Wednesday, July 9, 2014

If you want to engage customers, you need to understand the profound difference between storytelling and presenting the facts..


By Mark Helfen

If you want passionate engagement with your current or future customers, you need to connect “south of their head” – where their feelings, wants, and concerns are. You can’t lead with company or product facts when customers are now in charge of the interaction.

Or so says Barry Feldman of Feldman Creative, who will speak on Kiss My Glass - How to Create Passionate Relationships between Your Brand & Buyers at the next SVForum Marketing and Social Media SIG. The meeting will be on Monday, July 14, 6:30 at our usual location, Detati Communications.

Feldman has a unique view on communicating, branding, and positioning. His experience includes 25 years as a copywriter, so while he develops strategy and assembles and leads teams, he is a “word guy,” and still does the writing. He has an eclectic view of marketing – for example he recently posted a pean to his new, old fashioned landline telephone.

He has seen and contended with the marketing power shift from businesses to customers over the last few years. Before the millennium businesses, and money, controlled the brand experience using advertising and direct mail. But now Google, web pages, and social media have moved power to the people. Before your customers ever contact you, they have done their research and formed an impression.

Feldman’s response to this change is to create passionate engagement – the kind that gets attention, gets customers to care enough interact, to share what they have learned, and eventually to buy from you.

You can’t do this with web pages spouting facts about your products. Instead you need talk to your customers interests - “south of their head” to where their feelings are, the things they really care about in their lives. An example is Red Bull – “caffeinated sugar water.” The company displays extreme sports in their marketing, rather than talking about flavor or pharmacology.

It took me a few minutes to get the “kiss my glass” meaning, but after an explanation, it became clear. Feldman has clients all over the world, some of which he has never met in person. Instead of a face-to-face relationship, they have a screen-to-screen relationship. Or maybe better, a passionate glass-to-glass connection.

Feldman has spent time studying “the art and science of engaging real people,” and he will talk about not only why you need to create engagement, but also provide how-to guidance to get your engagement strategy going. In his words, “there is a profound difference between storytelling and presenting the facts.”

He has examples of engaging marketing programs, and maybe a few that don’t work as well. If you have a favorite web site, or work for a company that you want Feldman to show and comment at the meeting please send him a note, or bring it to the meeting.

Feldman also seems to have an eye for personal branding (note the hat.) While that isn’t the topic of this meeting, it’s worth checking out a list he co-wrote titled The Complete A to Z Guide to Personal Branding.

So come by Monday night, and learn how to create passionate relationships with people you might never meet.


Be sure and sign up at the Marketing and Social Media Meetup site:



http://www.meetup.com/SVForum-MarketingSIG/events/185462452/?_af_eid=185462452&_af=event&a=uc1_vm


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Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant.

He can be reached at: mhelfen@wordpixel.com
Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/markhelfen
Facebook: facebook.com/mark.helfen
Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mark_helfen

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Content may be King, but context is queen, and conversion is the ace



By Mark Helfen

Content is king has reached buzzword status – the “phrase du jour” for digital marketing. But if everyone is creating piles of content, how does yours become noticed and effective. Effective, meaning it results in prospects entering the sales pipeline and eventually becoming customers.

According to Niki Hall, speaker at the June 9 SVForum Marketing SIG, you can “amplify” the effectiveness of your content by engaging the key influencers in your market. If content is king, Hall will extend you thinking to “context is queen,”, and “conversion is the ace.” Context is where and how prospects encounter your content. Conversion means a customer responds to the content and moves forward in the buying process.

Her presentation is titled Playing the Influence Game – Powerful Tools to Win The Hearts of Your Customers. She will give tips and strategies to implement your engagement program, with the intention of increasing conversion. With 60 to 70 percent of customers researching on-line before contacting your company, your content strategy needs to work well.

The meeting will be at our new and very nice location, Detati Digital Marketing, starting at the usual time of 6:30.

Hall is Vice President Corporate Marketing at Polycom, Inc. Polycom makes those cool star shaped speakerphones you've probably seen in many meeting rooms. The company has expanded their product offering to a much broader range, supporting human collaboration over a dispersed geography with the idea you can “defy distance.” Her range of responsibilities is also quite broad, including brand and reputation management, content strategies, and all web marketing. Her responsibility for analyst relations reflects both her background, and the essential ingredient for multiplying the effectiveness of marketing content.

Hall will bring her own guest with her - Zeus Kerravala, principle and founder of ZK Research, to give an analyst point of view.

