This is the time of year that family, friends coworkers and clients alike gather to exchange the gift of cherished relationships and good wishes for a New Year. From the obligatory Christmas card and phone call to the newly added FaceBook posts and tweets this week, the requisite merriment and well-wishing is in full swing!
At the office, co-workers will play “Secret Santa” to those they generally don’t speak to for the other 51 weeks of the year. And vendors by the bus load will show up in your waiting rooms and reception areas adorned with tins-upon-tins of popcorn and glitter-covered poinsettias. For the next three days, your employees will walk slowly by their in-boxes looking for the corporate envelope that holds the holiday bonus, only to be disappointed by yet another gift-card to Outback or a 2-for-1 coupon at the “Beefstick Haus” kiosk in the mall.
How does it go? Yes. “It’s The Thought That Counts.”
At home children will gaze at the television with glossy, bloodshot eyes and drooling pie holes – knowing that the better they behave over the next week-or-so, the more Santa will cram into their stockings come the morning of the 25th. And parents across the globe will mill around distant shopping centers like zombies, looking for the next retail dupe to stick his (or her) naive head from the food court megaplex mumbling something about a “Sale on brains in isle three…”
SO INCREDIBLY FESTIVE!
But nothing says Holiday rush (as in sugar rush) like the ever-omnipresent Christmas party.
I’m not sure about you, but this is how it happens in my head world…
Friends and family members that you haven’t seen since LAST December will gather at your doorstep with cheer in charge and ugly sweaters galore. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, half-siblings, step-kids and even some neighbor kids all gather around one cramped kitchen counter to re-hash tales from ages gone by and better off forgotten.
Within minutes, grandpa is sleeping in the Lay-Z-Boy in front of the TV, the windows are covered in condensation and drinks are flowing like Niagara Falls. The superficial pleasantries have given way to the occasional fat joke and EVERYONE is trying not to stare at cousin Lacy’s botched boob-job. And in the dining room, the kids gather ’round goofy uncle Tony like moths to a campfire, waiting for him to start telling the stories about the days he and dad were run from the chapel by nuns for dipping Ritz crackers in the stolen communion wine! Oh, and I’m not sure about your family, but it’s required that at least one person ends up crying and another (most likely a child, but not a rule) will end up bleeding from somewhere above the neck.
REMEMBER – It’s CHRISTMAS, and there’s NO better way to celebrate the joy of the holidays than with a gaggle of disgruntled relatives, a block of Gouda cheese and a $12 box of wine!
But ultimately there comes the anxiety of the gift exchange. And this is UNIVERSAL from kids old enough to scratch “MERY KRISMAS” on the stairway walls with Crayolas to stinky great aunt Millie who couldn’t read a billboard if her wheelchair was hoisted up on the scaffolding – It’s not a matter of WHAT gift you get, but WHO gave it. Because EVERYONE KNOWS WHO GIVES THE BEST GIFTS!
(Didn’t think I’d get there did ya’?)
Year after year, I watch companies try to define their unique value or their “appreciation” for the past year’s business with trite, should I say irresponsible attempts at gift giving for the holidays. From popcorn tins and poinsettias to the ultimately unoriginal gift cards and certificates, companies fail time after time to harness the opportunities holiday gift-giving can make for your brand.
Sure, none of my family cares if grandma Colvetti sent iTunes cards in blank envelopes. We get that she didn’t know what else to give. But we also understood that even a small gesture like that outweighed uncle Tony’s 2-for-1 oil change for great aunt Millie, who hasn’t driven anything but a wheelchair for 30 years.
If your company is ANYTHING like my family – I pray for you. But more-so, I hope that you’ve spent a little more time working your TRUE Brand into the gifts you give your clients, customers and coworkers this year. Because some gifts (like a tin of popcorn or an oil change) can disappear in a mater of an afternoon, but a gift that says “I thought of you” makes a lasting impression.
