The four pillars of your media empire

Wouldn’t it be great to have the media clout of Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, Rupert Murdock, or Mark Zukerberg? While all these icons have carved out substantial media empires on broadcast, print and online platforms, never before has there been such opportunity to leverage your own content and channels in building awareness and a brand position. If you’ve got expertise and knowledge, you should be building your own media empire.

Three compelling reasons to build your media empire:

  1. Authority: Be seen as the expert, the one who gets the calls, the quotes, and let’s face it, the business!
  1. Search: Be the most visible. You want to dominate SEO without ever paying for it, simply because of the volume and quality of your content and knowledge.
  1. Engagement: Build community; generate engagement with your brand, which ultimately leads to sales.

'You fancy yourself as a press baron, don't you?'

The four pillars of your media empire:

  1. Anchors: These are your media assets. Your assets include things like your website, blog, enewsletter, podcast, webinar, and video. As such, you own them, which is a good thing, since nobody can change the rules of how they are used except you. And you host them within owned properties of your media empire. Anchors are key players for search, authority and engagement. Ultimately you want your other three pillars to drive people back to your anchors. Your anchors are where you will convert exposure and engagement into sales.
  1. Outposts: Think of these as rented property. Outposts include social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pintrest, Vine, Youtube etc. While you customize them like your own property, often decorating them like a home and taking ownership, ultimately someone else owns them and can change the rules at any time. They could charge you more rent, restrict your access, or use your property if they want to. But before you think of them too much like a nasty landlord, you must also consider the power and opportunity they can deliver. Outpost social media platforms have the ability to broadcast and share content, and by their nature, they offer two-way engagement, which helps build community around your brand. Outposts should be used to broadcast and engage, but ultimately drive people back to your anchor content. That’s where you own them and that’s where you’ll convert the sale.
  1. Earned: This is third party endorsement. In the traditional sense it is when a print of broadcast media company publishes something about your business, giving it visibility, without you paying for it. But it could also include other online media like the Huffington Post, industry authorities through their social media, or well read blogs. Since it is an earned property and it can’t be purchased, it is coveted and valued. Usually these days coverage by other media outlets includes content online, which is great, since you can feed those links back into your outpost media engines and also feature it in your anchored content. If you earn media coverage, maximize the exposure as much as you possibly can.
  1. Paid: This is the strategic stuff you do to boost and promote content online to a selected audience. It could include boosting posts, Google ad words, paid featured content, pop up ads or SEO. It used to be that a Facebook Like meant that everyone who “liked” your business received the post in his or her feed. Since going public and needing to show revenue, they have closed the “Like” funnel down. Current estimates are that 7-10% of content gets through to the folks that like your page. To reach the rest, you need to boost your posts. The good news is, boosting can be relatively inexpensive, and offer the opportunity to be very strategic and picky about who the post is delivered to. Of all the social media platforms out there, Facebook likely represents the broadest spectrum of the population, so depending on your offering this could be a strategically good route. I’d suggest experimenting and then measuring with analytics to see the effects on site visits and links. Overall I’d exercise caution and only go with platforms your audience uses a lot, and monitor closely what works and what doesn’t. Gone are the days of not knowing what works. Measure and monitor if you’re going to spend money on paid media.

Success comes when all four pillars are leveraged together

The successful building of brand awareness through content marketing usually has at least three and oftentimes four of the media pillars. Original content is created and shared on several anchors. Outposts are used to broadcast widely and create engagement. If earned media picks up the story, it is fed back through outposts to generate more interest and ultimately drive people back to the anchored content. Sometimes paid is also used strategically to fuel outposts and drive people to the anchors, or to generate awareness and coverage by earned media. While the pillars of your media empire are separate entities, if used well with their purpose and unique abilities in mind, they build on each other offering you incredible media content clout.

Ever wonder what the 1978 WKRP in Cincinnati “Turkeys away” episode might look like in the age of social media?

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers! Website analytics tell me that while this blog has readership worldwide (which is totally awesome!) 19% is from Canada and 30% is from the US. So I thought in honor of Thanksgiving stateside, I’d invite you to reflect and speculate on how an iconic WKRP in Cincinnati episode might unfold in the age of social media… At the very least, you’ll have something entertaining to discuss over the turkey dinner with family and friends!WKRPinCincinnati

Those of a certain age may well remember the “Turkeys Away” episode of WKRP in Cincinnati. If this classic piece of retro TV pre-dates you, take 5 and watch it here. I’ve cut the video to the last bit of the show:

The scene opens with hapless correspondent Les Nesman reporting live about a helicopter dropping live turkeys from the sky. Adorned with a banner reading “Happy Thanksgiving From WKRP,” the advertising stunt quickly goes wrong as the poor birds plunge to earth like sacks of wet cement, taking out car windows and people in their path. This promotional brainchild was the creation of station manager “The Big Guy” Mr. Carlson wanting to gain recognition in the marketplace for the new formatted rock station.

sanders1stI got wondering how this episode would unfold in the age of social media…

- Less Nesman might well be reporting, but so too would the citizens of Cincinnati with their cell phones. Thousands of them, all poised to the sky snapping photos and video as the live tragedy unfolded.

- Video of turkeys hitting the deck would be posted within minutes to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube.

- Animal activists would be tagged in posts, and authorities would be on it before Les even returned to the office.

- Photos of dented cars and broken windows would be posted to Instagram and Twitter.

- There would be hashtags #TurkeyDropGoneWrong #TurkeyBombsCincinnati #HappyThanksgiving??? #WTFWKRP #SomeoneIsGettingFired

- It would quickly trend on Twitter and all Cincinnati TV, radio and print outlets would be racing for coverage.

- The TV and print coverage would fuel more interest online and folks search for photos, video and write-ups online.

-  There would be international coverage since the internet quickly spreads news of the weird to all corners of the earth.

- And of course there would be selfies. Selfies of people covered in feathers. Selfies of people pointing to damaged cars. And selfies with Les Nesman – just because.

Oh how times have changed!

So when you’re carving that turkey next Thursday and it slips off the platter and heads for the floor, just quote Mr. Carlson, and his last line of the episode, “As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.” Depending on the age of the guests, you’ll likely get a few laughs!

Trim your social media platforms for 2015: when having less is more

I put out an article a couple weeks ago titled, “Are you a slave to social media?” Evidently it struck a chord, since it was my most highly shared and Tweeted piece this year. It also earned me an invitation to contribute to Social Media Impact, the top trusted social media news site out of the US So I thought we’d follow up on it this week and dig a little deeper for valuable insights going into 2015.

Social_media_overloadDid you know that the average B2C business is now keeping up with seven social media platforms? And they’re spending an average of 20 hours a week on marketing. Much of that effort is the result of an explosion in online marketing choices. Link to the Content Marketing Institute study here.  Or the small business trends study by Constant Contact here or more interesting facts.

On the receiving end of all this is the overwhelmed consumer. With 58% of American adults owning a smart phone, the digital culture has permeated almost every aspect of our lives. According to Nielson, the average American spends 11 hours a day with electronic media. Granted the majority is still anchored in traditional platforms such as TV and radio, but on average 2hrs and 8 minutes of our lives are spent on the internet or mobile device. It’s safe to say that many sub groups of the population are much higher than that. I’m thinking my teenager’s likely hit that daily average before breakfast!

What does all this tell us?

We’re wired more than ever before. And we’re busy with being wired.

Frankly many of us are overwhelmed. A UK study estimated that over 1 million workers fail to take their full allotment of holidays primarily because of anxiety over the work waiting for them upon their return. You can bet that the email inbox with over 1,000 unread messages has something to do with that. So here’s my prediction for social media and content marketing in the future:

2015 will be the year businesses are granted permission to kick under performing social media platforms to the curb.

Instead of chasing everything for fear of missing the next big thing, 2015 will be the year we focus on what works – the 2 or 3 channels where we know our customers reside and where they will share our content. We’ll strategically focus our content, BUT we’ll also strategically focus our channel. If that sounds like a trip back to the future, it is. It’s really no different than picking the most suitable newspaper, magazine or radio station from a mature market where there are many, many offerings in each category. The challenge with social media has been the steady emergence of platforms in such a relatively short period of time. Think of it as similar to trying to buy every newspaper or radio station out there for fear of missing something. That would be utter insanity. I think we’re approaching that saturation point with social media. Of course there will be many new platforms that will continue to emerge, offering micro targeted access to specific markets. But we’ll start to assess them strategically. Rather than just jumping on board, we need to step back and pick what is well aligned with our target market.

A good start is to be very clear about your business purpose and whom it is that you help.

Once you’re clear on those two points, it becomes much easier to focus your conversations. The same principles can be applied to your social media platforms. A narrow well targeted approach with one or two platforms used frequently by your target audience will beat a broad multi platform play any day. Of course creating content for properties you own, such as your website, blog and enewletter, should be your top priority before reaching out to social media, your outposts, to broadcast and engage.

I think 2015 will be the year that platforms shake out and business and consumers rush to stop the insanity, by critically assessing where to spend efforts. It’s time to be strategic and forget about the rest. I’m not necessarily advocating that you pick two platforms and dump the rest. But you could certainly focus 80% of your effort on those two that are well aligned, and put the others you’ve established in maintenance mode – updating basic info from time to time.

So relax and breathe. Feel your inner Zen when creating content. And simply give yourself permission to only focus on what matters.

Did GAP goof? Remembrance Day Sale goes wrong in Canada

GAP appears to be retracting big time on a promotional email put out by head office on Monday Nov 10, that didn’t go over too well with Canadian customers. The offer was on a “puffer vest” for $19.99 on special during a Remembrance Day Sale. Seems many Canadians took issue with the company provoking commercial gain, on what is universally accepted as a somber day of thanks and remembrance, not one to go out and spend just because many have the day off. Gap_goof






Americans as a whole seem more desensitized to the commercialization of holidays. The practice of having sales on Veterans Day is reasonably common place there. I suspect this comes down to subtle cultural differences between Canada and the US, and a decision originally stemming from US marketing directives at Gap. While it’s easy to believe Canadians are similar to Americans in many ways, sometimes US retailers ignore the subtle differences at their peril. In this case, there is not a rich history of commercializing
Nov 11 in Canada. In fact, many retailers with American head offices such as Starbucks
have fallen under criticism for putting up Christmas decor immediately after Halloween,
and not honouring Remembrance Day first, which had historically been a Canadian custom. I also think that this year, Canadians are perhaps hyper sensitive to giving true significance to Remembrance Day, given the targeted hit of two Armed Forces personnel on Canadian soil recently, and our now active involvement in the Middle East. What do you think about all this? CBC Vancouver is doing a piece on at during the 5pm news tonight. I was asked to be interviewed for my thoughts about it, but couldn’t make it. Watch @AndrewChangCBC tonight and chime in with your thoughts!

Click here a link to the Toronto CBC TV news at 5pm piece.

A campaign to make the fur fly

I remember well a day back in 1988 when the advertising sales department at the Georgia Straight, Vancouver’s urban weekly where I was working at the time, fell in the cross hairs of activists on behalf of the inhumane treatment of animals in the commercial fur trade. You see, long before desktop publishing, newspapers were constructed like puzzle pieces – ads created and then placed along side other ads and editorial from a layout mock up based on sizes purchased. What had inadvertently happened was an ad for a well-known local fur company had been placed directly beside an ad for the Humane Society. They both no doubt had been inserted by a dreary eyed graphic artist late at night, and had gone off to print. The juxtaposition of the fur coat sale placed beside a photo of a baby seal was not lost on our readers, nor did it escape reprimand by both clients once they opened the paper.

