Wondering Out Loud

This isn’t about social media, it’s just something that strikes me odd

Target sent me an email with a great headline – they were having “the biggest iPod sale of the season. My 2nd generation Nano is getting a bit long in the tooth and I’ve been thinking about replacing it, but haven’t had the motivation. In my world, a price reduction can be very motivating (I hate paying retail prices).

So I clicked on the link that took me to the iPod Touch page. If I’m going to replace my little 2GB Nano, I figured I do it in style. Upon arrival I was presented with thee choices of 3rd gen Touches; 8GB, 16GB and 32GB. Each had the retail price displayed with a lovely red line running through it. Below each was a link that read “see low price.”

What is the deal with that?

I’m from the school that says your visitors should be required to click as few times as necessary to reach their destination. Unless Target was having one hell of a sale – 30% off or more – there is no reason to hide the price.  In this case it was 8% on the 8GB and 10% on each of the others. It was opening a Christmas present to find you aunt knitted you a 3 armed sweater.

By no means is Target the only retailer doing this. I’ve seen the same practice from other online retailers. What prompted me to post about it, however, is that iPods rarely go on sale and I was really hoping to score a Bonanza (that’s what my friends and I called a great find when we rifled through the Rag Stock bins in the 80’s. That was when the only Rag Stock store was a dusty warehouse in DT Mpls.). I’m sure there’s a really good reason, based on all kinds of psychoanalytical studies of buying behaviors, retailers feel the need to hide “special” prices from consumers. But here’s a piece of advice from this consumer..



March 31, 2010 Posted by | Marketing | , , , , , | 11 Comments

Is it more natural to use social media tactics in the B2B space or B2C?

I originally asked this question in the B2B Social Media group at LinkedIn and got some great responses. I figured I’d throw it out to a, hopefully, wider audience.

I was meeting with a representative from an ad agency that deals primarily with consumer packaged goods and, in a grass is always greener moment, he said they are struggling to implement social media tactics for their customers. He said it – social media – seems a much better fit for B2B. I found his comments interesting because I’ve sat on a couple panels, and attended others, where the main question has been whether there is a place for SM in the B2B world.

So I’d like you to put on your hats of objectivity and give your thoughts on which is a more natural couple: B2B and social media or B2C and social media.

I’d love to hear your opinion.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

A social media question worth pondering

Earlier this week I met with a representative of an ad agency in Minneapolis. His work is primarily in the world of consumer packaged goods. We were discussing the agency’s exploration of social media and  whether it made business sense for them to go that direction. Why it would even be a question was a mystery until he commented that using SM tactics seemed a natural fit in the B2B space (where I’ve been for the better part of a decade), but not so in B2C.

In the past 12 months I’ve sat on panels dedicated to discussing the value of using social tactics in B2B and the starting point has always been that B2C is the natural.

Talk about your grass-is-always-greener moments.  

Having had the opportunity to give it more thought, I can see where new-found friend is coming from. The products he markets are ones you come across everyday at your local supermarket. If he can prove that a facebook fan will drive sales of butter he has a shot at getting the customer to take a look at it.

This is not to say I don’t think SM and B2C don’t mix. On the contrary, I think it they can live together quite nicely. However, in B2B the sales cycles are much different.

Unlike consumer products, most B2B sales are more complex and carry more risk – professional and personal – for the buyer. For this, and other reasons it is critical that the buyer believes the supplier is credible and trustworthy. Social media tactics are exceptionally well suited to do just that. But social tactics alone will not accomplish the goal. In fact, they are but one piece of a much larger marketing communications puzzle that one must build.

Don’t make the mistake of throwing traditional media out the window in favor of social media. Those who have are finding they regret the move and are scrambling to reassemble a media mix that will achieve their goals.

The new media mix – traditional + social – is an area that deserves deeper exploration and I plan to do exactly that in the coming weeks.

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , | 3 Comments

Social media levels the playing field

Traditional marketing uses campaigns to build brand awareness: Coke – “The Real Thing”, Pepsi – “The Choice of a New Generation”, BASF – “we don’t make the products you buy; we make the products we buy better”. Each is recognizable and each company invested millions of dollars to reach consumers.

I’m gonna take a stab in the dark, but I’m betting you, like me, are working with budgets that are substantially smaller than Coke, Pepsi or BASF. Guess what, it doesn’t matter because we all have access to the great leveler in the branding battle: the Internet.

OK, it’s not a perfect one-to-one exchange, but the power that lies within the worldwide web is boundless and with a little imagination and hard work you can leverage that power to create a brand for your product.

