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Invest in this

My clients all have personal investments. For the most part, they’re smart with both their private funds, and their marketing dollars. But sometimes I wish Marketing Directors would treat their marketing budgets more like their personal investments. 

I work in a full-service, direct-response-focused advertising agency. Lately we’ve been noticing a trend where there’s less distinction between a ‘brand’ advertiser and a ‘direct-response’ advertiser. Many new clients come to us for beautiful, branded TV ads, and we get to educate them about how to consistently drive sales. Other clients come to us because they heard we’re the ‘DR Experts,’ and we get to educate them on developing their brand. 

The thing is; you have to have both. Immediate sales is necessarily to prove positive ROI, and show the higher-ups that your campaign works. Many advertisers that only focus on the immediate though never grow outside of their small, initial campaigns. 

It’s just like personal finance. You need a steady income for the everyday needs, but invest simultaneously to get where you want to be in the future. The younger you are, the more risk you can take on. 

Companies don’t follow these principles with their marketing dollars though. They usually spend the least in the very beginning stages, when they should be taking the most investment risk, assuming gains in Brand Equity over time will overtake any losses.

Every day that goes by without someone seeing your ad is a missed investment opportunity. 

Luckily, my agency solves for both transactions and brand-building at the same time. We can only go as far as our clients are willing, though. Some companies simply don’t have the funds or the time to develop long-term strategies, establish a strong brand identity, produce the highest-quality communications, surround each consumer touch-point, and put enough air time behind channel. 

Not many companies are ready to view long-term brand-building just like their personal investments. However, I’m ready to continue this discussion and ask the tough questions that illuminate the future goal. 

I’m speaking at a client’s annual convention in Tucson on Thursday. As this is my first ‘destination visit’ with a client, a few initial questions came up. 

  • What does ‘Business Casual’ mean in Tucson? Shorts and flip flops, right? 
  • Should I prepare to see my client in a swimsuit, or ignore her at the pool? 
  • Also, what is a ‘Business Casual’ swimsuit? 
  • Will my natural Oregon deodorant hold up in 105° weather? 
  • Can I attend the 6:30am breakfasts in my PJ’s? 
  • If I don’t eat dinner the whole week, can I instead expense an hour massage, or a round of golf? 

Sometimes, when a client doesn’t e-mail me back for a few days, I think, “Now how was that any faster than a carrier pigeon?”

Communal Content Management

It has been a few years now since marketing departments jumped onto social media and scrambled to develop a interactive brand presence.

Commonly referred to as a “Community Manager,” the person-in-charge of the efforts has varied widely between companies and over time. I see the evolution path like this:

1. The Social Media Intern: Find a college student with some extra time, and have them set up a Facebook page for your company. 

2. The Social Media Specialist: Hire on a recent grad to update your Facebook and Twitter. 

3. Community Management Agency: Make sure your brand reputation is protected online by hiring a professional “Social Network Management” group. 

4. The Community Manager: A mid-level employee with experience in interaction, manages daily brand presence on social networks, and researches the next social innovation. 

5. The Online Content Director: An experienced copy writer or content strategist executes a top-level content plan covering the brand’s entire online strategy. 

6. The Digital Curator: New this year, a specialist sweeps all the brand assets to select only the most optimized online content. 

7.____________________

Where are we moving to next?

I call it “Communal Content Management.” In fact, I believe we’ve already moved there.  

This approach is based on the belief that a brand can not be represented completely without the entire brand community behind it. 

It gets a little existential, I know. Think of it as: it takes a village to raise a brand.

We’ve seen time and time again, when a big company leaves all their social media decisions to one inexperienced person, PR disasters abound. Although these disasters have still occurred when an entire team is working on it. 

There is no anonymity in social: the public will demand reparations from the top. Brand managers and executives are put in jeopardy as they try to save face. I would think the person responsible for cleaning up the mess would also want to oversee the daily management.

