The world seems divided between those who love social media and those who see it as the bane to their existence. Like everything else in marketing (and life) there are also many shades of grey.
To the naysayers, social media is a powerful tool as long as you do three things:
- Define your audience. When you use social media, are you talking to current customers? Prospects? Influencers in your industry? Too many organizations have a checklist mentality when it comes to social media. Without knowing who you are speaking to on your social media platforms, it’s difficult to communicate in a meaningful way. Social media is effective only when you can provide your audience with information that has some value to them.
- Remain true to your roots. All successful organization have a unique reason for being in business. They all deliver something to an audience that others can’t provide. So, think about what makes your organization unique, and be authentic in how you talk about it on social media. If it is people who make the difference, talk about people. If it is your innovation, then talk about how you innovate. If it is your efficiency… you get the picture.
- Take on only what you can realistically manage. You don’t have to tweet hourly or post something on your Facebook page every day. And you don’t have to cover every social media platform out there. Pick one or two platforms that best suit you needs, and be as active as makes sense. Just be sure that you post on a regular basis, and that you offer information that has value to others.
To the partisans, social media isn’t the answer to everything, and it needs to be kept in perspective.
- Don’t obsess about how many followers you have. For every new follower you gain, there will always be those that you lose because they are no longer interested in your organization or what you have to say. People are fickle, to which the thousands of editors and publishers who are trying on a full-time basis to garner audiences for their work can attest.
- Don’t expect your social media efforts to do more than can be delivered. Put in perspective the amount of resources dedicated to engaging customers and prospects and the relative rate of return. Concede when other forms of communications might be as effective and more efficient.
A note for all – whether you use social media or not – the more control you have of your communications to your audiences, the better your future. While the belief in the complete collapse and uselessness of mass media is premature (and grossly over-exaggerated), there are tools now available to all organizations, regardless of their size, that allow you to better understand who exactly your customers are and what their expectations are of you. This move to a relationship marketing strategy will end up being one of the dominant themes as we fast approach the third decade of the new millennium.
As always, if you’re interested in discussing your situation, feel free to call us at 301-654-5585 or email Donna Bigler.
Recently I had a catch up meeting with a friend. He shared with me how hard he finds it to keep momentum going while implementing long term strategic changes. He was very concerned that not only would he miss his more immediate milestones, but also could fall short of his long-term goals.
Regrettably, his dilemma is common- change is not easy, but it is constant. Also, people don’t like to be told what to do – even though it can be in their best interests. I’ve found that traditional command and control management rarely works today. Since most people have suffered through two major recessions since 2000, change can be perceived as a threat to their personal well-being.
Coincidentally I came across this article in the Harvard Business Review and it sums up what I’ve seen. Successful change requires simplification, intentionality, persistence and sympathy. After over 30 years studying consumer behavior, people don’t change unless compelled. Any change will require a bit of pain – re-learning tasks and changing habits. In some cases, there will even be those who “win” and those who “lose.” So, your colleagues need a pretty good explanation for why things are now going to be better (and not just different). They need to feel as if your explanation and rationale make sense and are logical. They also need to know that while you have expectations, you will provide the support through the appropriate resources to help them make the transition and to meet their new obligations. So, you need to communicate.
Communicate so your colleagues know where you are taking them. Communicate often to keep them on track. And lastly, communicate honestly, so they know if progress is being made, or if additional changes will be necessary.
Read the article – it’s pretty good. For more perspective, feel free to reach Michael Tinati at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 301-654-5585 x101.
This may seem like a bizarre question. Why ask? Of course, it’s special. No one has the same traditions, or the dedicated faculty and staff that your school does. And, the unique and super-talented students. Of course, you’re special.
But are you really? Let’s try this. Go through these questions and tally how many are “yesses” and how many are “nos.”
- Does your tag line have the word “transform” in it?
- Does the notion of “transform” feature prominently in your main body copy?
- Is there a mention of “mind, body and spirit” in your mission statement?
