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01/02/14

Trends I’m Watching 2014

Note: Every year we use this space to look at what is happening now that gives us insight into where things are going. I hope you’ll check out the great work at the other ends of these hyper-links.

Evolving Skeuomorphism

UI matters.

How do you like the look of iOS7? where are the buttons? where are the design analogs that tell me what your app does?  Those conventions are for old people. Everything is a button? Except for that text that isn’t?

Skeuomorphism is dead , except where it isn’t. Opinion abounds. UI is so important-so I’ll say boundaries help. A lot.

Mark Twain tried honorably to change the spelling of many common English words to something more elegant and logical. He failed.  Convention is often inefficient but almost always stands in the way of innovation until ease-of-use overruns it. Steve Jobs made people stop using discs and cables. We went along because is was less cluttered,  nicer to look at and easier.  But ease needs to be exponentially greater not simply incremental. I think Twain would be shocked and delighted by leet , and maybe disappointed that he didn’t take it far enough. For now -mostly because of the geometric onslaught of system complexity-UI conventions (if not Skeuomorphs)  need to be acknowledged- if not followed. I’m watching iconography and the shape of things in 2014.

New sprouts

I’m optimistic too. I’m watching for an improved economy in 2014.  It appears tapering can be managed slowly, and the stock markets will adapt. One could argue it already has. The real-estate market mess is getting cleaned up (slowly) as that paper work gets done and as bankers realize that the Volcker rule isn’t all that brutal. Will businesses see their competitors coning out of the trench and respond? If they do it could lead to unemployment in the mid 6’s by the end of the year, and maybe even a little inflation by the time I write my trends forecast for 2015. I’m looking for growth from 5-7 years of pent-up demand . Then, again, there’s always this.

Segmentation and Agility: The Niche is Back

Small is the new big.” “Local is the new global.” This is the agility trend. Analytics can help deliver agility. This  trend isn’t new.  We’ve been watching for years. It’s always worth observing because we keep learning. The efficiencies of the long tail (lower expenses associated with smaller niches and segments) will drive communication message innovation further. Niche segmentation is not new, but I’m watching for it to get very aggressive as big data becomes more adoptable. Niche marketing is affordable and useful in ways it wasn’t 10 or even 5 years ago. It allows for aggressive experimentation so essential for success going forward this year. Watching your competitors segment your market is following. Leveraging business insight by evolving and refining your segments is leading . Signs for the trend are an increase in message volume and greater precision to smaller and smaller groups .

Social proof

So many marketers (and their managers) ask a very relevant question: what is social for? We know social ads struggle to sell in last-click attribution. But social media is still relatively inexpensive (it’s not cheap and it certainly isn’t free).  There is no question that social impacts sales . Interest in social proof is growing. Watch for enterprises to validate their value using social efforts. Watch for  more specific context in different market segments. Social media engagement comes in different forms for different customers in different phases of category involvement. Customers with low involvement are probably not going to participate in a community, but they might play a sweepstakes.

In contrast, customers with high involvement want to go deep on product feedback. I’m watching for higher conversion rates driven by improved customer messaging built from segmentation insight.

Branding is what you do to reduce purchase risk .   This year I’m watching for more social media efforts that demonstrate reduced purchase risk for customers. By being on social media, people can hear your voice. Knowing your voice makes you more relevant and-by extension-less risky. Next, social allows for the expression of brand values through content-either by creating it or by curating it. Additionally, social allows you to prove you know your customer’s voice. Proof-of-listening reduces risk because the business has demonstrated someone will respond and help when needed.  In 2014, watch for more risk-reducing proof-of-performance demonstrated in public . Branding will leverage CRM to generate social proof and return on investment.

The campaigning mindset

To get the most of out the new marketing tools, marketing efforts must be parsed in the forms of campaigns.  Branding is often seen as an ongoing, accretive effort. It is. But in an effort to manage costs and measure ROI more effectively, many marketers are aggressively managing discreet campaigns- as opposed to linear and ongoing messaging evolution. Campaigning leads to a number of related changes to watch for. Among them are more contracting, more freelancing and more turnover in marketing services. In other words, people and resources will be associated with campaigns as measurement becomes more common in form and execution. Involved in a successful campaign? Congrats. Unsuccessful? Watch your back .

