Hey Marketers! Bet You Didn’t Know Satellite Uplink was an Option…

As a PR professional, I have spent many years organizing press conferences, company-wide meetings, and, of course, trying to get the word out about a given subject to local and national news outlets.  I have recently had an opportunity to see (up close and personal) the value of satellite communications including the satellite media tour.  In 2017, a world of wireless communications, HD television and global access to the Internet, there is another option that provides incredible advantages: satellite communications.

My friends at Telesat spell it out extremely well and answer two key questions:

Why does the satellite industry continue to grow? When is satellite the best solution?

  • Cost Effectiveness – Cost of satellite capacity does not increase with the number of users/receive sites, or with the distance between communication points. Whether crossing continents or staying local, satellite connection cost is distance insensitive.
  • Global Availability – Communications satellites cover all land masses and there is growing capacity to serve maritime and even aeronautical markets. Customers in rural and remote regions around the world who cannot obtain high-speed Internet access from a terrestrial provider are increasingly relying on satellite communications.
  • Superior Reliability – Satellite communications can operate independently from terrestrial infrastructure. When terrestrial outages occur from man-made and natural events, satellite connections remain operational.
  • Superior Performance – Satellite is unmatched for broadcast applications like television. For two-way IP networks, the speed, uniformity and end-to-end control of today’s advanced satellite solutions are resulting in greater use of satellite by corporations, governments, and consumers.
  • Immediacy and Scalability – Additional receive sites, or nodes on a network, can readily be added, sometimes within hours. All it takes is ground-based equipment. Satellite has proven its value as a provider of “instant infrastructure” for commercial, government and emergency relief communications.
  • Versatility and More – Satellites effectively support on a global basis all forms of communications ranging from simple point-of-sale validation to bandwidth-intensive multimedia applications. Satellite solutions are highly flexible and can operate independently or as part of a larger network.

The satellite media tour (SMT) fits neatly under the sub-heading of “Versatility and More” and when I came across this article by Alex Hinojosa, SVP at 4media Group Inc, I was thrilled to see that I am not the only one that sees the value and PR potential of the SMT.

 

Applebees.truckshot.
Freebird Communications Truck outside Applebee’s International Headquarters 

As Alex writes, “A satellite media tour (SMT) remains an effective public relations tactic that can often generate high-quality results that matter to your clients. However, an SMT in 2016 is very different from 10 years ago, back when we all had MySpace accounts. Today, across the PR services spectrum, it’s all about the PESO—the Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned model—and the same is true for an SMT.”

 

In my capacity as chief marketer for Freebird Communications Inc., I have recently had the chance to see the benefits our customers find in the SMT and in SNG (Satellite News Gathering) in that there is no more cost-effective option for reaching a vast audience be it your own staff and shareholders to your current and potential customers.  Plus, there is an authenticity to live communications that one just doesn’t find in recorded videos or even podcasts.  Don’t get me wrong, those formats have great value but from conferences to corporate news, the ability to communicate nation-wide or world-wide at such an affordable price can engender significant loyalty and move an organization leaps and bounds in one, fell, swoop.

 

IMG_1942 (1)
Freebird Communications live shot for Fox Business News

 

Take this example from Ernst and Young  who turned to News Generation for assistance in reaching corporate decision makers in advance of tax season:

News Generation targeted business and general news programs and networks with a goal of securing 20 high-quality interviews.  The satellite media tour setting was ideal for this topic, as it gave television anchors the ability to customize their questions.  “Given that taxes are one of the more complicated subjects, stations enjoyed the ability to ask follow up questions and delve deeper into particular topics of interest to their viewers.”

The satellite media tour reached more than one million viewers across twenty info-filled, consumer-friendly interviews.  Nationally, an interview aired on First Business which has 108 affiliates across the country, including WMGM, the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia and KCRA, the NBC affiliate inSacramento.  Fox Affiliates in Los Angeles, Seattle-Tacoma and Minneapolis-St. Paul conducted interviews, as did NBC affiliates inDenver, Albuquerque-Santa Fe, andDaytonOhio.

We, marketers, know that purchasing that kind of exposure through an on-going campaign would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Coupled with the fact that we marketers (and PR) folk are all too aware that our current media contacts are ever-changing and keeping an updated media list is a daily challenge, reaching that many viewers through that many stations is not an insignificant feat!

SMT is not only for large, multi-national corporations like Ernst and Young, either--read about the remarkable work by Moldow Communications out of New Jersey.  They helped the Asthma and Allergy Foundation achieve their goals and won an award for the work to boot.  Having spent much of my career in non-profits, I can attest that budgets are never exorbitant.  So, Satellite Communication and Satellite Media Tours are much more affordable than you might think. Depending on your goals, the ROI can far exceed the expense.  

