marketing

If you are local to North Carolina, get in touch via Thumbtack

on Apr 15 in advertising, For small businesses, marketing posted , , by

Ever wonder why you can buy any product online with a single click, but you can’t hire a photographer, tutor, contractor, or other local service professional without a dozen phone calls? Thumbtack offers a solution. Thumbtack’s mission is to make it dramatically easier to hire services, at the same time empowering independent professionals to grow their businesses. I’m using Thumbtack to help folks local to Raleigh get in touch with me through a trusted, verified source.

Marketers need to understand the bad side of using Facebook

on Aug 15 in facebook, marketing, psychology, social media posted , , by

facebook meme ecard

According to a BBC article published today, a University of Michigan study finds that Facebook use makes people feel worse about themselves. Interesting. But what does that mean?

The research seems to raise more questions than answers. If it’s true, why do people spend so much time on Facebook? But the study does not mean a death knell for Facebook. Other research shows that Facebook satisfies an innate psychological need for social connection.

That said, the findings have important implications for brands trying to connect with users on the social network. Marketers need to understand first and foremost that one-on-one social connections are the only way, in the long run, to build relationships with users. That is a hard grind, requiring time, effort, a minimum level of competency and authenticity. Sorry, no shortcuts.

Another important implication is that brands can work to ensure that users feel better rather than worse about themselves. The report cites the Fear Of Missing Out theory as one reason people feel bad after using Facebook. This concept suggests bad feelings arise as “a side effect of seeing friends and family sitting on beaches or having fun at parties while you are on a computer.”

Marketers could counter this perception of social isolation in several ways. For example, brands can reward engagement with increased interaction or incentives such as sweepstakes. These might help the user feel as though they belong to an in-group who are granted special privileges. Another possibility is to organize online (or even in-person) meet ups or clubs where users can share stories, products, special deals and so forth.

These approaches may not be easy to implement in practice. But brands must understand that Facebook usage does have negative consequences and they must be prepared to deal with that. Marketers must also understand that there are no easy fixes for creating an effective presence in social media. It’s a hard slog, and providing value and keeping commitments are not cheap, so your brand shouldn’t be either.

Three things brands must do before they engage influencers

on Jul 24 in branding, business, marketing, strategy, thought leaders, trends posted , , by

painting jesus sermon on the mount illustrate influencer

Jesus may well be the original influencer. Certainly the Church knew how to use him to market their product. Was Jesus the original influencer? Maybe so, and whether you are religious or not, influencer marketing is the next big thing for social marketers. If it’s not on your radar already it should be.

A post in Social Media Today highlights three influencer marketing campaigns. Such successes encourage brands and social marketers to include influencer marketing as part of their strategy.

Yes, influencer marketing is a vital mix to a marketing strategy. But it should only one part of the overall strategy. Even the best-crafted influencer outreach will fall on deaf ears if the brand doesn’t provide value, both for the influencer and for the audience. 

An influencer will not support a brand that has a crappy product or web presence. Would you recommend a lousy product or service to your family and friends? And no, neither will influencers, simply because they will be aware of the impact on their own reputation and brand.

Indeed, influencer marketing carries a risk, since influencers may be just as likely to trash a lousy product as they are to praise it.  Before jumping onto this particular bandwagon, influencer marketing must therefore be preceded by three essential steps. Look at these first, and if you can answer the questions, you are good to go! 

  1. Brand review — Is your corporate messaging aligned with business goals and your communications strategy. Do your mission and vision statements adequately represent your organization? Have you established a set of core values, and ensured your logo and tag lines match your brand?
  2. Social audit — Does your social presence past muster? Does your social media outreach comply with best practices (optimized profiles, engaging consistently and effectively)? Are you a Facebook-only operation or are you engaging across all relevant social platforms?
  3. Website audit — It your website up-to-date and socially optimized? Does it provide an interactive engaging user experience? Is it search optimized with rich content? 

Once you can check all these boxes you can start connecting with influencers. At which point an influencer is more likely to respond positively to your outreach efforts. If you can’t, your influencer outreach might cause more harm than good.

 

How not to create a tagline

on Jun 13 in branding, business, hints and tips, marketing, statistics posted by

Apple's Think Different tagline with rainbow apple logo

Leading brands such as Apple invest huge amounts of resources in developing taglines.

