Mapping Social Media

London underground

Most Aussies will probably recognise the diagram above, the London Underground.

The first time anyone arrives in London, an underground map is  a vital piece of paper, even in these days of mobile phone enabled GPS tools.

The underground system in London is pretty complex until you figure out how it works, and when you take into account the interchanges with London buses and British rail, it is not something you approach without a clear understanding of the details of your intended journey.  To get anywhere, you need to know just two things:

Where you are

Where you need to go.

After that, with the map, you can figure out the best way to get there ,what the  route options may be, what it will cost, and how long it should take to get to the destination.

Why is it that people understand this instinctively for a sojourn on the underground, but fail to do it for  their business?

Social Media is the shiny new toy around at the moment, everyone knows it is there, some dabble in it without a map, and get lost, have their pockets picked, and decide that from now on they will catch a taxi, if they really have to get somewhere. Other wise they will just stay in their hotel.

“Social Media” used as a noun, has some similarity to the underground,  in that it is complex, but navigable with a map, where it differs is that it changes, evolves, even mutates, every single day, in some meaningful  way. However, if you understand the structure, where and how it all fits together, navigation can become relatively easy, relatively risk free, and open up the opportunities of a wonderful tool.

Need a map?

 

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Start with the things you can do.

Majors bay rd

Majors Bay Rd Concord, Sydney.

No business can do everything, so the easy way to start is to do the thing you can do well, as long as it is at least partly the thing that also makes you different.

In a suburb not far from me in Sydney, there is a street that over the last 5 years or so has evolved into an eclectic mix of cafes and restaurants, occasionally separated by some other hang-over shop from a previous age. There must be 25 or 30 of them down both sides of the street, each vying for a share of the dollars the punters bring in from all over Sydney.

One of the cafes, on a corner, not only has plenty of outside room on the footpath, friendly service, and a good range of only mildly over priced cafe meals, and treats, they also roast their own coffee beans. This just reinforces that they have the best and freshest coffee experience in the area, supported by a blend of service, location and that aroma as they roast.

Intoxicating.

It also confirms them as “knowing their coffee” an important cache in an environment where coffee-wankery is reaching disturbing proportions, and cafe’s are springing up like mushrooms after rain.

It cannot be too hard to set up a roasting operation, it delivers a great marketing advantage to the cafe, offers an added income stream from bagged coffee sales, and, oh, did I mention the aroma?

Differentiating yourself is a must in this homogenising world, and doing it in a way that reinforces the marketing story in the way this cafe has done merits competitive success, which by my observation every time I go there is substantial.

 

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Mixed marketing metaphors.

There is no such thing as "equalibrium", just constant change.

There is no such thing as “equalibrium”, just constant change.

I have a mate who is an academic economist, a really smart guy used to arguing a point of view, and with a box of stats on call to support any contention he makes, alternatively to pull down anything that runs contrary to his argument.

He is very convincing.

An ongoing debate has been around the nature of management, and particularly marketing in the face of the changes that have been wrought by the digital revolution. His view, if I can summarise, is that the forces that have emerged will find a new point of equilibrium, and it is our task as managers to identify that point, minimise costs on the path towards it, then be in a position to leverage for the maximum outcome when it is reached.

Economics 101.

My contention is that the assumption that an equilibrium will be found is flawed, and that the better analogy is the ecosystem, constantly evolving and changing in response to the adjustment of the forces that interact on the inhabitants, and the better strategy is to assume that everything will change, some things over night, some with a bit more lead time, and the forces that are interacting to drive the changes are not necessarily evident from wherever it is you sit.

My evidence, in contrast to his is all anecdotal and perspective, challenging for an econometrician.

Often I refer him to the antitrust suit brought by the US government against the “monopoly” that Microsoft had, an action that was finally binned by President Clinton. The equilibrium argument suggested that the Microsoft empire would endure and continue to crush competitors, and that the brakes had to be imposed externally, when the  reality is that Linux came along, followed by the rise and rise of Apple, emergence of Android, and within a very few years Microsoft was relegated to the role of an also-ran, albeit one with a mountain of cash.

Enterprises of any type and size that fail to accommodate the ecosystem metaphor, preferring to rely on an emerging equilibrium that they can leverage is in for a long wait, and ultimately a visit to the insolvency practitioner, unless of course they are a public body in which case the just continue to cry poor, and suck at the teat of the taxpayer.

My conclusion therefore is that there is  no new equilibrium on the horizon, continuous and pervasive change is with us and the only thing that will change is the speed of the changes themselves, and our ability to respond.

Planning to disrupt your apparent equilibrium, the existing business model that has served well is a confronting undertaking, but a necessary one for commercial survival. A depth of experience an understanding of the traps can save much heartache, so I would be happy to apply my experience to help navigate a path.

