August 7, 2018

A valuable sales lesson from a homeless gent.

fruits of relationship building - food left as a gift!

If you’ve ever been a client of Redpoint, you’ve heard our (constant, loving, unwavering) counsel on balancing “the hard sell” with “relationship building” in your marketing messages.

We get it.  When you have rooms/seats to fill, budgets to hit, expenses to pay…the urge to repeatedly reach for the hard sell is super strong.  But this is doing your marketing a huge disservice because you’re developing a one-sided relationship with your audiences:  you only (or too often) talk to them solely when you want them to buy something from you.  That’s quite selfish, and who likes to be in a relationship with someone selfish?  They’ll quickly tune you out.

But it requires a patient leap of faith for a brand to favor relationship-building messages over sales messages.  The conversion runway is longer and less trackable…so how do you know/prove the ROI is worth it?

Here’s the proof you need, delivered from an unlikely source:  a homeless gentleman who sits out on William Street in NYC every evening.

From around 4pm until after rush hour, he sits in the same spot and says nice things to folks passing by, such as:

  • “Have a lovely evening!” (all the time)
  • “Stay cool tonight!” (summer)
  • “Stay warm tonight!” (winter)
  • “Stay dry tonight!” (raining)
  • “Be careful of the ice just there!” (snowing)
  •  Etc.

He pets dogs, smiles at everyone, and waves at children.  He’s SUCH a nice man.  He never tells a down-on-my-luck story.  Never plays the guilt card.  Never shakes a cup full of coins.

And he never – EVER – asks for money.  Or food.  Or clothes.  Or anything.

But he gets them…in spades.

Every morning when I walk by his spot, there is a small collection of stuff left there by people overnight and in the morning prior to his arrival.  Most often it’s food, but sometimes it’s a hat, shoes, or clothing.

Think about this, folks.  People…busy, desensitized New Yorkers…think about him WHEN HE’S NOT EVEN THERE, and leave him things he needs but never requests.

THAT is master-class-level relationship building.  He brings them repeated, consistent joy and kindness and ultimately, they give it back…freely and thoughtfully and often.

Take a page from this guy’s book.  Find ways to be memorable to your audiences.  Engage them.  Treat them with affection.  Ensure that you matter to them.  Because when you matter to them, selling requires very little “ask” on your part.

May 17, 2018

What makes you ding-worthy?

So…I feel a bit like a soulless drug pusher on this one, but hear me out, ok?

A growing issue is causing serious angst in today’s society:  people are addicted to their phones and they know it…and they don’t like it. There’s a movement afoot for these addicts to “resist the ding” and wean themselves from craving the need to keep checking their phone. And the psychological battle cry of “how to take back control” is a hot topic at business conferences, therapy sessions, family dinner tables, relationship counseling, and in mainstream media.  If this is news to you, here are two useful articles on the subject from NPR and Psychology Today.

But it’s a marketer’s mission to cut through clutter and get attention. And so we ruthlessly hunt for standout ways to infiltrate their phones: emails, text messaging, location-based promotions, social media (organic and paid), social media direct messaging, and <insert shiny marketing-tool-du-jour here>.

We WANT to be the ding that gets their attention. We WANT them to stop what they’re doing and embrace our message.

But think of the psychology:  more and more people are taking control of their own “ding dial,” fiercely curating which dings (if any) get their immediate attention, and – whoa – even turning off the dings completely in order to neutralize messages that masquerade as urgent.

Worse (for us)…in an effort to reduce the overwhelming daily assault of information through intrusive dings and silent accumulation, they are more discriminating in scrubbing their access points.  This means YOU (soulless, message-pushing marketer) are being judged continuously, and you are always just one frivolous ding away from getting banished.

So here’s what you need to ask yourself, marketers:  what makes you ding-worthy?  And you can’t do this effectively by looking at a single message’s value (i.e. this post, this email). You need to respect your role in the relationship with people’s phones and your value in their overall information landscape.  What earns you the right to continued access?  How do your dings foster Pavlovian-level satisfaction?