Marketers place a great deal of importance on taglines. But why? Marketers know that the tagline can define the brand and even become synonymous. Think of Nike’s “Just Do It” or Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “Finger Lickin’ Good” or Ford’s “Quality is Job One”. The tagline can be a vital feature of a brand’s identity.

So choosing a good tagline is not a trivial task. But how do you choose one? To answer that question, let me share a story with you. Recently, I developed several choices of taglines for a client (who shall remain anonymous). I put choices in front of the client and the team was close to reaching consensus. At this point, the organization’s leader ruled that we should accept a completely different version.

It’s always disappointing to have worked on something, only to have it discarded without additional consultation. But in my opinion, the chosen tagline was simply not appropriate for the organization. My primary concern with the tag line was that it was too long. It was 11 words and 15 syllables long. Typically, a tagline needs to be short for two reasons. First, it must be easily memorized. Second it must be short enough to be included on tchotchkes, sales materials and other promotional items, usually alongside the logo. The chosen tagline just seemed too long.

But could I back up my gut instincts with real data? To find out, I analyzed a list of taglines of 325 leading brands on Eric Swartz’s Tagline Guru website. (This collection of top taglines is listed here, used with permission.) Swartz’s list of taglines was not randomly chosen, but were from a list of those nominated in a survey of most influential taglines.

Data Analysis
I conducted two analyses to detect patterns among these leading taglines:

  1. Characterize statistics for the number of words and syllables to determine the typical length of a successful tagline
  2. Compared word and syllable counts for the top 100 and top 10 taglines (as determined by the online survey reported in the Tagline Guru website).

Results
Figure 1 shows a scatter plot for the total number of words and syllables in the analyzed taglines. Of course, we expect a correlation since a tagline with more words will have more syllables.

scatter plot for the total number of words and syllables in taglines

Figure 1. Total words versus syllables for 325 leading brand taglines.


The purpose of this plot is to show that the number of words and syllables cluster within well defined limits, as shown in Table 1.

  5th percentile 95th percentile
Number of words ≤ 2 ≥ 9
Number of syllables ≤ 3 ≥ 12

Table 1. Percentile distribution for the number of words and syllables in leading brand taglines.

That is, nine-tenths of the taglines have between three and eight words, and between four and twelve syllables. Figure 2 shows the distribution of number of words in taglines visually. In this frequency distribution (which appears to be log-normal), we can see that the number of words clusters toward the lower end of the scale.

Frequency distribution bar graph of frequency of taglines with different numbers of words

Figure 2. The number of words in leading brand taglines shows that four words is a typical number, while few taglines have more than eight words.

Another important result is that the number of syllables in the top ten taglines was significantly less (t = 2.71, p = 0.007, assuming equal variances: F = 1.12, p = 0.35) than the number of syllables in the other 315 taglines (Table 2). (Note that the t-test assumes that variables are distributed normally, which is clearly not the case as shown in Figure 1. Therefore, data were log-transformed to comply with this assumption.)

  N Mean St Dev
Top 10 taglines 10 4.8 2.25
Other taglines 315 6.987 2.97

Table 2. The mean number of syllables in the top 10 brand taglines is significantly fewer than other leading brand taglines.

However, neither the number of words in the top 10 taglines nor the number of syllables per word differed significantly from the other taglines. Also, these differences were not found when the top 100 taglines were compared with the others.

Looking at the sample of taglines together, we see that most taglines have a total of more than three syllables. Six syllables is the most common number for a tagline (Figure 3).

Bar graph of total words versus syllables

Figure 3. The distribution of total syllables in a tagline indicates that most taglines use several syllables.

Conclusion

The take home from these findings is that creating a tagline outside these limits (less than 2 or more than 9 words, or less than 3 or more than 12 syllables) may be risky. Very few taglines created by major brands exceed these ranges.

That is not to say that taglines should never be outside these ranges. For example, the top ranked tagline of all time is “Got milk” with two words and two syllables. Mastercard’s tagline “There are some things that money can’t buy. For everything else there’s MasterCard.” with 18 syllables and 13 words, is ranked 17th of the top taglines. But both these are outliers from the other taglines.

