Category Archives: Marketing Strategy

Maximizing LinkedIn to Reach Your Career Goals

Networked SpheresLinkedIn can be a powerful tool for networking and enriching your professional life. But to really capitalize on its strengths it’s important to reflect on your professional goals and what you want to accomplish by using LinkedIn. You can spend a lot of time exploring the different features of LinkedIn but to be successful, know what you want to achieve:

  • Meet new professional contacts within your field
  • Attract new clients, customers, members, or donors
  • Find a new job
  • Gain visibility for your business or start-up
  • Recruit new employees or partners

The more you can articulate about that big picture purpose and then the specific outcomes you are seeking, the easier it is to finetune which tactics and LinkedIn features are best to use to accomplish them. For example, if you want to use LinkedIn to find new clients or business contacts, think through as many details about who your ideal client is as possible, such as industry sector, organization size/type, geographic area, job type/titles, interests, past experience or education.

Then picture what success will look like. How can you measure that?  An example might be that your active engagement in LinkedIn would result in 6 prospective clients and 3 confirmed new clients of XYZ type in the next six months.

Key Steps to Maximize Your LinkedIn Presence

Explore how you can use the different Linked features and functions to make your goals a reality such as:

Review your profile. Does your profile position you with the right keywords and accomplishments to appeal to people in the way you wish to be viewed? Use your headline as your personal brand and emphasize concise highlights of your results and impact. Complete your profile sections such as education, certifications, honors and awards, volunteer roles, and interests to reinforce your expertise while also showing that you are a well-rounded person. Do the same review of your organization’s LinkedIn page, taking advantage of features like the ability to highlight your products and services.

Regularly share useful information related to the expertise you would like to showcase, such as links to insightful articles, data, or research. Give an update about an important project you completed or that you are giving a presentation at an upcoming conference.

Join the right groups and engage in conversation. Search for groups related to your interests and professional goals, looking to see if they have active discussions happening. Show your expertise by answering questions in the Answers section of LinkedIn.

Continue reading

7 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Social Media Presence With Limited Time and Resources

Which social media sites are best for reaching your customers, members, donors or clients?  With the constantly evolving landscape of social media sites and communities it can be overwhelming to feel you should have a presence
Person facing flight of green steps heading upeverywhere when you already have never ending to do’s and an overflowing email inbox. Yet you don’t want to miss an important opportunity to promote your organization and reach your current and potential customers. How do you choose how to best use your time on social media?

1. Think about your goals and what success will look like.

Even if you don’t have time to think through a full blown social media plan, it is important to at least briefly reflect on your most important goals for why you are using (or want to use) social media and how you can measure it. Is it generating
revenue, building community, providing customer service, getting new World globe map made up of puzzle piecescustomers/members/donors/sales leads? How can you use social media to share stories and content that support your brand, what is unique about your organization and products and services? What would success look like if it works the way you are envisioning? Be realistic as it takes time to build your presence and start to see results. Flexibility is key to try different approaches, testing various ideas and messaging is relatively easily through social media.

2. Where is your audience? Be sure to use “listening” tools.

I am often asked if organizations need to have a presence on “all” of the social media sites (accompanied by an overwhelmed catch of breath). The question I 6 different colored talk bubblesalways raise after asking about their goals and mission is do you know which social media communities your customers and potential customers use? Have you started “listening” on social media, that is, exploring what people are saying about you and discussing with each other regarding your industry or business where? Free tools like google alerts (for the general web) and twilert (for twitter) provide easy ways to monitor your brand name and business sector by signing up with them to email you when keywords you select are mentioned.

3. All or nothing? Refine your presence on one or two social media sites first.

It is hard especially when you are a social media beginner and/or have limited resources to have an effective presence on lots of social media sites. It is better to pick one or two sites that you think will have the best impact for your goals and audience and do them really well, then to spread yourself thin doing a little bit all over the place ineffectively. You can add other sites as you build success where you started.

