Oct 15, 2012

What’s your Social Media Strategy?

It’s so tempting to create a Facebook page or Twitter account and start tweeting and posting - without a strategy or plan. Social media needs a strategy and a plan, even though your customers and users do most of the “work”! Start with clarifying your main objectives for using social media. Here are a few thoughts:

Strengthen your brand – Brands are increasingly influenced by the social media engagement of your company and the conversations among customers about their experience with your company, products and services. Social media gives you new insights about customers’ needs. It engages your customers in authentic conversations to build loyal and lasting relationships.

Improve customer support – Social media provides a great way to learn about issues, find solutions and get those to your customers and users quickly and efficiently. By monitoring tweets, posts and forums you can learn about issues before they escalate, pro-actively offer solutions, and have your users/customers help each other.

Accelerate product innovation – Learn more about your customers, what products they use, what they like and don’t like and how they make buying decisions. Gather feedback from your users’ social media conversations, ask questions and monitor exchanges based on keywords and your brand (using online tools such as Lithium, Radian6)

Increase customer acquisition - People prefer to buy what their friends and peers buy or recommend. Thus, social networks are great for gaining new customers through referrals, incentives, promotions and games.

Improve customer loyalty - Social media engagement keeps your customers more loyal. The fact that people “talk” about your product is a first step to customer loyalty – it means they care about you and your product.

After you have defined your objectives for why to use social media as a marketing tool, you need to develop strategies on how to build and engage your community. More on this in a future blog post.

Jul 30, 2012

How to use IMPROV for Marketing Strategy and Planning

I recently took a class to learn how to use “improv“ (improvisational theater) in business. To my surprise and probably to the surprise of many of you, improv is not about coming up with funny lines and going crazy on stage, it is rather based on simple and very effective principles:

“Improv teaches actors to listen and be aware of the other players, to have clarity in communication, and confidence to make choices instinctively.”

So, how can you use that in marketing? Well, it is almost 100% the same – great marketing is about:
  • Listening to customers and being aware of their needs and situation (empathy).
  • Clearly communicating to them your value proposition, benefits, and how to use your products and services.
  • Making choices and fully committing to it: Focusing your offering on what’s really important for the customer based on what you have learned from them.
And frankly, based on my experience in working with start-ups and other companies, these three areas often represent their biggest challenges. Companies don’t really listen/understand their customers and their needs, they communicate using vendor terms/buzzwords/tech-talk, etc. and finally, they lack focus and try to be too many different things.

So, how about adding a little improv to your marketing strategy planning? Listen and observe, communicate clearly and then focus on what's right for the customer.

Apr 19, 2012

Marketing is about asking the right questions

I work with a lot of start ups and small companies and often I get asked for the quick fix: "We just need to find the right blogger", "we just need to get mentioned in NYTimes", "we should be on Facebook", "we just need a Rolodex for referrals to get our first customers". Well, this might work, but it is neither a sustainable nor repeatable strategy to launch and grow a business. Actually, it is like playing the lottery, you might win, but most likely you won’t.

Every business is different and a key part of launching/growing your business is to find what works and develop a scalable model - and it all starts with asking the right questions. When I sit with my clients, they are very appreciative about the questions I ask:
  • Audience: Do you really understand your audience? Their needs and behavior? Their daily challenges?
  • Value: How do your products/services address those needs and solve the challenges? What value do they provide? (not features!)
  • Objectives: What are your business objectives - in numbers? Can you actually measure those? (Note: You can only manage what you measure!)
  • Strategy: What’s your (go-to-market) marketing strategy? Is it aligned with your business objectives? Is the whole team aligned around this strategy?
  • Story: Do you have a compelling story that sells? Why should customers buy your offering versus the competition? What’s your elevator pitch?
  • Plan: Do you have a plan in place to execute your strategy? Is it aligned with your business strategy? Does your team know and understand the plan? Is it realistic based on your available resources?
  • Success metrics: How to do you measure success? What are the key metrics that drive your business? Do you know them on top of your head?
Some of the questions might look so obvious, but I often experience that they don’t get the right attention and focus. The above questions help executives better understand the needs of their audience, refine their offering, deliver customer value and create a compelling message – and this is what successful marketing is all about.

Jan 18, 2012

Do you really know what your customers need?

Many high-tech companies LOVE technology, they create lots of features, and talk about it. As we all hopefully know by now (see my other post about customer focus), customers don't buy the product features, they buy the VALUE of the product. So, in order to build and market the right value you need to really understand what customers need. I just got this graphic that illustrates the issue that different people within the organization have different understandings of the customer needs.
Disclaimer: I did not create this graphic, somebody sent it to me. And I would like to recognize the unknown person who created it - great job!