Advertisements

What Does It Mean to be a Global Marketer? (And other complicated questions)

I had listened to Jeff Julian’s interview with Jason  A. Miller earlier this month and I remember getting extremely twitchy and jumping up and down because it is such a gosh darn, interesting topic.  I just listened to it again and started bouncing in my chair because Mr. Miller has a very sweet gig and I am envious of his adventure.  He is doing incredible work for LinkedIn and Mr. Miller, I can tell you from personal experience that I saw LinkedIn explode in Denmark in the summer and fall of 2015.  From this writer’s perspective, if you are a professional and you are not on LinkedIn, you are truly missing more opportunities than I can spell out in one post.  I also started talking to my desktop PC because I might have a couple of ideas to add having recently lived and worked in Copenhagen for the second time and can still vividly recall my time in the workforce in Bejing, China (but that is a post unto itself)!  If you haven’t listened to the podcast or watched the video as of yet, please do because not only will you get a taste of Mr. Miller’s experiences in London and his expertise in global marketing,  you will also be treated to some primo 80s movie and music references.

Global marketing has always fascinated me because it is so tough to achieve effectively.  I used to teach Principles of Advertising and always included a unit on global advertising because it invariably elicited a chuckle from students to see how often a concept simply, doesn’t translate.  img_2225But what does it mean to be a global marketer?  Does it mean that you develop campaigns that are always global in scope?  Does it mean you have to have a working cultural knowledge of all the countries in which you market (which would be awfully difficult)? Do you tailor each campaign for the specific market that may be a market within a market (as is the case for rural Denmark)? The answer is: all of the above and Mr. Miller nails it when he says, “You can’t have a global marketer who lives in the U.S.”

Mr. Miller reminded me about Pam Didner who is a wealth of knowledge in global marketing.  I remember chatting with my brother in law (a creative for the Danish Lottery) about the marketing of the lottery in our respective countries and telling him about Ms. Didner and the fantastic book she wrote on Global Marketing that I read shortly after it came out.  Ms. Didner is incredibly sharp and addresses everything from the development of global content to how to scale a campaign.  There are, however, some things that one can only learn through experience and Jeff Julian and Jason Miller both aptly address the value of not only living but working in another country.

As they discuss, some of the most apparent differences are the ever-present newspapers and magazines!  Print is still quite popular in much of Europe and in many countries, a great deal of value is placed on rich, artistic, images that harken back to the “golden age” of advertising depicted in Mad Men.  That is not to say that marketers in Europe aren’t embracing other marketing practices including data-gathering to enhance the customer experience–they just do it in a slightly different way.

img_2088Here’s an example: I did all of my cosmetic shopping at Matas in Copenhagen and signed up for their rewards program and like all rewards programs, I began receiving emails from Matas about sale products.  In fact, I am still getting emails from Matas because now that I am back in the U.S., I am not able to unsubscribe because in order to log into my “Matas Profile,” I have to verify my identity using a code that is being sent to my old mobile number in Copenhagen that no longer exists.  Very clever Matas!  This “profile” is protected for very important reasons, though:

  1. Due to different laws and practices than in the U.S., Matas does not utilize my purchase patterns to market to me.
  2. As the Matas consumer, they ask me to go in and set up my profile (in great detail I might add)
  3. When I visit the Matas Website, a pop-up informing me that it is collecting cookies appears as is the case with nearly all Websites in Denmark.  In fact, some of the warnings are so explicit that I actually deny them access!

Contrast my experience with that of CVS–CVS knows everything about me!  I signed away all of my rights to privacy in that regard when I signed up for the CVS rewards program.  CVS sends me coupons for the specific products I use and frankly, I find the program very useful.  The degree of personalization that CVS offers me would horrify most Danes in addition to the fact that the degree of data gathering we do here in the U.S. is actually illegal and/or considered unethical in Denmark.  And that brings us back to Julian and Miller’s point that it is very difficult to truly grasp cultural differences if you have never lived outside these 5o states.

So what can one do to get closer to a global perspective or (as in my case) try to hold on to the lessons I learned living abroad?

  • Watch BBC and Al Jazeera World News (in English) to see what stories from the U.S. are resonating around the world and why and to stay informed about the political climates and conflicts in other countries that affect global markets every single day.
  • Watch television and films from other countries (with subtitles) to get a sense of another culture, how they use visual imagery, what slang they use (and how often they use American slang and profanity), and what type of marketing is depicted on billboards and through commercials that are easily accessed online.
  • Test your assumptions with your global contacts.  I am lucky in that I am married to a European and when I was working in Copenhagen, I would run my jokes and anecdotes by him first to see if they would work with my Danish audience.

As Mr. Miller points out, marketers are creatives but ensuring that our creativity translates globally is not only a skill, it is an art.  An art that requires a larger perspective and intentionality.

My advice is to work to develop a global perspective even if you never plan on living abroad.  As a marketer, you are likely to find yourself in a global arena at some point be it through a global enterprise or marketing conference abroad and you want to be informed.   That’s just my advice but as the slogan for Matas goes, “Good Advice Makes the Difference.”