I’ll tell you the answer:  always-relevant content, and choosing frequency wisely.  Quite simply…don’t waste their time (or mental bandwidth) and make every ding meaningful.

Is this harder for you?  Yep. Does this mean you have to care more about THEIR needs than YOUR sales goals?  Yep.  Is this annoying because now you have to think more, and sometimes resist sending messages you REALLY REALLY want to send?  Yep.

But here’s the alternative:  would you rather be banished?  Because that’s what’s at stake now more than ever.

Marketing was never effective when it was too frequent or too frivolous. Desensitization and annoyance have always been at risk. But back in the day, those risks just wasted your money and time. People may have gotten annoyed, but they hadn’t yet – en masse – felt empowered to do anything about it.

But these days, technological assault has made people feel like victims and addicts, so when you annoy them, they not only feel empowered to banish you…they do it with a sense of righteous justice. Kicking you out of their phone grants them a joyous feeling of liberation.

And so yay for you, marketer!  You created a positive encounter with your target. The downside is that it came from them slamming the door in your face…and locking it.

So what’s the moral of this story?  Don’t ignore this growing social phenomenon, and adapt your approach accordingly.

In short:  Please ding responsibly. 

February 6, 2018

Eight qualities every (great) social media marketer must have.

Social media icons coming from megaphoneIn my entire (nearly) 30 years of working with companies big and small in the tourism industry, never once did I hear an executive say, “Oh, we need more legal assistance?  Let’s assign that responsibility to the night auditor.”  Or, “We are short an engineer, so let’s task reservation agents to fix the HVAC during their breaks.”

So why oh why do so many executives think that anyone with a brain and a pulse can do marketing?  I’ve seen more unsuitable people deputized with marketing authority simply because they’re “bright and eager,” and because someone in power thinks they should have room on their dance card to take on more work.  This usually leads to disappointment on all sides.  Newsflash:  being a strategic marketer takes more than just being a people person.

The rise of social media in the marketing mix has only made this phenomenon worse.  Now, anyone with a Twitter or Instagram account is apparently capable of running point on complex social media strategies.

Not so.  And let’s be clear here:  this isn’t about schooling or having the right degree.  Sure, schooling helps a person acquire skills, but having a natural knack for something is essential to true success in a role.  And just like people have a knack for drawing, or singing, or mechanical stuff, or cooking… people have a knack for marketing… and ESPECIALLY social media.

If you’re looking to fill this role in your organization…or you’re just a bright-and-eager person aspiring to become a social media marketing guru…here’s a checklist of eight qualities that make this role successful:

  1. Has a sense of humor, and knows how/when to wield it
  2. Loves social media, all types, and is personally aware of and immersed in it
  3. Is an articulate and engaging writer, who favors the power of brevity
  4. Knows proper grammar, and (as importantly) how/when to relax grammar standards
  5. Has reliable judgment
  6. Keeps ego in check, and blends confidence with humility
  7. Has no fear of technology
  8. Embraces every nook and cranny of your brand, inside and out

Is a person with all eight of these qualities easy to find?  Nope.  But is it worth holding out to find and harness such a person?  Well… this person is your voice to the ENTIRE WORLD, in REAL TIME, with NO COMMUNICATION BARRIER.  You know, just that.  NBD.

Hold out.  Find that person.  It’s worth it.

November 3, 2017

Burnt croissants…a marketing home run.

Don’t these look appetizing?

birdies bread croissants

Believe it or not, they do to smart marketers.

The wise folks at Birdies Bread Co in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia truly GET social media. Speak with your brand voice, be real, let your hair down, and say things that connect with people. This post about a burned batch of croissants nails it all for four key reasons:

Cuts through Clutter: among the never-ending sea of photos in a person’s news feed, THIS photo will make them stop and read the message

Tugs at Kinship: it gives the warm “we feel ya” fuzzies to anyone who’s ever screwed up a recipe

Engaging Humility: it says “even professionals ain’t always perfect…we’re human too,” which is endearing and accessible and oh-so unintimidating

Inspires Trust: future marketing messages will be more credible because the audience knows they’re not trying to hide flaws

Many brands and businesses aren’t comfortable allowing their flaws – and human side – to peek through on social media. It feels like a huge risk to expose imperfections. But when done with care and thoughtful judgment, feathering in some fun, “we’re human” candid-type posts are EXACTLY the right way to get the most out of social media.

