Your 2012 Strategy: Messaging on Multiple Channels

Like most marketers, you probably operate on multiple channels. You've got a web site, an email list, an advertising plan, some press releases, a Twitter presence, a Facebook page, and maybe even some direct mail.

Channels. Flickr user Dustin Askins.
While you don't want to repeat yourself verbatim across every channel all the time, it's a good idea to at least coordinate the message a bit. Why?

Your community now expects a pretty seamless brand experience. If they see a blog post promoted on Twitter, they want to be able to find it on Facebook if that's where they go next time they're online. If they find a sale on their tablet, they also want to be able to call and talk to your call center about the same deal. If it's mentioned in your ad, it should be on your web site.

How do you get this working?

Make sure you use consistent branding across all channels - customers want to be sure the company they trust on email is the same company they trust on Facebook. If your channel presences  have a consistent look, the experience is more seamless.

Keep your marketing and sales team in the loop. A good marketing calendar tells everyone what's going on when. You never want your sales floor to be caught flat-footed because they don't know about your latest Facebook deal.

Connect to your community where they live. Don't abandon channels because you don't see immediate results. It can take time to develop a strong Facebook and Twitter following, and you will likely find that customers may not buy directly from Facebook, but they do like to connect with your brand there while they purchase from  your email promotions.

Make information easy to find. Because your community expects a seamless experience, make promotions built for one channel (say, Facebook), easy to find other places people might look (like your web site).

Need help leveraging all your channels? Let me know. I can help.

Your 2012 Strategy: Four People You Need in Your Network This Year

It's easier to meet your goals if you don't go it alone. Now that you have your 2012 plan put together, you've got to get your network together. Here's who you're going to need the year:

Twitter Network. Image: Sue Waters.
Your champion: Someone who may be able to offer funding and resources, and more importantly, open doors and make connections to get you the resources you need to move forward.

Your superintendent: Someone who can see the roadblocks ahead and keep you on track. A person who will make sure your marketing plan turns into actual marketing.

Your Jedi master: A big picture person who can help you see where you fit into the grand scheme of things and who has an instinct for future trends, needs, and happenings.

Your wingman/wingwoman: Someone who is always there to bring you hope when you feel discouraged. Someone who believes in you when the chips are down and who can convince you to dust yourself off and try it all one more time.

The good news: You already have these people in your life - you just need to identify them. Make sure you talk to them regularly - some leaders even get their entire brain trust together regularly to stay on track.

Who do you go to for advice, encouragement, or a reality check?

Are we networked yet? Let's connect on LinkedIn.

The State of the Union Address - "America is Back"

According to Obama, the State of our Union is "getting stronger."

It's always interesting to hear what the President has to say in the State of the Union address during an election year. As both an employee and a business owner (and a taxpayer, and a homeowner), I was looking forward to hearing what the President had to say about the economy.

If you watched the speech on, you could see an enhanced broadcast with charts and graphs to support Obama's talking points. I thought this was a great addition to the speech - the visuals really did put numbers behind the words.

The preview text of the State of the Union speech is here, from Huffington Post.

Here's some of what the President said on business and the economy:

On jobs: Obama says we should turn the unemployment system into a re-employment system that helps train people to get back to work with new skills, with critical involvement by community colleges and less confusing program structure. Other promises on innovation and jobs - immigration reform, the Dream Act, equal pay for equal work, and funding for research, American-made clean energy and biofuel powered fighter jets. He also proposed a Veterans' Jobs Corps to put Veterans back to civilian work after military service.

Obama's Blueprint For an Economy Built to Last is based on returning manufacturing jobs that have been shipped to American cities, where US employees are more productive than foreign workers. Obama wants to know what you can do to create jobs here in America. He's encouraging the rich to see a shared responsibility for the future of the country - rather than rewards for right now.

Stop businesses who ship jobs overseas: Obama wants to use tax incentives to bring jobs back here, and deny companies any tax incentive to move jobs away. American manufacturers should get big tax incentives for manufacturing here - help financing plants and hiring workers. He also wants to ship more US-manufactured products overseas.

On taxes: Warren Buffet's secretary, Debbie Bosanek, who pays a higher tax rate her boss, was seated with Michelle Obama. The President has promised to "level the playing field" on taxes, renewing the payroll tax cut and taxing people making a million dollars or more annually up to 30%. Can he do this without the support of Congress?

