Monday, August 17, 2015

Rising Above The Noise


As someone that works in social media, we often hear how “noisy” it is. Naturally what follows next is people wondering how to cut through that, how to get heard in a social media atmosphere that more people are delving into each day with their own messaging. Personally, I don’t find social media to be noisy. Perhaps a topic for another blog, but I find that if you are analyzing your data and joining the communities you truly fit into, as well as spending the most time in the communities where you want to be heard in, you won’t find it noisy at all. I believe that the more people, brands and companies that join a “space,” the more credence it lends to being IN that space or industry, and the more it is able to grow and thrive.
Don't Be Afraid to Stand Out!

For many startup companies, I think the “noise” they are seeing can be pretty overwhelming. Brands and people come into social media with no concrete plan or strategy and that is when I recognize noise. That is when social media turns from a WE activity, to a ME activity. Here are some tips I’ve found to help combat some of that and work towards joining a community where you can be heard, as well as hear others:

1.      ABT√† Always Be Testing: Your analytics are a goldmine of information. Paying attention to them will teach you when your target audience is online, what posts you put out get the most attention, and what topics your community most responds to. You can use that information to then tailor your content to fit into what your audience and community wants more of, they will begin to see you as the resource we know you can be, and you will begin to garner more attention.

2.      Let Go Of The Ego: Remember, a group of like-minded goal oriented people will always accomplish more than the one person that thinks they know it all and can do it alone. Grow your community by being the same person online as you are when you meet new people offline. You don’t walk up to potential friends and introduce yourself, then go on to pitch them on what you do for a living and how they can buy in, they’d get bored and walk away. Rather, you introduce yourself to people and ask questions about them, try to get to know them, see what they are interested in and where you have things in common.

3.      Focus on the Consumer: This is a bit of a follow up to #2. When people feel that they are important to you, they pay more attention to you. Thank people for posts or sharing your posts. Ask questions that help you get to know people better, and when you are asked questions, answer them honestly as YOU. We all know there are faces behind each brand, let your personality come out from behind the brand as well. Allow yourself to be the fun, engaging and relatable person you are offline, online!

4.      Do More Than Just Listen: Active social listening is one of the most important items in any social media plan, in my opinion, but you have to do more than simply listen and place people into little persona boxes. You have to have open two-way, mutually benficial conversations with them. I believe that is the only way to truly get to know people, find out what’s important to them, and find ways you can help make their lives better. We already know you’ve got the best product/brand/service in the world, how can you let your communities know that as well, without directly telling them?

5.      Add Visuals: Look at your own timeline, and take some time to scroll through. What catches your eye? The miles and miles of text, or a picture or video that pops out? I’m willing to put my money on the visuals! Use one-of-a-kind photos (best if you take them yourself!) that represent you or your brand and intersperse them with your text.

6.      Be Consistent: Keep your core values top of mind through all content mediums and platforms. Each time someone has a touchpoint with you or your brand, they should be able to recognize it as the same from another medium, without thought. Consistency also leads to reliability and reliability leads to trust. And trustworthy people and brands always stand out!

When you are able to put all or some of these items together, you can better create a top-notch user experience for your communities, consumers and potential consumers. People will begin to see you as helpful, responsive, someone who cares about their needs. When you speak to people as they like to be spoken to you will have no problem with any noise on social media.
What stands out to you on social media? What brands are doing this well? Tweet me and let me know @lucyrk78!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Building an Authentic Brand



The more time you spend on social media, especially in Twitter chats, the more you’ve heard the term “authenticity” being thrown around. It is often discussed, and we as marketers, are always told that building an authentic brand is the only way for companies to survive in these digital times, but how often do you actually hear people talking about building a strategy around authenticity? I hear people say that to be authentic you have to be honest, but it goes much deeper than that.


Authenticity is a vital component for any brand. It relates to how you are perceived, and how much trust you garner from both potential and existing consumers. What does “being an authentic brand” mean to you? To me, an authentic brand is one that is relatable, doesn’t seem like a large corporate entity but does business on a personal level, and is one that I feel comfortable spending money on because I feel I can trust in the company and the people that make up the company.

