Tag Archives: social media

Lost in the new world of advertising

By Stephen Rhodes

More and more, I hear clients talk about being lost when it comes to the latest trends in marketing, meaning, of course, social media.

It reminds me of the mid 90s when many small businesses migrated to the Internet because…well because they thought they had to be hip. Many jumped on board without much consideration for why they were among the newly converted or how it would help their business. “We gotta be there,” was the mantra in many boardrooms. Some are still trying to figure it out.

The same thing is happening today with social media. Businesses are setting up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn, Flickr and even YouTube accounts without so much as a …how will this help our business grow?  “We gotta be there” is still the clarion call.

Advertising hasn’t changed much in 100 years. It’s still about  attracting attention, engaging minds, triggering  emotions, and changing the way people think. If you can do that you will generate sales.

What has changed is the delivery methodology.

If you want to influence behavior there is a spectrum of tools including direct mail, newspaper and magazine ads, commercial websites, radio and TV, and, of course, social media – the new darling of marketing.

The key is knowing which tool(s) works best for you. And not all tools will be effective for your business. I have a client who can track new sales every time we deliver a direct mail piece to a group of targeted clients. The key word here is targeted, often lost among the “I gotta be hip” crowd. But the point is, direct mail works for him, and he can see (measure) the return on his investment.

First and foremost is understanding your customers. Who are they and how can you reach them is the pivotal question. What do you have that they want. (the what’s in it for me question) Can I build an ongoing relationship and how can I capitalize on that to build an even bigger customer base.

These are questions you should ask every day.

Don’t get me wrong. Social Media is the future of marketing and communications. Building your own group of followers, a community of customers, all engaged and part of your business is a powerful opportunity to communicate a targeted message.

But take a measured approach. Who is your customer, what message do you want to deliver and what is the best way to get it there? Some things never change.

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Seeking Free Advice, Consultants Need Not Reply

By Jeff Bowman

Has the evolution of social media tools brought us to the brink of seeing the business consultant on the verge of extinction? As strange as that may sound, it could happen. As a business consultant my job is to examine company structures, programs, products, marketing efforts, sales initiatives and the over arching corporate culture that brings them all together.

In doing this I can create a gap analysis and identify key areas that may be in need of an overhaul, or that are missing altogether. Most often I find that the leaders of the organization either have ear plugs in or blinders on, or both.

Consumer feedback is critical to the business improvement process, but up until recently few companies bothered to ask their current and former clients for their opinion. Enter the Internet, and a myriad of social media tools.  Feedback is now instantaneous and widespread.

Smart companies have taken the feedback process to the next level, and are now asking for customer opinions online through blogs or polls on the webpages, and spreading information through fan pages and tweets.  What was once an inexpensive avenue for marketing messages, delivering coupons en masse and generating buzz is slowly turning into a forum for free advice directly from the consumer.  That’s right, unpaid consultants providing the type of feedback that I might provide for a fee.

The web allows open participation from anyone. Many popular brands have taken to the web to ask for innovative ideas, new programs and suggestions for new product ideas, flavours or branding ideas. User registration allows for the collection of consumer data on a grand scale, that later drives a targeted e-mail campaign and  Voting lines where consumers can select to establish or kill a product line. Some companies release viral ads direct to consumers for their comments before they hit other forms of media broadcast.  There are even companies who openly solicit free advice on their packaging, their promotions, seek “green” advice and openly source new technologies and ideas, that might never have occurred to them inside the corporate fortress.

Alas, the best advice is not always the free advice. In a recent article in Advertising Age, the opening line reads

“Dear consumer, Your 15 minutes are over. You suck.”

Many brands are finding that consultants are still the go-to people for business solutions and professional advice. Despite the glut of cost-free ideas, you often get what you pay for. Smart companies follow the business rule, sell your strengths and buy your weaknesses. The age of consultants is far from over, in fact with the business spectrum changing daily, I think it may just be moving to a higher level, with specialization of consultants into smaller areas of expertise.

Tell us about your consumer feedback.

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Filed under advertising, Branding, Jeff Bowman, Managing, Marketing, Online marketing, Sales, social media

Jump into social media, but use both feet

By Stephen Rhodes

A few weeks back I wrote a post about the poor communication habits of  some  fairly large companies Rogers, Toyota and Pampers. And  I mentioned that both Toyota and Pampers were struggling with online campaigns.

Chris Lake over at Econsultancy writes “Social media bites Dyson on the ass: fair or unfair?” – an interesting take on a customer and two competitors savvy enough  to be hooked up online, listening and responding, but clearly still thinking through the strategy.

