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How closely is your strategy aligned with your values and beliefs?

28 Dec

Your values and beliefs are the foundation on which your insights, perceptions, and resulting decisions are based.

It has often been said that once you know “Why,”… “What,” and “How,”  become much easier to determine and decide.

At any point have you found yourself feeling that you need to violate your principles?

Some values and beliefs are learned and others may be inborn; in either case they do not change quickly or easily.  It is imperative that your strategy is congruent with your fundamental values and beliefs.

Strategy does not usually change quickly or easily.  Tactics however, can be changed with relative ease.  If your strategy is in poor alignment with your values and beliefs, your tactics won’t produce the results you desire.  You can always  modify your tactical activities but you shouldn’t be quick to alter your strategy (unless it needs to become better aligned with your values).

Do you proactively map your strategy and tactics against your values?

Begin with the end in mind, form your strategy, plan yourtactics, and allow yourself the opportunity to make sure that your strategy is in close alignment with your core values and beliefs.  Otherwise, everything is much harder than necessary and no matter how much you accomplish you will not feel satisfied or fulfilled.

What should you consider changing?  Where should you begin?  

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The Marketing Funnel and Tactical Innovation

31 May

In a world cluttered with advertising pitches, when a company can get prospects to click on links, watch their videos, join their email or SMS list, and attend webinars they have succeeded in getting them into their marketing funnel, keeping them in it, or advancing the sales process to the next phase.

How do you get prospects into your funnel, and keep moving them closer to making a buying decision…?

The Marketing Funnel

The Marketing Funnel

Only deliver highly relevant content using the most appropriate methods of delivery, and communicate with them as infrequently as possible, but as often as necessary to advance the sales process without fatiguing them.

It is essential to first understand your customers needs and their purchasing criteria. From this point you are able to develop a systematic approach to delivering content which will move them closer to realizing that your products or services will add value for them.  Next you must choose the best methods to communicate your value proposition.

Is it important to deliver my information in separate phases, or is it better to reduce the volume of information and ask prospects to make a purchasing decision more quickly?

It depends on what type of product or service you sell.   For larger and more complicated purchasing decisions it is often better to develop a stage oriented sales process.  We recommend beginning the process by using a blog, videos, podcasts and/or other web content to engage the prospect while establishing your business as a GREAT solution to their needs.  From this point the sales process will depend on what type of decision you are asking them to make, and what your sales and marketing resources are capable of executing.

At what stage  in the sales process should a representative from your company engage the prospect directly?

For most companies the answer is to establish a personal connection immediately after the prospect’s first interaction with your content, however some companies choose to have the prospect define their level of interest and how close to “sold,” they are by asking them to take another action or by presenting them with multiple options that allow them to define where in the sales process they currently are.

We receive requests from companies who have “decided,” that they want to use a specific medium like email, SMS or Video as part of their tactical marketing communications mix.  We have found that it does not usually have a beneficial impact on sales to introduce a new tool without understanding it’s role in the overall context of your sales and marketing campaign(s). If your customers don’t regularly use the method of communication you are choosing, then you will see poor performance results.  We recommend considering fully whether a new tool is actually the best available alternative to communicate with your audience prior to acquiring or using it.

If you have questions regarding implementing a Marketing Funnel, a new tool,  or would like to discuss an evaluation of your existing Marketing tools please contact us for a free consultation:

Business Relationship Status: “It’s Complicated?”

22 Mar

Good relationships require mutual trust and good communication.  The described “status,” of a relationship is a direct reflection of it’s quality in the view of the person describing it.

Great relationships can happen online and the parties involved can regularly communicate this way, but it is nearly impossible to actually cultivate and maintain a “great,” relationship exclusively online.  Relationships usually require some offline, personal interaction and face to face engagement to become or remain “great.”

Imagine spouses communicating with each other exclusively via email, text message, or on their social network profiles… It is hard to imagine a healthy relationship surviving exclusively in this sphere.  Most business relationships aren’t any different.  If you communicate with someone exclusively via email, text message, instant messenger, etc., what type of quality do you really have in the relationship?

In an increasingly hectic and demanding professional world, we can all benefit from using online means of interaction to improve our ability to communicate more frequently with our relationships.  However, we must also be careful not to forsake the value of offline interaction.

Quality in our customer, employee, and vendor relationships benefits from personal conversation, periodic face to face meetings, or a social activity where goodwill and trust are built and maintained.

Facebook users are given the option of describing and openly displaying their “relationship status,” to provide an outward indication of their:

1) Availability

2) Happiness/Satisfaction

3) Commitment/Loyalty

4) Intent

What if our customers, vendors, and employees had their business relationship status with us openly displayed for review?  What would it say?

What if we relied so heavily on online communication that this became our best chance of really understanding their perspective on the quality of our relationship?

Depending on your business or industry there may be some discrepancy, but the table below is an approximation of the business equivalents of  some common Facebook “Relationship Statuses.”

