Who owns your brand?

Brand stampI have heard a lot of marketers over the years say that companies don’t own their brands; that it’s the public, the consumer that owns the brand.

Nonsense. Continue reading

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Book review: Digital Impact, The Two Secrets of Online Marketing Success

Finished! That’s book number one down in my 12-month challenge. I really enjoyed Digital Impact. I was a little worried when I saw the cover – a little too 1980s sci-fi, but inside was true gold. My biggest takeaway is still the subject of my last post, the assertion that fishing (attraction) is a more important strategy for today’s marketer than hunting (targeting). Beyond that, though, the book is really well structured and easy to read.

The two secrets are implementing good performance metrics and spending the time to create really compelling content (Magnetic Content). Those might not seem earth-shattering, but Mayar and Ramsey do a great job of breaking their ideas down into digestible, actionable chunks with solid examples.

For example, they propose a total of seven metrics and group them into exposure metrics (is your content getting noticed?), strategic metrics (is your content moving the needle on your goals), and financial metrics (is your content making you any money?). Through subsequent chapters they they explore six key digital channels and recommend the best metrics from each category for each channel. It’s simple and easily implemented. By easy, I mean understandable. They make it clear that doing it right takes time and money, but I feel confident I can take these channels on with a little trial and error.

Those looking for the quick and simple DIY model of digital marketing may be disappointed. Their approach, done right, is not something you could implement overnight. But, if you are looking for an easy to read, practical book that can apply to any business, Digital Impact is the one you want. It covers all the big channels, how to create great content for each and how to measure the impact of what you create.

So, that’s one book down and 11 to go. Up next: Six Pixels of Separation, by Mitch Joel. A long over due read.

Marketers need worms, not bullets

As I make my way through Digital Impact, by Vipin Mayar and Geoff Ramsey – as part of my journey through 12 marketing books in 12 month – one of the first concepts that struck me was the need to be a fisher not a hunter as a marketer today.

Hunting, they assert, involves “tracking and targeting your prey (the consumer) and then shooting them with your ammo (ad messaging).” Fishing, on the other hand is all about attracting the consumer with the right bait. That bait, of course, is the content you put out through various channels. The better your bait, the better your catch.

Any fisher (the real kind, not the metaphorical) will also tell you fishing also requires patience. You need to continue to put out quality content until it lures the fish.

Fishing alone won’t feed most companies, though. Mayar and Ramsey point out later in the book that the best content undiscovered will not bring in customers. So, you have be a bit of a hunter, too; to target your prey with ad messaging to let them know where your bait can be found.

So, what are your weekend plans? Hunting, fishing, or sitting on the dock with a beer?

A marketing book a month; what’s your recommendation?

So, I have decided to make the onset of summer a time to embark upon a 12-month journey towards becoming a better marketer. My chosen method of learning: books. More specifically, I plan to read a marketing/business book a month for the next 12 months and see what I can glean and apply from each, and share some of my thoughts on each here, spurred on by the fact that the list of titles on my wish list is growing and I never seem to have time to read them.

I now a book isn’t exactly a strange place to look for ideas, but it’s important not to overlook the obvious. And I know a book a month isn’t a huge accomplishment, but I’ve never been a speed reader – I like to take my time and float through a book – and I have to allow for the usual interruptions.

The first book on my list is Digital Impact: The Two Secrets to Online Marketing Success, by Vipin Mayar and Geoff Ramsey. Why this one? A few reasons, actually. I heard a great interview with Geoff Ramsey by Mitch Joel on Six Pixels of Separation; my company is going through a rebranding and we will be remaking our online presence; and I like that there are only two secrets. Two’s not too big. I can manage two.

I have a list of a half-dozen others that will be on my list over the course of the next 12 months; Six Pixels of Separation; Trust Agents; Flip the Funnel (I know it’s sad how many of these I haven’t read). I’m open to suggestions, too, so please post yours in the comments section.

I’d also really like to hear what you think about the books I’m reading and posting about. Maybe we can get a little MBA-type banter going and all learn a little something beyond what’s found in the pages of the books.

So, here goes. I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on Digital Impact as I make my way through it.

Pssst … my company is great, but don’t tell anyone

Please pardon my rant. I got an email the other day that made me really angry. It wasn’t the core content that did it, it was the disclaimer at the top.

