work even better. That's what health care group purchasing company Consorta did when it wanted to contribute to United Way. The CEO dispatched some of the best negotiators to help the United Way trim its operating budget, saving the company twenty one million dollars in its first year! This was way more than the company could directly contribute (and would have crashed its P&L).
So, if you want your company to make a difference, make sure you are not pursuing an unrelated passion or trying to write checks to 'check the box.' Proper social outreach is good business - which keeps it sustainable over time.
June 16, 2010
Anyone reading this has one thing in common with me: You write.
Whether you write for a blog, reports for work or articles for publication - writing is becoming a driver of your ability to communicate and succeed. Think about how many words you need to write in the average week to report, inform, persuade, sell or explain.
How much do you study your craft, writing? Because I'm working on my fourth book (Today We Are Rich, March 2011), I'm in writer mode, brushing up on the skillset. Currently, I'm re-reading the fabulous book On Writing Well by William Zinsser. He gives great advice for all non-fiction formats from business to biography to memoir. His central message is that writers must eliminate clutter from their sentences and paragraphs.
He points out that readers are fickle, and if you make them work too hard, their eyes will drift to a writer who's better at his craft. Years ago an editor remarked, "when editing your documents, make every word beg for it's life. Treat them like they cost $1.00 a piece, and that will change the way you write."
One way you can do this is re-read your writings, putting brackets around any words that aren't absolutely critical to the sentences they are a part of. It's OK to bracket entire sentences or paragraphs too. Later review each bracket and expect to strike out half of them, trimming down your work considerably.
Unless you already have word economy down pat, plan on excising a third of your original words in the editing process. You are not trying to get rid of the words that reflect your style, just the ones that are not required.
You don't have to say, "In my opinion, this is a bad idea." Say, "This is a bad idea." (We know it's your opinion). "At this point in time" should be stricken, replaced with "now". Get the idea? Starting a sentence with "It must be pointed out" is also wordy, just make your point.
Zissner's promise is that word economy allows the idea to shine through and keep the reader engaged. No matter what you write, if you're not being read to the end, you probably aren't making a connection.
June 14, 2010
Today I gave a talk for a group of CEO's and industry leaders that represent hundreds of companies that sell products and services to the government. They are thinking about marketing, and how they can convey their value proposition to buyers - avoiding the perils of low bid work.
My message was paraphrased from Dale Carnegie: You will accomplish more, developing a sincere interest in people than you will accomplish, trying to get people interested in you.
The best marketing opportunity, then, is dialing into the needs of your customer and focusing the conversation on what they wish/want or need and NOT what you have to sell. For example, many of the companies I spoke to today sell to the military. In my research, I've found that over half of all military purchasing agents have friends or family deployed somewhere in the world, many in the Persian Gulf, risking their lives in service. If a sales conversation were to start with that issue, and the feelings that surround it (hope, fear, loneliness, pride, etc.), then the rest of the 'business conversation' can easily redirect to the products being contemplated.
Too often, we make small talk, then move to our pitch, missing the opportunity to connect at an emotional level. In my view, this is very important especially when you are trying to expand your range of products or services, where developing deep trust is essential to trial or sampling.
Takeaway: While advertising and promotions get the word out, sales or account reps can penetrate barriers and overcome objections through powerful listening and sincere interest in their client contacts. For every hour you spend trying to position your company, spend two hours trying to help your people connect with the humans you are trying to sell to. As Stephen Covey Sr. always says, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
People buy from people, and they buy even more from people that care about them.
June 11, 2010
Just when I think I'll have a tennis lesson without an aha, Nick Mathews proves me wrong.
Today's aha from him had to do with going for the winner, when getting the ball back over the net is a futile strategy. He'd serve, I'd punch it back, he'd send me sprinting to the right, pop it up back to him, then he runs me to the left ... and eventually, he puts it away as my tongue is hanging out of my mouth.