In 2014 I’m looking for smart marketers to run as many campaigns in parallel as possible. Failures will become data points and contribute to valuable benchmarking efforts. Those benchmarks will inform future campaigns. Greater revenue generation comes from perspective that is only achieved through multiple points of view and aggressive, effective testing. Easy to say—tougher to do. I’m watching for managers who understand the value of benchmarking and iteration.

Attack of the 1099’s

Quantity means researching and trying new methods and vendors. Graphics work is being outsourced to India.  Voiceovers are available for 50 dollars. This price compression trend is about following fast nickels instead of slow dimes. It helps you to test and experiment more. If you don’t know what works, don’t worry. Try something new. Every graphic and copy change is a new variable to test. There are a huge number of providers and just as many versions for them to realize. The trend I see is finding what works and then improving on it.

Creative in quantity and The Data Vs. Meaning debate

Indeed data itself has no meaning. Data requires interpretation to be truly meaningful. This year I’m watching for broad consensus that more ideas are better than one good one. This trend is driven from the ability to measure the performance of specific creative attributes.  This year expectation-setting skills come into play as next-generation marketing measurement gets tested. Those people who believe they “know” how consumers and prospects will react are in trouble. To quote Twain: “Figures don’t lie but liars do figure” so be careful.  Obviously you want to test good ideas. This year I’m watching for marketers who create an environment where people aren’t afraid to be wrong.

Testing rules! I’m watching for winners who create a supportive environment for large quantities of creative iterations and fast evolutions that exploit novel content channels and forms. In 2014 I’m watching for marketing intelligence to include some form of highly specialized (and extremely valuable) performance benchmarking.

This is hard too. Especially in the context of what I’ve written above about entertaining and informing.  I love great creative. Most everyone in marketing has followed this career path because of that love. It is distressing when that love isn’t returned in the form of revenue or customer engagement. But as tracking becomes more sophisticated we learn that some audiences are more interested in nuance and subtlety than others. Surprise and frequency wins. Testing and creativity becomes as much about quantity (number of ideas to test) as it does about quality (efficiency and clarity of conceptual communication). Creative elements and media channels are under scrutiny in the cold harsh light of analytics. Of course nothing will replace taste and design- it will just need to support itself with engagement.

Content- Paid Placement

This is the new advertising .  Your marketing communications must entertain or inform. It must do one of those things really well. I’m watching for a wave of new nomenclature to distract marketers from what is essentially a very old media sponsorship model.  I expect to see creative communication that informs the purchase decision and gains credibility with your prospective buyers.  This is true in both B2B marketing and B2C. Measurability and risk reductions continue to be a theme this year.

The End of Net Neutrality?

Though I’m really expecting it to be a solid year, all is not lollypops and roses in 2014.

No one can blame the big telcos for working in the best interest of their shareholders and driving as much revenue from subscribers as possible. But we can blame the FCC and our do-nothing congressional representatives for not checking these guys before they became oligarchs. Lawless capitalism becomes corporatocracy-or something. *fists shaking*

Sadly in 2014 I’m watching for the Terminating Access Monopolies to charge premium web content providers. For many, this spells the end of neutrality. It must be said, however, that the end of net neutrality is a lot like Iranians and The Bomb. The threat has been there for a very long time, but somehow, it never quite happens. Hopefully consumers will respond with their checkbooks, with their voices, and votes to their congressmen. In 2014 FCC and Federal Court rulings will have an impact on innovation and access to information.

Comcast has NBC. Presumably the other TAMs could find content partners or properties of their own to give special access to. Can you imagine AT&T($186B) buying Time Warner ($17B)? Or Verizon ($141B) buying Viacom ($39B)? I’m not crazy about how that looks, especially for consumers and small business, but it’s very easy to imagine it happening. Those who would argue about overlap and FTC deterrence may want to consider historic promises of divestiture in past media consolidations. . Ranks speculations? Of course. I’m still looking for it, though.

