By APNWLNS payday loans
May 22, 2012
My dentist does social marketing.
This should surprise nobody because social marketing has existed since the first two cavemen competed by selling left-over mastodon meat (“My mastodon steaks come with 30% fewer fatal microbes!”). Businesses have always used the power of social networking, long before social media became a reality. Social media changes nothing and thinking about primitive social marketing helps to clarify your social outreach.
Social marketing is, in essence, assuring that people talk about you in positive terms. As an example, when you move to a new city, odds are you ask everyone about their recommendation for a good dentist. Some will warn you about bad jaw crackers, and others will wax poetic about how gentle and through is their dental doc. This is social promotions in its most basic form. The product (dental services) is referenced by customers based on the positioning criteria they most vale (money, painlessness, how cute the hygienist is). The product is the promotion.
Above all else, this one element is critical. If your product is not important or its basic requirements are not of sufficient quality, then no social promotions follow. The chairs in my dentist’s office overlook a pleasant, sunny harbor littered with sailboats. None of that would matter if he had ham hock hands, was skimpy on the Novocain and had a hygienist who looked like a haddock.
Social promotions, on- or off-line, have two forms — passive and active. Passive social promotions are based on creating good or great products, then hoping that customers talk about you. This works upon occasion, typically on a local geographical basis. But when your customers are not neighbors and they all share Internet conversations, active social promotions are elemental. Active social promotion requires giving people both a reason and concepts to communicate. My dentist offers cash rewards for new patients, which provides many people with extra incentive to recommend him. What he does not do is frame this incentive with the brand and baseline messaging he wants new patients to hear. This leaves his customers to decide what to say about the size of his fingers, the cleanliness of his hypodermic needles, and that his hygienist’s implants double as a head rest. Active social promotions would eliminate unsupervised thinking on the part of his customers.
The reason social media is now the rage among marketers is that is offers them the opportunity to orchestrate active social promotions, guiding if not actually regulating conversations and tying outreach to their branding. Whereas my dentist trusts his customers to socially promote his services, he has near zero insight into if they are promoting him, how they are doing it and if they are saying the right things about him.
For social promotions, especially online, you need to commit as if it were any other marketing program. This means you need to invest, guide and monitor the process.
Investment: If you think social promotions are free, find another job … quickly. Social promotions require investment, and a rather constant one at that. It mainly takes manpower, which is expensive. Some companies launch social media promotions by relying on their executives to blog or participate in online forums, but execs are the most expensive people in your company and not cost effective. Budget for social and think long about distracting key employees from their primary jobs.
Guidance: Left to themselves, people inside and outside your company will invent things to say about your product. Sometimes their compositions are factual and position products well. More often they are empty, repetitive or even destructive. Any social promotion must start with training about what to say, who to say it to, and when to pass the ball to your PR team.
Monitoring and correction: Since the goal of social promotions is to get customers to talk about your products in a positive light, you need to monitor what is being said about you. If you see few conversations, or if those conversations violate your brand guidelines, then you must correct the defect. No use investing for negative traction.
Foremost though is to focus on the product first, then guide advocacy. If the product isn’t right, no amount of social promotion will work and might even create public backlash. Make sure your customer’s teeth are white and they get a lollipop on the way out.
November 22, 2011
It is odd to encounter plain spoken and seemingly honest politicians.
Being a professional cynic, I doubt nearly everything. Having been a political animal my entire adult life, I’m doubly cynical about anyone who campaigns to achieve power. To be disappointed in broken political promises is a sign of naivety. To believe any political brand shows trust where there should be none.
So to witness a handful of governors and other candidates speaking bluntly, without equivocation, and taking positions normally considered poisonous … and then watch their poll numbers rise … is both a lesson in marketing and possibly a sign of the Apocalypse.
Authenticity matters in all matters. If you could not take your spouse’s word, then your marriage would be destined for the dumpster (which always makes me wonder about Bill and Hillary). When corporations promote products that do not deliver, the acquired lack of authenticity becomes fatal. If Charlie Sheen were to sober-up, nobody would talk about him because his acting chops are not Grade-A. In instances of marriage, political promotions, product pitches and even behaving badly as a brand, authenticity is essential.
Authenticity mechanics are interesting for marketers. If a business remains authentic in its operations, then it creates no net negatives. New customers, having never heard bad words about the offering, are more apt to give it a try even if there are no significant positive recommendations. That alone tends to advance a product once competitors begin to over promote or under-deliver. I once ran marketing for a company whose lead product was ugly, had no GUI and required training to use. But it always worked and there was always someone on the other end of the phone to help, which created in the market an interesting perception of stability, which IT buyers liked.
I have seen the opposite apply. When inexperienced marketers promise more than the product can do, they lose authenticity. When the product performs poorly or is unstable (ala Microsoft Windows), it loses authenticity. When tech support doesn’t, you lose authenticity if it were promised. Political warfare is largely composed of destroying an opponent’s authenticity (Herman Cain was building a brand of authenticity before unsubstantiated rumors of sexual improprieties arose). If Charlie Sheen were spotted praying at a church altar, not only would his brand be destroyed but I suspect the church would be as well via a well placed lightning bolt.