The battle between the fur trade, fashion and animal rights activists has been going on for some time. While real fur has fallen in and out of fashion over the years, it appears its use is on the upswing once again. And that is what is at the heart of a clever new international campaign that launched today. The Montreal SPCA, the Association for the Protection of Fur Bearing Animals and LUSH Cosmetics have launched #Makefurhistory, an international campaign against the fur industry. The campaign was imagined and created by Republik.

At the heart of the campaign is the objective to raise awareness on the issue of inhumane treatment of animals, and to change consumer behaviour towards real fur. The creative team, led by Jeff Lee, realized that current awareness was high amongst the converted – those that already supported the cause. The challenge was to get the attention of those who were driven by fashion, and at a pivotal point, as the temperatures in northern hemispheres dip and consumers reach for warm and fashionable attire. They decided to tackle the fur industry on its own turf, by launching a fake e-commerce Website: – a new destination for exclusive deals on fur coats and accessories. The fake e-commerce website was launched with a full-fledged advertising campaign that lives on the web, on social platforms and on billboards and public display areas in many Canadian Universities. campaign visualOnce consumers landed on the fake website, they were in for a surprise as their first click redirected them automatically to, the campaign’s official website, and a reveal video about the tragic truths in the industry.


Cosmetic retailer LUSH fully supported the campaign through 200 stores across North America, since they were in a unique position to help educate the target market through the message about the inhumane treatment of animals in the commercial fur trade.

In addition to out of home advertising, there was a significant online component supporting efforts to spread the message through a customized Facebook and Twitter page where they Tweeted at @furdiscounts and then use the hashtag #makefurhistory to channel comments.

MAPPING_OBOX-MASHABLE1The campaign was effective for a couple reasons, most notably the combined use of traditional print and outdoor fashion advertising along with online platforms, leveraged by social media and photo sharing. A retail support partner with a broad reach to the target demographic further expanded the reach. It was also a brilliant use of #contentmarketing to seed awareness and evoke consumer response towards a cause, rather than a purchase. Well done!


Content marketing is hot, but is it time to kick a few platforms to the curb?

Pass the Louisiana Hot Sauce, cayenne pepper or Tabasco. “Content marketing” is hot.

The Content Marketing Institute (yes, there is now an institute devoted to the study of this thing that didn’t exist a couple years ago, that we all now need), defines content marketing as: “A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Keep_Calm_Create_contentContent marketing has been facilitated by many changes, most notably growth of the internet, mobile devices, tablets, social media, and the impact of the financial crisis on budgets and traditional media spending. Really, it was the perfect storm.

So this week I’ve pulled some top line insights from a very interesting study on content marketing, that I wanted to share with you. And I’m going to make a case for how to use those insights to dominate your niche by doing LESS. Interested? Read on…

The B2C Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America study was produced by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs and sponsored by EnVeritas Group. The global study was conducted in July and August 2014, with 5,167 recipients representing a full range of industries, areas and company sizes. The report findings I’ve used in this piece represent findings from 307 respondents who were B2C marketers in North America. You can download a full copy here:

77% of B2C respondents were using content marketing. Clearly, content is now king. Here’s a summary of the effectiveness of various tactics, how success was measured, what platforms were used, and how often new content was published.

Effectiveness ratings for B2C tactics

  • Enewsletters 66%
  • In person events 63%
  • Photos 59%
  • Social media content – other than blogs 58%
  • Blogs 54%
  • Videos 54%
  • Articles on your website 53%
  • Mobile apps 49%
  • Webinars/webcasts 46%
  • Online presentations 45%

Tools used to assess content marketing success:

  • Website traffic 66%
  • Sales 54%
  • Higher conversion rates 39%
  • SEO ranking 39%
  • Time spent on website 38%
  • Qualitative feedback from customers 35%
  • Subscriber growth 34%

B2C Content marketing social media platform usage:

  • Facebook 94%
  • Twitter 84%
  • Youtube 76%
  • LinkedIn 71%
  • Google + 68%
  • Pinterest 59%
  • Instagram 49%

How often B2C marketers publish new content:

  • Daily 17%
  • Multiple times per week 31%
  • Weekly 16%
  • Multiple times per month 11%
  • Monthly 10%
  • Less than once per month 9%

42% of B2B marketers publish daily or multiples times during the week.

B2C marketers are now using an average of 7 social media platforms to distribute content, compared with 6 last year. All platforms experienced some level of increase this year, except for LinkedIn, which stayed the same. The average company is now creating content for 7 (yes, seven) social media sites? No wonder everyone is so exhausted, and taking a sip from Twitter feels like blast from the fire hose! Quite simply, I don’t think it is possible to dominate a niche with your content marketing by focusing on so many channels.

Social_media_fearThis study clearly demonstrates the value of content marketing, but it also show how we are all running with the masses, afraid to not jump on board, for fear we are missing the next big thing. But really, maybe it’s time to step back and assess and kick to the curb the underperformers. I think our efforts might be better spent picking the top 2 or 3 platforms where our target audience spends time, and then developing great content that they will share on their platform of choice. Having a focus is king in content marketing. Maybe it’s time to have a focus not only on content but also on the platform for delivery?

5 Reasons why a picture is now worth 10,000 words

They used to say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Now it’s worth at least 10,000 words and perhaps more. Here’s why: In a world of ready access to visuals with the prevalence of smart phones and easy to use photo editing software, combined with social media platforms that enable and encourage sharing, one photo can easily reach 10,000 viewers even if it is only accompanied by one or two words.

Humans have been reading words for hundreds of years, but we’ve been reading visuals for thousands of years. We are hardwired to be attracted to visuals. In fact consumers post 2.5 billion images every week according to Engadget, a tech blog. There’s good reason why visual platforms such as Instagram, Pintrest, Youtube and Vine have generated so much growth. And it also explains why platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become much more visually oriented.

Here are 5 reasons why visuals are now hot:

  1. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. We absorb visuals 50 times faster than words.
  2. Posts to Facebook are more likely to engage and be shared if there is a visual image. Posts with visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagement than posts without.
  3. Facebook posts with images on average receive twice as many comments as posts without.
  4. Tweets with images get 2 times more engagement than those that don’t.
  5. Visuals express ideas quickly – in a snapshot. This breaks through the overwhelming clutter of online content.

I’m sure I could give you a list of 20 reasons if I researched a little further. The point is this: if you are not utilizing visuals well in your online, social media or enews marketing efforts, you’re likely missing out on views and shares.

The magic for marketers of course happens when narrative details and brand value can be communicated in a single photo. Let’s look at a recent example by Shell gasoline. To celebrate 30 years of refining in Alberta, Shell brought back 1984 gas prices at 8 secret locations on Wed Oct 8th across Alberta. For that morning only, they lowered to price to .39¢ per liter – the price it was 30 years ago. (For American readers that’s about $1.56 a gallon).

Shell_39¢_promoOf course, gas attendants pumped up the 80s theme sporting big hair and shoulder pads. Some even wore Oilers jerseys – 1984 was after all the year Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup! The cheap gas of course generated frenzy at the pump, necessitating line control, and even traffic enforcement by the police. At the heart of the promotion was the fact that it was easily shared visually and the offer was appealing. Folks snapped photos of price signs, their SUV full on a $20 charge, and of course big hair, shoulder pads and Oilers paraphernalia proved irresistible, especially since Gretzky and Messier were part of the Edmonton Oilers doing a reunion tour that week in the province.

Big_hair_1980s_pricingAnd of course there were selfies.

1984_pricing_selfiesThe promotion also generated significant media coverage by local and national newspapers, TV and radio stations. Check out this clip from Global:

The lesson? Visuals are now worth at least 10,000 words, and countless more in free promotion if you happen to generate interest from the media.