In the interest of fair play, here’s Verizon’s own take on permissionless innovation .

Pay walls and the End of Free-

Content sells. Hulu is selling commercials and charging subscribers. At the same time. NYTimes and WSJ are pay-walling and selling advertisements. Netflix was one of the best performing stocks of 2013 . In 2014 i’m watching for this trend to continue.

Charging people was too hard or expensive at the turn of the new century.  In the past, many of us had heated arguments about the validity of micro-payments. That battle is over. Payment is easy. Micro-payments (and subscriptions) win.  eCommerce is effecting every business category . The Lesson: charge something for everything- even if it’s in micro payments, get the money. People value what they pay for. I’m watching platforms and tools like Bitcoin Coinbase, and Google Helpouts to see online transactions get easier and applied to more goods and, more relevantly, services.

It bears repeating: Data=money.  Sometimes it’s more valuable to get an email address a name and a phone number than cash.  Data.com says each new contact set is worth 5 bucks. What is the lifetime value of your customer? How much are you paying to get one? If your competition knows and you don’t, they win. If you both know and they pay less, they win. Don’t let them. Capture value in each phase of your sales cycle.

Have a great 2014! Here’s a look back at the things that we’ll remember about 2013

05/10/13

Why We’re Addicted To The Internet

The Internet causes us to lose our contemplative thinking skills if we don’t unplug occasionally.

03/18/13

Anti-fragile

It’s not about robust or even stable…

I’m trying to get my arms around this. I like the idea of benefiting from the difficulty of probability and causality. Talib winds up in the weeds a couple of times. Kahneman (why I’m watching) holds him accountable without being a jerk about it.

02/16/13

The Coming Crap Deluge: What You Need To Know.

Velocity Partners built this great deck about B2B content marketing and the problems associated with its newly found popularity. It’s essential reading and a potent reminder.

Crap. The Content Marketing Deluge. from Velocity Partners

02/11/13

5 Ways You Will Market Better in 2013

Now that were well into 2013, I thought it might be useful to review some ways (5 to be precise) you can commit to improving your marketing this year. New year’s resolutions are so “last month”.

1.) You will improve search performance

Google has made changes. You are very likely aware of both Panda and Penguin but what have you done to leverage them. Don’t try to outsmart Google– it’s just not worth it. Time is better spent understanding the rules and adapting to them.

2.) You will narrow your focus and broaden your appeal

The recent economic troubles have caused us to be too busy and too inclined to do work strictly for the sake of revenue. Focus is the key to winning the a position in the mind of your customer. in 2013 you will narrow your focus and broaden your appeal. Doing so will make your unique selling proposition easier to articulate and remember.

3.) You will automate and optimize your lead generation

You are fully aware that your email newsletter isn’t enough anymore. Playing with social media is not likely to deliver any results, either. You will get serious this year. Your communications efforts need to be better coordinated and you will. By building content to support every phase of your sales funnel, you’ll optimize your sales resources so that your sales cycles will be tighter and more cost effective.

4.) You will document your Customers’ experience more frequently

Everyone is talking about content marketing. The best content marketing is credible documentation of your customers’ learnings. Best practices are important but they erase distinctions fairly rapidly. The key challenge is to make your best practices readily available so that you can continue to improve on them. Today’s “Best Practices” are tomorrow’s “Standard Operating Procedures”. Insight into how to continually improve that part of the enterprise your offering can best enhance is your key to developing the kind of content that reduces risk of purchase.

5.) You will improve reporting and reduce reports

Most of your competitors and customers are awash in data. Too much data is pretty much as useful as no data. You can improve your marketing by actually putting the data you have to use. This year resolve to review your key metrics and identify the important ones you actually use to make more rational decisions. Further commit to measuring the results of your marketing efforts even when costs are sunk. You can continually improve your efforts if you are willing to accept that failure provides useful metrics from which to refine your efforts going forward. The dissonance around reviewing efforts made in the past is very strong. Resist blaming yourself or others. Make your next marketing initiative better by finding out what went wrong and how to fix it.