 

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3 points to measure e-marketing productivity.

share of engagement

When looked at from the “helicopter perspective ” there seems to be three points of threshold competitive activity that you simply have to get right, or all else is irrelevant. Having a few meaningful measures at those three points is essential to understanding the effectiveness of a marketing investment, and testing  ways to improve.

  1. Share of attention of your target market
  2. Share of engagement from your target market
  3. Share of wallet from your target market.

Traffic to a site is a useful measure, but really is not all that important, it is what happens then that is important. Just counting traffic is like counting people walking past a pet shop, they may even see the dog in the window, but that does not mean they are in any way likely to buy one. Your conversion rate to sale of this casual traffic would be miniscule. The challenge is to get the attention of those who for some reason are in thinking about how nice it would be to have a dog. When those people walk past, and see your doggies, you have a chance of getting their attention, which is why there are always some cute pups in the window, to grab the attention.

Having seen your doggies, those who walk into the shop for a closer look have given you a share of their engagement, you have the opportunity to talk to them, find out what sort of dog they may like, a pet for the kids, companion for an older relative, or something to keep the bikies away. Whatever it is, you need to know in order to be able to make an offer that meets their needs. They may also be looking elsewhere, so the share of engagement is important, are they serious buyers, or just filling in 5 minutes to look at some cute pups?

To get a share of their wallet, you need to be able to make an offer that persuades them to buy from you. There are many alternatives to a pet shop, breeders can deliver a very specific dog that will fill a purpose, with all the vetinary stuff done, or you can go to the kid down the road whose dog is just about to have a litter after a night of indiscriminate passion with some unknown stray, and comes with all  the risks of the unknown. Alternatively, you could just go to the pound and find something that takes your fancy and needs a home. Share of wallet can also include the share of the ongoing costs of having the dog, food, accessories   medicines, vet services, even in time a replacement. Measuring each of these situations delivers knowledge you can use not just for  this sale, but on an ongoing basis.

Back to our e-marketing challenges from the doggie shop. Following are some simple metrics that you could consider.

Share of attention.

    • Social shares, from any social platform
    • Bounce rate and visit time. These two go together, how long the landing page hold attention, and what did the visitor do then, leave, or go to another page, followed  by another…
    • Pages per visit. Clearly if just one page was visited, there is less attention given than if the visitor had gone to 3 or 4.

Share of engagement

    • Click through rates for your call to action tags.
    • Comments made, on the blog, and/or in conjunction with the social shares. It is easy for someone to click the twitter share button on a website, but it takes a greater level of engagement to click the button, then take the time to add an endorsing comment, and this social proof can be marketing gold.
    • Downloads of information from your site
    • Questions that come back seeking information and clarification

Share of wallet.

SOW is one of the most powerful measures on the success of revenue generation efforts, and almost always requires qualitative input. How you define the wallet shapes the numbers that will be generated. Our pet shop owner may choose to define his wallet simply as the share of sales of pets he generates, in his area, or he may include the accessories and food after the initial sale, and if he has a vetinary surgery service as part of the enterprise, he may or may not include that, depending on what is important to his understanding of the returns coming from the investments made.

    •  revenue per customer, or “basket” size
    • Purchase “basket” contents,
    • Customer return visits that deliver a transaction

E-marketing is the shiny new thing, different and potentially seductive, but in the end it is only the set of tools that is new, the principals of marketing still apply, the toolbox is just bigger and more complex. When you need help  sorting the complexity, the experience of the StrategyAudit team is at your disposal.

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5 practises for successful blogging

 

Blogg1

Over the weekend, my sister, a writer, called me a “blogging machine”, recognising the challenge of producing 3 or 4 worthwhile posts a week. Caught me a bit by surprise, because I just blog, write about what seems important to me, and that I think will be of interest to those that do pay me the huge compliment of following and commenting.

However, her comment got me thinking, and I recall the mindset when I wrote the first post,  back in March 2009, as reflected in the 1,000th post in August 2013. While I wondered how this would evolve, I tackled in that first stumbling post a thread that has been consistent throughout, the nature of one of the major challenges facing SME’s, as they set out to compete in an increasingly complicated world.

My sisters comment also follows a casual conversation at a recent SME networking meeting, where I had previously advised the bloke to whom I was speaking to add a blog to his website as a part of a strategy to establish his credibility amongst  those who had found their way to the site. He was doubting the value of the advice, lamenting that there had been no result from the major effort he had made to blog.

More from curiosity that anything else, I checked his site and realised why there has been no impact, no business flowing .

3 posts only.

Pretty good posts, well thought out and presented well, but three?  What did he really expect?