 

 

What Makes a Great Post: When You’re Writing for More than “Cuz You Should”

During the first 10 minutes of Jeff Julian’s interview with Ardath Albee, I literally started to sweat. Then Ardath Albee asked a question that gave me great pause   “What makes it different and more compelling?”  By it, she means content and I started to sweat because I do not have an answer for that at present.  What I do have, are a few major takeaways from this interview and a map for what I need to do.

I have three major “takeaways” from this interview:

  1. You better have compelling, well-written content
  2. Your content better be nurturing the customer every step of the purchase cycle
  3. You better be timing that content so that it is clear you know where they are in the purchase cycle as well.

Well, dang, Ms. Albee!  “What if I am a one-woman marketing department or have limited resources to data?” I ask aloud trying to apply these brilliant insights into my own endeavors.  It was then Ardath Albee asked another really important question,

corona2

“What about all the content you already have?”  

It was at this point that I stopped panicking and the sweating abated a bit.

So it was with great pleasure that I took to task writing this post about Jeff Julian’s interview with Ardath Albee for Enterprise Marketer because it’s great content that has plenty of life left to live.

But what makes the content compelling?  Lots of data?  Nope.  That’s not what captures me and I am pretty sure it isn’t what captures the average bear or the key decision maker.  Dont’ get me wrong, I am a “dataphile” like most marketers, but data is great for making a strong case during a meeting, not engendering interest and loyalty from customers.

So I did a little digging and came across the timely presentation by Geoff Colvin, Editor at Large for Fortune magazine.  On November 30, Mr. Colvin delivered IPR’s 55th Distinguished Lecture on November 30 in NYC. In Colvin’s presentation “Lessons for Communicators in an Unpredictable World,” he explains how communicators can still make an impact through face-to-face interactions and storytelling in a world overrun with technology.

I have now completely stopped sweating and am holding Aradth Albee’s phrase “more compelling content” close to my heart.  Near the end of his presentation, Geoff  Colvin says, “People rarely change their minds based on data.  It’s stories that move them.”  That got me thinking about a story that tracks the customer all the way through the purchase cycle.  The visual that came to mind was actually the Marcus Mumford cut, “When I Get My Hands on You” from The New Basement Tapes that features a female figure walking through a city and through gorgeous imagery, tells a sweet and heartfelt story.   If you haven’t seen it, check it out not only because it’s beautiful but because it is makes for a wonderful visual of tracking the customer through the entire purchase cycle.  Apologies to Marcus Mumford as I know he did not intend to reflect the consumer purchase cycle with this video.

This visual is helpful to me because now I have a visual that I am comfortable with and moved by rather than a stock photo of a “persona.”  I realize that’s quirky of me but whatever gets you through the night, right?

I am now imbuing said walking girl with all of the characteristics of my primary target persona and I can now see her all the way through the purchase cycle.  Now, all I have to do is tell the story of her journey at strategic points along the way.  As a creative writer when I have the time and inclination, I found the challenge of developing a compelling story for walking girl at strategic points not only an achievable task but an exciting task as well.  I realize I have to be in the story or awfully close to it (perhaps third person, omniscient narrator) to be able to tell it well.

Ardath Albee tells Jeff Julian during the interview that, “If we stop thinking about what we want first, we can think about what our customers want.”  I can liken this concept to great storytelling!  The art is in the unfolding of the story that keeps the reader in mind first and foremost.  A little foreshadowing here, a little alliteration there, some killer personification, and you have the reader hooked.

While storytelling is clearly by no means a new notion for marketers, I think compelling is.  Let’s look at the formal definition of this word:

com·pel·ling
kəmˈpeliNG/
adjective
 
evoking interest, attention, or admiration in a powerfully irresistible way.
“his eyes were strangely compelling”
synonyms: enthralling, captivating, gripping, riveting, spellbinding, mesmerizing, absorbing, irresistible

My favorite synonyms (per Google) are riveting, spellbinding, and irresistible. While I am still working on the story, I am doing so with a handful of new rules that I learned from Albee and Julian:
1.Know your persona and personify the dickens out of them so you know them almost (or better) than you know yourself.

2. Do not patronize this persona by telling weak, uncompelling stories that are clearly motivated by “storytelling” more than a true and thoughtful understanding of the consumer as a human being with a soul.

3. Once you get it right, replicate it and use this content over and over as you acquire new customers.  While the story may get a little old for you (like the Little Mermaid does for me because I lived in Copenhagen and took WAY too many tourists to see that less than mammoth statue of her in the harbor) and remember that they are hearing the story for the first time.

