Category Archives: Create content

Stephen Saber on Personas

The Secret to Personas and ROI

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

You’ve taken the time to identify your personas—a representation of your ideal customer—for online marketing.  “Now what?” you ask.

Let’s first take a step back. You thought deeply about what keeps your customers up at night. Maybe it’s the anxiety stemming from competitors poaching their clients…or the lack of funds to meet month-end payroll…how about sales messages that fall on deaf ears.

The analysis also revealed:

  • general personality traits of your customers and prospects;
  • personal values;
  • whether they have an affinity for doing business with you;
  • their capacity for doing business with you.

The next step is to figure out how you can help each Persona. We’re not talking about generic answers, either. It’s more than increasing customer service or helping them to become more efficient. You’re looking for more specific ideas to help your Personas solve their specific challenges.

“People go online for 2 reasons, says Stephen Saber pictured above, CEO of TPNI Engage and Pulse Network. “To be entertained or to be educated.” The Pulse Network and TPNI Engage offers state-of-the-art marketing systems that help small business and enterprise clients to leverage social media, book publishing, special event management, video and mobile marketing to attract and engage customers. Full disclosure: I am a satisfied client who uses their systems for automated email marketing, podcasts, landing pages and newsletters. To name a few services.

“Your customers need to solve a problem,” says Stephen. “They need to grow their business and drive traffic, leads and sales,” so they’re looking for answers online. Yes, they want to self-educate.

The 4 types of Personas

It is tempting to throw everyone you know into the same database and send identical messages to the entire group.

Instead, try using a simple grid to place your customers and prospects somewhere in a 4-quadrant grid. Each quadrant shows conversations unique to their Persona profile. It’s the same as having a face-to-face conversations; each dialogue is different depending on who you’re talking to.

Here’s Stephen’s 4-quadrant grid along with my additional comments: Existing Customers; Lapsed Customers; Referred Friends; Desired Customers.

Quadrant 1: Existing Customers. These are your best clients. Individuals who land in Quadrant 1 have a high capacity and high affinity for doing business with you. Can you increase the amount of products and services you’re offering to them? How about the frequency for making a purchase.

Since you also know a lot about your customers, you probably don’t need to spend too much on additional study. That is not to say they should be ignored, but the research may be redundant.

Type of message: The communication—in 10 words or less—is simple and straight forward that solves their current challenge.

Quadrant 2: Lapsed Customers. These former customers are sitting in your database and, lately, you’ve not engaged them. Personas in Quadrant 2 have high capacity and the potential for the highest ROI.

Type of message: Remind them of what you do best. Their communication differs from Existing Customers because you haven’t talked to them lately. It’s just like an old friend you haven’t seen in years: You want to jog their memories about the good feelings you shared.

Quadrant 3. Referred Friends. Personas in Quadrant 3 may have great affinity, but undetermined capacity. They are great prospects because of their strong connection with friends of your business.

Type of message: Refer to common ground with your mutual friend and realize their circumstances might be vastly different. Ask questions about their current challenges.

Quadrant 4: Desired Customers. These are people you’d like to know but you’re not yet doing business with them. “It’s a fresh conversation,” says Stephen.

You don’t know about the affinity or capacity for Quadrant 4 people. It is important to qualify them, if only to ensure that scarce resources are not spent in attempting to build relationships or to pitch them. Low cost strategies are warranted and you do need to monitor the investment.

Type of message: It’s a brand new discovery conversation. Learn as much as you can about their business and paint points before offering solutions.Also learn – early – about their capacity and affinity for doing business with you.

Finally, determine the frequency of your messages and the best channels that reflect the Personas in each of your 4 quadrants.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program

Big business helped small business..

No, it’s not because of their shiny new tools.

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

Rinnnnnng! “We’re registered for the big IBM conference at Las Vegas in six weeks and we don’t have a social profile,” said Blaine McGillivray with some urgency.  “Can you help us, Sharon?”

Blaine is Business Development Manager for Technology Concepts Group (www.gotgc.com) headquartered at Illinois. The IT firm specializes in computerized maintenance, facilities management, and Maximo for industry. Their new solution, Predictive Insights, is all about the “cognitive era”. That means complex mathematical models for analyzing data that help plant operators detect and prevent faults and outages before they occur.

Blaine organized a conference call with President Mark Rogers and Managing Partner Robert Januzik to help me understand their business challenge. “I didn’t really know where to go with it (social media)”, said Mark in debrief.  “I also hadn’t realized the time involved.”

An audit of TCG’s social footprint revealed accounts for LinkedIn and Twitter and a static website—functioning much like a brochure.  No blog.  I’ve seen similar medium-sized companies that want to catch up with digital marketing; nobody wants to risk getting left behind today. TCG was a solid enterprise in business for 16 years and the principals were respected armed forces veterans.

