A lot of really interesting things happened in the world of marketing in 2015. If you read this blog or follow us on social media, we talked about most of them. But I'm under no illusion that you read every post, so now that we're heading into a brand new year, I thought I would take a look back and pick out the 10 posts that I really hope you read at the time. They are (in no particular order) important things to know for business owners and marketers alike, and they'll help you be the best marketer you can be in 2016!
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1) Stop using social media to talk about yourself. Look at your posts. Would you really say those things?
Look back at your social media posts from the past year and imagine that you were actually saying those things, in real life, to real people. My guess is you probably won't like what you hear. Social media is real conversation with real people. Keep that in mind with every post. Mashable, if you know them, is really good at this. Click here to read more.
2) Web design has changed. Drastically. It's gone minimalist!
It's almost like web designers across the globe are in a secret contest to see who can create the home page with the biggest image and the fewest words. For good reason though! Hubspot is bang-on with their analysis of the latest design trends (read it here). How does your web site compare?
3) Advertising that taps into the social conversation has much greater reach and impact.
Advertising used to be about saying to people what you wanted them to hear. It's still about that to some extent, but if you can, instead, tap into the social commentary at all, it not only resonates better, but it makes you look like you're connected to your audience (rather than spewing ad copy that was written in some ivory tower). Case in point: this Salvation Army ad that connected their message to the craze that was the "what-colour-is-the-dress?" debate. Well played.
4) Simpler is better. If you can't explain what you do in really simple terms, you won't get anyone to listen.
Einstein once said "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough". This is so true, especially as it pertains to your offer. How do you expect to get anyone to talk about you if you can't make it easy for them to understand what it is that you do? Read more about this here.
5) Social media is better for listening than for talking. So few businesses know this.
Businesses are notorious for talking about themselves on social media. That's fine to a certain extent, since it raises brand awareness and leads to purchase consideration. But social media is a more valuable tool for listening. Nowhere is it easier to listen to what people are talking about. People like your customers, your competitors, industry experts, business partners, subject matter experts, and so on. Are you listening (and learning) at least as much as you're talking? Listen to what Marketing Profs has to say about this topic (here). They are so wise!
6) The more clever you are, the more memorable you are. Just ask Big Ass Fans.
Big Ass Fans won the internet in February when they cleverly poked fun at the Kim Kardasian Paper Magazine cover which accentuates her prominent... well... you know... posterior. I had even more to say about their brilliance in this post, but the point is that they were really clever. Now that you've seen this, I dare you to forget it (you won't be able to). I also dare you to forget the name of their company.
7) Brilliant design also makes you memorable. Just ask Sonos.
Check out the logo below from Sonos, a company that makes speakers. Notice what happens when you scroll up and down. Pure genius. Now I dare you to forget the name of this speaker brand.
8) Superbowl ads are a bargain at $4.5 million per 30-second spot. Yes, you heard me right.
Alright, alright. I know you don't have $4.5 million for ONE TV ad. But the point of this post is that advertising is mostly a numbers game. Once you've identified who your target audience is, figure out where they spend their time. Then find all the advertising opportunities in that area and calculate the cost-per-impression. For the sake of illustration, let's assume there are 5 different magazines that are circulated to your target audience. For each magazine, what is the circulation, and what is the cost to advertise? That's your cost-per-impression. The magazine with the lowest cost-per-impression gets your advertising dollars (the same logic applies to cost-per-click advertising). With advertising, especially digital advertising, the math is simple, so use it to your advantage and optimize your spend (rather than spending on whatever advertising opportunity happens to be in front of you that day). In the case of Superbowl advertisers like Coca-Cola and Budweiser, they know their target audience is watching the game, and they know how many of them will see their ad. For them, $4.5 million is a bargain at twice the price (the math is explained in the post).
9) Target was destined to fail in Canada, because nobody had any good reason to shop there, really.
Sadly, Target folded after a very short stint in this great country of ours. But the reason for their failure was simple: they offered consumers nothing that Walmart didn't already offer, and Walmart was already here. We, as human beings, are fundamentally resistant to change, so why would we change where we shop when there's no difference between the shops? Target, in their arrogance, didn't fully understand this before making their decision to expand. Click here to read more about the importance of having something different or unique to offer.
10) To close out our list, just remember to be interesting! Especially on social media. Boring sucks.
Marketing Profs (them again!) wrote a great piece about social media strategy for businesses. In it, they implore you to stop being boring! I couldn't agree more. And it's really that simple.
What do you think are the big marketing topics from 2015? I'd love to hear them!
Every day in every business a customer asks for something to which the business replies "no".
There are lots of reasons why that response might be valid and appropriate, but this post is about the value of understanding which questions were answered that way that should not have been!
That retailer should be tracking how many times someone asks for a water softener. That recruiter should keep track of how many times a job candidate is presented to them from an industry outside of the ones in which they specialize. That tracking will identify trends that could lead to product and service diversification that opens up new revenue streams!
Why bother? First of all, if you start selling water softeners when otherwise you didn't, you'll make more money! Second of all, and perhaps more importantly, if the market thinks you might sell something that you don't, you should. If it's perfectly reasonable for a customer to ask for it, you should sell it. Of course, if someone asks a car dealership if they sell waffle makers, that's not reasonable and not worth considering. But if the market requests it of you and it's a reasonable request based on the brand positioning you have established, your answer should be "yes".
The biggest question is whether or not a product or service would be (reasonably) expected of you by the marketplace ("Do my customers really expect that I would sell water softeners?"). The best way to determine what is expected of you is to listen when they ask!
LESSON FOR MARKETERS
Start keeping track of what people are asking for. It matters not what YOU think you should sell to the market, it matters what the MARKET believes you should sell.
Any examples of businesses that unexpectedly answered "no" to you?
Social media costs money.
We get it.
By now we've all come to realize that social media isn't "free". There are many costs, such as staffing and advertising (which this insightful infographic demonstrates) that marketers and business owners need to consider.
What I LIKE MOST about the infographic is that it goes on to list all the BENEFITS of an investment in social media, most of which are immeasurable. They (Social Media Today) list these benefits (which were gathered via an eMarketer survey) as a way of illustrating that marketers have dismissed "low cost" as a real benefit. A valid point to make, and an important one for their purposes. But to me, the most important point of this whole infographic is the fact that there are MANY benefits of social media, most of which are immeasurable, and all with considerable impact on the success of a business. Sure, we may not be able to calculate a numeric ROI (since we can't measure the total return), but the length of this list of benefits makes it hard to justify NOT investing in social media.
IMHO, there are a few missing from the list! Notably:
LESSON FOR MARKETERS
The case for investment in social media is compelling (perhaps overwhelming). The real question is whether or not you're taking advantage of all the benefits.
Any benefits that I missed? Don't forget to also check the ones in the infographic.
Too many businesses forget that social media is.... wait for it.... SOCIAL!
Social media is (supposed to be) a collection of real conversations between real people. They just happen to take place on a screen, rather than in person. Too often, though, businesses use social media as a channel to talk about their business, their offers, their events and so on. They treat social media as another channel for promotion. In other words, they talk about themselves.
With that in mind, look back at your posts, read them in succession, and imagine that you're saying all these things, in person, to real people. How do you sound? Do you sound like that annoying guy who only talks about himself? Are you saying anything that would be interesting to real people? My guess is (based on what I see every day on social media), NO.
You need to dedicate a considerable portion of your social feeds to interesting dialogue about things that have nothing to do with your business, just like you would in a real social setting! Real life conversations include all kinds of dialogue about current events, pop culture, and...wait for it... interesting topics! Eventually, the conversation may turn professional, but if you compare your social media feeds to what you talk about in real life to real people, there are surely vast differences in tone. And there shouldn't be.
