Friday, April 30, 2010

RT @chrisbrogan A "you" story always trumps a "me" story.

Happy Friday!

It's such a beautiful day and the sun is beckoning me for a long walk.  I'm going to listen to it but first I want to share some thoughts with you.

I've had writer's block this week.  I had trouble fixing on something that inspired me to put digital pen to paper.  I've had flashes of ideas (you should see the started posts on Blogger) but I've not been able to crystallize the "aha!" in a meaningful way...  Until I came upon that RT by David Alston (aka @davidalston), the VP of Marketing and Community at Radian6 (a nifty company). 

I've a funny little story to tell you.  I started following someone on Twitter some time ago.  I liked her tweets and RT on some of the same webinars (and simultaneous tweets).  She'd always start the day with something bright and shiny and then fire off content through the day and into the night.  Staying power is an understatement!  One day, in response to a cheery note, I thanked her for her bright sunshiny-ness.  A few minutes later, she invites me to connect on LinkedIn which I accepted with a request to chat live "in the spirit of multi sensory connecting."  She quickly responded that while that would be lovely, she's in the middle of buying and selling a home, extremely busy and not available for two to three weeks.  I said I understood and wished her well in her house adventures.

Since that day, I have continued to build a network, meet new partners in person or over the phone, connect new partners with others, share information and land some great opportunities at the same time.  Since that day, I have watched her tweet constantly from morning through night (love TweetDeck).  Very few of those tweets had to do with an impassioned selling of her home.  Lest you think I was obsessed, it was impossible to have TweetDeck running without seeing at least one of her tweets in a fifteen minute block of time.  It got to the point where I wondered how she was tweeting and eating, doing laundry, maintaing personal relationships, etc.  It also got to the point where I realized that she was either quoting some inspirational speaker or retweeting someone else.  Not valuable to me but maybe to others and I've stopped following her.

I just re read that paragraph and it seems like my feelings were hurt.  No, I really do think this was comical.  Truly.  I've learned, late in this career game, the difference between the "me" story and the "you" story.  There's so much pressure to get this social media thing right, to tweet at the "right" time, the "right" way to get others to RT your 140 character tome, to use hashtags effectively, to get your "personal brand" out there, to create buzz, to create buzzworthy social objects, to be a Chief Editorial Officer (quoting Brian Solis), etc.  It can border on obsession especially for people who are perfectionists and need to get everything right the first time.

Sometimes, I feel that Twitter is like a room full of hundreds of people shouting stuff at the same time not unlike commodities trading pits of yore with paper flying everywhere and people growing hoarse.  And, this is what I feel this woman is doing to elevate her profile and develop a following.  You've got to tweet and retweet (and make sure it's good!) to get some momentum.  Hey, she's running a business and this is absolutely a part of it and which is not unlike this blog.

I may never be a Mitch Joel, a Joseph Jaffe or a Jay Baer and may never have thousands following me on Twitter or reading my posts.  I've made my peace with that.  They have the luxury of speaking to many now based on their many hours of hard work and their excellent insight and value they've brought to clients.  To get to where they are now tweeting to many, they made it a "you" story.  As I mentioned in my last post, just because it's online, doesn't mean you cut in line to get there.  And I think many of us forget that very salient point.

Which brings me to the title of this post.  The personal and the brand story I deliver should always be all about you the listener and/or customer to truly be successful, to truly be meaningful and, to truly earn a role as a "trusted advisor" in the long term.  I may be cute and I may occasionally deliver a bon mot but none of that ever matters if my focus isn't laser honed on the person with whom I'm having the conversation.

The personal touch matters.  The listening matters.  The focus matters.  The authenticity matters.  What you bring to the table as a marketer in response to the listening also matters.  Relationships are not one sided; they are borne of the value shared and the trust earned by both parties.  If I am effective as a marketer in delivering what you need and I treat you the way that you require to be satisfied, I earn your loyalty as my customer and maybe, if I'm lucky, you'll tell a few friends or strangers.

