Category Archives: Marketing

You Don’t Control Your Brand. Your Customers Do.

Face it: You don’t control your brand; your customers do.

I like this simple 3-minute Jim Blasingame video explaining what he’s calling “The Age of the Customer™.” If you’re trying to run a business, you choose not to join in at your peril.

If you don’t see the video here, then use this link to the original on youtube.

Developing Your Social Media SWOT

(Note: this is the second in a series of posts developing the components of a useful social media business plan: the social media SWOT. The first was about the market-defining story.)

SWOT — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — is my favorite framework for getting into strategy. I’ve used it for years. In groups, it generates good discussion, brings people into the process. And it brings out all three of the main elements of strategy: identity, market, and focus. 

To do it yourself, remember the basic rules of SWOT: 

  1. Divide a piece of paper, whiteboard, or tablet computer drawing space into four parts as shown in the illustration here. SWOT analysis drawing
  2. Collect your thoughts in each of the four categories. Use bullet points. Jump around the categories because some thoughts will generate other thoughts. For example, our virtual locations in Oregon and the Silicon Valley are both strength, in our case, and weakness. 
  3. Remember the classic rules of brainstorming: collect a lot of points. Don’t criticize and argue and refine and select only the best. First, get them all down. Filter and digest later. 
  4. Consider the division down the horizontal middle: above the middle, strengths and weaknesses are internal. They are attributes of your business. They’re like your own personal strengths and weaknesses; they can be changed, but not easily. It takes time. And effort. Opportunities and threats, on the other hand, are external. They are out in the market. You can predict them, analyze them, work towards opportunities and away from threats; but they aren’t something you control. 

Remember that in this case we’re talking about your business’ online presence. It’s not the business itself, or the entrepreneur; it’s just the online presence. Think of it as your website and your position in the social media big five (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+). 

Examples of strengths: good site, good profiles, good content, lots of likes, followers, tweets, pictures, links retweets, friends, etc. 

Examples of weaknesses: no presence in some of the big five, no content, poor  content, inconsistent content, no focus, no strategy. 

Examples of opportunities: something you can give away in exchange for likes and follows, easy freebies, readily available content, curation of content (my favorite is Rebelmouse), events, promotions. 

Examples of threats: competitors’ pages, content, engagement, branding, presence, success. 

The SWOT is a great entry into strategy. And a social media SWOT is a great first step to a social media business plan. 

The Storytelling at the Heart of Future Marketing

My thanks to Social Media Today for embedding this video on their post titled 4 ways to prepare a Facebook content plan. That’s a good post, too. Especially this, prepared by Coca Cola, on what they call “passionate storytelling.” regarding future marketing. This is golden.

And what about a company of the size and scope of Coca Cola, one of the grand old brands that made traditional advertising great, a warlord of major media, sharing the intellectual highlights of its new-world thinking?

I’m impressed.

Every Business — Yours Included — Really Needs a Market-Defining Story. Really.

Good market descriptions are rare. I write that as entrepreneur, consultant, and angel investor. Every year I read more than business 100 plans, and watch 3-4 dozen business pitches. Most of the market definitions I see are useless. So I really appreciate a good one. So I’m offering some tips on how to define a market right.

For example, I have a real case: Us. Eugene Social, the site you’re on as you read this. Our market-defining story is this …

Terry loves the business, puts heart and soul into it, and is making it work. Sales are growing, customers are happy, the employees get it. Social media makes Terry nervous, though, because it feels like it’s important for growing the business, but, in Terry’s words, “who has time to run a business and mind social media too?” And that’s where Eugene Social comes comes in: we make time so Terry makes money. We don’t tell people what to do, or how to do it, because that’s really not hard. What we do is the part that is hard: we do the updates, the tweets, the retweets, the content curation, strategically and respectfully, so Terry can focus on the core of the business while the brand is building, traffic is generating, and somebody is taking the time to watch the amplified word of mouth going on in the social media.

The story defines the market several ways:

  1. It explains the need, or want, or, if you like jargon, the so-called “why to buy.” In this case it’s defined in part by what it isn’t: It’s not about selling knowledge, experience, and wisdom by the hour. It’s not built around a guru. Instead, it’s about doing, not knowing. It’s about getting things done in a business setting, and having time to do the right things, but not enough to do everything. It’s about time management, division of labor, and small business owners getting things done. There are millions of social media gurus, some of whom really know the territory. This story isn’t about knowing; it’s about doing. It’s about time.
  2. It defines the target customer. In this case it’s a defined subsegment of small business owners, specifically those who know that social media is good for business, but don’t have time to do it themselves. This too is defined in part by what it isn’t: The target market doesn’t include business owners who either do it themselves or have solutions in place. Furthermore, it doesn’t include business owners who don’t think it’s important.
  3. It leads to credible numbers. In this case, there are about 27 million businesses in the United States, about six million of them big enough to have employees, 21 million so small they don’t have employees, and only a million or so too big to be in this target market. From that big pie we would (if I were going into detail here) cut segments according to how many in social media, how many doing very well with it, how many just dabbling, and so forth. I’ll stop here, assuming you get the idea.
  4. It generates marketing messages, media, tactics, and programs.
  5. It communicates a market to somebody else, like to an investor, banker, partner, or employee.

