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.


What Iceland and Sweden can teach us about social media marketing: Trust & authenticity

Trust and authenticity.

You can’t buy it. You just have to earn it. And the only way to earn it is through being yourself and not hiding behind corporate speak or bureaucracy. That can be a challenge for some companies as they grow and figure out how to manage their message online using social media.

Enter Iceland and Sweden. Arguably, they aren’t corporations, but they are countries with a lot at stake. Tourism is a major industry in these far reaching northern areas, and nobody jets off there for a weekend like going to Vegas.

This spring, and continuing into this fall, Iceland is targeting global travelers with the help of a few friendly Gudmundur’s. 4,000 of them to be exact. Apparently there are 4,000 guys and gals named Gudmunder in Iceland out of a population of 329,000. Go figure. The Gudmunder’s have become “the world’s first human search engine.”


Launched as the #AskGundmunder social media campaign highlights the diversity of year-round experiences in the country by allowing people to submit questions on Iceland’s social media channels using the #askgundmunder hashtag, and one of 4,000 Gundmunder volunteers will respond to the question – unedited, and with authenticity. It’s a really cool initiative based on trust. Would you be willing to give the keys of your social media to 4,000 employees? Too scary? How about 5-10? I’m willing to bet for many readers, that is still scary enough. The approach is based on trust, and you know as a potential tourist, you’re getting the authentic goods. You can read and watch more about the campaign here.

Three years ago, Sweden launched a campaign called “The Curators of Sweden” where the country essentially allowed different citizens each week to tweet as the manager of the @Sweden Twitter account. The idea was to bring the voice of Sweden to Twitter. Arguably Sweden is a progressive country and socially liberal, but it was still an incredible act of trust to make such a move. It played out politically well too, as a demonstration of free speech in a world increasingly muffling citizens in many countries. You can learn more about the campaign through this recent NPR radio interview celebrating the third anniversary of the campaign.

But it’s what both of these campaigns have in common that really intrigues me: Trust and authenticity. Is there something to be learned here in our approach to social media for business? I think so. The more human you are, faults and all, the more authentic you will seem. People buy from those they know, like and trust. Authenticity is a huge part of that equation.





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.


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?


10 Reasons Why #DeadraccoonTO Became a National News Story in One Day

On July 9 a raccoon died in Toronto. By July 10 it was national and international news, which begs the question – why? And more importantly, if you’re in marketing – how?



Although it’s unlikely, for those that missed the story, a report of a dead raccoon was called into Toronto City Animal Services the morning of July 9th, and despite a timely initial response, the raccoon was not taken away for over 14 hours. In the ensuing hours a growing vigil spontaneously sprung up around the raccoon, as news of its untimely demise and neglect by city authorities went viral online and in the media. You can read all the details and see the Twitter visuals on Buzzfeed.com

Why did this story go viral?