She created Polycom’s influencer program, which was effective enough to win this year’s Influencer of the Year Award from SiriousDecisions. The award notes how the program “can help an organization drive more valuable influencer relationships and outcomes by using unique approaches to target and interact with both traditional and non-traditional influencer types.” Exactly what she will be giving tips and tools on at our meeting.

The right influencer can help validate your product or your company’s value proposition, and amplify your message. Hall relates one case with Polycom where conversion reached 70 percent, much higher than the typical 10 percent.

“But not all influencers are created equal,” said Hall. She looks for three criteria to decide on which analysts or influencers to engage: Customer reach, share of voice, and ability to reach the financial decision makers on Wall Street.

At Monday’s presentation, Hall will talk about the difference between influencing and engaging the analysts that can help you multiply the reach of your message. Her talk will include tips and tools on finding and identifying the right influencers, how to best engage them, and how they can help your marketing effort. And for a small startup, some help in getting noticed.

Please sign up:


http://www.meetup.com/SVForum-MarketingSIG/events/175225062/




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Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant.

He can be reached at: mhelfen@wordpixel.com
Linkedin: hlinkedin.com/in/markhelfen
Facebook: facebook.com/mark.helfen
Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mark_helfen

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The old model of selling doesn’t actually benefit buyers, or sellers. Learn a new methodology at the May 12 Marketing SIG




By Mark Helfen

Sales prospects have changed. Access to information has increased. The web of social and information interconnection has exploded. Google and other internet services, along with continuous connectivity may have actually changed the way you brain works. It has certainly changed how much information is available to a potential customer without ever contacting your company.

Your sales methodology needs to change to stay effective. Or so says our speaker at the May Marketing and Social Media SIG meeting, Adam Metz. He is the founder and sales coach at The Social Concept, and executive coaching firm that helps his clients “acquire, monetize, and retain the elusive ‘social media’ customer.” His presentation is titled Saying Goodbye To Persuasive Selling: Giving Customers What They Really Want.

The meeting will be at our still new location, Detati Communications, May 12 at 6:30. Rumor has it that in addition to our regular bill of fare, you may be able to get a glass of wine.

According to Metz, the old solution selling concept is no longer effective.  “The customer calls sales when 80 to 90 percent of the sale is done.”

Intelligent selling, dialogue, storytelling – these are the paths to be effective. You need to engage customers early and be the vendor in “column A” during their selection.

“Even technology buyers don’t like to read boring stuff,” says Metz. The shift is to selling that is cool, fun, and funny.

Research over the last 10 years has shown that the more traditional sales strategies don’t actually benefit buyers or sellers. In the social media age, you need to get customers to “that aha moment,” by being the first to engage, early in the buying cycle. The sales influencers are 80 percent sales, 10 percent marketing, and only 5 percent product – obviously a sales centered view of an effective technology business.

The route to this engagement is social media, using “friendly” marketing that doesn’t feel like you’re selling. Or as Metz describes it, “non-persuasive selling.”

In addition to direct selling, channel sales are a focus of his consulting. He described managing channel sales as the “funnest job ever.” Indirect channel sales are hard for a new startup until there has been some demand and track record created, but then it’s another path for customer engagement.

Be sure and sign up at the Marketing and Social Media Meetup site:



http://www.meetup.com/SVForum-MarketingSIG/events/165764002/



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Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant.

He can be reached at: mhelfen()wordpixel.com
Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/markhelfen
Facebook: facebook.com/mark.helfen
Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mark_helfen

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Monday, April 7, 2014

With social media, your trade and business secrets can zip around the planet instantly. As usual, the technology is outpacing the law.



By Mark Helfen


Protecting your business’ valuable trade secrets may be more difficult than you think. In a social media world, there are lots of new ways for secrets to be quickly and widely shared, and valuable new information to be created that never existed before.

As usual, the technology is moving faster than the law can keep up.

At next week’s SVForum Marketing and Social Media SIG meeting, Paul Cowie will be speaking on the topic Not So Fast! Employment, Ownership & Privacy Concerns When Using Social Media. Our meeting will be Monday, April 14 at our very nice new location, Detati Communications.

Cowie is a partner in the Labor and Employment Practice Group at the firm Sheppard Mullin, in their Palo Alto office. His focus is on helping companies protect their valuable data in a world where LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social venues allow information to be widely and instantly shared, sometimes without considering their value and importance to the company.

What kind of valuable information? Maybe your customer list. Or possibly your pipeline of current prospects and (hopefully) future customers. Maybe the features being planned for you next release. Or a planned price change. As your employees form connections to the broader world using LinkedIn, or Facebook, or Twitter, who owns the connections, and how do you control what information gets shared? To further complicate the situation, more and more social network communication is done with mobile devices owned by the employee.

