Kathy Klotz-Guest

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Warning: Objects With Social Media Are Larger Than They Appear

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Social media tools operate like a high-powered microscope (telescope, if you prefer…pick your metaphor). They amplify and magnify everything you do – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Oh, the ugly and the abject horror.

So before you start tool-chasing as a consequence of “shiny object” syndrome, make sure everything you do is as clear and sewn-up as possible. If your marketing is fragmented, social media will cast a huge spotlight on that. If your customer service is spotty – yep, you’re in trouble with social media. Social media is fundamentally about communicating with people; not about tools. So if your communications are unclear, you’ve failed no matter how flawless your mechanical implementation with tools may be. It’s “go human or go home!”

That’s not to say that you can or should fix every little thing before you dive deep. That’s impossible. Moreover, part of what social does is cast a light on issues you may not be aware of. The key phrase is “be aware of.” Fix what you know are large issues before every one else points them out to you.  Lots of times.

Here are just a few things to consider about communicating with social media (sure, there’s more, but these are among the most important!):

  • Know your human “story.” What’s the “why” behind your company and offerings. Be clear, consistent and concise.
  • Get a content plan. Even if it’s a small, simple one. What will you write about, how often, and on which sites? Do you need a blog? Maybe you do and – marketing blasphemy committed here! – maybe you don’t.
  • Make your communications about your audience, not about you, your technology, your patents, your services….yawn!
  • Write with your “values” and heart, not just your head. Who are you as a company and what do you stand for. Sadly, too many communications focus on mechanics and facts, and are devoid of human feeling. if you are doing that, you are missing a huge opportunity to connect. That’s what “social” media is about.
  • Make sure your communications sound like one voice. Some organizations have separate PR, marketing, social media departments and that lack of connection among internal voices shows up as a fragmented external voice.
“All the World is a Stage…” as Shakespeare said. If he were here today, he might have added, “and social media tools cast a very big spotlight.” So make it count.
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What Washington Can Teach Marketers (no, really!)

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2011 at 11:13 pm

As I write this blog post on Friday, July 29th, I watch the news on CNN with a mix of frustration and anger. I know I am not alone. Why can’t the leaders we have elected do their jobs and compromise? In the words of the great pop culture philosopher Larry the Cable Guy, “Git R Done!”

Yet, there is an important object lesson here for marketers, and for anybody who is willing to listen.

How often have we approached decisions as “all or nothing?” Either I get my way, or it’s not worth doing. Is this really the case in most situations? I would posit a resounding “no.” If I can’t get my way, I’m taking my football and going home! That might work for a few kids I know (and sadly, a few adults who shall go un-named!); yet it’s an intractable position that backs us into walls more than it frees us up to move forward.

Sure, if we’re talking about moral principles, there is no gray area for compromise. Yet, the situation in Washington is about ideology and egos.

I believe “all or nothing” is a false choice. There is a middle ground. It’s the concept of un-bundling or un-packing issues. Not too long ago, a company approached me to help with some strategy. They could not pay me what it cost to do everything they wanted at once. I could have walked away. I contemplated it. I liked them and their philosophy was so in line with my own that I felt a connection beyond money. And, I knew that if I helped them, they would be closer to success on an idea that could help people. I stepped back; they didn’t NEED everything all at once. It was a false belief. Marketing is and should be a graduated investment. They could un-bundle their marketing “wish list.” I suggested a strategy facilitation to get them started with some great ideas for moving forward. They could afford that and it would be enough to get them started, build goodwill, and demonstrate my willingness to make this a partnership.

They happily accepted and we both got something valuable from it. If I had played the “it’s my way or no way” card, we both would have lost something. Admittedly, not every prospect is worth it. Some times this approach will not work. The questions you have to ask (as do the politicians) are, “is there something larger at stake than me or the other player?” and “who stands to lose here by an ‘all or nothing’ approach?” In the case of Washington, the losers would be the American people. So listen up, Congress – this is NOT about you. It’s about something bigger than yourselves. An “all or nothing” mentality is often ego-driven and it limits the potential for improved outcomes for more people. Contrast that with the possibilities that open up when we “un-bundle.”

Does an “all or nothing” way of thinking limit your options? Consider the following:

If I can’t write that book my way the first time, it’s not worth doing.
I can’t take on that client because they can’t afford everything they need at once.
I can’t work with this person because it means I will have to yield on something.

How can you un-bundle your approach to business and life to achieve better outcomes for all?

Great Marketing Answers the “Why”

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Leaders sell ideas and inspiration, not services.  They are adept at answering “the Why” – why they do what they do.  It is a fundamental human question. People often buy products and services based on a feeling of connection rather than on some objective, decision-making criteria. Yep. Humans are rarely completely rational, as Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, posits in his work.

