Disruption: What is your data NOT telling you?

I love disruption. Not many people can say that. Disruption is a breath of fresh air to rituals and expectations. Leveraged well, disruption is an amazing marketing tool.

Take REI in America. They chose to CLOSE their store on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year in the US.

rei-closed-black-friday-2015

While some accused the retailer of simply pulling off a promotional stunt, the concept ran much deeper. The idea of closing so their employees and customers could actually go outside and play was in keeping with their brand promise of enjoying the outdoors. It struck an emotional connection with their audience. The fact that 1.5 million people then contributed content through social media to tell how they spent their day outside, of course added to the effectiveness. The company created the hashtag #OptOutside to help channel shared content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. And the press went crazy giving them tons of free publicity for rejecting Black Friday. They became a top news item nationally. It’s an act of bravery to close 143 stores on your traditionally busiest day. But it would appear that subsequent online sales actually more then made up for it. They were reportedly up 26%.

It was a clever disruption.

But here’s the real insight. Data analysis would have told them this was a crazy idea. According to REI analytics, visits are preceded by one of more digital experiences, especially using mobile. Getting people to the site and keeping them there is the end goal for REI. Putting up a closed sign on their website ran counter to everything analytics told them. So too did putting up a closed sign on their 143 store location doors for the day.

But what data can’t measure well is emotion and values. Data gives you tracked behaviour, but creativity and disruption allows for justified leaps of faith. In this case, REI realized that the message to reject consumerism for the day would resonate, especially if they were encouraging people to step away from online, and to get outside and connect with nature. It also played out well for how they valued their employees in giving them the day off.

Data is about the past, but it is often used to predict the future. And it can do a good job to a point. But the one thing for certain about data is that it can also blind you to leaps of faith that allow an emotional connection based on values.

Have a think on that the next time you get tangled up in the reeds of numbers and analysis.

Marketing disruption: Hans Brinker Hotel claims “worst hotel” status

Disruption can be a powerful tool.

The Hans Brinker Hotel in Amsterdam claims to be the worst hotel ever. In fact, an official line from one of their ads claims, “The Hans Brinker Hotel in Amsterdam. It doesn’t get much worse.” Without apology, they have made a successful business out of being awful. Click here for a first hand look at that housekeeping commercial. It will give you a whole new perspective on changing pillow cases! The assumption of course is that there is not a lot of competition to own the space of being bad. Check out their website here.

Apparently curtains double as blankets at the Hans Brinker, and their propensity to not replace light bulbs regularly and to leave the heat turned down, is simply billed as “being eco-friendly.” You get it. The Hans Brinker is something to be endured. Survival offers bragging rights, and that frankly is part of their “blue ocean” strategy.

HansBrinker_curtain_blanket

The Disruption:

To truly understand how they can do this however, requires you to grasp who their target audience is, their competitive environment, their strategic competitive advantages (this may require a stretch), and how all of that can be successfully leveraged.

The target market for this hotel should be pretty obvious – students and youth in their 20s, single, budget minded, international travelers visiting Amsterdam, attitude of adventure, curiosity and risk tolerant. A one-night stay at the 127 room hostel will run you $35. Advertising slogans warn of no hot water, sparse rooms and filthy conditions. Guests are encouraged to dry off with the shower curtain to save on washing.

The Hans Brinker owns awful. Nobody generally wants to be the worst when it comes to travel and hospitality. But vying for the best is a crowded space. They recognized that their target market just might love their honesty and irreverent attitude. This position has allowed them to not only stand out from most hotels (admittedly that was the easy part), but it also allowed them to stand out against other budget accommodation options (the harder part).

Word of mouth & going viral

The best way to ensure powerful word of mouth is to give people something that makes them look smart, funny, insightful, or connected to an inner circle in some way. At the heart of word of mouth is powerful storytelling. The Hans Brinker is a story begging to be told, whether its as a travel tip, a survival story, or simply something that begs to be shared for pure entertainment. To that end, the company made visually sharing their story easy. They have a Youtube channel, where their commercials are posted, and they also encourage customers to post their own awful experiences. Certainly turns customer rating sites like Yelp on its ear – don’t you agree? Here’s their Youtube channel.