Which is why I've got no choice but to pound the meaningful networking/connecting pavement beyond what I write here, tweet or RT.  I've no choice but to speak via either email (but preferably phone) and then in person to see how I can be a good partner to someone.  Sure, it takes work and time.  But, I'm not complaining.  The road to being seen as someone's "trusted advisor" is paved with these steps.  And, the scenery is great!

What's your take?  Please send me your thoughts.


Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

p.s.  Some footage of a trading pit to illustrate my point!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate


Who knew that a line from "Cool Hand Luke" would be a title of one of my missives?  Certainly not me!  But, as you'll see, it's very fitting.

I was doing my typical email and media review this morning to get caught up when I came across this post by Robert Paterson.  It's a quick read but I'll excerpt the part that struck me most:

"I am repelled by the Corporate Voice.  It's the voice of many who use Social Media today who have co-opted the tools and still set out to manipulate.  Who are so obviously Narcissistic - pretending to have concern for me but in truth being concerned only about themselves.  ...  Voice is the key to engagement I think.  Not only the voice on the page but the actual voice.  I am acutely aware of the spoken corporate voice now."

Wow.  That woke me up more than the cafe faux lait I had this morning.  This post was about authenticity or the perceived lack thereof.  It makes one ask what is our brand and what does it stand for?  Do we believe in the solution we offer to our customers and prospects?  Do we know we can do better but are offering "good enough for government work" because we don't have the passion or drive?  Do we do "good enough for government work" because of disdain for our customers in the form of "They don't get it" or "They won't appreciate it."  Do we realize how disconnected we are from the brand message and how much cynicism it creates (see above post)?

Is it lack of authenticity or lack of knowledge?  Maybe we don't know how to use the channels that we've been given.  Maybe we're on Facebook, Twitter, etc., because someone else has told us to and our skepticism is showing through -- hence the Corporate Voice that Robert finds so repellent.  To Mitch Joel's point, we forget that our brand differentiators are not the flash videos and other whizzbangery but the unique features and/or benefits that give customers and prospects a warm fuzzy.

Maybe...  you know who you are...  the experts, in their passion for the media, don't remember that we've not all reached their level of expertise or belief and have to take a few steps back to manage expectations.  And...  you know who you are...  the marketers need to explain better their objectives or learn how to ask better questions of the experts to maximize success.  Here's a neat little JaffeJuice vlog (also here):

I like to say that there are three sides to every story: one side, the other side and the truth which is my takeaway here.  I think Robert is right when he suggests there's a certain artificiality going on but it's extreme to suggest that it's all about narcissism or WIIFM as opposed to not understanding which messages are best for which channels.

Robert's complaint is actually the symptom.  It's the strategy that's ailing.  In this heyday of ADD via social media, having the right content tweeted at the right time, posted in the right place, delivered via iPhone app, etc., we have forgotten our marketing fundamentals.  Good, solid marketing strategy is brand, product and channel agnostic.  The discipline you follow to do anything right in marketing is the same for a waffle and for a widget.  You don't "cut in line" or omit steps simply because it's for Twitter or Facebook.

Of course there are significant differences by channel.  Yes.  You're right.  But we should never talk about delivery or content variations if we don't know where we want to be vis a vis our competitive set: market share at the end of a specified time period, in terms of customers, in terms of prospects or whatever other metric you might have in mind.  If I don't know my reason for being generally, then it's a bit premature to map out my social media tactics/strategies which is where I think Robert's complaint actually belongs.  And, to Joseph Jaffe's point, we fail when we fail to articulate clearly what our strategies are and what our metrics are for success.  And, the social media experts fail when they don't understand our objectives clearly and/or are too eager to sell us the next bright flashy object.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not arguing for painfully long marketing strategy sessions with your agency where you are holed up in a windowless room for 3 days straight.  It is possible, though, to take a deep breath, assess your competitive environment and design your strategy based on fact and not hysteria.  At that point, you become authentic.