On mortgages and banking: "Living Wills" for banks in case they should fail, and a chance for homeowners who wouldn't qualify for current mortgage programs to refinance at historically low rates, with banks picking up some of the costs. "It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts."

The new Unit on Mortgage Origination and Securitization Abuse to investigate the abuses that contributed to the financial collapse. Let's hope this one has some teeth - usually recommendations by these kinds of commissions are voluntary for banks and other bad actors.

Visions: A future with innovation and  manufacturing, where responsibility is rewarded and we are innovators in education with dependable long-term prosperity, where everyone gets a fair shot and does their fair share. Obama states these are American values.

Remembrances: Post WWII prosperity, which wouldn't have been possible without strong manufacturing and the huge GI Bill - an enormous government investment in helping veterans prosper. Obama wants to party like it's 1944.

The only problem with all of this: Obama kept saying "Send me a bill" for all of these policies. What are the chances of Congress doing that? If you want Congress to pass any of these bills, click here to locate your Member of Congress and contact them.

My forecast: I sure hope some of this can happen - better mortgages, more manufacturing jobs, equal pay, a ban on insider trading by Members of Congress, consolidated bureaucracy - all of this would help. Not sure how much we'll see before the 2012 elections, though.

Your 2012 Strategy: Driving Brand Engagement

How are you going to engage your community in 2012?

First things first. 

Change your headset – it’s not an audience, it’s a community.

What does an audience do? It watches.

What does a community do? It communicates, engages, and acts.

Community. From Flickr user Tobyotter.
Who’s doing this? One example I came across was Heinz – in the U.K., where they are a big soup brand, they’re getting fans to send personalized soup cans with “get well” messages to one another for cold and flu season. The cost is low - just 1.99 pounds, and the engagement factor is high – people are taking pictures of the cans, tweeting and sharing with others. The bonus – many people who had never purchased anything from Facebook before are now buying from Heinz in a new way.

How can you start driving your community to engage with your brand?

Monitor conversations – evaluate what people are talking about and why. With this insight, you can understand what’s going on before you get involved – to avoid barging in.

Track – what, when, how much interest, and sentiment. What are people saying about you and how often? Is there a time of day or week when you get more attention? What are people interested in the most, and is that interest - sentiment - positive or negative?

Community of dogs. From Flickr user Beverly & Pack.
Identify key influencers and track their conversations so that you can engage with them in a relevant, authentic way.

Look at what competitors are doing – what kinds of campaigns and activities are generating a lot of comments and buzz? Is it positive or negative.

Also, mobile is key. A recent statistic from Motricity that’s been getting some attention? 64% of holiday mobile shoppers plan to shop with their mobile device more in 2012 – with mobile coupons, giftcards, and ratings getting the most attention.

How are you driving engagement this year? Drop me a line and let me know.

Related posts: 

My series on 2012 planning
Why you should care more about tablet users

Commercials I Love - Direct TV

Those of you that know me personally know that I love TV commercials. The best ones are 30 seconds of art that can make you laugh or cry.

One of the best commercials I've seen recently is part of a new Direct TV campaign - it's called "Don't Wake Up in a Roadside Ditch."

Why do I like it? It's got great timing and visual interest - when I first saw it I wasn't really paying attention but I stopped what I was doing to watch it because it's quite funny.

The premise? People who are unhappy with their cable companies are at the beginning of a downward spiral, which could end up in a roadside ditch. Customers can get back on track with Direct TV.

The only problem? The pitch is at the very end - first-time viewers don't even know what the commercial is for until the very end. I don't think it's a big issue with this particular commercial though - much like the Volkswagen Darth Vader piece, it's interesting enough that viewers will stick around through the end.

Your lesson? There's room for a little story, art, and entertainment in your marketing. Even if you don't do video ads, you can still add some interest and humor to your social media, email, and web promotions.

Take a look and let me know what you think.

Making the Most of Your Email Marketing in 2012

If you think email is over, you’re wrong. But this is a popular time of year for people to unsubscribe from email lists that aren’t providing any value, so why is email important and how can you make subscribers stay?
Photo from Flickr user Cambodia4kidsorg.