Updating online content may comprise only one person’s job, but it should be everyone’s responsibility. 

If you take this “Communal Management” idea all the way, it means everyone in the company has a part to play in the online brand presence. That’s right— the janitor has a valid experience to share; as do the accountants, designers, clients, community members, and everyone else interacting with the brand. 

It also means that executives need to set their company up for “content success.” Easily done: the more specific your overall brand strategy, the easier content curation is. 

What I’ve presented here is a little utopian. Communal Content Management is not far beyond companies’ reach though. Start with two steps:

  1. Keep content in mind while you refine your brand strategy 
  2. Disseminate community management responsibility

I believe this will lead to the most true brand representation, both online and in all marketing communications. 

An attempt to explain why networking parties are better than regular parties.
I am satirising quite a bit here, but I actually love networking. 

An attempt to explain why networking parties are better than regular parties.

I am satirising quite a bit here, but I actually love networking. 

When does Account Management change?

As I transition back into advertising account management, I’ve been thinking about the role in our digital age. 

Rapid changes in technology and digital communications has caused advertising to constantly reconsider the most relevant media. New job titles debut every month to accommodate the change, and agencies spring up to specialize in new areas. 

So where does that leave account management? 

Is our role fundamentally changing? Or have we become less necessary overall? 

My basic understanding of a good account manager includes these descriptors: Mediator, Representative, Jack-of-all-trades, Controller. Sometimes we become the fun uncle who promises the world and asks the parents to deliver.

These skills aren’t going away anytime soon. But today’s agencies expect a lot more out of their client handlers. 

The other night I discussed this issue with someone from an awesome interactive/new media/digital shop. We concurred that a successful account manager for their agency has a wider range of skills, including many technical abilities. Agencies like his need someone who can foresee the next interaction opportunity, make it relevant to the client, communicate the limitations of technology, and even offer solutions to the developers. Therefore I’ve expanded my definition of account manager by adding:

  • Strategist
  • Curator
  • Community Manager
  • Consultant
  • Dictator
  • Best Friend
  • Fairweather Coder
  • Creative Authority
  • Technology Connoisseur
  • Counselor
  • Spokesperson
  • Prophet
  • Business Developer
  • Digital Entrepreneur

This (non-comprehensive) list applies to the future of client services as a whole, but is particularly important in smaller agencies with a start-up feel. Large organizations can hire one person for each of these roles, whereas small shops may invest in just one.   

I know I have a lot more growing to do as an account manager. I’m not sure I’ll ever master the whole list, but acknowledging the need is my first step. 

With so much change in the advertising industry, shouldn’t we expect our front-line communicators to change as well? Let’s refresh account management as much as we do our Twitter feeds. 

Merging Customer Loyalty and Social Media 2

In this second post, I am applying another topic from the article to SMS: 

Customer Segmentation

Industry publications like to report on how social media affects customer loyalty. I would like to ask the exact opposite question: How does a customer loyalty strategy affect social media? 

I remember a significant discussion in business school about the implications of customer loyalty. Are loyal customers really more profitable? Produce more sales? Cost less to serve?

Our article ‘The Mismanagement of Customer Loyalty,’ says no. Again, this article is from the June 2002 Harvard Business Review. At the time, the authors were reacting to costly CRM programs with ineffective measurement tools. 

They suggest companies use a more complex measurement of future profitability, and split the customers into 4 groups. Then, follow completely different loyalty strategies for each group. I.e. Don’t spend time acquiring or appeasing the customers outside your most profitable group. 

Fast forward to 2011. How does this play out in social media? Most brands want as many likes as possible. They may consider social a no-cost platform to acquire fans (which is not strictly true). Either way, there is hardly any discernment. 

If companies practice segmentation in real-life customer relationship management, why not in social networks? Is every follower equally worth the time and money spent in strategizing and community management? 

I believe that someday, Google plus’s ‘circles’ will be a great tool for segmenting fan base. In lieu of that tool, the other option is to simply optimize your social media strategy for the segment of fans you want, not necessarily the ones you have.

