Get Annoyed

Do you want a truly unique and powerful brand? One sure approach is to solve a problem that none of your competitors have solved for customers of your industry. The first step? Figuring out what that problem is.

That seems to be the insurmountable stumbling block for most businesses. It’s just hard to look at your own industry or your own company objectively when you’ve been on the inside for awhile. And the longer you’ve been there, the harder it gets.

So try this. Start with an industry other than your own. Think about businesses you use, personally or professionally. Maybe it’s a delivery company. Or the cable company. Your phone service provider. Or a college. Or your dentist. Or the BMV.

Whoever it is, think about something that annoys you about that company or that industry. What is it about their product or their process that gets under your skin — especially something that seems obvious as a customer. How do they make it harder or less pleasant to do business with them?

Once you’ve picked a business and an irksome issue, ask yourself this: how you would advise them to solve it if you had the ability to do so? What do you think they should do? How much would it cost? How much could they gain from it? Where would they start? How long would it take? And how should they get the word out once it’s done?

Now that you’re warmed up, let’s circle back to your own industry. What’s something about the way your industry (or if you’re truly fearless, your own company) does business or what it offers that probably annoys customers? How can you change it for the better? What steps are involved? Who has to be on board? What would it take to sell them?

If you’re still stuck, here’s one more option. Ask a customer. Better yet, ask a former customer. Or if you’re feeling very, very brave — we’re talking Arya Stark killing the Night King brave — put the question out there on social media.

The good news — and this is really good news — is that you’ll be the only company in your industry to do this. And that comes with a competitive advantage big enough to supersize any brand.

And because we can’t mention this often enough, the value of a true brand is…lower cost of customer acquisition, higher customer retention, lower team turnover, higher profitability, etc. So find out what’s annoying about your industry or your company and get to work fixing it. You’ll be glad you did.

What’s Free AND Makes Your Brand Stronger?

It turns out that simply being nice to customers can actually make them…better customers. In Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference, physician scientists Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli make the case that being treated nicely has a measurable physical impact.

Extensive research compiled by the authors reveals that compassion has a direct and profound positive effect on patient outcomes. Now imagine the consequences for your business, regardless of the industry you’re in.

When you’re treated with compassion, science shows that you experience distinct, positive physiological and psychological reactions that are out of proportion to the amount of care being shown to you. For example, patients who are treated nicely actually recover more quickly and completely.

In other words, being nice to everyone — customers, employees, team members — offers a competitive advantage. It creates positive physical and emotional reactions that draw them closer to your company. The best news? It’s free. It costs you nothing.

Even more good news? It makes the person who’s being nice feel better about their job, about your customers and about the company. That means higher job satisfaction and lower turnover. All from being nice.

Of course, there’s the flipside. Not showing kindness and compassion to customers has the opposite effect, creating outsized negative physical and emotional reactions that the customer relates to you.

So how can you measure nice? How can you hire for and train to nice? How can you make nice a core value of your organization? Start with this. Look at all of the ways you serve or come into contact with customers and team members. Identify each opportunity to inject niceness into every contact and every process, however small. Then make that part of training and performance expectations.

After seeing all the evidence, the case is clear. Being nice matters in meaningful, measurable ways that can build your brand.

It Pays to Be a Follower.

When it comes to social media, you’re probably focused on who’s following you. And that’s important. But you can magnify your social impact by being a good follower. Here’s a short list of who to follow and why.

Follow Your Followers.

First of all, follow everyone who follows you. Pay attention to what they’re posting, liking and sharing. It will give you immediate insight into what matters to them. And that helps you keep your own content more relevant.

Follow Your Competitors.

Next, follow your rivals. What are they posting about? Are they doing a good job or a poor one? Observing your competition can help you avoid the mistakes you see them making — and it can inspire you to take your own social game up a notch.

Follow the Media.

Follow the people who cover your market and your industry, including specific reporters and editors. Share their posts when it makes sense to do so. Comment on them when it’s appropriate. This allows you to gently build relationships with the media, so that you have another avenue for getting your own story out when you have news to share.

Follow Your Prospects.

If you want to get closer to your prospects, start following them. Notice what topics and issues seem to matter most to them. You’ll not only get a closer look at their needs and priorities, but by liking and commenting on their posts where appropriate, you begin to build (or build on) relationships that can turn into new business.

Follow Industry Leaders.

Following thought leaders in your industry can help you stay on top of the latest thinking and best practices. Beyond that, it can give you ideas for your own future content, building on topics that an industry insider has talked about — with the goal of becoming a thought leader yourself.

Follow Your Partners.

Finally, follow the people you do business with — vendors and partners. Mention them in your own posts when the opportunity presents itself. Give them good reviews when they’ve earned them. Comment on the content they share. You’ll build stronger ties with your associates, and cultivate a potential source of referrals.

A little strategic following can offer a lot of advantages, helping you do social media better and opening the door to new business relationships in the process.

(And if you need a hand developing a content plan or social strategy, talk to Idealogy about how we can help. Just reply to this email to get in touch.)

Recruiting Is a Marketing Problem.

Many — maybe most — companies say that recruiting and retaining good people is their top priority and their key to growth. But you’d never know it from the way they market.

Start with the websites. For the vast majority, the only place on the site that refers to available positions is the “Careers” or “Jobs” page. Nothing on the home page, no buttons or call-outs anywhere else on the site.

And for most, the Careers page simply lists the available positions — and a handful include an online application. But little or nothing about why you’d want to work for this company. No testimonials —video or otherwise — from current team members. Nothing about values or benefits. Nothing about the brand or the future.

Think about that for a minute. If you marketed your products or services that way, you’d be out of business. You don’t just list what you offer. You sell it. You promote the benefits. You lay out case studies. You post testimonial videos. So if finding top talent — or even warm bodies — is truly critical, why treat that problem any differently?

Move over to social media, and the story is pretty much the same. Companies are using boilerplate language to promote available positions, without taking advantage of all the things that, done correctly, make social media so compelling. So each posting is just another job opening among many.

In fact, most companies would never consider using their normal marketing channels for recruiting. No digital campaigns or targeted direct mail. No email or outdoor. No point of purchase, either.

If recruiting the right people is the key to your company’s success, add these to your to-do list:<

  1. Craft the message that will sell you as a premier place to work. Think of it the same way you would any of your offerings. What makes you special? What advantages do you offer? What’s your story?
  2. Rethink your web and social content to reflect your need for people. What changes do you need to make so that every visitor knows you have great opportunities waiting.
  3. Think about all the tools at your disposal. Which ones can you use for recruiting. Can some do double duty, selling both your products / services and your positions / career choices?

If you need people, make sure your marketing shows it. And if you need help doing that, call Idealogy at (812) 399-1400.

Is Your Website Worth The Trip?

Companies like yours pour a lot of time and money into search engine optimization. And rightfully so. With all the competition out there, and more lining up every day, your site has to work harder than ever to attract visitors. And a strong SEO program can pull them in.

But there’s a problem. All too often — more often than not — there’s no there there.

Sure…the site is stuffed with keywords and meta data, backlinks and landing pages and videos. But too often, what’s missing is the thing they were searching for in the first place. The site is so optimized and packed with SEO nuts and bolts that they can’t find anything easily — least of all something that makes you stand out and stay top of mind, or makes them want to pull the trigger on a purchase.

So while you continue to invest in robust SEO, consider the user experience first and foremost. Try to look at everything from the point of view of a new site visitor who isn’t familiar with you — a prospect who just needs the quickest path to what they’re looking for.

What they don’t need is endless industry jargon, or countless clickable links and options. And what you don’t need are the typos and grammatical errors that are showing up with increasing frequency as companies leave their content to outside firms without proofing. (When was the last time you read your own website from front to back?)

If you want to turn your SEO into real ROI, make 2019 the year you give your website’s content and user experience a closer look and the attention it deserves. You’ll be rewarded for it.

(And if you want Idealogy to be that fresh pair of eyes, we can inspect your site from top to bottom and make recommendations that will make the most of the SEO you’re pouring into it. What? You’re not investing in SEO? We should talk.)

Your Competitors Are a Bad Influence

It’s always a great idea to pay attention to what your competitors are up to, including their marketing – especially since you’re trying to win the same customers.  But all too often, companies become reactive, basing their own marketing on what their rivals are doing.