Recognizing that Instagram and Facebook were social channels heavily used by their target, they regularly post to those platforms, and encourage their customers to as well, tagging them #hasbrinker.

HansBrinker1hansBrinker2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing channels to leverage media

When picking a channel it’s important to consider your audience, the reach, and your personality.

The Hans Brinker heavily uses Instagram, Facebook and Youtube since their customers frequent those social media platforms. But they also know their customers, armed with mobile devices, will help with the heavy lifting of telling their story and personal experience. If you Google the Hans Brinker, the results and resulting earned media dominate the first 10 pages. Their approach is a model of anchors, outposts, earned and paid media.

The company has even published their own book on customer service – appropriately displayed on the floor to prop up a table leg, rather then with pride on a bookshelf.

HansBrinker_WorstHotel_book

 

The 4 pillar media approach

Anchors: Website, enewsletter and blog. The Hans Brinker publishes regularly to all of their owned platforms.

Outposts: This is their “rented” social media space, which includes: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. The hotel publishes content to these platforms that leads customers back to their anchored website, where the goal is to convert them to customers.

Earned: Because they have such an unusual position and funny story, they have earned print and broadcast media globally. Even travel rating services such as Yelp and Trip Advisor list them for all the wrong reasons.

Paid: The Hans Brinker does traditional paid advertising including print, broadcast, and outdoor. But the primary focus is digital, where they amplify their message through sponsored content directly to their target audience on mobile through Google ad words for search, and sponsored content on Facebook and Instagram.

So what insights might you draw from this example? (other then where NOT to stay next time you’re in Amsterdam)

  1. Disruption cuts through the competitive clutter. It’s a blue ocean strategy.
  2. Disruption can happen in the form of: price, product or service, promotion or the way you distribute.
  3. Disruption gives you a story to tell. Stories are at the heart of word of mouth.
  4. Disruption feeds content for your owned and rented media.
  5. Disruption will earn you media.

What do you think? Is this an effective strategy? Have you ever stayed at the Hans Brinker Hotel? (and are willing to admit it!) I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

What 3 words will focus your 2016 efforts?

Welcome to 2016! For many of us the New Year brings promise and anticipation of opportunity. While I’m not a big believer in New Years resolutions, I do sit down each year and write out business and personal objectives and then break them out into smaller “to do” items. I then note those items in my calendar. It’s a remarkably simple system, and one that I’ve used since 1987. While I don’t have my notes from that year, I do have sheets dating from 1994, including a couple “10 years from now” vision sheets. I know it’s kind of crazy to actually have all of these in a folder, but it is absolutely remarkable to go back a review them annually to see how much can actually be accomplished when you engage this process.

Something that I have recently added is the idea of picking 3 words to guide the year. I learned this technique from Chris Brogan, and I love it! Rather then a resolution, it’s a theme for my objectives. For 2016, I’ve chosen the words share, leverage and celebrate.

3words Share: By nature I am a teacher. I love sharing knowledge with others, whether it’s in the classroom, the boardroom, on the podium, or at the keyboard writing. I’ll continue to share marketing insight through the spoken and written word as one of my themes for 2016, because sharing is at the heart of how I grow my actual paid income. My theory is that people buy from those they know, like and trust. Sharing is the gateway into that sequence. But the sharing theme will also expand into sharing more time with those I love, and energy and financial resources to support projects that I value –both personally and professionally.

Leverage: I’ve decided that 2016 is the year to stop trading time exclusively for money. There are only so many hours in the day, and there is only so much I can do personally. Leveraging will be about combining all parts of my business together to create income even when I’m not present. While I’ll certainly be maxing out the available hours to do what I love – speaking, writing, teaching and consulting, I intend to capitalize on being a marketing thought leader, and create several of my own courses. I figure after years of resisting the “teacher” label, I might as well just accept, and own it! But rather then trading my time for money exclusively speaking for a client or teaching a course, I’ll take the best of what I know and leverage the content. These courses will be aimed at business leaders, structured for the adult learner, and delivered in a format that works for that audience. In keeping with that focus, I’ll continue to drive the further growth of my list by sharing content. Last year the list grew by 80% while still maintaining unheard of loyalty at close to 50% opens. Leveraging the list and leveraging the marketing thought leader position will be a major focus for 2016.