This feels authentic.  This feels right.  Walk on walking girl, walk on…

img_3352

Bold Move: Tell Your CEO She Needs to Listen to her Customers

In addition to being the author of a truly killer resource,  The Content Formula, Michael Brenner is a leader.  How do I know?  Because I listened to the interview Jeff Julian conducted with him and I could hear the calm, deliberate, and assured tone with which he spoke about content marketing, our role as digital marketers, and how to approach the bold move of telling your CEO that she needs to listen to her customers more and in a different way than she has been.

summer-2011-097Let me get more specific: the subtext of what Mr. Brenner proposes is the phrase, “Um hey, I get that you’re really excited about your latest brainchild, product, and/or service but it’s actually not about you.”  Yikes.  That’s a tough and bold statement but it’s also extremely important to say for these reasons:

  1. There is a dynamic tension between what CEOs want to communicate and the results they expect from content marketing.
  2. If that dynamic tension is not addressed, it leaves the CMO and her team in a position to fall short of the CEO’s expectations or even fail.
  3. Unless the realities of the respective (and different) roles the CEO and the CMO play are addressed and shared goals are established, objectives will not be met.

Heck, I get it and it actually makes sense that the CEO would focus on new and shiny things that she herself is excited about but that is precisely why she needs a sharp, honest, authentic CMO who will tell her that there will be time for the shiny new thing just as soon as the customers tell us it’s time.  Meanwhile, we need to be walking in the same direction on customer-focused content.

Natalia Angulo notes in her article, “10 Digital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016 and Beyond“, that “smart marketers will focus on the consumer experience.” Well, yes and of course everyone at the table will agree with that statement but ensuring shared understanding and shared goals requires a deep dive, an intensive conversation, hopefully, conducted regularly and not just during the monthly report meeting.  Of course CEOs know that focus on the customer is important but what they may not understand is that the customer not only now has a voice, the voice of the customer is actually more important and can say more about a brand than the brand itself.

Perhaps it’s helpful to “tee-up” this conversation by offering up a couple proposed talking points:

“We need to keep our finger on the pulse of what the customers want from us.” 

“We need to actively address them and interact with them and that means letting the customer dictate the conversation.” 

Neil Patel nails it in his article,“8 Brilliant Content Marketing Innovations from the Worlds Best Brands,” by commending Whole Foods who “has worked hard to establish itself not just as a grocery store, but as a lifestyle choice. The brand embraces healthy living and earth-conscious eating.” They have done so by putting the customer first in their content.  And while one might think that encouraging shoppers to save money on groceries is counter-intuitive, Whole Foods does just that.  Patel tells us, “Whole Foods does a great job of living those brand principles in its content marketing. Articles about how to save money but still eat healthy or tips to change your diet for the better make Whole Foods’ products and lifestyle more inclusive. On top of that, it uses a lot of proactive language (“I want to learn/do/both” as a search option in its navigation bar) which makes the audience feel like they have an active role in the experience.”
It’s funny how much difference the use of a customer-centric pronoun can make!  There are numerous studies that support the use of “My” over “Your” and “I” over “You” and it’s basic psychology at work.  Use of the more customer-centric pronoun signals to the customer that they really are understood.  It’s a basic and time-tested use of language but it absolutely works.

So if Ann Handley is accurate in her prediction (and I believe she is), that “content marketing will truly “grow up” in 2016, as content strategists tell “bigger stories with a braver focus and a bolder voice” then all the more vital that leadership and marketing are aligned about what that precisely means and how customer-centric it really needs to be.

Michael Brenner is also a man of his word, having just launched his own enterprise of which he is the leader.  He is also getting started on his next book.  But don’t trust me about that, listen to the full podcast to hear about his new book as well as his tips for becoming a better writer.

Etiquette: Why It’s Vital for Communicating with Customers

I have now listened to the podcast interview that Jeff Julian conducted with Mike Turner, Senior Marketing Manager for Textron Aviaton twice and watched it once (incidentally, I want the t-shirt that Jeff wore for the interview: “I Plan Therefore I Am” because it’s brilliant) and each time I have a new takeaway.  But if I had to summarize the gist of their conversation, it’s about etiquette.

I have often told clients I work with as well as colleagues that all forms of communication, from social media to emails (internal and customer-targeted) should be treated like face-to-face communication.  I have also noted that the people that I trust and like the most electronically, are invariably wonderful people in person as well.  While I have not personally met Mike Turner, I can tell he’s wonderful and here’s why…

Mike recommends considering the whole team when developing communication and working through the sales cycle.  He wisely points out that in the aviation industry, the mechanic also has a “dog in the fight” so to speak because they will be the people working on the plane long term.  Makes sense, right?  I feel the same applies to being considerate of front line staff in retail settings.  One cannot fully understand how (or more importantly if) a product is the right fit for a retailer without communicating with the front line staff who actually do the selling.  Those mechanics or front line staff will likely be able to provide great insight into the challenges they face as well as what kind of feedback they get from customers on a day to day basis.  As Mike says, “content marketing cannot be one-dimensional,” meaning that strong content marketing should reflect that the author has taken the whole of the business into account and truly understands the whole of it, not just the sale.

Purchases are mission related.  Especially major purchases.