In 2019, try this.  Look closely at your prospects.  Now look at companies outside your industry who target that same audience.  What strategies are they using?  How do they differ from the way your own industry approaches the same audience?  What’s working for them?

Most of all, how can you adapt some of these ideas or tactics from other industries to create a new path forward in your own?  Doing so would instantly help your marketing and your message stand out from your competitors, and help you gain top of mind awareness.

Let’s get you started.  This evening, settle into your favorite chair with a laptop and beverage of choice, put your feet up and follow this simple three-step process to get the ball rolling:

1. Identify three industries who share your audience.

2. Identify the local, regional or national leaders in those industries.

3. Find out as much as you can about their marketing approaches:

    a. Visit their websites.

    b. Sign up for and read their emails.

    c. Dissect their advertising.

    d. Check out their social media.

You’ll end up with really good information – and at least a few ideas for bringing a fresh approach to your marketing for 2019.  Good luck!

(If you’ve enjoyed your Marketing Minute in 2018, we hope you’ll consider forwarding this to one marketer or business owner / leader who you believe might benefit from the insights we share throughout the year.  And Happy New Year!)

Winter Wonderbrand

You know the words, right?  “Later on, we’ll conspire, as we dream by the fire, to face, unafraid, the plans that we made…”  It all sounds so lovely, bathed in that warm holiday glow.  But…

It’s one thing to be fearless when you’re comfy and cozy, making plans for the future.  But it’s something else entirely to put your feet on the ground and put those plans into action when there’s skin in the game.

Why?  Because that’s when fear really kicks in.  All the hurdles suddenly rise up to their full height.  Naysayers crawl out of the woodwork to predict doom and gloom.  Second guessers slow things down to a crawl.  Perhaps worst of all, those inner voices sound off, reminding you of all the ways your plans can go south.

Everybody wants a powerful brand.  But nobody wants to step away from the herd and be discernibly different.  Nobody.  It’s uncomfortable.  It leaves you completely exposed and vulnerable.  No one is fearless about this; by its very nature, it’s a fearful proposition.

But some companies are courageous.  They muster up the determination to face those fears, quiet their doubts and move forward with a bold brand even when it’s terrifying.  Don’t believe it?  Read a few biographies of the visionaries who launched lasting brands.  Every last one of them was afraid.

To quote writer Greil Marcus, “yes, fear eats the soul…but not if the soul eats it first.”  It’s unlikely that you can face truly bold plans unafraid in the harsh light of 2019.  That’s okay.  You can still stare down your reservations with courage and conviction, and transform your brand into something remarkable.

(“Winter Wonderland” ©1934, Felix Bernard, music and Richard B. Smith, lyrics)

Open After 5:00

Ever stop by a business at the end of the day, only to find that they’re closed?  Or skipped lunch to do something because that business closes at 5?  Of course you have.  Probably more than once.

Here’s the irony.  If you went to the websites for those businesses, they all talk about great service and putting the customer first.  Except that they’re not.

Now think about your own company.  Is it really designed with the customer in mind?  Think about everything.  Your hours.  Locations.  Products or services.  Processes.  Purchase options.

Chances are, most of those decisions were based on what was most convenient or most profitable for your company rather than your customers.  But those decisions, while they seem smart in the short term, actually hurt you over time.

When you create something for the convenience of customers first, something both predictable and profitable happens.  You get more customers.  And those customers do more business with you, because you’ve made it easy.  They talk you up more, too.

Take something as simple as your website.  Was yours designed to tell visitors everything you want them to know?  Or was it built to give them the shortest possible path to purchase — or the easiest access to existing and new accounts?

This is marketing at its most fundamental.  And it represents a huge opportunity.  Why?  Because if you’re not doing it right, there’s a good chance your competition isn’t either.

Try this.  Imagine you’re starting your company from scratch today.  Put the customer at the front of every single decision you make.  What would look different?  Products?  Processes?  Delivery channels?  What is the smallest possible number of steps between interest and purchase, or between call and service?  Make a list.

If you were really serious, how many of those changes could you put in place today?  How many could you phase in over the coming year?  And how much fun could you have telling your customers — and your competitors’ customers — about it all?