And just to tell both sides of the Birdies story… this:

birdies bread yummy baked goods

That right there is some tasty marketing, folks.

 

September 27, 2017

How to arrest attention (pun intended) using social media.

This is a complaint I hear often:  We put a ton of time into social media and it’s like nobody is listening.  And then they blame the algorithm.

Poor things.  I feel like a therapist when I pull them aside and hit them with some radical candor:

Psst.  It’s not the algorithm.  It’s YOU.

Because the way most brands do social media, nobody IS listening.  Most businesses – at least in my industry, which is travel, tourism, and hospitality – do their scheduled, obligatory posts like clockwork… often carefully vetted in advance by executives who crave control over all marketing messages.

That’s the key issue right there:  the forum of social media rewards nimble and impromptu risk takers, and penalizes scripted, safe automatons.  And I don’t mean the algorithms reward and penalize…I mean the audiences.  Algorithms do indeed shape who sees your stuff…but algorithms are influenced by audiences.  If enough folks engage with your stuff, the algorithm rewards you handsomely.

Here’s a magnificent example.  The Lawrence Kansas Police Department sells these t-shirts:

Twitter shirt of Lawrence Kansas PD

And if you spend just 10 minutes scrolling through their Twitter feed, you’ll be rolling on the floor howling with laughter.  And then you might even click “follow,” despite the fact that you live nowhere near Kansas.  I did.

The population of Lawrence is around 95,000.  The Lawrence Police Department has a Twitter following of 63,000.  If the New York City Police Department wanted to have the same ratio of followers-to-population, it would need 5,610,000 followers.  It currently has 431,000.

And engagement with LKPD tweets is absurdly high…a recent tweet got 550,000 likes and 174,000 retweets.  Reading that will make lots of social media marketers swoon with envy.

Why is the engagement so strong, and why is their social media effort so successful?  Five key reasons:

  1. It’s not just an obligatory marketing tactic…it’s used as a tool and grounded in solid purpose (connect with the community and make them want to listen to the police). That North Star anchors their entire effort, so it never loses its way and becomes white noise.
  2. It’s an ongoing dialogue, happening in real time.  Even promotional messages feel natural and organic…not scripted and salesy.
  3. They promote the bejesus out of their social channels every chance they get, even offline (see t-shirts above for living proof).
  4. It’s entertaining (and therefore shareworthy).  Say what you will about human attention spans, but the fact is…we gravitate toward things that make us laugh and feel good.
  5. It persuades, not just informs.  Like so:

INFORMS = “Don’t drive around Road Closed signs into flood water or you may get stranded.”

PERSUADES:

Lawrence Kansas PD Tweet about Flooded Car

The bottom line is…they invest the time AND the risk AND the focus.  Social media – when done right – requires diving into the deep end fully clothed.

So, you may be spending a lot of time “doing” social media, but how exactly are you spending that time?   If you spend more time planning than actually engaging with audiences, flipflop that ratio and you’ll see a difference.

Or, you could just give it all up and become a Lawrence Kansas police officer.  It seems fun.

July 25, 2017

Why marketers hate social media.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely a marketer. Or maybe a business owner who worries about marketing. Or you – in some way – have a responsibility to make people want to buy/use a brand or product.