-Mike Turner, Senior Marketing Manager. Textron Aviation

And consumers are getting smarter!  That is a very good thing.  One of the primary goals of content marketing is to provide valuable information and knowledge and as a result, consumers are more knowledgeable than ever before.  We ought to be respectful of them and communicate with consumers in a way that engages them and enhances their knowledge.  We have all opened a targeted email or post, read the opening paragraph and quickly determined that it is too low level so we quickly delete the email, close the link and move on to content that is valuable to us.  I love that Mike Turner mentions mission–the emails and links I am most likely to open and read are those that, in their headline, entice me with a mission or value related statement that aligns with my own mission and values.

Most, if not all of us, do not like to receive unsolicited emails simply because the sender was lucky enough to happen upon our contact information but did not take the time to consider whether we wanted to hear from them.  Further, when we do hear from them, it’s awfully nice when the content is not only relevant but offers value in the form of knowledge or connection.  I liken receiving these unsolicited emails to being at a party, having a great conversation with a group of people that is easy, natural and comfortable, only to have the conversation interrupted by someone who butts in with off-topic comments and then asks you to pay him for the drink he’s peddling.  That is usually when I am heard to say, “pardon me, I need to excuse myself” and then I beat feet to the bathroom or the door to leave.  Of course, I also avoid that guy like the plague the next time I see him.  Point being: don’t spam them just because you can.

How well we communicate with customers and what value we offer them affects customer opinion.  That’s not a judgement, it’s a fact.

However, the folks in the C-Suite do not always see things as we content marketers see them.  Often focused on quarterly sales numbers first and foremost, it is a challenge to educate executive leaders on the value of long term, well-handled, relationship development with clients.  How we communicate affects consumer opinion.  That’s not a judgement, it’s a fact.  What cracks me up about this is that there are now so many ways to analyze customer opinion (including analyzing social media data) and doing so can provide incredible insight into what a content marketer can do to improve that opinion.

For example, Dominoes Pizza recently started running a television ad that cops to the fact that they had been misleading customers with a “pizza deal” by only offering it on weekdays.  Clearly, they had heard from many a customer who ordered a pizza on a Friday night and felt duped by a misleading ad.  What was cool was that they copped to it!  And apologized! This is a clear example of the importance of customer experience and how it can translate to customer loyalty or customer loss.

Perhaps the best way to reach C-Suite on the importance of well-constructed, well-timed, relevant content and it’s role in the purchase cycle is to call upon them to examine their own purchase practices–i.e. empathize with the customer.  In an article for the Harvard Business Review, Charlie Brown advocates “assigning metrics that measure relationship activity.”  What he means by this is that for many of us, the purchase cycle is longer than it used to be (especially for major purchases, like a jet, right Mike Turner?). Measuring than relationship activity over time can provide incredibly valuable insight into where and when the customer may “fall away” and then making the necessary adjustments to fix it.

And a good rule of thumb is to remember that spam is the electronic equivalent to interrupting someone in the midst of a conversation with totally off-topic remarks.  It’s just poor etiquette.

Writing for the Audience Rather Than at Them

Every time I drive past this gas station in the Ozarks (yup, weezums in Missoura like people to say what they mean ana mean what they say) I smile–not only because it’s funny as heck but because clearly, the proprietor knows her audience.  She  does an excellent job of speaking their language and relating to them which is what is at the core of good copywriting.

fullsizerender-4

Listening to Jeff Julian and Jonathan Kranz discuss copywriting at CM World 2016 in Cleveland was a huge treat and a pretty much made my day because they confirmed what my instincts have been telling me: it’s good to be empathetic.  Jonathan Kranz (author of Writing Copy for Dummies) does a fantastic job of walking us through his learning curve and poses a series of hard questions that prompted me to re-frame how I think of copywriting.  Many of us start a project with the end goal in mind (if we’re going about it strategically, anyway) and oftentimes in copywriting, that goal is to sell.  But what if we conceive of the end goal not by asking the question, “did you sell?” but rather, as Jonathan asks, “are you real?” and “will you tell the truth?”  Of course, selling matters but the whole point of any communication with our customers ought to be relationship development.  Long term relationship development.  Would you want to be in a long term relationship with someone who was always and only trying to “sell” you or would you prefer to spend your time and energy on someone who offers intrinsic value by being authentic, compassionate, and in the end, helpful in solving problems?  Kind of a “no brainer,” right?

The approach Jonathan Kranz advises for copywriting, applies to consulting as well (incidentally, you should Google Jonathan Kranz and click on the second link that you see).  As Jonathan and Jeff note, we are far more likely to place trust in someone who admits they are not perfect, have made mistakes along the way, and most importantly, learned from those mistakes than we are likely to trust someone who is blustery and claims to be infallible.  The takeaway from this for me is that copywriting as well as client meetings need to be real conversations, meaning we are actively listen and empathize to understand as well as converse openly about mistakes and learning experiences.