 

I know that these days, there are many people and companies that feel you can “learn on the fly” – especially because social media and “new marketing” is ever changing and evolving, but I am a big proponent of putting plans to paper, with goals, strategies, tactics and firm ways of measuring where I (my brand) is at any given time. When I consult with my clients on building an authentic brand, here are a few strategies I suggest starting with:

1.      LISTEN! The only way to connect authentically with your community is to find out what is important to them, who they are, what they value, what they’re looking for. I am a firm believer that if you are truly listening to people, really actively listening (as opposed to listening while thinking of what you’re going to say next) people will tell you everything you need to know. Getting to know people as your brand is no different than getting to know new friends. It is a give and take relationship. How many friends would you keep around you that only talked about themselves, and never asked about YOU or cared what YOU had to say?


Allow people a peek inside!
2.      Don’t Be Afraid to Show Your Brand’s Personality Without the people making up the brand, there is no brand. Consumers are savvy enough to understand that there is someone (or a group of “someones”) behind the corporate handle on social media platforms talking with them and sharing with them. Let people get to know those people “behind the brand.” You have hired them and put them into the position of leading your social media for a reason, and I’m willing to bet it’s because there was something about each of those employees that drew you to them. Let your communities be drawn in by them as well.
 
3.      Use Images Images help people see what it’s like to be a part of your brand. If you post a picture of you in your office, people will be able to have an image in their minds of who they are chatting with each time they see you in their social media streams. People connect easily with images and if you show behind the scene images that instantly helps your brand come off as more authentic, over another brand that hides what is going on behind the curtain.

4.      Keep Scheduled Posts to a Minimum this is a hot button topic in social media these days. I am not a fan of scheduling or automating posts at all, unless it’s for A/B testing. While it might seem more convenient to schedule your posts, so you can get more done, authenticity comes from posting in real time, in my opinion. I believe that if you’ve got the time to talk with people about the posts you’re putting out (and isn’t that the point? Why post something if you don’t want any engagement on that post?) then you’ve got the time to post it, and then respond when people respond to your post.

5.      Be Available Nothing builds authenticity faster than being available for conversations when your community wants to have them. Social media allows you to have honest 1:1 conversations with people, take advantage of that! Even if you only find one person each day to chat with, people will see that you are a brand that cares about people and your community, and perhaps something you say to someone else will make them want to speak with you the next day.


6.      Admit When You’re Wrong There is nothing worse than watching a brand deleting negative comments or avoiding talking about a mistake that was caught by the public. Brands can establish authenticity on social media by immediately taking responsibility for mistakes, being public and open with their apologies and not hiding or becoming overly defensive about their wrongdoing. Depending on the error, you might lose fans or consumers, but I believe you might GAIN fans or consumers by how well people see you owning up to your mistakes and promising to do better moving forward.


7.      Tell (true) Stories Stories help create an emotional connection between your brand and your consumers/community. People trust people, so let your stories not only be about how your company began, but about the people that make up your company. Tell stories that help people relate to your brand, so that they can see how your brand slides effortlessly into their daily lives. The goal is for people to feel that your brand is just like them, has similar values and goals, and makes them feel better about themselves for being a part of your brand story.

A truly authentic brand isn’t born in a day. It takes time, and you will need to be patient and allow yourself the time to create authenticity and trust. The more you understand your consumers and the communities they are a part of, the easier it will become to align your content, messaging and marketing activities to fit with their needs in a relevant way. Embracing authenticity is a long term strategy for brands. Whatever time it takes will be worth it, as you build loyal consumers that want to do business with you for years to come.
Children are great examples of living authentically

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

5 Ways To Turn Consumers Into Brand Advocates


As marketers in industries such as CPG, one of our main goals is often turning casual consumers into repeat buyers. There are a few ways we can do that, through methods such as influencer marketing, consumer education, sales…but one of the most important and best ways to grow brand loyalists is to take your consumers on a path from people who simply buy your product, to people who advocate and live with your product. Simply put, brand advocates will do more for you than your own marketing ever will.

