Storytelling, storytelling, and more storytelling

October 24, 2014

storytellingSeems like every marketing book, blog and study is talking about how we should be using storytelling as a marketing technique. I couldn’t agree more.  Unfortunately, I think most attempts fall short.

Marketers clearly believe that storytelling is a critical component of their marketing efforts.  It’s one of the most talked about topics in marketing circles today.

So — no argument that marketing’s version of storytelling is critical to a business’ communications success. The question is — why are so many companies doing it badly and not experiencing the results they want?

The stories don’t evoke an emotion: There’s not a memorable story around that isn’t seeded in emotions.  For some businesses, especially those in the B2B sector, it’s hard to imagine what emotions their products or services might trigger.  That’s because the marketers are staying at the features level of sales, not delving into the benefits that lie beneath.

It might be as simple as your prospect is afraid if they make a bad decision, it will cost them their job.  Or it could be that what you sell is helping your clients fulfill their reason for existing — which to them is very emotionally motivated.  If you dig deep enough, you’ll find the emotions behind your stories.  Be sure you expose those in your storytelling so that your audience can relate to and empathize with the people in the tale.

The stories don’t use data to lend credibility: What makes true stories so dramatic and grabbing are the facts that are dotted throughout the telling.

Data can be used in a variety of ways to tell your story.  Think visual data like an infographic or let the data suggest a new angle or insight for both you and your audience.

The story doesn’t take us on a journey: In marketing’s version of storytelling, we often take shortcuts to get to the big reveal.  But in taking the shortcut, we rob the audience of story’s arc. Every story is, in essence, a journey that chronicles the problem, the fight to solve the problem and how things are better once the challenge is resolved.

But a great story lets the journey also help the audience see the motivations, frustrations and worries of the characters while they try to face the problem. The outcomes are also wrapped in more than just the tangible results.  When the story is rich with details – we also learn more about the intangible results and ultimate value of delivering the right solution.

The story doesn’t include a next step/call to action: Here’s where most marketers really miss the boat.  A well-crafted story draws the audience in, helps them connect with the main character and feel their common pain.  As the story evolves, the prospect is pulling for the character — because in reality, the character bears a striking resemblance to them.  They experience the ups and downs within the story and as the story delivers the happy ending — the prospective customer is thinking and feeling relief and a desire to share in that sort of outcome.

So marketing’s version of storytelling is all too often, a big tease.  You led them right to the edge — get them hungry for what you’re selling but don’t give them a clear and defined next step.  Ask yourself — what do I want them to do next and be sure you make it easy and quick to take that next action.

What do you think? Can you tweak the way you’re telling your company’s story so that it actually drives leads and generates sales?

More

Are you social sharing to your best advantage?

October 20, 2014

Social-SharingIf your company is involved in social media, one of the elements you worry about is if you’re sharing in the best way. You want to maximize your company’s exposure but choosing the best social networks, the best way to communicate and even the best time of day.

Your blog content:

If you aren’t using your corporate blog to fuel your social media strategy, you are almost certainly not as effective and efficient as you could be.

If you are sharing great content on social networks that doesn’t exist on your blog or content hub, you are missing out on a huge SEO opportunity. If your content is on your blog, it will generate links and social indicators (likes, shares, +1s, etc.) that will benefit your website’s domain.

Blog content is permanent – social content is not. Let’s say that you posted a great tax tip on Facebook that received hundreds of Likes. When tax time comes around next year, that post will be long gone. However, if you post the tax tip on your blog, you can re-share it year after year. In addition, the tip will be indexed by the search engines and will likely drive search traffic as well.

Social sharing:

How you share content influences the your audience’s reactions. Here are some suggested copy do’s and don’ts as you compose your next update.

  • 11-15 words is the sweet spot for Twitter (about 100 characters), and you’re safe to use up to 25. Go any shorter, and your message will likely lack enough information to draw people in.  But you want to leave enough “open real estate” so you your audience can re-tweet or comment.
  • LinkedIn postings should aim for 16-25 words, but you are safe to go shorter if necessary.
  • Messages on Twitter and LinkedIn receive significantly more clicks if they use a hash tag.
  • Using a number (i.e. 4 smart ways to work with your attorney) generate  more clicks on Twitter.