What's your take?  Please leave a note below or send me your thoughts!

Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jimmy Dean, Snickers and Betty White


Since we've been talking a spell, I have a confession to make.  I wish I were one of those organized types where I've a whole pile of posts ready for publishing at a moment's notice...  but I'm not.  There's something about the pressure or the adrenaline of publishing as I go not unlike the "last minute" style that served me well (though sometimes painfully) through grad school.  My parents tried everything to break me of the habit...  Clearly didn't work.  Sorry, Mom and Dad!

I write when I'm struck by a random comment, a tweet, a clicked link or even a friend's Facebook status caught during a moment of issue avoidance or what I like to call brianstorming.  Yes, today's post is thanks to my friend K's recent status and her ode to Jimmy Dean's breakfast commercials.  Here's what she wrote:

"I drop everything when there's a Jimmy Dean commercial on.  Have never eaten any JD products, but love the Sun as a character.  Just saw the one where he's helping an under-performing Thunder.  So cute."

She's right.  Those commercials are cute and maybe more important to Jimmy Dean, entertaining and watchable even more than once.  And, since you know I can't resist a chance to embed video, I'm going to share some of those ads with you.  The first one is the Jimmy Dean lightning and thunder commercial she mentioned.

Here's another with the solar system.  I get a kick out of this one, too.

There are a bunch of other ones on YouTube which you can find by writing "Jimmy Dean commercial" in the search box.  There's the break room, the rainbow, the fog, the eclipse and a couple with the sun and his family.  They're all about thirty seconds long so you can whip through them in no time.

Everyone has a different idea of what's funny.  What entertains me is imagining that weather elements and the solar system show up to a nondescript office everyday and interact with humans as if that's perfectly normal.  I also find it funny that the planets fall out of orbit because they didn't eat breakfast and fall back into alignment thanks to a breakfast sandwich.  It's so wacky yet it's a good way of making us wonder how we might fall out of alignment if we're hungry or low on energy.

Is there anything beyond cute and watchable in these commercials?  If you go back to K's Facebook status, probably not.  She's never eaten any Jimmy Dean product and doesn't indicate intent to try.  It's freemium and freemium only.  I've Googled to see if I can find Jimmy Dean breakfast sales performance since this campaign started but I've not hit the jackpot.  If you can point me to some, I'd appreciate it.

Why might this be the case?  To me, these feel like part of the agency's capabilities presentation or even a PSA for eating breakfast more than a commercial for Jimmy Dean breakfast casseroles.  "This is your body.  This is your body without breakfast.  Any questions?"  Generally speaking, the message is, if you want to keep up your energy, make sure you fuel your body.  That's in contrast to the only way or maybe even best way to fuel your body effectively is via a Jimmy Dean product which was the desired takeaway here.  Regardless of our personal view of the spots, we get so caught up in the gimmick that we completely overlook the brand and the product which is a complete no no.

One could say that the Snickers Super Bowl commercial with Betty White employs the same tactics as that of Jimmy Dean.  Betty White could be the Thunder or the Solar System Planets or any of the other characters in the commercials in need of energy.  The difference in impact is staggering, however.  Where the Snickers commercial succeeds is the quick change from Betty White to the guy playing football with not a whole ton of copy.  It doesn't belabor the point which would take our minds off the product and onto the wacky.  See:

The simple equation is Betty White + Snickers = Football Playing Dude which is the type of math that Jimmy Dean wanted.  That math works for Snickers because it was, pardon the pun, the center of the universe in that commercial.  It was disciplined and it didn't distract.  And, by all accounts, it was very highly regarded.  Some may argue that Betty White stole Snickers' thunder.  I disagree -- I think Snickers gave Betty White the ultimate guest starring role in its own television show which triggered the Facebook SNL page and, ultimately, her May 8 appearance on the show.