Now imagine one more thing.  What if you did this instead of strategic planning this year?  Is it possible that this could have a game-changing impact on your company?  (Here’s a hint: the answer is “yes.”)

You can continue to make customers dance to your tune, and hope no one comes along like Amazon did to change everything.  Or you can start to insulate yourself right now by adopting the customer’s point of view, and become the change your customers crave — and your competition fears.

Are You Missing Christmas?

A few years ago, something changed in the business world…and probably not for the better.  Companies stopped sending Christmas cards to customers or clients or associates.  And while this has meant a little less holiday cheer to go around, there’s a much bigger issue at stake.

Think of it from a marketing perspective.  Once a year, at the end of the year, when most people are receptive to the holiday spirit, you send them a card that acknowledges your relationship, that thanks them for being part of your success, and that wishes them the best for the year ahead.

Think about what happened when those cards arrived — what still happens in many places.  Unlike other mail, which gets read and discarded, Christmas cards are often kept and displayed, at least through the holiday season.

If you were a smart company, you wouldn’t order “generic” cards that would blend in with all the rest.  You’d have your own cards designed and printed so they would stand out and help your message — and your brand — stay top of mind for a month.

On top of all that, your card was an additional “touch,” one that could help solidify your existing customer relationships or move prospects one step closer to becoming clients.

When you think of it in those terms, that Christmas card can be seen for what it is — or at least what it once was — an important element of your sales and marketing plan.  In that light, it seems almost absurd that it’s gone away.

That’s another big argument in favor of doing one.  If there are far fewer holiday cards in your customer’s mailbox, the ones they receive have an outsized impact.  All those good things we mentioned earlier are amplified.

“But wait,” you say, “we send out a holiday email!  Same impact for a fraction of the cost!”  Of course, that’s not even remotely true.  Email is far less personal, and gets deleted as soon as it’s read — assuming that the subject line doesn’t send it right into the trash.  It practically screams “minimal effort.”

Beyond all that, of course, is the reason you send season’s greetings in the first place: you genuinely want to spread good feelings and holiday cheer.  But if you can do that, and at the same time, make a thoughtful marketing decision, Christmas may indeed come early for your business.

Seven Steps to More Engaging Social Media

If social media is part of your marketing mix, here are seven steps to higher engagement.

1. Choose Wisely.

LinkedIn and Twitter work well for B2B companies, while Facebook and Instagram lead for consumers (with Snapchat a close third). There are plenty of other options for both, of course, but just make sure that each platform you choose makes sense for both your audience and your product or service.

2. Be Shareable

The biggest advantage of social media is that your followers can share your content – which is also the fastest way to grab new likes and more followers. So as you create each post, ask yourself if you would share this content if it showed up in your feed. If not, keep working.

3. Leave ‘em Laughing

Humor gets shared – and remembered. So consider how to build humor into your content. And that doesn’t mean simply posting jokes or funny memes. You can talk about serious things, but in a fun or lighthearted way. Humor makes your business more relatable, and your content more shareable.

4. Get the Picture.

Social media is visual, and the images that accompany posts are often what grab someone’s attention. So use photos and videos. And avoid the same tired visual clichés everyone uses. Find or create an image or video that reinforces your point in a different way – especially one that’s amusing (see #3 above).

5. Stop Selling.

Nobody needs another sales pitch. So don’t use social media as a blunt instrument to push products or services. Instead, using all of the aforementioned techniques, find a fun way to show benefits. As the old saying goes, no one wants a 1/4” drill bit; they just want a 1/4” hole. Make the benefit the star. Sales will follow.

6. Hire Well.

Don’t just hand social media off to someone in your office who already has a lot on their plate. If it’s going to be a big part of your marketing push, hire someone for this role. But ask a lot of questions before you do. Just because someone is active on their own social media does not automatically mean they can do social media well for your company. Can they create content? Are they funny? Do they think visually? Can they write well? Are they quick? If not, outsource social to a person or company that is all those things.

7. Track It.
 
If you’re going to use social media, measure it. Look at likes and shares to see which content gets the highest engagement. Create posts that link to your website, and measure that traffic. Notice which time of day gets the most attention for your posts, and post then. Most of all, work to connect sales directly to social media.