01/13/13

Trends We’re Watching 2013

Our Year Preview was a little delayed this year. Hope it still counts.

Death Widely Exaggerated

People like to talk about the death of media channels. Heck, I’ve done it. Death makes for great link bait, so there is bound to be a lot of that kind of talk as digital channels mature. And while different digital media channels are always at risk, (because: Facebook), legacy media still matters because its prestige creates familiarity and lowers purchase risk. Seeing a brand on a broadcast scale demonstrates investment and commitment. Broadcast media investment and commitment gives prospects and consumers more confidence in the strength and success of the offering. Nothing provides that confidence like traditional media. 30 second spots may not ever deliver the quantifiable ROI that SEO does, but they do deliver familiarity and when it comes to purchase risk, familiarity is a soothing balm that is hard to beat. Still spots must be seen to be remembered and there is a lot less opportunity for that- Even in broadcast.

Content marketing is not just for B2B anymore.

Like any new trend, Content Marketing is sometimes derided for being a buzz word– A marketing fad that gets the kids all hot and bothered but rarely delivers sales or revenue bumps to justify the hype. Like any other marketing technique or tactic, content marketing won’t solve a product problem or lousy strategy. That said, I’m a strong advocate of content marketing to drive leads and build prospect confidence. B2B marketers have learned that Case Studies with genuine insight and credible client endorsements build report with remote prospects early in the sales cycle who have little else to go on.

Consumers need stories too. They always have. Now the web gives them access to the stories of their friends, co-workers, and peers. They want to know the experiences of those similar to them to help manage the risk that prevents them from buying your product. This is a case where B2C marketers might learn a bit from B2B marketers- how to tell the story of “challenge, solution and result” to consumers nervous about spending money in a very difficult economy.

Paid Media
Content marketing is tough in paid media–particularly broadcast. 2013 will see it get easier though. I’m looking for more opportunities for long form programming arising out of a glut of channels. I’m also wondering when we’ll see Pandora, Slacker, or Rdio find a way to use long form programming to help labels and other music marketers expose their new artists to audiences with a propensity to be interested in them. I’m expecting to see auto dealerships use long form television to do more than yell deals at channel flippers on Saturday mornings. I expect to see some interesting experimentation this year.

Owned Media
Want a better deal from your vendor? Negotiate a case study. Need to close a deal with a prospect and just can’t come to terms? Negotiate a case study. The Case Study is the magic gap-closer. I expect to see it being used this year to improve net income from both sides of the ledger-revenue and expenses. 2013 is the year to formalize case study agreement from both your vendors AND your prospects. Need help figuring out how to do it?
Ping me.
(ok, no more shameless plugs. Sorry.)

Earned Media
If your PR agency isn’t discussing how to place your content into critical traditional media channels, 2013 is the year to find a new PR agency. Your brand story is an essential part of your value proposition. With shrinking staffs, it’s hard to get writers and editors to pay attention. You need to be aware of the pain your offering relieves and the novelty of your approach. Framed broadly and without the hard sell, in 2013, PR efforts will get more traction narrowing the narrative and finding the real value in the learnings of their customers.

Multitasking Effects Communication

How do you get anyone to listen to you if everyone is talking? This is the essence of the communication challenge in 2013. The ill-effects of multitasking are well known. Nowhere are they more apparent than in the communication exchange. Customers are talking more than ever and that is changing the way messaging gets interpreted.

In 2013 I’m looking for both shorter and longer messaging as marketing communication formats continue to propagate. Shorter messaging will particularly effect pre-roll online video advertising. Skip data is more useful than many people realize. And while studies suggest that skippable preroll is not as effective as standard preroll, when you factor in the ability to use skip numbers to measure creative (yea, I went there) you can begin to find messaging and communication methods that resonate more powerfully with customers and prospects. 2013 is the year we stop guessing about what kind of online video ads really work and which ones don’t.