- Is one of your differentiators the individual attention that your child will receive from faculty and administrators?
- Do you have lots of pictures of students in a science lab or in front of a computer to show that you have STEM programs?
- Do you have pictures of your students showing them involved with the community and volunteering their time to a worthy cause?
- Do you prepare your students for future careers that no one can imagine? Is the word “passion” used more than five (5) times on your website?
If you answered “yes” to more than four of these questions, that is good. All the above are the essential basic ingredients in the world of education. It’s what parents expect when they pay a tuition. It may not have been a decade ago, but, today it is. If it isn’t about the singular focus on their child, their holistic development and preparation for future careers – and all these are worthy aspirations – then you don’t even make the first cut.
But, they alone don’t make you “special.” So, how do you show that your school is “special?”
You need to find out what makes your school unique and different. There are resources and activities that make your school standout to perspective audiences, and there are the things no one can replicate. So, to find out what they are, let’s try this:
Step 1 – Make a list of your competitors and have their websites handy. You’ll need them in a few minutes.
Step 2 – Take a piece of paper and write down all qualities that are unique to your school and that make you stand out. Your list should easily have 20-30 quality attributes. (If you can’t come up with 20 – 30, you either aren’t factoring in all the components of what makes up the experience at your school, or you have a bigger problem).
Step 3 – Now, go back to the websites you looked at earlier and strike out all the attributes that are on your list that they also mention. Once you’ve done this, identify the attributes that you didn’t share with your competitors.
Step 4 – Now, you’ve got to be honest and objective. Are the remaining attributes – the ones no one else had – important or significant to your audiences? If not, then you’ve got work to do. As you can guess, you are too similar to your competitors and when it comes to comparing two products and services that are indistinguishable and similar, price always wins.
Step 5 – If you have a meaningful attribute (or two), then you have to weave this into your marketing and communications. Don’t bury it. You have found a meaningful differentiator, so use it to your advantage.
Promoting an organization, service or product, no matter how noble the mission, in a competitive category requires a focus on what makes the offering special and different and, ergo is a better choice for your audience. It’s not easy to figure out what these meaningful attributes are, but when you find them, they are extremely valuable in setting you apart from the rest of the pack.
If you want to discuss further, you can contact us and we can talk.
A couple of weeks ago, I opened the paper and in the first section were two articles that, frankly, felt like flashbacks to when I was boy. One was about Uber and its driverless car crashing in Texas. The other was about efforts to recruit people to colonize Mars. When I was a kid, I heard about these things…on the Jetsons, Star Trek and Lost in Space. Stories of this nature were called “science fiction.” Today, they are “news.” We are using our voices in our homes to activate our appliances, solving trivia questions and ordering take out. Today, gene therapy is available to many with prior incurable illnesses. Virtual reality is a common place tool for designers and architects – as well as gamers and documentarians. We are watching IBM ads with “Watson” and thinking, “AI – how cute” – unlike Hal. (2001 Space Odyssey reference for the younger folks reading this).
So, what does that mean for you? These are signs that things are going to change again in the world of marketing and communications. We are quickly approaching what many people are pointing to as the next stage of the integration of technology in our lives and workplaces. This evolution will affect our relationship with financial institutions as Bitcoins and Block Chains become more widely accepted forms of asset transfers. We are going to be manufacturing products at home through 3-D printers and this will allow us to customize products without any delays. And, what can’t print at home will be ordered online and delivered to us within hours through a drone or self-driving vehicle.
These changes will affect the notion of customer service. Are you going to be responsible if a 3-D printed product doesn’t “fit?” What about the just-in-time-delivery of products and services for all those who forgot to pick up the basil for their homemade pesto sauce, the screwdriver to finish the DIY bookshelf or the shoes that to go with the dress? Ultimately, the components of your value proposition are going to change. And, they are going to change at a macro level from you controlling the shopping experience and interaction with your brand to the consumer dictating that experience and relationship. The equation is going to change on a micro level. We are going to have to be flexible to meet the needs of our consumers from what the product is and how it is delivered. In a nutshell, flexibility and adaptability are going to be more important ingredients in your value equation.