The important detail was that TCG had finished integrating Predictive Insights with Maximo for computerized maintenance and case management systems. Think big industry—chemical plants, oil gas refineries, even car manufacturers. The new service was being launched at IBM’s conference expected to draw 21,000 delegates with 200 breakout sessions, 13 keynotes and 3 general sessions. Seven TCG personnel were making the trip to host their booth and Blaine planned to present a session on Predictive Insights.

The special event meant a serious investment for TCG.  They had six weeks to create a brand presence and promote the session.

It’s not a great idea to launch a marketing strategy in zero to 60 for any company, let alone one with little or no profile.  The better idea is to establish brand presence over time and take advantage of special event opportunities along the way.

By the way, just having a social media presence—such as a LinkedIn account—isn’t actually a social media strategy. It’s a good idea to define a plan, and more importantly, execute that plan daily with your customers in mind as well as prospects and other interested parties.

So, the plan for TCG looked like this:

  1. Determine best platforms for speed-to- market;
  2. Discover relevant influencers and build relationships;
  3. Fill the sales funnel with potential prospects and existing customers;
  4. Acquire and create content to post on platforms;
  5. Capture names of prospects at the event to follow up after the show.

Here’s how we did it.

1. Best platforms for TCG: This was easy enough. The LinkedIn/Twitter combo provides business with the best customer intelligence available today. We needed to quickly build up lists for Mark, Robert, and Blaine, though—especially on Twitter which had no brand image or followers. We corrected that by immediately taking professional photos and creating a slick banner with a relevant message for Twitter. The bigger challenge: where and how do you find prospects?

2. Relevant influencers: IBM global marketers were brilliant. They identified important technical bloggers and provided introductions to the people that TCG needed to meet. We still needed to make the case for support, though. Influential media reps also were researched and contacted. All were followed on Twitter and LinkedIn and interviews arranged where possible.

3. Filling the funnel: There was no time to manually build a database for prospects, so we chose to automate. Of course, there are untold platforms that promise the world in social media. More come out every day. The key is to know which tools to engage and how to apply them for which mission. We chose Socedo. (This is not a paid commercial.)

Socedo is an automated system that matched our custom criteria in a search for prospects inside Twitter. Once we approved a contact, Socedo also searched for them on Linkedin and engaged with them automatically on both social networks. We estimated finding 200 prospects per day and we had 20 days left to build up and engage with those followers.

4. Acquire and create content. TCG did not have a blog and they had not created content on a regular basis. The content bank was virtually empty. However, Blaine did have the power point he created for the IBM session which led to the publication of his first blog. Of course, the social media challenge is to find followers who believe you’re worth their time. Fresh content is key.

The good news was that IBM did have many relevant blogs, and IBM gave us permission to re-purpose for TCG. We did not need permission but it was the respectful way to go.

A lineup of blogs, articles, infographics and videos was queued up using SocialOomph and we published all day long. People noticed and followed. They’re still following three weeks after the event including Veteran Radio.

5. Capture names at the event for follow up. TCG was clever here. They created a fish bowl to capture names of interested persons in their service. Not the free iphone draw but a free Data Analysis valued at $2,000. The complementary proof-of-concept shows how a maintenance plant can avoid catastrophe by spotting the problem in advance; qualified prospects put in their business cards.

For another occasion, TCG could take advantage of a strategy I like that works this way:

  • Identify serious prospects at an event;
  • Create urgency for prospects to sign up for services;
  • Automate the client’s payment process;
  • Build a mobile site for prospects;
  • Create customizable pricing packages to offer prospects;
  • Automatically re-bill customers and makes payments to a PayPal account.

What happened for the seven TCG people who attended the event? “There was not enough time to handle the line-up of visitors to their booth,” said Mark.

And, yes, there was positive ROI with respect to the TCG social media campaign and the IBM show.  “Absolutely,” replied Mark Rogers. “Especially the combination of LinkedIn and Twitter.” He was surprised by the “amount of followers we got so quickly.” He also was impressed with the willingness of people to talk about their needs.

And Blaine–the guy on the telephone? He recently recommended me to another client. Good ‘ol word-of-mouth. So, these are a few reasons that I’m a fan of IBM. They were authentic in their dealings…respectful of their small business partners…and they saw the bigger picture.

The human element was not forgotten among all those shiny new tools that IBM offers.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program xxxxxx

There's confusion in the social office

The 5 levels of skill for the social office

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

There’s confusion in the new social office.  And the boss thinks all SEO is spam.

Employers are assigning new responsibilities for online marketing to professionals not trained in social media…to sales representatives who hate writing content…and to younger administrators expected to know how to make friends in the networks because of their age.

There’s more to keeping up with pithy comments in the online world. The real quest is to determine beforehand which channels suit you best, set up relevant tracking sytems, and influence conversations that already are talking about your brand. Did anyone hear the word “strategy”?

Here’s 4 key questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you answered the “why” of your communications?
  • How much do you know about your audiences?
  • Are you being realistic about the ability to manage strategic initiatives?
  • What are realistic expectations for what you hope to accomplish?

Once you’ve answered the above questions, concentrate on these next 4 areas.