When I was teaching, I often utilized a neat feature of McGraw Hill Textbooks: case studies.  I found carefully examining the case study to understand what happened behind the scenes of some of the biggest PR events in my lifetime was incredibly illuminating.  We got to examine how and why Johnson and Johnson took immediate action during the Tylenol scare of 1982 and what the creative process was for the “Got Milk?” campaign.  These case studies (because they were written for textbooks) always included a lesson–what the professionals learned along the way and better still, how they learned from their mistakes.  I agree wholeheartedly with Jonathan Kranz and Jeff Julian on the statement that being honest and forthright about one’s fallibility and the lessons learned from being fallible is far more endearing than the pretense of perfection.

I got further confirmation on the power of listening and being empathetic from  Marketing Prof Ann Handley, who points out in her article, Why “targeting” customers is the wrong approach, that use of the word “targeting” is an indicator that we may be going about it all wrong.  img_0934Ann asks, “What if we didn’t target customers, but instead sought to serve them?” Oh yeah!  The customer is always right, even when it comes to what words we use to communicate with them.  That means we need to be pathologically empathetic with the customer.  Along with that empathy, there also ought to be, as Jonathan Kranz puts it, “something of intrinsic value for the customer,” meaning we need to literally put the customer first and by doing so we find the copy becomes more real, more authentic, and hopefully, a lot like talking to a friend.  As someone who possesses what could arguably be too much empathy at times, I was delighted to read that empathy is a great asset to the copywriter and concurrently to the marketer as she talks to clients.  Turns out wearing my heart on my sleeve isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

 

 

Trial and Error Even in the Big Leagues: This is How We Learn

img_2334

Note that my friend “Accident Andy” here is smiling.  Sure, he has a couple of cuts and a splint but he’s smiling because he’s proud of his of trial and error.  Andy sits on my desk and encourages me as I develop the site for my budding small business(es).  I put Andy on my desk after listening to Jeff Julian interview Nicole Smith on Getting Scrappy at Dell.

Nicole Smith blew my mind when she told me that there were only eight people on the team that launched Tech Page One at Dell.  Incidentally, I have spent some time on Tech Page One and it is truly a wealth of information from education to entrepreneurship and, obviously, tech.  Here I sit, day after day, developing sites for various purposes, beating myself up, thinking (at times) that I have no idea what I am doing and then I hear Nicole tell me that she and the team developed Tech Page One on WordPress!  Holy cow!  They did so because they could test more effectively in that environment and essentially earned their way to success (and budget) through trial and error when they developed the highly customer-focused Tech Page One.

That was my other big takeaway from listening to Nicole–always be customer-focused.  I need Accident Andy on my desk (no reference to super-dude Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media here, I just like alliteration) to “feel heartened,” as Nicole Smith puts it, regarding my trials, tribulations and errors.  

More importantly, Accident Andy helps me to remember to focus on the customer and not my ego.  I liken the problem of being overly focused on my own business objectives and not putting the customer first to a server, who upon coming to the table to take the order, turns sideways and asks the customer, “Does my butt look big?” rather than taking their order.  A silly analogy sure, but I think it makes clear how easy it is to get myopic when developing a site and site content.

For example, I am getting really hung up on UI patterns.  My knee-jerk response is to develop something unique and user-friendly all at the same time.  I am beginning to see that really isn’t realistic for someone at my skill level (which is quite honestly, a tetch lower than basic).  Heck, the reason that certain UI patterns have become so commonly used is that they are user-friendly.  It is here that I have an opportunity to stop thinking about how special and unique I think my business is and start thinking about the customer and how they will be able to find what they need as quickly as possible.  It is likely that customer really doesn’t even think about the UI pattern at all.  What the customer does think about is getting the information they need and/or the product they want as quickly as possible.  As Jerry Cao puts it, “…we’ve changed the way we consume the web, which has resulted in a lot of common UI design patterns. Design patterns have matured and as such, there’s little in the way of innovation when it comes to UI patterns…There’s no real reason to reinvent the wheel. UI patterns must guide users through a smooth experience.”

Clearly, the time I devote to trial and error should not be wasted on UI patterns that others have determined work and work well, but what type of design is going to best feature my business and enable customers to navigate quickly and easily.  The other thing Accident Andy reminds me to think about is the path to purchase (for retail sites) and the path to donations (for non-profits) because if there are too many clicks or (ugh) dead ends that take the user in a loop, they’re going to leave.  Jerry Cao provides a great overview of 6 Web Design Trends and I used his article to spur some additional thinking on micro-interactions and what the best, most customer-focused micro-interaction will look like on my site.

Micro-interactions open up a world of questions from, “When should there be a pop-up to sign up for the newsletter?” to “What is the best language to use when allowing a customer to opt-out?”  Thanks to Google Analytics  the the genius of Nicole Smith’s advice, I get to try, test, determine error, and try again.  And silly me if I get too complacent and think that I can do that only once a year!  Website improvements need to be ongoing so as to effectively keep up with the demands and expectations of our customers and how lucky we are to have that kind of instantaneous feedback as well as the ability to make adjustments and changes based on our customer’s needs.