Until now, marketing and social media have been treated as separate and distinct and, truth be told, there’s argument that can be made for keeping them as such. But that doesn’t mean the latter can’t support the former.

Boiling it down to its simplest form, branding campaigns are designed to leave a mark, an impression on the mind. It is an impression you create and communicate, but the impression is only a perception, an opinion based on the message you provided.

As consumers, B2C and B2B became more sophisticated, their response to the bombardment of advertising became, “I’ll be the judge of that.” In other words, they wouldn’t accept what you have to say until they buy it, try it and make up their own mind. Your ads may get someone to buy once, but if reality doesn’t live up to the perception your advertising created they won’t buy again.

The power of the Internet makes it possible for all of us to turn perception into reality before they buy.

When you use social media tactics to promote the thought leadership in your company, when you expose the subject matter experts within to the market you are building credibility, you are building awareness. You are showing customers, potential and current, that there are people behind the brand. People who know the industry, people who know their customers and understand the business issues they face and are trying to solve daily.

In short, you are branding reality for your company, its products and services.

August 27, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

Are you self serving or self promoting

As the adoption of social media by business expands at an ever increasing rate, its misuse grows along with it. When you engage in social media activities are you self serving or self promoting?

Have you ever considered the difference? Both deal with the self, but if you choose to practice the former over the latter, you are headed for social media failure.

Here are the definitions from dictionary.com:

Self serving: Serving to further one’s own selfish interests.
Self Promotion: Promotion, including advertising and publicity, of oneself effected by oneself.

Done correctly, self promotion will result in all the benefits – increased leads, sales and revenue – you can get through self serving means, without turning away a good chunk of your audience. If this sounds difficult to achieve, it’s not. Promoting the self – you, your colleagues, and your business – is as easy as showing your target audience what you know. How you show them, however, goes a long way toward defining which side of boarder you are on between serving and promoting.

Let me illustrate with an example of a LinkedIn discussion:

Q: My boss wants me to buy a list of emails we can use for marketing. We’ve never done this and I’m looking for advice on picking the right provider. Thanks for your help.

A1: You can buy any list you need from my company Lists-R-Us. We specialize in providing 100% opt in lists for every conceivable industry – and a few you can’t conceive of. Call me at 555-1212.

A2: Before you pick a provider you’ll want to ask several questions including how they compile their lists, what information they gather about the individual and the company, can they segment based on SIC codes, and what are the counts within the SIC’s you are targeting. Also ask to see a sample cut of the data and what accommodations they make for non-deliverable addresses. If you want more I’ve included the links to a couple of credible resources below. Hope this helps.

I will grant that the example I provided is fictional, but it is most certainly not extreme. Go through the discussions and you’ll find any number of questions and answers that are commercials. But LinkedIn is by no means the only site that suffers from sledgehammer marketing. Blogs – posts and comments – are not immune, nor are Twitter and facebook for that matter.

Provide help with information the individual can use to solve their issue. It is a way of promoting yourself, without selling yourself. Over time, as your credibility grows, you will find a growing number of people who follow you, listen to you, and offer your name to others a resource that can be trusted.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t fear social media technology, embrace it

Thanks to Adam Ostrow for exposing the folly of the SEC’s (Southeastern Conference) new media policy. But the SEC is just another in a long line of media that has feared new technology rather than embracing it for their benefit.

When radio was in its infancy, record publishers would forbid stations from playing their music out of fear that people would opt for the free access and their sales would plummet – history would repeat several years later when digital downloads became possible. What they ultimately figured out, purely by accident, is that sales actually increased. You see, when the audience is exposed to and likes part of the whole, they have an increased interest in owning the whole.

A similar scenario was played out when television came along. Movie studios were so worried that people would stop attending the weekly matinee, they refused to release movies that had completed their theater run to TV networks for airing.  Never mind the addtional revenue they could realize or the added exposure of their biggest starts, the common wisdom among motion picture executives, like the music industry before them, was that the new technology was a rival to be feared and beaten.

To the SEC, CBS and anyone else who is considering banning social media out of fear of losing control of their product: take a deep breath, close your eyes and let it go. You will find an existing audience that loves you for doing it and a new audience – you didn’t know existed – will be driven to try what you have to offer.

As with music downloads, people will find a way to get the content they want. I hope the SEC, CBS, et al, learn from the mistakes of the past.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , | 1 Comment

Amen for eBook tips

I love the Savvy B2B Marketing blog. And I don’t say that with any reservations. Why, you may ask, have I fallen in love with a blog? I need no reason other than  this post: 5 Things You Should Know BEFORE You write an eBook.