Reflecting on my experience with this arm of social marketing, here are the things my networking friend has to address, and the simple guidelines you should all at least acknowledge:

  1. Be prepared for the long haul, there is unlikely to be any impact quickly. I am reminded of a conversation I had years ago as I paid my way through university by slaving on building sites. An old brickie, someone who these days would probably be a professor of philosophy, described the difference between builders for whom he subcontracted, as “some can just see plan, and with luck follow it, the good ones understand the plan, and can clearly imagine the completed building”.
  2. Have a “tone” that is consistent, and reflects the person you are. Being yourself makes it much easier to be consistent at least.
  3. Have a clear purpose for the blog. This pretty much follows for any commercial activity, but is really important here. If you cannot meet the discipline of twitter, 140 characters, you need to do more on distilling your purpose.
  4. Knowledge is attractive.  The more you know about a topic, the better you will be able to write about it, and be relevant, entertaining, and add some value to readers. Fail here, and your bounce rate will be high.
  5. Follow your passion. Passion is to my mind the real competitive discriminator in this world of commodities, but is widely misused to the point of becoming a cliche. However, life without passion is pretty boring, and the last thing you want your blog to be is  boring.

Call me if I can help get the ducks in line.

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Beginners guide to SEO

London underground

Seeking a simple metaphor to explain how SEO fits into a digital strategy to a “digitally challenged” client running a successful small business, I struck upon the map of the London Underground.

If you look at the map, there are stations on single lines, stations with several lines running through, and stations with multiple intersections, some to other networks outside the underground, busses and British rail.

At any time, there are people in various stages of a journey. Some are waiting on a platform, some travelling towards the underground entry and exit points, and some on a train going to some predetermined end point of their journey.

Imagine now that every person had a descriptive tag attached, which was stored waiting for a request about that person, that could be read, and communicated to anyone asking.

SEO calls this process of asking for a location and description as  “Crawling” and “Indexing”.

Each piece of information, if it has been appropriately tagged, or described by the person putting it onto a site, is “indexed” by the search engines, and when someone types a search request into a box, the engine crawls through the indexed material and returns a link to the location and description of the item to the searcher.

Back too the metaphor.

Each person with the tag on the underground, can be found, and returns the requested information to the enquirer. Location, what they are wearing, who they are, what they look like, with links to others who may  be with them, and where they are going.

There are just two dimensions to having an effective SEO strategy.

  1. Get the technical stuff right, and this can be really complicated, and to the novice, even many professionals, is challenging. Find someone you trust to get it done for you.
  2. Have a strategy and action plan, without which you will be lost irrespective of the quality of the SEO.

Back to the underground metaphor. You never (perhaps rarely, a late night can make a difference) climb onto an underground train without knowing where you are going, and what the best route is under the circumstances that prevail.

Why should it be any different for an SEO strategy?

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The sure way to make a significant profit.

monopoly

How many monopolies have you seen that do not make a good profit?

Very few I bet.

On the other hand, how many very sensible, responsible, customer focussed businesses in competitive markets have you seen go to the wall?

Which would you rather be?

Our consumer regulator works to achieve as competitive a market as possible, so it must be good, or at least seen as good, but good for whom?

If you take a broad view of what constitutes a monopoly, a situation where there is domination of a niche, you do not necessarily have to be a massive multinational, or legislated infrastructure supplier to be a monopoly. As a kid, there were several milk bars in the suburb I lived in, one of which had a monopoly on milkshakes sold to schoolkids, and as a result all the other stuff the kids in the area bought. They had a monopoly in a niche, and even as a kid, I knew it was good business.

GoPro went from a idea to a billion dollar company by seeing a niche in the camera market, and going for it. There are two in my household, 2 of my three sons, mad as they are, use GoPro’s to document their lives, and there is even now several years later, no alternative.

Perhaps the most common conversation  I have with my client base is about the need for and means of differentiation. What makes you different? Why should people buy from you?

The ultimate differentiation is to have something that nobody else has, that some people want, and it does not have to be a superior milkshake, or innovative piece of camera technology, it can just as easily be a re-engineered supply chain.

The Dollar Shave Club delivers a product you can get in the local supermarket, difference is the way it is delivered. They have created a monopoly in mail order razors, who would have  thought? Certainly not Gillette.

When you figure out what you can do for a customer that nobody else can do, and that customer is not satisfied with an alternative,  you have what is in effect a monopoly.

Seems to me that the objective of differentiation, and a sure way to make a significant profit is to find a way to create a monopoly.

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6 reasons you might be “engaged”.

Many put forward the notion of “Engagement” as the objective of Social Media and web based activity, it crops up with the regularity of a hot dog seller at a big football game.

However, I have yet to see a definition of “engagement” that I am comfortable with. Sticking it in Google is no help, 374 million responses, most, probably predictably, about the lead in to marriage from rings to places to blow the house deposit on a reception.

Wether you are setting out to “engage” a potential customer on social media, have employees contribute some of their ideas and brainpower to the enterprise, or just having a casual conversation with someone, if  “engagement” is what you are seeking, it will only evolve  after one or more of several other things are in line:

  1. What you have to say is interesting to the  other party.
  2. The other party or audience has a need or desire for information you can deliver
  3. There is something your audience  wants from you
  4. There is a specific problem you can solve.
  5. There is the opportunity and desire for a two way flow of conversation
  6. You have met “the one”. This has nothing to do with this blog and its contents, but good luck to you.

“Engagement” has  many meanings, and I suspect most would define it in the context of what they are seeking. For me, as a marketing professional, it means there is mutual value in some activity, from a simple conversation, to someone reading and commenting  on this blog, to a collaborative effort with a colleague, to adding value to one of my clients. Whatever “engagement” means you, it is certain that there is a lot of other stuff to do first to build the foundations that make the interaction worthwhile, and offer the chance of becoming an “engagement”.

Engagement is an outcome, not a strategy, and successful strategies are always about doing something that matters, that makes a difference.

 

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2 vital and connected KPI’s for SME’s

share of attention

Share of wallet, share of attention

Share of Wallet is, very simply, your share of an existing customers total purchases in a domain you service. You can fiddle at the edges in the way you define the domain, but it remains that better servicing an existing customer to get a greater share of their wallet is almost always more productive than going hunting for a new customer.

Share of attention as a measure can be as simple or complicated as you like. Definitions vary widely, but usually include measures of  aided and unaided brand awareness, and the awareness  of a specific marketing activity amongst the target market of that activity.

Share of wallet is the measure to be applied at the bottom of the sales funnel,  share  of attention the measure at the top. It is unlikely that a marketer will ever get to have a share of wallet until there has been a share of attention established.

Share of wallet always has been, and still is, a simple measure of great power. Share of attention used to be pretty simple when the communication mediums were limited to the few TV and radio stations, magazines and newspapers people consumed, but has become remarkably more complicated since the fragmentation of media.

Attention is the thing that those with whom we wish to communicate allow us to have from them, it is a gift of  their time and intellect, and we so often undervalue or even abuse it.

We have 8 hours sleeping, 8 hours working, that leaves 8 discretionary hours to be spent, broken up into social time family time, entertainment, and all the other things we do with our lives.

Gaining peoples attention amongst all the competition, the first and necessary task in a marketing program is a huge task, but the benefit delivered by digital media is the huge palette we now have where creativity, innovation and an intimate understanding of the market and customers inhabiting the market pays dividends.

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The 3 things that REALLY matter in social media?

 

meaurement

There are lots of so called “measures” that get touted as  being able to deliver useful insights into the effectiveness and productivity of investments made in Social Media. Many tell you nothing of value, and are often misleading, but because they are easy and obvious,  are often the ones used. Measures such as friends, followers, number of posts, even quasi mathematical ones that measure nonsense like the ratio of followers to followed are touted, but really tell you nothing of value, nothing that assists the process of building the returns from your investments.

However, there are three measures that will give a very good view of the productivity of your investments, the first two are easy, the third takes more work and understanding, but nevertheless can be accessible to even a small business without great technical and financial depth.

  1. Conversion rate. Not necessarily to a sale, but to something that you are asking visitors to do. Download a whitepaper, enter a contest, comment, offer a suggestion, etc. This requires the receiver of the message to actively participate, and take an action, to be converted in some way.  The word “engagement” is often used in this context, and is a reasonable simile, but can mean different things to different people, so is more “fluffy”
  2. Amplification rate. This is just the number of shares, retweets, reposts, and embeds, and backlinks that an individual piece  of content generates, and the rates overall of what you achieve.  If your first level contacts amplify for you, over time, their contacts become yours, and evolve into your sales funnel.
  3. Financial value. This is obviously the holy grail, and there is no way I know to measure easily, but it is the reason most of us invest out time and resources in Social Media. Setting out to create a measure requires that you build a picture of your sales funnel, and have sufficient sensitivity in your data to be able to follow a prospect from the lead generation stage through to a transaction. This can be done with the integration of CRM and web analytic tools, but is generally pretty  challenging for small businesses. However, if you know your average sales cycle times, sales numbers, and track the investments made in Social Media, you can get a reasonable picture using excel.

Being without a simple, and consistent way of measuring the impact of your investments when the tools are available and easily deployed should never be tolerated.  The days of “black box” marketing are well and truly over.

 

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6 ways to increase the impact of your story.

storyteller

Marketing is all about stories, the journey taken that the reader can identify with in some way. Blog posts are just short stories, by another name, and by following the rules of stories, can be more interesting, engaging, and ultimately, deliver a commercial result.