Social media enforces authenticity, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. No degree of smart copywriting, aggressive PR or slick advertising will wash away the ruminations of one angry ex-customer. Betray your brand or product promises and you will be portrayed as unauthentic in digital public squares. Engagement with the masses, participating in social media, reinforces authenticity and may be the new normal for PR.
Authenticity above all else. Otherwise be unelected by customers.
July 5, 2011
Social media is an ad hoc referral system gone horribly right.
Referrals are primarily a means to building business, brands and bucks. Ask my dentist (to whom I would gladly refer anybody). He is maniacal about soliciting his patients to make referrals, and he gets them. He knows that patients move away or die (hopefully from old age and not botched dental surgery), so he is constantly refilling his demand chain for crowns, fillings and laser whitening.
Referrals occur in every business, from your neighborhood dry cleaner to multinational technology companies. The larger the organization, the more it drifts from the quaint and personal sounding “referral” into the more Machiavellian sounding “buzz generation.” Yet it is essentially the same thing. At either extreme we are asking, coaxing, bribing or begging people to talk to other people about our products, preferably in a positive manner.
Which brings us to social media, which in its purest form is simply user-focused referral facilitating technology. When someone clicks on a Facebook “like” or a Google “+1″, they are making a referral. The only difference is that the referral is instantaneous, low effort and broadcast to everyone that person knows instead of just one single acquaintance. But, as with my dentist (he is really good) people need a reason to refer. Motivation. Without it, a referral never happens. The primary reasons people make referrals include:
Obligation: Sometimes people feel obliged to make a referral. Often services professionals will ask clients to make a referral for them (this often occurs in Linkedin when one makes a request to be referred to a connection’s friend). This is the least effective method because the referral, if made at all, is done under duress or a sense of guilt. The recipient of the referral is rarely interested.
Bribery: My dentist is unashamed to offer a $50 discount on your next outrageously priced dental cleaning if you refer a new patient to him. The motivation is not self-sustaining. Bribes work, but you have to continue the bribing process to continue the behavior. This is why smart parents never bribe their kids because the kids will turn it into an extortion racket.
Self-importance: Most people have egos (I don’t because my ex-wife won mine as part of the divorce settlement). When ego is involved, making a referral is less about glee over the referred product or service, and more about being important in the eyes of the person to whom the referral is made. This is not the worst source of a referral, but it often lacks an authentic connection. People occasionally refer items of little or no consequence to others, and thus do nothing positive to the product’s brand.
Pleasant experience: This is the most common motivation in social media for referrals. Recently a cocktail lounge opened down the street, which pleasantly met with my fiance’s and my satisfaction. I clicked a rating button in Yelp, which seemed like a nice gesture to the new and gracious owners. Much has been written about striving to slightly exceed a customer’s expectations and how this incentivizes them to promote your wares. Social media, because it is a low-impact tool for ad hoc referrals, plays well into this mode of motivation.
Authentic excitement: People go nuts when they are authentically excited about something, which dovetails nicely into brand management theory. Authentic excitement is on the other side of the referral / proselytization line, though that line can be blurry. When jazzed about a product, people not only refer it, they actively promote it, and use social media more as a social-network building mechanism (“I want to connect to you because of our shared passion.”) Some companies establish fan pages on Facebook when consumers of their product are not “fans”, which leads to utterly public and embarrassingly sparse pages.
It should be obvious that the last two motivations are different than the rest because they come spontaneously from consumers for selfless motivations. The other three are exercised only for some personal benefit (assuaging guilt, making a buck and generating influence). This is not to say the first three should be ignored — after all, pumps must be primed. But long-lasting referrals come from people who want to reach out to others in order to spread the happiness they encountered.
Engineering authentic happiness leads to everlasting referrals.
July 21, 2010
Dilbert’s distrust of marketing exists for a reason.
Back when I had a regular job — during the Taft administration — my co-workers loved to drop Dilbert cartoons on my desk whenever marketing was the strip’s topic.Â In one installment a customer asked Dilbert if he was lying about a product, to which Dilbert replied “No, that’s marketing’s job.”Â This naturally reinforces the very stereotype that Seth Godin outlined in his masterwork All Marketers Are Liars.
The reputation of marketing people has been rightfully sullied because many marketing “professionals” destroy reputations — of their companies and themselves.Â They fail to grasp both the mechanics of reputation as well as its essence.Â Much has been written about the former since reputation in social media is a hot topic, yet the latter has been incompletely analyzed for high technology.Â Reputation for a company and its technology products are intertwined, and failed market reputations have a number of causes.
I assert that marketing must be in charge of maintaining corporate reputation.Â Marketing is not responsible for defining corporate/product reputation as that involves strategic business decisions and tradeoffs.Â However, assuring the reputation is maintained and grows falls in marketing’s domain because they define the interaction with customers who in turn defines the public’s perception of your reputation.