Having worked in the CPG industry from the beginning of my career 15 years ago, and learning from amazing companies I have had the fortunate opportunities to be a part of, I work hard FOR my brand advocates. What may surprise many people, is I do this strictly organically. I have worked with some of the best, brightest and biggest brand champions and have never once paid them.

 

Any company can “pay to play” or throw money at people to talk about their product. How effective is that, though, really? I’m a firm believer that the more honest and trustworthy people are, the more we will listen to what they say. No-brainer, right? People trust friend’s reviews and recommendations more than they trust brand’s recommendations, as we know, so the more unbiased peer advice is, the better. So to me, it would only follow that my consumers will trust my brand advocates more if they know they’re not paid to talk about my product, and are doing so because it truly fills a consumers need, to enhance their lives.

It is definitely the harder route, developing brand advocates based on emotions and relationship building, as opposed to giving them money to do things you ask of them. However, it leads to more fully engaged people talking about, using and purchasing your brand, and I’d argue it is much more of a long-term strategy. I also will often see companies, SMMs and brands using the terms “Brand Advocates” and “Brand Influencers” interchangeably, when they are quite different. It is not unusual to not pay Brand Advocates. That is part of the misconception.

Brand Advocates willingly share your brand with others via WOM, social media, etc because they truly enjoy and get something out of your brand. They are motivated not by cash from the brand, but the ability to be looked at as thought leaders within their own networks, as they continually recommend things to their communities that people also get something out of. They thrive on helping the people in the groups they keep themselves in and getting recognition from brands for doing so.

Once you have identified who your most loyal consumers are, you can begin to join them along a path towards Brand Advocacy.

Here are a few ways that have worked for me, to transform casual consumers into powerful brand advocates.

1.     Focus on What’s in it For Them, not What’s in it For Me? You’ve got a product or service that you stand behind and one that has been designed to fill a need in consumers lives. What more are they looking for? Recognition from the brand? Doing product reviews on their sites that you bring to your community, offering your advocates a larger reach and more eyeballs on THEIR products as well as yours? As in any other relationship you are growing, you want it to be beneficial for both parties.

2.     Be Grateful. Without people purchasing your products/services, you have no brand/company. Without your brand advocates, you don’t have credible help growing your sales, sharing your offering to a larger audience or bringing more people to you. I don’t see a way not to feel grateful for these people! Let them not just see yu saying thank you, but you want to ensure you are making them FEEL thanked and that you are happy to be working with them. I’d advise having a tracking procedure in place prior to beginning to work with your advocates so you can keep track of what each of them are doing with you, and how you plan to keep them happy and continue to build on what you’ve started with them.

3.     Give Them An “Inside View.” Your advocates are great people to give first looks of new products or campaigns to. Allow them to feel the exclusivity of being the first ones with knowledge or sneak peeks into your content. Let THEM do the sharing of this new information, rather than you as the brand.

4.     Share Your Passion. The more your passion is for your brand is communicated to your consumers, the more they can get excited and inspired by you and begin to feel that passion for themselves. How do you create an emotional connection with complete strangers and your brand? Share your brand stories, the stories of your employees and encourage your consumers to share theirs with you.

5.     Offer Incentives. Besides getting inside knowledge, I like to seed my advocates with product. They already are purchasing and love your product, why not ensure they always have a stash available to them? Through the building of relationships, networking and sheer time I’ve been involved in the industry, I am also able to offer my advocates access to things they, on their own, might not have access to – backstage passes, tickets, unique experiences….people will always remember how you make them feel, I try to always make people feel appreciated.

Marketing is no longer a one-size fits all approach, nor is it done by sending out messages to the masses. It is built one personalization, creating an emotional experience between consumers and your brand, and via the building of honest, true, long-term relationships. Your investment into your brand advocates translates directly to their investment with your brand.
I'd love to hear what tips have worked for YOU! Tweet me and share your stories? @lucyrk78
 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Top 10 Qualities of Great Marketing Managers


In an industry where the only constant is evolution, how do you know what to look for when hiring a Marketing Manager? If you were looking for an accountant, you would know to look for someone with accounting skills and who went to school specifically aiming to work in accounting, but very rare are marketing managers who possess an actual degree in marketing. And that’s ok! Because I believe that if people have these 10 traits, they will be just as good (and usually better) than someone that spent four years or more studying what I have been focused on learning for the past 16.