  1. Strong visual. It was a toss up between poor taste and touching to see a dead raccoon up close with vigil items such as a framed photo, a rose and a condolence card later added. The key was visuals being added as the story unfolded, including a video of his final departure with a city worker. Everyone has a camera and video at their disposal these days on their mobile, so the fact that visuals told the story in a play-by-play fashion by random citizen reporters further added to the appeal.
  1. Discredit of authority. If there’s one universal appeal, it’s critique of those in authority, especially when they mess up, as became evident as the day unfolded and the raccoon remained unclaimed. Whenever the little guy can take revenge on the big guy, or someone with authority, the story will gain traction. In this case it was city workers. But it could just as easily be a business, an individual or an organization.
  1. The story got a #hashtag. Within a couple hours, as the story gained momentum, someone applied the hashtag #DeadraccoonTO. From that point on everyone on Twitter who was talking about it used the tag, which made it easier to “channel” the content and see how interest was building. It also allowed others to immediately tune into the channel of conversation and understand the whole story from a multitude of reports and perspectives.
  1. It tapped human psychology. There were a number of elements at play, but most prominent was “Statistical numbing” which helps explain why a single victim moves us more emotionally than many. It’s why we care about one child in a war zone with a survival story more then reports of 100s killed. Urban raccoons are not something we normally care about as a perceived menace. But given a single one in distress, it took on an emotional angle. You could also argue that anthropomorphism was at play, where human characteristics are applied to things no human. The vigil that grew resembled a roadside human death, complete with a framed photo of a raccoon, a rose, a condolence card and a candle.
  1. It got the attention of powerful Twitter users. Key to a story going viral online is the impact of key influencers. In this case several users with large numbers of online followers took to the story. Prominent was Toronto City Councillor Norm Kelly.
  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 largely explains why the morning of July 10 local and national news sources where talking about the raccoon, and why you likely saw it on some social media platform within the day.
  1. The use of humour. You might wonder where the humour is in a dead raccoon, but they found it. It was suggested online by someone on Twitter, that in solidarity for the lost raccoon and his forging urban counterparts, those citizens of Toronto leave their garbage can lids open for one night. Someone also posted on Twitter an image of Stephen Harper in parliament, with head bowed, obviously out of context, suggesting that the government of Canada was going to hold a national day or mourning.
  1. Media craves the bizarre. Starved of Rob Ford antics, the citizens of Toronto obviously needed new fodder. Enter the raccoon. The reality is that in the face of other important hard news such as ISIS terror or the plight of Greece in the EU, bizarre news sells. Call it human nature to want to hear about weird stuff. Perhaps its escapism from reality, but media knows that odd things make great headlines, and great headlines gain a following.
  1. The use of celebrity. Tagging a celebrity is usually good for gaining traction, since their followers, usually in the hundreds of thousands, will chime in. In this case, someone tagged a Drake photo, suggesting he was concerned for the raccoon. Momentum continued to build.
  1. The power of storytelling. It’s human nature to love a story. This one unfolded throughout the day. It had classic story composition: A villain, a hero, a tragedy or challenge, a climax and resolution. Along the way various characters added themselves to flush out the rich details. It was a story told live and developing, but the plot was built out by contributions of all who added online details to help tell it and spread the word. Never under estimate the power of storytelling for universal appeal, especially if you allow others to participate in how it unfolds.

Who would have thought a little raccoon that died could gain so much attention. The story certainly is an insightful example of how things go viral.

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.



  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.

3 tips for getting your articles published

Nothing screams you’ve got authority and are an expert quite like being published. And these days the options are far greater then before; traditional publishing and self-publishing of books, feature columns, op-ed pieces and one off editorial contributions. Distribution has expanded from traditional print newspapers and magazines and their online counterparts, to new digital only news platforms such as the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed (Canadian edition just launched this week) and local news sources such as VanCityBuzz.com which are gaining traction. Add to that well-read blogs, and there’s no shortage of publishing options.

So how do you get ink?

1. Pitching the idea: You can pitch media on an article idea, but in my experience having written for BIV, Strategy, Marketing Magazine, the Toronto Star, Cottage Magazine and Zoomer, a pitch accompanied by a solid draft or even tightly edited piece has always been what got me in the door. Knowing the audience demographics of the publication and reader interests in critical. Also knowing typical article lengths, topics covered in the past, and writing style is helpful. If an editor wants 700 words, don’t give them 750 because you can’t edit it any shorter. They will, and guaranteed they’ll chop something you wouldn’t have!

Pitch based on the geographic area of the people who will benefit from your message and find it relevant. Also keep in mind seasonal factors and lead up times, especially if it’s a magazine. For example a lifestyle piece I did for Zoomer Magazine about mother/daughter hockey passion ran in October, but was written and pitched back in March.

Think strategically about your email subject line when sending a pitch. Editors are writers and email subject lines are like headlines to them. As they scan their inbox, be sure to give them something that will grab their attention. Clever can be good, but don’t over complicate things.