It’s totally customizable! You can tailor email messages to your customer’s latest purchase, stated interests, location, or age. Whatever data you have on your customers can be used to make messages hyper-relevant. The more relevant your message, the more your subscribers will appreciate it an stay on your list. Ever try customizing your tweets?

You can test and re-test! Testing subject lines, images, and PS text will help you understand what drives your audience. Test a small portion of your email list and then send the winners to your larger list, driving up your open, click-through, and action rates. Testing also provides you with a scientific basis for your marketing strategy. Strategic proposals that are proven winners are likely to get more support from your executives and investors.

It's economical! Unless you are paying sites like Groupon or LivingSocial to do your email marketing for you while you deeply discount your products, email marketing can be very cost-effective- much more so than doing large direct mail campaigns or major ad buys.

Email should be a key part of your multi-channel strategy for 2012. It can help you generate leads, qualify customers, predict which products will be winners, and drive repeat business.

Drop me a line if you'd like to talk email marketing strategy.

Your 2012 Strategy: The Best Marketing Team for Your Business

As you continue to get your marketing strategy in order for 2012, it's time to give some thought to your marketing team. Is energy and time being spent in the right way to grow your business? Successful markeitng teams have these bases covered:

Teamwork. Photo: Flickr user Dawn (Willis) Manser.
Writing: Poor writing can derail even the most well thought out campaigns. Someone should be on top of your grammar, syntnax, and spelling, and be making sure to write in a way that appeals to and connects with your target audience.

Data: If you don't understand your customer data, you're marketing in the dark. If you don't have any data expertise on your team, consider hiring a consultant to train you on how to read your data and segment your customers.

Project Management: You need a real stickler to make sure your campaigns go out on time to the right audience and that you have the inventory to support them. Marketing can go terribly wrong if no one's paying attention to logistical matters.

Strategic Planning: Successful marketing plans align with your overall business goals, available resources, long range plans, and the channels and tools you plan to use. Without strategic vision, you'll just be sending out emails and posting on Facebook with few results.

Need help getting your marketing team aligned around the expertise you need to drive your business? Let me know - I can help.

Epic Social Media Fail - Atlanta Restaurant Calls Customer B***ch on Facebook

This week, learn from this crash-and-burn social media mistake - an Atlanta restaurant called Boners BBQ wrote profanity-laced Twitter and Facebook posts directly naming a specific customer, Stephanie S., after she apparently did not leave a tip (the customer said she did), and also left a negative review on Yelp. Here's the original post (pardon the language). Boners also posted a photo of Stephanie so people would know her identity. Wow.

Image: Huffington Post/Facebook.

The company has posted several apologies on its Facebook page, but customers continue to visit Yelp to post in support of this customer - calling out Boners BBQ for bullying and a lack of professionalism. For a restaurant that appears to be struggling anyhow - their original excuse for this behavior was that employees have been working without pay and the missing tip was the last straw - this is not going to help.

What did restaurant do in this situation? 

The posted apologies were a step in the right direction. I hope they have also taken the time to chat with Stephanie S. directly and personally apologize to her. This Facebook Post is a good one:

Image: Huffington Post/Facebook.

This one is a little less on the mark:

Image: Facebook.

Boners is just going to have to put up with reaction to their epic social media fail for as long as it takes. They should continue to apologize and eat crow until people are all complained out.

The owners of this business should also learn from this experience and institute a few rules and regulations for their social media content.

So what's our takeaway?

The takeaway here for your business is that Boners is an organization in dire need of a social media policy. If you don't have a few rules for your own accounts, here's what I'd recommend for any business with a public social media presence:
  • First and foremost - NO bullying or aggressive language.
  • Second - NO profanity. 
  • Third - protect customer privacy - don't name customers unless replying to their post or they authorize it.
  • Fourth - react to complaints with empathy and respect.
  • Fifth - posts should be positive, engaging, relevant, and actionable. If a post doesn't pass this test, then it shouldn't be published. Boners created this whole firestorm themselves with their own post. If they'd just left the negative review alone, they wouldn't be making the news in Iraq.
  • Finally, seriously read and consider each negative review. In this case, complaints included Stephanie's opinions that dishes arrived cold, and that some of the preparation was not up to snuff. These problems are solvable for most restaurants and Boners should concentrate on that. Stephanie did praise the flavor of several dishes - strengths on which the restaurant can capitalize. 