Every brand wants a large number of fans. But remember, some fans have a greater WOM potential than others, at the same cost. I hope that the analytics of sound CRM strategy can be adapted to online followers. Then we’ll have a better concept of what loyalty means online and in social WOM. 

Application: Now that you have scored a large fan base, don’t be afraid to explore segment-specific content

Merging Customer Loyalty and Social Media 1

One of my favorite articles from business school is ’The Mismanagement of Customer Loyalty,’ from the June 2002 Harvard Business Review. The piece is the authors’ reaction to costly CRM programs with ineffective measurement tools. Read it here

In my next few blog posts, I’ll take some concepts from this article, and apply them to 2011’s Social Media Strategy (SMS). This post starts with two simple concepts.

Read More

Musicians Could Be Great Tweeters

Having a performing arts background has helped me in my social media strategizing. In singing, playing instruments, and speaking, one must first understand their audience before they can plan a program. Choosing the time and location is a positioning tactic to engage the right people. 

Even though performances are rarely two-way conversations, the best performer knows when an audience becomes bored. And they also know how to tweak each performance to keep the crowd interested. 

We could all use more crowd intuition in social media management. Every once in a while brands should check their focus: is it on themselves, or the audience? Self-focus is great for the planning stage, but we have to speak a different language when going social. An engaged audience is the whole purpose. 

Aug 3

Tablets are the Key for Small Businesses

A girl walks into a bar. She receives a 30-page menu detailing her cocktail choices. She looks through it for 20 minutes, can’t remember which one she liked, and just orders a gin and tonic. 

Small to mid-sized businesses may have never considered purchasing a tablet PC (namely the iPad), but I am here to tell you they should! Tablets can solve many organizational and operations problems, like in the scenario above.

I’ve been observing problem areas for awhile and have come up with my own list of tablet uses. To be more clear; it’s not simply the electronic device that solves problems, it is all about a well-designed, user-friendly application.

1) Point-of-Sale 

I’ve seen this used in a tiny one-room jam company. An iPad POS application replaced a complicated cash register. They had a USB attachment for card swiping too!

2) Menus and ordering

In the into scenario (which is a real local restaurant) they could have replaced their 30-page menus with an app that generates drink choices by category selected: type of mixer, type of alcohol, calories etc. The patron basically narrows down their perfect drink without looking through the 200 other offerings. And possibly customers can send their orders to the kitchen with one touch? 

3) Shipping and Tracking

Any businesses that do a lot of shipping or delivering could use an application that keeps track of it all.  

4) Inventory

Use a tablet to take inventory, and the data is on the same device you use for reporting.

5) Document storage

Imagine an office without the massive filing cabinets. Also imagine being able to access all of those files from wherever you are. 

6) Catalogs

Argos is a home goods store in which the customer selects a product from the row of catalog stations, instead of a showroom. http://www.argos.co.uk They have to print and distribute new catalogs each quarter. Why not change the catalog stand into an iPad station and skip the paper wasting?

7) Office Controls

Thermostat, security, lights, music

8) Meeting Collaboration

An easier way to transfer presentations, data, and take notes

9) Remote Participation

Conference call applications can replace expensive conferencing systems. Providing employees with tablets for online wiki collaboration is less expensive than brand new laptops. 

10) Banking

Deposit checks immediately and keep a closer eye on budgets. 

11) Scheduling

The whole office can sync their schedules, and keep it with them at all times. 

12) Coupon and Discount Management

Manage promotion schedule and scan-able electronic coupons on the same device. 

These are just a few of the ways tablet PCs can consolidate business operations. It’s a popular topic right now, and you can read more in many places. Inc. magazine had an article 'Six Smart Businesses Uses for the iPad', and this interactive agency in Portland is diving into innovative mobile applications for businesses. I’m excited to see more local businesses embrace tablets in the near future.