Here’s the thing: I certainly haven’t figured it all out yet.  My site is far from perfect right now.  But like one of my friends in Web Development once told me. “That’s what the undo button is for.  There’s nothing you can’t undo.”

 

 

 

When They’re Nearby: The Right Time to Contact Your Customer

img_2635Inspired  by the interview of Jeffrey Rohrs (Chief Marketing Office at Yext) by Jeff Julian (founder of Aji Software and Enterprise Marketer titled Location Based Services for Content Marketers I got to thinking about the right time to contact a customer (without being annoying) to offer value adds and engender customer loyalty and repeat sales. The most important takeaway from their conversation for me was the importance of location and ensuring that the location data that your smartphone or tablet pull up is the same as it appears on your Website.  This is more vital than many marketers are aware.

Take music venues as an example.  Given the number of apps that promote live music in your city (or region), a venue has a remarkable opportunity to increase ticket sales by ensuring the app not only provides up to date and accurate information but that the venue is also working with the app to ensure the customer has access to “official tickets” as well as accurate location information and even parking information which can be crucial in a busy, downtown neighborhood.

But what about those spur of the moment activities and how does a content marketer cut through all of the clutter and noise so that they are serving up the best and most relevant content to their customers and potential customers in the moment?  For example, Kansas City hosts numerous conferences each year and bring in millions of visitors to the city who, after five or six in the evening are likely looking for something to do.  Where do they look?  Their phones of course!

In this micro-moment, every food and entertainment business in downtown Kansas City has an opportunity to connect with a customer.  Jeffrey Rohrs talks about “micro-moments” and I pilfered these stats from Google’s own article about micro-moments to drive the point home:

1. Of leisure travelers who are smartphone users, 69% search for travel ideas during spare moments, like when they’re standing in line or waiting for the subway. Nearly half of those travelers go on to book their choices through an entirely separate channel.1

2. Of smartphone users, 91% look up information on their smartphones while in the middle of a task. 2

3. Of smartphone users, 82% consult their phones while they’re standing in a store deciding which product to buy. One in 10 of those end up buying a different product than they had planned. 2

•4. Of online consumers, 69% agree that the quality, timing, or relevance of a company’s message influences their perception of a brand. 2

These stats make it clear that context is just as important as content.  i.e. serve up the content customers want when they want it.  There are a few ways to do this and do it well and as “the Jeffs” point out, many marketers, even the CMOs of large organizations, do not focus on location-based marketing. I would argue that the reason location focused marketing isn’t a given for all organizations is that it seems to complicated and perhaps marketers are over-thinking the content they need to serve up in that place and time.  As it turns out, it’s really not that complicated.  If I can figure it out (and I can barely write HTML code) then trust me folks, it is quite possible to integrate location-based marketing into your overall marketing strategy right now.   Why?  Because users expect it that’s why.  I am repeatedly shocked by the reluctance on the part of organizations to communicate more and more often with their customers and am still trying to determine if that reluctance is real or if it is really based on being intimidated by data, geofencing and location based marketing.

What adds to the confusion is that most of the books and articles on location based marketing are woefully outdated (from 2011 and 2012) so the challenge is two-fold: not only is location based marketing intimidating (due to lack of knowledge) it’s challenging due to bad location data.  The fix for this is simple:

Become your own customer and try to find your own business through the exact same channels your customers use.  Secondly, know that your customers are already using location based sources and it’s your job to make sure they are correct.  

So when is the right time to contact your customer to let them know you are there? When they use key words in their search and, just as importantly, when they are close!  Message them and let them know they are just three miles away and even better, offer them a motivator to come and see you.

Moosejaw did this for me over the weekend while I was searching for a gift.  Moosejaw not only let me know they had a location on the Plaza, within walking distance from my house, they also offered me $10 off my first purchase just for coming into the store.  The code was sent directly to me within seconds and I put on my shoes and headed out the door.  I was able to do this for a number of reasons:

  1. Moosejaw knew I was a new customer and offered me an incentive to come into the store.
  2. Moosejaw’s location data was accurate and I quickly learned I could walk there in minutes (for me this was a huge motivator because I could shop and get my exercise)
  3. The staff in the store also knew that I had the promo code because I was a new customer and made mention of it.

I was able to learn all of this using the search term, “Best Gift for a 12-Year Old Boy.”  Pretty neat.  Great job Moosejaw.  Not only did they provide me with what I wanted using GPS automation, they complemented that automation with the human touch and made me feel welcome when I entered the store and made a purchase.