Celebrate: I thought long and hard about the third word, since I wanted something that balanced both business and personal aspects. Celebrating is about achieving goals but also about savouring experiences. Celebrating is about knowing what you’re good at and accepting it. Celebrating is about being grateful, embracing the moment, and creating memories. As a theme, celebrate also goes beyond an individual focus, and allows you to celebrate others. I like that.

So here is where I toss it back to you. What will be your 3 words for 2016?

Leave a comment and share below, or email me directly. The process of thinking about them and selecting those words will guide tremendously both your business and personal efforts in the coming year.

If you liked this article, you might really enjoy my 5-Minute Marketing Sunday morning e-newsletter tips. It’s the insiders tribe where I teach business leaders to be more successful through innovative marketing. View archived copies and subscribe here.

How #WestJetChristmas Miracle 2015 earns authenticity in the jaded airline space

Leading brands know who they are, and more importantly who they ARE NOT. They are conscious of what matches their style and resonates with their audience. They find authenticity in the space that they occupy.

Westjet is one of those brands.

WESTJET-SANTA-878x494

Westjet has been doing the Christmas miracle since 2012, an annual feel good campaign of sorts, that spreads good cheer in their community. There’s certainly no denying that they also benefit strategically from the effort in terms of publicity and earned media, but that objective is not the sole root of the exercise. Or at least it doesn’t appear that way.

Here’s a little primer for those who may not be familiar with the entire Westjet Christmas Miracle history.

In 2014 they helped an impoverished town in the Dominican Republic. Check out a video about the campaign here.

In 2013 they surprised guests flying from Toronto to Calgary with gifts that they had wished for earlier while talking to an online Santa in the boarding lounge. Those gifts famously rolled off the luggage carousel upon arrival in Calgary. View it here. 

In 2012 they did a flash mob at the Calgary airport, surprising passengers taking the red-eye to Toronto. This campaign was their Christmas Miracle venture. View it here.

Even Air Canada got in on the philanthropic act in 2014, with their own version of feel good marketing, when a couple pilots entered a well know Canadian expat pub in London, and bought a round for the crowd – literally a round trip return ticket home to Canada for the holidays for everyone in the room. Check out that video here. The Air Canada campaign was heart felt, meaningful, and no doubt deeply appreciated. I fly Air Canada often, frankly because they have a better schedule to some destinations, and also because their Star Alliance points program is linked to global carriers. But here’s the thing. Air Canada did not authentically own the “Christmas miracle” promotional space. Westjet did. Authenticity can’t be bought; it is something that must be earned. Individuals and companies earn authenticity through everyday actions, which collectively allow them to claim the space over time.

And that’s why this years #WestJetChristmas Miracle 2015 featuring employees carrying out 12,000 mini miracles in 24 hours was so powerful. Westjet empowered their 12,000 employees to commit random acts of kindness on December 9th, and then record them through words, photos and video on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pintrest. There were flights home for Christmas given away, a family vacation to Disney World, but also donations to dog shelters, food for soup kitchens, help for a senior to clean their apartment and put up decorations, random candy canes, toy donations, and many more. The campaign kicked off in London UK early morning, and carried on through 38 airports and cities through out Canada that the airline serves, as well as US destinations, the Caribbean and Hawaii. The company also encouraged citizens to commit their own random act of kindness and to share it on social media with the #WestJetChristmas hashtag. In encouraging others they boosted the reach up to 31,793 mini miracles from their 12,000 employee numbers. That’s pretty awesome. Now one week after the Dec 9 Mini Miracle day, Westjet has released the summary video. Within the first 12 hours of launch, it had achieved over 92,000 views. Watch it here.

Why does all this matter?  I think it all comes back to authenticity. Campaigns like this resonate with a target audience when they come from an authentic place. There’s something to be learned in that for your own marketing efforts. Know who you are, and more importantly, who you ARE NOT. Forget about trying to emulate your competitors. Customers will see right through it. And never loose sight of what you do well, and own it. Westjet owns friendliness and compassion in the airline space. That’s a valuable position, and not something easily earned. But they’ve done it through consistent actions.