2. The content: The who, what, where, when and why of the story is important if you are writing a pitch. But pay particular attention to the “why now” piece. Connecting your article to something timely is key to getting an editors attention. For example, my blog piece about disruption and flipping the airline model to charging for carry on and making the first checked bag free tapped into a current hot topic of frustrated flyers dealing with carry on restrictions and the approaching heavy summer travel season. It proposed a simple innovative solution. It also tapped into the growing use of social media as a feedback tool and the need for corporations to manage their brand through active engagement of consumer complaints. After the piece garnered considerable discussion the last couple weeks online and off, I blasted off a pitch to the Huffington Post last week to see if I could get pick up. Today, June 18, that piece appeared in their business section!














Be original and different. If you’re giving tips, make sure it’s not something that could just be Googled. Tap your expertise. Give the publication something they couldn’t otherwise get access to. General, generic vanilla won’t work. But sometimes being the contrarian can work – see above. Countering conventional viewpoints and backing up your argument can make for a solid piece.

3. Contacting media: While tagging media on Twitter can certainly get their attention and cut through the clutter, in my experience this is best if there is a pre-existing relationship. Otherwise email is a solid place to start. These days it’s pretty easy to scope out contacts online for the editorial desk and feature editors. Use the method of contact they list – some will list emails, some Twitter handles only. Do follow up. Just because you don’t hear back right away doesn’t mean they might not be interested. Their in boxes get jammed, but most diligently comb emails for content. It’s their job to find gems, and yours might be what they’re looking for. Don’t call them by phone unless they’ve contacted you already for a story. And know their deadlines if you are trying to reach them. Texting a reporters cell directly is likely one of the best ways to get an immediate response if they know you. But this should really be reserved for breaking news events where you are looking to be quoted, or helping them with a story, not trying to get your own piece published!

All these points apply to being a guest blogger as well. I’d suggest picking 3 or 4 well written and leading blogs in your area of interest. Follow them for a couple months and get a sense of content and readership through the comments. Make valuable (but not spammy promotional) comments to contribute to the conversation. Then consider contacting the blog host about guest posting in the future. I’d also recommend having a solid portfolio of written work on your own blog, so your content and style can be reviewed easily. The synergy of cross posting and guest blogging can be great, especially if the two blog audiences are well aligned and both parties have something to benefit from the relationship.

And what do you do when you score the big one and get ink? Be sure to share it on your digital platforms, put it out on social media, and in particular if it’s a publication with reputation such as the New York Times or Huffington Post, be sure to add the bi-line to your bio, and their logo to your promotional materials. Getting ink is about gaining recognition as an expert. Put it to good use.


Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is the next big thing. Select businesses have already figured this out, but the vast majority is yet to put it on their radar.

We’ve all got our “go to” guy or gal. That expert, the one you immediately think of when you need an area of expertise. We also all have certain people we follow, perhaps see as mentors, or just those that we have a tremendous amount of respect for. Influencers cross all age boundaries. An influencer could be an IT guru, a respected business leader, an amazing chef, a great writer or musician, a “dope skateboarder” (my son’s term not mine!), a fashion goddess, or someone who has a great music playlist. Influencers are highly respected and garner clout in their circles. (Incidentally “dope” means good in teenager1) Influencers are tapped in. They have tribes that follow them.


Influencers help take content to the next level. They lend credibility, and they help amplify reach and awareness, which in turn helps ensure the target audience, will consume the content.

Why are influencers so powerful? They have a pre-established audience that is receptive to their recommendations.

  1. Their followers trust them.
  2. They are a person, not a business or a brand, which makes them more personable and willingly received.
  3. Their voice cuts through the clutter of information overload, to their followers.

To get influencers onboard is to have their entire tribe working for you. And that’s pretty powerful stuff.

Consider this research into the power of influencers:

  • Offers shared by trusted advocates convert at a 3-10 times higher rate than offers sent by brands.
  • Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
  • Brand advocates are 70% more likely to be seen as a good source of information by people around them.

So how do you harness the power of an influencer?

