Do you want to build a successful marketing strategy? Pay attention to the “triangle”!

“Does one size fit all?” was my first post about Audience and the increasing importance of understanding it before setting strategies and defining approaches. Although Audience is more than ever a key aspect on marketing, there are also two other aspects that should be deeply analysed before going on designing and implementing new plans and strategies, value proposition and vision. If a company wants to be a market leader it needs to be able to deal with three different dimensions: inside (value proposition), outside (audience) and vision vs. trends (time evolution).

What does each part of the “triangle” mean?

  • Audience: people to whom products or services are addressed, in a strict sense using an old definition it means targeted segments although, in my opinion the internet and world wide web brought dynamism to the definition making it more flexible and broad by including in it the social networks and online communities.
  • Value proposition: the value that the company propose to their customers and audience, what is inside their products and that can be of value to these people. It should also be strictly connected to the “why” the company does what it does. Vision vs.
  • Trends: this relationship should be managed at the highest level in the company producing a business strategy that being loyal to the company’s vision incorporates also new trends happening in the world, like technological enhancements and innovatory products, or new consuming patterns and behaviours.

How does the “triangle” work?

We have entered an era of radical change for Marketers, part say that traditional marketing is dead and part keep stubbornly using the old same ingredients and recipes. I believe in mixed solution where traditional and new marketing techniques are used together giving bird to new recipes and where ingredients are chosen accordingly to audience, customer value proposition and vision vs. trends. The triangle will be used as a starting point to decide what kind of techniques and channels will be used.

Why marketers need to manage the triangle?

The 21st century brought new technologies and innovations that changed the way people live, behave and interact, affecting the way business is done. Everything is today faster than ever. Individuals interact with individuals to improve products, technologies or processes, not needing companies for that changing the way business is done today. My post Are we all amateurs, aren’t we? clearly shows that people within communities interact and help without being directly connected to companies. This phenomenon makes audience and value proposition more important than ever. Therefore, Marketers’ big challenge is to be able to “perfectly” understand their audiences (the way people behave, interact and share), translate that into a value proposition that makes sense that is also aligned with the company’s business strategy (mission vs. trends).

Piu Piu … You have a new tweet!

How often do you receive “leads” for interesting readings or other info (individually, or as employee of a company)?

If you do not think about it you are wrong, the only way to stay competitive is to stay informed on new trends and ahead of your competition with better but mainly innovative solutions.If you say not too often, then you may have a problem, probably you are not following the right people or blogs. We are living in the information age but without an index or a way of sort out what is really interesting and valid for you to read you will sink in Gigabytes Terabytes of data and info without knowing what to do. Obviously, for a company a system filtering and sourcing based in Business intelligence is crucial to decode and convey accurate and interesting data but also companies can use and profit from crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing means here people and citizens of the virtual world who source, filter and tag info making it available (for those who might be interested) on the internet mainly through social media channels. They rate, tag and recommend what one should or shouldn’t read, an amazing phenomenon helping classifying tons of digital data and info.

Is it 100% accurate and reliable? No it isn’t, better than noise, though. However, you can improve quality the better you chose your connections and from who you are receiving RSS, emails or tweets the better the quality on the info you receive. Fine tuning your sources is gradual and depends on what kind of info you are interested in, you will find people sourcing info on almost everything. The Web is the best place to find, source and store intelligence on whatever you might be interested in, a brand, a company, subject or trends. Social Media is within the Web, the easiest and cheapest way to crowdsource and channel in info sourced and tagged by the “crowd”.

How can this be interesting if you are a marketer? It can help you in different ways accordingly to what you are looking for. You can have different channels for different issues. Twitter is an amazing source of info with a high variety of subjects and different levels of expertise, from the well established professional to the alternative and experimental. Imagine that you are searching info on Guerrilla Marketing, you can have the best info and the best examples of what is being done and at the same time you can also have the most experimental and alternative ideas being tested on this marketing technique. And you can apply this on almost every issue you may be interested to follow.