1.      Boundless Enthusiasm: Great marketers have passion for what they do oozing out of them. You never doubt they love this field, and you will never hear them say “God. Work is SO boring.”

2.      Creativity: Great marketers don’t do things “the way it’s always been done.” It isn’t that we’re trying to reinvent the wheel, but I’d argue that we’re always trying to look at that wheel in a way that no one else ever has before. And we can make you look at it that way, too. Great marketers are willing to take risks with what some may call a “crazy idea.” They aren’t afraid to fail because the WIN feels so good when those ideas connect. I’m willing to bet these people have notebooks full of ideas scribbled down, and at the ready wherever they are and ideas might come.

3.      Loyalty: I might not drink the beverage that I worked on when starting my marketing career, and in fact, I actually drink their main competitor daily, but I go on auto-pilot if I hear someone say something about that first brand that isn’t true. Great marketers don’t just work for a brand, they live that brand. That brand’s products or services are part of their daily lives.

4.      Know Their Audience: I always think of the line “I’ve made a living out of reading people’s faces…” when I think about what I do. You generally only have a couple of seconds to grab someone’s attention, and great marketers need to be able to tailor their message (I hate the word ‘pitch’) to differnet people so it makes sense to THEM. For example, I’m not going to try to sell someone in their 80s on the benefits of coconut water for strenuous workouts, nor am I going to talk about why a mental focus supplement is great for students, to a mom with 2 kids in her grocery cart and a very pregnant belly.

5.      Adaptable: No matter how much you plan, or how good you are, problems arise. Plans change. New legalities pop up. A great marketer can pivot and adapt and switch their entire focus at any point in any project. They don’t get too tied into one plan.  Great marketers don't just accept change, they thrive on it.

Great marketers love meeting new people!
6.      They are Great Listeners: If you marketers are anything like me, you love to watch people. Find out what they like, where they go, what they do. What their habits are, what makes them NEED a product…We know what questions to ask to help draw people out and allow us to get to them, when we begin as total strangers.

7.      They’re Great Sales People: It might be a clich√©, but it’s repeatd so often for a reason. Great marketers CAN truly “sell ice to an Eskimo.” And they can get that sale before the Eskimo even realizes he needs ice. If you ever come across someone in marketing that hasn’t made sales, or thinks they don’t or won’t need to, move along! If sales puts items on a shelf, it’s the marketers that take it off, and that is because they know how to communicate clearly and show people WHY they need your product or service.

8.      See The Big Picture: It’s so easy to get bogged down in details, who needs to go where, looking at analytics, becoming overly focused on wanting to attach the brand to a specific event…it can be hard to take a step back, but we need to. The overall goals of the company must always be top of mind, and our first thought when deciding what to get involved with, what can wait, and what we can pass on.

What is this story about?
9.      Storytellling: You definitely want someone that can tell great stories that not only draw people in, but are able to relate to. To get people excited about and choose your company over any others in the same category, you need someone that can get people to FEEL deeply and emotionally connect with the stories you are telling. You want someone that can get people to see themselves already using your brand in their lives, not just thinking it might be fun to try once. You want consumers, both potential and existing, to see themselves in the brand stories you’re marketing manager is telling.

10.   Team Player: Great marketers know they don’t work alone. Marketers best work is not born out of a boardroom or silo. Sales, Finance, Logistics…marketing is dependent and must work well with all of the employees in these various divisions. Teamwork is KEY to great marketing, and great marketers are humble enough to realize this.  