Social timing:

It’s not just what you say, but when you say it.  Timing your social sharing matters.

  • Want to get some social love on LinkedIn? Be sure to share your content on Sundays, which delivers more clicks that any other day of the week.
  • Fridays yield more clicks on Twitter than any other day of the week.
  • Facebook content does well around lunchtime and later in the afternoon. This is because many people get on Facebook during lunch and towards the end of the workday.
  • Schedule tweets between 10am and 2pm. Many people check their Twitter stream after they settle into the office, but they are less likely to check it once they start wrapping up for the day.  There’s another spike of activity in the evening, when everyone checks back into their social networks.
  • Twitter and LinkedIn content are both more likely to be consumed during the top and middle of the hour. This is likely due to the reader’s need to check their feeds in between meetings.
  • Again – keep in mind that these are good rules of thumb, but your industry, audience and experiences may vary. The key is to actually look at your analytics and identify the patterns so you can be as effective as possible in your own social sharing strategy.
More

Direct mail is the hot new media

November 15, 2013

Direct mail is the hot new mediaWho would have thought it?  People have been predicting the death of direct mail for over a decade.  And yet, here we stand in 2013 and have to admit — direct mail is the hot new media.

As everyone flocks to spending more time online, a curious thing happened  Our mailboxes got a lot less crowded.  Which means that we pay more attention to what shows up every day in the mail.

Which doesn’t mean you don’t still have to do it well.  Many people sort their mail over the wastebasket and if you don’t catch their attention in those few nanoseconds, all could still be lost.

Here are some of our favorite ways to make sure McLellan Marketing Group‘s clients get noteworthy results from their direct mail efforts.

Be odd:  Odd sized mail is always noticed.  Or use a translucent envelope with a bright colored piece of paper inside.  Think texture too — maybe the envelope feels interesting or different.  The point is to get noticed before they even open up the piece.

Be lumpy: Want to get opened for sure?  Be 3-dimentional.  Lumpy mail gets opened because no one wants to accidentally throw away something of value. And better yet — no admin or secretary is going to open a package addressed to their boss.  So you can dodge the gatekeeper with a bit of bulk.

Be late:  The focus has shifted from drop date to in-home date. Studies have shown time and time again that the end of the week to be most effective for delivery. This is based on the tested and proven theory that many people spend time on the weekend going through mail that was put aside to look at again. Having the mail piece arrive closer to the weekend puts your mail on top of the pile.

Take advantage of the fact that direct mail is the hot new media — start showing up in your customers’ and prospects’ mailboxes but do it smart.  Be odd, lumpy and late and you’ll get opened every time!

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
More

What does this pricing strategy say to you?

September 9, 2013

PriceHow thoughtful are you about your company’s pricing strategy? Let me give you an example.

We use an on-line vendor to provide extranet services for our clients.  We’ve been with them for over five years.  We recently discovered a better, cheaper solution.  It wasn’t the cheaper that sold us.  It was the ease of use for our clients.

But cheaper doesn’t hurt.  And this was cheaper by a couple hundred dollars a month.

When I contacted the old vendor to cancel our service, guess what their immediate response was.

“We can match their price.”

What?  So you’ve been overcharging me for years?  Or you magically just had a price reduction to the very dollar amount of my new vendor and you were about to call and tell me about it?

Talk about leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Dropping your price to keep a customer is never a good strategy.  It can only make you and the client both feel taken advantage of and in the end, no one wins.

Your pricing strategy is one of the key components of your marketing message.  It speaks about things far beyond your cost.  It communicates value, customer attentiveness and how you view the relationship, both short and long term.  It’s not something you should just stumble into.  And it’s not something you should damage by mishandling a situation, like our old vendor did.

There’s an interesting couple articles over at Marketing Tips from the Trenches about how to think through a pricing strategy and how to test it.  Worth a read.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
More

Why would I pick you?

September 1, 2013

brand_redmarble_optWe have to remember that every day, both our existing customers and potential customers are looking at us and wondering “why would I pick you?”

Marketing 101 is that you need to understand how you’re different from your competitors.  It is perfectly logical — if you cannot differentiate yourself in terms of what you sell, how you sell it or why you sell it — the only differentiator left is price.