Your customers are your lifeblood. A loyal customer isn't your right, it's someone you earn. Learn from reviews and respond with a measured approach if you feel they are inaccurate. Please don't abuse the people who post them - negative feedback helps you identify problems and fix them.

Words of the week: 

Honor your customers' privacy, respect their opinions, and just be decent human beings. Let's all resolve in 2012 not to repeat this kind of thing.

Need help crafting your social media policy? Let me know. I can help.

Your Twitter Plan for 2012

What are your Twitter resolutions for 2012?

Twitter. Image: Flickr user Danilo Ramos.
If you're like most businesses, you have a feed, but you're not sure if it's really worth the time and effort. The more I use Twitter, the more useful I find it, and I encourage you to give it another try this year. Why?

1) Tablet users. 39% of tablet users use their tablet for social networking every day, and 87% use their tablets for shopping purposes. Because the tablet browsing experience is so much more comfortable than the smartphone browsing experience, tablet users can easily read your tweets and follow your links while they are shopping.

2) Thought leaders. Twitter is full of bloggers, journalists, influencers, and other thought leaders. People who are looking for trends, story ideas, and the next big thing are on Twitter. Provide them some inspiration and see your traffic rise. Don't be afraid to connect to influencers on Twitter - just follow them and reply to their tweets with a related thought.

3) Idea followers. Not everyone can be a thought leader all the time. Twitter is also full of people who are looking for news, interesting content, and practical advice, as well as good material to share with their own followers. Provide retweetable content and you'll find yourself with a solid following in no time.

Best way to get started on Twitter?

1) Follow and follow some more. If a Twitter feed looks interesting to you, follow it. What are you interested in? Where do you get your news? Which blogs do you read? Start there. Twitter will also suggest feeds for you to follow. Most people follow back.

2) Retweet and retweet some more. If you want people to share your content, you need to share theirs. Twitter is a reciprocal culture.

3) Be interesting! Here's some great advice from Forbes on how to be more interesting every day.

Need help encapsulating yourself in 140 characters or less? Let me know. I can help!

Your 2012 Strategy - Understanding Your Customer Data

Last week, I kicked off 2012 planning with a some notes on crafting your marketing framework around your overall business goals.
Data Disks. From Flickr user Emilian Robert Vicol.

This week, I want to have a bit of a chat with you about your customer data.

What do you know about your customers and how can you put that to use?

Here are a few basics to consider:

1) Geographic location - provide customers special deals based on the closest store location, on the season it is where they live, on the local sports team, or on common leisure activities in their part of the country. A strong local marketing strategy should be a key driver for your business.

2) Demographics - like age, income, net worth, and education - While lifestage is a stronger marketing metric, you can still tune the language and the imagery you use based on these kinds of metrics. Also, knowing the typical demographic of your customer is critical when you're considering where to advertise and how to price new products.

3) Purchasing behavior - this is really the strongest data you have. People's past behavior is the strongest indicator of future behavior. Important points to consider:

  • Frequency - how often each customer buys
  • Recency - when the most recent purchase was made
  • Method of purchase - at the store, online on a computer, or online via a tablet or other mobile device
  • Source of purchase - referred by another customer, responded to your catalog, clicked on an email, web search, responded to an ad, or direct visit to your web site
Once you understand purchasing behavior, you'll be able to group your customers by behavior and market accordingly - sending emails more often to email customers, turning up ads from places where customers are responding, and tuning your search marketing based on the keywords that are working for you.

Data is your most powerful marketing tool. If you're not using it, you're marketing with the lights off.

Need to turn off the dark? Let me know, I can help you make the most out of your data.

Why You Should Start Caring More About Tablet Users

The tablet is truly disruptive technology that is again changing how we consume information and how we buy. Experts predict that there will be almost 55 million tablet users by the end of 2012, most of them on the iPad.

It's time to ask yourself more about how tablet use affects your business.

Here's three basic points for consideration: 

Who are tablet users? Tablet users are more likely than the general public to be college educated, high-income, employed full time, and have a median age of 30 to 49. Many have become dedicated tablet users, abandoning other devices, like phones and laptops, to do their surfing on their tablets. They are also brand loyal, preferring to get their content from trusted providers and people/businesses they know.

