Most companies go wrong because: Communities do not come together around the idea of being monetized.

If you are going to start using social media, the best advice I can give from mistakes I have learned from is to align your goal with how your target audience is using social media. People, for the most part, do not come together and form a community around a particular product. Instead, they come together because of a ‘bigger’ idea or a common association, interest or feeling that is related to that product.

For example, one of my clients is a cardiologist physician. Instead of building a “traditional” community forum to market his services or expertise for that matter, the direction I am implementing is to create a community forum about “How I lost my weight by eating healthy and exercising.” This encourages people to share their stories, recipes and exercise programs that worked for them. Now the doctor can “indirectly” contribute to the forum by posting or allowing members to ask him about questions pertaining to their diet and exercise programs. This strategy accomplishes the same objectives about his services, practice and expertise, but in a way that people want to use social media.

So if your company is wanting to use social media, or if it is wanting to participate in or create an online community, you have to align your goals with those of the people you want to reach. People aren’t going to interact with you via social media so you can beam marketing messages at them. And they aren’t going to come together and form communities so they can promote your product and grow your business.

Think about how your customers are using social media, and more importantly, think about why they are using social media. At the end of the day your goal is to reach people. Respect them and their time, and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.

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What is the holy grail of marketing? WOM! WOM (word of mouth) is the ultimate goal of anyone who wants to grow their business. We as humans trust other humans more than we do advertising and marketing. Even if those people are strangers, they have more influence over our purchases than any other factor. But how do you get WOM up and going for your business?

One example I can recall is the way “Kenny” a good friend and client worked his WOM…Kenny is a 2nd generation shoe sales impresario who owns several retail stores in South Florida, including one at a prominent mall. Kenny was able to discover what other stores his clients shopped at and was able to develop a pretty good system by sending a free pair of shoes as well as discount coupons to other retail owners in the mall. The owners were thrilled to get free shoes, talked to their customers about how comfortable and stylish the shoes were and voila, he just created some good ole fashion WOM. This is a traditional grassroots approach which as you can tell is effective, but rather limiting. So how can you spread your WOM on a larger scale? Below are three ways you can utilize the power of radio to implement a strategic “Digital Grassroots” WOM effect..

1. Create a micro site on a radio stations website that allows potential consumers to get information about your product or service. It’s much more effective for someone to learn about who you are from their favorite radio station instead of a “pitchy” commercial..Now the station can create a campaign of :10 second commercials driving listeners to the micro site on their web page where listeners can learn more about your company.

2. Instead of on-air DJ endorsements, ask about specialty blogs DJ’s can post comments about. Make the content informative, but linkable to your company through RSS feeds. For example, if you have a Life Insurance business, the DJ can post “Life insurance as a good investment during recessions”- which can be linked to your site were readers can interact with and share your post within their social media networks. People love to shape news, especially amongst their peer groups!

3. Customize your website. Allow people to comment about your posts. Become a resource of news and incentivize people to subscribe to your site, then you can start advertising your site on radio, instead of more pitchy commercials about your product or service.

If you would like more information on how to get more customers and make more money by utilizing digital grassroots to increase your WOM, contact me for more information.

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Google today announced yet another addition, called Latitude, to its mobile maps service. Latitude enables you to share your location with your friends, and see where your friends are (or at least where they want you to “think” they are). Through Latitude, you are able to connect with friends by sending them a text, chatting via Google talk or even getting directions to your friend’s location. It works on any phone that can run Google Maps My Location.

You can bet that this new app is going to be used for strategic integrated promotions and contest by interactive strategist soon enough. The ability to manually set and capture location data will not only complement interactive promotions, but more importantly will allow advertisers to interact with consumers at the point of purchase.

However, can you imagine how annoying it will be as you get bombarded by solicited ads and coupons by dozens of stores while you’re walking through the mall. It’s kind of like the hostesses in front of restaurant’s in Lincoln Road that practically drag you to a menu. In the end, you may end up pissing people off more than anything else.

As a television and radio advertising executive for the past ten years, I can personally attest to the importance of diversifying your marketing strategy to meet your changing needs. Nowadays, it’s even more important to utilize the most effective media platforms to meet your needs and budgets.

The most important element of a good campaign is to understand what it is that makes your business different or your competitive advantage. The purpose of this exercise is to remove the BS out of the way and truly figure out “Why do your customers buy from you?” Once you take this huge and at times epiphanic step, it’s all about positioning your message through the right platforms.
Gone are the days of simply investing thousands on one dimensional campaigns. Enrich your campaigns with multi cross-platform marketing which includes on-line SEO, Social Media, Monitoring, on-air and email marketing. More importantly, now more than ever, once you and your account executive have set the expectations, hold them accountable to meet those expectations!

Be open and honest, set realistic expectations and R(E)volt your Marketing in 2009!

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Last year Harold Mitchell told Adnews that he saw 2008 as a year of significant change in the advertising industry, one that cemented the digital age as the permanent force in media.

But how many businesses owners and marketing managers have started making the transition with their own businesses? How many are currently sitting down and mapping out the same old marketing plan for 2009, allocating ad dollars to radio, television, and newspapers declining circulation but higher rates?

There’s no doubt that we are entering a difficult economic climate. Businesses that adapt quickly and implement cost-effective changes reflective of the new media landscape will emerge in a much stronger position.

And don’t think that you can be complacent. Digital and social media is breaking into the mainstream. Obama used it extremely effectively in the US election last year. Advertising Age is now regularly discussing it, and smart businesses are using it effectively already.

If you haven’t already begun exploring new options for your marketing, then make 2009 your year of transition:

  • Create a truly informative, conversational and interactive website
  • Cut back your newspaper spending and allocate it to search engine optimization so you can drive more relevant traffic to your site
  • Begin exploring social media and engaging with people in and around your industry
  • Ensure all your advertising encourages people to visit your website where you can explain more about your product or services
  • Discover the amazing measurability of online marketing where you can constantly tweak your efforts to improve results
  • Generate free publicity online or in the traditional media from strategic website content and commentary
  • Place your TV and radio ads online
  • Create online video content so people can see your product or services in action
  • Create an online community around your business or product

Don’t get left behind. Start allocating part of your advertising budget to digital media. If you have any doubt at all about the effectiveness of your marketing then you owe it to yourself to explore more measurable and cost-effective options.