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
At CreateWOWmarketing, it’s no secret that cause marketing is close to our hearts and always something we’re looking out for – for ourselves and for our clients. It’s a fantastic way to give back to a specific movement, cause, foundation or charity while raising the awareness of your brand. CreateWOW has a done a lot of marketing for non-profits and foundations since its inception, and it never seems to get any less rewarding.
With that, our friends over at Boesen the Florist have decided to show us exactly how it’s done! As one of the biggest privately owned florists in the nation, Boesen’s is always in the mix when it comes to rewarding sponsorships and donations. Being a family-owned retail shop, their heart just seems to be closer to the bottom line AND their community…
This year, Tom and Frank Boesen stepped up with a lot of donations within the community, but the holiday season of 2010 seemed to bring another foundation to their attention, and they decided to do something about it.
Tom Boesen said:
“…in 2010, too many local families have been tragically fragmented with the war. Our economy has been rough on those same families as well as those that struggle on a daily basis. So this year, Boesen the Florist is going to donate 25¢ from EVERY local delivery we make from December 8th 2010 through January 2nd of 2011 to the Marine Toys For Tots Foundation!”
I couldn’t believe it. Boesen’s delivers hundreds of floral arrangements every day. Can you imagine the gift waiting for Toys For Tots at the end of the promotion?
Many marketers are still under the impression that interactive market-share battles are only fought within Google search results and on the corporate website. In reality, marketing spread its reach to other areas (where brand conversations actually occur) years ago: social networks, bookmarking and rating sites and blogs, just to name the obvious. And all of this happened right under the noses of Maxie Marketer and Polly PR while they longingly gazed at “The Good Ol’ Days” disappearing into the distance.
So, here’s the obvious:
At lunch this afternoon, a college student, we’ll call her “Jenny Y,” told me that she and her peers make buying decisions based on peer-to-peer input like instant messaging, Facebook, (and other social networks) and rarely type in the brand URL or search for the corporate website. If this holds true, then we can only assume that prospects make decisions via OTHER interactive sites BEFORE they come to the corporate website.
Sure, legally, corporations need to disclose product details and pricing, this alone is a strong case for the use of the static corporate website. However in my conversation with “Jenny Y,” she continued to tell me that she only used corporate websites to get core features, stats and pricing… and this was AFTER she made a decision based upon her peer feedback. All I could think was,
“What do interactive marketers need to do to regain the attention of Jenny and her peers?”
And now, the vision:
Successful (profitable) websites are created by the brand community.
For most straight-laced corporate communication departments, this is disturbing and disruptive, but the most successful websites will have their customers (brand advocates) building and adding relevant content right alongside the employees. The most effective websites will contain a balanced point of view of both the product team and customers –even if they have qualms with the product.
Your interactive brand presence needs to change from “Company-centric” to “Customer-centric.”
You’re no longer going to be the sole publisher of content to your webqsite. Customers, prospects, and other members of the community will have direct access to your website. Sure, there will be “controls” to make sure the content is factual or reviewed, but it MUST be obvious to everyone that the only voice is not the marketing one.
This means that you’ll put your customers first. No, really, I mean it. This means providing analysis of not just yourself and your brand but competitors as well, making comparisons, linking to them or their products… Sound crazy? Well, it’s not. Building an interactive community around your brand depends on the ability for your brand advocates to see you as the authority in your field (compared easily to all others).
With a “Customer-centric” brand, your content will be negative and positive…
This one is hard to swallow for most (let alone Maxie Marketer or Polly PR) , but how do you build the most trust? By being open, authentic, and transparent to your marketplace. We know from research that the highest degree of trust comes from those “like me.” The savvy marketer will allow content to appear from everyone – from employees to peers, to customers and their extended “internet” brood. And this content will not always be rave reviews, in fact they may be downright critical. The goal? To take that feedback, and demonstrate in public how your brand can stand strong in view of the entire world. If it doesn’t, you’ll know…
Customers will make your site the first place to go for information, trust will increase, you may be able to build better products and services through customer feedback. The constant input and growth of content within your site, about your brand and your marketplace will also help to organically improve your search rank on all fronts. And most importantly, you’ll be a community resource that will help you meet your customer needs faster.