Yet, that’s exactly how most marketing approaches work – by aiming at a “rational” consumer mindset with details on “how” and “what.” That’s why most marketing is forgettable and ineffective. Recently, I re-watched a great TED talk by Simon Sinek, author of “Start with the Why.”  His premise is that the “how” and the “what” in marketing are not as important as the “why.”  Great organizations answer the “why” – why they do what they do. That targets something “visceral” in people, bypassing the “logic” brain, and allowing for messages to connect at a more human level. This approach inspires action.

As Sinek jokes, Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired people with his “I have a dream” speech, not his “I have a plan” speech. Dr. King was driven by a dream for a better America, not by a technical, detailed-filled plan. He spoke to our common humanity and sense of shared values. And he wrapped up the “why” in a story – the most human of communications agents. He aimed his “sell” not at the audience’s “heads.” Rather, he targeted their hearts and their beliefs. Leaders tell stories bigger than themselves. We want to see people better themselves and achieve greatness because it inspires the achiever in us.

This is a critical point for marketers who focus too much on the “what” and “how.” Companies that lead sell a vision and inspire – they don’t sell technical and economic details. Sure profits matter, yet they are the result of “why” we do what we do.

To see the difference why makes, I will start with my own company. I sell marketing services including market research and strategy, product facilitation, content plans, and marketing communications. I do this by approaching marketing completely from the human needs of the customer. The results are increased profits.  Not altogether inspiring, is it? Sure, you know that I value customers; but shouldn’t every great marketer? This approach tells you nothing about why I do what I do.

A Better “Why” to Market

I started Keeping it Human because I knew that marketing could be so much better. It could be “human.” I came out of high-tech, and saw wonderful products being marketed in the most un-human ways. “Solutions, platforms, methodologies, disruptive technology…” It was all company-focused rather than focused on the human challenges customers face.  It was full of jargon that didn’t matter. No one talked in simple, honest, or funny stories that honored people. Who says marketing can’t at times be funny? What drives me is a deep belief that there is a better way for customers and companies.

Now let’s try my marketing statement again with a focus on the “why.”

Keeping it Human challenges the status quo of company-focused, jargon-laden marketing that treats customers like “targets” with dollar signs on their backs instead of like people. We inject a human element into everything we do from creating products that solve human challenges to speaking in powerful human stories and narratives that move people to action. As a result, we improve profits and customer relationships while improving interactions for customers, too.

Better, right? The important thing is why you do what you do. What inspires you? People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. You are selling to people who believe what you believe. And in that “why,” your audience sees themselves. It’s not about you – it’s about something much bigger.

Another great example is TOMS Shoes. TOMS’ entire model is about giving. They don’t just make shoes. What they do is fulfill a tremendous need by giving a pair of shoes to a child in a developing country for every pair of shoes sold.  Buy one, give one is their motto. Their shoes aren’t the cheapest or best made shoes on the market. That is irrelevant, because people buy TOMS because they believe in the mission of the company. It’s the “why” that matters.

Zappos is another powerful illustration of “why.” Zappos isn’t about the merchandise you can buy. You can likely find better deals elsewhere. That’s not the point. Tony Hsieh started Zappos because his mission was all about providing the best possible customer service and customer experience possible for online shopping. In fact, he started the company with this mission before he decided what merchandise to sell! There are great examples of “why” in every industry, including technology. “Think Different,” is Apple’s why. This drives Apple’s commitment to quality, user-friendly, and easy-to-use products.

Marketing is Evangelism…to the Converted

By leveraging the “why,” you are targeting enthusiasts, people who make decisions based on intuition – the leaders. This is especially true for technology companies when you consider how diffusion of innovation occurs within markets. It is the leaders – the enthusiast early adopters – that are willing to buy based on an idea, sometimes unproven. Then, they help you improve your product and help you “sell” to the larger majority by word of mouth. If you don’t have these people on board, well, so much for crossing the infamous “chasm” and capturing the market majority. Their endorsement is critical.

Finding Your “Why”

As you think about the human reasons behind your company, focus on telling the “why” in your larger company narrative. It’s far more important than your individual services. Rethink your traditional time-based company biography. It is irrelevant. Communicate why you get up every day and what motivates you. Great marketers and leaders communicate with heart, conviction and soul. By aiming at that most critical human level, your message has a greater chance of hitting exactly where it needs to connect most – viscerally.