Context Wins

While Content marketing may be on everyone’s lips in 2013, knowing how to do content marketing is a lot easier than knowing what content to actually build and deliver. In 2013, i”m watching for marketing thought-leaders to have more content that matches their prospect’s specific pain points and sales cycle orientation. Prospects need to see themselves in the stories of actual customers and learn something valuable from their experiences. That’s context. It was remarkably lacking even in the best content marketing in 2012. I expect to see much more of it in the coming year.

Big Data For Everybody

The Big Data hype has been around for years. It was largely spoken of in abstractions, though. People who really knew about it didn’t really share too much. Honestly, it got pretty boring quickly if you didn’t get all frothy about clusters and regression analysis.

Many people know that data is more valuable than money, because data can be used over and over, and money spent only once. If, for some reason, you don’t believe this, seek help immediately. Or don’t, because you will believe it this year. If you have data (a lot of it) and you are unclear how to monetize it, there is no shortage of services to help. Behavioral data from your CRM can be more valuable than traditional opinion research, too. Knowing what people have actually done in the past is often more predictive than knowing what people think they will do in the future. People are, of course, creatures of habit and not as self-aware as they think.

Of course behavioral data really doesn’t tell us why people do what they do. Knowing that is certainly important in figuring out when people might change their behavior.

Battle for the CRM feed

This really is an outgrowth of big data. Your company’s CRM database is the head of the data-well for many businesses. Until recently, in larger enterprises customer service and marketing have had a friendly, if somewhat distant relationship. I’m looking for that to end in 2013. Gloves will come off in the largest enterprises as marketing realizes The big data it needs is coming from the call center. Customer service executives will have a choice to make about how they share in a way that’s bound to frustrate C.O.O.’s. Big Data needs to serve both operations and marketing, but how those constituencies get serviced and how the data turns into meaningful stories is very much up for grabs. Grab it we all will in 2013.

Mobile First

Usability work has to focus on the lowest common denominator– now that is the mobile device. Make sure your stuff works on all three platforms-iOS, Android, and yes even Windows 8. (See platform parity.) The best way for you to think about development for new media is thinking “mobile first”. No the the desktop and lap top are going nowhere, but the growth is all mobile. Remember this when you are reviewing your email and website design changes this year. It matters more than you can imagine. So many missed opportunities when your stuff doesn’t work on the mobile device.

Platform Parity

Remember the old platform (Windows vs. Mac) wars? Well, they’re back– only this time they are on the mobile device. And instead of two platforms there are three and none of them are open (I’m waiting until next year to worry about whether Tizen will mater). In 2013, I’m watching for real passions to begin to flare as the platforms become more similar, usability improves (especially on Windows and Android phones) and device competition heats up. The truth is the platforms are becoming more similar and the devices are too. What really matters though is that the device and the platform get used. One of the most fascinating things about the platform wars in 2012 was that more Android devices were activated than any other, but way more iOS web traffic was observed. To me those findings meant that more people had Android devices, but iOS users were more adept at using their mobile device. Remember “follow the money” in the 70’s? no? well, “follow the traffic” is the same thing. While content may be king, the king is naked without usability. Usability is essential to traffic, and traffic is money. Search is money; data is money; traffic is money. There’s a lot of money disguised as other things out there. It gets confusing, but competition helps. Here’s to less confusion in 2013.

Streaming Entertainment

With Netflix, Boxee, Amazon, and iTunes all in serious adoption mode, the cable box abandonment trend is nascent. And much like traditional television, cable boxes will not die (remember, we will not fall victim to “death-hype” this year), the cable box will simply have a competitor sitting right next to it. Cable pricing models will begin to change. Customers who are not sports fans will start to figure out a way to end their forced subsidy of football (both professional and college) and baseball. I’m optimistically hoping that in 2013 carriers will need to figure out how to bundle entertainment packages that defend from the dreaded (and highly unlikely) a-la-carte pricing that would ruin their bottom line.

