I've written before about MindShare, the group that fosters entrepreneurship by providing a CEO-classroom-like setting to regional CEOs that are building the next generation of companies.
I try to make every class, but I missed the October meeting, which I understand was lively and informative and on the topic of marketing. Right up our alley! But I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with the moderator of the marketing panel, Kristi Hedges, Managing Partner at Element North and founder and principal of The Hedges Company. She also happens to be my co-founder and former partner at SpeakerBox Communications, where we worked together for nine years before she spun off her own executive coaching business.
She moderated a panel that included MindShare alums Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategy Labs, Michele Perry, VP of Marketing and Strategy at Orchestro and principal at MBP Strategies, LLC, and Kevin Alansky, Chief Marketing Officer at SocialRadar.
Michele Perry, Peter Corbett and Kevin Alansky speak to MindShare on the topic of marketing
Kristi graciously allowed me to interview her on her key takeaways on the session, and lessons learned. Some of the highlights:
- On content: Be creative with your content and take chances! But take them strategically. Each speaker provided examples of situations where a great piece of content could catch fire, but not necessarily drive a business outcome for the company. That being said, some of the best pieces of content (videos, webinars, infographics, white papers, blog posts, for example) were the ones that caught fire and might have been considered risky for the company. Content should take a stand in the industry, and be sure to "stand out."
- On digital strategy: digitial strategy does not define your brand, but rather, the digital strategy should defend the brand. And one should think twice about initiating a digital strategy unless your brand is really clear, current and correct.
- On hiring an agency: it's too early to outsource marketing/PR/digital strategy until you have a defendable brand that represents who you are, your values, etc. Make sure you don't point people to your site, your brand, to you, until you know you are ready to let them see who you really are, and you are represented digitally in that light.
- On hiring resources in the company: at an early stage, talent may be hard to find, and finding the right person is not easy. The wrong hires are expensive. More importantly, you will need different talent in your organization at different times, so be creative about when and how you find talent. This is where MindShare can com in: use the listserv to inquire about freelancers, agencies, and then FTEs when the time is right. And enable your marketing team to evolve when and if it's the right time. The person with whom you start out with may not be the same person you'll need in two years.
Then I saw that Peter Corbett posted on the alumni listserv that several questions came up about how to find the right agency, including issuing RFPs. He wrote a thoughtful blog post on the very topic that could help you get started. My observation, however, shared with Peter, is that many agencies, especially the ones that are selective about their clients, may not respond to RFPs, and thus, you may find yourself cutting out the one agency that might be the right one!
MindShare held their November meeting last night on executing an effective exit strategy, which I will recap for everyone next week. The panelists were MindShare alums who had sold their companies and various stages, and it was a fascinating conversation! Now that the 2013 MindShare classes are over, we get to look forward to the Graduation Ceremony in December where the current class will receive their plaques for completion, and will get to mingle with other alums.
in December we start the nomination process of hand-picking up-and-coming CEOs who will make up the 2014 class, so if you are interested, or know of a CEO who might be intrigued to learn more, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. It has been a great year for me, SpeakerBox and MindShare, and I'm very proud to be a part of this growing organization!
-Elizabeth Shea, @eliz2shea @speakerbox
The federal government has taken its share of licks lately, but the other day one arm of it – the Federal Aviation Administration – decided to perform a good deed by alleviating restrictions on the use of electronic devices.
In response, the ever-opportunistic Amazon decided to give a shout out to the FAA’s decision by offering a one-day discount on Amazon Kindle devices, giving new meaning to the term “marketing on the fly.”
Amazon is used to thinking on its feet and being proactive. They have to be, as they compete with just about everybody within the consumer space. When you’re in that type of position you need to be ready to take advantage of every open door that may present itself. Amazon does this exceedingly well; the Kindle discount is only the latest example.
Competition is no less intense in the enterprise space, especially for those involved in the hottest of markets (cloud, mobile, etc.). Therefore, businesses should try and take Amazon’s lead and ensure that they are adept at taking advantage of opportunities at every turn.