There is a lot to think about here – especially when it comes to how you evolve your value equation and brand promise among your most important stakeholders. It’s more than re-thinking what search terms to buy or what color your logo needs to be. You will need to engage in a long-term planning process and gather pertinent information. This will give you an idea of what trends affect your specific industry and target audiences. It needs to be thorough and objective, because I promise you will need to address some significant gaps in your current value proposition. It also needs to be put in context of what the world will look like in 3-5 years.
This is isn’t easy stuff. Gazing into a crystal ball and trying to divine the future is a risky proposition. But, it is necessary if you want to position yourself for what lies ahead.
As always, feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to talk further and explore in depth the implications of where the new wave of technology is going to drive your business and organization.
This has been one of the most unusual years. From the onset of January to the post-Election hangover, there seems to be a low, under-the-surface roiling that has affected consumers – and ultimately us marketers. People point to a lot of high signs with the presidential race being the most visible and impactful. But, the reality is that a lot of the tumult has been afoot for a while. And, this being a marketing and communications piece (not political) let me focus on the implications.
- The divide between the “haves” and “have-nots” has never been starker. And, the “have-nots” should not be categorized as the “poor,” but those who feel disenfranchised. This group has been around since the 1980s and has gotten bigger over time. Laurel Cutler, a strategic planner at Foote, Cone & Belding, a major international advertising agency headquartered in Chicago, identified this consumer group. The most predominant trait was they felt outside of the system and were looking in. Her findings weren’t based on racial or religious underpinnings. These where “average Americans” who as time went on felt as if they were being left behind. And, as the Presidential Election proved, they have grown and make up a large swath of our population. So, the implication is simple – Is your brand and message taking this angst-driven group into consideration? Is your communication inclusive, or are you inadvertently alienating someone? Remember, this group flew under the radar, and even the most sophisticated pollers and political comm folks missed them.
- The generational differences are going to minimize. As Baby Boomers continue to age, they are slowly moving out of the mainstream consumer groups and falling into the segment that is looking at fixed incomes, longer life spans and less expendable income. Warning, if your brand and business is too heavily skewed to this group, you are going to be in trouble. See points 3 and 4.
- The GenXers and Millennials are here. They are the ones who now comprise the largest segment of consumers with growing disposable income. And note, just like their parents, they are going to be the beneficiaries of the roughly $41 trillion of wealth transferred from their elderly parents to them. If you haven’t thought about reaching this market, you need to start thinking about it.
- The concept of “generation” is also a state of mind and not physical age. There are many people who act as if they are baby boomers and others who act like Millennials. Granted, the majority of people fall within their age group. But things like the adoption of technology, social media, attitudes toward authorities, financial security and aspirations sometime fall outside of age.
- Lastly, a shift in technology communication is underway, again. What worked 3 to 5 years ago may not work now. And, for the 2nd year in a row laptop sales fell…and it is forecasted to slow even more in 2017. Fewer and fewer are finding traditional display ads as effective. The obvious reason, the mobile phone. It has disrupted so many facets of our lives – if not taken over – that it has changed the way people view consumer information. And, how they interact with brands and organizations.
So, where does that leave us? For one thing, it means you need to take a good hard look at your high-level strategic plans. If you have not done so over the past two years, you should pull it out and re-evaluate. New products and services – yes – are something you need to contemplate. Whether it is integrating more technology into what you make or how you serve, don’t discount the fact that 20 years of technology immersion has changed consumer expectations. But also get rid of features no cares about and add those that your audience now does. And, I’m sure as you review your plans and offerings, you will find more that needs to be adjusted and changed
And, don’t forget, we are here to help. Let us help you prepare for the new year ahead with a strategic plan that will yield results. Call for a consultation, and allow us to show you how we can shape your business marketing so that it resonates with your entire customer base in the most efficient and effective way.