Tag Archives: Strategic planning

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.

 

Dr. Donald Norman founded UX or user experience

Is your website losing money for your business?

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

I’m hearing this lately: “Our website isn’t performing…we don’t get any leads…prospects never contact us, let alone customers.”

The message hits close to home for many businesses. Website owners often think the conversion of site visitors to full-fledged customers happens automatically–just because they’ve hired a website designer to launch their digital property.

In 1997, my magazine’s first website performed much like a print brochure. Read: old school. After seven or eight iterations over the next 12 years, we had yet to publish a blog, link with Facebook or host a PayPal account. We weren’t able to accept advertising, register for special events, or engage subscribers; Twitter was eight years away from driving followers to the site.

Thank goodness we had the prescience to build and maintain a database of about 5,000 fans.

In those early days, ecommerce was in its infancy. Amazon had launched their first site on July 5, 1994, while retail giant Marks and Spencer was opening its online doors for the first time – becoming an early ‘bricks and mortar’ entry into the world of credit card commerce.

My own next big web experience came with an investor-backed portal that provided marketing services to wellness experts such as family physicians, dentists, psychologists, nutritionists, and personal trainers. The website drew on big talent from IT engineering, graphic design, social media, live streaming television, web radio, and content creation.

There was a lot of ‘making it up as we went along’ combined with tried-and-true methods for sales and marketing. The concept had merit, yet, we rarely tested copy and there was no time to ask about our visitors—what they liked and disliked, their online habits or purchasing behaviours. For example, Google analytics allowed us to track visitor activities but we did not know who they were and why they behaved as they did.

The missing piece was knowing more about the website’s user experience—affectionately known today as UX.

Those who work on UX (called UX designers) study and evaluate how visitors feel about your website. Such things as ease of use, perceived value of services offered, and efficiencies are tested along the way.

UX designers also look “under the hood”. For example, they might study the checkout process to see how easy—or frustrating—it is to make a purchase. They also pay close attention to Web forms.

UX is relatively new. The term “user experience” was coined by Dr. Donald Norman (pictured above) best known for his books on design, especially The Design of Everyday Things. His message? Systems that ask the user to carry out many tasks must be regarded as a walk in the park: pleasant and without potholes.

Business owners thinking about ecommerce websites risk big losses in revenue by neglecting the user experience. Please trust me on this one.

UX AND USABILITY DIFFER 

By the way, user experience and usability are not the same. UX tells us how a visitor feels about your website system. Did they love their experience? Usability is about how well the interface works.

Of course, usability is important. Yet, it’s the human considerations such as psychology, information architecture, and attractive design that also play major roles.

3 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT UX

There are often two types of website visitors today– those who know what they are looking for and those looking to be inspired. Like window shoppers. Here’s how UX contributes to both sides of the ledger: expense and revenue.

USER SURVEYS: A UX designer interviews existing and potential users of the system to gain insight into what would be the most effective design. Because the user’s experience is subjective, the best way to directly obtain information is by studying and interacting with users.

WIREFRAMES AND PROTOTYPES: Based on their findings, UX specialists might develop wireframes showing different layouts as well as prototypes presenting higher-fidelity devices. A nice touch, especially when you’re thinking about incorporating, say, expensive live streaming.

USER PROFILES AND PERSONAS: A thorough understanding of your audience enables UX specialists to develop experiences that reflect the voice and emotions of potential clients. In my estimation, this is the only safe way to go. Otherwise, the train you want to build won’t even even leave the station.

CAN YOU AFFORD UX?

Small and medium-sized businesses often carry out much of their own sales and marketing activities by themselves. If there’s a budget for their website, the focus is more on the build process and less on planning, research and analysis. Companies with small budgets will be driven more by the launch of the final product.

LARGER COMPANIES WITH MORE COMPLEX INITIATIVES–AND TIME

Digital designers can supply anyone with a website template–fast. Adding a new element to the process will extend the timeline. It’s the advance thought that benefits website owners by saving costs down the road in revision phases and missing the mark of delivering a good experience for their users.

A useful website caters to researchers as well as to window shoppers. We want clear navigational links, solid search tools, and stimulating content with  good images for clients and prospects to do business with you.

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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.

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Don’t get left behind: Modernize your marketing in 2015

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Still not convinced that social enterprise adds to your bottom line? You’re not alone.

“Only 52% of companies say that executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with their company’s social strategy,” reports the Altimeter Group on the state of social business. The path to social enterprise is being limited by a dearth of executive buy-in, says the research authority.