4. Think about the unique environment of each social media tool you’re exploring and which is best for meeting your goals. Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular social  media sites:

Each social media community has its own character, look, and feel, and type of audience or purpose which you want to become familiar with when you start posting there.

Facebook has the biggest audience with one billion members, a casual friends-oriented environment, and loads of tools and functionality you can use to build a vibrant community.

For professionals and business-to-business organizations, LinkedIn offers a powerful way to network with people in your industry, stay up-to-date about news in your profession. It’s truly become a replacement for the resume and crucial for recruiting talent.

Twitter gives you the opportunity to share short, snappy news bytes or updates that can be a very effective way to drive traffic to your web site as well. It’s also a great way to follow the organizations and people you are interested in and find out the latest trends. You can use hashtags (words preceded by the # symbol) to search for information or to join a tweetchat, a twitter discussion held at a set time on a particular topic (for example, most Monday nights at 8pm Eastern there is a marketing #MMchat sponsored by The Social SMO).

Google Plus while a smaller community than facebook has developed a passionate following among those who enjoy its design and environment. Your Google+ presence enhances how easily people can find your key web pages when doing google searches because for obvious reasons google gives preference to results from Google+. Google+ Hangouts have intriguing potential for a wide variety of uses, giving you the option of having free online video discussions with up to 10 people or hosting virtual meetings to an unlimited number of people by broadcasting a Hangout to them.

Pinterest is the hugely popular visual pinboard site in which community members “pin” photos that they like in different interest areas and categories. Closely intertwined with facebook, people are using Pinterest creatively to share everything from recipes to home design tips to business and technology advice.

Instagram is another widely used social media tool to create smartly designed graphic representations that express information and data in an easy-to-understand visual way, or to add special effects to your photos. People share instagrams through the instagram app itself, facebook, pinterest, their blog, or anywhere else they want to online.

5. Plan your staffing, who will listen, engage, and make decisions on the fly for your organization?

The main “cost” of engaging in social media is time and effort rather than “hard costs.” Social media gives the power to any size organization to make an impact but it takes time…and it is very public so you want to make sure that whoever posts on behalf of your organization understands your goals and what is appropriate in tone and substance.

6. Plan your customer service approach and proactively anticipate issues that might arise. 

Be sure to plan how you will respond to any customer issues that arise as people expect if you are online at a site that you will answer questions or concerns they post – and if your social media “listening” uncovers problems then address them as quickly as possible. Proactively prepare for what you think could arise, based on your audience and what you observe people “talking about” online. People can get nervous about the risk of social media uncovering issues but whether your organization has an official presence on a social media site or not doesn’t change that customers are online and they like to discuss whatever issues are on their minds on any particular day.

7. Gauge your progress and continuously test and update it as you go along.

Seek ways to monitor your progress, such as how you are engaging with current and potential customers in whichever social media communities you are using. Engaging people in an interactive, social way is a key benefit of social media that can help strengthen your brand, building loyalty and community.

How has your social media presence helped your organization spread the word about your services and products, or retain and strengthen customer relationships?

Is Solving Your Customers’ Problems the Focus of Your Products & Services?

Are you solving problems for your customers, clients, and members or focusing on your organization’s needs instead?

While it can be tempting to wax poetically about how wonderful our products, services, and organizations are, our customers, clients, and members care about what they need, not what we have to offer. What are they worrying about? What aggravates them? How can we make their lives easier? Save them time and money?

Genie's magic lampKeeping up with what your customers want and need and how your organization can solve their problems is pivotal to success. What that answer is inevitably changes over time. That’s why evolving offerings and services continuously to meet changing needs that you regularly gauge is so critical. And letting go of what isn’t resonating anymore.

Once you have found great solutions to your customers’ needs then it becomes much easier to use clear consistent messaging and engaging story telling to spread the word about the benefits of your products and services.  Which kinds of customer problems you are going to solve flows from your mission and what you hopefully have already identified as your organization’s unique competitive advantage.