Poor you. Because this means you can’t enjoy social media like a normal person. Instead, this describes you:

You hop on to various social channels throughout the day (or maybe your eyes are just permanently attached to your phone) and you do stuff like…

  • Check to see how many new fans/followers are engaging with your brand/s
  • Check your ads and get annoyed they’re not performing better
  • Like, comment, share, and repost all things associated with your brands
  • Same for all the brands you may partner with, or in some way support
  • Study, notice, or obsess over the posts of your competitors
  • Check various hashtags to see if anything relevant to your brand is happening
  • Click through to media story links to see if there’s anything in there you can use
  • See things that give you ideas and wonder how you can do “that” for your own brands
  • Become fixated with the trending arc of a story that’s starting to go viral
  • Get seduced down the rabbit hole of exploring a story back to its origin

Sure, you see (and like) the occasional appearance of your friend’s new baby or your cousin’s dog. Isn’t that nice? Oh, he’s so adorable and she should…hold it. Did (insert hotel brand here) really just launch a new cocktail program that was written up in USA Today? Why theirs and not mine? WE have cool cocktails. I need to talk to our bartender about coming up with some new stuff right now.

When you think about it, it’s pretty insane. Social media ALREADY has the power to be domineering and addictive with its 24/7 access to up-to-the-second information. Handing that to a marketing-wired brain? It’s like throwing gasoline on a fire. The result is… no peace, no escape. Your brain switch is held in the “on” position, whether you like it or not.

Not only is this unfair…it’s unhealthy. And EXHAUSTING. And it may be time to renegotiate your relationship with social media. Here’s an experiment that worked for me.

  • Pick one social channel (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest…whatever)
  • Strip it of ALL associations tied to work: unfollow accounts you follow just to keep up with work/trend information, and remove (or from this point forward, stop posting) any posts related to YOUR work/brands/business.
  • Think about what you love and what brings you joy. Flowers, animals, food, technology, books, movies, fashion, nature, travel… whatever. Go seek out accounts to follow that bring your passions – and ONLY your passions – into your feed each day. Don’t cheat and just look up BuzzFeed’s list of “Top 10 Instagram accounts to follow in (category of passion).” Go explore on your own. Find the obscure accounts that are posting amazing things, but never make the Top 10 lists because they don’t have a marketing machine.
  • Take off your marketing hat every time you use that channel.  That’s now your “safe space,” where you get to just be a normal human being.  Post stuff you love, and allow that feed to make you smile every time you check it.

Yes, if you happen to be in a job that dovetails with your passions (as I am with travel), you risk falling off the wagon a bit. If you don’t have the willpower to resist obsessing over ideas, then don’t include that particular passion in your “safe” social channel. Surely you have other passions?

A few months ago, I tried this with Instagram. I unfollowed a ton of accounts (if you were one…sorry), and sought out a delicious mix of new accounts that ended up being roughly 40% dogs, 30% music, 25% friends, and 5% travel. And since then, my Instagram feed brings me nothing but joy.

Now, it feels wrong to derive so much joy from a social community and not give any back. So I thought about how I could contribute consistent joy to someone else’s feed. And since I travel for a living, my phone is bursting with more than 3,000 stunning images of landscapes and nature around the world. Voila. My Instagram “purpose” is to feed the travel passions of others, and my sole use of hashtags is not for marketing star power or tracking…it’s so people with those passions can find travel inspiration through my posts. I don’t have a strategy for building my follower base, and I’m not tracking any ratios or stats. I just engage with Instagram for pleasure. OMG. I’M A REAL, NORMAL PERSON. It feels awesome.

If you want unvarnished, unfiltered, unmarketed, unbranded, and often jaw-dropping nature and landscape photos in YOUR Instagram feed, you should follow me at @chrismirandahere. Fair warning: I don’t market Redpoint’s clients (or anything), I’m not a travel photojournalist looking to build a brand, I’ll never have a sponsor, never do a giveaway, and unless you’re a golden retriever (like Barney, for example, who lives in Germany and has stolen my heart), I probably won’t follow you back.

Because I rekindled MY joy with social media. Marketers of the world…are you ready to rekindle yours? Try it. See what it feels like to not care how a post is performing. #magical #freedom #bliss

February 29, 2016

Social media + cool things = your free sales force.