These responses do not have to be relegated to discounted pricing or bundles. In fact, they can take many forms, including:
Blog posts. Blogs are the perfect vehicle through which to address something – without necessarily directly addressing it. For example, a top competitor may release a product or service that impacts your market. Blogs are a great way to proactively respond to such a threat. Typically, blog posts allow a certain leeway that a standard press release may not; you’re able to take more of personalized approach in a blog, thereby affording the opportunity to express an opinion and potentially poke holes in a competitors’ story without really naming names. Blogs allow you to get your point across and control your message, while also refuting what the competition is touting.
Proactive outreach. If there’s a topic that ties into something your organization might be able to comment on, even peripherally, it’s often worth developing a media pitch around it and sending it out to the reporters covering the topic to see if they might be interested in speaking to a spokesperson. Recent hotbeds of activity include things like the Healthcare.gov site, the “bring your own device” movement, and more. If you have something concrete to offer it’s very likely you’ll get someone interested in speaking with you; after all, reporters do not necessarily have the time to research potential spokespeople who might lend an interesting perspective to the trends they’re covering. While there’s a chance your competition may be doing the same thing, there’s also a chance they’re not, putting you and your organization in a prime position.
Reactive outreach. Often, reporters and bloggers will use services such as ProfNet to solicit opinions from industry experts on hot topics (“Secrets to a Successful Cloud Deployment,” for example). At SpeakerBox, we keep a close eye on these things for items that might be relevant for our clients, and respond to them accordingly. Often they require quick turnaround, as deadlines are typically short. Still, the coverage resulting from them can be invaluable in positioning you well within your industry and against your competition.
Both proactive and reactive outreach can lead to…
Interviews. This old stand-by continues to be an excellent forum through which to state your case, tell your story, and contrast it to whatever anyone else might be saying. Too many people think of interviews like going to the doctor’s office – a time when they’ll be poked and prodded. But interviews offer spectacular opportunities to control your message and get opposing views across. Frame something this way: “Unlike our competition, we feel that XX offers users the chance to…” If you do something like this, try to shift the conversation away from the competition and drive it towards talking about what your organization has to offer.
While successful marketing and PR are truly built on having a sound long-term strategy, organizations must also be prepared to be nimble and highly tactical. Because when opportunity knocks, you definitely want to be able to open the door as wide as possible.
Want to learn more about being proactive and taking advantage of opportunities? Check out our DIY guide to media relations!
At this time of the year, it’s easy to get spooked by things that those around you are doing – but it’s also pretty unsettling to contemplate the things that many marketers should be doing but, disturbingly, are not.
Successful marketing often takes on the feel of an award-winning movie, with many components working together to create a seamless, successful production. All too often, however, marketing and PR programs end up looking more like a scene from Night of the Living Dead – simple, black and white, and FREAKING TERRIFYING.
That’s because many times those engaging in marketing communications do not always back up their efforts with a few little things that can really help them become successful. They build the skeleton – but then neglect to put some meat on its bones and dress it up.
With that in mind, here are a few things that should be a part of all communications programs…but often are not:
Maintain frequent and direct online interactions. It’s not enough to have a mere ectoplasm of a presence on Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere. Rather, you need to be haunting those online halls as much as you can. Frequent engagement with your followers is perhaps even more important than your posts, but it’s one area that, unfortunately, many organizations tend to neglect. Don’t. Online interactions are a great way to build customer loyalty and get your messages across.
Build relationships with the media. I’m not just talking about sending out press releases and following-up with an email or phone call – any old ghoul can do that! Take the time to really get to know the reporters and bloggers you’re interacting with. Ask them out for coffee. Pick their brains (I said “pick,” not “eat”) on the topics they like to see. Find out how they like to be pitched. Most importantly, put a face to the contact listed on your press releases. It will be so much easier to go back to those contacts later on.
Don’t be afraid…of the phone. As a society, we tend to rely on email – perhaps too much. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal story indicated that bosses are asking employees to pick up the phone. Verbal communication can provide a personal touch that emails certainly can’t. It can help with point #2, above.