No matter how zippy or eye catching our slogan or graphics, if we are not taking care of what our customers need, someone else will inevitably step in who will.  What steps are you taking to solve your customer’s problems and communicate what you are doing to help them?

 

Six Keys to Content Marketing Success

Sharing compelling content whether information, news, videos, or podcasts related to your mission and goals is a winning strategy for attracting and engaging current and potential customers, members, or donors. With a crowded marketplace and communication stream filled with organizations pitching and selling, positioning yourself as the place to find timely, concise, engaging stories and news on your niche helps you cut through the clutter.

a photo of fireworksA carefully thought out content strategy and plan is key to success including:

What are your ultimate goals and desired outcomes  (leads, sales, fundraising, building community, recruiting/retaining members, etc.)?

What kinds of content do you think which of your target audiences would find most interesting and useful? What are problems your customers or members have that your content can help them solve?

To Create or Curate? How will you combine creating vs. curating content to become the source people turn to for information? Most organizations will find a combination of culling useful news and information from external trusted sources with creating your own content a happy medium. A fruitful approach is focusing on developing content that isn’t easily found elsewhere and fits your niche and goals, while sharing other kinds of content you know other outside organizations are already doing a great job providing (rather than wasting resources creating information someone else does).

What content should be free and open to the public vs. members-only or fee-based? Associations and publishers have been wrestling with this question for some time. While the traditional approach was to lock most content behind the membership gate, today associations are taking a fresh look at what will be perceived as the highest member value and how to use what kind of public content to build a community and enhance their reputation as an authoritative information source. Each organization has to look carefully at these issues based on their industry, competitors, and specific situation.

How will you promote your free content to increase and engage your desired audiences? Developing and curating insightful content is a waste if people aren’t aware of it. Plan how you will promote your content through every vehicle possible and encourage your constituents to share it with their friends and colleagues to maximize your audience and build your reputation as the source for information in your niche.

Keep up with content marketing strategies and trends by following the experts. Some of my favorite content marketing experts are:

A superb example of a web site loaded with engaging, insightful, free content is Social Media Examiner, founded by Michael Stelzner, the ultimate content marketer and author of the book Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition. Stelzner has used this approach to build an audience of more than 600,000 readers to draw on for his events and courses.
What do you think is most critical to having a successful content marketing strategy? Which experts do you turn to for content marketing ideas and information?

Does What You Say Match What You Deliver?

cup with array of colored pencilsDo your messaging, mission, stories, and actual customer/member/donor experience align? It takes enormous effort, creativity, and time to deliver your mission, use effective messaging, and make it come alive through compelling stories. But it means nothing if the actual experience your customers, members, or donors have does not match the expectations your story creates.

Listening to your constituents through as many channels as possible including social media and market research offers a critical window to how your organization is really doing.

Get insights and feedback from front line staff who communicate with your customers, members, or donors on a daily basis through phone, email and your social media outlets to make sure you understand people’s perceptions, impressions, feelings, and experiences.

Does the reality people are experiencing match what your marketing is promising? If not, what do you need to do to change that?

The Power of Storytelling to Communicate Your Message

Nothing stirs the imagination like a great story, making them the ideal tool to make your organization’s mission, message, and product benefits truly come to life. Whether you are a nonprofit making your cause resonate with donors and volunteers or a small business capturing the attention of potential customers and clients, stories paint the picture of your message in the most compelling way possible.

Many accountants, lawyers, and other service professionals use stories to show how their insights and advice make a difference in their clients’ lives. Rather than touting a product’s benefits in the usual traditional ways, creative businesses illustrate them with vivacious, humorous tales or powerful, touching stories. Hospitals share heartfelt, moving testimonials from patients of how their doctors saved their loved ones. Stories are spread in as many modes as possible including social media, ads, videos, podcasts, articles, seeking media coverage, and encouraging people to share them. Vivid, active images reinforce the message.