Business Relationship Status Equivalents

Don’t be so busy that you let the quality of your relationships suffer.

Pick up the phone and tell someone that you appreciate them or that they are doing a great job.  Better yet go see them in person and tell them face to face.  Invite someone you care about to do something fun or interesting with you.  Take some time to get to know somebody better and begin a great relationship.

These actions create memories for both of you.

View this as a communication strategy, or just consider it as “a way of doing business.”

For assistance with evaluating, managing or improving business relationships contact us:

2011: Opportunities to Increase Revenue and Profitability.

7 Feb

In 2010, we conducted an exhaustive survey and study of 400 businesses.  We asked questions aimed at recognizing trends that would help to identify the strongest opportunities for businesses to increase their revenue and profitability.

Respondents were Owners, Executives, and Management including client companies, prospective clients, and many others with whom we have no affiliation.  Participating businesses included 175 small businesses, 175 mid-size companies, and 50 Large/Enterprise Organizations.

With all data collected and analyzed we have concluded that there are significant opportunities in 2011 to increase both revenue and profitability.

Here are a few of our notable findings:

  • 94% of Small Businesses reported that they strongly feel the need to diversify their marketing methods to be competitive.  68% said they have not done so due to both budgetary AND  time constraints. An additional 26% cited either time OR budget alone as the reason they had not done anything in the past 12 months to change their marketing mix.
  • 68% of Mid-Size Companies reported that due to funding concerns they were forced to slash their marketing budgets in 2010.  100% of these companies reported that they needed to use Social Media to be more competitive because of their cutbacks on other marketing.
  • 82% of Large/Enterprise Companies had evaluated and/or implemented both mobile marketing and/or social media in conjunction with their existing marketing communications strategy for 2010.  78% of this group indicated that additional investment would be made in these channels during 2011.
  • 96% of restaurant and retail businesses reported that Mobile Marketing (SMS Couponing, and Geolocational Promotion), along with Group Buying (Groupon, Living Social) were of significant interest to them.  However 86% had not taken direct measures to leverage these methods in 2010.  50% indicated that they intended to reinvest some of their marketing budget to incorporate either or both of these methods in 2011.
  • 83% of Consumer Financial Services (Insurance, Banking, and Investment) companies indicated that they continue to address significant concerns, hesitancy, and reluctance in dealing with new prospective customers which they attribute to a marked shift in consumer sentiment due to negative publicity enveloping the entire industry.
  • 54% of companies participating in the study felt that despite intense pressure to reduce their costs during the past 36 months; there were still significant savings opportunities that could be realized in areas that they simply hadn’t justified investing time or resources to investigate properly.

In 2011, we are deploying a series of scalable services targeted by company size, industry, and geography.  Client companies implementing these strategies increase revenue and profitability while maximizing their resources.

If you are interested in learning more about this study please contact us:

Reputation Management for Leaders: An Enigma

19 Jan

In a world of increasingly competitive social, personal and professional environments we are presented with a heightened challenge to measure and protect both our business and our personal reputations.

Can we ensure that we will not be accused of something that might damage our reputation?  No.

Can we monitor and protect ourselves from this type of risk? Yes.

Type “reputation management,” into a search engine and you will find results linking to articles, consultants, and technical services providing advice and assistance with protecting or repairing your “image,” on the internet.  It goes without saying that your internet presence is certainly important, but your reputation depends on more than its appearance on the internet.  Reputation management should be proactively oriented and addressed as part of your comprehensive business continuity plan.

When you are in a leadership position, you bear a significant responsibility for the decisions and actions that you make, but also for those made by people in your charge.  When you have been given the trust and responsibility that comes with leadership, you must be certain that you lead by example, and maintain a high level of awareness to the conduct of those who you lead.  One action or decision could mortgage or bankrupt your reputation as a leader, or even the reputation of your entire organization.

If misconduct on the part of a team member were to have legal consequences those might pertain only to that individual. However in the court of public opinion, blame and responsibility have a more common tendency to be attributed to entire groups, and even more so to the leader.

Reputation and word of mouth have always been important, with the rise of social media and hyper-communication, the stakes are even higher.  Word of mouth simply travels much farther, and much faster than it ever has before.

Prominent leaders who stand accused of wrongdoing often proclaim their innocence, or attempt to explain themselves only to have their words fall on deaf ears.  These stories spur discussions which are often hot topics in both traditional and social media channels.  In some cases allegations are proven to be legitimate, while in others even the most heinous of allegations are proven to be false.  The problem is that even when somebody is absolved of blame often the conversation or media focus has moved on to other matters, and the individual and/or organization is left to deal with significant residual damage to their reputation.