Inspirational small business stories to celebrate “October small business month”

This past week Small Business BC hosted INSPIRE, and annual event to celebrate entrepreneurship, and a kick off to Small Business Month in British Columbia during October.

Moderated by Judy Brooks, a serial entrepreneur in her own right, having launched built and sold three successful businesses, guests were treated to a panel discussion and insights from some of BC’s emerging and successful business leaders. Here’s a run down on the panelists and some insights from the evening that might benefit your business.

Kyle Vucko, Co-Founder, Indochino
As a University of Victoria student struggling to find a well made and good fitting suit at a reasonable price, Kyle recognized the potential to shake up the men’s online fashion world. He saw a missed opportunity in the space – delivering men’s custom apparel cost-effectively. So he dropped out of university, and spent three years in Shanghai, building a vertically integrated company that has done for the suit category what Zara did for fast fashion – deliver the goods quickly and inexpensively, and in Indochino’s case, custom fitted. While it initially was an exclusively online offering, he experimented with pop-up retail locations and today he has over 120,000 customers in 130 countries, and showrooms in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, New York, San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston. Not bad for a guy who gave up on business school.

Brian Scudamore, Found 1-800-got-junk, WOW 1 Day Painting, and You Move me
Inspired to launch 1-800-got-junk in the late 1980s while sitting behind “Mark’s Hauling” truck in a Kerridale McDonalds drive through, Brian realized there was an opportunity to apply good branding and a strong customer focus to traditional service-based offerings such as junk removal. The rest as they say is history. Today, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? has more than 850 trucks on the road throughout 170 locations in Canada, the US and Australia. In 2012 he met the founder of a unique, one-day painting company and together they created the WOW 1 DAY Painting franchise. Brian launched his third brand, You Move Me, a different kind of franchised moving company in 2013 in response to his own bad experience. I would venture a guess that this high school and university drop out knows more about business than many of his previous teachers.

Jim Wyse, Founder & proprietor, Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
For 25 years, Jim was a property developer in the Lower Mainland, Whistler and Oklahoma City. In 1993, serendipity led him to purchase relatively inexpensive and abandoned vineyard land south of Oliver that has since become Burrowing Owl Vineyards, specializing in award winning wine, a fine dining restaurant and guest house.

Ravy Mehroke, CEO & Co-Founder, Bombay Brow Bar
Who knew there was business opportunity in convincing women (and maybe a few men) that monthly maintenance of their eyebrows, just like their hair, was a necessity? In 2010, sisters and founders Ravy Mehroke and Amy Minhas opened their first brow bar in Yaletown. In just five years, Bombay has grown to a highly coveted beauty brand with additional locations in Kitsilano and the Shangri-la Hotel downtown.

Although there were many great insights from these panelists, three themes really emerged as things to note for your own business growth.

  1. Great brands are wrapped in a story. Each of these entrepreneurs saw a problem or opportunity and solved it in some unique way that was hard for others to copy. And in doing so, they created an endearing story that has become the heart and sole of their branding and identity. Does your business have a story? And can you tell it in a compelling way?
  2. Mentorship matters. Without exception, all panelists credited strong mentors with helping them achieve success. Brian Scudamore spoke of his self made MBA – as his “Mentor Board of Advisors”. One of his notable mentors, Fred DeLuca, the founder of Subway, became a fast friend after Brian read his book and simply called him to talk. When is the last time you read an inspirational business book cover to cover and then contacted the author?
  3. A founder first inspires but ultimately must lead. It was very evident that all of these company founders were inspired to grow something unique and had no problem catching others up in that enthusiasm. But shifting to the leadership role had been a hurdle for some as the company grew.

I shared these highlights with subscribers of my weekly enewsletter last week, and then asked my readers to tell me their own small business story. In the spirit of highlighting small business in BC, I’m sharing their additional two stories below. Because not every business necessarily gets the recognition it deserves, and maybe this blog can help spread their stories.