 

Keeping it Simple Means Keeping it Human

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Complexity is easy; simplicity is hard. There is a lot of noise out there. If being simple were easy, everybody would have mastered it. That’s a great thing; when your competitors are convoluted, simplicity sets you far ahead of the pack. Whether it’s your offerings, your service, all the ways you engage with your customer or your marketing messages, simplicity gives you a big advantage. There is elegance and efficiency in simplicity; and keeping it simple makes it easy for customers to do business with you.

Complexity alienates and destroys value. Customers are busy; they don’t have time to sift through noise to dissect what you really do and how it applies to them. Simplicity streamlines customers’ (and prospects’) lives and respects their time and money – that makes you stand out! Companies that offer products and services based on technology are especially vulnerable to the complexity trap. You can’t explain complexity with more complexity. Rather, the only antidote to complexity is simplicity. Simplicity takes work.

So where do you start with “simplicity” summer cleaning? Map out everything you do in marketing. Then ask, “Where can I simplify?”

Research

Leverage social media tools and good, old-fashioned human conversations (yes, these still work!) to vet products and services. Not using your engaged customers as a market research panel? You should be, as they can lower your research cost and product risk. They can tell you if something works before you go down a certain road, or tell you if your current offerings aren’t working. Focus on your high-end customers, especially. Social media tools aren’t just for communications; they can help you better understand usage patterns, needs and wants, and that makes them ideally suited for getting at great information that can help you streamline your business interactions. Still, they must be used together with human touches. Those touches can get at information that other approaches can’t.

Product

Have you ever walked down the bottled water aisle at the grocery store and wondered if a brand really needs dozens of varieties of water? Companies segment to reinvigorate margins and profits – it’s the product life cycle in action. However, more choices mean more complexity for the customer. Examine your offerings. If several overlap and benefits are unclear to prospects, simplify by repackaging into fewer options. You’ll likely see margins improve as well. I’ve done this recently, and it has made a difference.

Customer Service

What are all the ways you engage with your customer? Track all the ways you touch your customer or prospect. Map out your experience flow. Look at ways to simplify and add value for your customer. Too many unnecessary touches can actually reduce value. For example, I worked with a company where each division conducted separate market research projects on the same customers. That often meant that customers would be asked to fill out surveys four times a year. Is that really necessary? No. Consolidate into a single touch that respects your customers’ time and is likely to yield better data for you. If touches add value separately for your customer, keeping them separate makes sense. Make sure that the touches you keep – whether newsletters, social media, or emails – offer something that makes a difference to prospects and customers. The key is quality “touches.”

Look at all your marketing channels. Call your own phone number. Does it go into a black hole, or are calls routed appropriately and returned? Does it have an outdated voice mail message? What about your inbox with online leads – what outgoing messages to people get when they submit a query? And, what do you do with that lead? One client set up an inbox to track incoming leads through the website. What did they do with those inquiries? Often nothing – leaving customers to have to find other channels to get the help they needed. This adds complexity, creates a poor customer experience, and doesn’t benefit the company.

Marketing Communications

Look at all of your communications. Are they simple to understand? Are they consistent? Streamline your message, and make sure your channels are integrated into a content network that reaches customers easily. That means that all channels talk to each other – that’s where the multiplier effect is.

Be sure your language is clear, simple and compelling. Cut out jargon. Jargon is like a bad restaurant experience where no one is really served well. It’s lazy and that is why we over-use it. We don’t have to think. Here’s the rub: when you use jargon, you end up sounding like everyone else with no unique voice. So dare to be different by being simple.

Here’s a quick litmus test: can you articulate the essence of your business in ten words or less? You should be able to. It’s not easy – and that’s the beauty of it. It will take you a number of iterations. Mine did. This exercise forces you to distill your value into a simple, memorable statement. For example, here’s my statement: “I help organizations turn marketing-speak into human stories that connect.” Get rid of “inside” language that you use internally because it won’t be meaningful to customers. The detail of “how” you get results for clients doesn’t matter at the highest level;  results do. Ask for feedback. Rinse and repeat!

Knowledge is a double-edged sword. It’s fantastic to have a number of things under your product umbrella, and to want to share that expertise. However, you can’t hold your customer or prospect hostage while you explain – verbally or in writing – everything you offer. An elevator pitch should focus on one idea; I mean a 30-second elevator ride, not 30 stories heading up the Sears Tower.

Simplicity takes commitment. Yet, think for a moment how much complexity can cost you. Most people won’t tell you if you are convoluted, so get ahead of the curve and ask your best customers.

Coco Chanel, the great fashion designer had it right: before you leave the house, take one item of jewelry, clothing or an accessory off. Like great fashion, less is more when it comes to great marketing.

Keeping it simple benefits your customers and you. That’s the simple truth. Can I get an, “Amen?!”