I must confess that it was astonishing for me to see how quick the response was to this new need created by the internet and web of having an easy and democratic system to filter and source info out of the “noise” that the web had been transformed in. Web 2.0 technologies like taxonomy and semantic helped coding and filtering, while social networks (communities) helped gathering and spreading.

Do you have good examples of crowdsourcing? An occasion when you received an amazing piece of info through the Web? Share with us!

How can words influence your business?

My first post about Word-of-Mouth (WOM) [ Who has the Megaphones?] was written to highlight that audience’s voices – WOM – are now more important than ever, internet and the web allow “words” to spread at light speed and reach the entire globe. In this post, my goal is to understand two things: 1) who are these people, and 2) how can they influence a Business (product, brand, service…).

Companies are facing a new scenario, a scenario with high levels of globalisation, where the internet is connecting and informing people, and the technology changing the way one lives. When facing this scenario companies like people can adopt one of two approaches: the chameleon (adapting and evolving) or the ostrich (and bury their heads in sand, like the popular belief says).  I believe that the chameleon is the best approach. Although, my objective today is not to elaborate on the “how” to react or deal with the WOM on the 21st century, it is important to understand that the world is different and influencing people in the way and where they express (the channels they use to do it). WOM is now a public conversation broadcasted on the internet and through different social media channels where everybody can listen and participate. I wrote previously on Being Just a click away! that we live a click away from almost everything. With just a click one can read, learn, interact, communicate, share or comment. WOM is more democratized, powerful and interesting as a marketing tool than ever, it must be addressed by companies and marketers wisely.  Who are those behind today’s WOM? Everybody with a voice and something to say, a lot of people I shall say!

How can people’s different voices affect Business and companies? Well, each time that people express their opinion they maybe recommend or praise a product or a brand, which is positive. Though, they may also criticize or show disappointment regarding that same brand or product, which is not so good. WOM can influence and impact negatively or positively a business (and companies), and that impact will vary with reach and speed. In my point of view, companies must at least monitor what is being said about their products, brands or actions in order to identify trends, reactions and opinions. As I use to say, the Audience (customers, prospects, communities or other people worth to be monitored) should be the first think to be analysed before defining a marketing strategy. In this sense, WOM should be part of this first analysis and after that a strategy should be put in place in order to keep monitoring it along the time and different channels.

Ideas to keep in mind about the 21st century WOM:

a)      Public conversations broadcasted offline and online (internet)

b)      Easily given, they are just a click away

c)       democratized with a powerful impact on people and businesses

d)      Its monitoring should be done continuously and after a strong analysis on the relevant audience

Please share your ideas and insights with us.

Who has the megaphone?

We have entered an era of radical change for Marketers, the so called traditional marketing is not enough anymore bringing the need for innovatory or renovated ways to market products and services, therefore, I decided to write about an old phenomenon that has changed being today more critical than ever: the Word-of-Mouth (WOM).

Why? WOM is in my opinion and along with Audience (individuals interacting and adhering to communities) two crucial aspects to have in consideration when developing plans to market products or services. WOM is a crucial way to drive demand and create hype around a company, product or brand. WOM travels at light-speed reaching a big audience and that can be very positive or negative. Though, it should be monitored allowing on-time reactions to negative “words”. One of the marketer’s accountabilities is to increase WOM’s positive impact and control or reverse the negativity that might happen (negative words).

Has WOM changed on the last decades? Yes, WOM evolved and was boost by internet and World Wide Web being more powerful than ever. As I already mentioned Audience and communities should drive marketer’s attention and be considered when designing and implementing the Marketing plan. Audience is or must be a cornerstone of any Marketing strategy. Audience it is also synonymous of voice, people not only read what is being said they also participate, expressing their opinions. If social networks and communities are compounded by people with similar interests or behaviors, their voices can have different tons and range from specific subjects (related to the community) to opinions about daily life events. When participating people can influence who is on the other side reading, your network or your followers. Amazing isn’t it? However, a person can influence more people regarding the size of your total network or privacy constraints.

How does Social Networks work, in general? They work as spider-webs inter-related and exponentially amplified depending on security settings and the way they allow interaction between non-first-degree connections. How amazing is this? Are you visualizing already how much important can this be to a marketer and manager?

