Why Add Viral/Social Marketing Tactics to your Business Initiatives PT.4

I spent yesterday morning at a product camp which was a gathering of product managers, product marketers and other professionals concerned with product development, management and marketing.  The group included these professionals and many entrepreneurs and CEO’s of small companies hoping to learn from each other.  There were about 60 smart and very experienced people from many different industries and backgrounds and yet after talking with many of them one topic seemed in common……………………………………………..

It is a VERY confusing time and businesses are struggling to not only identify what kind of techniques to use for product marketing or even understand what marketing means to them and their company. This is not a criticism of them in any form, these are very talented, creative people who have a vision and have developed products of many kinds but just don’t have the bandwidth to understand what needs to be done, much less know how to do the job properly. So some ad hoc attempts at marketing have been pursued but ultimately a proper modern marketing campaign has to be developed and implemented in order to generate some sales momentum.

With that introduction and the setup in the first three parts on this topic, it’s time to get into the red meat of the topic. Let’s start with the most important talent your marketing team MUST have if there is any hope of making viral marketing happen and which is crucial for businesses without large sales departments………..Content Creation! You can’t make people come to you unless they have a reason to! This is a brand new task for today’s marketing professional. Content creation is now a very large part of what marketers need to work on every single day.

You draw people to you by providing something people want or find interesting and you do it for free. This is what I mean by content. A good example is Betty Crocker, they create content by providing recipes and cooking instruction which draw users to their website. Not only does this create a pull to the site but the content features the ingredients/products that they sell.  A homemaker will find a great recipe and share it with his/her contacts and so on.

Content-

Marketers now have to write white papers, create video how to’s and tutorials, blog articles, get involved in industry specific forums of all types and become voices that build credibility and are followed and quoted all the way back to your product. When these efforts are done properly the information is “shared” between consumers in the form of re-tweets, Likes, etc. and the message goes viral. It’s important these efforts be genuine yet discrete, wearing the company badge while posting can seem less than genuine and not have the intended effect unless the posts are on the company site.

Once you draw eyes and have these new and unique visitors to your website or social media account it’s crucial they are made to feel special and involved with your company and products. This is an expectation that customers who are used to interacting on social media have and you need to take notice. If you fall asleep at the switch your social marketing efforts can turn negative real quick.

The ultimate result is the customer and all his/her contacts who INTERACT with you are no longer being sold to but feel invested in your company and become virtual marketers in your company. If they are respected and interacted with, you will quickly find that not only will they be loyal customers but are more than likely to become evangelizers of your product.

Influentials-

Another method to draw customers to your door is identifying “influentials” through the use of analytics. The proper use of analytics will give you the demographics of your consumers and data which identifies their habits and interests and most of all who they follow. The people they follow and quote are their influentials.

Getting the eyes of an influential is a sure fire way to get your message into a viral level. Influential’s not only already have credibility of those who follow them, they have the added ability to influence choice (see the Lady Gaga analogy previously outlined). Getting the eyes of an influential or, better yet, your product into their hands, will make them feel part of the effort and they will be glad to help or in the case of a celebrity open the door to a financial arrangement.

Blogging-

Blogging is one of my personal favorite ways to connect. Blogs, because of their informational nature, are not only trusted but are frequent hit results for searches. Blog entries can get linked to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and now Pinterest to increase exposure. Because of a blog’s continuity it can be updated regularly and increase the chances of gaining conversions over time.

Blog’s are also a wonderful way to gain buy in from influentials. Who would decline an opportunity to be interviewed for a blog post? Flattery is a great way to convert.

Because of the informational nature, blog’s also tend to be bookmarked and used as reference so take your time and keep this fact in mind before you publish. Peer review is also in order if possible.

We’ve now covered some of the ways available to start to draw potential customers to your company and products. You first have to create your gateways into your company by creating profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin at a minimum and make sure you staff a constant presence to monitor and respond. You will then make sure to post links to content of all kinds and monitor results.

You need to CAREFULLY plan and set social media policies in place to make sure there is a responsible face of your company being portrayed and most of all decide if you will stick to it. Nothing looks worse than a company quitting their presence.