Create a living, breathing, walking communications program. You don’t want your efforts to be some zombie-fied shell that only shuffles along to consume human…er, shuffles along on the strength of one or two components? No! Wherever possible, keep your program alive by relying not on one or two things (a press release and a pitch, for example), but combine them with other key tactics (Tweets, a blog post, perhaps even an email campaign) that truly fleshes out what you’re trying to accomplish. Make your campaign live, breathe, and sing (just like they did on Buffy the Vampire Slayer)!
Don’t be afraid to incorporate these things into your communications program. Doing so might provide some treats, while saving you from unwanted tricks.
As you sit unsuspectingly drinking your latte and reading the paper at your local coffee shop, a woman nearby begins levitating and destroying items with her eyes alone. You must be watching a horror movie, right?
While this might sound like something you would never see outside of the silver screen, it actually is part of the latest trend in advertising – prankvertising. As you watch the freak out of the coffee shop woman take place, you are being secretly taped for your reaction – which is likely to be extreme given the situation that is unfolding.
Prankvertising is the latest trend amongst advertisers and companies have been scrambling to out-do each other with elaborate scenarios designed to shock the viewers and go viral. The latest attempt at the tactic was sponsored by Sony to promote the movie Carrie, where an actress at a coffee shop simulated a Carrie-like meltdown, hurling patrons around the room using telekinesis.
The result was a YouTube video broadcasting the terror felt by coffee shop customers while they thought a horror movie was unfolding right before their eyes. Today, that video has over 38 million views and numerous articles written about it.
With brands finding it increasingly difficult to advertise effectively via traditional channels, techniques such as prankvertising are gaining traction among major brands. While the Carrie stunt was one of the first in the U.S., LG created a similar prank in Chile a few months back. LG placed one of their 84-inch HD TV in an office where the window should be and wired the office with hidden cameras. When unsuspecting job applicants sat in the office for an interview, a catastrophic meteor shower took place outside the “window,” complete with lights going out in the office. The interviewees, of course, freaked out, creating an amusing and very popular video – while also demonstrating the clear and lifelike picture of the TV.
Given the success of both of these campaigns, it seems as though prankvertising might continue to gain steam. And while the technique is sure to gain some laughs, it has the potential to backfire in a major way. Given the extreme nature of some of the stunts, a heart attack by an observer isn’t out of the question. So advertisers will have to weigh if the risk is worth the reward.
Until a prank does backfire, I’ll look forward to watching more pranks unfold, at least until this technique goes the way of the flash mob – eventually annoying the masses and dying out for the next big thing.
As my inaugural blog post, I wanted to discuss one of my favorite topics – social media marketing. I was in college when MySpace and Facebook were founded, back when only certain colleges were allowed Facebook accounts, and I had just graduated when Twitter was founded. Starting my career in marketing and public relations, it quickly became a core job function to figure out the whole “social media craze” to best enhance my employer’s brand. Well, it’s no longer a craze and is now a major marketing tool for many companies.
Companies want to use social media to create more awareness around a brand or product. But one pitfall is thinking that just because you promote a campaign online, it will “go viral.” While YouTube has been around since 2005, it didn’t become a huge marketing tool until much more recently. Every day there is a new video going viral whether it’s a cat video (75+ million views) or a clever marketing campaign like Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” or Evian’s “Baby and Me.”
Forbes contributor, Dan Schwabel, interviewed Jonah Berger, a Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, on this very topic. Berger believes making a campaign “go viral” isn’t just luck, but rather that following his STEPPS (Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Value, and Stories) formula will drive people to share content both on and offline. As an example, his first principal - social currency is the notion that people want to share content to make them look smart or “in-the-know.” So how do you capitalize on this? You create a campaign that makes people feel like they are insiders. This is just one example and you can check out the full interview for all six principals.
While Berger has seemingly figured out the perfect recipe to creating a viral campaign, here are some pitfalls to avoid:
- Trying to be cool – don’t try to be something you’re not; stick to what your brand knows.
- Target the wrong audience – if you don’t understand whom you’re marketing too, you’ll never appeal to your demographic no matter how exciting your campaign is.
- Failing to integrate your message – you can’t throw a microsite up or create a video and expect that to be enough. Content lives everywhere and needs multiple touch points to be successful. This is where PR and social media outreach can be incredibly helpful.