This analysis shows that there are word and syllable limits within which most leading brand taglines fall. As a rule of thumb, marketers ought to stay within these ranges. But the rule is not set in stone. If you are very clever (and perhaps a bit lucky) you can create successful taglines outside the norm.

The key point is that understanding the brand (meaning the perceptual construct of the audience) is the most important aspect of creating a successful tagline. Yes, the data provide guidelines for number of words, syllables, and syllables per word, but these must be considered along with extensive research of the brand, deep understanding of the mission and vision of the organization, team work and collaboration, and creative, original approaches that set the brand apart.

So will this advice get the client to change his mind? Time will tell!

Want more?
For more advice on how to choose (and not choose) a tagline, visit Eric Swartz’s site:

Are all your social media eggs in one basket? – The risk of focusing just on Facebook or Twitter

on Apr 12 in business, facebook, marketing, strategy, trends, Twitter posted by

If you are focused just on one or two social media channels, such as Facebook or Twitter, you need to rethink your approach.

Ever since the demise of platforms such as Friendster and then MySpace, the social media landscape is littered with the corpses of once-great leaders. More recently, the popular blogging platform Posterous announced it was closing its doors.

The moral of this story is that brands run a risk by focusing only on Facebook and Twitter. Most of my clients come to me with just a Facebook profile. Some might have a Twitter account. Few of them have a presence on other social channels. This singular focus is a big mistake!

While Facebook and Twitter are undoubtedly the leaders of the pack, equally undoubted is the fact that other platforms are emerging to establish their market share, and trends among audiences are shifting like desert sands. It is perfectly possible for Twitter or Facebook to go the same way as Friendster, as a recent MIT analysis concludes: “It’s far from unlikely that Facebook itself will one day be a victim of a similar set of circumstances.” (An Autopsy of a Dead Social Network)

According to a new Piper Jaffrey study, popularity among teens of the leading social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even YouTube (gasp!), has declined from two years ago (reported in the UK’s Daily Mail: The social networking teen turn-off: MORE evidence chat apps are set to take over from Facebook and Twitter).

Compared to a year ago, ten percent fewer teens named Facebook as their ‘most important’ site. Teens are ditching legacy sites in favor of lesser-known chat platforms such as Kik, Snapchat and Vine.

What does this mean for social marketers? The bottom line is that embracing only the 800 pound Facebook gorilla will hurt. It’s important therefore to spread your eggs among several social media baskets. 

For instance, Pinterest is the only big social platform showing growth among teens, so it makes sense to include it in your strategy, especially if teens are an important demographic. The challenge is to spread your efforts (risk) without diluting your presence in any of your platforms. Inevitably, this means higher costs as more investment is needed to maintain an effective presence in multiple platforms.

More importantly than jumping on the latest bandwagon is to monitor technology trends and to strategize around those trends. Also, your digital strategy needs to consider if trends among teens will translate to other demographics. And how does your strategy include engagement on chat platforms (if that is even tenable)?

A comprehensive strategy that incorporates multiple social platforms really is the only way to ensure the competition doesn’t crush your precious social media eggs.

Google’s brilliant ploy to get people to pay for testing Google Glass

on Mar 29 in advertising, branding, business, geolocation, google, marketing, products, strategy, technology, trends posted by

Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin models the company’s new augmented reality device, Google Glass.As a technophile and early adopter, I am as excited as anyone else by the prospect of trying Google Glass, the new augmented reality device coming from Google in the coming months. Augmented reality apps have been around awhile. You point your smart phone at something and by mashing up geolocation and image recognition the app supplies additional information about what you are looking at.

Augmented reality is a powerful idea, and one that is taking root, most prominently with Google Glass. Google have been tremendously successful in generating hype about the product, which allows users to interact with their surroundings and the Internet with unprecedented ease and intimacy. But the new device is also a big gamble for the technology giant.

The system requires a seamless integration of hardware and software, and we don’t know yet if Google has it right, despite awesome promo videos and gigs of hype. Existing augmented reality apps are still buggy, and limited to large cities where the appropriate infrastructure can support an acceptable user experience.