My nephew is going to eat at Roast Sandwich House with his friends, thanks to a picture posted on Facebook (which he doesn’t use) by a girl (who he doesn’t know). Here’s the story…followed by a million dollar marketing question: 

Some girl Amanda (a stranger to me as well) posted this picture on Facebook of Roast’s “Buffalo Organic Chicken Mac-n-Cheese Grilled Cheese.”

IMG_0640

A gent named Chris liked her photo. I’ve not seen or spoken to Chris in around five years, but we’re friends on Facebook. And that photo appeared in my news feed because Chris liked it.  I knew the moment I saw it that my nephew would LOVE it…but I’m not friends with him on Facebook (because no self-respecting teenager uses Facebook).  So I took a screen-shot of the post and texted it to him.  He responded with all sorts of “OMGs” and drooled on his phone…and next thing you know…he’s gathering up friends to go eat there.

So basically, a friend of my friend of five years ago recommended a sandwich to my nephew and his friends. And none of us have ever spoken or discussed this in any way…and most of us are strangers.

Now… here’s the million dollar marketing question: What if Roast Sandwich House offered boring sandwiches?

NO ONE takes a picture of a plain ol’ turkey sammich. Why bother? But a Buffalo Organic Chicken Mac-n-Cheese Grilled Cheese?  That sucker earns you bragging rights on social media.  So, yes…it might be harder on the operation to produce AMAZING sandwiches.  And it might require more ingredients.  And it’s probably much more work.  But it made Amanda take a picture and share it with her friends, and that marketing power is priceless.

The point is…be interesting. Be different.  Be unexpected.  Be unique.  Make the time…make the investment…dedicate the brainpower.  If you do unusual things or offer unusual products, people will want to capture and share the story.  And you’ll be rewarded with an exponential (and free) sales force…even if they’re not on Facebook.

Thank you, Amanda…whoever you are. And you’re welcome, Roast Sandwich House…as you’ll be seeing a lot of my nephew in the future.

September 23, 2014

Postcards: low-tech “social media” marketing.

Dig those crazy postcards, kids.

Dig those crazy postcards, kids.

The postcard is making a comeback…and not as a communication tool, but as a social media marketing tool.

Having postcards available for guests to purchase at your business is one thing.  Giving them out for free and offering to mail them – including postage – is quite another.  In marketing-speak, that’s the old school version of “encouraging a share.”

I’ve stumbled across two noteworthy examples of this in my travels recently.  The first was at P.J. Clarke’s, an institution among NYC bar/restaurants (since 1884).  A note at the bottom of the menu informs diners they can ask for a P.J. Clarke’s postcard to write out, and then give to their server to apply the required postage and mail.  (Side note…I had planned to do this, but the food coma from the Cast Iron Skillet of Baked Mac & Cheese with Peas & Bacon rendered me incapable of writing.)

The second – and brilliant – example (pictured here) was at Stratton Mountain Resort.  Perched in a place of honor on the front desk, a plexiglass cube filled with colorful postcards beckons travelers to drop a note <ahem, marketing piece about Stratton> to good ol’ Aunt Mary back home.  You can’t miss it…and you automatically get an itch to do it.  While standing there, I got the added joy of hearing the kid next to me ask his dad, “What’s a postcard?”… and then, of course, he had to send one to his friend back home.  (The hilarity continued when he had to text his friend to get the address, which is the only fly in this marketing ointment…who knows anyone’s mailing address anymore?)

Why are postcards sent by guests a smart marketing tool?  Because they’re…

  • Highly visual
  • Different and noticeable
  • Inexpensive
  • Fun for the sender & recipient
  • Turnkey and low maintenance

Postcards never get flagged as spam, they don’t need specific keywords to be found, and they are likely to be tacked up on the recipient’s refrigerator or bulletin board, quietly radiating subliminal marketing messages with every casual glance they receive.

When was the last time you could say that about your OTHER marketing tactics?

“Social media”…indeed.

July 3, 2012

The golden rule of using social media for business.

Beware of the new illness that’s catching among marketers…and their bosses.  It’s called  irrational fan base envy and when it infects you, poor marketing decisions are bound to follow.