- Make it hard to share – Think about all of the social sharing tools and do the work ahead of time, make it easy for users to share/promote your campaign in seconds.
- Set out to create a viral campaign (my favorite tip) – The chances of creating a viral campaign are less than one percent, so concentrate on creating great content for your brand.
When it comes to marketing a campaign through social media, what are your best practices or pitfalls to avoid?
I know, I know enough about politics. Don’t worry, I won’t be disclosing my personal political views or really talking about the issues involved with the government shutdown at all. What I do want to talk about is how two national and several companies in the DC area are taking advantage of the unfortunate situation to advance their image while simultaneously helping out those directly affected by the shutdown.
The first round of applause goes to USAA and Hyundai. USAA was informing its members via its blog that they would (again) be offering interest free loans before the government even officially shut down stating, “Amid uncertainty about federal government funding, USAA is ready to offer a zero-interest payroll advance loan and other temporary solutions to affected members whose paychecks could be impacted.” I know not everyone can be a USAA member, and I may be biased because I am one, but USAA continuously truly goes above and beyond to provide great service.
Hyundai, in similar efforts is helping furloughed workers by allowing them to defer loan/lease payments until the shutdown is over. According to a posting on autoblog.com, “The automaker also says it will allow furloughed employees to buy new cars during October with help from a 90-day payment deferral.”
Some of the best displays of shutdown marketing are occurring right here in in and our nation’s capital, where it seems the largest amount of workers have been affected. According to articles/reports posted by USA Today and ABC News, the following companies in the DC area, ranging from food and drink to car services, are offering the following promotions, freebies and discounts in conjunction with the shutdown:
- Cupcake Blvd: One free cupcake to federal employees affected by the shutdown from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., through this Friday
- Del Campo: Happy hour prices for the duration of the shutdown, all day long, with a government ID
- Fibre Space: Free knitting lessons with entry into their daily “Intro to Knitting” classes
- Gourmet Cottage: 15% off for all furloughed government workers and contractors. Present your valid government ID, and the discount is good until the government re-opens
- Hailo: The DC Taxi app is offering $10 off your next ride with the code SHUTDOWN!
- The Howard Theatre: Free tickets for federal employees for three upcoming shows and 50% off the Sunday Rufus featuring Sly Stone Show
- Jose Andres’ restaurants (Jaleo, Zaytinya and Oyamel): Free sandwiches for affected workers “everyday until it’s over”
- Koons of Silver Spring, MD: A single free oil change for all furloughed government employees. Koons "realizes the importance of the livelihood of the federal government workforce," the article reports.
- Pork Barrel BBQ: Free food for the duration of the shutdown to all government employees (except members of Congress!)
- Potomac River Running: 15% off your entire purchase with a government or military ID, while the shutdown lasts!
- Sophie's Cuban DC: Make any purchase at the restaurant, and receive three free empanadas with a government ID
- Soupergirl: 10% "furlough special" discount for most government employees (Members of Congress will be charged DOUBLE!)
- Taylor Gourmet: Receive a “10 percent discount, career counseling and a cookie" with the purchase of any hoagie or salad
- Z-Burger: Free burgers to those with a federal ID card - "This might put us out of business," says co-founder Peter Tabibian. "But we want to show that we care more about the people than the politicians do."
What these companies are doing for their city is nothing short of awesome. But, it’s also smart marketing. Whether you’re Republican, Democrat, or Independent, not getting a paycheck sucks. And, when the doors of government re-open and money filters back into empty pockets, I’m sure those affected will remember these establishments and how they had their backs during a hard time.
Is there anything I missed? If so, please let us know!
If you’re a marketer that relies on Webinars, you’ve probably struggled with getting enough attendance at one time or another. Even if you’ve been at it a while – attendees can be hard to pin down.
We’ve compiled this handy list of ten tips to increase your registration numbers for your next Webinar.
- The basics. Pick an interesting title and topic. A great topic and speaker is a lot easier to sell than the alternative. Choose a title that is simple and easy to understand. It’s OK to be clever as long as attendees don’t have to work too hard to understand your topic. And while we’re at it, pick the right day and time to maximize attendance. Practitioners seem to agree that the best time to hold a Webinar is Tues-Thurs at 1:00 or 2:00 pm eastern time.
