Would you build your own house?

Marketing is probably one of the most talked about concepts, yet least understood activities in the world.ss14

My two boys are forever trying to prove how smart they are about marketing by telling me what companies should and should not do.

The majority of business owners feel that they understand how marketing works – but at the same time do not know why the customers are not responding to their tactics.

Marketing could be compared to building a house. I believe there are a great many people that could, and do use a hammer – use it quite well. Many of those people could measure and cut boards to the correct length. Fewer – but still quite a few – could put a number of boards together to form a wall, and even be able to sheet that wall with plywood.

But how many people could actually create a complete building?

A single nail, a cut board, even a wall completed – does not constitute building a house.

The same goes for sales and marketing. Many people can close a sale. Some people can create an ok advertisement. There are people that understand how to engage people in social media and build a Facebook fan page.

But how many can actually create and implement a marketing plan.

If marketing plans were physical structures like houses – there would be some pretty goofy looking ones around. Some with no windows, some without shingles, others with walls not connecting, or a roof not matching the wall below – maybe even no roof, no doors, or without a basement.

But lucky for all the business owners out there doing marketing on their own – you can’t see a marketing plan being put together.

Well – actually not lucky – maybe if people did see how bad it was – they would STOP – and get the right person to do it.

Just like living in a house where the roof has holes, the doors don’t work and the place is not fit to live in – running a business without a proper marketing plan is not enjoyable – heck – it may not even be safe!

The examples of poorly planned marketing are endless. I just talked to a person yesterday that was sending out a marketing piece – and could not understand why there was no response. They had even got a second opinion by an ‘expert’ on that type of marketing piece.

Unfortunately they did not have a plan – not even an effective campaign. The chances that this one-off marketing piece would get to the right person at the right time was simply very remote. And even though the marketing piece was informative – it had some issues. Partway in to the information it sent the reader to a website link. The link was good background information – but took the prospect away from the needed action that the marketing piece was trying to solicit.

Just like when building a house you use detailed blueprints that shows every measurement, where the electric plugs are located, where the windows and doors go, the slopes of the roof, and much much more – so should a marketing plan describe the target market in detail, the buyer behaviour patterns, the best tactics and how to employ them in the correct order.

Putting together effective marketing does take expertise and experience.

Stop! Before you hire a Social Media Guru – Read this.

Social media is the latest fad in marketing.  Every business owner and manager I know is asking about social media. Unfortunately, they are asking the wrong questions.

I am hearing questions such as; should I be on Facebook? Or should I use Twitter and LinkedIn? Or the more generic – should I hire a social media person?

What they should be asking are questions like; what are the communications objectives? Will social media help me to meet those objectives? How will social media enable me to increase not only sales, but overall profitability of my business?

Here are four main questions you should examine before starting to hire a social media specialist.

Does your business have a marketing plan?

Now I do not mean that 47-page document that go produced three years ago – and now sits collecting dust on a shelf somewhere.

What I mean is a working marketing plan that guides how you create and implement marketing strategies.

At the very least, it should define your target market and your key message. Your marketing paln should contain a summary of ongoing marketing activities.

You can then look at social media as an add-on strategy and see how it can fit with other strategies to communicate your key message to your target market (as that is the reason for any marketing to exist).

teamDo I have the people in place to make Social Media sustainable?

Social media is not a quick fix to a sales problem.  Social media is a long-term strategy that produces results only after sustained work to build your online community. You need people to be out in the virtual world spreading your message. You need someone to manage that process. Even more important – you need the top-level management to understand the strategy and commit to it for the long term.

Do I have the building blocks to create a company-wide social media policy?

Would you think it wise to start playing a game of chess without knowing the rules? To implement a social media strategy without have a social media policy in place is similar. A Rook can move two spaces in one direction and one space over – defined – exact – clear. Can your assistant make a post on Twitter saying she just save 42% on Priceline booking you a trip to Japan to meet with the ABC company president?  Unless you have a policy in place – this may happen.

The building blocks of a social media policy include a company privacy officer and privacy document.  It also includes your website privacy information and terms of use. It includes an understanding of the implications of social media at a senior management level (the last thing you want to hear is the CEO saying ‘Why did you not tell me this could happen’ six months from now). Another block is an updated HR policy manual and an understanding of social media by your human resources team.

Why am I considering Social Media?

Social media is not as simple as running an advertisement campaign or putting on an event.  Effective use of social media involves sharing the culture of your organization with the world – and building a community that embraces that culture.

Are you ready to expose your organization in that way? Can you be authentic?

If you are simply adding social media because you think you need to follow the trend – then don’t.

Realize that social media – despite all the proclamations that says it is – is not free.  Social media is an investment in the long-term marketing of your company – as well as the building of your company into a community.

Social Media is harder than you think!success

I am not suggesting that an organization should not become involved in Social Media.  In fact, I would suggest that every organization should be involved in some way with social media – but it needs to be the right way for that organization.

Communication – the Double Edged Sword

Communication is a key element of good marketing.

If you are communicating effectively – you can cut right to the heart of the issue and give your target market exactly what they need.