  1. Identify the primary goal of your marketing strategy. Are you building brand awareness? Wanting to achieve more engagement? Do you need to generate more leads? Or perhaps you’re more focused on retention and loyalty. Depending on your goal, some influencers might be more powerful in some areas then in others. Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve.
  1. Indentify influencer types. Influencers might be current customers, industry experts, bloggers, members of the media, business partners, or internal team members. It’s important to consider the types first, then move on to individuals. That will keep you focused.
  1. Within those types, select specific individuals. Consider their capacity to reach others through writing, speaking or broadcasting in some way. Consider their involvement in public or private groups, online and off. Look at their level of expertise in the chosen area. Consider their social media footprint, in particular on platforms and in channels where your target market spends the most time. Your initial list of influencers doesn’t have to be large to be powerful, but you do want to grow it over time.
  1. Create great content worth sharing. Stuff that’s authentic and not overly promotional. Something that keeps the trust between the influencer and their followers. Think one-to-one-to-many when creating content. Your content will not be blasted out to the masses. It will be shared to that one person first, who will then choose (or not) to share it with their many. Framed from this perspective it’s about them, not about you. Give them something that will make them look smart, funny, insightful or connected to an inner circle in some way.
  1. Nurture the relationship. Always acknowledge and thank those that share your content. Help them out in other ways. There doesn’t always have to be a personal pay off.

Many times influencers are already within your scope of contact, but further outreach is always good. How do you find them? Read blogs in your area of interest and see who publishes good content and who makes intelligent comments and contributions on other blogs. Follow folks on Twitter who tweet within a channel (or #hashtag) of interest, are employed in the industry of focus, or who keep popping up as active with something valuable to contribute. Comb LinkedIn for contacts. See who is active on Facebook or Instagram in your area of interest. Read industry publications for who is being written about and who is contributing. Old fashioned network, and get to know who the players are. Even pick up the phone! (How novel – yes you can still talk on those things)

So there you have it. Get out there and harness the power of that green goldfish leading the others. And get the influencers tribe swimming in your direction!



The airline industry: ripe for disruptive thinking?

A CBC news posting about Air Canada’s plans to police more stringently carry on bag sizes over the coming busy summer air travel months caught my eye this week. Anyone who travels regularly will relay increased frustration with the time delays and sometimes comical attempts to stuff big bags into the overhead carry on space in an attempt to avoid the fee airlines now charge for checked bags. I posted the article on Facebook with a simple suggestion that they should flip the model; charge a fee for the carry on and make the first bag checked free. I noted it would rid the airlines of the crazy delays caused by the inevitable need to check some bags at the gate, plus the practice would essentially allow business travelers, largely the traditional carry on crowd, to pay for the service of keeping their bag in sight so it doesn’t get lost, have a quick exit from the airport, and the overall ability to keep flights running on time. I’m willing to bet that the masses would once again flock to the cargo hold with their ballooning bags if it was a cost savings.

The problem would be solved.


My posting received significant likes and subsequent engagement on numerous occasions throughout the week speaking with colleagues. Challenging the industry, now global default convention, would allow Air Canada to stand out as an innovator. As it stands they will most certainly beg a backlash as customers who are turned around at security by the bag police, hit social media in an angry state. Doesn’t anyone at the airline understand the power of the wired consumer these days? And more importantly the role that customers service now plays in marketing?

I can almost predict the Twitter hashtags now: #stuffitAirCanada #AirCanada #GetStuffed or #IgotStuffed. I suspect it could gain the same traction as #IgotRouged or #AirCanada #rouged following the airlines switch of some pleasure traveler flights to smaller leg room Air Canada Rouge discount flights, which caught some pre-booked business travelers off guard. Got a clever suggestion? Post it here! Let’s start a hashtag movement. You know it’s going to happen…

Sometimes it’s advisable to step back from industry practices and do things differently. Samoa Air challenged convention by charging passengers for air travel based on their weight. Yes, you read that correctly! Admittedly they had a monopoly on the market, and could take such drastic measures to solve a flight weight issue problem in their small aircraft being used. I’m not sure this would be a popular solution in the US, given the general propensity to tip the scale generously, but boy would it ever garner a following of the skinny travelers! Just think, an airline you could actually use the armrest on. The mind boggles… Read more about the Samoa Air example here. Not only did the Samoa Air example disrupt the conventional model, they gained a tremendous marketing opportunity because it allowed the company to stand out and get onside with the customer – OK, the skinny ones I guess!