So here are three questions to reflect on for your own marketing efforts: What do you do well? Why do you own it? How are you authentic in that space?

What does Amazon’s move to open a new brick and mortar bookstore in Seattle signal?

It’s been said that everything old becomes new again in time. But has the time come for the online bookstore to go back to its roots, with actual physical locations?

Amazon opened a physical bookstore in Seattle in early November 2015.

The store is located in University Village, an upscale outdoor mall that is already home to thriving Apple and Microsoft stores. The company calls the location a physical extension of Amazon.com. Books are displayed face out and each contain an Amazon.com customer rating and review card. Books are selected based on popularity, sales and pre-orders. Prices are the same as online. The heart of the offering encourages what other stores fear – browsing then buying online. It’s retail showcasing but with a twist. The company doing the showcasing owns the well-established online business. And they’ve got a solid supply chain management system for delivery, whether digital or physical, through their growing network of warehouses, courier contracts and soon to be drones.

Many in business, and in particular the book business, were a bit mystified by Amazon’s move to open a bookstore in Seattle at the beginning of November. And they seemed quick to dismiss the move as having little impact on other competing bookstores. Link here for USA Today news coverage of their opening.

Amazon_Seattle_store_tweet

 

But that opinion may be missing the point entirely. Selling books is not the path to riches. This only appears to be about books. They’re the test. Seattle is well known as a research area for Amazon. This is where they premiered Prime before rolling it out globally. I think the same could be true of this new approach to “showcasing”. Although Amazon started with books for their online sales model, the company now sells pretty much everything. Indeed their competitive advantage is in the online mass merchandising of items and the efficient delivery system that they control from tip to tail. I think this is about experimenting with the showroom concept and then applying it across all their product lines – far beyond books, and potentially with far reaching global applications.

The secret I believe lies in discovery and tactile touch. As humans we crave this process as part of the shopping experience. And as choices become more complex and online offerings grow exponentially, it becomes harder and harder to discover organically. We start to look to those who will curate the content for us and show us what is worthy of our time.

Curating physical content and assisting discovery is what this new move from Amazon is all about. And it could signal a very disruptive move across all industries as online shopping matures. Many stores are already frustrated with browsers who access product knowledge of staff, view the product in person, and then go online to purchase. In 2013 an Australian specialty food store started charging a $5 just browsing fee to enter the store. If customer bought product they were refunded the fee. I don’t think penalizing customers that way is progressive, but it certainly signals frustration at loosing sales to online after educating customers.

So might showrooming be the way of the future? Does Amazon’s move signal retail disruption?

 

 

 

Russian disabled parking campaign uses 3 components of great storytelling

It’s hard to believe it’s Nov 2nd. I was out last week on a pumpkin retrieval mission with my daughter leading up to Halloween. Last year I left it too late and the only thing left was an oversized and overpriced green and white squash, which we carved into Casper the ghost, given its kidney shaped figure. After three stops and sold out pumpkins, it was starting to look like a repeat of last year.  The outing seemed doomed to failure; it was taking too long, it was raining and my head felt like the size of the pumpkin we couldn’t find, with a head cold moving in.

It was in this state that I pulled into a disabled parking spot to be able to quickly snatch what appeared to be the last pumpkin on the north shore. We had spotted it driving by.

I need to preface this with the disclosure that this is not something I would normally do. When I’ve had the occasion to drive for those requiring assistance who have disabled parking privileges, I’ve developed a clear understanding of the need to be close to the entrance, and the extra space for things such as walkers. The decision to park there briefly was a lame move clearly made in the fog of a head cold and a need to get home to bed.