Maybe it boils down to this.

Would you rather invest the time and brain equity into figuring out (from the consumer’s point of view) how you are different or would you rather just have to be the cheapest?

Either choice is a good one.  It’s really all about your business’ strategy.  After all, Walmart seems to be doing okay with the cheapest route.  But let’s say that you don’t want to commit yourself to a perpetual price war.  Then what?

Then you need to go back to really understanding how you’re different (for the love of all that is holy, please do not say — it’s our people or we care more) and what sub-set of potential customers is in perfect alignment with that distinction.

Did you twitch a little at the phrase “sub-set of potential customers?”  This is one of the main reasons why I think companies don’t discover and honor their brand better.  They want everyone’s money — not just the right people’s money.  I’ll dig into that later this week.  For now, let’s stay focused on the discovering how you’re different.

We have a branding process that we walk clients through and I’m proud to say that many of our clients will tell you that it completely changed the way they did business.  It’s one of our favorite things to do at McLellan Marketing Group.

But…for you do it yourselfers — start by really taking some time and answering these questions, but remember, the answer can never be the product or service you sell:

  • Beyond profitability, what is the mission of your company?
  • If your company were to leave a legacy, what would it be?
  • How does your organization make the world a better place?
  • If firm disappeared tomorrow, what would be missed most of all?
  • What is the single most-important aspect of your company?
  • With regard to your organization, what do you feel passionate about?
  • What business is your company in?
  • What business is your company not in?
  • Which three adjectives best describe your organization?
  • Who (customer) would love your company the most?
  • How do you prioritize your customers? If you had to allocate 100 points between the different customers segments or types (in terms of importance), how would you do so?
  • What customer need does your product/service fulfill? Why does your target customer need or want you sell?
  • What emotion(s) do you most closely associate with your product or service?
  • How will your organization change your industry?
  • How will your company change the world?

And some fun ones to twist your brain around:

  • If your company was a shape, what would it be?
  • If your organization was a texture, what would it be?
  • If your firm was a mood or feeling, what would it be?
  • If company was something from nature, what would it be?

If you’re really brave — pull together some of your best customers and see how they answer these questions.  Or, schedule a team retreat and walk through them with your employees.

If you actually take the time to really dig into each of these questions until you’ve come up with answers that resonate and aren’t the first or a trite response — I think you’ll be surprised at how it changes the way you look at your business, what potential customers you approach and how you describe yourself.

Are you brave enough to tackle these questions?

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
More

The new phone book is here — where’s yours?

January 17, 2013

photoNormally at MMG, we caution clients to be careful of the “I don’t listen/watch/do therefore neither does my target audience” trap.

We usually do not represent our target audience and even if we are like them — there are plenty of exceptions to the rule.  And sometimes the exception is you!

But in this case I will say — how you (and I) use our trusty, dusty phone book is probably pretty similar to how the rest of the world responds to them as well.

Mine?  It went from bag on the lawn to recycling bin in one fluid motion.

If you are still spending money on phone book ads — unless you know that your target audience still uses them (pretty much the 65+ crowd), there are better places for your money.

P.S.  And don’t let the “how did you hear about us” question fool you.  TV and the phone book are the usual answer when they respondent either doesn’t remember or doesn’t want to say.

Enhanced by Zemanta
More

JWT Intelligence — Trends for 2013

December 21, 2012

The end of the year = predictions for the upcoming year.  All of them are interesting but the one I really put stock in is JWT‘s annual trends report.  They invest a huge amount of time and money to explore and investigate our culture and I’m always impressed by the line-up of experts they reach out to, before they release their report.

Check out their trends for 2013 in this 2 minute video and then you can read a little from JWT’s Director of Trendspotting, Ann Mack as she answers a few of my questions about the trends and how they impact you.


[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCDs7zQELpM[/youtube]

The ten trends for 2013 are: (buy the complete 177 page report here)

  1. Play As a Competitive Advantage
  2. The Super Stress Era
  3. Intelligent Objects
  4. Predictive Personalization
  5. The Mobile Fingerprint
  6. Sensory Explosion
  7. Everything Is Retail
  8. Peer Power
  9. Going Private in Public
  10. Health & Happiness: Hand in Hand

I had a chance to ask Ann Mack (JWT’s Director of Trendspotting) a few questions.  Here’s what she had to say:

What trend surprises you the most?

