Kathy Klotz-Guest

Posts Tagged ‘communications’

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.

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?!”