The best example of real social engagement on social media is Mashable. They talk about all kinds of interesting things that have nothing to do with them. In the illustration above, I captured three recent posts: one about a nasty sea slug, one about the Paris attacks, and one about the Biebs. None of those posts are about about Mashable, a digital media website which describes itself as a "source for news, information and resources for the Connected Generation". They started in 2005 as a site focussed on technology and new media, but they quickly realized that when it came to their social media activity, they needed to be... wait for it...you know what's coming...SOCIAL! They talk a LOT about things that are interesting, regardless of how closely they relate to their business or their offerings. Slugs have nothing to do with tech. The Paris attacks have nothing to do with the Connected Generation. They talk about these things because they are interesting, and people listen. A LOT of people (they currently have more than 6 million Twitter followers).
THE LESSON FOR MARKETERS
You want to be interesting on social media, not self-promoting. Why? Because people listen to interesting brands. And the more interesting you are, the more likely you are to be remembered when those people need to buy a product that you just happen to sell. Social media's not for inspiring a purchase. It's for engaging in dialogue that makes you memorable. It's that brand awareness that will lead, one day, to purchase consideration.
How will you know if you're doing it right? Go back to your social media feeds and pretend you're saying what's in your posts to real people in real life. Do you like what you hear?
How much of your social media activity is dedicated to interesting conversation that is unrelated to what you sell?
Jared Fogle, the ex-Subway spokesperson, did some really bad things. I'd rather not talk about what they were. Yesterday he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
None of that deserves any of my time or attention.
I am, however, interested in whether or not this scandal changed your opinion of Subway.
They of course did the only thing they could do. They severed all ties to him when the scandal broke.
Since then, though, have you eaten at Subway less? Or the same? No one would blame you for continuing to eat there. They hired him before any of it started, and they distanced themselves from him once it did. The question is: did the scandal have any impact on your consumption of Subway products? Consciously or otherwise.
LESSON FOR MARKETERS
Your BRAND is the collection of thoughts, opinions and impressions that the consuming public has of you. It is formed through every interaction they have with you. You must be vigilant in your efforts to keep the promise you make to them, in every area of your business. We will never know the impact Fogle's scandal had on Subway's brand. The point is that your brand is your most important asset. It's precious and must be protected.
Did Subway's brand take a hit? Or are they absolved of responsibility (and therefore protected from any brand damage)?
Did no one look at this and question the graphic treatment of the name of the restaurant? Or maybe they did tit.... oops - typo... IT on purpose to attract a certain, um, segment of the population?
LESSON FOR MARKETERS
I have always encouraged clients to show new marketing materials (or digital marketing assets) to anyone - even friends and family - just to make sure nothing stands out in a detrimental or embarrassing way. It costs nothing and you never know what you missed!
Did you see it right away? Or am I the one with the dirty mind?
Car and Driver wrote a very interesting article recently (via Road & Track) about the proliferation of 'crossover' vehicles in the market and specifically, crappy ones. Automakers so quickly responded to consumer demand for an enlarged station wagon that "considerations as varied as styling, performance, efficiency, and handling have been overlooked." In their opinion (and they would know) these products weren't well built, they were quickly built.
This begs the question: is it good or bad for your brand to launch a 'me too' product to capitalize on escalating demand if the product will be made too hastily and as a result, quite poorly?
Toyota is credited with starting this 'sport cute' trend with its popular RAV4 crossover. They are the real geniuses in this discussion because they identified the market need and created the first product to fulfil it. Others scrambled to keep up with the trend at the expense of product quality, which did some level of damage to their brand image. On the flip side, of course, is the brand damage that would have been done if an automaker forewent the timely introduction of a competitive product in the interest of perfecting it first.
Which is better? Launching an inferior, 'me too' product to merely keep up with competitors' offerings? Or, instead, dedicating resources to identifying the next market need and creating a product for that?
LESSON FOR MARKETERS
Think about your industry and your own product lineup. Are you in catch-up mode? Or are you in a market leadership position?