  1. Appraisal: Evaluate core communications for clarity and consistency across each channel you’ve researched. Of course, communicating by email is not the same as posting or networking on Twitter and LinkedIn. Be prepared to change styles for each platform.
  2. Capacity: Determine resources such as knowledge of leadership, staff and partners to to reach for success.
  3. Delivery cycle: Integrate online activities with offline happenings. I often discover that my clients have been hosting or attending offline events that are not coordinated with their online activities. These are missed opportunities.
  4. Leadership: Confirm that leadership is on board with strategies and the delivery cycle to ensure the plan has support.

Which level of skill applies to you?

There are 5 levels of performance  where each level represents higher categories of know-how.

Level One: Ad Hoc – Un-coordinated, unassigned, no resources

An ad hoc communications practice is not coordinated, assigned or organized; no resources are allocated for results. Success is based on the competence and efforts of the business owner and one or two staff. Yet, these informal and often seemingly chaotic practices can be quite successful. The questions become:

  • How much more successful might you be if you were intentional in planning, coordinating and managing strategic communications?
  • Could you be more cost effective, provide more quality and quantity with intentional practices over time among staff, partners, sectors and supporters?

Level Two: Planned – Deliberate/managed, resources allocated, assigned responsibilities

The practice is planned and deliberate as opposed to being spontaneous, reactive or on an “as needed” basis. Resources are allocated to the practice, responsibilities are assigned, and the process is managed. Activities do not occur regularly, however, and may still be performed by one or two individuals.

Level Three: Identified process – Regularly performed

Level three practices are a routine part of the “fabric.” The business has determined their ideal ways to approach formal communications; practices are well known and coordinated within the business and among partners, sectors and supporters.

Level Four: Evaluated – Progress tracked

Communications results are evaluated. Measures of performance and progress are collected and analyzed. Often a quantitative understanding of success is known and tracked, and the business has a better ability to predict or estimate outcomes.

Level Five: Optimized – Continuous improvement

Distinctions between levels one and two are based on the degree to which a company is reactive and disorganized (level one) versus purposeful and proactive (level two). At level three, the practice is performed regularly, consistently across channels, and has been performed enough that the organization has gained a certain level of proficiency at it.

At level four, the business has committed to tracking communications to better understand how to improve performance. The business is monitoring the quality of the practice. Level five demonstrates an even higher level of commitment to the practice as the company is committed to improving performance over time.

These 5 levels describe how prepared your company is to deliver on a communications marketing plan. It may be that you need to revisit the basics or take a refresher course.

SEO, by the way, means search engine optimization.The practice improves search engine rankings for content to help you find new customers faster.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program

Teresa Spinelli on Have you found your online champions

They have power, influence and business impact

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

We know now that creating content, especially blogs, tops the list of every how-to strategy for marketing online.

You’ve got a few choices: You can publish your own blog, infographic, video or podcast, to name a few methods. Or you can distribute content acquired from other sources.

Another option is to find people with influence to help share your story through the clout they’ve built up across the different platforms.

We call this influence marketing. It’s the practice of working with prominent people online to spread the word about your products and services through social media.

Recently, I analyzed my Tweets over the previous 12 months. The evaluation revealed the names of 5 powerful influencers I want to thank. Here they are:

  1. Stewart Harding 683K followers
  2. Norman Buffong 450K followers
  3. Kim Garst 400K followers
  4. Pam Moore 250K followers
  5. Phil Glutting 128K followers

Just last week, Kim Garst kindly tweeted out a blog for me with a reach of 1885 impressions, 11 engagements, and 4 retweets. She said, “Yes!” to sharing the LinkedIn blog titled, Who’s on 1st in the social media c-suite?

Wow, thanks, Kim.

Over the year, my impressions increased by 29.5%, profile visits improved by 35%, and mentions amplified by 9.5%. This shows it’s possible for a business person to increase their profile by diligently posting on their preferred networks; Twitter and LinkedIn in this case. My most popular blog? An earlier version of this topic on influencers.

A really important metric, though, deals with engagement. I found the highest interactions came from my local community with amazing people I’ve known over the years. Isn’t that like real life? We generally connect more with folks we know better than those we’re getting to know. Here, I’m talking about Teresa Spinelli known around Canada as a much-loved business tycoon in the grocery store business.

I also want to give a shout out to a new friend, Michael Kawula, CEO at Social Quant. His platform was responsible for my top share for the post co-written with Olivier Taupin titled, What are you doing with all your contacts?

Here’s how Kraft foods recently handled a promotion for Christmas. Kraft cherry-picked 180 bloggers with verified fans and readers who fit the right customer profile. Each influencer wrote an original recipe that featured a Kraft ingredient and each recipe drove readers to a redeemable coupon at Target.

The national brand spent $43,000 to generate nearly 760,000 blog post views from around 180 recipes. Kraft engaged a snappy new platform called TapInfluence and the campaign was less expensive than traditional advertising.

Small and medium-sized business can do the same thing with sweat equity on a smaller scale by building their own lists of bloggers and developing relationships with them.