As an example of where the law is today, Cowie writes about a recent court decision. The company involved had encouraged employees to connect with customers.  “In the first trial of its kind, the court in Eagle v. Morgan held that absent a social media policy, a LinkedIn profile - and all of its connections – belonged to the individual and not the employer.”  You can read the article here.

If you’ve been in the social media and marketing world for a while, have probably heard stories of companies losing valuable connections and information when an employee leaves a company, for example taking all of their Twitter followers with them. Cowie’s view is that you need to think about these problems in advance.

A company would be “crazy” to not protect their technology with patents, said Cowie.  But trade secret information, customer lists, etc... are also valuable. The law isn’t very clear here, and you might be surprised by how little control you have over what employees do with their personal social network. But the first step is a policy, in advance of when you need it.

Another place where employee and employer interests collide are devices like cell phones or pad computers. BYOD, or bring your own device, is popular with both employers and employees. But if you build a list of contacts on your personal phone and then leave the company, who owns the list?

When I interviewed Cowie, I asked who owned the cell phone he was talking on. It was his personal phone, though it can be erased by his law firm if it was lost, or presumably if he left the firm. He predicted that “black phones” the emerging products that are supposedly secure from interception, will be the phones of choice for executives in the future, particularly those that travel outside the U.S. 

So do you need an attorney sitting in on your marketing planning sessions with your social media team? Companies need to protect their assets, but doing what’s practical may outweigh legal concerns. But the first step is a policy. So come by Monday night, and begin to learn how to balance risk and reward in the social marketing environment.

Be sure and sign up at the Marketing and Social Media Meetup site:




http://www.meetup.com/SVForum-MarketingSIG/

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Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant.

He can be reached at: mheltfen@wordpixel.com
Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/markhelfen
Facebook: facebook.com/mark.helfen
Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mark_helfen

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

There's a surplus of content, and a deficit of attention...


By Mark Helfen



The world is filled with content. In fact, it’s overfilled, overflowing. Despite this, content is still king.

Or so says Michael Brito. If you want to connect with your market, prospects, or customers you need to break through this deluge of content. At next Monday’s SVForum MarketingSIG meeting, Brito will help you start the process of creating content that engages and conquers the clutter.

We will meet next Monday, February 10 at our usual time and place – the Citrix Startup Accelerator, at 6:30.

Brito is Group Director of Media and Engagement at WCG, an integrated media company. His business includes what he described as “the full spectrum” of customer engagement – PR, social media, web development, paid advertising, and web analytics. Most relevant to his upcoming presentation is his focus on helping his clients with developing a more effective content strategy.

He lists HP and Siemens as examples of his large business clients. He also works with small startups, such as Inrix, a Seattle company that helps deliver traffic information (as in road traffic) to various users.

Brito is the author of Brand, The Next Media Company: How a Social Business Strategy Enables Better Content, Smarter Marketing, and Deeper Customer Relationships. He will bring a few copies of the book to the meeting to give away.

Despite the fact that the world is overfilled with content of all kinds, “content is still king” when it comes to engaging your market. The presentation talk about how to overcome the paradox – a flood of content, yet content is still the best way to reach your customers and prospects.

“Brands need to think like publishers,” with a content mindset and strategy to get attention, whether written, audio, video or other. If you are a publisher then content is your business, and you need to have an operational plan to generate, distribute, and maybe even get paid for your content. In other words, creating content is not a special, one-off task, but a daily part of your marketing operations.

Your brand is already a media company, even if you don’t recognize it yet.

Brito is a fan of developing an operational strategy for content development and publication. It requires an understanding of the “busyiness” of people in your target market. Social media isn’t free, and requires human thinking and time (and money.) He promises a meeting filled with actionable information – “no fluff.” Attendees will leave with a 5-step approach to operationalize their content strategy.

“There is so much going on in the world. There is a constants surplus of content, and an attention deficit.” There are automated tools that can help create content, and measure the results, but strategic thinking is needed. Sometimes this might be changing your organization to reflect the geographic requirements for different kinds of content. Another approach might be developing an editorial boards. By building your content operation, and making content generation a regular part of your marketing operation, you can generate and distribute compelling content that engages your market every day.

So come by Monday, and turn your brand into a media company.

Be sure and sign up at the Marketing and Social Media Meetup site:






http://www.meetup.com/SVForum-MarketingSIG/events/161560502/



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Mark Helfen is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing consultant.

He can be reached at: mhelfen@wordpixel.com
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/markhelfen
Facebook: www.facebook.com/mark.helfen
Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mark_helfen

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