Rowena List, CEO & Founder, Getting it Together After a successful career in sales and a move into management as a trainer, Rowena saw a need for self employed women to be more organized. At the time she started helping them organize their home office and clothes closet. Word quickly spread about her ability to simplify life and her clients expanded to corporate women in business and stay at home moms. They all shared one thing in common: overwhelm. Rowena helps clients keep it simple, live with less, live with purpose and get rid of overwhelm.

Natacha Beim, CEO & Founder, CEFA (Core Education & Fine Arts) Seeing herself as a teacher first and an entrepreneur second, Natasha established CEFA, Canada’s first private junior kindergarten school in 1998, for infants and children up to five years old. As a passionate and trained teacher, she was frustrated with what she saw as a gap in the market: preschools and daycare’s offering care and play based settings, but nowhere was there a place offering pre-learning in reading, writing and math, and exploring the arts. She saw an opportunity for creating an enriched curriculum combining core subjects such as reading and math with fine arts, including drama and yoga, to provide children with the freedom to learn and grow through play. Following the successful launch of her first school, she is now franchising the program across North America. Link here for her full story interview video.

As you can see, these additional two featured entrepreneurs have similar themes to their success as the SBBC INSPIRE recipients: their business and brand is wrapped in a story inspired by personal passion and they are leaders with a vision to help others.




Five steps to fuel word of mouth: Learning from Tim Horton’s recruitment pop-up store

Suppose you need to get the word out about something, don’t have a huge media budget, and you want to stand out from competitors. Sound familiar? It’s a challenge that pretty much every business has faced, but now, more than any other time in recent history, we actually have the tools to accomplish it. Enter social media, the increasing popularity of photo and video share platforms, the prevalence of mobile devices, and traditional media hungry for eye catching stories in order to stay relevant. Add a dash of creativity on your part and mix with human nature’s craving for story telling and sharing, and voila! It’s a recipe for success. So how do you do it?

Let’s look at a real life example from this past week: Tim Horton’s

While many Canadians are still reeling from the news of the imminent arranged marriage of their darling to US based Burger King, a suitor with dated plastic décor, seemingly oblivious to health trends with heart stopping massive burgers and a creepy plastic faced “King” mascot, they understand that to grow, financing and distribution inroads are needed. Of course the real challenge will be in growing the Tim Horton’s brand in the US beyond Border States, but in the mean time, the company is shoring up strength in the homeland.

Enter the campaign to find employees as quickly as they can to open restaurants. Tim Horton’s is looking to hire 5,000 new employees nationwide, of which 2,000 will be in Alberta and 250 specifically in the Calgary area. The communications challenge was simple: generate interest and excitement to work at Tim Horton’s in Canada. The traditional approach would have been through recruitment ads in store, online and in newspapers across the land – expensive and of questionable ability to actually deliver.

Tim_Hortons_pop-up_houseInstead the company created a pop up restaurant overnight in SW Calgary at 303 Oakfern Way in Oakridge. Literally, they transformed a home in a family neighbourhood into a Tim Horton’s restaurant overnight, with the objective of being open 6am-12pm Sept 23 only, and generating as much publicity around the surprise event as possible. The distributed gift baskets to the neighbours, conducted random acts of kindness, such as raking leaves, and of course treated the hood to breakfast with free coffee and donuts (the Next door-nut) with the message, “thanks for being our neighbour”. They had treats for dogs and their early morning walkers, and even used street chalk art to send the neighbourly message to come on down for breakfast. Promoting the use of #TimsNextDoor hash tag, photo sharing was encouraged to get the word out on social media.

Neighbour_donutAnd of course they invited traditional print and broadcast media to cover the event. In short, they generated buzz for the brand, which extended across the country courtesy of social and traditional media, and created an atmosphere of inquiry about working for the iconic brand. As a stand-alone stunt, it was no doubt expensive to execute, but I would argue the value of word of mouth, mouse and mobile via social media and traditional media could not have been purchased.