It’s hard to pick, as I’m so close to these trends and find all of them interesting and significant in their own ways. However …

One trend I find really interesting is what we call Going Private in Public. In an era when living publicly is becoming the default, people are coming up with creative ways to carve out private spaces in their lives. Rather than rejecting today’s ubiquitous social media and sharing tools outright, we’re reaping all the benefits of maintaining a vibrant digital identity while gradually defining and managing a new notion of privacy for the 21st century.

Consumers are quickly coming to realize that ultimate control of their online privacy is out of their hands—even for those who diligently tweak the privacy settings on their profiles. With a few lines of code, Web titans can destroy carefully walled gardens, turning the task of maintaining the desired degree of privacy into an onerous chore. While Facebook users have periodically taken to posting privacy or copyright notices under the mistaken impression that these declarations will protect them, users remain subject to the social network’s terms of service.

It’s not just the Web powers-that-be that can toy with a person’s public persona, however—it’s also tag-happy, share-happy friends who don’t realize that just because something is public information or done in public doesn’t mean people want it publicized.
So the social-media savvy are finding ways to put some privacy back into their public lives, pruning friends lists, hosting photo-free “dark rooms” at parties to deter social media–sharing and creating Facebook pseudonyms to avoid the prying eyes of employers and others.

This is a compelling opportunity for brands, as they can amplify these existing behaviors. Argentina’s Norte Beer, for instance, found a clever way to ensure that “What happens in the club stays in the club” with an amusing innovation: a beer cooler that keeps drinkers safe from paparazzi-in-training. Distributed to various bars around Argentina, the Photoblocker emits a bright light when it detects the flash from a photo, making any images unusable. Nearby drinkers can safely party without fear of wide exposure.

If you were advising a business owner — which trend would you call to their attention first?

One trend we look at for 2013 which is important for business owners to consider is the rise of Peer Power. As the peer-to-peer marketplace expands in size and scope—moving beyond goods to a wide range of services—it will increasingly upend major industries, from hospitality and education to tourism and transportation. This is a culmination of a number of developments we’ve spotlighted in our Things to Watch over the years—from Couchsurfing in 2008 to Crowdfunding in 2009 to Micro businesses like Airbnb in 2011 to Crowdsourced Learning and P2P Experiences in 2012.

As P2P companies begin to disrupt major industries, many established players will turn to existing laws and regulations to limit their growth. But there are alternative (or parallel) paths that big brands can take that are less knee-jerk and more forward-thinking. For one, they can use the emergence of this new competitive set as an opportunity to rethink how they operate or position their B2C businesses in this growing P2P economy. And they can examine what kinds of new behaviors and expectations the P2P model is creating among consumers and start delivering against those.

Rather than fear or fight the encroachment of this new competition, established brands can embrace this development through a variety of means. Perhaps the easiest is to partner with peer-powered businesses in the same or related categories. BMW, for instance, took a minority stake in ParkatmyHouse through its i Ventures venture capital arm, which aims to extend the company’s range of products and services over the long term by investing in innovative mobile service providers.

Taking it one step further, brands can add a P2P element to their business or launch a business line that addresses a newly created demand or challenge to their industry. For instance, high-profile universities including Stanford and Princeton are participating in MOOCS (massive open online courses), via new ventures like Coursera, rather than fight the tide of free or low-cost online courses, many taught by amateurs.

In partnering with these upstarts or launching their own version of a P2P service, established brands can infuse freshness or modernity into their persona, broaden their appeal and/or get an existing consumer segment to look at them in an interesting new light. Initiatives such as this also provide the opportunity to learn more about the audience, inner workings, and strengths and weaknesses of P2P enterprises.

Looking at the trend list as a whole — what do you think it says about the last few years?

New technology continues to take center stage, as we see major shifts tied to warp-speed developments in mobile, social and data technologies.Many of our trends reflect how businesses are driving, leveraging or counteracting technology’s omnipresence in our lives, and how consumers are responding to its pull.


Looking back, which of the 2012 trends do you think fell flat or didn’t really come to fruition the way you expected a year ago?