Branding First on Facebook

As a client recently -and quite brilliantly- pointed out to me (hi, Ellen) Facebook is the new “cigarette break”. Brands can get attention on Facebook but its very hard to get real engagement there.

Nobody likes this. Blame EdgeRank. Recent analysis we’ve completed makes it very clear that any attempts you make to send people to sites other than Facebook seem to get handicapped by Facebook’s algorithm. What to do? Create unique, sharable content that keeps people on Facebook. Treated it as the walled-garden it seems to insist on being. By all means, move people to your site with content and offers, but try harder to created a branded experience that can exist on Facebook discreetly. Use email, and Twitter to drive website engagement. You still need to organize your customers and prospects on your website. I look forward to being corrected on this observation in 2013 because Facebook doesn’t immediately strike people as the branding platform it seems to want to be.

Google+ Mattering to business and Instagram Mattering To Your Kids

There’s really no way around it, so I’ll say it: Google+ is a pain in the ass. Just admit it and get on with it, because search=money. It matters because Google (the almighty) needs corroboration to make its search results better. It doesn’t seem to trust its old simple spidery self. Google+ is the way that Google can improve search relevancy by having peerage into conversations about web content. That’s fine and perfectly understandable. Google faces serious threats. In order to improve search results businesses will need to get into Google+ and that probably means you.

As painful as it is to manage yet another social media platform, Google+ is still pretty good. It’s rather painfully complex because it allows you a lot of control and personalization that Facebook and Twitter really don’t (and aren’t meant to). I’m looking for the Google+ UI to get better and for the API to open up so it can merge into my other social media feeds more simply. If I follow my own Barnes Law of web apps (that states for every app you can think of, at least three have been built already), this app exists too. I just have to set it up… That 2013 punch-list is getting longer by the minute.

Instagram is huge with the kids. It’s Twitter with pictures and it’s Facebook without the emotional baggage. It is the perfect tool for the youngs to define themselves though sharing visual symbols. Can you speak in pictures? I bet you can. If you aren’t already, I watching for you to start in 2013.

Have a great year!

10/16/12

Tony Hawk Interviews Louis C.K.

Scroll to 5:10 for a fantastic lesson on customer service

some language NSFW

09/12/12

A Winning Example

Quicksilver has engineered some quality content here:

08/23/12

Content Engineering Is The New Marketing

Sick of it yet? The endless repetitive recurring death of marketing meme. Marketing is always changing so we’re always going to hear “marketing is dead–long live marketing”. It’s a dramatic way of confirming how fickle and well-informed buyers are- whether they are b2b or b2c.

Search has clearly become the primary driver of purchase decisions. Additionally, the advent of social media has increased demand for content. People like to share content to learn something new and surprising or maybe just laugh.

Content you create or curate tells customers who your brand is, what you value, and how you relieve customers’ pain. To think of content as king or queen (or duke or prince) doesn’t provide much insight much anymore. Think of content as money –or at least a kind of currency–a digital cultural currency.

If you aren’t already, you will use content to get people to make an exchange. Prospects exchange their attention and patience to hear or see your message. How much patience or attention you receive is based on the quality of your content. Simple as that. You must make sure the exchange is fair to build trust.

Years ago advertising leveraged the mountains of currency delivered by scarce media programming to gain the attention of prospects. Advertise on a big TV show in the old days and if you were responsible, you could communicate a unique selling proposition very effectively. So don’t get me wrong. I come not to curse advertising, but to praise it. Advertising still does a very good job building awareness. Paid search is advertising, and should be part of any serious marketer’s tool set. I can’t imagine not coming up via paid search when a prospect searches for a competitor. Media programming and content, no longer scarce, requires genuine insight or entertainment in order to persuade.