Interactive marketing has shifted. If your brand isn’t prepared to shift along with it, then you’re looking at a pretty shocking future.
Keep Cooking (or go hungry)
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
For those that know me, you certainly realize I have a “slight” passion for music. It scores my life (and some of yours… ) . It is ALWAYS on in my house, my office, my car, my headphones (when discretion is required) and in my heart. So when I sat in my office this morning thinking of what to write, I (of course) had my iTunes randomly playing tunes out of the thousands of choices. It shuffled from Moby and Gwen Stefani to Stevie Wonder to Stevie Vai to Ella Fitzgerald and on to Curt Cobain and Nirvana. Then it hit me.
The song that brought the inspiration for this post was Nirvana’s “In Bloom” from the Live At Reading LP. Now, normally this song is a sure-to-be-cranked track in my play-list, but as this particular version rolled out of my speakers, I wondered how much longer before my wife could ACTUALLY see the blood dripping from my ears. It was horrible. Cobain’s vocals were slurred, muddy and dissonant. His guitar and Novoselic’s bass sounded like a couple college kids’ drunk foray into pornographic mud wrestling. And poor Dave Grohl couldn’t find a steady rhythmic path for any of them to stagger down.
Disappointing. So much so, I deleted the entire Live at Reading album from iTunes.
BUT… I kept every other Nirvana album (All 4 including MTV Unplugged) made “in the studio.” Would you like to guess why?
The “Studio Nirvana” is the brand I became a fan of way back in 1993. I became a fan of Kurt’s raucous, painful lyrics. I became a fan of the aggressive drive and colors they painted in my mind – all pleasantly presented to me after months of studio engineering.
But unbeknownst to me (and millions of other college radio fans), this was NOT the way Kurt, Dave and Krist intended Nirvana to be heard. As Cobain yelled from the stage during a 1991 concert in Seattle,
“Hello, we’re major label corporate rock sell outs.” (04/17/91 at the O.K. Hotel, Seattle, Washington)
Just for the record, I don’t think Kurt had “40+ year old me” in mind when he wrote his songs…
And so the Nirvana brand dichotomy was born. Studio sell-outs? Tortured alt-punk artists? That was up to the fans to decide, and we all know which won out.
Now, I could cite other vast discrepancies in brand marketing to “real-life” brands in the music industry **cough-Taylor Swift-cough** … but I think you get my point.
Too many brands (music industry or not) have “difficulties” holding up past the release of the studio-mastered album. Not for trying, of course, these “artists” dance and sing their souls out and ultimately wind up broken and disenchanted with their career, their art, their fans and the “brand” they’ve been trying to portray. So lies the issue.
Take a close look at your marketing collateral and website. Does it have your TRUE voice? Is it indicative of what potential fans will experience when they meet you IRL (in real life)? Remember, eventually you’re going to have to pick up that guitar or microphone and give those fans what they expect. Can you?
What other brands – music or not – have you encountered that couldn’t seem to hold up past their shiny “studio” exterior? What advice do YOU have for companies that work to be what they aren’t (or can’t be)?
I’d love to get the conversation boiling!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
They were once a prospect…. then a lead… then a presentation opportunity… Then… well, you know the routine. But now that you’ve landed this whale (for lack of a better term), what happens? You’ve finally contracted with this client. Does the attention to this particular fish scale back (no pun intended). Is it all about the conquest? Is the honeymoon over?
Continued customer engagement is key to your business’ sustainability – the key to your success – and honestly should be the easiest part of your job. Or would you rather go out and make cold calls and play the dog-n-pony for new leads every day?
1. Realize your engagement starts on day one.
If it’s a cold call, if your business model involves lead generation, customer engagement begins with your handling of that lead. Set the tone of the entire relationship as soon as they pick up the phone.