What's the lesson here?  A while back, I wrote this post that made the case for boring.  The premise then was that "Marketing" succeeds when we resist gimmicks and one-trick pony campaigns and ground our message using fundamental marketing principles.  In this case, it means respecting the brand and the brand promise while making it central to the message.  Assuming of course, the brand team and their agency mastered the brand personality and promise in the first place (I hope so).  Unfortunately for Jimmy Dean, I don't think this level of detail or discipline was achieved even though I do like the ads.

What's your view on this?  Send me your thoughts!


Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

Monday, April 19, 2010

ProductCamp, Relationship Building and Social Media


It's Monday and if you follow some of Dan Zarella's work, you know that you're to tweet for maximum RT effect today and on Friday.  Yes yes... I'm grossly oversimplifying this.  He's done extensive validated research on the topic, he is clearly a master and I'm still learning.

Learning brings me to ProductCamp and, more specifically, ProductCamp Chicago (here).  Have you heard of it or been to one?  For those new to ProductCamp, it's popularly called an unconference because it's fee free for those who attend with content volunteered and presented by the participants.  It's an opportunity for product managers, marketers, entrepreneurs, job hunters and anyone else interested to come together, share ideas, brainstorm others and walk away with new perspectives and new contacts.  

You're welcome as a newbie or a veteran (regardless of your industry or affiliation) and both have equal weight in voting for the proposed topics that are presented.  The other nice thing about ProductCamp is that it's a big no no to pitch, sell or any variant of the two.  You're there to learn and share solely.  It's a safe environment.  You can learn more about it here.  And, there is this video by Paul Terry Walhus from #pca10 (that's the March 27 ProductCamp Austin) that features product marketers and entrepreneurs.  The comments are very interesting so I recommend a viewing.

Are you wondering if this is a plug for something I support?  Well... sort of.  This post is really borne of two items I read on Mitch Joel's blog this past weekend.  The first one has a link to an Atlantic article from July, 1945 and is a call for channelling our creative innovative energies and imagining the future based on our present and past.  It's inspiring considering it was written when World War II was winding down and scientists were ready to use their gifts for the greater good as opposed to warmaking.  It's also very applicable to the optimistic and innovative character of ProductCamp (demonstrated in the video).

The other one was about Social Capital and how technology platforms often delude us into believing that we have more social capital equity than we actually have.  We often make requests of others who barely know us or what we can bring to the table.  In the real world, we'd never ask someone we've just met only moments ago for $20 and if we did, we'd likely get a polite refusal.  So why is it that we're asking for someone's endorsement (via RT or other) in the online space?  Here's what he has to say:

"Social Media is not an open network.  It's a community.  And, like any community, you have to earn your stripes within it.  You have to make deposits into the community.  You have to add value.  You have to make yourself present, so that when you do have a request, the people being asked are proud and happy to help you in your initiative.  ...  you don't build community because you need it, you build community slowly, over a long period of time, so that when you do need something, it is there for you.  It doesn't really work the other way around."

In my last post, we talked about engagement as an online as well as offline requirement.  We have to develop a three dimensional, symbiotic relationship.  The argument behind the Authenticity Touch Point quote from Jim Matorin is that your success is embedded in both the depth and the breadth of your relationships which only can be delivered through online and offline exchanges.  As I mentioned before (which also quotes Mitch Joel), relationships are derived from delivered value and earned trust.  Without either, we won't go very far.

How do I know this is true?  Well, Yoda (introduced here) and I spent 45 minutes on the phone talking about some business ideas we have with some follow ups to take place shortly.  But for this belief we both have in three dimensional relationships, this business idea would never have materialized let alone have work initiated against it.  Here's an excerpted quote from Yoda that I shared previously:

"Count on personal relationships to carry you farther.  The new economy is not just about the exchange of information; it's about the exchange of relationships.  ...  To break through that noise, to get your message out, count on personal networks.  Relationships are the most powerful form of media."