Word-of-moth is now a public conversation with a high audience level, and more than ever it should be properly used by marketers and managers. If you as a marketer do not care about WOM you are spoiling a very interesting and non expensive resource, you are not monitoring possible negative effects on your company, products or brands.

Why shift part of your budget to social media?

Lately, I have been reading posts and questions from people (marketers and managers) asking if social media is really a good strategy to bring business and fresh leads. Well, I have a straightforward answer: YES!

I understand why some managers keep asking if it worth to invest on Social Media Marketing, they do not fully understand how these new channels work and that the “all mighty” ROI (Return on Investment) is not applicable. Although, Social Media Marketing does not have instantaneous effects and results, with the right approach it helps increasing brand awareness, stimulating commercial activity and increasing sales (prospects, leads…) with a smaller budget.

In order to leverage on Social Media it is important first understand the company’s business strategy, the way it goes to the market and only after that define the marketing strategy (and decide the weight Social Media Marketing will have in the overall marketing strategy). Social Media is based on collaboration, interaction and communication therefore, content is key. I must say that free (quality) content sells and help selling. That way content should be an important part of social media marketing being supported by a clear plan and strategy.

Making a long story short, Marketing helps a company going to the market well prepared, with the right set of tactics and an action plan. Based on the overall business strategy and a strong market study it helps designing the business model and defining all the steps needed to efficiently reach the market. The Marketing department is normally responsible or at least co-responsible for making the market study (a 360º degree analysis), defining the customer value proposition, designing the product for a specific market, segment and target the customers, define the market positioning, measuring the customer’s life-time value with loyalty strategies, structuring the pricing model, choosing the distribution channels and the best way to promote the product. These steps must be aligned and translating the overall business strategy and company’s mission. After this attempt to explain general marketing activities and objectives (sorry if I miss something) in reality they change (different approaches or activities) from company to company making that way compulsory an in-depth analysis with the process and activities mapped from production to market, only that way and similarly to a value chain analysis a manager along with the marketer can choose the most interesting areas to impact and the tactics to use. Social Media can help almost everywhere along the process though different companies will have different strategies and tactics with more or less success. It is really important that marketers and managers understand that there is no right recipes only good analysis in order to define feasible objectives aligned and translating the overall business strategy. However, I do believe that business strategy can be discussed with an eye on how to market and also using different competences and skills as differentiation factors.

A successful Marketing plan should align and translate business strategies into marketing objectives and tactics. After this, a strong market and internal (process from production to market) analysis should be done in order to identify the best and more adequate (regarding the situation and analysis) actions and channels to be used. In the end the plan will be divided in traditional (outbound) and non-traditional (Inbound and social media) marketing (concepts concerning traditional and non-traditional marketing are still blur). Concerning non-traditional and social media marketing content, communication, collaboration and interaction are crucial to success. I strongly believe that to succeed on Social Media a company must manage the following triangle: content, audience (communities) and right vehicle (channel , e.g.: Facebook, MySpace…). “Free content sells” but only if you have a strategy and chose the right vehicle (channels) to target the chosen audience (built communities with actual or potential customers or).

Being just a click away!

We live one click away from almost everything. We can choose what to read, watch, listen, share and buy with a simple click. In the Digital Era (almost) everything is available on the World Wide Web and trough the internet. Nowadays, information circulates fast, mobility is a need and portability an available key resource. Customers’ needs, interests and behaviors have also changed, being crucial understand what are the key changes. One of the most important changes is connected to the way people sort out information and make their choices. New mechanisms erupted with this technological wave empowering people to easily give permission or not to be informed, and accordingly take action and interact. “Word-of-mouth” is faster and more alive than ever. Messages with referrals, complains, praises and all sorts of information travel these days at light-speed. They are only a click away.

Do you believe marketers can still using the same tools and channels that they have been using for decades now?