Over and over again, he admonished me to, at some point when I had a chance, plant my feet and square my shoulders - and let one rip down the line. Go for the smash, put him on his heels and win. When I had him a break point, he wanted me to go for the kill on the first opportunity - because how often do I have my coach at break point? By focusing on keeping the ball in play, I'm just playing patsy with him until he decides to put me away.
He's like: "What's the use of even returning the ball like that (soft, safe)?"
Point taken: Winners don't play to survive. When facing a bigger rival, they look for a time to strike. They take a mighty swing, making themselves vulnerable to an easy return or an out-of-bounds shot. Nick put it this way: "It's risk/reward. When I'm in control like that, you have no risk when you go for it, just the reward of surprising me with a forceful winner."
OK - now here's the bigger lesson to be learned: This applies to any competitive situation. Take your small business, for example. Are you just trying to keep 'the doors open' each month, while your more aggressive competitor hits spinners at you? Are you letting the last eighteen months put you in a defensive business posture?
Ask yourself, what's the use? What is the real value of staying in business one more month or one more quarter, if you are merely doing it just to keep doing it? At some point, you need to go all in when you have a chance and do something BOLD in the market.
Launch a predatory promotion that under cuts a competitor that can't respond nimbly. Double your service levels when a bigger competitor isn't thinking about customer experience. Do an all-out canvas of a market while your competitor is covered up with a big job. Just go for it and extend yourself in an effort to find opportunity in the current climate.
That's what Kelloggs an Chevrolet did in the 30's, when their competition (most of them much bigger brands) were conducting an expense driven business model. Kellogg's went for sweet. Chevy went for sport. Both of them had huge gains during this period - and risked important cash to do it. Had they just played to survive, they would have remained 3rd Tier players as their rivals (Chrysler, Post) eventually got their second wind and applied ample resources to extending the lead or putting their weaker rivals out of business.
At the end of the day, you have to embrace failure as possible, and noble so long as you give all. Regret comes from being timid, and realizing that it was your ego that convinced you to prioritize survival above excellence and gusto. To quote Motorola's Paul Galvin: Do not fear failure.
June 09, 2010
A recent government report indicates that employees are quitting bad jobs as the economy improves. It's like 2004 all over again. Back then, millions went from lock-down bad jobs to startups and good employers when they gained some confidence in the market.
For the last eighteen months, I've heard employers sniff that "if their employees didn't like the workplace or task load, they could join the rest of the unemployed in line." While that might have been true in Q1 2009, it's not a long term strategy for talent retention.
In First Break All The Rules, former Gallup researcher Marcus Buckingham offers the #1 reason people quit jobs: Bad bosses. These bad bosses have a sense of entitlement, combined with Michael-Scott ineptitude that can lead to a jail break when the recession clouds part.
And according to this article (More Employees Jump Ship As Economy Improves), it's starting to happen. There are a few implications for you, whether you run a small company or work at an enterprise:
1. The current labor pool is weak, gunked up with everybody's B, C and D team from 2007. In other words, most people (75% or more) that were laid off were laid off because they weren't effective in their jobs and the poor economy exposed it. Trying to replace people you lose now is a whole lot more complicated than it was in 2006.
2. The work experience is as important as the customer experience. In his fantastic book, Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman observed that the mood state at work was a predictor of employee engagement - which is the #1 way to retain talent. Focus on purpose, recognition, empathy and giving people what Dan Pink calls "Self-Directed Mastery". (For more, check out the RSA Animated Video: Dan Pink on the surprising truth about what motives people)
3. Give raises, bonuses and incentives as you can afford them. You might be tempted, for years, to keep thinking that you can't afford any love for your people, and besides, they have no where to go. Don't rest on that. Google was handing out bonuses and raises back in '02 and '03, and you can see where that got them on the talent tree.
Whatever you do, don't take your people for granted. By the time you realize your company's culture stinks, it will be too late to turn the ship around, and when the economy totally improves - you are toast.