The Washington Post featured a story about Sue Scheff a consultant to parents of troubled teens.  In short, Sue Scheff lead a small business where her name was essential to the business brand. In 2003, a parent posted negative remarks on her organization’s website, which defamed her character and injured her reputation.  The injury to her reputation had serious personal, financial, and business consequences after negative remarks went “viral,” Sue had been Google Bombed.  It took years, but Sue was diligent in reclaiming her reputation, today her business appears to be alive and well, and she authored a highly acclaimed account of her ordeal titled Google Bomb: The Untold Story of the $11.3M Verdict That Changed the Way We Use The Internet. It would not be an understatement to say that most businesses or individuals would not have survived this type of ordeal nearly as well as Sue eventually did.

How do you determine what (or who) may be a legitimate risk factor?

It is certainly not productive to spend too much time or focus dwelling on every eventuality or possible risk since there is no way you can guarantee that allegations won’t be made against you.  While valid, this reasoning unfortunately is commonly used as an excuse for not asking pertinent questions; with answers that may require making difficult decisions.  Failing to ask such questions not only makes you more vulnerable to attacks on your reputation it can also have profound effects on your culture and performance.

10 questions to begin your thought process or to start a dialog with your leadership team.

  1. Are personal values consistent with organization values?
  2. Is it possible to maintain a separate identity in our personal and professional lives?
  3. Do we always do our best to promote morality both in concept and action as individuals and leaders?
  4. Which practices/policies might hurt, frustrate or anger customers/members, employees, partners, or vendors?
  5. Is poor conduct ever “accommodated,” because of an individual’s role in the organization?
  6. What steps can be taken to improve our current level of awareness to our individual and collective reputations?
  7. What (or who) are the greatest risk factors in improving or maintaining our reputation?
  8. What immediate steps can be taken to prepare for an attack to our reputation?
  9. What further measures should be considered to be protected.
  10. Are we properly prepared to effectively respond if faced with a serious challenge to our reputation?

For more information about reputation management for leaders contact us:

Will you pay for content in the future?

15 Jan

The media industry has distributed paid content to audiences since it’s beginning.  Very large media companies have been built around a model which relies on paid subscribers and advertising revenue to generate profit.  Simply put, through history those who have invested in publishing or producing content have almost always done so with a simple focus on seeing a direct (and large) financial return on that investment.

Media moguls made fortunes and acquired significant power and influence as they controlled the distribution of  information to the masses.  They were in a unique position as they shaped the beliefs on which people formed their opinions, and made their decisions .  Print, radio, and television all followed the same general business model and for these businesses all was well (very well).

Then the internet changed things…by providing businesses and consumers with an alternative means of finding the information they wanted.  Within a few short years, a nearly complete directional shift occurred (from push to pull) in the way that people found information they wanted prior to making decisions.  We were no longer confined to just seeing or hearing an editorial, or advertisement and then making our decisions based on very limited and media biased information.  With this shift, businesses flocked to invest much more of their marketing dollars online.  Why not?  They could now reach much more targeted audiences.  Not to mention, for the first time they could measure their advertising results in almost real time.  This however was just the beginning of a tremendous devaluation of  TV, Radio, and Print media.  Media enterprises moved their existing business models onto the web and began to earn even more profits.

Then Web 2.0 changed everything…blogs, podcasts, user generated video, internet radio, article directories, and social networking sites allow anyone and everyone to publish content.  An industry dominated by large companies who were comfortable with relatively little competition is a completely different landscape.  But once again many media enterprises have taken their same old business model and attempted to move it into this vastly different environment.  They are beginning to find that something different is happening.

A recent article by MarketingVox reports,  “After a splashy debut in the publishing world, magazines retooled for the iPad – such as Vanity Fair, Glamour and GQ – are not selling so well.  Digital sales of these pubs dropped toward the end of this year, Women’s Wear Daily reports, based on figures made available to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.”

“The internet is about to swallow the television. Soon hundreds of thousands, and eventually hundreds of millions of viewers around the world will be on a path back from being passive couch potatoes into actively engaged citizens again, the way we were before mass media radio and then television arrived in our homes in the 1920’s, nearly a century ago. Here in the early days of YouTube, BitTorrent, Boxee, Mac Mini media centers, Hulu, Google TV, and the iPad, we are on the edge of moving from Web 2.0, the Read/Write and Social Web, to Web 3.0, ” says futurist John Smart.

Companies who sell paid content are seeing profit declines amidst massive pressure from exponential increases in the quantity and quality of  free content available to viewers and readers.  Beyond that, social media has dramatically changed the way people are spending large amounts of their time.  Instead of simply “consuming,” content many people are now creating it.  Even more people are sharing it and discussing it.

Media companies are currently facing unprecedented challenges in retaining their audiences which is having a devastating effect on their advertising rates, and thereby their profits.  In effort to save themselves many of the old guard have turned to extreme cost cutting measures in a desperate attempt to keep their balance sheets in order. Layoffs, cancelled programs, eliminating print editions of newspapers and magazines are but a few of the signs that clearly point to the fact that a larger and more significant change is required.

Business models must be adapted to this completely new environment, failure to do so will prove costly or fatal.