Too bad. CEOs might take social enterprise more seriously if they knew that modern marketers deliver on average 20% more revenue and 60% higher profit growth. McKinsey and Company-named in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s World’s Best Companies for Leaders says leaders must champion social change if it’s ever going to happen for an organization.

Can you afford to be beaten to the bottom line by your competitors? 

HubSpot hands out these stats: 72% of salespeople who use social media outperform their colleagues who aren’t using it. That includes your competitors.

Here’s more evidence from these experts.

Melonie Dodaro: Over 55% of profiles on LinkedIn are incomplete. Translation: lost business. Optimize your online presence for both the company and for sales reps, says Dodaro.

I agree. Only a third of the contacts in my own list on LinkedIn have been completed properly. Very difficult to enjoy the fruits of social selling if the seeds have blown away.

Jesse Noyse, Kapost (pictured above): Marketers need to practice accountability and answer these questions:

  • Who creates content and what role will they play?
  • How will we prioritize topics?
  • What resources do we have to create content?
  • What resources will we need to add?
  • How do we get content out of the door?
  • What can we do to ensure our content gets seen externally and internally?
  • How do we measure return on investment?

Nick Johnson, Incite Marketing and Communications:Incite recently polled their network of big brand marketers on The Future of Content. Only 21% of respondents felt they were even close to approaching audience saturation. There’s still a lot of room to grow.

Nataly Kelly, MarketingProfs: Take some training. This may include social media boot camps to get your leadership team on the same song page.

Here’s one from my client files: In the case of Affordable Storage Sherwood Park, Sharon Romank and staff thought self storage was too boring for a newsletter topic.

That theory was disproved soon enough with open rates reaching 55%. The industry average for products and services: 16.4%.

How did we do it? Affordable agreed to revisit their vision and mission statements…get clear on customer personas for a tighter writing style…deliver relevant copy for their customers.

It’s time business leaders get onside with social selling. Yet, marketers also must be prepared to demonstrate results.

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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.

 

Jay Abraham

Email is your endgame in business– every time

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Last week’s blog confirmed that email isn’t going away anytime soon and blogs top the list of social selling tactics.

The findings arose from Michael Stelzner’s Social Media Examiner when they surveyed 2800 marketers on how social media grows and promotes business. It’s vital to know when asking yourself, “Where do I start?”

This blog looks at your endgame: the email list.

Yes, social media is sexy today. Everywhere you turn, there are offers to sell you the latest shiny, new tool. Except, it’s easy to get caught up in the million-dollar promises without knowing the foundation of an effective marketing strategy. It’s like the small business owner I met last week who wanted to host a client appreciation night without knowing her clients other than their names, their vague buying habits, and that they had been her customers for over 15 years. She wanted a social media campaign–yet, to what end?

It’s important to know the facts on email:  By 2018, there will be 2.8 billion email users, up from 2.5 billion this year. This number compares to:

  • LinkedIn: 300 million
  • Facebook: 1.23 billion
  • Twitter: 271 million
  • YouTube: 1 billion
  • People send an average of 121 emails each day
  • Business sends 108 billion emails annually

Remember Jay Abraham? He’s the guy that best-selling authors Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey, and Brian Tracy quote for his marketing genius. The business visionary is known for his strategies in direct response marketing from the 1970s that apply today to email marketing. I started using his counsel during my fundraising days in the 1980s which meant learning about the power of lifetime clients in three ways:

  • increasing the number of donors
  • growing the size of the donation
  • leveraging the frequency of contribution

The strategy applied to my businesses, too. We started with a well-designed list every time. The challenge we had growing the house list in those days was that we didn’t have great funnels from which to keep filling the pipeline. Our only sources were lists we bought, rented or traded from other like-minded organizations.

So, a Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook following is good because the networking contributes to the email list where your lifelong clients live. The other reason for keeping an email list clean is when/if a network dies out like Myspace. E-mail will always be there and you won’t lose the list. That’s what’s so powerful about email.

By the way, when is it safe to buy lists? “NEVER buy an email list,” says the Email Experience Council in the U.S.  Lists that are available for purchase are full of dead addresses that ISPs use to identify spammers. “Sending to a bought list is a sure-fire way to get blacklisted by ISPs.” However, the Council doesn’t have a problem renting lists from reputable vendor. I say, “Don’t do it,” to be safe here, too.

Yet, according to a new report from Folio sponsored by Lyris, many publishers are still struggling with the basics of email marketing. The survey of 175 publishing professionals revealed the following pain points:

  • List growth (55%)
  • Dynamic content/personalization (42%)
  • List maintenance (41%)
  • Mobile optimization (33%)
  • Analytics (33%)
  • Segmentation (30%)
  • Content automation (29%).

Need good ideas to stay focused on your endgame? Here are 7 for you.

1. Start with clean-list-building practices. New anti-spam legislation reminds us to build lists with people who have expressed an interest in hearing about your product or service. When you have consent or the proper permission to send an email to someone, success rates and deliverability go way up. You want the sender to recognize you when you send them an email.

Build email sign-up opportunities into your website. Consider using a pop-up form to collect new subscribers and leverage loyal subscribers by including “send to a friend” or “refer to a colleague” options in outbound messaging.

2. Keep lists current. Clean your list regularly by sending a campaign at least every three months. Believe me, you don’t want to risk getting blacklisted or blocked. I’ve seen it take as long as nine months before the search engines allow a company back in business online. Not worth the risk.

3. Figure out your data fields. This is worth repeating: It’s always best to start with good habits when you’re building a list; otherwise, there’s much pain involved in cleaning it up. The Email Experience Council says those companies that keep their lists clean generate 7  times the number of inquiries and 4 times  the number of leads.

Try to clean up multiple titles for the same person. To create a solid foundation for effective email marketing, consider standardizing the title data by using the fields of “Function” and “Role” rather than highly variable fields like “Job Title.”

4. Segment your audience and define your personas. Segmenting is all about understanding your different customer groups. Separate the groups based on job function, buying habits, online preferences, and geography. Identifying your personas gives you an edge in crafting a blog, for example, that speaks comfortably to that specific group.

5. Create lots of content… as long as it’s relevant. Relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than general e-blasts, according to Jupiter Research. Keep content simple with a good balance of text and images. Spammers don’t usually “waste” time doing so, whereas some marketers want to dazzle with too many images. Emails with JavaScript and attachments also send a red flag.

6. Welcoming email. An Experian study found that welcome emails have 4 times the open rate and 5 times the click rate of traditional newsletters.  A welcome email establishes trust and helps you establish a relationship with your customer.

7. Establish your online brand. Your logo, brand images, and positioning statements can be designed for each platform. Social networks differ slightly which means your artwork should be changed and sized to suit each audience.

8. Track performance over time. Gaining a window into your campaign’s open rates and click-through rates will help with tracking growth and success over time. This data helps you to get insights into what content and subject lines are successful and how to improve your approach

Email is your endgame. We’ll look at how you can save time with email automation next time.

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Need help with modern marketing? Co8ntact 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.

 

8 steps +1 more to navigating the media maze  

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Most leaders of commerce and the community want media coverage for their organizations. They understand the power of journalistic exposure for their mission and recognize that space in traditional media is at a premium.  Invariably, these influencers also want reporting only under these conditions:

  • If it’s positive
  • If the message is controlled
  • If they look good

A veteran broadcaster who, as journalists are fond of saying, moved to the “dark side” of public affairs published a new book this summer on his perspective from both sides of the microphone.

The Honest Spin Doctor is a 93-page account by Grant Ainsley for people who want to pitch the media on covering their story. That’s his photo above this blog. It’s also for those who want to avoid deeper scrutiny by journalists and find themselves in a news maelstrom. Either way, he says it’s possible for CEOs, politicians, and spokespeople to be honest in their relationships with reporters.

What’s captivating is Ainsley’s recall of names and details throughout his career. He’s also candid about his fear of the unknown, especially when Ainsley decides to move out of the broadcast booth and into the world of corporate communications.

The award-winning journalist uses breezy story-telling to deliver his lessons. Yet, don’t underestimate the modest approach. Ainsley describes several real-world examples of how miscalculations by poorly prepared spokespeople went terribly wrong. Anyone remember former chairman of BP Tony Hayward and the blown-out well of Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico? Or Lululemon Athletica Founder Chip Wilson and the stupid comments he made about women’s thighs?

Edmontonian Grant Ainsley started his radio life in 1977 as a disc jockey at CKSA Lloydminster before moving that same year for a job in the newsroom at CFQC Saskatoon. He returned to Edmonton in ’78 for news posts at CHQT followed by 96 K-Lite as news and public affairs director for 10 years. The guy paid his dues.