I’ve read many eBooks in the past several months and have found very few that follow any of the 5 tips offered by Savvy B2B Marketing. Most read like a company brochure and leave little doubt that the only purpose is to generate new business. That ain’t what I’m looking for.

I read eBooks to learn something – not about your business, but what you know that can help me run my business better. Don’t tell me your products and services can solve my business issues: convince me you understand the pains enough that I can trust you to solve them, if I decide to contact you. When you start talking product, you lose me as a reader.

Social media is not rocket science, but you can blow up on the launch pad if you don’t take the time to think through your plans.

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brian Carroll strikes again

Brian Carroll of intouch has given us 6 lessons he’s learned about using LinkedIn for generating leads and I’d like to add one that, while implied in his 6, cannot be reiterated enough:

1. Tread very, very carefully

Above all, LinkedIn is a networking site for professionals. Most use it to find others who inhabit the same industry or professional role as they and are taken aback when they find someone who appears to be there to sell, sell, sell.

Remember that social networking is just that: social. We don’t call it business networking or lead generation networking for a reason. Get to know the folks you’re communicating with before you shove a piece of collateral under their nose. If you shoot first and ask questions later you’ll screw up any chance you have of developing a relationship – personal or professional.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Drive by social media

The good news and the bad news of social media are one and the same: Anyone with a computer and Internet access can do it. Whether from home, office, library or another venue, engaging in social media is as easy as opening your favorite browser and getting to it.

Social Media is of the people, for the people and, most importantly, by the people. As wonderful as that is, the fact that it is open to virtually everyone means we, the people, are responsible for the proper use and consumption of social media is all its forms.

What set me off on this journey of pondering is this article from gogamecocks.com, which is the official website of the athletic department at the University of South Carolina. The story is about the women’s basketball coach, Dawn Staley, and how she used Twitter to complain about how she was treated at a local restaurant. According to the story, she had previously used Twitter to rave about the same place. In this case, however, she told her followers she was treated badly and would never return. What happened inside the restaurant hasn’t been made public, so we don’t have all the facts, but the incident got me thinking about using Twitter and other social networking vehicles to lodge complaints.

Again, I don’t know what happened in this case, but, in my opinion, anyone faced with such a situation owes it to the company to bring the complaint to them, in private. I believe it is an abuse of the power we have as social media practitioners to give into the urge to spread word of a transgression as soon and as widely as possible, before engaging with management in an effort to resolve the problem. Let me say again, I don’t know what happened in this instance.

I’m sure there are exceptions, but most times a comany deserves the opportunity to make things right before being publicly pilloried

As consumers of the same social media we have a responsiblilty to view everything through a skeptics lens. Not that anyone is being dishonest, but a 140 character Twitter message, or a 500 word blog post for that matter, is written with built-in biases. In most cases they are biases we don’t understand and can’t detect because we simply don’t know the author well enough. Also, we are only hearing one side of the story and human nature dictates that, when we tell our side of the story, we do so in a way that paints us and our actions in the best light.

Practicing and consuming social media in a responsible way is good for everyone.

July 25, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Setting objectives in B2B social media

I was digging through old blog posts the other day and came across this one Mark Schaefer’s {grow} blog. A bit more than one month old, it asks a simple question: Can social media be successful in B2B?

Mark’s position can be summed up in the following excerpt:

Demonstrable B2B results are scant unless you define success as “number of mentions” or “number of hits.” How is it driving top line growth?

Mark asks the wrong question because he’s thinking like the marketing professional he is. If I used his definition as a measure of social media success, then the social media program I have managed as SoftBrands for 18 months would be considered a failure. But I know, and management knows, it has been a success.

Before launching our social media initiative, I set very clear objectives. Growth was not among them because this is not a marketing program; it fits much better in the area of public relations. That’s not to say there isn’t any spillover into marketing, but any that does occur is a fringe benefit.

My goals were pretty simple:

  • Increased credibility
  • Thought leadership
  • Promote industry expertise
  • Improve media relations
  • Increased brand awareness

I won’t bore you with the statistics, but eighteen months after launch, I can say definitively we have succeeded all categories. The blog is being read by the people I want – business partners and key industry people –and press inquires for interviews have increased dramatically. In addition, I have access to people that I would not have but for the blog, podcasts, Twitter, etc.

The bottom line is simply this; success is achieved by fulfilling the objectives you set. Objectives are set by the department that owns your strategy and will look very different coming from marketing than from public relations.

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , | 4 Comments


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