I wish Top 10 Lists went to 11. There are so many other qualities that great marketers possess. What are some you don’t see on this list? Tweet me @lucyrk78 and let me know!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Coming to Believe in Influencer Marketing

 
Influencer Marketing is most certainly a term you hear bandied about the interwebs these days. On any given day, you can find a Twitter chat focused on it, read a blog about someone’s experience with it, and if you are a CPG brand, undoubtedly you have had a company pitch you on one of their “influencers” you can pay to work with.
14 years ago, I had just graduated from undergrad, and immediately got a job working at what is still one of the largest and coolest companies. In those days, influencer marketing was simple – you paid a celebrity, and they endorsed your brand. It could be through billboards, commercials, ads, appearances or a combination of all of those. We weren’t the only brand doing this, all the brands that could afford to did it. And it worked. Kids saw their favorite sports stars drinking something, asked their parents to go buy it for them, they did, and sales for the brand went up. Marketing had “worked.”
However, it didn’t work for ME. There was a pretty big star in MLB that had an endorsement with a beverage company (not my brand) that had a similar product to what we sold. You couldn’t go down most streets without seeing his face, smiling while enjoying one of their products. Ironically, he didn’t actually drink those products, though. How do I know? Because I once went with a co-worker to meet him in a dark alley, where we delivered OUR product to him. He oculdn’t be seen drinking OUR brand, it would have been a breach of contract with the company he was currently endorsing.
I immediately became skeptical of him, and the whole idea of this celebrity marketing. At the time, no one was talking about “transparency” or “authenticity” but I noticed that this was anything but. Celebrity marketing took quite a long time to die down, but with the increasing rise of “influencer marketing,” it has begun to. People are looking more to people they TRUST when seeking new products or brands to follow, rather than looking to celebrities, and mimicking what we see them doing.
The more you read or listen to people talk about Influencer Marketing, the more you realize that almost everyone seems to have their own version of what it means. It’s subjective, just as what an influencer actually is, or who it might be. It’s personal to each of us. Someone that incites ME to action, might not never make you change a habit or behavior or adopt a new one.
Marketers have long been aware the Word of Mouth was one of the biggest tools in our marketing toolkit. As social media has grown and become more widely adopted, we have been given even more resources to use the tool, and amplify the voices recommending our brands. People trust people they look up to, or those that “influence” them.
Influencer marketing to me, is a form of marketing where brands and companies target individuals with influence to affect change in buying patterns or habits over other people. As we’ve seen, where those individuals used to only be celebrities and pro-athletes, today anyone can have just as large an impact. It’s not follower numbers that determine someone’s influence on a given social network, but rather someone that people trust. Influencers are people that have strong feelings about something or an affinity to a certain company and a good relationship with others where people know this person knows their stuff. It’s a matter of finding people with credibility. Quite simply, influencer marketing is developing a mutually beneficial relationship with people that help create visibility for your company or brand.
Influencer marketing is closely tied to content marketing. In today’s world, consumers are becoming more aware of being “marketed to” and tend to trust peer recommendations over branded content. This means that you are more likely to have content shared on behalf of your brand if it comes from an “influencer” than if you posted the exact same content on your company blog.
Who are these influencers, then? The way I find influencers is by looking for a certain number of factors:
1.      People who engage with me in the communities I choose to be in, and say things of value, thought leaders or people that look like “experts” to me
2.      Someone who has an audience they actively work with
3.      Authenticity – no matter what they are talking about, they do it with authority and don’t change or sway from their beliefs with every new thought. They aren’t saying things simply because they’re paid to say them, the majority of their tweets don’t have #ad after them, and they aren’t compromising themselves in a ploy to gain more followers
Does every brand need to employ influencer marketing? I believe that every brand COULD use influencer marketing, but need is a strong word. Smart marketers have always known that the more people talking about a product or brand or service, the more people find out about it, gaining new audiences in a variety of places traditional marketing wouldn’t hit. Influencer marketing is nothing new, it’s just another piece of marketing with a new name and new importance.
I’m not saying celebrity marketing doesn’t work. Done right, it absolutely can increase sales or “move the needle.” Within the past 7 years, there was a day I was at work (for another rather popular brand) when suddenly our website crashed. Our sales on Amazon were skyrocketing. Why? Because I had sent product to Anne Hathaway, and she was photographed holding a bottle of our drink walking down the streets of New York.
It’s just important to learn how the audience you are trying to reach wants to receive messages, and what they respond best to. The more tactics you have, the better off you will be when trying to reach your ultimate goals.