And it's not just me who sees benefits to relationships.  ProductCamps have been very successful since the first one held in Silicon Valley (2008).  One might ask why they've grown as fast as they have and spread as far as they have (Australia).  The content exchange builds and maintains the community described by Mitch Joel.  Despite technology as a communications platform, there is a certain X factor involved in the development and exchange of information; when groups of people come together, form a community, contribute to conversations, introduce new concepts or build on great ideas, relationships are formed. If you watch the video all the way through, each person expresses these thoughts in their own way.  There's something to be said for creating Authenticity Touch Points and making deposits into the community.

Please consider signing up for ProductCamp Chicago if you'll be in town.  And, more importantly, please propose topics for discussion. The one not proposed might be the one we all need the most.  It'd be a thrill to see you there and participate!


Parissa Behnia

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Lively Art of (Social Media) Conversation? Or Cognitive Dissonance?

Hey Everyone,

The weather in Chicago has been spectacular and I'm hoping you've been blessed by the weather gods as well!  It was a long winter and we've earned a nice warm breeze for a change.

I shared my last post with some of my LinkedIn groups and also discussed it in "offline" conversations as well.  Everyone agreed in principal with the recruiter as well as Jim Matorin, founder of Smartketing, who posted this really great comment (see below):

"The key word here is engagement.  I am beginning to realize people are struggling with this concept both as marketers and networkers.  As a result (I am going out on the limb here), those that circle back and utilize that personal touch, what I call ATP (Authenticity Touch Points) will be the real movers and shakers in the future, while the rest will sit back and begin to wonder why their social media initiatives failed.  When this happens, the buzz about social media will diminish and people will move on to the next hot topic since Web 2.0 has made us more ephemeral as a society." 

I love social media but I think Jim's right in saying that there's got to be an offline aspect to the online connecting to be relevant in the long term.  I believe in a three dimensional symbiotic style of relationship where I'm able to tell you and share with you what it is I bring to the table beyond how well I write a profile on LinkedIn or how witty I am with my tweets.  As I mentioned previously, I've got to earn your trust while I'm delivering what's valuable to you which drives Jim's Authenticity Touch Points.  I'll share with you two separate incidents that happened to me recently that bring Jim's point home.  

Number One
I briefly met someone at a recent networking event, exchanged cards and agreed we should speak further as time was limited.  This person was proactive and connected with me rather quickly on LinkedIn and followed me on Twitter prior to scheduling a time to speak.  I accepted the add, returned the follow favor on Twitter and scheduled a phone call with her to learn about her business and offer ways to drive referrals (or information) to her.  We finally spoke this week.  Literally just two hours after the call, I received a DM from that person on Twitter:  

"Thank you for following me.  Go to (site hidden) for current relevant info for marketing yourself and your brand."

Here were my thoughts:  "Huh?  Why am I receiving this system generated DM from you a few hours after we've spoken to one another?  Why are you sending me to your manager's blog?"

Cognitive dissonance.  This new relationship started offline, went online, germinated offline but then all of that nascent good will veered unintentionally off course.  I recognize Twitter has a lead generation tool but my point is that the human touch element has to intervene and ask before you pull that automated DM trigger: Is this appropriate?  Does it fit the conversation I've had or need to have?  Does this position me in the most flattering light?

Number Two
I received an invitation to connect along with a specific note from someone whom I've not met in real life.  I looked at this person's profile to learn what we might have in common and accepted the invitation.  I also included this note:

"Thanks for the add and your note! I would like to learn how I can be a good connection for you. Is there a time this week that you are available to chat "live" (so to speak)?"

Folks, my reward for trying to create meaningful and fruitful connections was a grammar lesson.  I was informed that I should have used the word "could" instead of can.  