The move in 1992 by the CRTC to allow radio stations to cut back on the spoken word prompted Ainsley to change his profession. He joined the City of Edmonton’s public works department in communications before taking on The Alberta Home Builder’s Association as CEO for 12 years.

The Internet was just starting to take hold in business life in those years and much change was afoot in the world of media.

This book comes at a time when employees also want to see their leaders become more vocal in sharing their perspectives about the future. They want their chief to alert them to what’s coming down the pike so they can prepare themselves, as well. Increasingly, employees want to know more about the values espoused by their executives and understand who they are as people and what really drives their thinking.

These precepts make a leader today and applying Ainsley’s ideas for getting along with the media make good sense, too.

Here’s some of his notions that stood out for me. But you can get this book for yourself at www.grantainsley.com to find more.

1. Build a long trap-line

This is the foundation for any solid media plan—heck, any marketing plan. Ainsley encourages readers to build a database with these details:

  • Names of reporters and outlets
  • E-mail addresses for reporters as well as assignment editors in print, radio, and television
  • Contact details for relevant bloggers
  • Contact information for weekly newspapers
  • The B list of names for people who are not members of the media but who are relevant to the story.

2.  The media release is king

  • Develop an announcement in the way a reporter might tackle the story. Find out the W5: who, what, where, when and why. And how.
  • Learn the position of a reporter by following their by-lines or Twitter feed
  • Keep the media release to one page
  • Include a quote from a spokesperson

I would add that media names be organized into separate tiers, based on their social authority and influence.

There are many social tools to help you find influencers, including Followerwonk, Klout, Topsy, Commun.it, and Group High.

3. Timing is everything

Ainsley likes Monday morning announcements at 11 am because reporters generally are thirsty for news at the start of the week. He also likes to schedule television news conferences at 11.30 am.

He doesn’t talk that much about the print media, so I recommend becoming aware of daily and weekly newspaper deadlines as well as magazine closing dates. Reporters and opinion columnists also have different writing styles and cut-off-dates.

4. Supply a variety of content formats

Develop a complete media kit with these contents:

  • Media release
  • Fact sheet
  • DVD with a memory stick
  • High resolution photo of key players

5. Embrace social media

There’s every opportunity today for organizers to cover their own special events, says Ainsley. If a reporter or assignment editor won’t respond, organizers can try doing it themselves by building up social media contact lists to receive messages and postings. Campaigns centres also can be set up during the event to distribute live content.

Yet, the latest social media industry report from Social Media Examiner tells us that a big concern for organizers in 2014 is figuring out how to find their online target audiences—journalists and reporters, in this case. How to connect also remains high on the list of questions.  More attention is required here.

6. Develop a communications policy

I like this one, a lot, and Ainsley includes a sample policy in his book. He recommends that company spokespeople be identified in advance, reveals how go-to people might conduct themselves, and explains the rules for non-spokespeople. A safe way to get started? Take them all for training.

7. Develop a social media policy

There is no escaping the increasing momentum that social media has on business every year. The same industry report from Social Media Examiner tell us that 92% of business indicates social media is important for their business, up from 86% in 2013.

Here, again, Ainsley addresses salient points that will keep organizations in front of any potential for a media crisis. His chapter 3 title says it well: “Companies need to deal with social media, or a lot of things will start crawling out.”

Ainsley gives his readers a sample policy in the book and suggests that companies explain what employees can and cannot say in social media when talking about the company.

He also recommends that someone be assigned to check to see if employees are following policies from time to time.  Don’t have a policy? Don’t count on the courts to see it your way if the company is slammed.

8. Grant’s 4 steps to a great interview

Readers will gain tremendous insights by scouring The Honest Spin Doctor and adapting ideas for their place of business. Here’s just a few tips in summary from a clear, crisp read:

  • Learn everything possible about the subject and the announcement
  • Develop key messages
  • Practice until every possible question and answer turns easily inside the head
  • Executive with confidence

9. Follow-ups are crucial, but don’t stalk

I’m adding this final point on follow ups with the media using email. Top influencers may not acknowledge every mention or tweet in social media but followers must respond when they do.

When making contact via email, be clear how the email address was obtained (if it’s not readily available to everyone) and also remind the person of the social media relationship. If the influencer replies, great. If not, do not keep sending emails. Continue the outreach via social media instead.

I liked this book.  If you want to navigate the media maze, you will, too.