2. Start at the beginning.
TRUE branding engagement gets the biggest return by starting with the Truth. You can’t define your customer’s unique positioning statement until you’ve dated for a while. So slow down and learn. And let THEM learn about (and from) you.
3. Make it easy to be your customer.
Does your business card have your cell phone number on it? If you don’t want to go that far, does it have a number on it where an actual HUMAN answers… maybe even you? Break the barriers you set up to ward off telemarketers and spammers. Your customers don’t want to feel like they’re not part of your culture.
4. All customers (new or old) are created equal.
Sure, a whale gets more attention than a guppy, but keep that fact in the ledger only. Support, lines of communication, and reaction need to be consistent across all levels. Think of it this way… Do you have a favorite child?
5. Personalize and customize.
In another lifetime, I was a kick-ass waiter for a national restaurant chain. I knew, by instinct, that if I knew the customer’s name, their drink preferences, even where they like to sit, that my engagement would improve their experience while at the restaurant (not my flair). Results? Return customers. MUCH better tips. More promotional opportunities.
6. Know the difference between New and “Well seasoned” customers.
New customers have different needs and expectations than those you’ve had for years (even months). Do your research to understand and respond to these differences.
Most people want to be heard. If they’re like a lot of our customers, they’ll make sure they’re heard… are you there to listen? They like being asked. The act of surveying your customers makes them understand you care. When you report the results of the survey back to them, that’s a double confirmation of your engagement.
8. Show a little appreciation.
If a customer has shown you loyalty, how do you reciprocate? It can be as simple as a Friday afternoon lunch on the company. Or it could be going beyond stipulated expectations – at no extra cost to them. “Can you see how much we appreciate you?” Isn’t always a bad question to ask (yourself).
9. Give ‘em a little buy-in option.
Build a customer panel or advisory board, and invite your customers to join. You’ll be surprised by how many want to participate, share, refer, and engage more as a result of their one-on-some participation. If you listen and act on what they have to say, that not only builds their loyalty, but also makes them more willing to reach out to prospects.
10. Use their network.
If a customer provides a referral, that’s like saying “These guys did good by me. You should use ‘em too.” And it’s a sure testimonial of an engaged customer to give a referral. Most customers feel better about the value of your brand when they refer you to people like themselves.
Simple customer engagement should be a daily routine – above lead generation, above self-promotion, and above working “On” the company. If you incorporate these 10 simple tips, you’ll see a great improvement in return engagement from your customers, thus making the rest of it seem easier.
Until next time…
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
This is a simple concept. Social media isn’t about me. If I have something to say that benefits others, I share it. Sure, I tweet about getting a parking ticket. I toot my horn when I get a good project. Heck, I even posted about my dog dying. It’s cathartic, supportive and reliable… That’s inevitable. But social media isn’t about ME.
Social media is about community. Social media brings an ever-changing world together in one voice. Sometimes it creates a lasting impression. Sometimes it leaves a bad taste. Like it or not, social media, at its core, is for the community (you).
Social media isn’t about ME!
When used with that phrase in mind, social media can make things happen. When focus is turned from the individual to the community it can create impact. Two of the biggest brands in the world joined together during The Tour De France this year to point that out.
When we were kids, seeing a Formula 1 race screaming past or a 20′ Ape walking with us as we stroll down the street wasn’t completely out of the question. We simply closed our eyes and the world around us turned into our own fantastic playground. Whatever we wanted we had. Whatever we imagined was fact. Easy-peasy…
So what happened?
What happened to the race cars zipping down main street? What happened to the lasers beams from your finger tips or the super powers stored in a beach towel tied around our necks? Were we SO wrong? Or was life so twisted to let our minds convince us that flying from our tree house was not only possible but THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION to traffic congestion?
Sure. Right up to (and shortly after) the point of launch… THUD…
Some think that through rote and systematic educational environments and the disillusion of getting older with more responsibility and stress, our ability to be free in mind and spirit is quashed.