The company has invested a great deal in their brainchild, and Google Glass is coming. It’s a bold and innovative move for a company that is mostly focused on software. Indeed, just as clever as the device is their testing and marketing strategy.

It seems to me that Google is applying a software testing model to their new hardware. Allow me to explain. When we buy a car or washing machine, or a smartphone for that matter, we expect all the pre-market testing to have been done. The glitches should be ironed out and we expect to receive a good product for our money. Companies invest hugely in testing products to ensure as few expensive recalls as possible.

However, with software, we have become conditioned to accept a post-market testing model. Users do much of the testing after a product is on the market and then happily report bugs, many of which could probably have been picked up in pre-release testing. With an operating system or app, we routinely and unquestioningly download the latest update, assuming it is a necessary and worthy improvement to something we have already paid for.

Google now seems to be bringing the software testing model to the Google Glass hardware. Here’s how they did it. With their initial announcement of its release, the company announced the Google Explorer program. Prospective users had to apply by posting a message on Google Plus or Twitter consisting of fifty words or less, accompanied by the hashtag #ifihadglass. If their application was accepted, the lucky applicant had to pay $1,500 to receive the device.

That is, Google has very cleverly found a way to build a cadre of testers and have them pay for the privilege privilege of being among the first among the public to use the gadget.

What is more, these users are early adopters, and most likely influencers, who are undoubtedly going to feel considerable loyalty to the company, to forgive initial problems, and to become evangelistic brand ambassadors. So Google neatly solved two problems — how to test the product in the market place while minimizing testing costs, and at the same time generate buzz among technology mavens and enthusiasts. Well played Google, well played.

But things did not go as smoothly as expected. Just a few days ago, the technology press was reporting that Google was retracting some invitations. According to reports, Google tweeted: “We’re gonna need to disqualify a few non-compliant #ifihadglass applications that snuck through.” Oops. The retractions certainly bolster the idea that Google is using buyers to pay for testing, rather than magnanimously sharing their new technology with the deserving few, as they would prefer us to believe.

QR Codes for fun and for profit* – ideas and benefits for small businesses

on Jan 21 in advertising, business, marketing, mobile, QR codes, trends posted by

 

Pundits and prognosticators are touting QR codes as a “big thing” for this year. I noted the possibilities more than two years ago. The price of being ahead of my time, I suppose.

There are legitimate questions concerning the technology’s adoption rate (see What Are QR Codes And Should You Use Them?). But the overall trend is definitely up.

The benefits of the technology are easy to see. Access to web-ready mobile devices puts the Internet at the finger tips of ever more users. But it’s still a chore to use those tiny keyboards to type in long URLs. That’s where QR codes come in. Just point your mobile phone at the black and white square and voila, up pops a website. The key point is that QR codes seamlessly integrate offline with online. (See QR codes bridge real life with cyberspace.) 

Anytime you’d want someone to access a website when they’re not at a computer, is a good use for a QR code. This is especially applicable to bricks and mortar businesses.

So how can you use QR codes for fun or for profit? ReadWriteWeb summed up five ways small businesses can use QR codes (e.g., put it on your business card). Another idea applicable to most business is to link your QR code to the subscribe page for your emailing list (see Grow Your Email Marketing List Using QR Codes).

There have been a plethora of similar articles on the general benefits of QR codes for small businesses. But there are few industry-specific ideas out there. Here are some concrete ideas for what small businesses in specific sectors can do with QR codes and the benefits:

Restaurants

  • On menus to provide nutritional and other information. BENEFIT: Saves time for waitstaff to tell the customer, increases customer turnaround time.
  • On outside menus to offer specials and links to online reviews of your restaurant. BENEFIT: Encourages conversion once a prospect is at your storefront.
  • On posters and billboards in your local area to provide a map to your restaurant. BENEFIT: This can synch with the users mobile map app to provide directions to your restaurant on the fly

See this review of Herbfarm for how one restaurant put QR codes into practice  Check out Ventpix’s free app get started.

Realtors

  • On listing sign outside properties. BENEFIT: provides your listing info on a web page, uploads your contact info onto a prospect’s mobile phone and eliminates the need to keep replacing house brochures, thereby reducing visits per sale.
  • On house brochures. BENEFIT: In case the prospect does not access the QR code on the listing sign and provides more info than available on the house brochure.

Clickbrix offers a turnkey solution for a base fee of $25 per month.

Retailers

  • On instore product labels (this was implemented by Best Buy last year). BENEFIT: provides additional product info, allowing more staff time to spend on closing a sale rather than answering the same questions over and over. Opportunity to link to online coupons to motivate a sale.
  • On a billboard outside your store front. BENEFIT: Engages a prospect and can link to coupons, store and product reviews to encourage store entry.

Health professionals

  • In the waiting room to provide patients information about the practice. BENEFIT: provides another point of contact for the patient, reduces waiting room boredom, increasing patient satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Use on printed materials to link to your webpage. BENEFIT: Provides additional information about your practice and specialty area. For example dentists could provide “before and after” images of restorative work.

Authors and writers

  • On the cover of your book or next to your print article to provide additional content. BENEFIT: Adds value to your product since readers are looking for information on your book or article topic
  • On your book cover, link the QR code to an online coupon to motivate potential buyers with a discount. BENEFIT: Increase sales (what more could you want?!)

Additional resources and articles

 

* Apologies to business guru Robert Townsend who inspired the title with his axiom “…if you’re not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing there?”

Video killed the cartoon star: Disney’s social media disaster

on Sep 01 in branding, celebrities, fun stuff, marketing, reputation management, social media, trends posted by

Donald Duck is sure to be mad with what Disney has done to his classic cartoonsI just love those classic cartoons. You know, Roadrunner, Sylvester the Cat, and, of course, Disney’s famed cast of characters.

But Disney have made a big mistake trying to “modernize” some of their classics, notably Donald Duck, in a series called “Blam!” The videos provide a voiceover that humorously points out Donald’s misdeeds and mistakes in a way that Disney evidently presumes is palatable to today’s youngsters.

Unfortunately, Disney’s misguided effort has fallen, true to cartoon form, flat on its face.

On YouTube, comments on one video, unimaginatively titled And Another Blam! go the whole way. Here’s a few:

  • ahermit Annoying and insulting. Whose stupid idea was it to do this?!
  • BrianSchultze There is a special place in hell reserved for the person who approved this. 
  • sbl195207 …I had no idea that my childhood was being raped.
  • r3dk9 This is the worst thing. Ever.
  • electrojones This is spectacularly lousy in every way. 
  • FrankieSmileShow Oh my god. What the fuck is this. This ruined my day.

And so on. Not one of the 157 comments (at the time of writing) can be in any way construed as positive.

And serious bloggers (well, as serious as they can get) are lambasting the effort left and right. Cartoon Brew says “ These Blam! episodes, which are probably named so because the viewer wants to blam their head off after watching them, destroy the spirit of the Disney cartoons and over-explain every joke to the point where it becomes unfunny.” The 103 comments on that post are similarly unimpressed with Disney.

Cartoon forums such as Animationforum.net are also buzzing with negative response to the Blam! videos. 

Could Blam! be Disney’s big social media disaster? Disney’s heading over the cliff, but its executives won’t be laughing about it.

How not to get a sale, a lesson from ADT

on Aug 13 in business, marketing posted by

So I get a sales call on a Friday afternoon from ADT, the security company. I used to do telesales, so I like to give these guys a break and hear them out.

So, lucky me: I am one of ten folks in my area and ADT has a special deal for me. A free wireless alarm system for my home and all I need to do is pay the monthly fee. We just have a few questions they say. Okay, I say shoot.

“First, do you have an existing system?” asks the rep.

“Well, considering this call came from a private number in Rhode Island, why should I tell you that?” I respond.

“Well, we’re ADT, one of the biggest domestic security companies.”

Thinking to myself, what a great way to case a joint, call the homeowner and ask if they have a security system!

“How do I know you are who you say you are?” I ask.

“We don’t make a lot of outbound calls, so you just have to take our word for it,” she says.

Huh?

“Okay, let’s say I may or may not have a system, what other questions do you have?”

“How many doors to the outside do you have?” the rep asks.

“I’m sorry, I’m not prepared to divulge that information over the phone to a stranger,” I say.

“Well, if not, we can’t get the information we need to go ahead.”

“Okay, so tell your sales manager you lost a prospect because you asked questions I was not prepared to answer,” I said.

“Okay, well if you ever need ADT, yada, yada.”

So what’s wrong with that picture? First and foremost ADT, you are a security company. Your #1 asset is trust. 

Why would you start a cold sales call asking questions a prospect is uncomfortable answering? Second, if it’s a free system, etc. why do they want to know how many doors I have, etc.? Just send a rep around to count them! Duh. It’s basic sales: build trust, develop a relationship. That’s how to get a sale, not just rely on the fact that someone may have heard of your company.

LinkedIn social media veteran gets a lesson in social media marketing

on Jun 09 in linkedin, marketing, social media posted by

I was so excited yesterday when I received an email from Michael Crosson (photo left), group leader of one of LinkedIn’s top social media groups, Social Media Marketing, which boasts almost 80,000 members.

Coming from the group’s leader, the offer for a free ebook, “42 Rules of Social Media” by communications professional Jennifer Jacobson, seemed too good to pass up.

So I clicked on the link, highlighted with the exclamation at the end of Michael’s post, “Get your FREE copy here.”

I was taken to the publishers page. But a header on the page reads: “Receive Your Complimentary eBook Excerpt NOW!”

Oops! The offer was for an excerpt only, not the entire book. Of course, an excerpt can be a few sentences from a few chapters but still might have been worth it. So I clicked through to the form. Then I saw that the form to get just the excerpt required about 20 pieces of information including job and company information as well as detailed contact information.

I balked. And so did many others who saw the offer.

The discussion thread exploded. Within less than a day dozens of comments had been posted. Most lambasted the offer, feeling misled about a free ebook when the offer was only for an excerpt.

The first comment started the discussion “Sounds interesting, but just to be clear – This is an excerpt from the book, not a free ebook as stated.” by Brendan Shanahan. But things spiralled down from there.

As the incident unfolded, comments ranged from disappointment to vitriol:

  • “The ebook is not free as you claim. … since you were not sincere in your promotion (and this is after all Social Media where authenicity is everything) I think I’ll pass. — John Doble
  • “Umm, you’re trying to mislead a group of savvy, smart-mouthed people” — Marilyn Casey
  • “A core pillar of social media is trust. … I trusted the link to the free ebook found that the link was bogus… For a social media veteran – this is a huge fail.” — Walter Pike
  • “Alas, I was duped. I would not have provided my info had I known it was for an excerpt.” — Kris Tazelaar
  • “Complete scam! and then reiterated in message above that it was a free book and not an excerpt – very bad practice.” — The Think Tank London
  • “An excerpt instead of the full book and involving a questionnaire that was only missing my shoe size – a reason good enough for me to leave this group. Foul play, guys, shame on you.” — Lukasz Dabrowski
  • “LinkedIn.com would do well to ban and bar Michael Crosson, or whomever created his/her profile on LinkedIn …from the obvious and justified complaints here, you’ve hurt & compromised a lot of people, information and privacy-wise…” — Brian Uytiepo

Ouch! So Michael Crosson, self-proclaimed “Social Media and Interactive Advertising Industry Veteran” slipped up big time.

Well we all make mistakes! But how would the “industry veteran” respond?

Michael was soon on the thread with his mea culpa. He admitted the mistake in presenting the offer as a free ebook rather than the excerpt. Apparently, he’d been misled himself by the promoter from whom he’d received the information. He also forwarded the discussion comments to the promoter. And, very importantly, he also said that he would “personally check out these offers next time before posting.”

The ebook’s author also responded to distance herself from the incident. “I did not approve of the above referenced co-marked ‘seemingly spam-ish’ offer,” she wrote.

Lesson learned. What’s instructive here is to realize that yes, mistakes happen in social media. But their impact will depend on the response — its timeliness, taking responsibility and appropriate measures as needed. Michael Crosson demonstrated all of these with aplomb.

Some group members might agree. Marilyn Casey wrote “this was probably a valuable exercise for everyone involved.” and Tim Scapillato thinks that “This entire episode was a very graphic illustration of the power and speed of social media. You handled it well, Mike.”

Visit the discussion and see how social media pros respond when one of their own gets it wrong. Here’s the link to the discussion on LinkedIn.