We know what the automakers ended up doing. Would you have done the same thing?
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
- Albert Einstein
Truer words about marketing have never been spoken.
The internet age is fast. Consumers want access to products and services more quickly than ever before, but more importantly, they want information about products and services even more quickly, before they decide which products or services to buy.
We use social media to ask our friends for referrals and recommendations, and we get that feedback almost instantaneously. We read product reviews on web sites that are accurate as of that moment. We use apps that allow us to scan product bar codes (in the store!) then tell us where to buy them for the best price. We Google a brand or product then scan the meta descriptions in the results to learn all we need to know, in mere seconds. Our access to information, opinion and evaluation of brands is unprecedentedly fast.
What does this mean for marketers? It means you need to be able to describe what it is that you offer, and why anyone would be interested in buying it, in mere seconds. That means it needs to be simple. Exceedingly simple. If we have but seconds to describe our offer to consumers, it needs to be more concise and appealing than it currently is.
Here are some of the best examples of offers that are exceedingly clear, concise and appealing:
What do all these products and brands have in common? They are all successful. Why? because their offers are so simple and so attractive that everyone is talking about them (especially since the products/brands are easy for anyone to describe). They didn't need massive ad buys to spread the word when they launched these products. They created an offer so simple and so attractive that word spread on its own. Fast. Enabled by the internet.
That precious word-of-mouth advertising is only enabled if the product or brand in question can be explained simply. Just as Einstein foresaw.
What a genius.
LESSON FOR MARKETERS
It's simple (pun intended): Try to describe your offer to someone in 3 seconds or less. And make it good! Anyone can describe an offer in 3 seconds or less. The trick is to describe an offer that's compelling enough to inspire people to talk about it or buy it... in 3 seconds or less. Good luck!
Any simple, attractive products or brands to add to the list?
LESSON FOR MARKETERS:
The FIRST thing to do it the difficult but important work of deciding who your brand wants to reach. It all starts from there. If you've done that already, show it to people that haven't seen it and get their honest opinion about how well you done that.
What do you think of the ad?
Today's consumers get exactly what they want, exactly when they want it.
Loyalty is all but dead because demanding consumers, powered by the internet and enabled by mobile devices, can always find... or should I say are continuously offered... the best offer at the best price. Today Blacks learned that lesson the hard way.
Consumers have immediate, detailed access to the best offers in the market. Consequently, innovators and startups with new products and new ideas are stealing customers and winning business.
What it means for established businesses (especially retailers like Blacks) is that they need to not only keep up with product development and new market offerings, they need to jump ahead and anticipate consumer needs before someone else does. In short, they need to give their consumers a reason to stay. They need to create that thing that no one else has.
To their credit, Blacks invested heavily 13 months ago in a rich rebranding effort that included a revamped logo, website, mobile app and store design. The problem, though, is that none of those things are unique. None of them would create any loyalty, which Blacks so desperately needed. The offer that came closest to something valuable enough to create loyalty was the mobile app, that allowed for prints and other photography-based products (like calendars) to be ordered and delivered. I'm sure you know where this is going...consumers already had apps just like that! What's worse is the length of time it took for the rebranding to fully reach the market. The refreshed store design didn't even happen in most stores before today's announcement.
The stark reality for Blacks is that they failed to create any compelling reason for today's high-maintenance consumers to stay.
So they left.
LESSON FOR MARKETERS:
This is perhaps the simplest, but yet most difficult, challenge for marketers. Create an offer than is unique enough and compelling enough to convince current customers to stay and prospective customers to switch. Much easier said than done, but if you can pull it off, prosperity awaits. Think iPod, RedBull, GoPro, Sharpie and Groupon.
What do you think happened to Blacks?
Target suffered the same fate for basically the same reason. Read about that here.
This blog is written by Glenn Cressman, Share Of Marketing's founder and Chief Share Builder (bio). It covers all things marketing. Feel free to comment!
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