Here were my thoughts: "Huh?  Ok, you're right I made a mistake but...  You invited me to connect.  I'm trying to jumpstart the relationship and be more than another notch on your connection lipstick case (paraphrasing Pat Benatar)."

Cognitive dissonance.  But for LinkedIn, I would not have known this person which makes it an insanely great tool for the good.  I was eager to develop a relationship but was surprised by the online (clearly needed) grammar lesson.  I was willing to generate goodwill but now, I'll admit that I'm not as motivated.

Before someone says that these are a reflection of the younger generation, the anecdotes represent both the Boomers and the Millennials.  There is a cross generational struggle with how to best harness all forms of social media while at the same time building trusting and meaningful relationships with business partners and customers.

Yesterday, I listened to Brian Solis speak about Social Media Optimization courtesy of the nice people at Hubspot.  It, like his other webinar I shared with you before (here and here), was excellent.  One of the concepts was about Social Objects (blog, tweet, YouTube video, etc.) and how we have to increase these objects' findability using appropriate keywords, hashtags, etc., with the goal of incremental leads and maybe revenue.  He also has a new spin for CEO: Chief Editorial Officer.

Quite good and he was, as before, spot on.  What gives me pause is Jim's quote and what I call "stickiness" (or what makes customers want to stay with me instead of heartlessly leaving me for another).  Beyond great content which increases my Social Objects' findability, what am I bringing to the table?  Am I earning trust via delivered value?  Have I taken pains to learn about my customers, understand what they need even if they can't articulate it and deliver solutions that mean something to them?

Connecting with others via social media is no different than connecting with customers.  How we choose to interact with new connections has to be more than a Twitter follower or connection hunting on LinkedIn.  Are we earning their trust while delivering value?  Do we introduce them to others that may help grow their business, do we send referrals or do we recommend them to others?  The only way we can do any of these activities is to interact with them personally, online and offline.  In other words, we need to engage.

Thanks for continuing the conversation both here and on LinkedIn.  Shoot me an email if you'd like, too!


Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef

Monday, April 12, 2010

Treading Water in the LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter Pool

And it's Monday!

I hope all is well!  As I've mentioned to you before, I've been on a mission to be a better marketer all around which means brushing up on my marketing foundation built in the past but also understanding the new formats and infrastructures that are our present and future.

In that spirit, I went to a BMA luncheon on Thursday featuring Gord Hotchkiss (Enquiro CEO) as moderator and Paul Gillin, Mark McMaster, Justin Levy and Steve Patrizi as the panel representing thought leadership as it pertains to effective and successful B to B marketing strategies in Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.  Paul Gillin may have been my favorite but I learned a tremendous amount all the way around.  And, assuming I know how to read an audience, people were ready to be delighted even before the speakers began. They weren't disappointed.

Note: Don't worry.   I'm not going to rehash it.  Not only do I respect your patience, it was tweeted quite a bit and I know enough to know that a post with regurgitated info is a boo boo of high proportions.

I'd like to focus on a question from the live audience (it was also distributed via webinar).  A woman -- appearing to be a Baby Boomer -- stood up and essentially said that it was all well and good that there was a lot of business activity on the four channels but her view was that personal touch and the fine art of picking up a phone to make a personal contact seem to have disappeared which she considered a serious problem.  She explained that she was a recruiter trying to fill positions and that no one seemed interested or motivated enough to act beyond sending or interacting on email which she found shocking.  In other words, she was not a fan of social media or any of the content shared during the session.

Many people rolled their eyes, whispered and dismissed her -- not very nice.  The panel did engage with her to discuss the root causes of what she's experiencing but she wasn't open to hearing: an "agree to disagree" moment if I've ever seen one!  There are a couple of thoughts that occurred to me during the exchange that I'd like to share with you.

