Confused Messages Driving Catch-22 Brand Marketing

ALT="Pink  Campbells Soup Cans, Soulati"The headlines in national newspapers and trade ‘zines are a mixed bag of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Consumers are taking the biggest hit amidst the confused clutter of brands’ messages.

Let’s take a look at several finger-in-your-eye examples and see if you agree:

Price Drop Tests Oil Drillers, Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014
In this front-page story, you already know the gist. If you’re like me, you’re likely ticked off about it, too. Consumers have not even realized the benefit of one week of under $3/per gallon of gasoline and the analysts that cover the oil industry are bitching. If oil being fracked in Bakken sells for less than $84/barrel, then fracking is uneconomical. What does that mean for consumers? Another squeeze in oil supplies due to the cease in fracking, the loss of jobs and a price increase.

It’s that supply and demand thing, and the consumer conundrum remains for marketers — do we continue to pinch the customer and force higher prices so we make our margins and keep stakeholders happy, or do we risk losing market share and influencing a nose dive in local economies dependent on the jobs created from oil exploration? The media love to report on oil companies emotions

Pay TV’s New Worry, “Shaving The Cord,” Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014
Do you subscribe to a television provider where the most favorite and in-demand channels cost the most money? Is your bill for satellite or cable television in the hundreds of dollars monthly? YES! Consumers are looking elsewhere for entertainment to try to cut frivolous expenditures. and the pay-TV companies are none too happy. Upon further examination, consumers are not totally ditching pay TV, they are shaving dollars off the monthly fee and leaving the big channels.

What’s the impact? No surprise, it’s the brand marketers seeking the subscriber base to feed us advertisements on CNN, USA Network and ESPN. If the subscribers aren’t there, ad dollars disappear and BAM! pay TV just got pricier as there’s no one left to subsidize programming. And, who’s responsible for the story behind this headline? A research firm probably dueling as an industry analyst seeking buyers for reports like this.

Smile! Marketers Are Mining Selfies! Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014
Ahh, the ubiquitous selfie soon to grace a Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook near you. And, if that selfie is a smiler complemented by a brand logo, then look out consumer! You’ll soon get more advertising messages from the brand that bought the image catching you in the happy moment.

Guess how? [Read more...]

Digital Marketing Kicks My Ass

soulati-kick.jpgNo one said life was easy, and if it were we’d be at the beach partying all day. But, you’re not, nor am I, and that’s why you haven’t seen me here in awhile.

I’ve been in a rut as digital marketing has been kicking my ass, and it’s doing it so royally I had to put that A-S-S word in the headline. BTW, is A-S-S even a cuss word any more? I know no five-year-olds are reading this blog, so maybe I’m safe.

Meanwhile…

How do you feel when completely out of your element? Here are a few emotions I can share from first-hand experience – humility, humbleness, embarrassment, frustration, annoyance, anger, fear, and tears. Then comes the resignation that all these emotions are purely obstacles to success.

Indeed.

We (that means I) are our own worst enemies. If anyone is somewhat of a perfectionist (gulp, I’ve never admitted that even partially to anyone and I know it’s not true) who likes to be in control because that’s a true comfort zone, then things we don’t know are addressed with obstacles.

And, so, I found out right quick I don’t do digital marketing and to overcome my fear of it, I would just toss bricks in my way. I did, I am, I was.

I recently hired an expert to help me elevate my business to a new level. I had hit a brick wall on my own trying to grow my business online.

In the past I’ve worked with some really good people, but everyone reaches a point in their knowledge where there’s a deficiency; I had hit mine.

Digital Marketing Struggles

Digital marketing is a tough nut. Who are the people doing it well and making money at it?

It requires huge analytic thinking oriented to testing, sorting, list building (gah, my least favorite thing of all) and development of landing pages with calls to action and the software platforms to make it all work.

How copy is written is so different than a blog post and it requires short and punchy quip that entices but doesn’t sell.

Digital marketing is not for the feint of heart. You need to be trained as an expert to master it and you have to live it every day to know what the heck.