But advertising isn’t enough anymore. If you want customers to respond to your message you must respond to theirs too. That’s what social media is for. Content value in social media is measured by its ability to facilitate customer engagement. When customers engage by sharing attitudes, interests, and opinions, they’ve invested their time in your offering and have become invested in its success. Create and share things that drive discussion. Learn what your customers need and how to best service them to gain top of mind.

You can borrow content–by syndicating or curating- or you can create it. The best content marketers do both. Borrow content (curate) to get frequency and build (develop your own content) to get focus and attention.

Who decides what content to build or curate and then where and when to post it is the content engineer. The content engineer determines how to use digital platforms to communicate the benefits of the brand by informing the purchase decision.

Take a minute with that phrase “informing the purchase decision”. Of course you want to persuade people to purchase your product or offering. You won’t do that without trust. Your offering is likely targeted to a market segment and not ideally suited to everyone. Embrace that. Develop content with an eye toward helping people self-identify and self-serve because they will anyway. Use your content to inform them of the options and compromises they face in their purchase decision. An educated prospect leads to a shortened sales cycle and thus lower sales costs. Informing builds trust.

Content does more than help your customers– it helps you too. By providing varied content (lightly or deeply informative, humorous, etc) in different forms (video, audio, text) you can understand better where a prospect is in their purchase cycle. People who spend a lot of time researching are generally ready to buy. Prospects who spend only a little time may just be starting their purchase decision or reaffirming a purchase made recently. Watching and tracking who is using your long-form deep content and comparing them to who is using your lighter shallower content will help you deploy sales resources better.

Often the toughest aspect of content engineering is goal-setting. Performance isn’t really about quantity. Content excellence is about enabling and providing incentive for your customer community to build content for you. You want the customer to sell the product through recommendation, endorsement and involvement. Online, consensus matters. Enabling and demonstrating customer consensus lowers purchase risk and grows brand equity.

Use content to build loyalty to the extent that your customers will like your product so much that they will actively assist in its sale. Not only is customer assisted sales conceivable, we are not long from a time when customer to customer communications will be essential to market share leadership.

Celebrity endorsements have been a reliable method of marketing communication for over 100 years. Now the criteria for celebrity has been forever altered. Certainly in your customer base you have “celebrities” or experts who are widely recognized in their field for having game-changing knowledge of issues that drive your customers’ businesses or preferences. Power users need to be identified and tapped as content sources to improve the credibility of your content and the claims you want to make about your offering.

For your content to be persuasive, prospects need to see their pain in the stories your customers tell them. Those stories/content can come in the form of testimonials, endorsements, case studies, or survey research. The more forms you cover, the more likely your content will be right-sized for your prospects’ need when you have the opportunity to get their attention

Stuck for content ideas? Here are few ways to get started:
Almost every competitive space has what we call the “elephant in the room”- that ugly reality that keeps people from seeing all the value they expect from a given purchase. This is true in both B2B marketing and B2C marketing. An example might be the trouble with LAN capacity for VoIP deployments or issues arriving from trying to entertain a lot of people who will invariably have widely divergent tastes. Finding customer pain and exploiting it as content inspiration is one of the secrets of a great content engineer.

When reviewing ideas for content stop thinking viral and just think sharable.

Search optimize all your content -make sure your search terms are well represented. But don’t make search optimization the enemy of compelling content. Do your best to balance terms with content that is easy to understand and easy to share.

To start the content merchandizing process, encourage your employees and vendors to start sharing content that they find valuable. Then inspire them to add yours to their mix. It takes a lot of work and focus to find the winning thread of content themes and an appealing tone. Once you begin to leverage your customers’ sensibilities effectively, however, you’ll bring more people into your community. That community, in turn builds the credibility you need to generate a new level of confidence in your brand.