Self Awareness Matters.  We all can agree that regardless of channel, we have to meet our customers on their terms be it the tone, the content, the offer or what have you.  If we want their attention, it has to be by their rules.  The recruiter was obviously frustrated with her perception of preferred communication channels and had a very clear idea of how the world "should" be.  For the record, I agreed with her basic point that the personal touch or one to one contact is going away with the expansion of social media infrastructure and that it's somewhat of a problem.  

But, I wondered what she thought she was doing to attract attention and engage with people versus what she was actually doing.  Was she really engaging in ways that make jobseekers pick up the phone and call her after the interaction via email (or other channel)?  Or, is it that the buyer's market has made her complacent and her view is more of "If I build it, they will come." approach (how some view marketing let alone social media marketing)?  Her job is to sell jobs to interested job seeking buyers.  Bad economy notwithstanding, any quick peek at job listings will show you that some are presented better than others (whether the actual jobs are better may be another story).  If no one's calling her or engaging with her how she'd like, I'm thinking part of the problem is with her marketing strategy and how she presents herself.

This made me wonder how consistently critical we are as marketers of the quality of the message, of the delivery of the message, of the targeting of the message, of the clarity of the message and so forth?  Are we aware enough or honest with ourselves when we could be doing better?  Do we always hold the mirror up to ourselves when strategies fail or do we blame the customer?  With online communities, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., it's easy to say that it's the fault of one bad apple, or a review taken out of context, some people don't understand, etc.  The Nestle debacle is very much top of mind for me here.  We can't fall into the trap of only pointing the finger elsewhere as the recruiter seems to have done.

Generation Matters.  I mentioned that I believed this recruiter to be a Boomer.  We all know that data indicate Millennials / Gen Y are the group most comfortable with social media multitasking with Gen Xers coming in second.  Many Boomers are a bit more skeptical and cautious about it.  Maybe even somewhat afraid -- let's be honest.  Other data indicate that Gen X will help with the shopping recovery but that it's ultimately the Millennials who will consume our way out of the recession.  Baby Boomers helped out the last time around but are not as much in a position economically either due to or regardless of life stage.

The easy way out would be to tell this woman to accept that things are changing rapidly and that she needs to hop on or get left behind.  That totally misses the point even if it is technically correct.  Boomers are people, too, and still are very much a part of this economy.  Marketers make the argument that we need to respond to customers in ways that are meaningful to them so a) that they buy what we are selling, b) they come back for more and c) tell their friends and family about our product.  If that is so, then there can't be fine print that says "except where Boomers are concerned."  In point of fact, some on the panel said that there may be certain audiences, products or services that don't need the social media oversaturation let alone any kind of social media.  

The recruiter may not fully "get" how the social media engine operates but it doesn't mean that she needs to all the time.  The lesson here conjures up my last post about Engagement as a global, channel agnostic strategy (here).  This is about the importance of nuance, tone and delivery.  It is about the obligation to create strategies that respect our customers as opposed to what channel we prefer or what is easier for us to execute.  Boomers still have money to burn.  So, how can we find effective ways that are mindful of the new communication infrastructures but yet do not neglect more personal style of communicating which is still important to this group?  If our global Engagement strategy is in place, as I previously argued, this generational treatment becomes one of many effective sub strategies.

What's your take on my tale at the BMA lunch?  Were you there?  Please share your thoughts -- I'd love to "hear" them.

Until Next Time,

Parissa Behnia

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Engagement is Global. Period. Paragraph.


When we last chatted, I told you about a great Brian Solis webinar and article about engagement.  I really do recommend that you listen to the webinar and read the article.  Both are very good and very thought provoking.  Great stuff all the way around.

As I mentioned yesterday, it occurs to me that there is some benefit in learning the basic principles of marketing before the internet because a "communications infrastructure" to borrow from that Pam Alexander quote I mentioned previously.  Engaging with and relating to your customers in meaningful ways is not at all new or different.  The difference is in framing and powering the conversation -- that is, engaging with and relating to customers (and prospects) with the advent of social media and the associated in creativity take on whole new dimensions previously unavailable to us.  And it's so exciting.