So how do you tell as story?

I have 4 kids, adults now, but as kids I read stories to them, regularly. This is not the same as making up a story as you go, and for a good storyteller, perhaps a cop-out, but the stories of others were usually more engaging than my top of the mind make-ups.

As they got a bit older, it became clear that each preferred a different type of story, and they seemed to fall into a small number of themes, always around a common “backbone” of a hero undertaking some sort of quest, confronting dangers and failure, then finding the only escape route, which was about to close, then revelling in the redemption.

The storylines around the backbone were:

  1.  Rags to riches stories, these were favored by my boys. The protagonist drags himself from the streets to the heights, overcoming the disadvantages of injury, lack of education, or being abandoned in some way, and ends up giving back.
  2. The travelogue, the journey  from A to B via the rest of the alphabet, with adventures and barriers at each letter.
  3. Tragedy, the hero saves someone from a fatal flaw of their personality or circumstances, and the difficult situations that flaw creates.
  4.  The quest, which travels  with the protagonist seeking a solution to an insoluble problem
  5. Beating the Demon, who keeps on coming back, and usually saving the damsel in the process.
  6. And finally, comedy. Funny but often sad things that happened, centred around peoples lives, shortcomings, and loves. I found that stories that were able to deliver a message with splashes of humour were always the ones that the kids remembered the best.

A great story, well told will be remembered, whereas a recitation of facts passes from memory quicker than an iceblock on a hot summers day.

 

 

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You can go nude at home

rent

Your facebook, linkedin accounts, and all the other social media platforms with which you interact are not home, they are places you visit, and perhaps rent a space to leave something behind for storage and easier access and use. They can be taken away, moved, or you can be banned, excluded, or diminished without being able to do anything about it.

Just like renting a house, you have some rights, but ultimately, you do not own it, and the ones who do hold all the cards. When you own the house you live in, you can do pretty much anything you like. You own it, and it cannot be taken away.

When you think about your digital life with this simple thought in mind, it should change  the way you behave.

You know the old story, rental cars go really fast in reverse, they can be abused by those renting them, simply because they do not own them, and are not responsible for the damage done beyond the superficial. That is also true for rented space on the digital platforms others own. Your content, presence and connections can be misused, abused and lent to others without your knowledge or consent. Just ask the B class celebs who recently have had their nude pictures shared from the Apple servers.

Should, have kept their nude antics at home.

Anything you want to own that is held on a public platform, your mailing lists and personal photos for example, must be assumed to be at some point, compromised. If you do not want the risk of it being on the front page of the paper one day, keep it at private, at home.

At the very least, back them up onto something you own, leaving it where it is on a rented or worse, free platform, anything can happen.

ecosystemFor business, it comes back to the notion of owned, earned and paid media. Each has its place, and can be complementary as well as synergistic, but make sure you get the mix right, and that you understand the implications.

 

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SEO through Google’s eyes.

google watching

First let it be clear that I am neither a “power-user” of the increasing suite of tools supplied by Google, or an SEO expert. What I do is approach strategy from the perspective of the potential consumer of that strategy, wether that be B2B, B2C, or in  this case, U2G, User to Google.

SEO has been a hot topic for a decade, some really smart people have made loads of money providing advice and bottles of snake oil SEO solutions, often selling it to people who should know better.

When you think about it, SEO is all about getting your content ranked highly, preferably above the fold on page 1. To do that, the SEO proponents go to considerable lengths to “game” the Google algorithms. Google, like all businesses needs to ensure that the people who pay for its services (advertising) get value, so it is in their interests to remove the opportunity to “game” their system. Therefore it seems logical that they spend lots of resources developing algorithms that eliminate any advantage the “gamers” may be able to find.

Who has more money and expertise, the Gamers or Google?

Who really has the greater motivation to remove the opportunity for gaming, Google or the Gamers?

Googles business model is not to make your website popular, they do not care in the least about your site. Nor will they willingly allow you to make your site “popular” by leveraging their algorithms for free.

Googles  objective is to find the popular websites and index and rank them to better serve those searching, and to present the searchers eyeballs to those advertising to reach them.

Trying to “out-Google” Google by staying in front of their algorithm development is a losers game. Much better to ignore them, and set about making your site popular because it deserves to be popular, and let Google find and rank you.

Having said all that, there are a few simple things that you would be negligent not to do on your site:

  1.  Focus each page of your site on a key word or phrase
  2. Ensure each page has a meta description to make indexing easier
  3. Keep media files to a minimum size to speed up loading,
  4. And the most important one, and by far the hardest to do: Create great and relevant content that your target audience is motivated to read, bookmark, comment on, and share.