Call it karma, when this clever campaign to combat this exact problem, popped up in my Facebook feed Friday morning! Seems I’m not alone. At least not in Russia, where apparently 30% of drivers routinely park in disabled spots. This has to be the cleverest campaign I’ve ever seen. You HAVE to watch the video!

disabled-hologram

 

The video shows how a hologram appears over disabled parking spaces when able-bodied drivers try and park there. The hologram features different people in wheelchairs berating drivers with things like, “Yes, I’m real. Please find another place to park.” The installation was courtesy of Moscow-based advertising agency Y&R on behalf of a Russian charity, Dislife.ru. The installations appeared in shopping malls and business centers in Moscow including the largest mall in Europe. But beyond the installation, the point was to film how it worked, and capture driver response. Then allow those photos and video clips to become news. That was the power of this campaign.

But at the heart of it, was something more. Why was it so effective? This campaign contained three components of great storytelling:

  1. It tapped emotion. It wins hearts then it wins minds.
  2. It was unbelievable. While holograms may have been introduced in Star Trek, they are not a common occurrence in everyday life. The application of technology is fascinating. Unbelievable becomes instantly shareable in the age of social media.
  3. It shared a universal truth. Each of us everyday sees disabled parking. It is a story we can all relate to. This is especially true if we, or someone we know need to use those spots legitimately.

So what’s the lesson in all this, other then “don’t mess with karma” and respect the proper use of disabled parking spots?

Good marketing uses storytelling at its heart. Stories are memorable and shareable. A year from now your customers are unlikely to remember the details of your current offering, but they will remember your story, and how you made them feel. And if that story in some way taps emotion, is even the slightest bit unbelievable and raises their curiosity, and is at its heart something they can relate to, you will have struck marketing gold.

 

10 reasons why “Sid and Nate: Drive thru rookies” went viral

This week Tim Hortons uploaded a series of commercials to Youtube featuring Nova Scotia hometown boys, Sidney Crosby and Nate MacKinnon serving up coffee at the Dartmouth Tim Hortons Drive Thru. The stunt was called “Sid and Nate: Drive Thru rookie”. The pair bumble their way through orders, charmed surprised patrons, and peppered their speech with just enough “sorry’s” to make something already pretty Canadian, even more so. It’s a series of ads destined to be aired more widely, but not before the chain ensures they garner lots of word of mouth plus a good dose of media tossed in. If you haven’t seen the spots, have a look at the Youtube link here.

The original stunt was conducted and filmed back in July. Here is a tweet from July 28

Crosby_TimHortons_TweetIt garned CBC TV coverage at that time. Have a look here.

But the timing to leverage additional WOMMM + M (word of mouth, mouse & mobile + media) was now, because that’s when hockey season is set to ramp up. Plus, as the weather turns colder and Canadians head to the rink, coffee is perhaps more on their mind then in the summer.

Here’s a sample of media received just this week:

Huffington post

Global TV

Toronto Sun

So, weaving all this back to lessons for word of mouth, mouse & mobile + media, let’s consider why this campaign works so well.

