Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Embrace The Negative to Understand Your Audience

Do you sell a Negative Commodity?

Negative Commodities are products and services that people have no choice but to buy, but probably would not chose to do so if they could avoid it. Negatives Commodities can include - but are not limited to - such things as medications, insurance, home security, financial services, funeral planning, feminine hygiene products.

Let's face it - if you didn't *have* to, you'd never spend your money on blood pressure medication, would you?

There's an element of pleasure in buying Positive Commodities. It's fun to get that new TV or car, dinner out every once in a while is a pleasure. A sense of relief at having your funeral planned for isn't quite the same thing as going on a vacation.

If your business is tied in with something people *have* to buy, then you have a unique set of stressors on your messaging.

Don't mistake the Negative for the Positive - your market is not an "audience." No one *wants* to have to buy medication, insurance or feminine hygeine products - we simply can't not have them. Your "audience" does not want to listen to you. They don't want to ever think about what you sell unless they absolutely can't avoid it.

When you connect with your market, you are talking to people who have no - or little - choice in the matter. They begin and end their search as quickly as possible, and want things to be as painless as they can manage. Don't pretend that these people are your pals, and that buying medication is fun, rewarding or pleasurable. Medication might extend a life, or enhance a lifestyle, but no one purchases diabetes medications because they want to.

As you reach out to your potential market with social media, avoid the glib, the hip, the pretension to being a partner or a friend. You might establish yourself as a trusted source of information, you might focus on the ways you lessen the pain of the process and speed it up, but always remember that no one reaches out to you for fun.

Embrace the Negative when communicating with your potential market.

The less delusion you have about your potential market's need (as opposed to desire) for your product or service, the more authentic you can be in your communications with them.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Value of a Relationship

You start a new job and you find that one of the folks you're working with clicks with you. You go out to lunch, you chat about your family, the two of you bounce ideas off of one another and share resources.

What's the quantitative value of that relationship?

You might be able to say to someone - "that person's been a colleague and friend for 25 years. We've shared a lot." Maybe you and that person have shaved time and costs off your work by pooling resources and sharing information. But is that *directly* measurable? Can you say, "I ate X number of lunches with Larry, and that translated to Y number of dollars saved?"

Today's post is not about how to measure the ROI of your Social Media Strategy, it's about how you can think differently about the value of relationships. And hopefully this post will encourage you to think as creatively as you can about the value of your relationships with your customers or clients.

Instead of regarding each relationship as a sale, perhaps you can think of your customers as a potential auxiliary marketing or sales force. Every time you you take a moment to speak with a person - face-to-face or online - you are recruiting a potential advocate.

If you have already made a sale, taking time out of your day to talk to that client could equal the value of another sale, when that client is impressed enough to bring a friend to you.

The people who connect with you online were at least motivated to click a button once. With every interaction, try to *at least* motivate them to click a button again. Digg, Retweet, "Like" "Rate this post" - each post you make, each time you talk, are people motivated to *share* that post?

The people who follow you are the people who can tell the world about your business.

Your Social Media Strategy should seek at every turn to turn those people loose on the world to talk about you and your business in the most glowing of terms.

There's no punchline here - the value of each relationship you form is as priceless as you make it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The True Value of Social Media - What's Most Important to You?

If you own your own business, then you know that every day is a juggling act. You are the Business Development Department, and the Billing Department, you are responsible for creating strategies, executing tactics. You are the business.

And now you're looking at Social Media as a low-cost way to market a business that you love. You want to communicate your passion about your business to other people, so they can feel how much you love what you do and how much you can help them.

But Social Media isn't as simple as an advertising campaign or a promotional special. There is no single one-to-one ratio for Social Media. And the more you read about it, the more it looks like a lot of work for nothing. So you have to ask yourself - what is the value of Social Media to your business?

To answer this question, I propose one of my own.

What's Most Important to You?

This is not a silly question. It's a difficult and complex question, wrapped in a few simple words.

Write down a few things that you do almost every day: Read Email; Pay Bills; Talk to Customers. Next to each of these tasks, write down *why* you do that task. Don't be clever - be honest. You talk to customers so that they will buy your product, or pay a bill. You read your email to find out what needs to get done. Look at each task without delusion. Pretend you have to explain the why of each task to an alien.

At the bottom of your list note the commonalities of the reasons. Maybe you write "To Make Sales" four times, or "To Make Money" or "To Get the Product to Market". This is what is most important to you.

That is your ROI for Social Media.

Maybe you'd like to close the time to market gap, or close a few more sales each month. That's your ROI for Social Media.

Take a look at your competitors - do their Social Media strategies support the same objectives? Or is the focus some other quality. "Join our Facebook, get 10% off" means that the objective is to get numbers on Facebook. Learn what your competitor thinks is the most important thing to them, by seeing what their Social Media focus is.

The True Value of Social Media is the the Most Important Thing to You.

Understand what's most important to your business, and you'll be able to create a powerful Social Media strategy to support it!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Follow Me! Follow Me!

I've noted before the problem with "easy" numbers. Easy numbers are any quantitative measurement that can be gleaned without difficulty from a basic analysis of a marketing strategy. These numbers provide little to no real value, but are simple to measure. For instance, the number of people who registered on your website, or how many downloads of the online coupon there were, are easy numbers.

How many fans or followers your company has on your Social Media platforms are easy numbers.

Social Media is in right now and your business looks cooler if you have a lot of fans or followers - or so many businesses think. And it is so easy to say, "Our biggest competitior has 1000 fans, but we have 2000!"

A Twitter pal who shall remain anonymous points out that, "It's a battle to explain to higher ups that our dedicated fans are more valuable than XXXXX random followers."

Traditional marketing dictates that more numbers equals more audience. As a result, I see a lot of companies who spend their Twitter time telling me to follow them on Facebook. As rpguy_ad says, "It's like being told "hear what we have to say, but drive to our office across town first!" There's only one point in asking Twitter followers to fan you on Facebook - to bump your numbers up and make you look cooler.

Don't waste your precious time and your tenuous connection to your audience by talking about somewhere else they need to be. You have their attention, right now, wherever they and you are, in that very moment. Don't ask them to contact you by email with the details, or join you somewhere else.

Your audience is not a tool.

Your business is probably not the Pied Piper. (Exceptions to this do exist, but aren't as common as ou might believe.)

Social Media is not a flute to be played across the Internet to create a line of followers that drag behind you wherever you go.

Social Media should be used to connect to the market you have and the audience you'd like to reach. Don't make "Follow Me! Follow me!" your message. In fact, forget your message altogether, and just talk to your audience.

Talk to people where you and they already are.

Make the interaction on each Social Media site authentic and unique.

If you make that your primary strategy, then you won't just look cool - you'll be cool. And then you might even have that string of followers after all.

Project Wonderful