Influencers help with everything from increasing sales to public education campaigns, event promotions, fundraising, and new product introductions.

Where do you begin to find influencers?

Start within your own networks and move out from there. Build a database to keep track of these elements:

  • Name of influencer
  • Preferred network
  • Audience size
  • Age group
  • Engagement: Clicks, comments, shares, likes, retweets, pins, re-pins
  • Advertisers represented
  • Notes from conversations to remember what you heard them last say

Of course, there are hundreds of directories for over 250 million bloggers on the planet. When you run out of names from your personal circles of influence, try expanding your search of these directories:

Be prepared to give ideas about your audience to prospective influencers, as well:

  1. Topics important to your audience
  2. Background information for your clients who are considering making a purchase
  3. Answers to questions that your customers have not  thought to ask
  4. Online sources that customers research for information on similar products and services

What flummoxed me, though, was a way to rank bloggers with whom to develop relationships. Below is what Kyle Wong, founder and CEO of www.pixlee.com pictured above, figured out. I love it.

 Influence = Audience reach (#of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers.

Here’s 8 more points to remember:

  1. Don’t confuse volume of contacts with influence.
  2. Set objectives: Know what you want to achieve and make sure that you reach your targets.
  3. Think long term. Invest your time, attention and interest in the other person. Be careful not to be seen as only making contact when you want something from an influencer.
  4. Spot opportunities. Are you able to introduce the blogger to people within your network? Do you see potential partnerships or sponsorships to involve the blogger?
  5. Don’t forget your “everyday” customers and brand advocates. More than celebrities in your niche, this type of influencer/follower can boost small no-name companies to higher profiles.
  6. Mention the blogger on your own website or blog.
  7. Link to them – both hyperlink and other social media channels. Follow them on Twitter and retweet their best tweets. Suggest involving them in other more interactive ways – e.g. interviews or video
  8. Remember that bloggers are legally required to disclose if they are being compensated much in the way that traditional media must identify advertorials as paid messages.

In addition, when a blogger writes about your story and receives compensation, it is deemed a “sponsored post”. This means any hyperlink must be classified as ‘no-follow’ links which means they are not counted by search engines when calculating page rank.

Establishing presence in the digital world can seem overwhelming. Publishing a blog and identifying 5 influential bloggers to form relationships is a good place to start.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program

Olivier Taupin on crappy content

The truth about crappy content

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.  bit.ly/1JuaV8k 

“You need articles for the website?” pressed the CEO. “Words are cheap; buy them from one of those content farms.” I instantly knew we would not be working together very long given such little regard for his corporate image or for the reputation of his employees, customers and partners. Including mine.

Irresistible content comes from knowing what you stand for and what makes you unique. The clarity that comes from truly understanding what you offer—and for whom—is the promise that informs everything you say, write, record, produce and post.

Content farms are websites that hire a large number of freelance writers, editors, and videographers to pump out dirt cheap content at $15 per article. You can spend as much time searching their enormous databases for possible writers than you will to research and write the piece yourself.

Don’t get me wrong. There are excellent services who hire experienced journalists such as www.TroyMedia.com and www.NewsCred.com that vet their editorial teams and supervise the editorial process from start to finish. (Full disclosure: I contribute to Troy Media which distributes to news desks primarily in Canada and the U.S.) As a former magazine publisher, I can tell you it takes time to become familiar with the strength and style of any writer to determine if they’re a match for your story. We want you to rise above the clutter in your industry by getting to the vision behind your mission and telling us what nobody else has bothered  to say.  You don’t get that from bad prose.

Olivier Taupin knows a thing or two about building communities in social media. He’s established over 100 groups on LinkedIn with 1.4 million members. Olivier sees a gulf, though: The community builder too often receives regurgitated crap from companies who won’t pay for quality content to keep their prospects’ attention. After all, you want these people to become your customers.

The social media strategist urges you to, “Think about creating rich content that is useful and intriguing to your audience. For example, Oliver would not share a product brochure on Internet security from a Telco but he would be happy to share a well-written white paper on how to protect your business from hackers from that same Telco.

He encourages you to, “Demonstrate your expertise and forget about pushing self-promotional brochures.”

Today’s budgets are gradually moving towards providing good content—just not enough. The seduction is to avoid creating original content by professional writers in favour of buying cheap material that everyone’s seen before somewhere on the ‘net. People are smarter than that and expect more.

Marketers rely on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to improve search rankings, website traffic and lead generation. In June 2015 research by Ascend2, 72% of marketers cited relevant content creation as the most effective SEO tactic.

So, what are you going to write about?

First, you need to find the “why” and how it relates to your audience. That will be easier to do after you’ve identified your personas to satisfy the ABCs+ for your company.

A customer persona is more than a description of a target market. In addition to the traditional demographics, each profile describes:

  • A day-in-the-life
  • What keeps them up at night
  • Criteria they use to make a decision
  • Purchase cycle: impulse vs considered purchase and one-time vs recurring
  • Timeframe for making a purchase
  • Websites they frequent
  • Social footprint

The ABCs+ for your content 

Think about classifying your content into these categories: Acquaintances, Best friends, Champions, and Community. Your challenge is to create a digital hub that includes content to share, like, comment and refer on the social platforms. When content attracts and informs customers, it drives leads and sales.

Acquaintances. The first thing to appreciate in this group is that you barely know the person who has visited your website. Please don’t presume they immediately want to know you or like your message enough to purchase your products or services. They are researching other websites, too, and generally want to see value before returning for a follow-up visit. If they are intrigued enough to leave their email address, ask them a few discovery questions in your own lingo to know them better such as:

  • Have you identified a problem that needs a solution?
  • Is there a sense of urgency?
  • Have you had previous experience dealing with the same problem?
  • What will be the key factors driving your decision on this project?

Invest in this content:

  • Well-written blog
  • Infographics
  • E-books combined with video, audio, and written text
  • Landing page with CTA (Call-to-action)
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Curated content from quality sites such as swayy.com

Best friends. Just like personal friends, your top customers are those you trust in the best–and the worst of times. These clients purchase your products and services while you help them to grow individually and professionally. You can feel comfortable asking your Best Friends in business for references and introductions to their networks.

Invest in this content:  

  • Live and on-demand video
  • Newsletters
  • Photo albums
  • Landing page with CTA (Call-to-action)
  • Webcasts
  • Podcasts
  • Short videos
  • Open sessions with thought leaders

Champions. Business champions are your board members, investors and ideal customers as well as leaders of commerce and the community in the media and in politics. They take exceptional interest in your success and evangelizes your ideas within their networks.

Invest in this content:

  • Digital publications featuring your champions and their missions
  • Annual reports with a video message from the president
  • References in your blogs etc. to their efforts
  • Annual thank-you slideshow

Community members: Fever Bee, the people who study website communities, reports that technology has not made us better at building communities. The key is authenticity in your relationships…respect for your fans and followers… and recognition there’s a human being on the other end of a Tweet or website query. Communities can increase customer loyalty, buying behaviour, brand advocacy, and the exchange of knowledge while reducing the tendency to engage in negative behaviours.”

Invest in this content:

  • Weekly video updates
  • Groups discussons on LinkedIn with trained leaders
  • Webinar sessions on Facebook with trained speakers
  • Hangouts with subject experts on Google+

The list of ideas grows daily.  I like what Guo Guangchang had to say in a blog recently posted on LinkedIn. “An opportunity sustains an enterprise for a year; good management sustains an enterprise for a decade; good corporate culture sustains an enterprise for a century.” Guo is the chairman of Chinese conglomerate Fosun International with assets of $160 billion under management.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

 

Olivier Taupin and the Keystone Cops

Social Media Strategy Stage 1: Change Mindset

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. http://bit.ly/1cKPcjn

Keystone cops from the great silent-film comedies refer to, in this case, a lack of coordinated social media tactics performed with great zeal on behalf of your company. The term describes how nobody really understands what’s happening or gets where it’s all going.

“I see people doing tactics before setting up distribution networks,” says Olivier Taupin who owns 100+ groups on LinkedIn with 1.4 million members.  It’s better to first establish the proper mindset for social business as part of an overall strategy.

Here’s four more red lights the social media strategist encounters on a regular basis.

  • This increasingly common request: “We want you to manage our social media.” There’s great expectations for product launches and frantic calls to promote attendance at special events—yet, relationships haven’t been established to help share the messages on networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and Pinterest. The CRM’s email database is incomplete, too.
  • We have an event in 2 weeks and need a Twitter campaign to fill the room.” Alarmingly, this is a familiar call. The challenge is the company has insufficient followers which often leads to reliance on the network belonging to their social media specialist. It never works because the vendor’s followers generally have nothing to do with your business. Don’t get us wrong: It is possible to generate much interest with little advance notice using certain tactics but those relationships are shaky and likely won’t last.
  • “We know our customers. We have a list.” You may know your clients well after years of long-time service but there will be trouble going forward finding new prospects. Customers retire…move on…change positions. You constantly need to develop the sales funnels and new prospects are living online.
  • My company doesn’t have a social media plan but I’m pretty good.” Yes, individuals may have connections here and there on various networks but the overall company is entirely disconnected. “The future belongs to the corporation that recognizes its strength is the sum of personal brands belonging to all who work there,” predicts Olivier.
  •  Hiring a social media manager to do it all does not work. If you assign all responsibility for social media to a single person, “You are setting up the social media manager for failure.” You might want to call the position a social media coordinator since it is not possible for one individual to do it all. “The good news is when 100 people send out 100 positive tweets about a product launch, the brand takes full advantage of the power of social media.”

Confusion also reigns when social media is not aligned with the corporate vision, mission, and strategic objectives. If all the departments are constantly tripping over each other, the promise of your brand becomes an empty pledge. Worse, a brand can derail.

Each department may be using social media but employees are using different networks for reasons known only to them. For example, branding gets confused when HR considers the company culture to be traditional in nature but IT staff regard themselves as forward thinking while PR delivers still another profile to investors and the media.

Sales Bench Index (SBI) echoes this message in How to make your number in 2016. This insightful report advised that, in 2001, “57% of the buyer journey was complete before a salesperson was actively involved in the process. By 2015, this number had reached 69%.” Content marketing did not work so well and neither did social selling or free trials—if these strategic plans masqueraded as strategy.

Departments were working in isolation and in conflict with one another. “…The wheels were all spinning, but not in the same direction,” noted SBI.

“It’s time to set up a collaborative group drawn from key departments,” says Olivier. “Social media is everybody’s business,” which means that representation comes from sales, marketing, operations, customer support, IT, and HR.

Before you start, here’s some guiding principles.

  1. Train your employees and then trust them. Host regular company webinars/seminars to update employees, deliver general information materials including the annual report and on-boarding guidelines, send event hashtags and photos for sharing to employees together with corporate identity logos.
  2. Link everybody. CEOs are linked to their direct report and one level lower. All employees are linked to their team lead who make up the umbrella group for social media. This helps the entire company know what each other is saying and doing in the networks, implement a rapid response strategy when required, and immediately handle customer service requests.
  3. We’re all receptionists emphasizes Olivier which means employees at all levels become the eyes and ears of the company. Where responsibilities previously were assigned to a single individual, “we’re all part of it.”

As to general social media policy, keep it simple, says Olivier:

  1. Confidential information is not shared;
  2. All shared information is positive;
  3. The corporate identity that includes logo, colours, and content previously approved by the company is available for publication;
  4. New material is passed by communications marketing or respective unit managers before publication;
  5. Comments align with the company culture outlined within the vision, mission, values, and current strategic objectives.

Now you’re ready for the 7-Point Setup Plan

  1. Conduct an audit. Learn which networks your employees have joined on behalf of the company, determine their activity level, and whether messages are aligned.
  2. Form a collaborative social media team with department heads to build an aligned and coordinated social media strategy.
  3. Set up personal profiles on selected networks for all executives who don’t have accounts including the CEO and members of the board.
  4. Set up the company page on LinkedIn.
  5. Position the Twitter account with an individual rather than the corporate logo.
  6. Set up profiles on LinkedIn for everyone in your business unit. If you have 100 people in a business unit, you have 100 LinkedIn profiles on LinkedIn and on Twitter.
  7. Ensure that everyone is linked together through the social media coordinator appointed by the collaboration team.

Next up: Build connections, followers and fans on each of the social channels. This helps with finding your existing customers online as well as attracting people with a potential interest in your business.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

Olivier Taupin

Why more contacts in LinkedIn means better business

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. http://bit.ly/1cKPcjn

“Social media is perfect for small and medium-sized business,” says the man connected with more than 1.4 million people through groups he created on LinkedIn. “The key for them is to build local.”

Seattle resident Olivier Taupin is on the phone with me from Paris. It’s been five years since last we chatted, at length, and, today, we’re catching up on how business is conducted using modern sales and marketing. We met again on Twitter.

Olivier is the founder of 100+ LinkedIn groups and subgroups including Linked:HR, the largest professional group in the network with more than 975,000,000 members; Linked:Energy has 220K members and 121k people joined Next Dimension Careers. LinkedIn caps group membership at 1 million.

Is growing LinkedIn worth your time?

I’ll get to the question up front that business people regularly ask me about LinkedIn: Is it possible to be profitable? Yes, says Olivier. The key is to grow your groups, though. Yet, many thousands of group owners don’t have enough members to attract the interest of potential sponsors which is how business often is conducted on LinkedIn. He offers these ideas to monetize your efforts:

  • Weekly announcements sponsored by large companies;
  • Market research;
  • Sponsorship of sub groups;
  • Organization of free events including webinars;
  • Hosting of live events;
  • Promotion of social media content such as white papers podcasts and webcasts.

This doesn’t even touch the individual relationships you can build over time.

Small business typically doesn’t deal on a global scale says the partner in Next Dimension Media with offices in the U.S. and Europe. He also knows that smaller companies don’t have the budgets to hire marketers; sales people build relationships to grow the business. Except, now it’s understood that today’s new social sellers also need lots of content to publish online.

Social selling needs content

The challenge is that sales people often dislike taking the time to write copy; they want to spend their time selling. On the other hand notes Olivier, “The problem with writers is they’re not always good at building business relationships.” It’s the reason that sales and marketing departments need to work more closely together.

It’s also the reason he partnered with Dave Sumner Smith and Mike Briercliffe in Next Dimension Media. Sumner Smith ran The Sunday Times Enterprise Network in the UK & Ireland and The Daily Telegraph Business Club while Briercliffe won the B2B Prize in the 2011 International Golden Twitter Awards.