  1. Strong visual: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts with visuals helped fuel the initial WOMMM + Media. But it was arguably the Youtube video that injected the latest round of coverage. All these media had strong visual components. So did TV and newspapers that got on board. And let’s face it; Crosby and MacKinnon are not hard to look at. Plus they’re hockey heroes. Any picture with them will garner interest.
  1. Use of a #hashtag: Normally things that go viral have a #hashtag. I’ve looked, and as best I can figure on Twitter and Instagram, this campaign DID NOT receive one! It screams for a #DriveThruRookies. Perhaps a missed opportunity by Tim Hortons? I’m pretty sure their ad agency would have suggested one! Hashtags help channel content so that people who hear about it through media or WOM can quickly tune into the conversation.
  1. They understood timing: While WOM is subject to timing for tapping when people might care more, the media is absolutely governed by it. Media looks for stories that play out well for when their audience will care. Canadians care about hockey at the end of September. Back in the summer while camping and travelling, hockey was not top of mind. There is far more mileage to this campaign uploading those videos and generating media now then back in the summer.
  1. It got the attention of powerful social media users: Tim Hortons has over 350,000 followers on Twitter, over 120,000 followers on Instagram, and over 2.7 million likes on Facebook. There are about 10,000 subscribers to their Youtube channel. Simply by promoting it through their social channels, they got immediate exposure. Add to that, some well-known sports and media folks in those databases, and the exposure became exponential.
  1. Media monitor online media for stories: Both online and traditional print and broadcast media monitor online for stories to cover. Twitter is heavily used by reporters to find breaking news. Because they are in the business of gaining readers, listeners, viewers or followers, they need to know when something is “hot.” Twitter is their tool to find stories and detect if they are growing. Online feeds traditional media, and traditional media such as print and TV or radio broadcast, in turn feeds online again. It becomes a vicious circle of momentum building. That cycle explains why the story got exposure back in July and again gained momentum this past week.
  1. Discredit authority, poke fun at a hero: It’s fun to watch two guys who are stars playing hockey mess up the simplest of orders. The heroes are made humble, which makes them more personable.
  1. The use of humour: Of course the spots are heavily edited, but that was done to make them fun and entertaining. I have a hard time believing Sid the kid is that funny all the time. The repetitive “sorry’s” left me chuckling.
  1. Media craves the bizarre or unusual: Driving up to a Tim Hortons Drive Thru is pretty usual for most Canadians. Being served by your hockey hero is not. In the face of ISIS terror, faltering economies or an election campaign running a marathon, lighter news sells. This one delivered surprise and everyday Canadians response. We lapped it up.
  1. The use of celebrity: Not only did the spots feature celebrities, they tapped their social media circles, which had extensive reach.
  1. The power of storytelling: It’s human nature to love a story. This one had classic story composition: A hero or villain, a tragedy or challenge, a climax and resolution. The people entering the drive through were characters that helped flush out the richer details through their reactions and responses. They became heroes along with the hockey stars. It’s a story that will continue to unfold, as the people who were filmed continue to tell their story of meeting these hockey stars at the drive thru.

Ultimately it was a very Canadian feel good story. A perfect match for the Tim Hortons brand in Canada. And it followed the 10 point formula for going viral perfectly. Here’s my question to you: How could you tell your story using these 10 points, to generate more word of mouth, mouse, mobile plus media?

 

 

 

Marketing SOS: 5 Tips to minimize distractions

SOS is an international code signal of extreme distress used especially by ships at sea. But the SOS I want to talk about here is “Shiny Object Syndrome” in particular as it relates to our limited attention spans, constant interruptions, the need to chase down endless links online, monitor social media push notifications, and in general spending our days multi tasking in endless distraction. Let’s face it, it’s a nasty environment to try to stand out and get noticed in your marketing efforts. Collectively our target audiences are incessantly chasing shiny objects daily.

SOS_logoSo how does that play out on your business website and in your social media?

Are you spending your marketing efforts to land people to your website, only to entice them with a shiny object that chases them away? Framed more directly does your website contain countless links to videos hosted on YouTube, articles hosted on other media sites, or an endless parade of social media buttons that beg to be pressed? On one hand we want lots of back links to content, in particular content hosted on reputable sites, as links since it boosts our SEO. That article in the Huffington Post or New York Times immediately rockets you to the top of the respect list, but once there, do your readers return? And haven’t you been told that you need to get more followers, friends, subscribers and likes because it builds a following? But the very act of enticing folks to those pages, away from your site, also increases the likelihood that they will become further distracted while they’re chasing the next shiny object. We’ve all done it – linked to Facebook for an article, checked our newsfeed while there, and “poof” off we go looking at some other new piece video or quiz result. My fellow speaker friend Jane Atkinson calls these phenomena squirrels chasing nuts. Once they’re gone, they are not coming back to your content.

So how do you stand out, fuel search, build a following, while grabbing and holding the attention of an increasingly distracted audience? Frankly it’s a quandary.

The secret may lie in simplicity.

I got a glimpse of that earlier in September when Vancouver was hit by a massive windstorm, knocking out power to over 400,000 residents in the Lower Mainland. We personally were without power for 3 days. While it was an inconvenience for sure, many people I spoke to actually remarked that they enjoyed the serenity of being forcefully unplugged. Some played board games. Others made dinner on the BBQ and then sat around a family dinner table by candlelight and talked. We got out Scrabble and played for several hours. We made our own music with voice, piano and guitar. It was all so simple and there were no distractions.

What if your marketing could land in an environment of few distractions and one of peace? Here are a few ideas to achieve that.