Chris points out that Dyson is dealing with a small social media fire, sparked by Nick Donnelly’s post called ‘Why Dyson Airblade is Shit’.

Dyson at first was responsive, asked questions and offered to check the faulty equipment. Then  competitor Mitsubishi Electric entered the debate, commenting on Donnelly’s blog, that hey we make the same stuff and ours is better.

At this point Dyson picks up its marbles and goes home.

“We entered this conversation looking to locate a faulty machine and clarifying what we felt were factually misleading statements. We feel that the direction that this thread is going in will go nowhere (apart from some interesting fodder for you, Nick) and we’re not willing to play, I’m afraid.”

Chris’s blog post attracted lots of comments, well worth reading.

So why did Dyson exit the fray? They believed they were fighting a losing battle on two fronts – a hostile customer and a competitor and they were on foreign turf – Nick’s blog. Before social media raised “sounding off”  to an art form for anyone with a keyboard and an attitude, the rule of engagement in crisis management 101 was control the message. Clearly, Dyson believed in Nick’s world that wasn’t going to happen.

Dyson’s failing is similar to many companies who jump into social media without knowing why. They are plugged in  because they think they have to be, and not because it’s a well thought out strategy.

If you are jumping into social media, use both feet.

What do you think?

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Listening is the new frontier

By Stephen Rhodes

Good listeners are almost always better at most things in business than bad listeners.

Over at the Ric Centre blog, where I occasionally guest blog, Ken Sweeney posted on why it’s important to Listen to your Constituents. He uses US  President Barack Obama as an example and says that his insistence on crafting new health care legislation ran contrary to public concern for jobs. The State of the Union address acknowledged that once again he is at least listening to the American people. Action, of course, will speak louder than words.

Obama rode the wave of change, and somehow, once in power he dumped the lady that brung him to the dance.

Some cynics argue he wasn’t really listening at all and that change was really about turfing the Republican party after eight years of  George W. Bush. Politics is tough sledding. We elect people we think will make a difference. They get sucked into the vortex and we give our head a shake and do it again.

In business, especially today, not listening and responding can be lethal.

The rise of social media speaks directly to the frustration level of our customers. They want to be heard. They realize their concerns can have an impact and that with these powerful communication tools, they can influence change.

Listening is the new frontier. Ignore at your peril.

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Social Media – re-inventing social skills

By Jeff  Bowman

The boom in social media has brought about some changes in the social growth and development of social skills in today’s youth.

Recently, I worked with several young entrepreneurs with both High School and some College or University education.

I was quite honestly astounded at the lack of social graces, ability to communicate openly and apparent inability to look directly at me when asking questions or listening. Some of the students were outstanding in these areas, however they were the exception.

The social graces that parents and grandparents instilled in me when I was young seem to be missing today. I recognize that times have changed, where telephone conversation has been replaced with texting, and after school or work activities replaced with gaming and Facebook. There may be more communication going on, but how deep and meaningful is that communication?

These future business people seemed to lack in the area that is most important in building a business – developing long-lasting mutually beneficial relationships.I have worked as a mentor for 9 years now, and the trend is definitely growing. The ability to write detailed business plans has improved, mostly because templates, sample plans and information are available on the Internet. But when it comes to communicating the ideas expressed in the plans and understanding the reasons for making certain decisions, there is a noticeable difference between the written and verbal communication.

The ability to communicate verbally is lost in today’s online world. Text messaging, Twitter, Facebook updates and even email do not contribute to well thought out ideas and the ability to articulate them.

Disagreement with others online is as simple as typing a few derogatory words or removing them from your contact list.  Disagreements in the business world need to be dealt with using a variety of communication and social skills, such as discipline, self-control, honesty, consensus building and teamwork.

Another skill that is critical in the business world is listening.  Consultative sales techniques require honed listening skills in order to uncover customer needs, and offer solutions. I have found that these young business people listen intently, but either don’t hear what I am saying, or don’t comprehend the significance of it.

The written word does not always portray true feelings, and even less so in 140 characters.   Communication breaks down not because of the words used, but by how they were received and interpreted by the other party. Facebook, e-mail, messenger and others have caused me unnecessary trouble  when I have misunderstood what the other person was trying to say @##$&*^&!

I don’t know what the answer is – how we instill  social skills and graces – but I hate to imagine that this is the type of business environment that I will be working in over the next several years. It should start with common courtesy and manners, at home and in the school system.

Maybe we are headed to an electronic world where face to face communication will never exist in the business world and the human voice may never be heard again. It isn’t something that I look forward to.

What about you?

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