Any trends with real significance can’t be assigned to just one calendar year. The trends we explore on an annual basis have significant weight and momentum, and indicate shifts that are likely to be with us for a while. That is why we track our trends from past forecasts on an ongoing basis. As for our 2012 trends, we continue to see them play out in new and numerous ways.

“Celebrating Aging” is one of those trends. Last year, we observed: “Popular perceptions of aging are changing, with people of all ages taking a more positive view of growing older. As demographic and cultural changes, along with medical advances, help to shift attitudes, we’ll redefine when ‘old age’ occurs and what the term means.”

This year we saw that development reflected in product development, marketing and entertainment. Earlier this year, for instance, MAC cosmetics launched a collaboration with 91-year-old style standout Iris Apfel. The collection is inspired by colors favored by Apfel, a longtime interior and textile designer who’s come into the spotlight in her twilight years. We also saw the critically acclaimed movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel—described by Time as “a charming celebration of aging”—become a surprise box-office hit. The film by director John Madden follows a group of British retirees moving to India to live in an old hotel and features acting heavyweights Maggie Smith and Judi Dench, both of whom turn 78 this year.

Another trend from our 2012 forecast, “Objectifying Objects,” continues to gain momentum. As objects get replaced by digital/virtual counterparts, we’re seeing more people fetishize the physical and tactile. This is giving rise to “motivational objects,” or items that accompany digital property to increase perceived value, and digital tools that enable creation of physical things.

This past year, for instance, we noted an increase in a range of new services that allow people to get to grips—literally—with their social media output, turning it into real-world items. MOO Inc. offers business cards created from Facebook users’ Timeline images and data, using the same fonts and layout; it includes the person’s Facebook URL. The Twitter Poster re-creates the customer’s profile picture using his or her tweets. And Stitchtagram is a service that crafts handmade pillows using fabric printed with the customer’s Instagram shots.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
More

One Page Business Plan Template

December 3, 2012

Most businesses don’t create a plan for the upcoming year because it’s too daunting a task.  Which is why I’m a big advocate of the one page business plan and why I am sharing our one page business plan template with all of you.

It’s based on a couple of assumptions.  First — no business can tackle dozens of goals in a single year.  It’s better to identify a small handful of goals and build a plan around accomplishing those.

Even if you only set a handful of goals, you can’t tackle them all at once.  You need to prioritize them and then tackle one or two of them at a time.

Second — most business owners and leaders are a little myopic.  They tend to focus on the area of the business that is either causing the most trouble or is the aspect of the business they enjoy the most.  But they rarely give equal weight to all the different facets of the organization.

This one page business plan template takes care of both of these issues.  First — it forces you to only set six goals.  Not five and not 65.  Then, it asks you to rank the goals in order of importance, so you can decide where to focus first.

But you don’t set any six goals.  You set one goal per aspect of your business. The one page business plan forces you to create a well-rounded plan that takes into account:

  • Leadership/Management
  • Staffing
  • Internal Systems
  • Financial
  • New Business
  • Marketing

If you grow all these different aspects of your business together, your business remains stable and strong.  The one page business plan template forces you to think about the organization holistically and allows you to lead its growth in a more balanced way.

Here’s what I like best about this template.  It’s simple enough that you’ll actually do it.  Download it (click here to download the one page business plan template) and get started!

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
More

Write so they will hear you

October 30, 2012

Tin can communication deviceMost people, when faced with the blank screen on their computer and a deadline for a new marketing piece looming, get a little uptight.

It’s intimidating to capture everything you want a prospect to know and share it in a compelling way. Your product or service is superb and you have so much to say — how will you do it justice?

Which is why most marketing copy is dreadful. Here are the most common mistakes:

  • We do a brain dump, sharing everything we know.
  • We want to demonstrate that we’re experts so we use impressive words and jargon that shows that we’re in the know.
  • We cram way too many words into the piece because it’s all important.
  • We talk about our company, our product, and our people…but not about the customer.

If you make even one of those mistakes, odds are your prospect is taking a glance at your first two or three sentences and then moving on. You haven’t invited them into the conversation – you’re just talking about you.

Remember, you are trying to start a conversation. Who would you rather talk to – someone who walks up to you and asks a question about you or a person who walks up and starts telling you all about them?