I do not! Pushing content is not working, people do not like to be interrupted anymore, they want to be informed on what they gave permission for. Publicity on TV, radio, newspapers or magazines is not efficient anymore. Invasive direct e-mail campaigns are considered spam and deleted from email inboxes. The way Marketing is changing and adapting although in some cases it could be faster.

In my opinion the first step to change an outdated and inadequate approach is a complete diagnosis on who are the company’s actual and targeted customers. Why? Because as already mentioned the business landscape is changing, leading people also to change adhering and being part of social networks. Within these social networks so called Communities are being created to gather people with similar interests. Marketers should pay attention to these social networks and particularly to their communities. Although traditional segmentation still efficient, they should also start using the community concept to target customers.  These new communities use social networks and social media like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter to interact, communicate, collaborate, share and participate. They sometimes have not only an online but also an offline presence leading to stronger relationships.

Don’t you think that this phenomenon should be taking into account when defining a new Marketing Plan? Well, I do.

So, being pragmatic, what are the available solutions to cope with this new reality?

In my opinion, all the channels, tools and technologies related to internet, working with digital and social-media oriented can help. However, I strongly believe in a mixed and tailor made solution. If I had to mention three key aspects according to what a Marketing Plan should be designed, I would have chosen:  audience (communities and segments) to be targeted, Business Strategy and Industry.  Nevertheless, what should be forbidden, if I may speak in forbidden things, is a Marketing Plan 100% based on Outbound or Traditional Marketing.

We live one click away! Please, as a marketer, business manager or entrepreneur adapt to this new reality before you are out of business!

Does One size fit all?

“Think global act local” is it applicable to Social Media Marketing? Let’s put it in a different way: should or shouldn’t a social media marketing strategy have different channels and tactics (actions) for different realities and audiences ?

When reading several posts and different material discussing social media strategies and successful implementation plans I always come across with superficial comments to this aspect, an aspect that I consider key. For instance, should a multinational company have a Facebook general page and also specific pages for a country, regions or segments (youth, elder people, yuppies, lifestyle orientation, gender…)?

Well, traditional Marketing theories say that marketers should segment, target and position before defining a strategy to gain market share and leadership. Although, I know that a lot of the strategies used in traditional Marketing are obsolete or inadequate when doing social media marketing, in this case I believe that when designing a social media marketing strategy audiences are crucial and must be segmented, targeted with an appropriated positioning.  When defining a company’s social media strategy, audience must be the first think to understand and define before going into objectives or tactics. Audience is in my perspective the key and crucial aspect when starting a social media presence or strategy, only because one can understand to whom the online presence is created to, one can succeed and achieve goals. When designing a social media presence a marketer should first take a deep look into its audience (who the company wants to target), understand the way they interact online and what they are looking for when going online and only then define a first approach with objectives and some actions.

So, if I am a marketer with different and distinct audiences and I want to target them all, I should first understand my different audiences, second divide each of them by typology of online interaction and interests, and only after that choose the channel (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter…) and my strategic positioning in each of them. After having the channel or channels, I would decide the best way to proceed by answering the following short questions: target different audiences with different or same (social media) channels? Same or different accounts? Or same channel with different actions?

An example, teenagers interact differently from surfers, however they can be in both groups, can’t they? They can have the same type of (online) interaction and interests? So, first question are they that different as audience or can they be part of the same group? It will depend not only on this analysis but also the kind of company we are talking about. Probably to target both one would need different channels or at least different accounts. For example, a Facebook page for surfers and another one for teenagers. At least, one would need a Facebook page with a mix positioning to target both groups with different activities or discussions. Summarizing, the same channel can be used but with different actions and tactics in order to best fit different audience but compatible, and similar enough to be mixed in the same channel.

Key take a way: first, audience, audience and audience; second, decide the goals you want to achieve; and only after that chose a channel or channels and the best tactic in each of them. I mentioned different audiences by age and lifestyle, but I could have mentioned audiences with different cultural backgrounds and nationalities the approach should be the same: adequate your social media strategy – goals, channels and tactics – the best you can regarding the uniqueness of each audience you want to target.

Note: This post does not pretend to describe how to design a social media strategy. Another post on that subject will follow later on.