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Need help with your strategic content? 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.

 

Jill Rowley explains social selling

What the heck is social selling?

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

In short, social selling is the sales technique that builds relationships using online media. And, yes, it works.

Canada’s #1 LinkedIn expert Melonie Dodaro recently gathered four dynamic women to shed light on how digital media is monetized for business. The panel  topic lured me given the push back I received last week from skeptical business owners. The long-time entrepreneurs had trouble believing that an investment of resources in social media is worth their time or money.

Joining Melanie on the panel monitored by Lynne Serafinn, author of The 7 Graces of Marketing, were Jill Rowley who left Salesforce to train Oracle’s 23,000  salespeople before  opening her own firm; Allison Maslon, author of Blast Off! and architect of, at last count, 10 very successful businesses; and Boom! Social author Kim Garst named by Forbes among the top 20 bloggers in the world. Let me put this last point in perspective for you: Tumblr and WordPress alone count over 242 million registered blogs on the planet.

I listened closely to these inspiring thought leaders hosted by Melonie in celebration of her latest release on Amazon, The LinkedIn Code. The subtitle gives you insight to her purpose for the telesummit: Unlock the largest online business social network to get leads, prospects & clients for B2B, professional services and sales & marketing pros.

Jill Rowley started off by saying, “Selling is not a dirty word.” Thank you, Jill. Selling—or influencing—is what we do every day of our lives: We convince our bankers to sign a loan, coax children to clean their rooms, persuade charitable patrons to buy medical equipment for our hospitals. Remember when salespeople walked into an office, grabbed a look around for pictures of kids or spotted golf clubs in the corner before striking up a conversation? The personal observations helped to move relationships along.

Social selling today helps to research prospective clients before any in-person meetings ever take place. The networks tell us something about the client if they have profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. It’s a way to “get to know your contact,” says Kim Garst. She adds that social media enables her to find a connection point with prospects, one that identifies their professional values…shows her how to be useful in a new relationship…and how a moment of inspiration might be triggered.

Melonie backs her up to say, “You should not be selling on social media. Social networks are where you build relationships,” before you take them offline.

This is a common mistake according to all the experts. Too many salespeople are chasing the old practice of ABC or Always Be Closing. The new dictum:  Always be Connecting.

People don’t want to do business with online stalkers, says Allison Maslon.

Kumbayah? Nope, says, the business coach. “Such prospecting is more than a naively optimistic view on the world of business.” Rather, the new style moves the prospect up the sales funnel by offering useful information, stating their values up front, and providing added substance through webinars, blogs,  and video training.

Prospects want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. This was a phrase repeated many times during the lively dialog.

Here’s 6 more insights from Melonie who trains clients worldwide:

  1. Commit to providing added value to your clients
  2. Prepare to create original content as well as curated content
  3. Strive for quality
  4. Nurture a community of sharing
  5. Position yourself as an expert
  6. Do your best with Google which drives traffic to Melonie’s website more than any other of her marketing endeavours

Business owners want their salespeople to bring in new business. So, what about finding more leads?

Keep an eye out for Part 2 and my next blog on this topic.

Need help with your messages? Contact me here: sharon@worldgatemedia.com or visit my website at www.worldgatemedia.com

 

Sharon MacLean owned and published a print magazine over 21 years for business people. She was an early adopter in social media and now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients. The communications strategist believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

 

Crisis communications

Crisis communications—online

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Many companies still struggle with social media strategies for their business and brands, especially when it comes to a crisis.  We’ve had our fair share of calamities over recent days in Alberta and around the world.

Traditionally, corporate communicators had well-practised systems in place to take control of events on the ground to ensure clear lines of communication. I met with one experience in my early career that I have never forgotten

A group-home emergency involving “negative behaviour management” of children led to a media maelstrom in Grande Prairie where I was working on a routine communications audit. Government personnel clearly were at fault and it made my stomach turn. Yet, as the go-to person, I was required to manage the media crisis through a telephone relay that involved Peace River, 2.5 hours north of  Grande Prairie where I was located, and Edmonton where wagons were circling around the minister’s office in the Legislature. Stressed employees later said they felt under siege by national media.

Today, the atrocity would have exploded online. Deservedly so.

