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.”

 

 

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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,

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“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…

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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.

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

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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.”

 

 

 

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