Why does it have to be so?
Here is a group of adults (the agency and the client) that have picked up and answered that call from their imaginations.
Creativity can be part of every day. Imagination and the love of life can be incorporated into everything you do.
While none of my clients can afford production like this (yet), I’d be surprised if they didn’t at least smile at the idea of being SO creative with their marketing (give us a chance).
Thanks to Batelco and their AMAZING creative marketing team for reminding us exactly how to CreateWOW!
Okay, this set of five questions starts with one MAJOR discovery question:
“How successful is your website at accomplishing the goals you have for your marketing?”
Do you know what the purpose of your site is? What are the benefits for you and your business?
Here are five simple questions you can ask pertaining to your interactive marketing (specifically your website). The summaries that follow can be built into your overall marketing strategy as well.
They’re simple questions, but many of which I doubt are being asked. How can you make your website a more powerful marketing tool for your company?
Food for thought.
Keep Cooking (the right questions to move your company in the right direction.)
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
Have you ever seen a great NFL quarterback run to the sidelines and look into the playbook? Neither have I… So why is it that so many marketers out there are generating rote, boring plans for their clients based on “plays” they learned back in the bush leagues?
The traditional approach to marketing is too linear for today’s world. Today’s target audience is constantly moving, growing and learning new technologies. But much of the marketing we see today is still formulaic and trite, as if someone in 1976 created “The Playbook For Successful Marketing” and it’s been dogmatically followed ever since? Cold. Unfeeling. Corporate.
Dogmatic playbook-marketing isn’t viable any longer. The game has changed. Sure, marketing can follow a plan / structure. Marketing can (should) have strategy. But if you think the formulaic mindset you (they) used in 1976 (or earlier for you MadMen fans) will work, you’re going to fail abjectly!
The playbooks are outdated. The systems set forth by or mentors, while still brilliant, are tired. And they (dare I say it?) are singular-minded, focusing on agency award hardware… not the client nor its community. The days of super-star agency quarterbacks in the big, Manhattan corner office are over!
Stop and look around your office (if you have one). There’s value there, you just have to see it. The biggest asset you’ll find are the actual human beings that work WITH you!
Here’s a note for our “Super-Star” marketing quarterbacks:
That’s what I like about social media. Adding social media to marketing has taken the ritualistic, dogma of “old school” and turned it on its ear. It allows fresh minds, the “rebels” of the community to work organically on the sidelines, changing the plays and calling options as they see the defense set up. Sure, the goal is the same – get the client’s product or service noticed and to generate actions or a purchase.
I’ll say it again. Our job is to, “… get the client’s product or service noticed and to generate actions or a purchase.”
That’s IT. No more. No less.
When a client brings their product or service to you, the first thing that happens to you and your team is you form an EMOTIONAL response or “Feeling” about it. Immediately, that elicits a LOGICAL action plan on how to deal with it.
Don’t pick up the “1976 Playbook For Successful Marketing.” Because I guarantee, if the client hasn’t heard the rhetoric yet, the marketplace has and you’re going to get sacked. You need to out-think the defense! Create marketing that makes people say “WOW!!” (Or something similar).
Be quicker. Be original. Be passionate. Call the option. Use a flea-flicker or the hail-Mary pass from time-to-time. It may be unexpected, but THAT’s what people respond to.
Have you seen marketing that’s disregarded all the traditional plays and succeeded? I have.
Do you have a client that needs a passionate, community-driven plan instead of the same old rhetoric? Create even a little “WOW” and they’ll see the end-zone.
Until the next huddle…
Keep Cooking (silly sports metaphors for everything),
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef
In a conversation with one of my Des Moines social media buddies this morning, I was reminded that with the onset of CreateWOWmarketing, I’ve (As CreateWOW AND TheBrandChef) fell off a bit on my posting regularity. Sure, it’s one of those “The cobbler’s kids have no shoes” situations. How can I create content and meaningful posts when I’m spending 12 hours or more a day doing it for my clients?