It’s one thing to watch a video on YouTube go viral. It’s quite another thing to be motivated beyond clicking “Like” on Facebook to register shared outrage or re-tweeting a message without leaving the comfort of your computer—as in the case of BP’s Horizon disaster in 2010. The catastrophe has been described by media analyst, Metrica,  as “the first  new media and the first social media corporate environmental crisis.” Online activity saw the launch of an interactive website, an interactive pollution map, and the Instant Oil Spill interactive game by Cleaner Future.

In crisis communications, Ethical Corporation says, the volume, speed, and spread of opinions via social media can leave companies with a sense of being “outflanked, outpaced and overwhelmed.” Here are their recommendations combined with a few of my own to survive the instant flood of real-time reactions, comments and questions.

  1. The whole wide world: There is no option to contain a story to a local operations base. The addition of hashtags turned up the volume forever.
  2. Tell us now. Social media users won’t wait patiently until the corporate statement is worked out through an old school approval process. Leadership will appear aloof and arrogant.
  3. Tell us nicely. Users expect social media etiquette to be respected. That means being polite, humble, and transparent. Leaders who shun media interviews will alienate audiences and escalate the crisis.
  4. Get the story first. Gather as many facts early as possible from trusted sources—despite the craziness of many moving parts. The ability to separate fact from fantasy is served well by instincts like those of an investigative reporter.
  5. Citizen journalism. This element joins traditional reporting in the search for individual experiences with material that will find its way to a variety of channels in real time.
  6. Hoax sites. Another very real element that adds to all the confusion. Jump on those fast. 
  7. Credibility and influence. Credible third parties offer independent perspectives—driving hubs of conversation online and off. Best to become familiar with those influencers and their views about your brand—before a crisis hits. 
  8. Black out. Put a hold on all other messaging going out on a regular basis. It will seem insensitive. 
  9. Beware skeletons. This has ever been thus—and becomes even more relevant when it comes to online.

Since my earliest experience with crisis communications, I’ve come to believe that corporate communicators usually have good common sense. Company spokes people need not react to everything they hear. It’s a good idea, though, to listen first—before you engage and act.

 

2013 marketing predictions gone wrong

Beware the Chicken Little Syndrome

By Sharon A.M. MacLea

1. Go mobile or go home

Six years ago, in 2008, I kept running into the new Apostles of Social Media who wailed that traditional media was dead. Oddly, these were the same people who knocked on my door the loudest looking for coverage in my print magazine.

Turned out that social media was only a piece of the pie. Networking online works best alongside SEO, community groups, web analytics, pay-per-click, email marketing, lead generation (read sales pages) and good ‘ol face-to-face special events.

Yes, mobile is here to stay and we know that over 91% of the world’s population owns a mobile phone; more than half are smart phones.  Half again of smart-phone owners say their primary internet source is their phone. That means less than 25% of all mobile users usually look up stuff on the internet. So, it’ a good idea to be aware of the trend.

The volume is not enough to rip up your marketing strategies in favour of mobile.  Your customers still watch TV and make phone calls…they’ve fallen in love with their tablets and still like working on their desktops. It makes better sense to ask your customers which type of screen they prefer to use. And then make sure you’re available for whichever device or style of conversation they prefer. It might even be the phone.

Beware the Chicken Little Syndrome

2. Marketing makes money

Sadly, we cannot yet prove this to be true.  At least, it’s not easy to prove—unless sales, IT and marketing can all work together nicely in the same sandbox. Marketers do want to be held accountable for setting the stage when it comes to achieving top-line results for business. It might be easier for small business to tie these three actions together but it gets more difficult in big business where the separate services work in silos.

Why the turf protection? My theory is that IT ruled the online world for too long and felt marketers were nothing more than the “arts and crafters” of business. Nothing could be further from the truth. A good marketer begins with a strategy that is anchored by objectives—including financial.

Don’t get me started on big data, either. Who but research geeks working in government space agencies even understand the term?

As HubSpot found in the 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report, the biggest challenge ranked by marketers has been proving ROI. The report also notes that only one-third of businesses have a formal agreement between sales and marketing to deliver leads and customers.

The other key factor is tracking audiences across channels, sometimes with software systems that don’t talk to each other. HubSpot advises IT needs to increase its support for marketing

3. Print is dead

I’ve been listening to this one since the last decade. Yes, I did sell my magazine in 2010 to move into online communications but, as a long-time print publisher, please let me tell you that print is alive and well.  Can you hear the whirl of print presses? They’re going at top speed.

Direct response marketing is picking up steam again. So, is the idea of sending post cards in the mail to a select few from your customer list.  Here again, HubSpot asked the question: Do you think Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos got it wrong when he purchased the Washington Post?

Nope. Print’s not dead.

2013 Predictions from Innovative Marketers

Did they come true?

 by Sharon A.M. MacLean 

New predictions for digital marketing hits and misses are out now. HubSpot leads the way with their forecasts. This visionary company follows the likes of MOZ Founder Rand Fishkin, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezoz, and Social Media Examiner Founder Michael Stelzner. HubSpot has made enormous strides since it launched in 2006. I’ve been a fan for the last four years when they drew me in with their free and irresistible content—known today as inbound marketing.

So, I’m really careful about attaching my own observations to their prognoses.  Their projections are like manna for the 47.5% of early adopters and early majority according to the Diffusion of Innovation Theory. That leaves 50% of business types in the late majority and laggard categories who contend that the life of a pioneer is an expensive one.

Here’s my take on their forecasts from last year.

1.  Real-time campaigns win over stop-and-starts

Author David Meerman Scott says, “the days of promotions planned in advance with flight dates” bookended by moments of silence from the company as marketers planned and held post-mortems are over.”  Consumers live on their devices and want instant information to their queries.

It makes sense that information be made available to consumers through mobile devices, websites, landing pages, and automated emails. It’s now easy enough and more economical. However, I do hear  struggles from business people who say they simply cannot keep up to the demands of social medial postings or creation of content. There’s a difference between casually posting a comment when we’re moved compared to producing volumes on deadline.

More time is required by business people to create or even stockpile the content they need for the search engines. And to get used to concepts such as editorial planning calendars and to use social media aids such as Hoot Suite.

2.  Inbound marketing will spread enterprise-wide

Do you even understand the term? Inbound marketing—pure and simple—is advertising a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, and social media marketing.

Except it’s a lot of work.  Before the Big Digital Makeover took hold, all that was needed by business owners or marketing reps to push out their message was to press the button that dropped an advertisement in newspapers, magazines, and billboards in their city or across the country. I called it the path of least resistance. Today,  stories need to be researched and well written, blogs created, podcasts recorded to pull in consumers who spend 60% of their buying time online doing research before talking to a sales rep.

3. Email lives on

I’m a believer. Personalized emails or those sent through segmented lists informed by a person’s habits is the 21st century of direct response marketing that took off in the early 80s. It’s always been true that our names mean everything to us, that we love to see how others care about what we think, that the sender knows about our individual habits, and that we are more than a detached number. We want to be recognized as individuals. Or, at least, to pretend that it’s true.

Marketers sent more than 838 billion emails last year—more than all the other social networks combined. Improved technologies now support ongoing conversations with a consumer based on the habit of filling out forms, downloading ebooks, or the time of day night we open our emails. Personalized email improve open rates by 14%.

 4Content and social matters even more than SEO

Yes—finally—Google is moving closer to how humans search online compared to the bots who ruled the cosmos for the last 15 years. This one came from Rand Fishkin of MOZ, the people who rank the trustworthiness of your websites and their links. I couldn’t be more happy.

Google upped the game when they started focusing on quality content, in-depth articles, and social recommendations.

What’s your side of the story?

English: Logo for the Addicted to Social Media...
English: Logo for the Addicted to Social Media Blog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Social media became the answer to a world of people demanding to be heard.

Let’s back up. How does social media compare to broadcast media, anyway.

Broadcast media (TV, newspapers, print and the like) pushes information out to an audience. Social media, on the other hand, relies on audience participation as a driver.

Social media needs to be part of strategic plans because networks offer multiple ways to monitor and build your brand and grow relationships with your audience. The key is being ready to use it. It’s possible to do more harm than good to your brand and communications objectives if you leap into conversations too soon.
Know who you are and how you want to position yourself online. Know your “why” for the stories you plan to tell. And consider these pointers:

• Be realistic about your ability to manage your social media strategies. Start slow. Small steps will help you assess the time and resources you’ll need to dedicate to social media and to benefit from it.

• Before you start talking online, listen carefully. Get a sense of who your audience is and what they’re talking about before you chime in. This will ensure you offer relevant information that positions you as an expert.

• Engage people in meaningful interactions. It’s easy to simply talk at people, but effective social media strategies are about building relationships with your target audience.

Once you join the conversation, protect your brand. Be proactive rather than reactive. The intimate nature of social media encourages open dialogue, and sincere exchange is welcomed.