So how do we avoid those mistakes?  We can ask ourselves these questions.

How do they talk?
I can have the best deal in the world, but if I tell you about it in Japanese and you don’t speak Japanese – you can’t possibly want what I am selling.

You need to know your prospect well enough that you know how they talk.

  • Are they engineers who use very precise, detailed language and acronyms?
  • Are they teachers who speak about their students with affection and pride?
  • Are they purchasing agents who need to squeeze every penny from the deal and deliver the highest ROI possible?

Understanding the language they use and how they’re going to have to sell your offering up/down the food chain, will allow you to craft your message in their native tongue.

Your prospects are busy and won’t take the time to translate your marketing messages. If they don’t instantly understand it and see that you’re talking to them, they’ll pass it by every time.

Do they know they need you?
No one wants to buy something they don’t need or want. That sounds like a duh, but many times businesses try to sell solutions to a client who doesn’t realize they have a problem.

Often, we just go right to the solution without even mentioning the problem. Let’s say that I want to sell my home in the next 12 months. You own a landscape business and send me information about how good your work is, showing me pictures of gorgeous yards, etc.

But I dismiss it, because I’m not going to live in my house much longer so why spend money on something I won’t get to enjoy?

You’ve lost the sale, because I don’t know I need you. But if one of your marketing pieces was titled “5 landscaping tricks to sell your house faster” now you have my attention.

If the first line of body copy told me that 34% of buyers passed on at least one home because the landscaping was disappointing – you have just converted a “no” into an interested prospect.
Now you have my attention.

By paying attention to these two elements – you can effectively avoid all four of the mistakes I mentioned.

You’ll speak in their language and only talk about what matters to them – their problems and how you can solve them.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta
More

The power of we

October 15, 2012

Today is Blog Action Day*.  What does that mean? It means that thousands of bloggers from over 108 countries will come together today to blog on a single topic.  Ironically — this year’s topic is the power of we.

The essence of Blog Action Day, really.

Each blogger shares his/her own slant on the theme…with the hope that together we can raise the consciousness and the conversation on this one topic.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I am a huge proponent of the power of we.  I believe it should be a marketing staple — in every company’s plan/vision for how to connect with potential customers, employees and their community.

Here are some examples that I can point to that every business could modify/borrow and apply to their own marketing efforts:

Crowdsourcing:  Why create it all yourself when you can work together and do something far greater than any one individual could accomplish?  Together with Gavin Heaton, I have co-edited 3 editions of the Age of Conversation book series.

We brought hundreds of marketing bloggers together and asked each of them to write a single chapter in the books.  Together — we created three books that look at how the digital age is changing marketing and our world.  We also promoted the book together — raising over $40,000 for charities around the world.

Could you create a crowdsourcing project with your best customers?  Or invite prospects to join in too.

Give your audience a voice: Once or twice a year, I survey the readers of this blog and ask them what they’d like to know more about. They literally help me create my editorial calendar.  By creating content that lines up with their needs — I not only provide more value but I am also more likely to retain them as readers.  (And potential clients)

Many businesses are afraid to invite customer opinion because they might hear bad things.  I think that’s crazy.  Far better to hear about it and have a chance to either change it or explain it — than not to know until you lose that customer.  If you’re not surveying your best customers every year — you need to.  If you aren’t sure how to do it — reach out to me and I’ll tell you how we can help.

Partner with someone with different skills/talents: Throughout my career, I’ve worked at huge (Young & Rubicam) agencies and small (my own — Mclellan Marketing Group) and realize that one of the best aspects of being in a small agency is that we can’t do everything in house. So we have to seek experts to partner with.  That means we are always delivering the highest value to our clients and we’re getting smarter by hanging out with them too.

Identify an area where your business is a little light or your expertise isn’t as deep. Then go find a partner whose skill sets and values compliment what you’re already doing.  You don’t look like you have a deficiency — you look like you are well connected and are committed to bringing excellence to your clients.

I’m curious — how do you employ the power of we in your business?

 

 

 

*Founded in 2007, Blog Action Day brings together bloggers from different countries, interests and languages to blog about one important global topic on the same day. Past topics have included water, climate change, poverty and food with thousands of blogs, big and small, taking part.

Enhanced by Zemanta
More