Kathy Klotz-Guest

Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

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.

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 b2b Marketing Content “Human”

In Marketing, Marketing FUN, Social Media on May 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm

There would be a lot less bad marketing in the world if executives were forced to read all the ineffective, sometimes downright awful, content their organizations produce.

Marketing is supposed to put human needs first by sounding like it was created for humans by humans. Marketers know this.

So why is there so much bad B2B marketing content out there? It’s not a lack of creative storytelling talent. B2B companies are just as able to develop creative, fun, people-focused content as their consumer-oriented counterparts. Consider Cisco, IBM (yes, that IBM – once known as stiff and stodgy), NetApp, and Hub Spot to name a few examples.

With a little effort and strategy, you can breathe some life into your marketing. Below are five doable ways to humanize content and connect with your audience.


Stories

Humans are wired to think in stories. Twenty thousand years ago, when Grog needed to communicate hunting information, he didn’t issue tribal press releases boasting of “breakthrough arrow technology.” He told a story that was passed down and shaped by others.

All great marketing is storytelling, and it’s important to use stories to connect. We absorb stories, remember them, retell them, and they become part of how we “frame” our new world. Stories allow us to feel and to visualize what could be. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, for example, in which he painted a picture of a better world. If we want customers and prospects to feel something for our products other than boredom and disaffection, we cannot aim our content solely at their “logic” brains. Stories that illustrate how your products and services have made a difference for customers are a huge sales advantage. “Logical facts,” however, are easily forgotten and are far from transformational.

The best storytellers often do not sit in the executive suite. Enable your employees, fans, and partners to share their stories and extend your narrative’s relevance to them. There is no more powerful referral source than peer and user-focused stories, especially if users are telling them!

Conversation
Keeping business content “human” means that it should not only be relevant, it should sound like simple and clear conversation. And “simple,” doesn’t mean “dumb it down.” Complexity is easy; simplicity isn’t. The Roman orator Cicero famously stated, “Forgive me for writing such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one.” Simple just means easy to understand.

Think of all the casual conversations you have. No one recommends a product to a friend because it contains “disruptive, game-changing technology.” If people talked like this to us in personal conversation, as Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void describes, “we’d punch them in the face.” We recommend a product because it solves a very real human problem. People don’t talk like robots in everyday conversation; so why is this buzzword bingo part of our content? Even more surprising, we somehow expect people to read and relate to this stuff.

Color Your Words and Images
Colorful language simplifies concepts and makes them memorable. Paint a memorable visual with your words by using analogies and metaphors. For example, instead of “PR director,” you might describe your work as “story detective.” When I am talking with high-tech engineers, for example, I describe my work as the human-language translator between an internal technology focus and external customer needs. Simplify by using useful, accurate and helpful images that are meaningful to your business and for customers. Avoid overused metaphors (sports and war, for example) that have become clichés in business, however. That’s how buzzwords “happen.” If any wording smells like buzzwords to you, change it.

Outward Focus
One of the reasons companies struggle with making content human is because they are too inward-focused. That is, they are too centered on the question of, “how do we describe what we do?” They are focusing on the “we, me, us, and our.” Instead, companies should be outward-focused. The right question to answer is, “what are the human challenges our customers have?” When you approach content by describing human needs first, it’s much easier to then explain how your organization can help.

Here’s a quick test of your “outward focus” quotient: Does your company use the word “targets” or “prospects” / “customers” more frequently? If a customer comes to your website, can they glean in seconds what your organization does? Here’s another exercise: count how many times your writing mentions your company and its services. Then, count how many times it references customers and their needs. The latter should always be more pervasive, and your customer-to-company “reference ratio” should be high. Clear, relevant, and human-centered writing takes effort. Yet, the benefits are clear.

Jargon is a symptom of an inward-focus projected onto customers, and it is lazy. Readers won’t (and shouldn’t have to) struggle to decipher your narrative. Jargon also shortchanges your organization because it puts an unnecessary barrier between you and your audience. It’s like a bad restaurant experience where no one is served well (note the simile).

Another important element of an outward focus is the “so what?” factor for customers. Great content focuses on helping your audience achieve something better – get better results, save money, make money, make better decisions. It should center on improving customers’ bottom lines, not yours.

Fun and Humor
Fun is a healthy part of “serious” business. It’s a fantastic way to connect and cut through clutter. Even in b2b, relationships happen between people, not faceless entities, and fun and humor are as human as you can get. Funny is great; yet even a little levity works, too, especially for brands in need of a little brand botox! And, fun is less “risky” than you might think. Companies operate as “people,” too, with their own personality attributes.

IBM’s video series, “Art of the Sale,” for example, poked fun at IBM’s reputation in the mainframe business. It was refreshing, unexpected and cut straight to the point: “we know we had a reputation as being out-of-touch; we hear you, and we’ve changed.” Why did this series work so well? Because it was unexpected and it changed how people perceived the company. It was “un-IBM.” It was also an acknowledgment by the company that is was willing to be different moving forward. When expectations are inverted, customers are delighted. The right question for marketers to answer should be, “how do we favorably invert customer expectations?” Humor recognizes our shared humanity, and that is a powerful connector.

Vox Humana
With the exponential explosion in online content, it’s becoming not just a crowded world, but one where fresh voices are increasingly harder to find. Keeping content human increases its relevance and it can help change customer perceptions – and expectations – for the better. That’s a big competitive advantage in an increasingly noisy, sometimes un-human marketplace.

Now, back to the idea of forcing execs to consume their own bad content… I think I am on to something, or at least something fun for me. You say “torture”…I say public service…!