Here’s what it said:

“Protect your investment in [Association X]. The information contained in [Association X] News is paid for by your membership dues. Please protect your investment by refraining from sharing this information with non members.”

Why did this little disclaimer, or warning, get me so hot under the collar? I think it was because I hate watching people make silly mistakes because they aren’t paying attention (my wife, by the way, will tell you this is because we hate most those negative traits in others that we have in ourselves, but that’s an entirely different blog post).

I lose sleep trying to figure out how to get people to think exactly that about my company, and to share the information with others and here is someone asking me not to do that.

A little background: The organization that issued the email in question is an industry association. The email was an installment of their regular email newsletter where they recap industry hot topics and tell members what the association is doing (justifying the membership fees). There is nothing very sensitive in the content and I have never seen anything particularly proprietary.

I cringe a little bit when I think of the opportunity being lost. The newsletter does have some good information. I find it a valuable source to catch up on issues I want to keep abreast of.  I think the content they share does a decent job of positioning them as experts in the industry.

What this quote says to me is that the organization feels that information in this email newsletter is so important, no one should get it for free. That it is more important to keep it a secret than to use it to grow revenue. Fine, some information should be paid for. Creators of original content should feel free to charge for it. But if your information is so valuable, why put it in the most shareable form of communication and admonish people for doing what comes naturally?

Years ago, while I was still in journalism school, I was the person who put together the (then printed) newsletter for a different association. I shudder to think that someone would think what I pulled together each month was the true value the organization had to offer. If they did, I was savagely under paid.

At a deeper level, I think this suggests there is a command and control type of information-as-power-philosophy within the organization. That bothers me even more because I deal with that attitude all the time and it just so ridiculously counter productive.  I’ll save that rant for another day, though.

How much should we share, though? There are new platforms every month to share information on. No limits to the thirst of those looking for information. How much should we give away? When does it become counter productive to growing our business? Please share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

It’s the small things

It’s always the small things that make a big difference, but often that’s what we forget.

A few months ago I took a family trip to Rochester, New York – home of the Strong National Museum of Play; one of the most underrated tourist attractions in the US, but that’s another story. In looking for a hotel I had a few simple criteria: near the city centre, reasonably priced, clean with a pool. I did some research and on Expedia and TripAdvisor and came up with a few options, but one stood out for me: the Country Inn & Suites.

The main reason it stood out for me was through the customer reviews. Not because the reviews were so much better than their competition; they were good, but others were, too. The reason the hotel stood out was because someone had responded to each and every review on TripAdvisor. When a complaint was registered, he or she addressed it directly. When someone made a positive comment, the hotel employee thanked them. Nothing more, a simple thank you and well wishes. This set something off in my brain. I figured if a hotel understood social media like this, maybe they understood some other things about customer experience.

My gamble paid off. Let me preface this, though. This hotel is not a five-star. Not the Hilton. It was a middle-of-the-pack, moderately-priced hotel. But they paid attention to the small things. When we got there, after a long drive, the front desk staff was incredibly friendly. We felt really welcomed. Okay, friendly staff, ‘big deal’ you say. But I think it is, and it’s a simple thing a lot of companies get wrong. Then, I turn to my right and there’s a display of cookies; three flavours, still warm. I ask tentatively if I can take one. “Sure, help yourself.” We all do. What a way to introduce you to the hotel. Five minutes and already I’ve been surprised by a small touch. There are oranges and apples in a bowl next to the cookies, but let’s be serious.

We continue on to the elevator and pass a stand of three coffee urns that I later find out is kept fresh until late at night.  I grab one. Hey, it’s free!  The next day we venture down to sample the “included breakfast”. Expectations are low. I’m thinking continental, which is hotel-speak for muffins and coffee. Maybe there will be more cookies and an orange if nothing else, I think. To my surprise, a full buffet breakfast awaits. Nothing fancy, but more than expected. Another simple thing.

Waiting in the lobby later that day, I peruse the book shelves to discover they have a book loan program that lets you take any book and return it to any other hotel in the chain, or mail it back if you take it with you. Do they expect to get the books back? Maybe, maybe not. But even if I don’t borrow one, I’m impressed.

None of these things are big, expensive frills. They are small things. Simple surprises that hit you just a bit above your expectations. Paying attention to those small things makes me think you value my business. I’ll go back to this hotel. I’ll recommend it on TripAdvisor. I’ll blog about it. For the cost of a few cookies.