- Set goals for registrant and attendee numbers. Once you have a goal, you can make a plan to achieve it. It’s a lot easier to figure out if you were successful, if you know what you were trying to accomplish. Your registration goal will also help you figure out your attendee metrics; Hubspot estimates that on average only 30% of registrants will actually attend the webinar.
- Develop a Webinar calendar. Line up your speakers several months in advance, so you can promote multiple Webinars at a time. At the very least, notify registrants of upcoming Webinars as soon as the prior event is complete. Consider using the same day and time each month so attendees can block their calendars.
- Create a series. Consider a series of events on the same or similar topics. One great event will encourage attendees to register for the rest of the series. Plus a series of Webinars is an instant marketing campaign, which provides focus for the marketing team.
- Promote, promote, promote. Promote your events using every medium at your disposal. This could include email invitations, an email newsletter, your home page, social media, posts to relevant LinkedIn groups and your blog. Promote upcoming Webinars as soon as the schedule is set – people will register early if the topic is interesting.
- Reduce registration fields. See if you can get by asking for just name and email address. Attendees are turned off by a huge list of blank fields, especially if they’re uncertain of the value of the information that they’ll receive in exchange. If your goal is to maximize registration, steer clear of sales qualifying questions too. There’s plenty of time to do that after the Webinar, once you’ve proven your credibility.
- Interact with registrants. Allow registrants to pose questions in advance, provide event feedback and suggest other topics. Encourage your community to have a vested interest in your program, and they’ll reward you with their presence.
- Motivate registrants to attend. Consider offering an incentive such as a raffle, a free consultation or a copy of a relevant book or report. Find a way to excite and inspire your attendees that your event is worth their time.
- Remind and remind again. Don’t make a nuisance of yourself but confirm with attendees after they register and then again on the day of the event. One group saw a 10% increase in attendees by sending out a reminder one hour before the start time.
- Add value. Keep the conversation going after the Webinar. Send out a link to the presentation, a recap or a tip sheet with the best ideas from the Webinar. And of course, don’t forget to invite them to your next event.
- Katie Hanusik
How do companies define success? Is it through the production of great products? How about through effective marketing and PR of said products? Or is it a combination of both of these things?
Recently my esteemed colleague Jonathan Katz – an unabashed Apple fan -- wrote a post about Microsoft’s introduction of the latest versions of its Surface tablet PCs. His reaction to them was decidedly “meh.” Jonathan – correctly – maintained that Microsoft was updating and refreshing something that had stumbled out of the gate the first time. Based on the sales of the initial Surface line, why even bother giving the products a second chance?
From my perspective, there’s a good reason: Surface is actually a very impressive tool (early reviews of the Surface 2 seem to agree with this). I don’t claim to be an expert (I don’t own one – yet), but as someone considering purchasing a new laptop I have spent a considerable amount of time testing them out in stores and can honestly say that the hardware and software combination is impressive. Yes, Windows 8 is an acquired taste, but I honestly find that once you get the hang of it the OS is more pleasant to use and customizable than either iOS or Android.
But if the product is so impressive, why has it struggled so much? This comment, recently posted by a ZDNet reader, provides some perspective, specifically in regards to the Surface 2 launch:
The product has not even been released (and) the bad press is already there. No matter how MS will make them better, faster, lighter, with more memory, with better hardware and sell them for less, there will always be bloggers, Linux and Apple fanboys to remind them how unfashionable they have become.
At the end of the day, Microsoft’s problem is not that they’re not producing a good product; it’s the way the public perceives them. Years of catering to the enterprise and – however inadvertently – fostering a stodgy image have made them unfashionable. The fact that Microsoft was, at one time, considered an evil empire, and the folly that was Windows Vista, certainly does not help.
Contrast this with Apple. They are considered the epitome of cool. Their hardware and software (regardless of iOS 7’s Crayola-inspired look) are sleek and highly functional. Their TV ads are simple and effective at connecting with people. As a result, they sell millions of iPhones in only a few days, and they do it without seeming to break a sweat.