It is easy to be put off by the techno babble that goes on, a lot of it trying to squeeze out the last few percent of so called performance, when in most cases, particularly for SME’s the cost of the last 5 or even 10% efficiency is not justified by the cost of securing it. A little bit of common sense and focus on the customer and the value you are delivering goes a very long way.

SEO as it is usually practiced measures how often your content gets presented to be seen, not by who sees it, and not what they do with it.

 

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Business of Social Media.

Tony, sausage in hand

Westslawntennis.com.au fundraiser

The business function of Social Media is to spread the message, and make sales. Each platform differs in the balance between the “Social” and “business” focus but nevertheless, they are essentially the digital equivalent of a social gathering. Some are the digital Sunday BBQ of a group of friends, while others are more like the voluntary after work drinks of the sales reps, sharing things of common interest, but usually about their successes, quotas, problem customers, and bitching about the boss.

Having fun is great, it helps the quality of the output enormously, but the objective is commercial, and so the investment of time and resources should be considered in the context  of all the other investment options a business faces.

To effectively  spread the message, there are a few seemingly simple, but in fact really hard things  that need to be determined and done.

  1. What is the message I need to spread?
  2. To whom should I spread it?
  3. What can I do in return for those who take the time to absorb and hopefully respond to my message?

This last one is really important, and often overlooked, as the “social” part of social media takes over. As in life, there is a principal that always works, “Reciprocity”.

Doing something for someone sets up a psychological “balance” of favours, and doing one for someone, is like putting a favour in the bank, when you come to make a withdrawal, there is something in the account.

Like any account, you can overdraw with prior arrangement, but sometimes the interest rates become a bit onerous, so having a positive balance is always a good idea.

Social Media is not a very good vehicle for sales, it is “Social” and sales in a social context grate, (when was the last time you knowingly asked a committed Amway rep to the friendly Sunday BBQ?), but it is a great vehicle for accruing favors, and reciprocal rights to be cashed in later.

Social Media is however, a great set of platforms for the generation, storing and sharing of information of all sorts, and if information is the lifeblood of commerce, as we all accept, it seems like a good place to be making a few investments.

When you need help sorting through the myriad of options, give me a call.

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6 imperatives for effective SME email marketing.

cold email 20140126-180535-pic-12290384

Cold emails are usually no more welcome that a cold phone call. However, For small businesses, the emergence of email marketing has transformed the opportunities they have to communicate, but so many fail to do some pretty simple things before embarking on a campaigns, so screw it up, and often give it away as ineffective.

Email marketing has become subject of some very good automation software, integrated in highly sophisticated platforms like Salesforce, and the Adobe marketing cloud, but for SME’s without the financial and management resources to make the investments these require successful, there are still very good low cost packages, like Mailchimp, which at the basic level is free, Aweber, and others at about $30/month.

However, the key to success is not the software, it is how you use it, so some simple market tactics to use.

  1. Find a connection to the recipient. You have a much better chance of not just getting the email opened, but also read, if you can establish some meaningful connection with the recipient. A common former employer, people you know, interests you share, or some project type you may be working on. This takes some time and research, but the investment pays off. LinkedIn is a wonderful tool for uncovering these connections.
  2. Nail the email subject line. If you fail to do this, the email will not be opened and read. We are all too busy to open emails that do not immediately touch some chord. The challenges is to do this in a very few words that communicate the value the email will deliver, and why it was sent to you. The subject line is in effect the headline of your story, so make it compelling to the potential reader, or they just become at best, a passing browser.
  3. Keep the email short, simple, and with a clear call to action. The recipient must understand easily what the message is all about without having to interpret blocks of text. Remember that many of them will be opened on mobile devices, making the clarity even more important. At the end of reading it, which should be a very short time, there must be no doubt about what you want them to do with the information.
  4. Be respectful. If the recipient gives their time to read, and hopefully respond, that gift needs to be respected, and even if they do not immediately respond, following up too quickly, or  too aggressively will rarely be appreciated. You are asking them for something, be respectful of their time and expertise, and the simple fact that it is you doing the asking, not them.  Disrespect is about the quickest way to turn off somebody from responding I can think of short of being rude.
  5. Never be desperate.  Desperation is not a pretty sight, and will sway most people away from responding. Desperate people have little to offer back to a time poor person with the power to say yea or nay to you.
  6. Never, never, never promise something you cannot deliver.

As a final catch all  for email marketing success, it is essential that you have a list. This is one case where bigger is actually better, the more accurately segmented and targeted the better, and the greater the level of active “opt-in” by those on the list the better.

Like all marketing activities, the better you are at it, the more targeted to the message recipients interests, problems, and situation the activity, the better your results will be. See the email you are about to send as if it was you that had just received it, and be a harsh judge.