At my previous association we shared stories of how four young professionals in that industry made a difference in their communities and how membership in the organization helped them get it done. This unique next generation membership campaign met our dual goals of membership recruitment and retention while showcasing the incredible contributions these professionals were making in their field and to their communities.

Mark Howarth, founder of Invisible People TV, talks about the creative, high impact story telling strategies he uses to convey the real life challenges of homeless people  in the February Chronicle of Philanthropy Social Good podcast hosted by Michael Margolis, founder of the consultancy Get Storied, and nonprofit expert Allison Fine. Mark says in the podcast “we have to have a personal connection… When you look at a social crisis like homelessness you think, it’s too big, I can’t do anything about it…but if you…get to know that person, you [feel]… I’ve got to do something.”

How have you used stories to convey your message or convince  your customers or members  they should use your products or services?

 

Articulate Your Unique Competitive Advantage to Stand Out from the Crowd

award medalHave you articulated the most compelling benefits your organization and products offer that differentiate you from your competitors? Clearly communicating your unique competitive advantage and using it consistently is key to gaining the attention of potential customers, members, and donors.

People are busier than ever and have short attention spans to decide if your message, product, or organization is worth their time. There are so many organizations and messages to sift through, it is critical to make yours stand out from the crowd. Know the competition and how your products and services can truly stand out and be different – what is your niche?

Look carefully at what the competitors your customers are likely to consider are offering and how they position themselves. Think about how your products and services compare and what your unique positioning is. Be sure to focus on benefits to your customers or members – not features. It doesn’t matter what you think is great about your product or service if it’s not important to your customers.

Clear messaging can persuade your prospects that your offerings will meet their needs if you have carefully crafted your wording and taken the time to really understand their motivations and challenges. Show them how what you have to offer is the solution to  their problems. This is the core of branding that can deliver the call to action you need – whether it is a lead, a sale, a new member, or a new donor.

Small businesses and associations can use this strategy to effectively compete with large companies or associations which by definition tend to have broad offerings and appeal to wider rather than targeted audiences.

What is  your competitive advantage?

Engaging the Next Generation while Remaining Relevant to Your Other Constituents

Are you making attracting and retaining the next generation a priority to sustain your organization and benefit from their fresh insights and ideas? Quite simply, they are the future. Which is why empowering and cultivating the next generation of leaders in your organization, association, industry is so vital.

Balance bar with steel ball on either side of itWhile appealing to and engaging younger people is the lifeblood of the future of the organization, balancing that with staying relevant and nurturing the rest of your customer/member base is also critical.  It is a delicate dance in a time of limited resources.

For example, many membership associations and nonprofits face the dilemma that the average age of their members and donors are now over 50 years old, making involving younger people more critical than ever. Yet budgets and staff time are also at their tightest and they worry that focusing on engaging young people will mean not paying sufficient attention to their core membership and donors.

Here are some quick tips and ideas that are working for a number of organizations:

Avoid making generalizations about the “next generation.” Take the time to find out the priorities, motivations, interests, and habits of the younger customers, members, or donors  in your audience. Which social media sites and online communities do they use for what purposes?

Conduct market research and have anecdotal conversations with younger and older people in the segments you want to reach. You may find they have common core needs and interests that will help define your messaging and services you might want to develop for them despite being in different ages ranges.

Look at your marketing materials and online presence – do the photos and graphics represent diversity including in range of ages? Are your main messages consistent with the needs and values of your most important younger and older customers/members?

Consider creating a mentoring program and/or online discussion group that give seasoned customers and members the opportunity to share their expertise and life experience with younger people. This can provide a meaningful experience and resource to both parties while involving them in your organization. Invite some key older and younger people to moderate the discussion group on your web site or a social media site like LinkedIn.