1. Pick personal engagement media and be consistent: One of the reasons I stand by a regular newsletter is that it is one-to-one communication and personal. It’s permission based. Readers have granted me the key to their inbox and it’s an honor. I know I’ve got their undistracted attention for 5 minutes each week if I keep up my promise of providing value and arriving with predictable consistency. For my readership, the weekend, and Sunday morning in particular is a time of less distraction, one where they’re still thinking business, just in a less hectic state. Depending on your audience, I don’t think the date so much matters, but the consistency once chosen. (*If you’d like to view sample back issues of my newsletter or sign up yourself, click here to check it out)

2. Schedule social media posts to arrive at times when your audience is more apt to be receptive: Scheduling can be done within Facebook for business pages for example, but a more time efficient method is to use a dashboard service such as Hootsuite, where you can schedule posts for all your social media platforms for an entire week.

How you use scheduling will vary by audience. An entertainment company might use Thursday evening for people planning their weekends. A healthy food take out company might use the 3-4pm window weekdays, knowing that busy Moms and Dads will be on smart phones waiting to pick up or drop off kids and be looking for a solution to dinner. A client targeting downtown business people might consider having posts show up during morning commute, for those riding transit, or during lunch time – both times when folks tend to be focused on scrolling their smart phones.

3. Host content on your site as well as offering links for SEO: By all means post videos to your YouTube channel for search and organic discovery, but consider hosting the really important ones directly on your site as well. Then visitors can view the video and remain on your site undistracted. I’d suggest a similar approach for media coverage and article links. Hosting the content on your site ensures it can be read or viewed without leaving, but also providing a link to the media site where it appeared gives the authority angle while also boosting back link SEO.

4. Tame down or remove unnecessary social media distraction buttons: This one is a little contentious. You want visitors to be able to like and follow you on social media, but you don’t want it to be the first thing that causes them to immediately leap away from your site. A measured approach would be to make them easy to find, but not the equivalent of a neon banner when they first land.

5. Consider the use of non-digital to engage: Digital by its nature is distraction friendly – a dine and dash rather then a full course meal. We read differently on digital platforms – skim reading rather then taking more time. We expect links as we search for that next meal to graze. Non-digital media such as direct mail offer far less distraction. Tell me this – if you received a hand written post card in the mail tomorrow, would you not read it? A handwritten note by mail is a rarity these days. If you’re looking to be personal and not compete with other distractions, that’s about as simple as it gets. Kind of like having the power go out!

So beware how SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome) can foul up your marketing. Perhaps it’s time to consider the time, place, media and context of your message from your customer’s perspective, with the goal to hitting when there are fewer distractions.
 

 

You live or die by your database: 10 ways to grow your list

Businesses live and die by their database and how it is used to communicate with and serve customers. Your database is a lifeline. And your list is like a marriage. Any day you’re not feeding and growing your list is a day you’re losing it.

The key is to have a mindset of service and value. Companies need to serve the people on their list and spend time answering this key question: how can I grow their capabilities and connections? The value component is what they give away – knowledge, sometimes for love and sometimes for money.

email-opened

Growing your list should be among your top objectives. You list is a “digital asset”. You own it. Basically all other marketing efforts should serve to drive the growth of your list.

So what are some ways to grow your list?