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6 strategies to be successful, in everything

 

In life, and all its aspects, business, social , relationships, there are no shortcuts, just easier and simpler ways of doing things. It is just that it takes time and effort to find the easier, more productive, and value additional way.

The rules for success are the same in every context.

  1. Understand the selling process. Busiess, pleasure, social, you are always selling, a point of view, activity, feeling, yourself. Always selling!.
  2. See through the eyes of the other person. Again, customer, partner, casual acquaintance, it does  not matter, it simply is better to see yourself as others see you, rather than just as you see yourself.
  3. Have a deeper understanding of whatever it is you are talking about than those to whom you are talking. If listeners are to get any value from listening, they need to think that there may be something of value for them, and that you know something they don’t, otherwise, why would they spend their valuable time on listening. Another of my old dads pearls of wisdom: “If you can’t say anything useful or sensible, keep your trap shut.”
  4. Seek ways to simplify. Our world is increasing complicated, finding ways to simplify even small bits of it are enormously valuable. Finding a way to reduce the friction to get a better, more valuable to someone  outcome is the competitive advantage of the 21st century. Most things are done the way they are done because that is the way they have always been done. Not a good idea for the future.
  5. Start anything you do with the end in mind. This enables you to manage by compass, rather than by a map, which enables flexibility, agility, and room for the unexpected, serendipitous, and wonderful to emerge.
  6. Be nice. Nobody likes being around jerks, so be nice.

Sounds easy, but in fact it is very hard, that is why so few people are able to find the success they would like, and in many cases, deserve.

Call me for a confidential discussion about how to best leverage your opportunities.

 

 

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Barbed wire networking

barbed wire phone

Man has always found ways to communicate, Social media is not new, it is just the tools we are using today are upgrades of those we used yesterday.

Alex Bell patented the telephone in 1876, after many inventors had played with the physics of electro magnetism and its applications to voice transmission. By the 1890’s farmers were using the barbed wire fences that were strung the length and breadth of the US to communicate.  Phones in those days generated their own power by means of a crank and batteries, all you needed to do was hook up to wire, give the mail order telephonic device a crank, and bingo, a phone.

Downside was that someone had to be on the line at the other end waiting, and there was no direct dialling, so everyone was on at the same time, the ubiquitous party line, where privacy was a victim.

Sound familiar?

(Reliability was also an issue, everything from rain to the neighbours randy bull causing problems with the wire)

Point is, all this fancy new technology is no more than a new solution to an old problem: how to communicate effectively with those  to whom we have something to say, from the mundane and trivial to really life altering messages.

Small businesses need to remember this simple truth, as they are bombarded with “opportunities” to expand their reach via social media. The only useful contacts are those with whom you have something in common, and with whom you can collaborate to generate value for you both. Those sorts of “friends” are invaluable, and do not just “happen”, it takes time and effort to find them and build relationships individually. Just getting a “like” on facebook is as useful as Harold Holts flippers, particularly as the organic reach of facebook is now down around 5% as Facebook seek to financially leverage their membership base.

Fancy some barbed wire?

 

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5 classic marketing steps that still work.

In 1968 a seminal Book called “Consumer behaviour”  Engel, Blackwell & Kollat described the 5 steps in the marketing process that dominated marketing thinking for the next 45 years.

It is clear that they are still as valid now as they have been for all those years. It is just that the tools we now have to manage the process are at once way more sensitive, and way more complicated than they were.

The 5 steps are:

Problem recognition. Not much has changed here, although we are way more sophisticated at discovering when someone may be seeking a solution to a problem, and can step in and assist, but essentially, the recognition of a problem to be solved remains where it has always been, with the consumer. In B2B, the sophisticated sales approach has evolved to what Neil Rackham  calls “situation questions” that lead to unearthing and defining a problem, or opportunity for improvement the buyer was not immediately aware of.

Information search. Here the world has been turned upside down by the search tools available to consumers. In addition, sellers now have the opportunity to recognise an information search, and try to engage in the process with the searcher to deliver valuable information, and perhaps progress the sales process in their favour.

Alternatives evaluation. Perhaps this stage is where the greatest changes have occurred.  Pre-web, it was the sellers who had most relevant information, and they were in control of the timing, type, amount of information, and how it was given out to a prospect. Now, the power is with the consumer, and in most cases this 3rd process is well advanced before a potential supplier has any idea that the buyer is in the market.  However, it is also here that the tools available have exploded, from personalising the web site delivery of information to rapidly evolving promotional and informational mobile apps,  emerging geo location mobile promotions, product and service review websites, and more .