Seek other meaningful ways that customers, members, or donors in different age ranges and with different needs and interests can engage with your organization. Invite some articulate, insightful  young people to serve on your Board and key committees to ensure you get their input while making them feel valued.

Younger people expect respect and a seat at the table. They are not going to tolerate waiting 20 years to “earn” their place. Encourage their ideas, give them the opportunity to create a new program or service, or to host an in-person or online discussion panel. Ask them to serve on a task force to take a fresh look at a business line or program area.

Share success stories about accomplished young professionals or customers and how your organization or products/services helped them achieve their goals. Ask a few articulate, successful members or customers to serve as ambassadors for your organization, featuring them in articles, print and online ads, your web site, blog, and social media vehicles. Encourage them to share their stories as well and to ask their friends or colleagues to participate in your organization.

What have you found effective to engage the next generation while nurturing and sustaining your other key members, donors, or customers? What impact have you seen?

Using Social Media for Customer Service, HR, Operations and the Rest of Your Organization

Social media has grown way beyond being a marketing, public relations, and communications tool. At its heart the core of social media is connecting people, an ever evolving opportunity for people to engage, discuss, and share  perspectives, opinions, and information. So by definition social media impacts most aspects of an organization including product development, customer service, HR, and crisis management.

image of the world globe against digital backgroundAre you thinking through the best ways to use social media effectively throughout your organization to meet your goals and build community? Here are just a few examples of the many applications social media has across the organization:

Customer Service. Customers and potential customers are most likely discussing your products and services online, providing a constant virtual focus group. If customers do not get the service they want or something goes wrong with a product, they will be quick to share it online. Be sure to respond quickly and helpfully, remembering your response and the customer’s are in a very public forum.The positive is when you shine, you also may get complimented in that same public space. Obviously you want the positives to go viral, not to be a negative example used by social media experts for years to come (as happened with “United Breaks Guitars“).

This is all one more reason why most organizations want to have a strong presence on primary sites like facebook and twitter to provide outstanding customer service while also supporting their branding and messaging goals. Many organizations also encourage customer reviews on their own web sites getting the opportunity to address issues as they arise and get honest feedback about their products.

New Product Development. Listening to customers’ conversations on social media can provide invaluable input and pinpoint trends to help hone current products and services and get ideas for new ones. Innovative organizations have set up special web sites to invite customers to share new product ideas and vote on favorite ideas others have submitted, for example “My Starbucks Idea.” The sites often offer incentives such as potential prizes for winning ideas.

Crisis Planning and Management. The power of social media to build community and communicate makes it a critical interactive tool in a crisis. Messages can be communicated on the fly to the public and the media. Conversation on sites like facebook and google plus about ongoing issues can keep people up-to-date and get their questions answered.

Continue reading

Understanding Customer Needs Key to New Product Development

The best new products and services fulfill an unmet need of a specific segment of customers, developed based on robust knowledge and understanding of their motivations, daily lives, and problems. But what is the best way to achieve it?

Market research, regular conversations, and listening to customers is pivotal, so that you know them as well as possible. However, many experts caution about asking customers what new products or services they would like you to develop. The problem with basing new product development on customer input is customers might not be able to envision the truly blue sky possibilities.

As Henry Ford said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have told me, ‘a faster horse.” It is doubtful that any customer would have thought in 1991 to ask for a product like the MP3 player to be developed.

That is why many successful organizations observe their customers in action. For example, an association taking field trips to shadow members in their professional day-to-day roles, or consumer products companies watching customers accomplishing a task like doing laundry to see the real problems they are coping with in action.

Use observation to truly understand your customers’ daily lives and problems rather than relying on asking them survey questions like which of the following products would you be interested in. Many popular next generation new products like the Swiffer were developed with this principle and by carefully studying and replicating the problem the customer was coping with (in this case how to make mopping dirt and messes easy).

Testing and focus groups are commonly used to refine ideas and products. “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them” as Steve Jobs is credited with saying.