Then I remembered a post I’d written over at The Brand Chef. It kinda shook me from my “production-boy” slumber… the contents of THAT post are below.
Let me know if it rings a bell with you… my other marketing brethren out there…
Have time? You’d better find it…
Economic times are tough for marketing and advertising agencies. Businesses are backing off marketing budgets. Some are folding their hands and letting fate take their brand into the abyss. Heck, some are closing the doors all together. And that directly affects the marketing and agency professionals that depend on them for their own livelihood.
So what do you do in hard times? What do you do when times require tightening the belt or cutting back? Hopefully you do what we all tell our clients to do… “For God’s sake, keep marketing!” Without constant visibility, people (even customers you’ve depended on for years) will forget about you. To us marketers, that’s obvious, right?
Over the last 18 months, I’ve heard marketing “pros” and agency staffers (from receptionists on up to CEO) saying some of the oddest things. Things like, “The work just seems to have dried up.” and “I’m not getting any callbacks.” or “Clients are ‘InSourcing’ all the work we’d do…”
Solution: How about you “SPEND” your way through the downturn? YES, SPEND! And I don’t mean doling out your hard-earned cash for new equipment or some rock star biz-dev stud bolt. I’m talking about strategically investing what you DO have, time, into generating those ever-elusive new leads.
I’ve put together a list of five simple (and VERY economical) actions that marketers and agencies can do to churn up new business. And all you have to remember is “SPEND…”
S = Social Media Marketing: Many “traditional” agencies are still having a hard time figuring out the power of using social media for marketing. If your agency or marketing team hasn’t jumped into the social media waters yet, I encourage them to get in there! It’s inexpensive (costing little more than time – and we all know you have oodles of that) and it has outstanding targeting capabilities. You just need to find and join the right conversations.
P = Public Speaking: Can you think of a better way to position yourself as “thought leader” of your chosen field? Associations, civic groups and chambers are always looking for great information and presentations for their meetings. Think of standing in front of 100 business owners looking for marketing advice. It’s a captive audience and each time you present your message, it’s honed to a sharper and more effective tool for your other marketing efforts.
E = Email: Do you know what 93.6% of business owners do every morning when they walk into the office? They check their email! Why not be in front of them, IN their office, ON their desktop on a regular basis? There are plenty of FREE or LOW COST broadcast email services out there (my favorites are AWeber and MailChimp). Get a sign-up form on your website. Set up your target list. Create a reason for them to WANT to open and engage with you (remember you are a marketer). Then, and this is the MOST important part, KEEP DOING IT AND FOLLOW UP!
N = Networking: If the calls aren’t coming in then you need to get out and start introducing yourself to your audience again. Sitting in your office, looking through PeachTree or QuickBooks isn’t going to get people interested in what’s going on in your world; nor will it help your attitude much. Not interested in chamber functions or professional associations? Then get involved with your church or a board for a non-profit. I don’t think God frowns upon doing business between the pews as long as you thank him once-in-a-while.
D = Dial The Phone! This is one that should go without saying, but for some reason, those that choose “Communications” as a profession seem to HATE talking on the phone. Ridiculous! As I said above, FOLLOW UP! You’ve spent time working your social media, speaking engagements, emails and networking, now just give ‘em a call! You need to reach out and touch someone (more than once) before they’ll turn their attention to you. Sure, the phone is cold, impersonal and intimidating, but it can be the best lead generator in your office – if used correctly.
Guess what you do for a living. You market! You advertise! If you’re able to do it for your clients, then why is it so difficult for you to do it for yourself? Even if you only do a couple of the SPEND tactics, isn’t it better than sitting on your thumbs waiting for the phone to ring?
How do you generate new leads when times are tough? Do you SPEND your time wisely? If you don’t do it, someone else will.
Keep Cooking (at all times)!
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef