What Is The Secret Truth About Your Marketing Plan?

Digital Marketing Strategy

So you have a strategy for your digital marketing?

Working with the swirling realities of digital and social media marketing can feel like trying to quietly tread water in a really nasty river rapids that never ends….and then there are the rocks to avoid. As a business owner it’s hard enough. As a marketing professional, it is mind-numbing at times….still, that’s part of what I do and I confess to a kind of the same excitement as that metaphoric water-treader.

I have recently started working with a client who floored me by having something I have not seen in a long time at similarly-sized businesses: an actual Marketing Plan.
Really.
The business owner pulled it up on her laptop and I wanted to hug her…

This isn’t to say that other business owners haven’t spent time thinking about their marketing, but this owner had taken the next step and mapped it out for the next year….and even looked beyond. I identified a number places in the plan where I can add tremendous value (hence our starting to work together…), and we began to discuss the goals, measures and value we can bring to the business. I am totally psyched to begin this project!

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FOCUS: What About Customer Experience and Relationships?

Visitors Audience Customers Community

On the lookout for…?

“Relationships?! How do you do that when your business is all about selling boxes of widgets? Folks come to my site, order them and I ship them out…”

This is a common question. You have always viewed your company as one that makes something that others buy (hopefully more than once…), and then you make sure they get it. Pretty much the definition of “transactional”, and, especially if you operate an e-commerce site, you only know them by a name, address and order number. It doesn’t look like the opportunities to establish and grow a relationship, as you’re thinking of it, are that ripe.

…or are they?…

I’ve written before about a descriptive construct I call the VACC. It stands for Visitors/Audience/Customers/Community. There are different ways of looking at the people who interact with your business: The Customer Journey, the Sales Funnel, and so on. Viewing these people through the VACC lens focuses on the stage of the relationship they have with you business, and how you communicate and interact with them. Each stage is valuable and there is no hard line dividing them. Nonetheless, knowing, in greater depth, what each set of these people are looking for, how they act and react to you and your business, what their expectations are, and how you can communicate with them is vital to your business growth. Not knowing is the same as tossing your product out on to a virtual (or real…) sidewalk and hoping the right folks come by.

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More Promising and Valuable: a Partner or a Customer?

Still in the early years of your business and riding the revenue roller coaster? Yeah, me too.

Things are Really Fat for several months (maybe even longer…), so you focus on project delivery and all of the work that entails. Make those clients happy!!!!  Things lighten up a bit, so you take a TEENSY breather (maybe a couple of actual days off in a row….what a concept…).

Things continue to back off, you realize that you’re experiencing the business equivalent of “the pig in the python“, and you’re staring at a mostly empty pipeline. This is not good. You redouble your efforts on business development, lay out some ads, reach out to some referral sources, revisit your business Facebook page (wow….when was the last time you DID that!?), hit those chamber of commerce lunches, contact some leads, and engineer an email campaign, but getting meetings is hard and they all seem to be too busy or in “let’s talk in about 60 days or so” mode.

Again, not so good.

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GO DEEP: Can You See Your Genuine Story?

Photographer against a sunset

Photographer against a sunset

You already know about the requirement of posting Top Flight, Relevant, and Shareable content. You may even be working to make sure that you attach a photo or graphic to your posts, since people are attracted to pictures and tend to gloss over text-only posts.

Photos are even more important than you think!

In a recent article, Mark Schaefer listed out 15 Amazing ways social media is changing the world and the one that jumps out at me is that we now “talk” through photos. A photo or stream of photos is becoming an important mode of communication at the expense of text and voice. This assists those who are not sure of their communication skills, and takes advantage of the complex processing our brain goes through to interpret pictures.

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FOCUS: Aren’t You Easily Worth More Than FREE?

English: Graph of social media activities

English: Graph of social media activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OF COURSE you’re using social media to market your business! It’s 2016! NOT having a Facebook Business page is like not having a logo or a business card…..unthinkable!
So how’s that going?
It seemed so straight-forward when you worked through that online wizard: uploaded a few photos (they didn’t quite fit the alloted space, but you just needed to get SOMETHING in there…), banged out a short description, added a link to your web site, made a post or two, invited all your friends and family, and hit the PUBLISH button. Easy Peasy…

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FOCUS: CAN’T SEE IT? YOU REALLY NEED HELP!

You are Very, Very Good at what you do!
That’s one of the reasons you started your business. You’re good at it and you love to do it. So, becoming your own boss seemed like the way to focus in on this passion and expertise, and deliver the benefits to others who are willing to pay you for it. Seems simple, right?

You read a few books, talked to some other friends and maybe even a few other business owners….even took a class or seminar. They shared their experiences and support for this move in your professional life and told you, “GO FOR IT!” You did some research and maybe even made your proof-of-concept available to some people, getting feedback and valuable input. None of this was easy, and you discovered a few things that set you back a bit and maybe even discouraged you, but you are determined….no turning back!

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It’s Here: A Practical Way to Get Your Focus Back

English: The spotlight model of attention.

The spotlight model of attention. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Come on!! FOCUS!!!”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that in my life in different contexts….in musical groups who have been rehearsing a tough section, in a classroom that was a bit too warm during a lecture (or lab) that seemed to go….on….for….ever…., or that internal voice when I’ve been staring at the screen for awhile working on research or a project and notice that my eyes have blurred and so has my mind.

You’ve probably heard it too…

As an entrepreneur, you put a ton of time, attention and energy into your business, both the business pieces AND the product or service delivery (then there’s the ongoing customer service and support bit, too…..). Staying of top of everything can burn you out, leave you sleep and life deprived, and make it much harder to do the A+ job you normally do. Even making a bit of space becomes a challenge since your brain doesn’t necessarily “walk away” from your business (even if you do), so you could be “taking a moment” but you’re churning away inside. If that’s going on, you’re not in the moment of rest and relaxation, you’re distracted and those around you can tell, aside from the fact that the restorative nature of a break is severely diminished.

If you don’t take care of yourself, your life, your relationships and your business suffer.

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Exploit Social in 2016! 5 Unparalleled and Revealing Posts

YOU MADE IT!

The big push for Black Friday is over, as is the Thanksgiving holiday (if you’re in the States…). Your business is now poised for the long haul to Christmas and whatever kinds of hours and effort that means for your business and you personally. However, the Internet never stops and, like any good business or professional, you’re thinking past the hats and champagne of the New Year towards 2016 business planning. My monthly 5 best of the best for November will help you. Read them all and then do what you learn.

runners

Paying real attention to your customers’ experience all along their journey will pay off. Customer experience (often abbreviated as CX) is quickly overtaking price and even product as the key competitive differentiator among brands.  This post by Larisa Bedgood of DataMentors touches on three key points you must attend to when moving with this trend.

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Why is Your Audience So Scary?

English: Audience in the main hall of the Mobi...

English: Audience in the main hall of the MobileHCI 2008 conference. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How uncomfortable are you with your audience?

I have spent a large portion of my life in front of audiences as a musician, as an educator, as a speaker, and, going way back, as an actor (think “the class play in junior high school“…), so I have worked with and observed audiences in a lot of different ways and scenarios. If you read my blog regularly you might think that my concept of an audience versus some other social construct is a little lower than, say, a community.

Not really…

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Will You Compare the Truth About Audience vs. Community?

My Audience

My Audience

My Community

My Community

How you interact with your customers and prospects can show you (and them…) how you think of them. Without resorting to standard definitions, I visualize the difference this way:

AUDIENCE: I am in front of a group of people who are facing me. I’m speaking and they’re listening (or at least I HOPE they are….). I look into their faces and watch their body language, but it is difficult to get a real assessment of whether I’m connecting with them or not. Having been in audiences before I know how easy it is to “look engaged”. I also notice how many are working their smart phones, tablets and laptops….I hope they’re taking notes, but probably not. At the end of the talk, there are a few questions that I answer, but many more of the audience arise and leave. There is a little bit of chatter between a few of them as they head out the door, but I have no idea what it could be about. Unless I’ve given them some sort of meaningful survey or method of valid feedback to learn what their experience was, I really don’t know.

COMMUNITY: I am moving amongst several groups of people that are part of a larger group of people meeting here. There are discussions going on in each of them, some about the bigger group, some about the smaller groups, some about processes and business, and some about their lives outside of the groups. People move easily between the smaller groups as they become interested in them. I get to move through each of the groups, listen and take part in the discussions. There is a much stronger sense of “belonging” and being invested in what’s going on. Fewer people have their phones out, except to check their calendars in order to set up personal meetings with other members of the community outside of this larger meeting. Some members stay in one small group the whole time, but they seem very engrossed in the conversation while not taking it over. Each member of the community can build a more authentic relationship with another (according to what they are comfortable with…), resulting in trust and, when the time comes, that crucial recommendation, referral, or sale. While the relevance of the overall community experience may be still somewhat hidden from me, I can learn a lot by listening, observing and asking appropriate questions.

Community is harder…is it worth it?
How do you communicate and reach out to your customers and visitors?

What’s the difference to your business?

Do you care enough about your business to figure out how this might work for you and your customers?

Good questions.

What are your answers?