Do you see what I mean by communicates? The real market isn’t some number, it’s that collection of people. Sure, the number is nice, once you know the people, but first you have to feel like these people actually exist, and the reason to buy exists, and that the people and the reason match up.

The statement “this is a $43 billion market” without a market-defining story means nothing to me. The story drills down to the nitty gritty or the number just annoys me. And I don’t think it’s just me. I’m often with groups of fellow investors, or groups of business plan competition judges, and I don’t think I’ve even met one who cares about the market number without a market-defiining story.

So, business owners, here’s your assignment: immerse yourself in your market-defining story.

And furthermore, if you’re going to be pitching to investors, make it good.

Does Your Social Media Fit Into the Marketing to Sales Funnel?

All business owners should understand the marketing to sales funnel. Wikipedia calls it the purchase funnel. Many people call it the marketing funnel. You can click the image here for the Wikipedia definition and history that goes back more than 100 years. 

The top of the funnel is large, meaning that it is supposed to include a lot of people. That’s about making people aware that your business exists. In a traditional marketing mix it was advertising, public relations for media mentions, possibly promotional activities like contests or seminars or speaking engagements, and so forth.

The funnel narrows, meaning that the numbers grow smaller, as it moves downwards from all those people aware of the business to just the people who might consider buying. So, for example, in classic marketing this is narrowing down from everybody who sees an ad to those who respond to an ad. They are interested. They are considering it. 

The funnel narrows again when people make contact. They become leads. They click a link on the web to find out more; they call the phone; they visit your store. 

At this point the funnel has narrowed from marketing to sales. It’s about converting prospects to customers. It’s about actual choices and factors that determine choices, like price, selection, delivery, and perception.

Perception is one of my favorite parts of the funnel because it defies classification. It’s down there at the bottom influencing the actual decision to buy, which is sales. But it’s also up at the top of the funnel, influencing eventual conversion to sales with large-scale factors like brand image and reputation. Think of it like this: how much does the reputation built in marketing influence the ultimate purchase decision? Do you choose the car, the computer, or the restaurant based on price, delivery, and selection? Or does reputation make a difference? 

Does you social media activity, for your business, fit into this marketing-to-sales funnel? 

Facebook Marketing Resources

Amex OPEN posts 5 Facebook Marketing Resources You’re Not Using Yet, an interesting list. Start with Facebook Studio, a compilation of visual campaigns. The studio resource also collects Success Stories, and the post lists some other Facebook resources. This is aimed mainly at the bigger brands, and examples are from major companies … but still, seeing some great work is never a bad idea. 

Want Customers? Stop Marketing. Start Delighting

A good talk about marketing, whether it’s guerrilla, viral, thought leadership, or what-have you. He wants companies obsessed with the product.

“If you have amazing products, the marketing of those products is trivial.”

Unfortunately, there’s the problem of the rest of us. Experts. Services. Eventually your product is yourself. Be brilliant. But you also depend on word of mouth. And there’s a good argument for executing some marketing programs that develop leads at the high end of the marketing funnel. 

Jonathan Fields’ Great Title Idea

This is so cool. I’m really jealous. As he finishes up his next book, Jonathan Fields turns to the web and his so-called tribe for help with the book title. In Help Me Choose The Title Of My Next Book, he put a poll onto his blog and promoted in there and in Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Why am I jealous? Because I didn’t think of something like this for any of my books. What a great idea.

Choosing a book title is hell. It’s really hard to do, critical to the content, and critical to sales and success. Could there possibly be a better way? Much as I complain about dumb polls and over-researched decisions, this is a great use of so-called crowd sourcing.

In my defense, it’s easier now than in 2008 when my most recent two were published. But Twitter had already started, and this blog was already here, and so was my other blog Up and Running, on entrepreneur.com. I could have done it. And I don’t want to sound ungrateful for how much help I got from Jere Calmes and the team at Entrepreneur Press, but still … damn!

Whatever the eventual title, I expect Jonathan’s upcoming book to be really good. When he interviewed me for it maybe a year ago, he was talking to a lot of people and asking some very important questions. He went into deep core issues about entrepreneurship and creativity, like dealing with fear, finding time for silence, and balancing needs and wants. That interview left me thinking about related issues long after.  I’m really looking forward to reading the book that comes out of that.