How does your web site look on a tablet? If you don't have one, get one, borrow a few of the different models from friends, or just go to your local big box store and say you're interested in a tablet and check them out.

How are people using their tablets? The best way to understand the tablet experience is to have the tablet experience yourself. Borrow, or if you're able to, buy one. Tablets are much easier to carry around than a laptop, with an ease of use and speed that's much better than many mobile phones. The large screens make for better browsing and easy social networking - people can get at mobile apps, web pages, games, videos, and other experiences with speed and ease.

So, what's your takeaway? What does this mean for you?

When you're thinking about mobile customers - customers on the go who might want to buy from you - increasingly you'll need to consider tablet users.

So make sure you're addressing the needs of mobile customers in all of your campaigns - be local, social, and accommodating, and consider your app strategy carefully.

Other trends for 2012? 

Business News Daily has some interesting trend predictions, including gesture recognition (it's not going to stop at Kinect gaming technology), universal shopping experiences (across mobile, web, and in-store), mobile learning, and increased franchising.

What are you up to this year? Drop me a line and let me know.

Five Steps to a Better Facebook Feed in 2012

Like two thirds of small businesses, you probably put up a Facebook page at some point in the past couple of years. Maybe you're not keeping it up so much anymore because you don't really see the point, and your management doesn't see the results.

From Flickr user Max-B.
This is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy - if you don't see the point of your Facebook page, then you'll never see any results.

Re-evaluate your Facebook presence and determine how to use your feed more effectively this year.

Here's five easy steps to a better Facebook feed:

  1. What are you hoping your Facebook page will accomplish? Do you have a goal for the number of fans you want, their level of engagement, or how much they buy? 
  2. How much traffic is Facebook giving you each week, and what do you want those people to do once they get to your web site? If the path is unclear, help people find their way to where you want them to go. 
  3. Add more variety - post special deals, videos, blog posts, contests, photos, questions, and surveys to add interest to your page. 
  4. Post more often - if you've only been posting once a day, try posting 2 or 3 times. If you don't post on the weekend, consider trying a weekend post to see what happens. 
  5. There are many ways to customize your Facebook business page. Think about adding some graphical interest for your fans. 

Need help making your Facebook presence work for you? Let me know- I can help.

PS - on a related note, a recent article in eMarketer discussed a BzzAgent study which found that social campaigns give a long-term boost to brands. Brand advocacy and purchase intent can remain elevated for a year following a social campaign. Food for thought.

Your 2012 Marketing Plan - Crafting Your Framework

It's a fresh new year, full of possibilities. Make the most of it with a strong marketing plan. Done right, your plan will carry you through the year, supporting your goals and keeping you from dangerous foxholes like procrastination and loss of focus.

Scaffolding. Flickr user Maurice Koop.
The most important part of your new plan?

Your overall business strategy - this is the basis for the framework that is your marketing plan.

Why is this so crucial?

Your marketing plan isn'about checking off boxes and making sure you're dutifully providing content for each channel. Your marketing plan supports your larger business strategy and your overall goals.

That said, what kinds of goals do you have in 2012?

- To open a new location?
- To increase the size of your business?
- To find customers in other parts of the world?
- To reach a new vertical - like parents or teachers or hikers?

These kinds of things are your business goals and your marketing plan supports those goals. The tactics you put into place support the strategies you've decided to employ to grow your business.

Here's how the framework operates:

Let's take the first goal as an example -  to open a new location.

Your strategy is - "We're going to open a new location in 2012, and that will increase our business by x percent because we will be able to accommodate x more customers than we could with one location."

Your marketing plan supports this strategy because it's a framework for driving traffic to your new store. You'll be able to add to this framework with marketing tactics like ads in local papers and their web sites, announcements on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, participation in check-in applications like FourSquare, videos, and emails with grand opening specials to your email subscriber base. You can use your marketing calendar to schedule all of these things to provide a strong, consistent flow of traffic to your store. Your calendar provides a framework that supports your overall goals.

Here's the best part. If you're thinking of a tactic and wondering whether to use it, you can just ask yourself if it supports the business goal you've already identified - in our case today, to open a new location. Tactics that don't support this strategic goal don't belong in our framework.

Need help starting your 2012 Marketing Plan? Drop me a line and let me know. I can help.