If your communication is poorly implemented – it can cut the other way – losing your business, turning clients away, cutting away at your reputation and brand.

Here is my story . . .

Things tend to come in three’s so now that I have had my third communication issue – I guess it is time to write about it.

I confess – usually the one that gets in trouble with communication is me. I totally admit that I am not a natural good communicator – but thankfully it is a skill that can be practiced and I can get better at it. And I think I am getting fairly proficient – at least I think so.

This time – the communication issues came from others. I would not call them blunders – and you may even think they are insignificant in the grand scheme of business and life. I would agree – if there was only one – but since there is three – it must now be communicated to all – my duty as a marketing professional. 😉

The first was the most direct – and I did take slight offense.

It happened in a group discussion on LinkedIn.

a1-social-mediaOh – I forgot to mention – they all involve social media. In fact – they all opened the door to the initiator of a social media topic to enhance engagement – but instead they took the negative path and either shut down the communication, or went on the offensive.

So in a LinkedIn discussion the individual posted a link to a video. I commented with a brief question asking about the key topic of the video.

This could have opened up the discussion to allow for more sharing – digging deeper into the topic – bringing more people into the conversation – making the discussion trend, etc. All good things. Instead the poster came back with a vague response, along with asking if I watched the video.

I responded that I hate videos – and that I prefer reading due to it is quicker for me to gather information. This was my personal opinion. My actual comment was quite pithy (I believed) – and I even added the token smiley face 🙂 to keep things light.

The OP (Original Poster) then came back with a personal accusation – that not only am I wrong – I am ‘so wrong’. The OP then went on to also call me lazy and to accuse me of only posting to draw attention to myself. He then went into more extra details to prove how smart he was.

As is my nature – I responded back – civilly of course – pointing out it was my personal opinion and that he was offending me.

So in this case – the OP has turned his original post from an opportunity to discuss his original concept in detail – into a debate about offending people and personal opinions on video as a communication method – both of which does very little good for anyone.

The second issue was not quite as provocactive. This one started on Facebook. The original poster provided a link to a job advertisement and was asking for people who were interested. The opportunity not only was of interest to me personally, but I also knew quite a few people who may be a very good match for the position.

As the job description – although interesting – did leave out some critical information – one way I thought to define at what level they were needing an individual was to consider the compensation range. The other detail they had omitted was the crucial >> how to apply.

I made a brief comment praising the opportunity, letting them know I would help them (using reciprocity) – and asking my questions. This was my comment;

“Sounds very interesting and challenging. What is the compensation range and how do you want applications submitted – will pass it on as well.”

The OP did come back with a response a few hours later to the question of how to apply – but that was it. Nothing personal, nor did they remark on my offer of sharing, and said nothing about my compensation question. Not even the token, ‘Depends on experience’ line that so many HR people use.

So I decided to take my discussion off social media and I emailed them. At this point I was still interested in this opportunity – as it would either be very good for a few friends I knew who were looking, or I could possibly turn this into a contract marketing opportunity.

My email asked a number of questions about not only the compensation for position, but about their marketing plan, their current marketing budget, their marketing strategy, their team and so forth. I was hoping for enough information to clarify how to deal with this opportunity.

They emailed back the next morning a very templated thank you for your inquiry email – but that these questions would be answered if and when I was in the interview.a1-communication

Well I was thinking of leaving it at this point – as I did not know if it was worth passing on to my network, to individual friends, for me to send in an application, or for me to develop a marketing proposal.

But I decided to try once more and go along with their road. I sent in my resume, but included a personal note demonstrating my marketing experience and asking for a meeting (not an interview) at an appropriate time I had available.

The came back again with the template typical response saying they have my resume and if I have the background and experience (are these not the same thing) I would be contacted for an interview.

Again – the OP could have be more engaging in the Facebook conversation, could have politely refused, or given me a compensation range. That would have at least kept the conversation flowing – which would bring in more viewers to their post, thus better exposure to their job ad.

If in response to my post or email, they had answered some of my questions, or if they had engaged me at some level, I would have shared the original job ad with my network, and would have forwarded it directly to at least two people I know who are quality people and have the skills asked for..

But since they shut down communication – did not engage with me – I am left dissatisfied, with a bad feeling about the organization as a whole, and have not shared this with anyone other than in this article.

The third event happened on Facebook as well.

I won’t go into great detail other than it was similar to the first two issues. I made a query – and was responded by an impersonal and non-effective answer. I tried again to get further information – and at this point was shut down by saying the first answer they gave was enough.

In conclusion – what this points out is that people are not engaging on social media effectively. In fact – at times they are being downright rude. And this is flowing over to email communication as well.

You must understand two things. Online – whether in email or social media – you must be a forth coming and polite as you would be in person. In fact – I recommend you go the extra step when online – as you don’t have the opportunity to use body language or tone to convey your message. Therefore you must use your words even more convincingly.

Second – every interaction online is an opportunity for a sale, to grow your brand, to advance your cause. You are either making forward progress, or cutting yourself off from future clients.