And yet, engagement should be its own customer based strategy regardless of how it is mechanized or delivered.  Yes, technology matters but getting the fundamentals and strategy right is also critical.  To be very clear -- I'm not dismissing social media, other forms of mobile technology or all of the cool future whizbangery stuff as mere tactics or as a means to the end.  That would be a mistake of colossal proportions.  I am suggesting that we need to be mindful of engagement as a global business / marketing strategy first and then consider engagement as an "offline" business / marketing strategy and, equally, engagement as a social media business / marketing strategy.

As I said in my last post, good engagement is, at its core, channel agnostic.  It's devoid of loyalty to any channel because it needs to be "on" when, how and in the tone the customer wants it because all engagement is customer driven.  We get permission from them once we've demonstrated that we've heard them, that we'd like to earn their long term trust (aka loyalty) and that we're offering value to them that meets their stated needs.  We have to work hard, regardless of media type, to establish the two way conversation with them.  Engagement is global.  Period.  Paragraph. 

To give my premise some texture, I'd like to go back to some of the take aways I shared with you yesterday. One of his points was that social media engagement isn't merely a conversation.  The premise is that engagement is about providing value in ways that are meaningful to the customers and that delivers the desired response be it a purchase, a referral, etc.  So, the two way exchange between us and customers is dynamic.  This is something he calls strategic participation.  Yes - and it's what good global engagement is all about.  This is its underlying structure and if it's something we don't understand or deviate from, we should be calling it a day.

One really interesting concept Brian Solis shared is the Human Network.  He suggests that the sum total of conversations and relationships is more than just a single network and that the social space is more than the dialogue that's occurring.  My twist here is is that the space is more than the social space.  It happens in passing, it happens when we interact with people in real time at the store and in media other than social.  What the social space does for us is that it finally documents what we, as marketers, could only speculate on before -- hallelujah -- which fortifies our global engagement strategy.  It gives us laser sharp marketing precision.  The Human Network allows us to be better partners to our customers, communicate on their terms, deliver better value and (hopefully) earn their long term trust at a faster rate.  

Another interesting point is based on some quotes from his article.  He says, "Everything starts with an acute awareness of where existing and potential customers are discovering and sharing information today with a genuine appreciation for what moves them."  After we've gleaned the insights, "we can engage with influencers, peers and consumers based on a transparent foundation of contributing value."  This is another hallelujah moment for social media.  These insights, however, are feeders like the Human Network to the global engagement strategy.  I think this might be what he means, potentially, but I want to spell it out further here.  The insights are not reserved for social media platforms solely. Truisms are truisms regardless and we should let the truths refine and define our strategies further.  Of course, some truisms are social media specific but for the most part, they should be informing global engagement and other types of delivery: offline, customer service, customer experience, etc.

One last takeaway I'll share with you is perhaps one of my favorites.  He calls for social media marketers to be sociologists and ambassadors.  The onus is on the social media marketer to represent the Human Network to the powers that be which means translating wants, needs and desired experiences in proposed monetized ways that will motivate leaders to act.  This is, at its core, marketer as customer champion because before we put on our social media marketing mantle, we put on our marketing mantle.  The fundamentals of being a good marketer require championing the customer and doing our best to deliver what they've asked for from us.  The fundamentals of a good global engagement strategy require putting the customer first.  The social media hallelujah moment here is that because the social space is more than the dialogue that occurs, we can filter through noise better than before and fix on the "right" things to translate to business leaders to arrest attention and motivate action.

So, our global strategy is formed thanks to the advent of technologies and opening of avenues previously out of our reach to us.  Social media in and of itself is an incredible game changer but we can't use that powerful tool to our advantage unless we start with understanding and acting based on marketing fundamentals first.

Again, as I've said before, I've much to learn and I'm enjoying the ride.  Please send me your thoughts so we can continue the conversation!


Parissa Behnia