“There’s something here relevant for your business,” Jeffrey Rohrs states in his interview with Jeff Julian and I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

 

Proper Care and Feeding of Your Marketer (or What a Marketer Should Examine When Taking on a New Role)

deckster

Please don’t roll your eyes and assume this is a whiny piece about how much control we marketers feel we should have over one aspect of business or another. It is also not a Millennial complaining about being misunderstood (I am not a Millennial and frankly my age is my business–deduce what you like from that statement).  This is about who we marketers tend to be as people, what we thrive on and how, when we thrive, we can sell units and generate buzz like there’s no tomorrow.  Those are the good points.

Marketers also have their not-so-good points.  Sure, we may get a little frustrated sometimes that people don’t work as hard to understand us as we work to understand them but working to understand others is just what we do.  It’s second nature to us the same way life-long learning and keeping up with emerging tools is.

According to folks at CloudPeeps, there are six types of marketers.  This is a really great article and covers all of the aspects of marketing extremely well.  I am a combo Content-Community focused marketer.  I would argue that most marketers, regardless of type are pretty social people.  They are also likely competitive–perhaps not with others but with themselves.  Setting and attaining goals is what marketers are all about and most of them are going to need to establish benchmarks and KPIs or they feel they aren’t doing their job.  In my career, in non-profits, I have always set my own benchmarks and KPIs and it has been a useful means of tracking my own progress and ensuring that my efforts are well spent.

Careful consideration of  the following applies to both the organization hiring a marketer

  1. Prioritize where you need help: find someone to complement your skills and take over tasks you don’t like doing or that are taking up heaps of your time
  2. Ask specific questions: what they did, how they specifically moved the meter — dig deep into their experience
  3. Pay attention to your candidates question: an experienced marketer should really drill down to your goals
  4. Create clear expectations in advance: set budget, time frame and commitment
  5. Ask what tools they use: the best marketers use the same tools
  6. Look at culture fit: when hiring a remote freelancer, specifically, look for people who are self-starters, entrepreneurial spirits, prioritizers, excellent communicators, trustworthy

Flip to the marketers perspective and these are the questions she will want to ask before making her next bold move:

  1. Why a marketer and why now?  Did the previous hire leave?  How come?  How long was she in the position?  What kind of support and integration into the organization was she afforded?
  2. How does the organization want to move the meter–if they are not able to articulate specific goals then a deeper conversation is required to determine how those goals will be established and in collaboration with whom.
  3. What is the marketing budget?  If the answer is, “we don’t really have one yet”(as is common in non-profits) this is a red flag.  It is not a deal breaker but it does give the marketer an opportunity to underscore the need for marketing dollars and to manage expectations regarding what those dollars can actually accomplish.
  4. Is this a job that should ideally be a contract position or freelance job?  I have often found in non-profits that the organization may not be ready for an “in-house” marketer who is going to make demands for funding and seek to implement new tools at a pace that is likely faster than the organization usually moves.

Finally, I humbly submit this food for thought for those hiring and supervising a marketer:

  1. Take some time to understand the complexity of the marketing cycle in the digital age and know that marketers understand every, single aspect of that cycle and study it constantly.
  2. Allow the marketer time to develop a solid strategy and plan before you hold them accountable for results (I am not talking months or years here–just a few weeks while the marketer studies the business and purchase cycle and develops a strategy and appropriate voice).
  3. Trust the marketer to make creative decisions (yes, that includes an update to your logo if it is outdated or tired looking).  It is likely her decisions are part of a larger strategy.
  4. Know that your marketer is likely going to be moving faster than you and thinking three steps ahead–this is a good thing!  Don’t be threatened by it and don’t ask her to slow down.  Moving quickly and thinking three steps ahead why she is good at her job.

Finally, know and understand yourself as a marketer and/or as a manager.  Are there areas in which you are not so strong and could use some help?  If so, is that an area that should your new marketing hire take that on for you?  If she does, will you be happy (and not threatened or hyper-critical) about her expertise in that area?

As a marketer are you territorial?  If so, about what and why?  Is this information you should share during the interview process?  e.g. I am very territorial about social media and need to be the sole staff person managing social media until I can share the strategy, voice with my colleagues and perhaps even provide them with a crash-course in writing good, social, copy.

This article by Lisa Schneider for The Hired Guns is a another list of skills sets to examine and contemplate thoroughly before making a marketing hire.  My key takeaways from Lisa’s article are that managing a marketer effectively means you must understand that marketers possess:

1. Initiative

Meaning they not only do what their supervisors tell them to do but also spot issues and propose solutions on their own.  img_3007

2. Creativity
Meaning that they come up with fresh ideas and approaches at the same time they keep up to date on the latest technologies, platforms, and trends. As Lisa Schneider notes, too many people continue to re-purpose something that’s worked before. And while there are times when “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and “no point in reinventing the wheel” are true, make sure you’re not stuck in a rut.

So if you, as a manager, are ready for these skill sets (amongst the many other skill sets marketers possess) then by all means, find yourself a spitfire!  If not, consider developing a priority list of projects you need completed and hiring a freelance/contract marketer to help you achieve those goals until it is time to go “all-in”.

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