04/03/12

Stop Asking for Facebook Usernames and Passwords

With nearly everyone hooked into some social media source or another, employers have discovered a new, unethical avenue to assess job candidates: asking for usernames and passwords and logging into social media accounts. Particularly Facebook.
High unemployment makes for desperate job seekers, and it’s that desperation that has many falling into this trap–handing over their personal log in data just so that they’re not passed over for a position. But despite the seeming popularity of this new hiring tactic, there are certainly enough negatives to make it worth reconsidering.
A No-Win
What, exactly, can you learn from logging in to a candidate’s social media accounts? Generally, a candidate’s ability to do a job has nothing to do with how they conduct themselves in their private lives. All that a Facebook page will tell a prospective employer is what the candidate ate for dinner, or their thoughts on last night’s episode of 30 Rock. Is that crucial information?
Further, taking pains to uncover this information can put you in a compromising situation. Suppose you log on to a job seeker’s page and find out they are pregnant. Now you know that they’re in a protected class, and if you don’t hire them, they may have grounds to press discrimination charges. If you had stuck to the interview, where it’s illegal to ask such questions, you wouldn’t have this issue.
Anything that you could want to know about a candidate is fair game in an interview, so violating privacy is really unnecessary. Besides, speaking with someone face-to-face is a far better indicator of their employability. You can get a sense for their critical thinking skills, learn about their prior experience, and even throw in a few curveball questions to keep them on their toes.
Fear Culture
Interviews are a two-way street. Smart job seekers—which are the kind you want to hire—spend much of the interview process assessing potential employers, looking for the best fit. If you are invading their privacy before they even sign a job offer, candidates are more likely to feel harangued than welcomed into the fold. Your top choice hire might be the top choice for other hiring managers as well, and you cut your odds of winning a great employee when you ask for their Facebook password.
Even after you’ve requested a candidate’s personal log in information, checked out their profile and made sure they were a perfect fit, you’ve really only been lulled into a false sense of security. You don’t need to plan for any embarrassing social media misfires—you know your team better than they know themselves. Except, people are unpredictable. Someone with a completely respectable online profile could turn out to be the worst fit. Maybe they erased all of their disparaging remarks about their former employer, along with the strange incriminating photo albums. The thing is, you can study a candidate’s profile for hours and still not be any closer to predicting whether a potential hire will work out.
A big problem with this invasion of privacy is that candidates will begin to see your company as something to fear. No one wants to work in such an insecure environment, where their every move is being stalked. Employees want to feel valued and trusted, not like they’re back in fifth grade quivering in front of their overly strict math teacher.
Security and trust must be cultivated. By showing your employees that you respect them and their right to a private personal life, you allow them to breathe. They don’t have to be afraid to come to work. They can start to enjoy their jobs and become better at them, fattening your bottom line.
Feeling Lucky?
Perhaps the most critical argument against asking for a job seeker’s username and password is that the practice is (technically) illegal. Facebook’s terms of service clearly state: “You will not share your password, let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.” All site users must agree to these terms of service before registering with Facebook, so if you have a presence on the site—you did, too.
Violating a site’s terms of service is against the law. Although it’s atypical for users to be charged with a violation of terms, it’s not impossible. You may luck out and slide under the radar, but you might not. So, instead of having a potential employee taint your reputation by posting unflattering status updates, you could end up embroiled in a legal scandal that will drag your company’s name through the media mud.
Less Invasive Alternatives
If you’re eager to learn more about a candidate, head to Google and plug their name into the search field. You’ll find that most people have a multitude of PUBLIC records, none of which require a personal username and password to access. Many people keep their Facebook profiles private, but you can still gather insight by looking on sites like LinkedIn or Twitter.
For employers who won’t be satisfied without seeing a candidate’s Facebook, check to see if they’ve “liked” your business. What savvy candidate wouldn’t? by liking your business your candidates public profile is easy to see. While you might not see the private correspondence between your job candidate and their mother-in-law, you will get enough of a glance to make sure that the interviewee is not certifiably insane and that they’re unlikely to do something that might jeopardize your company reputation.
Any candidate who lacks a sufficient social media profile may not be a good fit anyway. It’s 2012. You should be able to track down at least a few records online, and at the very least, you can contact former employers and references. It’s impossible to know a candidate fully before hiring them, but if they have a solid record of experience and several references behind them, you can be confident in your hiring decision.