The dictionary declares that reputation means “the estimation in which a person or thing is held, esp. by the community or the public generally.”Â Thus marketing’s role is to assure the perception by the public is sufficient to achieve corporate objectives.Â In order to do so, marketing operatives need to understand the elements of reputation, which are slightly more complicated than a typical Starbuck’s order (“I’d like a triple shot soy mocha, cinnamon frapomaco, extra foam, nutmeg, with a twist and a half gainer.”)Â Though not exhaustive, the following short stack of basic reputation elements common to business and technology are essential and ones that marketing staff should have tattooed in reverse on their foreheads so they can review it every morning in the bathroom mirror.
Delivering on the promise: Everybody makes promises.Â With technology the basic promises are that it will deliver some features, cause some expected outcomes to occur, and works reliably enough that your tech support staff will not require extra medication (and given some recent tech support interactions I have had, I fear some support teams are over medicated).Â Failing to keep these basic promises is a fast path to fiscal oblivion.
Exceeding expectations: Merely meeting customer expectations give them no reasons to discuss your reputation.Â Under delivering will, though in ways slightly less pleasant than attending confession after a Vegas bender.Â However, exceeding expectations, even slightly, creates positive reputation and one that people will communicate to future customers.
Timeliness: Great products or service delivered late might as well have not been delivered at all.Â Lack of timeliness is frustrating to customers, so you have to deliver within what they think is reasonable (no matter how unreasonable) or at very least within your promised timeline.Â I once told Nokia the battery on my new cell phone didn’t hold a charge.Â The department in charge of replacements took over a week to call and tell me they would send a replacement.Â In that week Nokia’s reputation in my alleged mind fell, and I quit recommending their products.
Consistency: I’m an Oakland A’s fan because they consistently disappointment me.Â Sure, it would be better if they won, but at least I know what to expect of them.Â Consistency has value because customers know what to expect.Â You can set expectations low as long as you meet or exceed those expectations consistently (in fact, there may be danger in setting expectations low and occasionally exceeding them by a wide margin, because customer may expect such surprises in the future).
Let’s put these four precepts into practice using Microsoft Vista as an unfair example.
- The promise of a better and simpler operating system was broken.
- If failed to meet expectations by a large margin.
- It was very, very late.
- However, it maintained Microsoft’s consistency in disappointing the market.
One out of four ain’t bad.Â Oh wait, it is!Â Perhaps this explains Microsoft’s faltering reputation.Â Let’s try a different technology for contrast.Â The iPad would be appropriate:
- The promise of a “wow” device that redefined the relation between man and media was met.
- It was beyond the public’s expectations, which for Apple are pretty high anyway.
- It was delivered on time.
- It arrived in a manner and style consistent with the public’s expectations.
Four out of four is a good score, and explains why Steve Jobs can afford to buy a new liver yet Steve Ballmer can’t acquire hair plugs.
January 8, 2008
Alas, poor Netscape. I knew them heretofore.
It is indeed sad to see the reaper claim Netscape Navigator. And sadly enough, the very thing that brought them fame may well have killed them — namely buzz.
When the net was first being popularized, and HTML was still a quirky technology at best, we had limited choices for web surfing. People with graphical terminals (you lucky *#&**#^!) had Mosaic. Primitive as it was, it at least allowed for direct and intuitive access to the few thousand web pages in existence at that time. It was a durn site better than the text-based browsers (lynx) to which I was restricted.
Then along came Netscape. They picked-up where Mosaic left-off, adding polish and professionalism. Andreessen, Clark and the rest of the Netscape team knew the net better than most anyone at the time, and leveraged that knowledge in one of the earliest instances of Internet buzz marketing.
And it worked … very, very well. Word of Netscape Navigator spread like a Santa Anna wildfire, and soon everyone had downloaded a copy. In short order, buzz had driven Navigator into total market dominance. The only thing that could disrupt this market leadership was to change the default browsing experience, which is what Microsoft did when it began bundling Internet Explorer on every new desktop machine sold on the planet.
Buzz marketing is good, but it is not good enough by itself to displace that degree of forced adoption. Buzz is good enough to claim market, and in this case to end the long life of Netscape Navigator.
Firefox achieved it’s current market penetration (10% by common estimates, 17% by traffic on this web site) through buzz. By providing something different (a browser that worked the same across three major desktop platforms) and proving itself safer that Microsoft’s browser, they generated self-sustaining buzz. When my non-techie family members started to ask me about Firefox, then I knew its buzz had achieved break-through status.
The chart above shows the Google search trends for the words “firefox” and “netscape” (Firefox is the blue line — click on the graphic for a larger version). Firefox wasn’t even released until late 2004, and yet had substantial buzz early in the year. Netscape buzz continued its steady downward trend by offering nothing newsworthy.
If anything, Firefox buzz accelerated the demise of Navigator. I won’t opine on if this is a good or bad turn of events, but it illustrates the two edges of the buzz sword. Not only can buzz be used to increase awareness of and demand for a product, it can diminish the demand for competing products. In this buzz is somewhat unique, in effect sucking all available oxygen out of a market and suffocating competitors.
Yet another reason buzz management needs to be part of every marketer’s armory.