You can catch this illness from even the briefest exposure to ANY social media channel, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube.  The infection is often triggered by media reports that sensationalize the wildly positive impact of social media as a marketing tool.  Symptoms, which mirror the frenzied fever associated with a gold rush or get-rich-quick-scheme, include:

  1. Obsessing over how many fans/followers your brand has vs. other brands in your competitive set
  2. Setting arbitrary-yet-super-high fan base targets based on absolutely nothing realistic
  3. Spending money to increase your fan base numbers without spending money to sustainably enhance the quality of your messaging content

Interestingly, social media novices are the most susceptible to irrational fan base envy and they also succumb the hardest.  The more immersed you become in marketing through social media, the greater your immunity becomes.  Why?  Because you discover that having a zillion fans does not impact your bottom line unless you engage them…and engaging them takes time and money, just like any other marketing initiative.  And it doesn’t matter if your competitor has triple the number of fans that you have…what matters is how YOU interact with YOURS.

The golden rule of using social media for business is this:  the success of your social media efforts are in direct proportion to the amount of love you put into them.  If you treat social media like a pesky item on your to-do list (“make post to Facebook today…check;  pin something to Pinterest board today…check”), you can’t expect social media to love you back.  It simply doesn’t work that way.

The only cure for irrational fan base envy is to change your thinking.  Stop focusing on QUANTITY and start focusing on BALANCE.  Engage your current fan base, so that a high percentage of them are liking, commenting, sharing, re-tweeting, re-pinning, and in many other ways becoming a messenger for your brand story.  If you achieve that, it means you’re on the right track to harnessing your fans.

Then…as you add more fans to your community…they have the potential to become more than just empty numbers that look good on a stat sheet.  They can become your brand evangelists, returning the love to your bottom line exponentially.

Just remember…as you start to change your thinking and infuse a little more love into your social media efforts…be mindful of the other golden rule, shared by Redpoint in a previous post:  You Can’t Find Love on a Spreadsheet.  Who knew you could learn so much from ordering dumplings at Buddakan?

March 28, 2011

Lesson learned: no more boots at boot camp.

Here they are…the culprits:

The boots that launched a blog post.

I wore these suckers while leading a presentation at a recent Redpoint Marketing Boot Camp, and they caused some hilarity.  While pausing momentarily in my front-of-room pacing to answer a question, I crossed one leg in front of the other…and that’s when my boots worked their mischief.  The metal hooks of one locked into the finger loop of the other, and voila:  I was stuck.  (enlarge the photo if you’re curious about the mechanics)

In a split second, I realized that there would be no graceful resolution to this situation.  They were hooked tightly, and jiggling them unobtrusively only seemed to make it worse.  So, there was nothing for it but to confess to the group, bend dramatically from the waist (thank you, Miss Marianne, for the years of dance training in my youth), and perform the intricate surgery required.

The audience’s laughter was ringing in my ears while I was down there, but I took comfort that they weren’t laughing at ME…they were laughing at what I said:

Guys, can you believe this?  My boots just got hooked together and y’all need to give me a minute to get untangled.  Note to self:  no more boots at boot camp.

Here’s what I learned from this hilarious situation.

1 – If you want to hear God laugh…make a plan.  I had this day orchestrated down to the most well-thought-out detail.  Boots hooking together did not even make the list of “things to prevent from going wrong.”  So, just be ready to take things as they come.

2 – If you are giving a presentation – no matter how “exalted” your authority or expertise is – you’re still just a person.  And your boots can get hooked together just like anyone else.  Displaying practical humility at all times will enable you to maintain your dignity and authority…even through a dramatic “waist bending moment.”

3 – Social media has changed our culture forever.  After getting unhooked, I said to the group…”do me a favor…if that happens again and I go flying while trying to move, please don’t all whip out your video phones and immortalize it on YouTube.”  And then someone shouted out “Why?  It would get millions of views and you’d be famous!”

And you know what?  Damn.  She was right.  Why didn’t I think of that?

Note to self:  wear boots at next boot camp.