  1. Social media: Ensure all social media leads to content, and that content should lead to the list. Whenever you share a blog post on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for example, that blog post should be posted in a place that prompts an email sign up.
  2. Pop-ups: I was never a huge fan of pop-ups until I witnessed how they could grow a list. They key is to have a pop-up what allows you to set criteria such as a time delay for the person visiting the site and for them to be recognized so they are only served a pop-up once a month for example for repeat visitors.
  3. LinkedIn lead to something free: Perhaps give away a summary sheet or a report and have those that link be prompted for a newsletter sign up in exchange. This can be done on any social platform, but in my experience, LinkedIn is the most successful in terms of quantified people interested since you can select groups who might be specifically interested.
  4. Compelling blog posts: You can’t beat good writing and good content. It leads to people wanting more and subsequently subscribing.
  5. Cross promotion: If you know others in the online community who might have a list that compliments in terms of offerings and target market, you could consider cross promoting each other.
  6. Simply ask: This one is obvious, but often ignored. Simply asking current subscribers to share your newsletter on social platforms or to forward to friends with the suggesting that they subscribe is a simple and easy way to expand your list. The power of referral is very strong.
  7. Twitter: I started scheduling a few tweets amongst my other material where I simply suggest that you can “get my best stuff weekly” by signing up, then including a link. It amazes me the people that come in this way!
  8. Run a contest: The contest could be on Facebook where you post a link to an informative article and then have people enter to win a copy of your e-book with even more material.
  9. Event sign ups: I always offer people who attend my seminars the opportunity to sign up for my newsletter. The key is to make sure they opt in and you don’t just collect business cards and add them yourself. You need to be compliant with regulations on how you build your list. Permission based and double opt in is the law.
  10. Referral: Every several months I send out a personal request to a handful of business contacts asking them for 3-4 referrals each that might also enjoy receiving this type of information. It’s a personable piece of communication, and it genuinely works. They are always quality contacts, and often turn into clients down the road.

I’m sure there are other clever ways to grow your list that you may be using. Why not share them here?

 

Triple threat media: Earned, pushed & paid

Media for our marketing efforts really fall into 3 buckets. I call them your triple threat if you get the combo right. The 3 buckets are: earned, pushed and paid.

3_buckets

 

  1. Earned media: We don’t pay for this media and we have little actual execution control over it, but we can certainly influence how it is attained. Earned media can come in the form of an article being printed about you, a TV or radio broadcast featuring your business, or in the online world, that article appearing on a website, blog or featured in video or audio form on someone’s site or podcast. The key is, the material is actually produced and hosted by someone else other than you or your business. Earned media can also come in the form of earning the right to have a submitted article that you wrote published on a news site, blog, or in actual print. Here, while you produced the content, it was still published, hosted and distributed by someone other then you or your business. Earning the right to have someone distribute in some way your stuff means you were worthy on some level. Your business was deemed successful; you were doing good, or what you submitted to be published was in some way of interest to the distributing media’s audience. That’s how we get earned media on our side. Earned media is awesome and authentic, but it is also the most labour intensive.
  1. Pushed media: Pushed is all the media that you personally “push” out there. It could include the anchored content from your blog, enewsletter, podcasts, website, infographics, whitepapers, videos or tips sheets. Pushed media is also content that you push and broadcast through social media channels – be it photos, comments, article or video links etc. While social media by its nature should provoke two-way engagement, the first act of engagement is to put content out through channels to reach a defined target, in order to have the basis of engagement. Pushed media feels like the new frontier with endless channels and a seemingly hungry audience. It can be like sipping from a fire hose at times. Pushed media is totally within your control, but you need to either curate content or create it, and the effectiveness is dependent on the reach and how well targeted your social media footprint is. The space is also getting more crowded making it increasingly difficult to stand out.
  1. Paid media: Paid media is that stuff, you guessed it, that you pay for. I classify paid media in both digital and traditional form to include paid placement of ads in print, broadcast, outdoor and direct for example, as well as paid targeting and boosting of online digital content such as paying to boost Facebook posts to a targeted audience, or paying for Google ad words. Paid media is within your control and can be either hyper targeted, or offer a mass broad reach like no other media option. Paid media has fallen a little out of favour with some folks currently enamored with push and earned media, but it’s clout should not be under estimated.

The honest truth is, while earned media may appear the holy grail, a solid combination of earned, pushed and paid is really what drives broad reaching awareness to a defined target audience. The reason for that is, the components of pushed and paid allow us to highly select an audience, ensure large numbers of exposures, and to a certain extent ensure multiple repeat exposures, that generally result in elevated awareness or whatever the defined goal of the campaign originally was. I’ll go one step further and suggest, not unlike when rock climbing, that at least 2 points of contact are needed to maintain balance, and 3 to be moving forward. The same applies to your media buckets. If you only have one, you will literally be just holding on. You need at least 2 of earned, pushed and paid, to achieve balance, but adding the third could really propel things forward.