Here’s what happened:

  • My fear of failure put me in a deep, dark hole. I was unable to write like I was supposed to. I did not want to be judged. I did not like to be edited. The style of writing was foreign to me.
  • I wrote and it stunk.
  • I was edited brutally and hated it.
  • I wrote again and it stunk more.
  • More brutality and people totally rewriting my work.
  • I ignored everyone.
  • I tossed bricks in my way and cried about it. I whined some more.
  • Then I took a deep breath and finally wrote again.
  • It flowed and was acceptable to my utter shock and amazeballs.
  • The brutal editors and experts said they loved it, high five. (I secretly didn’t believe them.)

I wanted to quit, fire everyone and walk away from the challenge; exactly like I feel in Taekwondo every Tuesday and Thursday.

It’s a slow boat to China, and no one reaches it in a day. Yeah, Jayme, so get on a plane.

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New Loyalty Program For .ME Domain With Big Prize

Post Update: The contest with .ME loyalty program is now closed; however, I encourage you to head over to http://domain.me and consider a new domain for your purposes. While you’re there, check out that loyalty program with #RockHot bennies.

Domain extensions are getting ultra competitive with a plethora of new ones set to hit the marketspace. If you’re not in the know, last year the list of some 700 new generic TLDs or gTLDs or generic domain extensions were published.

You’ll see .book, .cars, .city, and too many others; yet, there’s one tried and true you ought to pay more attention to. It’s the .ME domain, and if you’ve not registered your personal brand with .ME, you need to run quick and grab it.

About .ME

Here’s the coolest factoid I could find on the extensive .ME website right here http://domain.me, this TLD is the domain extension of The Republic of Montenegro! Who knew?

It’s a very human endeavor, too; they’re running .ME much like a company and a brand, which brings me to the next topic.

The Legalities Of This Post

Right up front, I’m telling you, this is a sponsored post. This is your disclaimer. This is a sponsored post, and I don’t want any guff about not telling you, legal peeps.

Secondly, I’m going to write about one of the most well-attended tradeshows in one of the largest states in the union (Texas) in a city that begins with “A.” I’ve been informed, we are not allowed to use the four-letter acronym (that begins with S followed by a multiplication sign) in blog posts to share company promotions being done in its association.

OK, everyone in sync with me?

The New .ME Loyalty Program

This highly personal branding domain has launched a new loyalty program complete with points, rewards, hosting, gift cards, and more.

On a professional note (this is NOT sponsored), I haven’t ever heard of a domain extension engaging with its users ever, so this is pretty freaking clever marketing. And, in light of the bottoms up in the domain world, it’s also smart to get a jump start.

To honor the folks who use .ME and its new loyalty program, the domain (which has been around five years with 750,000 domain names under management), is awarding a grand prize of some pretty #RockHot swag. Let me list it out for you:

http://dot.me/AAvuR4i75o0

  • Accommodations during the interactive period
  • A $500 AMEX gift card for travel and entertainment

Deadline for Grand Prize for .ME Loyalty Program Launch

There’s a deadline, so you need to act really fast, OK? Read this post and hit this link right away because there is a grand-prize drawing on Feb. 15, 2014! Gasp, that’s only three days away, but we all know everything moves at warp on the interwebz, right?

Did I neglect to tell you this is a sponsored post? Nope, I did not; it’s right up there in the “Legalities” section.

Thanks, .ME. This is indeed a cool program; something I’ve never seen a domain extension do; in fact, who even knew there was someone who worked at a domain extension?

Social Media, IT And Analytics Have Created Title Soup

soup.jpgAdvertising Age featured a story, “Don’t Call Me CMO: Top Marketers Say Job Has Evolved Beyond Title,” I find quite amusing.

The giggle is more about the why.

Why do people feel the need to define themselves based on a single three-to-five word title? When a professional reaches the level of chief anything officer, they have successfully moved along the professional development career path to become a chief.

Why don’t we call everyone in the C-suite “Chief Cook & Bottle Washer?” That would sum up the role we’re all playing in the workplace today, right? Technology, analytics and social media have created a pea soup of necessary qualifications, and the chief marketer appears to be the most confused.

According to the article, some of the “better titles than CMO” proffered are:

  • Chief Value Officer – what does “value” really mean? Value of what?
  • Chief Growth Officer – isn’t marketing about growth already?
  • Chief Innovation Officer – ah-hah, but limiting right? You come up with the ideas only and don’t put them into action?
  • Chief Commercial Strategist – as opposed to residential?
  • Chief Customer Officer – Who is the customer? Inside, outside? Maybe this means a sales person who is adopting a role in the C-Suite.

Title Soup in PR

Coming from a discipline of marketing frequently at odds about titles and roles, I get the confusion and need to create identity in the marketplace. Public relations professionals have been grappling with professional branding for a very long time; of late, we’ve been quite clever about hiding behind a really cool title to mask the fact we’re in public relations.

Perhaps it’s cool to be in public relations again?

I have now adopted the new label of “hybrid PR” for myself, thanks to Gini Dietrich’s blog post awhile ago when she described all the things PR peeps do in the marketing arena and it matched my competency. The only problem is it still requires explanation. At least hybrid vehicles paved the way for a combo engine, and people looking at a title can guess that hybrid means many things added to the mix. It’s pretty easy for me to just be president of Soulati Media, Inc. because that it indeed the title put on incorporation documents to get my federal tax ID number.

For those who lead teams in a corporate environment, there is so much merging and blending happening that I can see why the title thing has become an issue.

I don’t think there is a title for the chief marketing officer that can capture everything they’re responsible for, do you? The kettle has to simmer first before anyone will be able to tell.

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7 Selling Factors And Relationship Building (Babolat)

Saleswoman.jpgSelling. Relationship building, and the deal.

What do you think is the most important when someone is trying to make the sale? The deal may be the lowest and best one; yet, there’s something more to earning the sale than just the numbers.

As a professional blogger and public relations professional of three decades, I am pitched every day by sales people trying to lure me in. The tools of my trade are expensive especially for any solo business, and I know I must make an investment in many of them in order to service my clients well and efficiently.

Each year at this time, it becomes a battle between the two largest media vendors and others wanting a piece of the action vying for my business. Each year I weigh the deal to determine the best approach for my clients. But, this year was different.

7 Selling Factors to Earn the Business

  • The Deal.

When you’re a solo business and every expense penny counts, the total of the expenditure matters. How much is the very first answer I want to hear.

  • Sales Team.

Sadly, one of the vendors has a revolving door of sales staff. They email and call me frequently, they fight over territory, and I never know who my sales rep is should I need to call. The trust in the infrastructure of an organization is absolutely akin to the stability of the sales team. On the other side of the street, I just heard from the same sales rep I had last year; this business is tough…having the same face and name selling me over two years says something.

  • Service.

How about the service side? Will they be there to support the customer? Will they be knowledgeable and will there also be videos or Q&A and live chat features to help me should I have an issue? I’m not one to call in for help; it’s a time suck. I want to find the answer myself or better yet, make the product usability intuitive.

  • Salesmanship.

The young woman with whom I spoke yesterday told me she wasn’t going to hard sell me because that wasn’t her style. I appreciate that. When someone slips me the slime, I run. When you’re authentic and genuine with me, that’s when I listen and exchange helpful selling tips in return.

  • The Product.

There’s no question you get what you pay for. Because I have used both these products extensively during the long tenure of my career, I’m familiar with the product and each has selling points while one has more failures, in my opinion. Usability, as mentioned above, needs to be intuitive. I don’t want to have to guess where to find something; that’s frustrating, annoying and a time suck.

  • Closing The Deal.

When someone tells me they are coming back to me as they need to speak with their boss about the features of the package I need and they don’t for more than four days, then I seriously consider what happened. Turns out illness put my sales woman on her back, and I fell through the cracks. Understood; yet the deadline for my deal to close is today and that means I’m in conversations with a variety of vendors to seal it.

  • Relationship Building.