It’s a great partnership, says Olivier. “They didn’t know how to grow communities (on LinkedIn). I didn’t know about content…and content is key.”

Who should you reach with your message? “Target, target, target,” says the renowned expert in social media management. “Start with finding influencers in your region and your industry and then look for the job function that’s important for your business.” He recommends using the Boolean search method which allows you to combine keywords with AND, OR, NOT to find relevant results.

Social networking changed the game

Oil sands industry consultant Ken Chapman was most prescient in 2010 when he introduced Olivier and social media to my magazine’s readers. He said, “The Internet culture hates broadcasting and spam but it loves authentic virtual relationships and those generate word-of-mouth messaging from friends and influentials.”

Ken, no slouch in the online world, added this observation at the time: “The principles of engagement are just as they are in the traditional golf clubs, professional lunches, and industry conferences and conventions.”

Olivier started his group for human resources professionals in 2007 when he needed a job. He had a car accident and was out of work for two years, a lifetime in high-tech where he worked with disc drives and modems. He used the group to network with potential recruiters. “LinkedIn was already the best engine to find the job I was looking for and managing large groups helped demonstrate my social media expertise.”

Here’s 8 more tips on social selling from Olivier

  1. Expect to build relationships slowly. Getting people to know and trust you doesn’t happen over-night in personal dealings. The same is true for developing online business networks.
  2. Keep widening your circle of contacts. The more relevant connections, the better. Even though you don’t know them on an individual basis, the better chance you have reaching the people you’re targeting. It will take you a while to reach 30K contacts, the limit set by LinkedIn.
  3. Stop joining groups that reflect your own profession. LinkedIn allows you to join 50 groups, so it’s a good idea to sign up where your prospects are doing business.
  4. Be consistent with your content. Publish on a regular basis and approach your contacts with content that answers their questions. For example, Pulse is LinkedIn’s self-publishing platform generally related to ad tech marketing, finance, career development and professional growth. Expect longer blogs and a higher quality of writing on this platform.
  5. An hour a day. Invite people to your group every day and then look after them with information, advice, and ideas to help with their challenges.
  6. Think of social media managers as the “farmers of the Internet”. Their job is to find the best prospects for sales people who need to be regarded as the expert.
  7. The new VP Sales is somebody who can jump on the data. This person analyzes data to find influencers and helps sales people to connect with them.
  8. Your current customers are your champions. Look after your existing clients by finding them on such networks as Twitter and Facebook and support their efforts.

Final thoughts for business people who want to achieve more success using modern marketing?

“Train your top management in the world of social enterprise,” says Olivier. Next, develop your social media policies and “don’t be afraid to find people within your organization” to build a social media culture.

Finally, choose your best networks wisely, develop policies and, “Teach your employees how to use those networks properly” for the success of everyone involved with the company.

Next up for Oliver? Well, the social media evangelist tells me he’s aiming for 50K followers on Twitter by the end of the year.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program. 

How Your Career Journey IS Your #PersonalBrand: A Graphic Commentary

These reminders from great men will boost your day.

Your Career Coach, Liz

Graphic By Liz daRosa @lizdaRosa

What is your #personalbrand? If you had to sum up your career journey in a few bullet points what would you highlight? Each Thursday for the remainder of April, I will review how to refine and leverage your #personalbrand in the ‘right’ social media platforms to attract more future employers and/or customers. Here’s an example of creating a #personalbrand using a graphic:

Personal Branding; Liz daRosa's Career Journey, Created using Canva.com Personal Branding; Liz daRosa’s Career Journey, Created using Canva.com

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Mad Men

Forget Mad Men: Here’s the new office setup

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

You’ve finally decided to take the plunge.

It’s time to update your company marketing using digital strategies and tactics. Where do you begin; even the job titles are confusing.

What’s a content manager, anyway? Does that person also refresh your website built five years ago? Does the IT techy handle social media? Who looks after the website once it’s created and hosted among the other 876 million websites in cyberspace?

You’re not even sure if a website contributes to your sales funnel, anyway.

Frustrated executives

I’ve spoken with five business executives this week, alone, who are frustrated with knowing how to invest in modern marketing. Let alone understand why they’re doing it.

It becomes a vicious cycle. Most don’t know what to expect from digital marketing. Business owners know it’s a good thing to post comments, pictures and video somewherel; they often relegate that role to people without much experience. Once hired, those assigned to the task don’t have experience showing results.

“The truth must be told,” replied veteran communicator and published author Les Brost in reply to my prospecting email. “There are more social marketers, networking specialists and web designers than there are store clerks imaginable!”

Les was right. By 2020 there will be nearly one and a half million open jobs in the tech sector (in the U.S. alone). Those skills are 20 of the top 25 most sought after skills by employers on LinkedIn, and all 10 of the fastest growing keywords in job listings are tech related.

Here’s more confusion: employers are lumping in new roles for marketing with IT engineers, web designers, and technicians. Home-office workers posting 140 characters to social media sites, who don’t have any experience at all in marketing, also call themselves social media marketers. These posting services are sometimes called content farms and they often are located in the Philippines and India. There’s also heavy recruitment going on now in Canada and the U.S. for the same role—no experience required.