Link to Global BC news video coverage: This news piece alone generated 32,000 Facebook shares within a day, and over 600 Tweets. And that was just one news organization among hundreds. Print and broadcast outlets went crazy for the story because of the human-interest value to Canadians, and frankly the curiosity of the story.

What can we learn from this example about generating word of mouth these days?

  1. Stage an event that can be wrapped in a story: It’s human nature to want to share entertaining stories.
  2. Tap emotional triggers: In this case patriotism, and being a good neighbour were used. Humour is also a great trigger.
  3. Remember why people share: It’s about them, not about you. Give something to make them look connected, insightful, and in some way on an inner circle of knowledge. This piece got shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds because people wanted to be the first to tell their friends the crazy story or document the fact that they were there.
  4. Make sure the event is visual: With the increased prevalence of smart phones and photo and video sharing social media platforms, you want to invite sharing. Make it visually appealing and invite easy sharing and tracking with hash tags.
  5. Seed social media initially, but leverage traditional media as the second punch. Know that the reach of TV, radio and print will generate exponentially more online sharing, so make them a critical part of your media plan. News outlets need content, so be newsworthy.

Of course all this seems simple enough, but obviously having the creativity to come up with an idea is key. Well done Tim’s. And thanks for still spelling it “neighbour” in Canada despite those new American owners!

Fashion versus style is like social media versus email

Fashion forever tells us to do what other people are supposedly doing: favouring certain colours, cuts and lengths for the season. Style tells us to use what flatters our personal figures – those few pieces of clothing or furniture that we’re perpetually drawn to and consider drop-dead good-looking regardless of current favorites. Fashion comes and goes. Style is timeless.

Fashion_fades_style_remainsSocial media is currently in fashion. While it would be foolish to ignore the incredible power that a well-strategized and executed social media campaign can offer, for many companies, the time consuming efforts to keep up with various social media is a fashionable distraction. This is especially true if they are chasing the recent hot social media platform, simply because everyone else is and they don’t want to miss out. Sounds a little like fashion to me.

Direct marketing via e-mail may not be the latest hot fashion trend, and many companies in Canada had their customer contact lists kicked in the teeth by CASL legislation. But e-mail marketing has style. Somewhat timeless in its ability to connect directly with customers on a personal level, if executed well, it brings measureable results: engagement, brand affinity and sales.

A 2014 McKinsey research report found that email is 40 times (40 TIMES!) more effective that Facebook and Twitter combined. Click here for the full report: /why_marketers_should_keep_sending_you_emails

Direct email marketing speaks to an existing base. And the customer you’ve got is 3-7 times more likely to be a repeat customer. Quite simply, we get caught chasing the romance of new customers when the one we’ve got is more likely to buy again and buy more. Think about that for a while. Good email campaigns have these things in common:

  1. They are reasonably short and can be read quickly, respecting reader’s time.
  2. They are personal and invite interaction with readers.
  3. They are scheduled with some sort of regularity.
  4. They contain useful or entertaining information for a highly targeted reader.
  5. They are soft sell by nature, favoring positioning and top of mind awareness as a gateway to future sales. But they do invite sales, especially after a relationship has been earned.

Your biggest asset is your list of customers. The next biggest asset is your list of prospects. At the end of the day we shouldn’t over complicate things. Really only three drivers matter:

  1. Getting more customers
  2. Getting them to buy more
  3. Keeping them longer

Direct e-newsletter marketing can satisfy 2 & 3 easily, and arguably 1 if prospects are converted or if current customers share it. That is a meaningful and measurable result. It’s a longer-term investment in style over fashion. If you’d like to receive my weekly “5-Minute Marketing” e-newsletter, click here and choose, join our mailing list.  It will arrive Sunday morning, and in less than 5 minutes to read, you’ll gain some marketing insight to put to use in your business. That’s my promise. And of course you can easily unsubscribe at any time. If you’d like to check out past issues first, click here.