I’ve saved the best for last. There are so many, many ways to build relationships to earn a sale. I’m going to tell you what impresses me the most.
1. Visit my blog and make a comment. There is content galore in this site, and archives from the last four years. There’s got to be a way to impress me.

2. Know who I am as a customer and professional. When you take a moment to read my bio or remark on something I shared or wrote on the Interwebz, that means you’re really getting to know me and my needs.

3. Acknowledge the fact the sales team is a revolving door, but you’re going to work hard to earn my trust in selling to me.

4. Instead of selling me, educate me and tell me how your product has improved, especially if I tell you I don’t care for it.

5. Engage with me on social media. Let me tell you a story about tennis racquets.

Babolat Tennis And Earning the Sale

Happy Halloweenie #Tennis! via soulati

Happy Halloweenie #Tennis! via soulati

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a tennis freak. In the fall and winter, when I can reclaim an evening as my own (kidlet has every night for her extracurriculars), I play about six hours a week. I’ve been demoing new racquets, and tweeting about my demos with Babolat.

My friend Brian Vickery plays extensively too, and his family of four are all Babolat users. I’ve been a Prince loyalist until I began my quest to find the best racquet.

I’ve now demoed about five or six Babolats, and I’m still not certain which one to invest in (tennis racquets average $200 each, and you need two of the same).

Yesterday, I tweeted Brian and mentioned I didn’t think Babolat was on Twitter as I had mentioned its name and it racquets by name a variety of times and crickets. Lo, I got several immediate tweets and a phone call from Babolat sales!! How freaking exciting is that??

Babolat-Vickery-Tweets.jpgTickled, I tweeted back and made the phone call.What ensued was the most amazing conversation I’ve ever had with someone in sales who wasn’t selling; he was educating.

We talked about racquet stiffness and weighting, body wear and tear, and strings. We talked strings every which way from Sunday (don’t you love that expression?), and I was the happiest camper in the world because Babolat was treating me as if I was on the ATP circuit. As merely a 3.5/4.0 USTA player, I have a ways to go before I join the professionals and beat the crap out of them (heh). BUT, here’s the point…Daniel of Babolat didn’t treat me like a low life; he put me on the top of his pedestal as the most important tennis player in the world.

He built a relationship with me, he treated me respectfully, and guess what else he shared?

Brand Engagement On Twitter

Babolat had seen my tweets with Brian over time; they saw that I was only mentioning the brand in my posts and not addressing the tweets to Babolat.

Babolat-Tweets-Soulati.jpg
The sales team wasn’t sure whether to intercede on the conversation; they didn’t want to interfere as it looked like we were not asking for help.

I assured Daniel of Babolat to absolutely toss out a tweet saying “Hey, we noticed your tweets about our racquets, is there anything we can do to help your decision?”

Having that kind of “we’re here to help” tweet from a trusted brand is what jazzes consumers. I’m not one to hit the forums or Facebook and sift through line after line of content that doesn’t concern me. If I want something, I will post it on Twitter and wait for the brand’s response.
In this case, I was tentative as a consumer thinking I was too much a small fry for Babolat’s attention, and Babolat the brand was tentative thinking they shouldn’t jump in with a “hey, we’re here” tweet.

Relationship Building Fuels Brand Loyalty

And, now, after that story? Where do you think my loyalty lies? I’m going to become a Babolat user for the first time. I’m going to invest in the Babolat Drive Max, a lighter weight racquet, RED (yay!), and get it weighted. Then I’m going to put more expensive softer strings on it to protect my arm and get the controlled power (at least that’s what I think Daniel told me). And, before I do all of that, I’m going to call Daniel or tweet him again because he invited me to do that whenever I wanted to. He gave me his cell phone and I programmed him into speed dial! (Just kidding, but that’s how he made me feel.)

Brand loyalty has so much more to do with product and service selection, and all the factors I listed above are critical; yet relationship building is by far the most. The Babolat story happened yesterday, and it jazzed my brand loyalty as a first-time customer for the long-term.

How about you, can you relate?

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