This cycle of confusion will cost you in nonperforming websites, budget overruns, and lost sales.

Whether you’re a business owner who needs to upgrade your website or hire a social media manager to market what you’ve already built, keep on reading. As ever, when it comes to marketing for small business, solopreneurs must do for themselves; larger businesses want their digital marketing mangager to do it all; bigger business have full-scaled operations.

Here’s a list of job descriptions drawn from Skills Crunch with my editorial comments thrown in for good measure.

Digital marketing manager: This role is intended to understand customers, the stories they tell, and determine how to find them online. Instead of magazine ads and radio commercials, digital marketing managers advertise on new media platforms like social networks, handle email, blogs, assemble newsletters, establish editorial calendars, and measure their success with hard data.

The digital manager gets the ball rolling by helping to define personas, create/curate content, understand email marketing, SEO and web analytics, branding and storytelling, and A/B testing. Of course, each of these categories have specialists who deliver best practices in each category. An email marketer, for example, knows about automated systems, writes copy for better opening rates, and manages event campaigns.

Content Creator:  We used to call them writers, editors, photographers, videographers and graphic designers. The difference is that the new breed also knows the technical tools used in digital marketing.

Content makes the search engines go ‘round. Even if you have dedicated blogger and ebook writers, that material still needs to be adapted to each social network.  This includes positioning content in under 140 characters, creating images to accompany posts, creating variations of posts for each piece of content. 

Content creators and social media coordinators are like reporters; they need to have their eyes and ears open to what’s changing on social networks and in the industry. A successful content creator will be able to find new opportunities for the company by keeping a pulse on the industry.

Graphics Designer, Photographer, Videographer, Podcaster: Some content creators are able to use the tools that create online banners, flyers and infographics. Others are able to whip out their phones to capture images, video, and podcasts to publish on websites and across channels. It’s important to know when it’s time to engage the professionals, though, and have them produce materials for either traditional print or digital requirements. They are not the same. Please repeat.

Subject Matter Expert: The go-to person in their respective field. They have in-depth knowledge and access to information about the business including products, billing issues, customer data, or industry trends. So, they might not be actively monitoring social media, but there will be times they’ll need to get involved in social conversations.

Choose a title: Funnel Marketing Manager or Social Media Manager: Funnel marketing expands the reach of your content, attracts visitors to your website, generates leads, and nurtures them to become customers.

They need to share content that generates leads, and run new campaigns to find the best ways to do lead generation via social media. This person also engages one-on-one with potential customers who are considering your product or service, or simply need your help. Social media is particularly effective as a lead nurturing tool because prospects use multiple media (not just email) to consume information and social channels allow you to engage in a timelier manner.

In order to do all of this effectively, social media managers need to have a strong understanding of sales and marketing which leads to moving prospects  to the next stage in the process.

Database manager: I believe the database manager is a key ingredient in the whole enchilada. A good database is the only real estate you own when it comes to managing your existing customers and attracting new ones. Other platforms can disappear and take names of your contacts with them. This person can also help tag photos and keep your files backed up. Databases can be managed by a virtual assistant using a good automated marketing system, in an excel spread sheet, in the sales department, or by IT.

This all brings me to whether you have a CRM platorm and have people trained in analytics research to bridge marketing with website activities, as well.

These next position descriptions are for the people who build your website and are more IT related. Don’t let the number of positions scare you off; they typically are managed through the website builder you contract.

Front-end designer: Front-end designers can do a lot of different jobs, from seeing designs through prototyping to implementing to focusing on coding existing designs.

The main responsibilities of a front-end designer are to transform mock-ups into web pages, create and optimize graphics for the web.  

Information architects create site maps and user flows, define data flows/delivery, and research concept and usability testing. They spend time with web analytics, organize information, and translate user behaviour into site structures. Think about a WordPress expert in this category, too.

Make sure to ask your website developer who handles DevOps to bridge between developer, quality, and technology teams. This role helps them understand each other’s tasks and situations so that they can work together to get the best results.

By the way, what experience has your website team in developing ecommerce with proper security certificates in place?

UX Designer: A relatively recent addition to the website scene, user experience designers spend more time testing copy, design and work flow to discover visitor habits and improve traction to the site. It cost extra but the additional effort translates to a more productive website, especially when it comes to ecommerce.

Mobile Developer: It’s become increasingly important for websites to be  turned into apps. You want a mobile developer to optimize code for mobile, take designs from prototype to code, and test and analyze code for mobile.

Security Specialist: It goes without saying how important security is in tech nowadays.

Investing in  the digital space may sound daunting to business leaders with more experience within traditional marketing. Still, understanding the most common mistakes made when going digital, and how to avoid them, will help you tremendously during the planning stage. Remember, you want to produce the highest quality content and reach the widest possible audience—don’t let easily avoidable misunderstandings cost you money and time.

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Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.