Conversely, Microsoft’s efforts at getting attention seem almost desperate. Witness their Smoked By Windows Phone promotion last year. I thought it was a great idea, but even I recognize that they were basically giving devices away because no one was otherwise interested in trying them. Then there are the wrong-headed attack ads against Google and Apple. They seem to miss the message that if you want to be one of the cool kids, you have to act like you don’t give a damn.
Obviously wouldn't be caught dead using a Microsoft product
Still, there’s some good news for Microsoft. They may not be considered cool right now, but they are innovating. The Surface, with its different form factor and loads of features, is truly unique from other tablets on the market. Windows Phone pairs some very nice hardware with a mobile OS that is fun to use. And the Xbox continues to push along, with Microsoft introducing new features and hardware designed to further embed the company in people’s living rooms.
Microsoft is the classic example of a company that is developing good products but suffering bad press and lousy sales. The good news for the company is that they’ve at least got the first piece of the puzzle solved. The technology seems to be there; now it’s just a matter of getting people interested without seeming to try. It’s a tricky proposition, and one that many companies have been faced with over the years (anyone remember the Pepsi Challenge?). But at least they’ve got a solid foundation to build off of.
If my job weren't dependant on it, I would have abandoned the internet for a good portion of last week because of my frustration over the reaction to Marissa Mayer's Vogue September cover story appearance.
Randomly, I rarely saw the contents of the article mentioned in rants. People really wanted to debate whether or not her cover appearance, as the CEO of Yahoo, was "too sexy" and a diservice to women everywhere.
The article actually starts off quoting Mayer on her love for divisable numbers (her favorite number is 12 because it's heavily divisble (what a geek), so in that spirit, here are some numbers that support her decision:
According to Vogue:
1.3 million people subscribe to Vogue (87% of readers are women)
206K unique visitors visit Vogue.com each month
37.9 is the average age of a Vogue reader
According to Pew Research:
78% of the U.S. population is online
91% of adults online use a search engine
92% of women online use a search engine
91% of American's age 30-49 use a search engine
And some dates:
August 16th - September issue of Vogue hits newsstands with Melissa Mayer on the cover.
(Note: I wish I had tracked data on reaction in the Twittersephere and the hundreds of online articles and blog posts dedicated to her cover appearance.)
August 22nd - Comscore reports that Yahoo surpasses Google as the most used search engine.
Ok, the Comscore report was on July numbers, but I hope you can see where I'm going with my math.
Someone in Marissa Mayer's position doesn't appear on the cover of Vogue as a vanity piece or because she cares deeply about divulging the lables on her maternity clothes and favorite work wear. It was a strategic decision for Yahoo's brand based on Vogue's reach and global visibility.
As for my personal opinion, it was a brilliant move. There are few magazine covers that are so anticipated or reported on so widely (specifically when the cover model is not a model).
Whether or not she anticipated the full extent of the backlash and support, she had to have calculated some of it into her decision.
As for the debate on the impact of her cover appearance relative to women's issues, clearly Mayer has no issues. She's confident enough to lay on a chaise lounge in a well-fitted dress and stillettos - which has much to do with why she is CEO of Yahoo in the first place and maybe, just maybe, why Yahoo eclipsed Google in July as the #1 search engine.
Has this ever happened to you – you’re combing through the website of a prospective or new client trying to get an understanding of what exactly it is they do, what services and products they offer and what sets them apart from the competition but after reading through the website you come away scratching your head, no closer to actually understanding the technology or service they provide?
This has happened to me more times than I can count, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m sure there was a time when I assumed it was me, that it was my fault, and that I just wasn’t grasping it. Heck, I’m sure there have been (and will continue to be) times when it is in fact my fault. However, I think the majority of the blame can actually be placed on the staggering use of buzzwords – in both marketing and PR.
I came across the infographic below (I know, another infographic!) and was amazed at how many of these words I have either 1. Read on a client’s website, 2. Written into press releases myself and 3. Heard used by clients, coworkers and oh just about everyone when trying to describe what sets them apart.
Take a look at the list of most overused buzzwords and see just how many you’ve been using and then let’s agree to try cutting back on our use of these overused – and now mostly empty of meaning – words.