Stay tuned for Pt. 5 where we start to look at how to identify who to target, how to measure results and quantify your efforts as you go along.

Dwayne

Advertisements

Why Add Viral/Social Marketing Tactics to your Business Initiatives PT.3

So now that you have made it through the first 2 parts of this topic I would hope that it is now very clear that the way of doing business has completely changed and ignoring that fact WILL have profound and negative repercussions. The only thing that is not certain is when these effects will be felt on your company.

Social media is NOT the exclusive playpen for people with too much time on their hands anymore. Very serious marketing is happening on these channels and being effective beyond any expectations that could have been foreseen. Shea Bennett posting on Mediabistro.com posted a very compelling infographic showing the incredible power and growth of serious social marketing done properly, just look at the number reported by IBM (one of the most conservative companies in the world)….400% SALES GROWTH in the first quarter after implementing a pilot social selling program!!

These numbers are not unique, I have seen analytic reports showing a direct correlation between growth of companies and how vested they are in social marketing initiatives. What this means is the fastest growing companies are using almost twice as much social marketing as companies that aren’t doing so well, furthermore, the rate of growth is directly proportional to the investment rates in social media (effort and money). So as investment increased,  growth increased in linear relationship.

So how can any reasonable company leadership ignore the focused attention of HUGE audiences gathering in numbers that truly are beyond comprehension? Comscore.com just reported that the latest entry into the social market arena “Pinterest” crossed the 10 million unique visitor mark faster than any standalone site in history and last month had almost 20K unique visitors! There is a reason why companies with vision are starting to invest heavily in exposure through social media.

So now the rest of the story……………………………………………………………………………

As I was creating the graphic above I realized there is another less glamorous statistic involved and it’s the fact that the socio-verse (social universe) is growing at the same rate as capital expended in it. That is to say, as more and more money moves into this area more players are drawn into it to capitalize on this opportunity. Because of this, marketing complexity increases at the same pace.

In the early days companies would just pay to track which site had been the one to refer a unique hit to the company’s website. This was not adequate as it did not pinpoint the actual reason of how and why a user arrived at the end site. The true conversion factor may have been 2-3 levels of interaction prior to the last hit.

For example, say Car Company A notices the fact that a huge generator of unique visitors to its site is Tire Company B. The early assumptions were to pay Tire Company B to place Car Company A banners all over its site in hopes of driving up customer conversions to Car Company A. This method did not pay off and led to a decline in web based advertising.

The problem was the marketers who were used to the more traditional forms of marketing had no background in hierarchical web based hit structures and were not equipped to the task. In the example above the marketers at Car Company A did not dig deep enough to realize maybe a couple of levels further down was a massive forum of fans of cars made by Car Company A, who by chance, would also visit Tire Company B which then fed them to the site for Car Company A.  Car Company A should have instead invested in becoming part of the car forum which would have attracted influential eyes which could have markedly increased sales by talking up the new products manufactured by Car Company A.

The most effective areas for marketing interaction with prospectives is at these active social hubs where like minded people gather and discuss your products. These could be forums, chat rooms or more likely now  # tags on Twitter. To sum up the example above the marketers at Car Company A would now interact on twitter.com/#carcompanya.

By now you should understand the problem at hand………..

PROBLEM: How does marketing at a company locate where the effective hubs/hit generators are? Is traffic at these hubs the most important metric for your decision making or could it be a very influential voice that is “followed” by people in these hubs and if so how do you identify him/her? What are the factors driving users to make the final step to conversion and how do you most efficiently spend capitol to influence them?

The graphic above though confusing really does represent the current environment that has to be navigated effectively to really super-charge your efforts. The yellow brick road to spectacular growth will be a bunch of zigs and zags and even up and down (really is a 3D matrix) and what makes it really complex is it is different for each industry. There is no magic bullet that you fire and forget. Just opening a Twitter account with your company name, though a start, is just that…a start. That step is the toe in the water but you are far from swimming.