Purchase. Amazon and Ebay turned the retail experience on its head, aided more recently by the penetration of mobile. However, when you look at the numbers, the percentage of a consumer total purchases made on line is not more than about 5%, but  the spread is uneven across categories, and there is all sorts of research that offers a different, nuanced view. Just ask your local bookstore of music retailer if you can find one. In addition, new ways to purchase have evolved. Apple for example built an entirely new purchase eco-system with iTunes, which in itself is now being disrupted by Spotify and other subscription models.

Post purchase. The notion of the purchase transaction being the end of the game is also over. Lifetime value of a customer is now a really important consideration, as is the consumers opportunity to express their views post purchase via social media. Businesses that ignore the value and opportunity of the post purchase period, indeed the opportunity of consumers to express views on virtually anything, will probably not live long enough to fully realise their mistake.

These 5 steps still “step out” (sorry) the process, it is just that the tools being used have changed radically. It does not matter if you are the corner store, or Walmart, the steps hold true in almost every consumers approach to a purchase more significant than a box of paperclips, sometimes even paperclips.

Human behaviour is too hard wired to evolve at the speed at which the tools have evolved, so the manner in which the tools are used fits with the established behaviour,  and changes it over time, rather than radical changes in behaviour emerging as a result of the new tools. Even the most widely adopted tool set of social media is just automating existing behaviour patterns, enabling the existing behaviour to be more effective, rather than introducing new ones.

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6 ingredients for SME success

mixing

The post on the 2 tools SME’s need  in early August  led to a comment that, whilst the headlines of focus and discipline made sense, the challenge is in implementation.

Fair comment.

So, how do you build the needed focus and discipline in the face of increasing complexity and competition?

Over 40 years of doing this stuff with SME;s, there have been 6 common factors that lead to successful implementation that have emerged.

  • Ownership leads to commitment. In an increasingly complicated world, the hierarchical organisations that worked for us to date now fail, they are too rigid and process driven to be responsive to the chaotic input from a connected world. Leveraging what Clay Shirky calls “Cognitive surplus” becomes the competitive challenge to be won.
  • Prioritisation and planning. There is a fine line between prioritising and planning a set of activities, and procrastination and doing the easy stuff that does not really matter. Two  rules of thumb: 1. if it is easy, it probably does not matter, and 2. An extra minute spend planning will save an hour later on in the project.
  • Accountability. It is one thing to “make” someone accountable in a top down organisation, it is easy for some boss to just say “you are accountable” but that does not make it so. It is really only when the person takes on the accountability as their own that the motivation kicks in, that they really care beyond the protection of an income or position.
  • Outcome measurement. Do not measure the activities, just the outcomes. It is good to have the activities visible, so you can see what is being done, but only the outcomes really matter, activities do not contribute to success in any way other than they are just the means to the end, so measure for the end.
  • Failure tolerance. The “scientific method” applies to management as well as science, it spawns a fact based decision making culture, rather than one based on ego, status and hubris.The story of the most successful inventor in history, Thomas Edison, on failing for the 999th time to create light from a bulb saying: “Now I know 999 things that do not work” is a lesson for us all. The 1,000th experiment was successful, and the world was changed.
  • Persistence. Never giving up is crucial, with the proviso that you learn from your mistakes, and apply the learning.

These 6 are a great start, to which I would add “Sweat”. My dad used to reckon nothing worthwhile was achieved without some of it being shed, and I think he was right.

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Native advertising or news fraud

lipstick on a pig

Last night Media Watch on the ABC did a piece on the “news report” done on one of the 6.30 current affairs programs on a commercial station. The “report” was a 15 minute advertising free  expose on the sourcing of the fresh produce the retailer sells.

It was a prime example of so called “Native advertising”.

Native advertising is just a term dreamt up by marketers, aided and abetted by commercially desperate media owners  to make excuses for polluting the so-called news with favorable commentary. In this case, the channel concerned had a share of the retailers very substantial advertising dollars way in excess of their audience market share, and the “report” was nothing less than a glowing tribute to the quality and freshness of the produce.

Smells like advertising to me.

The “news”  already seems to have been so polluted by the populist lowest common denominator “cat up a tree” stories that seem to dominate alongside sensationalist claims about today’s brand of extremist, that why would a puff piece on how fresh a retailers produce is make a difference?

Simple answer, because it is nonsense.

The retailer concerned does do a good job, works hard to deliver produce as fresh as they can given the constraints of their mass market model, competitive pressures and profitability objectives, but to put as much lipstick on the pig as the report did is really going too far.

You can watch Media Watch’s (the segment starts at 8.45)  commentary for a while on the ABC’s iView, but if you are still confused about the line between advertising and journalism, and the chance of our institutions and enterprises being held accountable by the media, have a look at this satirical  video by John Oliver that presses the point.

We are pretty savvy consumers of media these days, question is, are we savvy enough?

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