Does Brand Value Live Beyond the Grave?

enduring-value-brands-Lehman-BrothersI was most amused when reading about a new Scotch whisky that now carries the Lehman Brothers name. The product is called “Ashes of Disaster,” so is clearly meant to evoke memories of the failed financial services company. As a reminder, some consider the failing of Lehman Brothers the catalyst that triggered the 2008 global financial meltdown.

According James Green, a 34-year-old London entrepreneur that is launching the whisky, “It has a contrite, bereft peatiness,” as quoted from the Wall Street Journal article. Mr. Green plans to offer his spirits online and has gotten orders from bars in London and New York.

Continue reading Does Brand Value Live Beyond the Grave?

How Much Content Should You Share?

free_downloadIn the world of content marketing, every marketer must make a decision on what information should be provided openly, and what should require registration to access. Traditionalists will argue that the concept is straightforward – information that is more valuable should be deemed “worthy” of registration to gain access. With registration, however, comes an expectation of future follow up, be it in the form of a call or email from the sponsoring party. This knowledge dissuades the reading of your material, working against your desired objective.

Today these lines are blurring, which is causing some angst for those of us involved in content marketing.

Continue reading How Much Content Should You Share?

Social Media’s Influential Role

role_of_influencer_todayI have already written about the important role “influencers” play in the purchase process – from the choice of what ice cream flavor to eat, to the complex purchase cycle of an enterprise software solution (link to prior post). This article will take a closer look at how social media has taken on an important role in helping influencers connect with buyers along their purchase journey.

It wasn’t long ago when Facebook was an application just used by college students looking to make plans for the weekend, or to catch up with others on recent news or activities. The amazing growth of members quickly validated how popular and how much value its members place with this social community.

Continue reading Social Media’s Influential Role

Social Media’s Role in the News Cycle

SocialMediaNewsStats
Social media plays an important role in the news cycle   (CLICK ON IMAGE TO EXPAND)

It should come as no surprise that the way we get news today is quite different than in the last decade. Daily Newspaper circulation, which stood at 62 million in 1990, fell to 43 million in 2010, a decline of 30% (source: The State of the News Media 2011). There are many reasons behind this decline. One is a drop in advertising revenue, which has resulted in staff reductions, less content and reduced deliveries.

Continue reading Social Media’s Role in the News Cycle

What Happens if a Supplier Enters your Market?

Google-wireless-competitor-threatGoogle just announced plans to offer wireless service. What might this mean for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile? How would you respond if one of your suppliers announced they are going “upstream” and will now offer the exact same product or service you offer?

I was amused when I read about this announcement, including the quotes provided by Google, and the reporter’s assessment, so I thought this might be a good topic to explore in greater depth.

Continue reading What Happens if a Supplier Enters your Market?

Promoting your Blog with Social Media

social_media_promotion_blogI recently wrote a blog post on the importance of building a blog as part of your public relations program (see article here). As I explained, in today’s digital world, a blog is a critical part of your online profile – as a source of new insights, thought leadership and brand positioning necessary to keep your opinions and perspectives top-of-mind.

Once you have come to the conclusion to invest the time and resources to have a blog, the next step is that of promotion. If you build it, no one will find it unless you provide digital “bread crumbs” to lead the way. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will play an important role, but isn’t enough. Here is where social media comes in. In fact, from a Public Relations professional’s perspective, this might just be the most important use for social media, and the single most important factor in justifying your entire investment in social media marketing.

What Should I Tweet About?

With Twitter being one of the most predominant social media platforms, it is nearly mandatory that you, your company or even your product line has a Twitter account. It is easy to set up the account … what next?

One strategy is to share interesting news that the audience you seek to build might be interested in reading. This is generally a good idea. Providing value to an audience will, over time, generate more followers, which helps in getting a higher profile. But, wouldn’t it be better to instead drive your audience towards an article that you wrote and hosted instead? Or, better yet, what about directing traffic to a promotional partner that is perhaps hosting a future event you are sponsoring? It doesn’t take much to see that driving traffic to a page you control is better than one you don’t.

Here is where the blog strategy can pay a handsome dividend. Once a new post has been written, such as this one, the next step is to promote it through your social media channels. Further, this points to a tangible benefit that can be achieved by building an audience … each time you have a new blog post, you will theoretically attract more potential readers with a larger audience.

Some authors have mastered this technique very well. Seth Godin, author of my favorite book the Purple Cow, has attracted an audience in the millions that religiously follow his words and wisdom every day. And, as he announces to books that he has written, he has an instant “base” of avid fans that will become new buyers.

What Social Media Venues should I Pursue?

Having made the decision to invest in a blog and promote it with social media, the next question to ask is what social media properties should you focus on?

Great question, and one that will be answered in my next post.

 

Gordon Benzie is a marketing communications professional and business plan adviser that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

Thinking Smarter Isn’t a Business Plan

think_smarter_business_strategyBy Gordon Benzie

 

Last week I read an interesting and well written article in the Wall Street Journal on the challenges that Alcatel is facing, titled “Alcatel Chief Is Out as Turnaround Stalls.” As you may recall, about six years ago France’s Alcatel merged with U.S.-based Lucent Technologies (former equipment division of AT&T) to create a telecom-equipment giant. Their ambitions to become a global telcom equipment leader have fallen short. Competition is tough. They compete in many lines of business, while at the same time, their revenues trail the competition, which has precluded their ability to make the necessary investments in research and development. These factors among others have translated into massive losses over the past seven years, and ultimately, CEO Ben Verwaayen’s job.

Alcatel-Lucent’s business strategy was to be an end-to-end supplier serving all telecommunications companies in the world, in virtually every markets. That means being everything to everyone, with a product line that includes everything from the submarine cables that wire together continents to the software that phone companies use to calculate and send out phone bills every month. Wow. That is a “big ass” strategic goal. In fact, I would argue it probably isn’t feasible, at least not within a high technology industry where product innovations are significant and competition is fierce.

Interestingly, when asked what the management team was going to do differently to avoid continued year-over-year losses, one of the “official” responses was “they simply have to be smarter than competitors about where they place their technology bets.” I am sure this statement sounded good in the interview, and certainly no one would argue against it. But, I am not so sure I would feel comfortable with this response if I were a member of their board of directors.

There are a few things wrong with the statement “we’ll just have to be smarter.” First, if that is all it would take, then why didn’t you do it six years ago when the merger was first completed? My next concern is that of execution. How do you lead a company to change its decision-making and business strategy by just “being smarter”? Is there a course you can take to accomplish this goal? If so, sign me up … I could always use with being a bit smarter.

The reality is that you simply can’t expect a group of employees and their managers to “get smarter” so they can make better decisions. You can lead by example as CEO, providing insights as to where new market opportunities might be, as well as to show how to operate more efficiently as an organization. I am with the belief that people are probably already doing the best work they can, or least are making the best decision they know how to … the idea to simply “make smarter decisions” is not likely.

Is it possible to embrace a new strategy and take a different direction? Of course. In fact, that is exactly what is needed. The expression of “you can’t please all the people, all the time” comes into play. Perhaps taking a perspective to consolidate and further refine their business might work better here, as a way to be more effective and focused with both strategy and execution. However, this shift would likely involve closing down divisions, which might be difficult for a French firm where strict labor laws prevent such actions.

Sadly, I suspect that if something isn’t done soon, there will be a far worse situation than just a few divisions shutting down … the entire company may go under, which certainly would be a shame. Should the management team try to make the smartest decisions to avoid shutting down? Of course. Making the smartest decisions you can is always the best course. But maybe a bit more strategy is needed than simply making smarter decisions.

 

Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+

5 Ways to Improve Website Usability on a Mobile Device

As a seasoned marketer that has written many pages of copy for websites, it is refreshing to now see a new trend now underway. There was a time not too long ago when a website’s content layout could simply be maximized for viewing by ensuring it worked on Internet Explorer, or “IE”. The early days of Firefox were sometimes challenging when image displays or text wrapping would not work quite right … but, it didn’t really matter too much if only 2-3 percent of your audience were using that browser.

Today’s web browsing market is highly fragmented, a condition further exasperated with the proliferation of mobile “smart” devices. The dominance of IE is now gone (see: The End of an Era: Internet Explorer Drops Below 50 Percent of Web Usage). While desktop browsing is still the dominant format, mobile browsing has grown significantly, from virtually nothing three years ago to nearly six percent today.

So, what does this new evolving social behavior have to do with your business? Here are five considerations to evaluate:

  1. How important is your website for lead generation? If this attribute is key, then how “user friendly” is your site? For example, how well can you actually read the content? How many images to you have on each page, which thereby forces the phone to auto size your text to be way too small? Is your competitor’s site more “mobile-friendly”?
  2. How well does your website display on Safari, Android or Opera? These three operating systems comprise 94 percent of all mobile browsing activity. Given Apple’s current market share leadership for this segment (62 percent), it might be a problem if your site has issues with how it is displayed in this browser’s application. For example, is Flash on your site? Flash doesn’t work on an iPhone or iPad, so forget about a user being able to read or engage with this content.
  3. How fast does your website load on a mobile device? This is critical for mobile viewers, as they might be trying to multi-task with another activity while searching your site, such as waiting in line to see a movie, pumping gas, etc. This type of “burst” web viewing has a low threshold for delays when accessing web pages; they will simply turn off the browser or move on to another activity that can be completed quickly.
  4. If your “call to action” necessitates providing info, how streamlined is it? For example, if you are promoting registration for webinar or event, how many fields do you require to be completed? Anything more than 2 or 3 will start to push the limits of what can be accomplished on a mobile device, despite how well skilled your prospect is at typing on their smart phone.
  5. How quickly can information be found on your site? What extent do menu hierarchies play as part of your website’s navigation structure? Whereas a desktop-based viewer has a mouse that can be easily used to track through several tiers of menu choices with a single click, this type of navigation simply isn’t possible from a mobile device.

As a general comment, how often do you check how your website appears on an iPhone, iPad or an Android OS device? If you only own a Blackberry, how informed a decision can you really make, given Blackberry’s meager 2 percent market share within the mobile web viewing market?

Fortunately, options exist to address these challenges. First, it is possible to build a mobile website without destroying your existing site. The use of a .mobi extension can make this possible; viewers can then see a version of your website that has been optimized for mobile viewing. And, if you are really serious, then an App for mobile devices might start to make sense, as it really does offer a much better interactivity experience than trying to simply find information on the web.

What other suggestions do you have on how to better design website for mobile usage? I would be interested to hear your feedback.

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

5 Ways to Speak to Different Audiences

One of the challenges in getting your message out is that your audience is typically quite diverse, especially when dealing with a technology product. Engineers have one way of talking; Chief Financial Officers have another, and end users yet another. Effective marketing and business communications dictates that you offer a message for each of your targeted audiences to ensure your message is understood by all relevant stakeholders. You need to speak in their language.

Complex software or other technology sales are seldom performed in a vacuum or decided by an individual. Therefore, a consensus must be achieved before a final “buy” decision can be reached. For business communications in high tech industries, you must address a wide, diverse group of individuals. Finding your audience for a cult movie such as the Rocky Horror Picture Show might be equally difficult!

The challenge is how does one accomplish this task?

First, you need to realize that you can’t speak to each of these different “personas” at the same time, in the same venue. Not only would this be complicated to write, it would be difficult to read! Your best course of action is to pick different media or channels to conduct your varying messages.

Here are five different venues for your consideration when speaking to your different audiences:

  1. Write a white paper that offers a detailed explanation on how your product works, how it is use, why it is better than the competition, etc. Point is that this is a venue that highly technical IT or engineering audiences can understand your message or communications
  2. Record a video interviewing your president, speaking to how he / she is committed to the direction of your company, the research that has been done to ensure the product is delivering maximum value … busy “C” level executives might have time to listen to a 4 minute video of your president
  3. Get a placement of a contributed article in a publication that speaks to return on investment (ROI, return on assets (ROA) etc, to entice potential senior financial management audiences to read and understand the financial impact of purchasing your product
  4. Post a blog entry for middle management or “line of business” personnel to read, on a topic that concerns actually using your product, or what specific challenges can be addressed … getting more into the “weeds” of what your product does
  5. Be a sponsor at a trade show with a booth, staffed by employees. This type of venue offers a different “slice” of who you can speak with about your product, but one audience that it is quite effective at reaching are your partners, who might also be exhibiting or attending. This is  an important audience to speak with , both from a future partnering perspective as well as to convince them that your product is viable in the markets you serve

 

Teachers understand this task, as seldom do each of their students learn the same way. Some might be visual learners; others learn by doing and some may learn only by reading. Marketing or business plan writing is no different. Marketers must recognize that quite often a different language and medium must be chosen to communicate with each of these different stakeholders. Business plan writers must know what type of investor they are writing for, to then better understood what level of industry terms and jargon should be included and what should be defined better, for novice readers.

Who do you write for? I would be interested in hearing what other venues have worked for you in the past.

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.

Express Yourself How You see Fit

Like so many of us that have been following the latest political scandals, such as that involving Anthony Weiner’s twitter escapades and resignation, I have been amused at how quickly a new word can make it into our English language. One of the recent AP news headline read: “Weiner to resign over sexting scandal.”

To the best of my knowledge, I have never seen “sexting” used in a news headline before, and yet, a pretty respected journalism outlet has used it in a title of a story. The joint combination of two known words is a great way to build a new word, should the opportunity arise where a new term is warranted. In this case, I would say that it was warranted, and the inclusion of this term was indeed appropriate, and highly descriptive. We all know what they are talking about!

Upon reflection, I would propose that the fluidity and strength of the English language is greatly helped by the fact that it is entirely acceptable to create a new word, based on the writer’s own perspective. If the market fails to recognize the word or doesn’t understand what it means, the simple consequence is that the term won’t be repeated, fading away into obscurity. No harm, no foul.

Interestingly, the French view their vocabulary differently, with a strict process for when a new French word is “approved” for general use, ultimately by the French Minister of Culture. With the recent explosion of IT related terms and technologies, the French “word police” have been quite busy. According to an article posted in the Wall Street Journal, before a word such as “cloud computing” (“informatique en nuage”) or “podcasting” (“diffusion pour baladeur”) receives a certified French equivalent, it needs to be approved by three organizations and get a government minister’s seal of approval, according to rules laid out by the state’s General Delegation for the French Language and the Languages of France. The process can take years!

Imagine if the same set of rigid rules existed here in the United States. I think our IT industry would be at a loss for words as to what we do. One might even argue that our innovation might even be curtailed, at least with regards to how we talk about new products or services. One thing for certain, those of us tasked with marketing communications or business plan writing would be in for a real challenge when talking about a new start up offering a new service.

Fortunately, it is still the “wild west” in America, at least with regards to coining a new word. And, with all the social media outlets today, the opportunity for a new word to be recognized and go viral is pretty good … so feel free to express yourself how you like, without worry that you will be found guilty by a Minister of Culture, at least for all of us living in the land of free speech and writing!

 
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.