It is amazing to me how at this time in history when marketing talent is the most desperately needed companies are laying off marketers and investing in even more sales initiatives! This makes no sense. Sales is in charge of convincing the conversions that the value of the offering created and exposed by marketing is greater than the price so that the sale is made. How do you expect to close the deal if you don’t really even know where all the potentials are? The new social/viral techniques not only point to where they are but will actually draw the customers to you. Instead of spending massive amounts of capital going to the prospects, spending wisely in creative marketers will not only bring the customers to your door but convert them into your sales staff!  They then go out into the world and tell their friends to buy your products and then they tell their friends and they……………classic viral behavior!

Now, back to the problem. How does a company map, pave, and navigate the yellow brick road.  As I stated there is no recipe to follow here. There are a bunch of ingredients and some tools but most of all what is required is the skill and experience of the staff in the kitchen, who in this case, is the marketing staff. It will be their job to identify what needs to be created, purchase the right tools and ingredients for the job, develop a recipe, and bake. They will then be in charge of figuring out if the customers liked the product, are they talking about it (good or bad) and where are they talking about it, in order to get involved in the discussion. This will allow the staff to return to the kitchen and tweak the recipe for the next batch.

The process outlined above is an ongoing process that SHOULD NEVER end. Much like a restaurant can’t just create one dish and walk away (if it hopes to survive) neither should that be your marketing initiative. The companies that are succeeding are those that are nimble, aggressive  and most of all creative!  Don’t let your competitor be the one to innovate and bake better than you do….find the talent, work with them to formulate proper initiatives, implement them and follow them up.

Dwayne

Next we will discuss some of the tools and ingredients required in your “kitchen”

Why Add Viral/Social Marketing Tactics to your Business Initiatives PT.2

Yesterday I was enjoying an early morning cup of a nice smoky dark roasted coffee as I walked around helping my wife and two young children get all their gear and other sundry items ready to pile into the car. This was no ordinary Saturday morning by any means. As I helped them get things in order I found myself drifting in thought of the last three plus years and all they have been through. All the “blood, sweat and yes, tears” they have shed in a journey that reached its first major apex late last evening.

Three years ago my beautiful wife came to me and told me that she and the children had enrolled in Taekwondo lessons. I looked down at my then smallish 5 year old daughter and wondered what effects this would have on her. They were all full of passion (not hard for the then 7 year old boy as the prospect of kicking, punching and breaking things was the recipe for earth bound heaven). But as an accomplished practitioner of early life sports ADD……I just wondered.

In an endeavor such as this was my wife conscious of the commitment, discipline, attention to detail required and future ramifications of their actions? Here were 3 souls joining hands together on a new path that would change all our lives and I had subtle concerns. For instance, what would happen if one or more quit midstream and what would it mean to the others? What would it do to my 5 year old daughter knowing she was not able to be strong enough to see it through, what would it do to my über boy if he was the one to quit and watch his mother and little sister succeed etc………………………………..

Much like their decision to jump into the proverbial swimming pool with the hope of swimming, all of us that are tasked with increasing market share for our companies are facing new challenges that we could have never anticipated. The world of business and marketing has changed forever and it did not change in a small way…..this is a full blown seismic shift!  What are the ramifications for diving into the uncertain waters of modern marketing? Will we have the fortitude and endurance to continue on through tough days etc and what are the ramifications for staying out of the water altogether?

You  can no longer make business decisions purely from a revenue point of view; of course this is still important but those of us in the pool swimming in varying degrees now understand that there are new considerations that have to be just as important as or more so than financials.

Do you understand the impact of an inadequate IT infrastructure? Do you understand the role of customer emotions and how these are affected by your decisions?  With the competition also considering these factors and coming after you ever more vigorously, attracting new customers gets more complex and more costly. How are many companies reacting to this?….by cutting costs! The blinders that are imposed by chasing the next quarter’s financial report are obscuring the fact that a business could be making its numbers but at what future cost and how long can it be sustained?

The most crucial elements of the success of any enterprise are its hard fought for and won existing CUSTOMERS! This should be the ONLY thought of any CEO as he goes to sleep every night. Even Henry Ford early in his career had it right…”you take care of your customers and revenue will come” yet many businesses have this completely backwards.