Meanwhile, Delta is trying to speed up boarding times by pre-loading carry on bags above passengers seats on some flights. The idea has attracted the attention of the Australian press. Link here to read more. Basically they are hinging a bet that they can be more efficient then customers at loading bags, and can deal with the need to check oversize bags on the spot without delaying flights. If executed well, it could also introduce an element of old fashioned air travel class to the experience of being transported in a large sardine can in the sky.  Given the article quotes a cost of $40 for every minute the aircraft sits idle at the gate, this move, if it sped things up, could save the airline a lot of money over the course of a year. It might also solve that pesky problem of that guy seated at the back of the plane dumping his bag in your overhead up front as he passes through.

At the root of all of these examples is the need to solve a problem creatively and cost effectively. Sometimes the best way to do that is to challenge convention and disrupt your industry!


You live or die by your database

You live or die by your database. Someone way smarter then me once said this, and it has stuck with me over the years. We all know that making connections count. It’s how business gets done. The bigger your circle of connections, generally the bigger your circle of influence, and by default the bigger your potential circle of sales and success.

In business nothing happens until someone buys something. And it’s that list that is often at the heart of the connection that eventually leads to the sale.

But lists have fallen a little out of favour. Tarnished by online and telemarketers buying contact info expressly to push product to unsuspecting prospects with little or no relationship, we’ve all seen the result of these actions: overflowing in mailboxes, and phones that ring during dinner. In Canada, Can Spam legislation scared many marketers last July 1st with mandatory opt in and crazy stiff fines. Many marketers, without well documented email lists, saw their email database decimated as they begged for opt ins – kind of like asking if you’d like TV with or without commercials; do nothing to get it commercial free, take action if you want commercials. No wonder it became a great opportunity to pear down the crap coming in, to only receive what was truly of value. Based on my research most people willingly accept 6-10 newsletters, of which a core 3-4 are truly valued. The balance get looked at occasionally, and the others that somehow started showing up despite never having opted in, likely lurk in that in box suffering from opt out neglect and downright busyness. In the US the double opt in requirement also hung many lists out to dry.

Is it any wonder many businesses have given up on their list?

And yet, the list is where opportunity exists. The list is what generates sales. That list and your database is what your business will live and die by. In my mind, the list is a two-part mindset or service and value.

listsService: You should exist to serve the people on your list. If you are obsessed with finding ways to grow their capabilities and connections, you have the right mindset. Frankly that’s why I’m obsessed with creating new content of service weekly for readers and not missing deadlines with my e-newsletter and blog.

Value: You should create value frequently for those on your list. Sometimes that value is in exchange for love (they share the content online, tell you how much they value what you do) and sometimes that value is in exchange for money (they might buy a book, a course, hire you to consult or speak)

If you are not going to subscribe to the mindset of service and value, using your list to sell will fail.

Building out interesting and useful media (such as blogs, podcasts, ebooks, videos, white papers, research, help sheets, and enewsletters) that lead to a list is the key to earning more customers. Your media will drive the model.

I’ve referred to it as your media “anchors” and “outposts” in past posts. Anchors are where that original content is created and outposts are the social media tools to broadcast and engage around the content. Once someone has engaged with the content, the key is to get them into the list funnel – I’m a strong believer in the enewsletter for this purpose. Once you have earned the permission to have them ask to be on your list, it is a one on one personal relationship. It should be treasured. It’s then like a relationship, you need to engage, interact, and continue to bring new and fresh things to the table.

The regular newsletter is where you may eventually earn the right to sell. But only if you nurture the relationship and continue to offer value. The model is actually pretty simple: Media drives subscribers, and subscribers are part of a community that will eventually lead to the opportunity to sell.

Does it happen overnight? Not a chance. It’s a slow and steady stream. I’ve been doing a  newsletter for close to two years, every week, delivered the same time each week. I’ve never missed a deadline. It is what drives my business.

Do you have a list/database? Are you currently doing an enewsletter? Do you use the service and value mindset? I’d love to hear about what’s working, or what’s not.