Companies spend fortunes in their sales departments trying to capture new business and yet will cut the budget on Customer support!!! How does this make any sense at all? The customers that are already paying your bills should be the most important person in the company (helps to view them as such). They are YOURS! You should not only do EVERYTHING you can to keep them but keep them deliriously happy and then THEY in this new paradigm will become the new sales team! Just ask Apple how cool it is to have an evangelical sales force that numbers in the millions!

Look, marketing in this day really has become the realm of understanding and managing the “butterfly effect”. One solitary yet influential voice says the wrong thing about your company or products and you have a SERIOUS problem on your hands.  Yet if Lady Gaga with her almost 25 MILLION followers says she loves shoes made by “Foo” guess what happens to Foo’s sales?

Marketing professionals no longer just need a business background, they need to know technology, have serious computer skills, be able to visualize extremely complex hierarchical network structures, be extremely creative and yes even be part time sociologists. This is not the time to be cutting costs on marketing or supporting your existing customer base….consider your long term position, develop a plan, implement it, measure it and most of all STICK TO IT!!

SO, last night my wife and life partner and our two young children now 3 years older and much taller tested for their black belts in Taekwondo culminating the vision that they had years ago and passed!!! Who could have imagined back then that one of the ramifications of their bold decision would be having to watch a grown man cry with pride?…….go figure!

Dwayne

In part 3 we start identifying the scope of the challenge…stay tuned!

I’m back on the air!

My previous blog host went up in a puff of smoke and took my archives with it. I am trying to acquire my IP from them so stay tuned but for now you will be limited to my new rants! Thanks go out to all of you who have followed me here to my new home. So kick back, put your feet up grab a bag of Funyuns and prepare for the continuing steady drip of meanderings about our increasingly complex new marketing paradigm.

Dwayne

Why Add Viral/Social Marketing Tactics to your Business Initiatives PT.1

Social media has the power to exponentially increase your company and your product’s visibility. Once you have eyes on your products and offerings, things can go very well, or very badly in a stunningly short amount of time and the scary part is you don’t even need to have social media initiatives for this to happen.

Do you know what is being said about your products online? Are there positive things being said that should be identified and fueled to increase message circulation into a positive viral realm? Are there disastrous things being said (true or false) that you have to tackle instantly before they DO go viral and cause severe damage to your brand? These are just the unintended consequences of viral market dynamics.

A company doing business today in any form ignores the new marketing reality at its own peril. Even large historically stable companies are being hurt at lightning speed because they were not aware of the health of their brand at any given moment and underestimated the damage that could be inflicted and the speed in which it could happen. All you have to do is study Nestlé’s debacle with palm oil in 2010 or this year’s dust up over “pink slime” or advertisers that were slow to react to Rush Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke that alienated almost every woman in this country. The companies that not only survive but thrive in these situations are the ones that have strong social media initiatives and policies in place. Those that do not have these safeguards in place fail to react until it can be much too late and irreparable damage is done to a company’s reputation.

All you have to do is study the current situation with the Facebook IPO to learn how incredibly quick negative information that is not intercepted and addressed can take down a major corporation that seemed invulnerable and even had incredible upward momentum. The word Titanic comes to mind. A proper social media infrastructure including communication policies would have prevented this situation from even starting. An especially ironic position for a social networking company to have found itself in.

It’s not all bad news though; a strong viral marketing investment within a company can be the driver of the single most powerful revenue and customer generator in the history of global markets. Companies no longer have to depend on old fashioned and intrusive cold calling, outward push modalities. Why not understand and embrace tactics that actually DRAW customers to YOU!  Done right, the only problem these modern marketing abilities will bring is being able to react to product demand that overnight can far outstrip a company’s abilities to deliver.

The new world of social media is the classic double edged sword which can cut for you or cut you down. In the next series of posts I will outline some techniques that should be adopted by current product marketing efforts in order to keep that sword swinging in your favor shredding your competitors and making them bleed market share.

The world of marketing has just taken a drastic turn in a completely new and EXCITING direction. Don’t let stale marketing inertia take you straight off the road and into the dirt and weeds. The marketing highway is now a zig-zagging high speed race track. Those with lightweight quick to accelerate and quick to brake super cars will come out of every bend faster than the competition and cumulatively will leave the slower less reactive competitors far behind.